Spring in the Berkshires – Kinderhook Creek Farm
April 2015The cold weather was leaving Kinderhook Creek farm more slowly than the other farms I have visited so far this spring – but there was still plenty of action to be found there. The combination of a deeply cold winter, a slow spring thaw, and elevation (875 feet above sea level) put Kinderhook Creek Farm on a slightly different timeline compared to farms in valleys and flats. Warm weather usually catches up across the growing season, so rarely is there any change in harvest time that can be felt by those of us waiting eagerly for their crops. Corn varieties were chosen some time ago, and the seed is in farm storage waiting for the earth to warm up just a little more. The cold weather actually has some soil benefits – it helps to keep some pests controlled.
Sweet, delicious and popular bicolor corn is the primary crop of this farm, though they also plant field corn, hay, and a market garden, raise Angus cattle, and grow yellow corn for specific markets. As they wait for the ground to warm, equipment is being readied after being maintained, repaired or updated this past winter. The corn planter was out in the yard – farmer Larry Eckhardt was showing me the seed closer in the picture I have here – the wheel pushes dirt onto the seed after the machine plants it, the equivalent of tapping it with a hoe.
Fresh Farm Stories – Shaul’s Farm, Middleburgh, NY
It was pouring rain when I got to Shaul’s farm on April 22nd, to meet with farmer Dave and learn about what is happening on their farm. It was very chilly, but Dave was in his usual uniform of sweatshirt and shorts – he is moving constantly, and his hands are rarely still – he didn’t seem to feel the cold or rain, which is a good thing for a farmer. (I was dressed for the weather, except I needed a hood – so, note to self for my future farm visits.) Shaul’s is a large family farm, one of the largest in the region, though most of Dave’s siblings have moved away from the business.We visited the first crop of the season, which was sown by hand last October – 3 acres of garlic. The rows stretch out uniformly on the flat valley floor, seeded through the plastic that acts as a mini-greenhouse and along with straw, protects the seed garlic over the winter and then captures warmth as the days lengthen and winter starts to (oh, so slowly this year) move out. Garlic is universally loved by anyone who cooks and most people who eat, so it is fun to see this huge planting right out of the gate. We also visited the first corn planted – also planted under plastic, 2 rows across, down each row. Dave pulled out his “computer” – a binder with multiple years of notes about what crops were planted where, notes about different varieties, experiments, results and ideas about what could be done to improve the following year all neatly laid out. He had planting dates recorded – interesting to note, this is not the latest year – in 2011, some things weren’t planted until May 7th and 8th! Farmers also have to have a sense of expected yield – the single corn row in my picture here he estimates will produce 75 bushels of corn!
In the green houses, peppers, flowers for the farm stand, tomatoes, melons, broccoli, cabbage and lettuce are all happily sprouting. The green houses are heated on the farms I have visited so far – fans and large windows help the farm team manage the temperatures when days range from 32 degrees in the morning, to 70 degrees at 4 PM the same day. One of the most interesting things I learned – watermelons are germinated on a heating pad – they are finicky and fussy to start, so need special attention. We will keep an eye on these – they will be delicious Buttercup yellow watermelon when we see them in the store. Keep visiting the blog for more farm fresh stories – we have a lot of farmers to visit still!