The switch from winter to spring flipped a couple weeks back and we have been off to the races! Temperate weather with a little rainfall, nights not too cold and days not too hot have made it a pretty good spring so far. The crew and I have been plowing through the planting schedule, building plastic tunnels for tomatoes and peppers, zucchini and cucumbers, burying irrigation lines and refilling the greenhouse with endless seedlings. Kim and Bob have been setting out endless flowers, herbs, beans and peas into the Upic field.  All of this scurry is to get us ready for the first harvest just a few weeks away. Honestly the hardest thing  faced this year is getting the blog post out in a timely way!

When is the First Share?

The plan for for our first harvest is the week of June 4th. At this point we appear to be on track for that but we will make the final call in about a week and send out another email note to confirm. The crops look good and healthy. The deciding factor for harvest start this time of year is always temperature. If the lettuce grows and the strawberries flower then we will be on track.

Brunswick On-Farm Share Almost Sold Out, Delivered Shares Moving Quickly

If you have been waiting to join the window is closing. At the time of this post we have but 9 Brunswick on-farm shares left. Want to close the deal now? Here's the link for the on-farm share.Our delivered shares are also going quickly. Click here to sign up for our farm box delivered all over the greater Casco Bay Area.

Add-on Great Maine Food to Your Produce Share

We work with the best growers and producers in Maine to offer add-ons of organic eggs and yogurt, artisan cheese, fresh cut flower bouquets and more to make you weekly farm share even better. To find out more log into your farm account and add-on. Here are the links for On-farm and Delivered shares to sign-up.

New Member Orientation May 26/27

If you are new to CSA or just new to Crystal Spring come out to the farm and see what we are all about. Our annual non-mandatory new member orientation is a chance to meet the farmers, find the Upic field and see behind the scenes of how we grow all this great food. Both Saturday and Sunday, May 26 and 27 at 4 pm.

How Do We get it all Done?

Ever wonder what the day looks like on the farm as we grow all this great food? Come join us and find out. Every Wednesday we welcome members to join the crew as we plant, harvest and weed our way through the summer. We love to share what we do and we are pretty good at chit chat while we do it. The crew leaves the farmstead for the fields promptly at 8am and we work until our lunch break at 1pm. Send us an email the day before so we know to look for you.

Save the Farm and Save the Landfill -BETA Version

Our newly created Brunswick on-farm share composting program is coming together. Starting at the first Brunswick pick-up we will have buckets and lids for you to take home and fill with your trimmings and leftovers. Bring them back to the farm, trade for a clean bucket and repeat. Our hope is that we can all work to extend the life of our local landfills, save you some cash by reducing your garbage costs, and at the same time build some fertility back into the farm. The cost for the season will be just $6 to cover the cost of organizing, labor and supplies. Here's a link to everything we do to protect and preserve the farm and the planet.

It's really not that bad. This spring has been psychological warfare on Mainers. I know this because everyone I talk to is sure that the season is late, unusually cold, dark, (add your negative adjective here). There is something to be said about being really busy during this time of year, all of us on the farm crew have just kept our heads down and plowed through (soil plow, not snow). We have have been in the fields prepping and planting for more than a week and looking back at our instagram feed we are a day ahead of our requisite "first transplanting" post. With the exception of the coming mega-flood-mythical-cyclone weather channel hyperbole event coming next week the long-range forecast looks good. 

Crops in the ground so far are beets, carrots, kales, chard, chickories, asian greens, lettuce and peas. In the next week onions, strawberries (for the 2019 crop), mini broccoli, cabbage, and scallions should go out. We also have a couple tunnels to build and get irrigation set for the season. 

CSA shares for both our Brunswick on-farm and Delivered shares are selling very quickly now that the weather has turned. If you haven't signed up yet please do as we expect to sell out. Here's the link for On-farm shares and Delivered Shares. Thanks so much to those who have become members this winter. Your commitment early makes this model work. 

Add-on Shares 

The bouquet share is back! Kim is taking the reigns of the ever popular 10 week share and is bringing her deep botanical skills to create what will be some knock-out arrangements. Filling your home with the color and scent of a bouquet share is truly the icing on the cake of your weekly farm produce experience. For more info and to sign-up click here.

Want more than flowers? Here's our offering of add-ons this year:

Compost at the farm...

Running a farm is all about circles. Occasionally running in them but mostly finding the interconnectedness between what we put into the soil and what we take out. For years we have been wanting to close the loop with all the produce we send off the farm and all the trimmings and leftovers that go to the landfill. This season we are trialing a new program for on-farm shares that will allow you to bring your food waste back to the farm each week which we will then compost and return to the field. We have a system that will allow you to bring clean buckets home each week, fill them up with your food waste, drop them at the farm when you come for your share, and take home a clean one to repeat the process the next week. The farm gets a regular source of compost and you get to send less to the landfill, reducing your waste footprint. More info in the coming weeks...

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. 

Happy New year

4Website Updates4Our CSA Evolves42018 Sign-up4Winter Staples Ordering

A month ago amidst the scurry of holidays and the last Fall Share harvest/pick-up we were really looking forward to deep winter. Short days and less to do outside is a welcome change at the end of a farm season.  Now, one month later, on the other side of this Siberian-cold, my head has turned towards optimism for spring.  Our days are filled assembling all the moving pieces that will allow us to work the farm for another year.

Website Refreshed

Part of our indoor time has been spent rebuilding this website from the ground up. New format, new information and new photos. Click around and explore. Yet to be completed are pages on the crew and the history of the farm. If anyone with local history passion has an interest in helping with some research on this last one I'd love some help.

CSA Evolution

Exciting changes are taking place in our harvest and pick up process as we increase the element of choice in our CSA share. For all the positive feedback we hear year after year, we are always looking at areas to tweak and shift to make the experience even better.  Some members have expressed concern that they take home produce they didn't want or couldn't use, which made them question the value of their share as a whole. This is a common issue within the traditional CSA model.  As you know, we've recognized this lack of choice inherent in a CSA share and offered "Mix and Match" items.  Our new system will expand on the "mix and match" to include ALL produce.  For example, if we have twelve crops available, you will have the option of choosing eight. Our intention is to provide everyone some flexibility even those of you who "love everything." You may be over the moon for spinach but still have a full bag in the crisper from last week. This system who allow you the flexibility to bring home something else.Those of you that have signed up already for 2018 may remember a quick survey that asked you to rate all of our crops by either liking them or not. In the coming weeks we will take the results of this survey and create a growing plan that mirrors your likes and dislikes, growing more quantity of your favorites while at the same time trying to bring more diversity in the total number of crops and varieties we have each week. The combination of these two changes will allow you to take home vegetables that make you happy, including the option of taking home the kohlrabi and baby bok choi that we have so successfully brainwashed you into loving. The overall quantity of produce you take home will compare with what we have offered in past seasons with the big change being an increase in the diversity of crops we have to offer each week. 

Maura and I realize that change can be unsettling and knowing what to expect from your farm share has been a comforting thing to so many of you that have been members for so long. That said, we really believe that this adjustment to the way we do things will be a great update!

Sign-up for 2018 open

Join the collective dream of spring and sign up for your share today. New this year, your add-on shares can be folded into your payment plan and all run automatically on your card/echeck. You can also send a check in the mail if you prefer. Here's the link.

Winter Staples to Tide you Over

We've heard you are missing our carrots....  As many of you know we grow produce for a few restaurants and processors (pickle/sauerkraut makers). We had a good year for many of these crops and have more in storage than we will need to fill our standing orders. Knowing it's winter and we are all craving living food we thought we would try a winter staple bulk order open to all of you. Here's how it will work: look for our email at the beginning of next week with a list of what we have available (7 pound bags of carrots, 5 pound bags of beets, green cabbage by the head, etc). Place your order via our online form (link will be in the email) and come by and pick up your produce. We are looking at Wednesday February 7 as the pick-up date. We will also have organic eggs and sliced sandwich loaves from standard baking (we squirrel these away in the freezer for quick toast/sandwich options). Stay tuned for the email on Monday.

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