Wow, what a winter eh? This has been the real deal. It's barely February and I'm already looking forward to mud season!Here's what's ahead in this wordy farm update:

  • The farm's efforts towards sustainability
  • Help us feed more people
  • Haven't signed up?...now is the time.

It Takes Energy to Grow Your Food

In between jumping batteries and thawing various lines, cables and doorways, I've been cranking away in the office on the big picture. Each winter I get some time to pick up my head and gaze towards the long view of the what it is we are doing here. Over the years that view has gained depth and it includes many things Maura and I are proud of. As members and supporters of the farm we hope you will be proud too.

When the website was redone last month I added a page titled "how we farm." After fifteen years working this stretch of ground and feeding so many of you, we confronted big questions and arrived at some solid conclusions about what this farm needs both annually and in the the long term.  How do we build our soil quality while taking thousands of pounds of produce off the farm each year? Is it possible to increase our production while maintaining or reducing our energy footprint? Can we do everything we want to do here as farmers and community members and continue to make a living? As anyone who is reflective realizes, it's hard to be thoughtful and get the work done day by day. That said here are a few of the things we have been doing that we would like to share with you.

To grow enough food for the CSA and provide an income for ourselves and crew, we have to plant a lot of acres of vegetables, almost sixteen in 2017. Plowing, planting, and harvesting on this scale requires machinery and most of these machines are diesel powered. In addition to tractors, we also use fuel for heat. To have produce ready to harvest in June we start our transplants in early March, heating the greenhouse to 65 degrees day and night.  All of this tractor work and heat is very fuel intensive. As environmentalists we are conscientious about using energy conservatively but we are also thoughtful about our fuel sourcing. Most of the diesel and heating oil available in the U.S. is petroleum-based. The small percentage that is not petroleum based is called biodiesel and most of this is "farmed diesel" - produced from crops grown specifically to be converted to fuel. Farmers growing fuel is controversial and we believe begs the question of sustainability especially in a world with so much hunger. The biodiesel we heat our greenhouse with and run our machinery on is "post-consumer" biodiesel. This is the stuff that comes out of the fryolators from the myriad of fish shacks and donut shops (along with some white table cloth spots) all around Maine. Fryolator biodiesel is a great product that is super sustainable for a few reasons. First, grease as fuel is using a resource in it's second life. Next, it burns cleaner than petrol-diesel. Lastly, it provides better lubrication of our engines, reducing long-term wear on parts saving us maintenance dollars. Reduce, reuse and recycle all in one product! The icing on this donut is that it smells great coming out of the pipe too! Want to know more about local  biodiesel or how to heat your house with this great product?...Maine Standard Biofuels..tell them we sent you and we both will get a discount on fuel!

Beyond repurposing grease, we also are the last stop for another popular Maine product - craft brewed beer. For the past four years we have been working with both Allagash Brewing and Maine Beer Co. to recycle waste products from their brews into our soils. Malted barley dust and yeast/hop slurry (know as trub to you beer geeks) both get composted and or spread on the fields at Crystal Spring to provide fertility (surprisingly potent) and keep our soil ecology diverse. Have a glass of Allagash's White or Maine Beer's Peeper tonight and rest assured it's the karmic equivalent of eating vegetables.

As we have grown over the years we have also tried to get better at what we do. To improve the quality of our produce, we need to cool it quickly after harvest, and keep it cool.  Our antique cork-lined cooler in the CSA barn is beautiful but it's not the most efficient ice box. We built a brand new walk-in cooler in our wash/pack barn over the winter in 2015. Refrigeration takes a lot of electricity so we teamed up with a group of seven local families who are sustainability enthusiasts and built a solar array here at the farm. The financing of the farm's part of the array came from some very creative thinking and generous help from many local folks. Today 100% of the electric power we use here is produced by our panels and in another eleven or twelve years this power will be free.

We Need Your Help

In recent years our delivered CSA share to the Portland area has become a solid part of the farm's effort to bring good food to more people. Many of these boxed shares are going to new businesses that want to encourage wellness through good-eating for their employees. The most difficult part for us as hard working farmers is making that first connection to these businesses. That's where your help comes in. Do you know anyone who works for a Portland area company that is forward thinking and has fifty or more employees in one location? Please connect us with them and we will reach out this spring and bring our good food to more people. Thank you!

Haven't signed up yet? Now is the time

Having already mentioned karma in this newsletter I  am hesitant to suggest anything else on the new-age spectrum. However, now is the time to set a positive intention for spring! Click here for On-farm Shares, or here for Delivered Shares. When it's six degrees and there is ice both under and on top of the snow we all need help to bring spring closer. Laugh away the sleet and slop of February and March knowing you have great produce on the way. 

Ice and snow have slowed us down the past week. Thankfully most of the outdoor work is winding down. I spent three days at a farm conference in NH drilling down on wonky numbers like legume cover crop nitrogen fixation rates and walk-in cooler expansion valve settings. Like baseball stats these numbers are interesting and useful to a point but most reasonable people glaze over after a while. I’m happy to get back to the farm.

Maura, the kids and I spent a solid hour today (Sunday) cutting the last of the spinach and kale from our field tunnel. The sun is so low and the night temps so frigid we have but a few hours on a sunny day to cut these crops between thaw and refreeze. With more snow in the forecast for Monday and Tuesday (and no sun), today was our best option to ensure the greens were available for Tuesday’s pickup. We hope all of you are settling into the restfulness of late December and that the white stuff outside pushes you deeper into your book, meal or good conversation.

Blueberries and Maple Make Cold Days Sweeter

Let us know if you need a couple quarts of our dark maple or a few pounds of our own organic frozen blueberries to keep the family at bay. We have a cooler on the front porch for easy pick-up. Maple is $17.50/qt. and organic blueberries are $25 for 5 pounds or $105 for 30 pounds. Send us an email here

Late Fall Share Tuesday December 19th 3:00-6:00 pm

Our last last fall share…just in time for the holiday.

2018 Shares

Sign up for next summer now! Payment plans that make it easy are available. Click here.

What’s in the Share

Cabbage

Carrots

Beets

Delicata Squash

Kale

Spinach

Onions

Shallots

Sweet Potatoes

Garlic

The crew is gone. Frost is an everyday occurrence. I like looking at spreadsheets. It must be winter. 

I’ve been out in the field more this late fall than in recent memory as the days have been warm and dry. Mowing and tilling under crops in the brassica family were the high priority. This family includes cabbage, broccoli and kale. This past spring we had major losses in our first plantings of brassicas due to a little fly and its larval stage, aptly named the cabbage maggot. The fly overwinters on fall plantings of these crops and then emerges in the spring to find new plantings where it will lay it’s eggs. The eggs hatch into maggots which burrow below the surface and eat all the roots of the young seedlings. We’ve never had big problems with this pest before but when conditions are right…(insert Murphy’s Law here). The memory of thousands of seedlings shriveling and dying is still vivid and as a result I’m being proactive, taking away the winter refuge for the fly. 

In addition to field sanitation, I’ve also plowed up another four acres of ground, a new addition to our rotation for vegetables in 2019. While I have no plans to expand our production I do want to expand our ability to put ground in fallow to rebuild it’s fertility. I’ve found that taking land out of production, sowing it down to perennial grass and clovers for two years has vastly improved the health and vigor of the vegetable crops that follow it. In the past we have taken ground out of production for three to six month fallows with shorter life-cycle grasses and legumes but the fertility was lackluster. Perennials allowed to grow multiple years build more organic matter and rebuild microorganism populations that allow soil to hold onto nutrients and water longer while we grow beautiful produce.

Blueberries and Maple Make Cold Days Sweeter

As the real cold and serious holidays approach let us know if you need a couple quarts of our dark maple or a few pounds of our own organic frozen blueberries to keep the family at bay. We have a cooler on the front porch for easy pick-up. Maple is $17.50/qt. and organic blueberries are $25 for 5 pounds or $105 for 30 pounds. Send us an email here

Late Fall Share Tuesday December 5th 3:00-6:00 pm

Great produce this week. Lots of family pleasures for the holiday or just to tuck away for yourself!

2018 Shares

Sign up for next summer now! Payment plans that make it easy are available. Click here.

What’s in the Share

Rutabaga

Cabbage

Lettuce

Carrots

Beets

Delicata Squash

Spinach

Bok Choi

Kohlrabi

Onions

Shallots

Purple Potatoes

Garlic

With the cold season solidly in place the race to clean-up and close up is on. The days of dry and not really frozen weather are numbered so we have been scurrying about. Our days look like this: first thing when the frost is heavy, we clean and organize building by building and machine by machine. Then with the mild middle part of the day, we harvest roots for the fall share and Wild Oats Cafe (they love our carrots too). We had couple great high school groups come help this week. Then as the day settles into afternoon we pour over records from the year, looking for winners and losers amongst the varieties and successions of so many vegetables. 

Soon the crew will be gone and I will move inside to work on the books, flip through the seed catalogs, and dream up the year to come as the snow flies. 

Late Fall Share Tuesday 3-6pm

Great produce this week. Lots of family pleasures for the holiday or just to hoard away for yourself!

2018 Shares

Sign up for next summer now! Payment plans that make it easy are available. Click here.

What’s in the Share

Napa Cabbage

Kale

Carrots

Beets

Butternut Squash

Spinach

Onions

Shallots

Sweet Potatoes

Russet Potatoes

 

Dramatic. That’s the word I can put to the past five days. After the power and fury of Sunday night its been a rollercoaster of clean-up, repair and triage. When the sun came up on Monday morning we were able to take stock of a farm that was tossed, turned and spread all over the place. One of our prized sugar maples in the driveway lost it’s top, 3 barn doors were destroyed, the chicken house (no chickens in it thankfully) was picked up and carried 100′. The most painful thing to discover was that our 3 field tunnels, that produced so many great tomatoes this summer, were pulled up and strewn over the landscape. After the awe wore off we set work cleaning up and putting it all back together. The farm crew was great. Everyone jumped in and reconstructed the tunnel with our winter greens before Tuesday night’s frost could add insult to injury (the greens will recover from the storm). 

After the structures were put back together we realized the compressor powering the walk-in freezer holding our blueberry crop had died in the outage surge. This was replaced quickly (to the tune of $3200) only to find out the new equipment was larger than our old generator could handle… thanks to CSA member Perry Esatbrook we were able to borrow his until CMP got us back online late Thursday evening. It’s never boring here.

While I have a hard time shaking the feeling that we lost this whole work week, we are still here and with most of our good humor in place. 

Thanks for Another Successful Summer Share

Another summer of great food has come to a close. Thanks to all of you who were a part of the farm this year. It was dry but we grew some outstanding food. Have a great winter and we look forward to seeing you around town!

Late Fall Share 

Our late fall share starts this week. If you signed up for a fall share, come to the farm Tuesday 3-6pm for the first installment! We still have a few shares left. If you have been hesitating act quickly…here’s the sign-up link.

2018 Shares

Sign up for next summer now! Payment plans that make it easy are available. Click here.

What’s in the Share

Broccoli (lots of it)

Cabbage

Kale

Chard

Carrots

Beets

Acorn/Kubocha Squash

Kohlrabi

Lettuce

Spinach

Onions

Sweet Potatoes

 

The end of another season is here. We look forward to seeing you all at the farm one last time. The crew have been a buzz of activity getting ready for CSA pick-up this week. Harvesting the last of storage crops like parsnips and beets and sorting through winter squash and sweet potatoes. As this big storm is about to roll in, it is really feeling like the close to a season that I will remember most for its dryness. Our area of the coast has had a “D1” designation for a few weeks now (drought level 1), which means the official measure has caught up to what we have been feeling since July! If this weather system delivers the 2-3 inches expected it will equal all the rainfall we have had since the first week of June. Let it rain.

Thanks to all of you for taking another trip through the summer months with us. The art of farming is taking some seed and turning it into something beautiful and nourishing. We love this job and have only gratitude to all of you for supporting us in doing it. Have great winter!

Not Ready to Stop?…Late Fall Shares Still Available

Our late fall share runs during November and December with pick-ups every other Tuesday (Nov. 7, 21 and Dec. 5, 19). This is the storage crop (carrots, squash, potatoes, etc.) and fresh greens (spinach, lettuce, kale, bok choi, and chard) lifeline for the last two months of the year. Great holiday meal foundations! Follow this link to sign up.

Sign up for 2018!

We have a new sign-up site! In addition to automated credit card and echeck payments you can also access your balance at anytime, include your add-on products in the payment plan and store your payment info for later. Thanks again for letting us grow food for you…here’s the link for 2018 Sign-up.

What’s in the Share

Spinach

Kale

Chard

Kohlrabi

Carrots

Winter Squash

Lettuce

Potatoes

Sweet potatoes

Onions

Parsnips

Beets

Leeks

What’s in Upic

Flowers 

Herbs

As we start our second to last week of harvest for the summer share there is so much to do. The temperature flip flop of fall is at an extreme this year. Days in the 80’s and nights dipping to 30 have sent many of the crops on a stressful roller coaster. These swings push even the most fall hardy crops like kale and chard, both of which saw damage from the frosty night last week. The crew spent several hours laying out row covers over the past few days which gives us about 5 degrees of protection. If we stay above the 20’s we will be in good shape. 

Lots of good stuff coming your way this week. Butternut and potatoes confirm the season. Go ahead and preheat the oven now! 

Late Fall Share…shares still available

Our late fall share runs during November and December with pick-ups every other Tuesday (Nov. 7, 21 and Dec. 5, 19). This is the storage crop (carrots, squash, potatoes, etc.) and fresh greens (spinach, lettuce, kale, bok choi, and chard) lifeline for the last two months of the year. Two of the deliveries fall in the same week as Thanksgiving and Christmas. Follow this link to sign up.

 Sign up for 2018!

We have a new sign-up site! In addition to automated credit card and echeck payments you can also access your balance at anytime, include your add-on products in the payment plan and store your payment info for later. Thanks again for letting grow food for you…here’s the link for 2018 Sign-up.

What’s in the Share

Cabbage

Kale

Chard

Bok Choi

Carrots

Butternut Squash

Lettuce

Potatoes

What’s in Upic

Very frost dependent…

Flowers 

Herbs

Summer continues as we move solidly into October. That one night of frost a week ago may be all we get for a while here. Thinks are really growing, including the greens we have set in our tunnel for the Late Fall Share. Spinach, lettuce, kale, bok choi, and chard are all on track to keep fresh greens in your share if you signed up for the late fall. 

Ahead in the share for next week look for green cabbage and more beets. We have a massive amount of broccoli that is almost ready but not quite…with luck it will keep growing with the warmth and form heads just in time for some cold to sweeten it up. 

Late Fall Share…shares still available

Our late fall share runs during November and December with pick-ups every other Tuesday (Nov. 7, 21 and Dec. 5, 19). This is the storage crop (carrots, squash, potatoes, etc.) and fresh greens (spinach, lettuce, kale, bok choi, and chard) lifeline for the last two months of the year. Two of the deliveries fall in the same week as Thanksgiving and Christmas. Follow this link to sign up.

Upic is Still Cranking…

By far the latest we have still had a supply of cherry tomatoes. Come by and take advantage of the abundance and grab a handful of cilantro, dill, and rosemary while you are at it!

What’s in the share

Sweet potatoes

Baby Bok Choi/Tatsoi

Lettuce

Onions

Kale/Chard

Carrots/Beets

Arugula

Salad Turnips

Sugar Dumpling Squash

Hot peppers

What’s in Upic

Cherry toms

Tomatilloes

Flowers

Herbs

,

The first frost came Friday evening and it was just a light touch but is the beginning of good things. Everyone assumes I am happy about frosts as they mean the end of the farm season and a slowdown in my workload. While there is some truth to this, my happiness when I awaken to white mornings in early October is really about vegetable quality. That touch of frost is like the princess kissing the frog (a beautiful and very tasty frog to keep the analogy on task). Little doses of cold flip the switch in our fall crops and they go from tasting good to great. All these cold-tolerant vegetables like cabbage, carrots, leeks and broccoli respond to temperatures just below freezing by sweetening up; converting starches to sugars. It’s not instant but over the next week or two we will see a big change in flavors. Trying to get someone at your table to try kale or eat more cabbage? This is the strategic time of year for success.

Dinner

We had a perfect farm-to table meal on Sunday evening. Blue sky and a windless afternoon made our four courses and three Maine Beer Co. pairings taste even better. Hats off to those of you that could join us as well as Dirigo Public House for taking our good produce and making it great. This meal was a trial run for what we home will be many more next season.

Maple

After a long hiatus the dark maple syrup quarts are back. Look for them in the egg cooler…I’m dreaming on pancakes now.

Blueberries!!

Our own organic blueberries are back from the freezer in Ellsworth where they have been cleaned and frozen. We are working on getting our berries into some local stores along with some new packaging and labels. In the meantime we will have 30-pound boxes ($105) and 5-pound bags ($25) in the freezer at pick-up. 

Saving Crystal Spring Farm and Many Places Like it

As many of you know, Crystal Spring Farm is owned by the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust (BTLT) and Maura and I have an innovative long-term lease with the trust that allows us to run the CSA as our independent business.  The Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust saved this farm from the threat of development twenty years ago. In the last two decades, BTLT has continued to protect and preserve over 2,500 acres of open space and farmland in our community along with offering recreational and educational programs that allow all of us to get out and enjoy the beauty of this great place we live in.  The trust is a community-based non-profit, staffed by committed local folks that work hard to keep our towns beautiful and accessible. BTLT also runs the Saturday Farmers’ Market at Crystal Spring Farm. Please consider supporting their work by becoming a member of the Land Trust. To learn more about BTLT’s mission and support their programs please follow this link.

2018 and Late Fall Share Sign-up

Thanks to everyone who has thrown their hats in with us for 2018. Your commitment now makes a huge difference for us as we plan and finance the coming season. Still haven’t signed up? Easy payment plans for both shares and add-ons available. Follow this link.

We also have Late Fall shares open. Come to the farm for produce every other Tuesday in November and December, including the Tuesday before Thanks giving and Christmas.  sign up here.

What’s in the Share 

  • Lettuce
  • Napa Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Delicata Squash
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Tatsoi/Baby Bok
  • Radishes
  • Peppers
  • Arugula

What’s in Upic

  • Cherry tomatoes/tomatillos
  • Flowers
  • Herbs

What a weekend – we hope you made it to the beach or enjoyed the warm sun where ever you could!  Produce is really growing fast for this time of year -almost like June except that the days are shorter. It’s all good news as it should make the fall crops like carrots and cabbage really size up. With any luck we will get a little rain too and then at some point a bit of frost to sweeten everything up!

CSA Upgrade…More Choice Next Season! (and your thoughts?)

This September some of you are in the home stretch of your very first CSA season!  Others, we are honored and grateful to say, have been with us here at Crystal Spring Farm for thirteen seasons!  We know there are lots of great reasons why people participate in our farm – appreciating great local and organic produce (at a relatively low cost);  valuing the role of a local farm, coming to Upic, and more.  We also have recognized and acknowledged the challenges of CSA – primarily the lack of choice in what you bring home to prepare and enjoy.   While this can be a welcome adventure in some cases, we understand it may not be ideal. While we try to offset this by offering “mix and match” with the greens and other veggies as much as possible, we have been strategizing ways to make the CSA experience even better in regards to choice.  

As we flesh out the possibilities for increased choice we will let you know about changes to come for next season.  In the meantime we welcome your thoughts!  

Farm to Table at the Crystal Spring

Join us for a farm to table multi course meal on the farm this Sunday 3-7. Our produce, pork and craft beers will be offered along with beautiful views and good conversation. For more info and to sign up follow this link.

Fall Shares Still Available

Keep eating with us through the end of the year with our fall share. Come to the farm every other Tuesday in November and December for storage vegetables like onions, squash, potatoes and carrots as well as fresh greens like spinach and lettuce cut from our greenhouses. Not ready to quit in October? This share is for you. Here’s the link to sign up.

2018 Signups Underway 

Thank you to all of you who have signed up during the last week. Your support at this time of year is really appreciated. Here’s the link if you haven’t gotten to it yet… 

What’s In The Share

  • Radishes
  • Tomatoes
  • Mustard
  • Onions
  • Kale/chard
  • Acorn Squash
  • Eggplant/Peppers
  • Lettuce
  • Chickories
  • Spinach

What’s In Upic

  • Cherry Toms
  • Tomatillos
  • Flowers
  • Herbs