St. Valentine’s Day was Not Just for Lovers

Have you noticed that the hours of daylight have been increasing?

December 21st is the shortest day with less than 9 hours of daylight. On January 21st this jumped to 9 hours 32 minutes and February 14th increased again to 10 hours 30 minutes. Doing the math, since December 21st we have gained 1 hour 30 minutes and these gains seem more noticeable each day.

The sun even feels much warmer when it decides to make an appearance. The combined longer daylight and warmer sun means it’s time to start planting again in the High Tunnel. Out with the old and in with the new.

This week we finished harvesting one of the beds of Asian Greens and began the process of replanting a new crop for early spring harvest.

We stagger the plantings so we can have a steady supply of greens throughout the spring. After we finished harvesting we used the broad fork to loosen the soil and then clear out the old plants and debris by hand. Just a simple tool that uses muscle to loosen and aerate the soil for the new crop. The goal is to loosen the soil but not disturb it too much and keep all the topsoil on the top layer.

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Now we are almost ready to plant, but there is one more important step.

We need to till the top 2-3 inches to smooth it out and make the perfect seed bed. Keep in mind we are planting very tiny seeds and they need the best conditions as possible. The tool for this is called the tilther and uses a cordless electric drill to power it. A very cool tool that is specifically designed for this purpose.

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Finally we can plant into that perfect seed bed.

I didn’t have to amend the soil for this planting because lettuce and radishes are not big feeders. Also, last fall we added compost to all the beds. For this job I use a little six row push seeder that does a pretty good job. It doesn’t singulate the seeds perfectly but for this job is serves the purpose.

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Half the bed is lettuce mix.

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Other half is red radishes.

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Here are the finished beds and all that is left is to cover them with row cover to keep them warm on the cooler nights.

They are not going to germinate very fast but once they get going they should be ready in early April. Also we are trying an experiment this year and we wrapped the outside walls of the tunnel in a reflective insulated wrap. The goal is the keep it warmer and reflect more of that stippled sunlight to the ground.

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Now I hope you have a new appreciation for St Valentine’s Day and we can’t wait to start harvesting the first new crops of 2019. Also new this week are micro greens and pea shoots. Be sure to stop by the market and give them a try.

Phillip

 

What do Farmers do in the Winter Time?

Fisher Hill Farm in the Winter

It seems like I get that question fairly often and certainly more folks are wondering than are actually asking, so thought I would share a bit about our winter season.

Winter is little different story for us compared to other farms because two of our ‘summer season’ farmers markets continue throughout the winter and I have a local restaurant delivery route all winter long. Between harvesting greens from the high tunnel, washing produce from storage, and taking care of the poultry we stay fairly busy.

Definitely, not summer time busy but steady nonetheless.

The first task of every winter is to order seeds.

Can’t grow vegetables without them! But before you can start placing orders you need to know what to get. I take inventory of what I had left over from the previous year and that gets the ball rolling. Then I have to look at the transplanting and seeding schedules from the previous year to see if I need to make any adjustments. I read through the stack of seed catalogs vying for my attention looking for improved or new offerings. Finally, I have a baseline of what I need and can start ordering.

Did you know that we purchase seeds from four different seed dealers?

One of the dealers is located right here in Rochester, NY. A few tweaks to the order may occur based on seed production availability or talks with the seed company reps and then the boxes start arriving. Funny thing is that even though I mostly place one bulk order with each company, they never send everything at once so it’s a steady trickle of boxes for the next 4-6 weeks, always with a surprise element of what each box actually contains!

This week I was working on getting some fields plowed for early crops.

I usually do this in the fall but it was so wet and muddy I could not get it done. Then after Christmas I started working on it and a part broke on the tractor. By the time the part arrived, Siberia had set in and the ground was frozen. Luckily, we had a February thaw and I got a chance to get back on the tractor. I finished the field that I started and got another one going. Unfortunately now it’s too muddy and I will have to wait till the ground gets a little freeze on it. There is a fine balance between muddy and frozen which can change within a few hours in the mornings and evenings.

Plowing in the Winter
Plowing in the Winter – Fisher Hill Farm

By the time the part arrived, Siberia had set in and the ground was frozen.

Another big winter task is getting all the accounting figured out for 2018 and meeting with the accountant. It usually takes a few weeks to get all the information into QuickBooks, and compile all the reports that the accountant needs to file the taxes. It’s not my favorite job of the year but a very important one.

After the taxes are all done and filed I can start working on machinery maintenance. All the tractors and RTVs need oil changes and service. Usually as you go through the machines you find little issues that need to be fixed. Then we start looking at the other equipment that gets used throughout the season. For the most part these are all tasks that we work in as time permits.

We finalized the plans this week to have a CSA pickup location in Victor, NY.

Victor Central School asked if we would be willing to setup on their campus Tuesday afternoons this market season, June-October. This will be a great opportunity for us to grow the CSA program and provide our products to the Victor area. (We did attend the Victor Farmers Market for several years from around 2005-2012.)

The sure sign of spring is getting the greenhouse ready for the first seeds. Around mid March we start early transplants of beets, chard, and tomatoes. Then every week after that the planting continues until July.

 

Phillip

Winter on the Farm

Fisher Hill Farm Winter

Even in the winter it’s business as usual on the farm. Even in these cold temperatures we still have to tend to our land and animals, although there might be a little more argument on who goes out to feed the chickens!

We can’t stress enough how much we love our job. There’s always parts of the job that we don’t like, and there’s probably parts of your job that you don’t like either, but we take a lot of pride and joy out of our work. Getting up and being at your job might sound terrible to some of you, but for us it’s a dream come true.

Our sincere enjoyment is yours actually. We have many repeat customers and many new customers who come to us for the food that helps sustain their family, themselves, and their friends. There is no greater feeling in the world than a job well done and when we hear the success stories of the dishes you made that your family and friends loved with our products it gives us true joy.

Shoppers at the Brighton Winter Farmers Market

Winter on the farm is a bit slower than in the spring, summer, and fall. It’s certainly a lot darker (although that’s slowly changing) and much quieter. But this time is essential for us to plan out our crops, spend some quiet nights with our girls, and think about spring!

We’re ready for it some days and other days we’re glad we have a few months. We hope this year is a good growing one not only for our crops that we bring to you but also for our three most important crops, our girls!

For the next few months you can find us at the Rochester Public Market and the Brighton Winter Farmers Market.

Check out our Farmers Market page for information and directions. 

It’s not too early to start thinking about our CSA either!

See you at the market!

Fall Harvest Begins

In the last seven days we have seen many weather extremes that have made farm life interesting. We really didn’t enjoy the stretch of hot weather as it definitely shortened the work day and production levels. Then it was much cooler weather that made everyone feel much better but that was followed by almost three inches of rain. It has been a rather long run of wet days the last few weeks. Seems like it just starts to dry out and it rains again. We have not been able to dig potatoes for a few weeks and now we are out of harvested potatoes. Hopefully we can have some nice sunny days with a little breeze to help dry out the soil because there are still more than plenty in the ground!

new potatoes - Fisher Hill Farm
Running low on harvested potatoes because of the rain

 

All of the shallots have been pulled and we started on the red onions today. One more cycle in the greenhouse and all the onions will be dried for the season. The early planting of winter squash has been cut and piled. Hopefully in the next day or two we can get it all picked up and into storage. We have wagers going among the guys on how many 20 bushel bins we will fill. The high guess is 17 and the low is 8. I would be happy with any of those numbers and only time will tell.

Squash Harvest - Fisher Hill Farm
The start of fall squash harvest

 

Sadly, watermelons are all done for the year. We really enjoyed some of the sweetest melons we have had in a couple of years. I think it was a combination of a dry June and such warm weather. I know that many people will be asking for them at the market. Cantaloupes have slowed down but warm weather should pick their production back up. Tomatoes are at their peak right now with canning and freezing quantities available.

 RECIPE

After a wet and cool market Monday I was inspired to make a warm hearty meal for dinner. Honestly the prep work took longer than the cooking and I think the results were amazing.

 Ingredients:
2 medium zucchini, cut up

        2 ears of corn, cut off the cob

        1 large onion, chopped

        1 head of garlic, peeled and chopped

        4 san marzano tomatoes, diced

 

Cook the onions and garlic in a frying pan with olive oil. When they are cooked add the rest of the ingredients at medium heat. Cover and stir for a few minutes. Transfer to a Pyrex pan and cook at 400 degrees for another 15 minutes. I added a little balsamic vinegar just before serving it. Sandi and I enjoyed it very much, the girls liked certain veggies more than others! For dessert we had baked apples with a little cinnamon and whipped cream. Nothing fancy but very tasty. Please share some of your favorite recipes and I will include them in the future newsletters.

 

Phillip

From Our Family to Yours

We wouldn’t grow and sell anything that we wouldn’t give the three little girls in this picture. We take great pride in everything we grow and bring to you. For those of you who don’t know us or our farm very well, it’s nice to meet you!

Our farm is located atop a rolling, stretching hill in Bristol, New York. It’s a quiet and breezy hill top with some other neighboring farms and families just like ours. The sunsets and sunrises are incredible as our the stars on warm summer evenings.

You can find us at public and farmers markets around the Rochester, New York area. For the complete list of when and where we are, click here. 

We currently have our CSA available.  We give our customers lots of choice with the CSA that they choose. It runs from summer to fall and can include chicken and eggs as well. If you’d like to learn more about our CSA, click here. 

We also have partnered with some local stores and restaurants. The Farm to Table movement is strong and growing in the Rochester area and many chefs and store owners have turned to us to get the freshest ingredients for their guests. If you have a store or a restaurant and would like to learn more about what we offer and when, don’t hesitate to contact us.

You can check out some of our partners here.

Or you can fill out a contact form here and we will get back to you as soon as we can.

If you are at the Brighton Farmers Market or the Rochester Public Market stop by our stand, we’d love to meet you. But if you can’t make it out to those and still have questions please don’t hesitate to call us. We’d love to hear from you.