The News from Windflower Farm
Greetings from Windflower Farm. This week’s CSA distribution marks the first of the second half of the season. What’s to come? You’ll receive another six or seven weeks of summer vegetables – tomatoes, corn, squashes, beans – and then, with the change in weather, you’ll get several weeks of fall vegetables, including winter squashes, leeks, carrots, potatoes and sweet potatoes. Keep in mind that the season is 22 weeks long. This year, it will come to an end during election week. Your fruit shares will include the peaches, plums and melons of summer for some time to come, then, when summer is over and the growing season winds down, we’ll wrap up the fruit share with pears, apples and cider. The fruit share lasts 20 weeks.
This week’s share
- Sweet corn
- Eggplant on Tuesday, onions on Thursday
- Squashes or cucumbers
- Green beans
- Lettuce – Romaine on Tuesday, Redleaf on Thursday
Your fruit share will be either our watermelons or Pete’s plums. Carrots will be coming very soon, I promise, as will potatoes and Rosemary and the return of salad greens.
The changes that we’ve made in our packing shed in response to Covid-19 have caused us to make some errors. All of this packing is new for us. I am sorry if you’ve missed out on some items. We’ll do our best to make them up to you. And we are working hard to get our systems up to speed so as to avoid shortages in the future.
What’s new at Windflower Farm?
In the past, onion topping had consumed much of our time this time of year. But this year, things will be different, at least that’s the hope. Farmers, forever attracted to machinery that reduces physical labor, long ago developed cutting tables that removed onion tops and roots from bulbs, but we have never owned one. Imagine a pair of 48 inch rolling pins working side by side and turning in opposite directions. Now imagine that each of them is made of heavy steel and has a cutting blade spiraling along its length. The roller pairs are set on the table so that their front or top ends are higher than their bottom ends, causing a bulb to move along the length of the rollers. As it travels, the bulb remains on top of the rollers but its roots and leaves occasionally get pulled down between them and are cut off by the spiraling blades. As you can imagine, it is a machine that requires safety guards.
An onion topper came up for sale on my local farmer list-serve. It was sold within nine minutes. A Vermont farmer offered to put one in a container he was having brought in from the Netherlands, but I declined. In the Northeast, with the rare exception of small farms like ours, onions are produced on muck soils, and those are found in just a few pockets in New York, Ontario and Quebec, which is where I concentrated my search for a topper of our own. On Thursday of last week, I travelled to onion country in Quebec to pick up an onion topper I found through an equipment dealership. The border crossing was not exactly smooth. There was a committee of three looking me over closely. “Were you not aware that the border has been closed for weeks?” “Why didn’t you buy one in the states?” “What does it do?” “Why didn’t you have it shipped?” And so on. To which I responded: “Yes, but agriculture is an exempt industry, they are unavailable in the states, they remove onion leaves, and shipping would have cost a fortune.” They must have concluded that it was an unlikely pretext for doing anything nefarious because they let me across.
My topper was at Fermes Farnham, a huge onion and carrot operation in the small village of Sainte-Sabine. If you are a fan of Louise Penny novels, you’ll be familiar with the landscape I passed through. French speaking, largely Catholic, agricultural, flat as a pancake with the exception of little lakes and hummocks here and there. Four men who claimed to speak no english at all, which may have been true, helped me load the topper onto my truck. We were all concerned when it appeared my tires might all blow out from the weight of the thing, but eventually decided it would be fine. Before I left, they allowed me to climb around on their new harvester – bright red and a story and a half tall – so that I could see how a topper is set up to work. I crossed back into the states at Rouses Point, where the border agent quizzed me about growing his favorite vegetables – Brussels sprouts and parsnips – which we don’t grow. I was unsure if I would be let back in. Back home, I’ve begun to assemble the parts that should enable me to get the onion topper up and running in the next couple of weeks. I’ll be curious to know if you can see the difference – I know we will.
Have a great week, Ted