Welcome frost! Sweeter fall veggies and time for gratitude.

The  frost we had Friday night in Arlington  sealed the yearly fate of the tomato plants and pepper plants still hanging on in my garden here.  Zinnias, tomatillos still with fruit, and the cucumber plant that I just picked the last big one off–all are a dull green/brown and limp.  That last cucumber was so delicious, and we certainly announced our gratitude before eating it!  The pumpkins are turning orange and the loopers and aphids threatening our kale are gone now, too!   I was able to pull the basil inside and try preserving it for simple additions to winter soups by freezing in ice cube trays with a drizzle of olive oil.

Here’s what’s going on at the Shared Harvest Farms with the frosty nights settling in:

From Jenny at Picadilly:  “The farm has rounded the bend fully now into autumn, with the summer harvests screeching to a halt…Shorter days mean little real plant growth.  Most fruiting plants – peppers, tomatoes, eggplant – have slowed or finished production, as daylight diminishes and cool nights have become the norm.  I view these plants now with gratitude but also a hint of sadness, knowing that the still-plentiful blossoms won’t have enough time or sunshine to become fruit. We’re slowly removing the tomato vines from the hoophouses, and planting greens for hopeful winter harvest. We tried a bit of this last fall, with mixed success, so we’ll see what we can learn this time around. The squash and roots are rolling out, with our most spectacular celeriac crop ever making a showing this week. My hands are chilly most mornings, and I keep thinking, “soup, soup, soup”.  Some crops will need protection from frosty temps, including lettuce and arugula, so we’ll toss row covers over those. For the most part, though, we welcome the frost right about now. The carrots, kale, parsnips and spinach will all become sweeter and sweeter, thanks to the cold. Here’s to the hearty autumn harvests! Our fall roots crops are coming in beautifully, with sweet potatoes, daikon, parsnips, turnips, kohlrabi and rutabagas (yes! finally a crop this year!) still to come over the next months. Though many of these roots are uncommon in our contemporary kitchens, the good news is that they store well, giving us enough time to make good use of them. Send along your favorite root veggie recipes!”

 Rob and Meghan reflect on the chain of labor and tasks that has yielded a plentiful harvest at Riverland:

” This year we had a bigger crew than ever and we needed it.  In the height of the season, including Meghan and myself, there were 13 people working regularly on the farm in some capacity.  Today we are down to 6.  This year’s crew has been nothing short of fantastic.  A positive, invested, hard working bunch that worked very well together.  I like to think of each one of us as a link in a chain that is driving this vegetable production machine.  Each link is responsible for making several crucial processes occur.  In the winter and spring the chain is a relatively small one.  As the season ramps up we continue to add links to the chain…  In one end of the machine you can put in the raw materials… soil, sunlight, water, seeds, nutrients, etc.  These materials are touched, manipulated, shaped, and transformed by the machine and into a season of glistening vegetables ready for you to take home and enjoy.  If I was an artist I’d probably include a cartoon schematic of this machine but since I’m not maybe it’s better if you draw up in your own mind.  I know that my mental picture is pretty entertaining!

    All kidding aside, I liken each person on the farm to a link in a chain because a chain is no greater than the sum of its parts.  To function properly it requires every other part of the chain working in concert.  From planning, marketing, and preparing to planting, maintaining, harvesting, washing, packing, and distributing there are an amazing amount of steps that the machine carries out to reach the final product and to ensure that the final product has a destination.

    The final product, of course, is also determined by the quality of the raw materials.  The right balance of raw materials, when fed through the machine, produces something truly amazing. As evidence of how fragile and vulnerable we really are, the machine will not produce a quality product or not produce a product at all if the wrong mix of raw materials is put in or the chain is not working in concert. This is something I like to reflect on and  be thankful for at each meal.

   Last week our chain became smaller once again as we bade farewell to our crew of Guatemalan folks who worked at the farm starting in mid May.  This was the first year in our 6 year history that we employed migrant farm workers on a consistent basis.  As 3 links in the chain, Juan, Fidel, and Miguel were an integral part of our operation this year.  They jumped in wherever they were needed and approached every task with a solid work ethic and a good attitude.  Along with their hard work they brought something special to the farm and farm crew that is hard to put a finger on.  Maybe it was their lifetime of farm work, their happiness with a simple life, their dedication to what we are doing here, their lunch that they were always trying to feed us, their stories, or the mere opportunity to communicate in another language.  Most likely it was a combination of those things and some others.  They are off to Florida for the winter to pick tomatoes, peppers, and oranges among other things.  We wish them well, thank them for all their hard work, and look forward to seeing them again as we’ll likely have a couple of them return next season.  Until then we’ll adjust the chain, link it back together, flip the switch, and continue to produce the food.  We hope you enjoy the results!!”