I love trying new varieties of vegetables. When I got some seed from a farmer friend for the Espelette pepper I immediately put it into our crop plan to make sure it got seeded in the greenhouse and had a designated spot out in our field. When you grow over 200 varieties of vegetables it can be easy to look over one or two if it is not put into a plan and written down on paper. It has only taken me a couple years to figure that out. We planted the Espelette pepper out into the field and it has produced well. After doing some research on the pepper I found a strong cultural connection attached. Espelette, France is a town that claims this pepper for their own. They dry the pepper and make hot pepper flakes. People across the whole town hang strands of peppers on the sides of their house to dry them. They have a harvest festival and the whole town relies on this pepper. I find this fascinating and would like to discover more cultural traditions attached to raising food. Here at our farm we are drying the pepper as well. I am excited to see if I can save the seed year after year and bring the cultural tradition from France to New Jersey.
This season has rolled along nicely. We are producing about 1000# of tomatoes a week and our pepper and eggplant harvest has been excellent. We have managed to have carrots at the market every week for the past couple months, however we have had some poor germination in our salad mix that has forced us to improvise. One morning before market there was only a small patch of lettuce that could be harvested. The bed next to the lettuce was filled with purslane. Another portion of the field had tender lambs quarters growing between our kale. This opportunity yielded an amazingly colorful and flavorful salad mix. We added baby tender kale, beet greens, and some frisee that was otherwise unsellable because it had tip burn. We cautioned our customers at the farmers market that it was not your typical salad. People loved it! This experience really got me excited to continue experimenting with new mixes. Turning a problem into an opportunity is very fulfilling. Now we just have to keep our chefs at Agricola preserving tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, and pickles to bring the summer bounty onto the fall plate.
We are now officially Certified Organic. Using the practices of organic agriculture for the past three years has made the transition smooth. I have become a better farmer because of the process. Record keeping, paying close attention to crop rotation, and contemplating and improving our farm strategy have all benefited the farm’s overall health. We are also concentrating on producing nutrient dense foods that are packed with flavor. This year we amended our tomato field with sea salt to yield a more flavorful tomato. Once they ripen we will let you know if it was successful! The weather has been nice to work in, however we have missed a couple opportunities to plant because of rain. When the fields are wet we do not work them because that causes compaction. Our CSA is entering it’s sixth week of pickup and our market at the West Windsor Community Farmers Market has been great. Weeds are popping up all over our fields, but we learn to live with them. After we make sure our crops are established, which requires weeding with tractors, scuffle hoes, and hand pulling, we let the weeds go. I have noticed the kale stays a little more tender when shaded by weeds. We try to maintain a balance on the farm for the land we care for, the people that work it, and what we reap. These practices and the proper balance produces great tasting vegetables!