By Felix Teitelbaum, GreenLeaf Editor
It helps to be isolated from other potato production, says Andy Leed of Starflower Farm as he unearths a few Dark Red Norlandsone of the 36 varieties of potatoes he grows that shoppers can expect to find soon at GreenStar.
Theres no question about it, the farm is isolated. And very quiet.
When he hurls an overgrown tuber, a doe and fawn scamper off into the neighboring woods; newts creep underfoot; few cars pass.
The farm, in the hills outside of Candor, NY, grows potatoes for both seed and table.
"Welcome to our tomato jungle, joked Teresa Vanek gesturing toward an area swarming with indeterminate tomato vines where her husband Brent Welch prowled for the first ripe cherry tomato; it was delicious.
In the seven years since they began Red Tail Farm in Jacksonville, the two have brought the land out of continuous conventional corn and built a beautiful, sustainable farm producing fruits, vegetables, cut flowers, raw honey and more for the local market.
It was, of course, too early for apples in Trumansburg, NY. Nonetheless, on a hot day in mid-July at Black Diamond Farm, orchardist Jackie Merwin and her daughter Erica Naylor were up on ladders pulling fruit off the trees. And throwing it onto the ground. To the uninitiated, it might have appeared that their work was, at best, counterproductive.
However, as we walked through row after orderly row of heirloom and production apple trees, immature apples crunching under our feet, Jackie clarified this stage in the yearly cycle on the farm.
If the trees crop too heavily, theyll go biennial, she explained. Unmanaged apple trees tend to produce fruit every other year. By thinning, apple growers help ensure a yearly crop of more evenly sized fruit. Insect-damaged fruit can also be removed at this time.
Jackies husband Ian Merwin is a professor of horticulture at Cornell. He began the orchard years ago, casually planting disease-resistant varieties that interested him. Today, the farm boasts over ten fenced acres of apples, peaches, plums, cherries, grapes and blueberries.
At Black Diamond Farm, work starts in the dead of winter when trees are pruned; by April, new trees are planted and ground cover is mowed; in May, the limbs of trees are trained and blueberries are pruned; fruit thinning comes in June and July; the harvest is in full-tilt by mid-August and Jackie tries to have all the fruit sold by the holidays.
The work may be staggering, but his boundless excitement for growing fruit has driven Ian Merwin to plan even more. Next spring, the farm will be home to about 200 new apple trees. Just in time to help out with the growing business, the Merwins daughter Erica last year left Denver, Colorado (and a career in finance) to return home with her husband and son.
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New in Produce
|¡Viva la [Local] Revolución!|
Celebrate local history by supporting local farms — July brings greens, herbs, cukes, cabbage, and berries.
In July 1848, just a 53-minute drive from Ithaca, the first-ever women's rights convention was held in Seneca Falls, NY. Topics discussed included voting rights, property rights, and divorce. This gathering marked the beginning of the women's rights movement in the United States. History in our veritable backyard.
So, you want local produce? We've got local produce! Stick and Stone Farm brings us kale and basil, Blue Heron Farm provides us with zucchini, summer squash, cukes, and cabbage, and Remembrance Farm offers their full slate of baby salad greens: Flower Power, Field Greens, Spicy Greens, Arugula, Tatsoi, and Baby Kale, all available in 5-oz. clamshell packages. Also keep your eyes peeled for local fruit as berries start to ripen and become available. Have a safe and fun 4th of July and remember: "¡Viva la revolución!"