Listen to Fields Farm’s Jeremy from a KPOV interview

post by: Debbie Fields May 16, 2010

As last years intern at Fields Farm, you may know Jeremy from the farm or Farmer's Market.  This year he is staying involved with Fields Farm by  putting together the educational program that is bringing hundreds of school children to Fields Farm for fieldtrips.He was interviewed recently on the KPOV show Radio Airstream about the program and about his experience working at Fields Farm.  KPOV graciously provided us with a copy for your listening convenience. JeremyFox.kpov.interview.mp3Support KPOV

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Intern’s Insight #4: Winding down

post by: Debbie Fields November 9, 2009

My internship is officially over, sure as the increasingly intense frosts brought the farm's growing to a slow crawl.  It is amazing how glorious rows of produce can be thriving in August, only to be reduced to brown and wilted stalks a month later.  In October we spent a lot of time tilling in finished beds, spreading cover crop seeds, planting next year's garlic, pulling out old, dead plants (all those tomatoes!).  When the irrigation ditch shut off in the middle of the month, all the pipes were pulled off the field and laid along the fence; now the mice will have a place to nest for the winter in the long, steel tubes.  Without irrigation there is no more water for the mighty kale plants in the greenhouse tunnels.  Their growth slows almost to a halt.  Freezing nights, windstorms, the return of geese, the first snows...all signs of a changing of seasons.  These events signal a time of rest, of pause in growth, a time to let things be undisturbed.  Several people have asked (somewhat hopefully) at the market and at the farmstand, "do you grow anything during the winter?"  I suppose it could be done; other farmers in Oregon do it.  They pump heated air into sealed greenhouses to keep the plants alive, despite the cold air outside and short days of light.  The drawbacks include using lots of gas and electric power to grow those greens, a high potential for pest and disease infestation, and no rest for the workers.  Financially, perhaps some farms have decided that it makes sense to grow through the winter.  But the economics of it contradict nature: winter is a time for rest.  A time to let freezes kill bacterias and insects.  A time to give the soil a break.  A time to make meals out of the storage produce put aside...potatoes, onions, garlic, shallots, winter squash, and any canned and frozen foods you prepared during the summer.  My fiance and I have frozen some kale, peppers, and soups made in summer, and we canned applesauce and tomatoes...all part of an experiment in being more local and self-sufficient, in part inspired by my work at Fields Farm and by Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle."  It takes a lot of work!  But it will be worth it when in February we can eat local, organic produce.  It is quite a change of personal paradigm when you try to eat seasonally; you have to accept that certain things are available only at certain times, and you must enjoy them to the fullest at those times!  It is certainly a challenge, and though you may not have canned or frozen anything this year (the above mentioned storage vegetables are still available for sale at the farm!), I challenge YOU to try and eat seasonally and locally through the next year.  I challenge you to ignore that asparagus you see the stores now; it traveled too far and is far from fresh.  Know that in April and May it will be available in the northwest, and its flavor will be all the better from the long wait.  I challenge you to put back those bananas and oranges, and instead turn your eyes to the apples and pears grown in our region.  Enjoy them now while they're fresh, and can or freeze some for next year when you are craving apples in May and the only ones you can find are from far off Chile.  These are the small steps it takes to be a little bit lighter on the land, but when many people take these small steps, big changes are possible.  See you next year, and enjoy a restful winter.   

Intern’s Insight #3: Obsession with Tomatoes

post by: Debbie Fields September 6, 2009

Jeremy in the tomato forestThey started out as tiny, two-leafed sprouts in 1/2 inch soil squares.  They graduated to 2" and then 4" soil blocks, until the sun space next to the house was full of nothing but this fragrant plant.  Now they have all but consumed the interior of the new large greenhouse.  Yes, I'm talking about the tomatoes.  They all have names like Bellstar, Sweet 100s, Garden Peach, Prudence.  When we transplanted them into the greenhouse, I staked a wooden marker next to each group so I could see what shapes these fanciful names yielded.  But now I can't find the markers.  I think the plants ate them.  Within days of thinning back the excess leaf matter, the plants close in again on the walkways.  I cringe when I feel a "crunch" of unripe tomato under my foot as I try to negotiate through the rows.  But where are all the ripe tomatoes?  I see plenty of plant matter, and lots of green tomatoes, but where am I going to find enough red, ripe ones for this week's CSA members???  I have to turn into a hunter.  On all fours I crawl down the rows lifting the mass of lower plant to get at any red tomatoes underneath (much like lifting a hen to get at the egg).  At ground level all I see is green all around me.  It's like trying to spy a parrot in a jungle, except these tomatoes don't squawk.  Slowly I scan the dense foliage for any flash of red.  When found, I ever so carefully reach to pluck one, fearing I'll knock of three of its unripe brethren.  One by one the Sweet 100s fill up a basket.  Maybe there will be a bigger tomato here and there, but they are mostly still green.  The question is--the same question so many people ask--when will my tomatoes turn red???  I've gleaned a couple of explanations from Jim.  One--too much fertilizer will keep a plant growing so well that it won't feel the stress and need to produce fruit.  Two--we might have to cut back the roots to encourage these tomatoes along.  Three--maybe they'll just stay green.  The irony in our tomatoes is that we are obsessed with this fruit, yet we don't live in a very conducive tomato growing environment!!!  But I don't think the obsession is due to the finicky growing season.  People will spend dollar after dollar to grow a tomato in their backyard, as if just to prove that it can be done, as if growing tomatoes is a right and not a priviledge.  I think the obsession can be cured by one thing only: I think people need to eat more kale.

Intern’s Insight #2: Swimming for Potatoes

post by: Debbie Fields August 10, 2009

Many folks visit our booth at the Farmer's Market and remark, "Oh, I drive by your farm all the time!"  It makes me wonder...what do these people think when they see us out in the fields doing our various tasks that all add up to farming?  One of the weirdest sights must be when we swim for potatoes.

To harvest a small batch of potatoes, all you need is a pitchfork to loosen up a plant or two.  But when we harvest for the CSA or market, we pull up dozens of plants at a time.  And a pitchfork is too slow.  To dig up part of a row, a lifting blade is attached to the back of the tractor.  We drag the blade through the row and it undercuts and lifts the plant and potatoes up near the surface of the soil.  Now, in a perfect world, the potatoes would fall neatly into a little pile and we'd collect them in no time at all.  But this is farming, and "perfection" comes around once and a while, but with potatoes we've still got to do some work.  So we go swimming. 
Here's where the folks driving by might do a double-take.  To swim for potatoes we get down on our knees in the lifted row, and using our arms like fins we do a modified butterfly stroke, scooping soil, plant, and potatoes towards our body.  At this point it's basically an Easter egg hunt.  The potatoes usually sift above the soil, plant top is tossed over the shoulder (after, of course, removing any hanger-on potatoes that might become next year's weeds), and the gathered potatoes go into a bucket.  Then we move forward a scootch and repeat the stroke.  It's a great workout!  The damp, warm soil moves smooth against the skin.  Black beetles (beneficial insects) are unearthed and moved into the next row over.  Now and then you find blue potatoes in the yellow section, a result of the helpful five year-olds that assisted in planting this row.  Before you know it, you've reached the tractor, and you've got four buckets full of spuds.  We've been pulling out German butterball and All-blue varieties, but keep your eyes out for new varities soon!  (It's funny; we labeled the rows with stakes when we planted, but those stakes have either disappeared or been sun-bleached.  Thankfully Jim is able to identify any potato in the world.) 

Intern’s Insight #1: Kale

post by: Debbie Fields July 27, 2009

Hello, farm visitors!  Jeremy Fox is my name, apprentice farming is my game this summer, as I work alongside Jim and Debbie at Fields Farm.  My background is in education and outdoor recreation, and before working here I had only some basic knowledge of farming and gardening and the like.  But each day I learn something new at the farm, and I have discovered that farming is--yes--another form of outdoor recreation.  Things are in full swing right now--lots of irrigating, harvesting, and weeding to be done!  I'm going to try and post my insights at least weekly for your entertainment here on the website, so I hope you enjoy!
Insight #1 Kale: the workhorse of the farm
If you're part of our CSA, you know that you've been getting kale in your bag every week since the beginning.  I hope you've been enjoying it (and not getting tired of it!) because kale harvesting is one of my jobs.  In May the leaves were small, maybe six inches long max, but now these plants are leafing out at 12-14 inches!  And it is the same plants that have been producing the whole time!  Maybe this is just exciting and amazing to me, the apprentice who until recently has never been intimate with kale plants week after week, but their constancy and resilience are impressive.  Each week I tear off the lowest and largest leaves; each week those scars scab over and the plant grows taller and larger leaves as if to prove that my harvesting has no effect on the plant.  Head lettuce, spinach, arugula and the other greens come and go, but the kale just won't quit.  The three inch transplants we put in the ground in April are now pushing two feet tall, enough to tower above the outmost, rapidly spreading squash plant leaves.  We've got four varieties: red boar, green boar, purple, and strap leaf kale.  My favorite to harvest is the green boar--it's leaves break off easily with a satisfying "snap!" and gather into full, blossomy bunches.  As far as I can tell, the kale is here for a while, so I hope you've found ways to keep it interesting in your diet!  My favorite is the simple saute in olive oil with some garlic (coming in a couple weeks) and onions (available now!), but kale can also be cooked down to serve as a green layer in casseroles (think spinach!), eaten raw on sandwiches in lieu of lettuce, or brushed lightly with olive oil and a little salt, and baked at 300 degrees for a few minutes to make kale chips.  Either way, it's a healthy leaf--vitamins K, A, C, manganese, copper, calcium and many others essentials.  If you come out to the farm, you must see the kale forests in our greenhouse tunnels.  It's also available in our gray fridge out front, the farmer's market, and often at Nature's grocery store.  All hail kale!