Friday, April 29, 2011

Pete's Greens Farm Update April 29, 2011

Pete's Musings

Things are progressing well here. The building project is coming along and presenting us with daily challenges that we seem to be meeting. Concrete is done and we stood up two walls Wednesday. We are excited about the quality of the building. It is going to be tight and efficient, an excellent workspace. It's been a tough spring so far for farming. We were not able to plant outdoor greens until a week ago (this usually happens by April 1). We are slipping in field work between the rainy days. A spring like this makes me really happy that we have good equipment. We can get a lot done in a short amount of time and that makes all the difference when there are only two dry days a week. The greenhouses are looking great with harvests of greens, basil, pac choi, and more in progress. We'll be planting potatoes, onions, and a lot more transplants in the next couple weeks. ~ Pete

CSA Summer Share Sign Up!
The Summer Share is filling up and the start of the share in June is just a few weeks away! Sign up now to receive weekly deliveries of beautiful, fresh organic vegetables, localvore staples, and/or pastured meats. Shares start June 22 for as little as $29/week. Visit the Summer Share page for more info. Summer Share checks will not be deposited until May 30, 2011.

Funding News!

We attended a press conference at the State House yesterday where Governor Shumlin announced a $300,000 award that we will be receiving to help with our rebuild efforts. This money comes to us as the result of an economic development block grant application that we submitted to the Vermont Community Development Program (VCDP) in partnership with the Town of Craftsbury and with the help of the Northern Vermont Development Agency (NVDA). Despite the name "block grant", this money is actually loaned to us at a low interest rate from the Town of Craftsbury who receive the money from VCDP. The VCDP funds originate as Federal funds from the U.S. Dept of Housing and Urban Development and are intended for economic development projects like ours to help to create jobs.

This loan will provide a critical cornerstone of the funding that we need to get back on track. The cool part about this loan source is that, though it is a loan to us, and we need to pay it back over the next ten years, it is a grant to the Town of Craftsbury. The money we pay back will in turn flow back through the Town to NVDA where it becomes available to loan again to other agricultural businesses that are growing jobs in the Northeast Kingdom. This money, combined with the donation money that we will also pay back through our newly formed Vermont Farm Fund, means that a significant pot of money will be available for NEK agriculture in the near future. First, we need to use it to rebuild and get back on track, but it is great to know that it will do good work for area farmers again a few years from now.

Getting through the last few months financially has been possible in large part because of the donations that were given and fundraisers that were held on our behalf. This money has allowed us to move ahead and pay bills, payroll, pay for seed and to start construction while I applied myself to determining where the rest of the money would come from. It provided a bridge and stability and in addition, it provided us with the sense of urgency that we needed to work fast to get back on track and continue doing good work. Many thanks to all of you who contributed with cash donations, time, advice, equipment, donated share refunds and for all of your letters of support and encouragement. ~ Amy

Read Sally Pollak's article in the Burlington Free Press and VPR's story.

Construction Progress

On Monday the last of the concrete slab was poured. It was a triumphant moment given how long it has taken to do all of the foundation and slab work. The frost wall was completed on April 2. Since then there has been fill, compacting, insulating floors of coolers and freezer, plumbing trenches and plumbing to install, electrical conduit to run, as well as footers formed and poured that will support the structural steel which comes in next. All of that work took more than three weeks. Meanwhile, the wall construction (on the ground) has continued. We now have the walls constructed for about half of the building and the first two walls were erected Wednesday!

Our old barn was located adjacent to the farmhouse on Craftsbury Rd, nearly 1500 feet from our greenhouses and the start of our fields. The new building is being built right in the heart of our growing area, with the greenhouses alongside and the fields stretching out beyond. This will be great for communication and efficiency, but also good for the soul to be surrounded at all times by fields of food.

Looking at these late spring photos makes the farm seem so drab and without life. But step into one of the greenhouses and the scene completely changes, see sections below...

Photos April 25 - The slab, nearly complete! The section in the foreground left (lower photo above) is the 1100 sq ft freezer. To the right is the 2100 sq ft cooler. Beyond is 1000 sq feet of commercial kitchen, 1600 sq feet of packing area, a smaller 800 sq foot cooler, and 5600 sq foot of wash-house area.

Left Photo - April 25 - Shawn and Kevin working on another wall section. You can also see a large field of mesclun covered in a row cover beyond in the field. Right Photo - Stacks of finished walls. The freezer walls are 30" thick, cooler walls are 24" thick, and regular walls are 18" thick. The hollow interiors will be insulated once they are installed.

Photo April 11 - Two weeks ago the crew was still doing plenty of shoveling, raking and compacting as they fine-tuned the various sections of the slab.

Introducing New Crew Member Annie Myers

This is the first year that I’m farming full-time in the spring, although I’ve grown vegetables over a few summers and falls. These past few weeks, much of the work on the farm hasn’t been very familiar. I’ve been feeling like a little kid who can only keep learning and at least figure that I am comic relief for the more experienced workers of the greenhouses and the fields.

We’ve been stretching huge sheets of row cover across the seeded outdoor beds. It reminds me of how I never used to make my bed (never ever used to stretch the sheets flat), and now seem to be making up for lost time… on 200-ft beds. I’ve driven tractors for the first time in the last few weeks and have to consciously switch back to car mode for the drive home. The seeds that Deb and I plant each week seem to me like hundreds of sets of marbles in their bags, gnarly or smooth, shiny, fuzzy, minuscule, familiar, or often nothing like the foods they will produce. I’ve practically taken notes as we’ve tended to the early lives of the tomatoes and cucumbers, from seeding to transplanting to clipping, planting, stringing, and pruning. I’ve loved how the greenhouses come to life with our work, one at a time, from cleaning out last year’s dead plants, to spreading compost, tilling, laying out irrigation lines, stretching out plastic for weeds, hanging strings for tomatoes and cukes, and finally planting the starts.

The season feels like a steady productive calm before the oncoming storm of summer production. After spending much of my life on the other end of food – selling, buying, or cooking, in the city – it’s good to be growing here! ~ Annie

Annie Myers most recently hails from Brooklyn, NY. After working as a Forager for the restaurants the Spotted Pig and the Breslin she ventured out to work on a PA farm for the first time in 2010. As the season concluded on Eckerton Hill Farm, Annie decided to continue on the path of farm learning and moved to Craftsbury to work at Pete's Greens. She is learning all that she can while she considers what kind of farm she might like to have one day.

Annie is blogging about her farm/food/VT related adventures and you can read it here Thoughts on the Table.

Six Weeks in the Greenhouse

This series of photos were taken in the "headhouse", our greenhouse that is heated by a boiler that burns used vegetable oil. Tim picks up the used oil from area restaurants when he is out on delivery. When Pete built the greenhouse he installed radiant heat under the concrete slab in the near part of the greenhouse which warms the flats of seedlings that we start here. At the far end of the greenhouse we plant the earliest crops each year, tomatoes and European cucumbers along with basil and other greens (this year is pac choi, napa and mustard greens).

Mar 15 - Melissa plants Napa.

Mar 21, Melissa, Annie and Deb finish laying drip irrigation lines and stringing tomato trellis wire in preparation for planting the rest of the starts.

Apr 18 - Growth!

Apr 25 - Heads of Napa, beautiful mustard greens inter-planted with tomato and cucumber vines that are 5 feet tall!

Good Eats Summer Share - June 22 - October 12

Have you signed up for your CSA Share yet?


The Localvore Share - a great mix of organic vegetables and high quality locally produced staples like cheeses, eggs, flours, grains, cooking oils and more. $765 for the 17 week period ($45/week).

The Veggie Only Share - same vegetables that Localvore members receive, but no local staples. $493 ($29/week).

Pete's Pantry Share - brings you NO vegetables, just the same local staples included in the Localvore share. This share costs $272 for 17 weeks ($16/wk).

The Meat Share brings you a MONTHLY selection of local meats. The Meat Share features our own chicken and our own pork with beef and lamb from other producers we know and love (and who are excellent stewards of their animals and their land). $199 for four deliveries, one delivery at the start of each month of the four month share period.

Visit our website for more details or to download a sign-up form.

NOFA-VT Farm Share

If you are on a limited income you may be eligible to purchase a share through NOFA-VT's Farm Share program. To learn more, visit:
NOFA-VT Farm Share Program
Pete's Greens, About Farm Share

Refer a Friend to Good Eats Summer CSA

You can receive a credit of a one week vegetable share free if you refer a friend to Good Eats for our 2011 Summer Shares. Tell your friend to put your name in the referral line and you'll receive a credit on your account. Details on-line.

Would you like to split a share?

There are already members seeking share partners in Richmond, Burlington and Shelburne. If you would like to split a share with someone this summer, please check the Members Seeking page. Or if you would like to have a notice posted, send me an email.

Jobs Available at Pete's Greens

Skilled Tractor Driver/Farm Hand

We are looking for a skilled tractor driver and general farm hand to work this 2011 farming season with potential for year-round work. Applicants should be hardworking and willing to work long hours in all weather conditions and including some weekends. Prior farm experience is a must. Please apply with your resumes to or in person at the farm in Craftsbury Village.

Internships are available for 2-3 hardworking, motivated and eager to learn individuals for 2011 (May to November). Interns will participate in general farm work including, planting, weeding, harvesting, washing, and packing of produce. Additionally there will be opportunities to manage the on-site farm stand, assist with sales at the Montpelier Farmers' Market and participate in farm events. Please visit our website for additional details.