Views Around the Farm Stand + Menu for March 23

Boy were we glad to see the sun come out today. Sally, John, and several crew members were up until the wee hours of Thursday morning sloughing snow off greenhouses, and the whole farm was white for most of two days. Maybe all the bad weather is behind us, and we are now headed for a warmer, gentler spring.

grilled pâté with baguette

to start:

salumi and cheese platter
grilled pâté with baguette
tripe gratinata with peppers and bacon
mixed greens with balsamic vinaigrette
GTF salad with pears, candied walnuts, blue cheese, and balsamic vinaigrette
spiced carrot soup with artisan bread
potato, leek, and bacon soup with artisan bread
 

tripe

tripe gratinata with peppers and bacon

GTF salad with pears, candied walnuts, blue cheese, and balsamic vinaigrette

spiced carrot soup with artisan bread

potato, leek, and bacon soup with artisan bread

lots of local goods for sale in the farm store

ham/bacon/caper/tomato/mozzarella

pizze:

garlic/tomato/mozzarella
pepperoni/pickled peppers/tomato/mozzarella
ham/bacon/caper/tomato/mozzarella
zucchini/caramelized onion/tomato/mozzarella
 

cannelloni with beets and chicories

secondi:

duo of agnolotti
Mosaic Farm pork ragú over spaghetti
cannelloni with beets and chicories
creamy polenta with vegetables and poached egg
brodetto of clams and rockfish with aioli
duck breast with polenta and leeks with sour cherry mostarda
 

brodetto of clams and rockfish with aioli

duck breast with polenta and leeks with sour cherry mostarda

a specially requested poached egg over grilled leeks

a sneak peak at Ana Patty’s Saturday breakfast offerings with ham and blue cheese croissants in the background.

fresh squeezed orange juice for Saturday breakfast

Views Around the Farm Stand + Menu for March 15-16

 housemade fresh pasta

Thanks to those who braved the weather and came out for lunch today. We apologize for the lake in the parking lot, but we hope you enjoyed your meals. We’re all hoping the floodwaters recede as soon as possible.

(Update: The river is down significantly as of Friday morning, so we are definitely open for business.)

spaghettini of mussels and tomato

The Menu for March 15 and 16 (may vary depending on availability)

to start:

salumi and cheese platter
mixed greens with balsamic vinaigrette
GTF salad with pears, almonds, and a balsamic vinaigrette
watercress soup with artisan bread
beet and red cabbage soup with artisan bread
 

toasted almonds for salads

JC cuts into his stash of charcuterie.

housemade coppa

pizze:

garlic/tomato/mozzarella
pepperoni/pickled peppers/tomato/mozzarella
MF bacon/leek/tomato/mozzarella
collards/caramelized shallot/tomato/mozzarella
 

We get eggs from Provenance Farm, which is literally just across the street.

creamy polenta with vegetables and poached egg

JC celebrates St. Patrick’s Day with corned ham with cabbage and potato.

secondi:

agnolotti with basil and goat cheese
spaghettini of mussels and tomato
corned ham with cabbage and potato
creamy polenta with vegetables and poached egg
brodetto of clams and rockfish
 

Ana Patty rolls out danish dough. We did the math today and decided the finished product has no fewer than 135 layers of butter and dough. (Croissants have 180 layers!)

The dark flecks in the danish dough are cardamom.

honey-orange glaze for the morning buns

sweetness for the morning buns

soon-to-be morning buns

How To Graft Tomatoes (GTF Method)

Gathering Together Farm has been growing a significant portion of its tomato crop in greenhouses for over 15 years. Because of the limited space available under cover, the greenhouse rotation schedule has been less than ideal, making it necessary to plant tomatoes in the same houses more frequently than recommended. Over the years, the soil in particular greenhouses began to harbor various diseases that were stunting the growth and production of the tomato plants grown under cover. It became apparent that something needed to change if the farm was going to continue to plant tomatoes in existing greenhouses. The solution was grafting. Now, about 70-80% of the Gathering Together Farm tomato crop comes off grafted plants.

In essence, grafting tomatoes lets farmers reap the yield off of the tomato variety of their choice, but that scion is grown on highly disease resistant rootstocks. The result is more vigorous plants, a larger yield of higher quality fruits, and a longer period of productivity. Tomato grafting has been practiced for decades by growers who have been planting tomatoes in the same ground year after year because of limited space for necessary crop rotation.

At Gathering Together Farm, Paula has been grafting tomatoes for four years, and at this point, she has a fairly high success rate, about 90-95%. Paula and Joelene learned the art of grafting tomatoes from reading the literature online and in print, experimenting, and collaborating with Alice at Log House Plants, who was figuring out grafting methods around the same time.

To start off, ‘Maxifort‘ rootstock from Johnny’s Selected Seeds are seeded into 2.5″ pots, and all the other varieties of tomato scion are seeded into flats with 98 cells (“100s”). Even though the seed is relatively expensive, Gathering Together Farm over-seeds the rootstock by about 40% to account for an 80% germination rate and the fact that some rootstock plants will be unsuitable for grafting. Trays of seeded pots and flats are placed into a dark, humid chamber heated to about 85°.

The sprouting chamber is a farm-made structure with grated shelving underlain with rubber hoses through which warm water flows from an electric water heater. The sides and doors are plastic with velcro closures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Starting four days after seeding, Joelene pulls every tray of pots seeded with rootstock out of the hot chamber and examines each pot for any signs of above-ground sprouting. If even the slightest bit of white tendril is showing, she pulls the pot and joins it with other sprouted tomatoes on a warmed table in the greenhouse. She sorts the new tomato seedlings daily until it becomes apparent than anything left is never going to sprout (up to two weeks after seeding). Grouping seedlings in like-staged trays will allow Paula to more easily match rootstock and scion at the exact same stem size.

The scion varieties generally sprout at about the same time, so Joelene pulls them out of the sprouting chamber when she sees any above-ground growth.

Tomato starts grow on heated tables for about three weeks.

There’s some debate among the grafting team about whether or not the rootstock plants should be placed under lights after seedlings are pulled from the sprouting chamber. At this time, it is believed that the lights may stunt the elongation of the stems, so the rootstock plants are allowed to grow on warmed tables without lights while scion plants do grow under lights.

It is critical when grafting for the stems of the rootstock plants and the stems of the scion plants to be the same diameter. If it seems like the rootstock or the scion is outpacing the other’s growth, Paula will move trays off the warming tables to slow growth. Sometimes she will even move trays to the ground in the shade if she needs to let the plant parts match catch up.

Here’s what the ‘Maxifort’ rootstock looks like when it’s ready for grafting. Ideally, the rootstock plants will have straight stems, but sometimes they don’t. Some bent-stemmed rootstock plants can be used for grafting, but really crooked ones or plants with the cotyledons too close to the soil surface are discarded.

The day before she plans to graft, Paula selects rootstock plants that will match up with the scion.

She waters the rootstock well because they can’t be watered again directly for a couple weeks.

She puts the rootstock under lights in a last ditch effort to encourage the stems to grow as straight as possible.

Paula moves the scion into a dark area to slow photosynthesis so that the plants are as dormant as possible when grafting.

For grafting, Paula splits these double edge razor blades (from Fred Meyer) and uses one blade for two trays of grafts (64 plants) before discarding it.

These are 1.5mm and 2mm silicon tomato-grafting clips from Hydro Gardens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First, she pinches the top of the rootstock and swiftly cuts the stem at a 45° angle. She must cut the stem at least an inch above the soil level, so that when the tomato start is transplanted into the ground, the scion stem will not touch the earth. She also cuts the stem below the cotyledons, so that the rootstock will not produce any foliage or fruit.

She discards the rootstock top.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then she finds a matching scion plant and cuts its stem at a 45° angle.

This is a tray of mostly cut scion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She fits the clip on the rootstock stem and then slides the scion in, matching up the 45° angles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The line of symmetry of the clip should be perpendicular to the plane of the graft so that the clip is in contact with the rootstock and the scion equally.

If she’s grafting larger seedlings, Paula will sometimes cut off the cotelydons to decrease the weight of the scion and keep it from slumping over and putting extra pressure on the graft.

Each tray is marked with the date of the graft.

Paula heavily mists the newly grafted plants. The tray of pots is placed inside another solid plastic tray.

She mists the inside of the cover, tightly closes the top vents, and fits it tightly on the bottom tray, eliminating any airflow and preventing the plants from drying out. Gathering Together Farm purchased the covers from McConkey.

The post-graft healing “building” is a structure built inside the Gathering Together Farm propagation greenhouse. It’s divided into two chambers, a dark chamber and a shaded chamber. Each chamber has built-in shelving for trays of grafted tomatoes with lids. The dark chamber, is covered with black plastic under a reflective tarp (silver side out to prevent the absorption of heat). The shaded chamber is covered with white plastic under shade cloth with some insulation on the south side to keep it from getting too hot. The healing building offers a shelter with limited temperature fluctuations, limited sunlight (or no sunlight), and limited airflow that will allow the plants to heal slowly without attempting to photosynthesize until the graft is set.

The trays of newly grafted plants are placed on shelves in the dark chamber and left there for about three days.

After three days in the dark, tomato plants are moved onto shelves in the shaded chamber for a day, and then they stay in the same chamber with overhead lights for another day.

After a day under lights, the top vents on the cover are opened.

The next day, the covers are propped open to allow limited air to flow through the trays. A day or so later, the covers are taken off completely.

Eventually, the uncovered trays are moved out to unheated tables in the propagation greenhouse.

With each step after the trays come out of the dark, the plants are assessed, and if they seem to be wilting or looking sickly, Paula will move them back a step and wait another day to try again.

About a month after grafting, the joint between rootstock and scion will have healed, and the stems will have grown enough so that the clips will start to pop off or they can be removed by hand.

Grafted tomato plants will be transplanted into the ground a few weeks later. When planting, it is critical that the graft line remain well above ground, so that the scion will not root into the soil. The graft will remain visible for the full life of the plant.

This is the Gathering Together Farm tomato-grafting method for the 2012 season It is probably different than any of the tomato-grafting methods practiced around the world. As we continue to learn from our mistakes and experiment with new techniques, this process may change in little or perhaps big ways.

Gathering Together Farm grows and grafts the following varieties of tomatoes:

Red Indeterminate Tomatoes:

Big Beef F1 from Osborne Seed Company

New Girl F1 from Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Rebelski from Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Big Dena F1 from Hydrogarden

Arbason F1 from Osborne Seed Company

Colored Indeterminate Tomatoes:

Cherokee Green from Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Cherokee Purple from Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Black Krim from Seed Saver’s Exchange

Pruden’s Purple from Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Momotaro F1 from Territorial Seed Company

Rose from Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Carolina Gold F1 from Osborne Seed Company

Brandywine Yellow from Osborne Seed Company

Copia from High Mowing Organic Seeds

Indigo Rose from Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Roma-type:

San Marzano 168 F1 from Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Golden Rave F1 from Johnny’s Selected Seeds

 

Gathering Together Farm also grow the following tomato varieties ungrafted:

Red Determinate Tomatoes:

Siletz F1 from Seeds of Change

BHN 826 F1 from Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Roma-Type:

Mariana F1 from Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Viva Italia from Osborne Seed Company

Cherry:

Yellow Mini F1 from Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Black Cherry from Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Sun Gold F1 from Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Favorita F1 from Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Sunpeach F1 from Osborne Seed Company

Views Around the Farm Stand + Menu March 8-9

cheese pizza with a mini salad of marinated kale and pickled red onions

The winter/spring season at the farmstand is off to a great start. Lots of folks are coming in for veggies, pastries, coffee, and meals. Here are a few photos taken Thursday, March 8.

to start:

country pâte and liverwurst with cornichon and whole grain mustard
mixed greens with balsamic vinaigrette
GTF salad with beets, blue cheese, almonds, and a sweet chili vinaigrette
potato and leek soup with artisan bread
vegetable barley and ham soup with artisan bread
 
potato/kale/blue cheese pizza

pizze:

garlic/tomato/mozzarella
pepperoni/pickled peppers/tomato/mozzarella
Italian sausage/zucchini/tomato/mozzarella
potato/kale/blue cheese/tomato/mozzarella 
 

agnolotti

secondi:

agnolotti with shrimp, sorrel, and goat cheese
smoked pork sausage over braised cabbage
creamy polenta with vegetables and poached egg
fish stew of clams, mussels, and rockfish
 
housemade pickled red onions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is Ana Patty (and yes, everyone calls her ‘Ana Patty’), the brains and hands behind all the pastries and sweets that come from the farmstand kitchen. She’s a master of dough and batter.

doughnut batter in the works
the pastry case

New Greenhouses & New Challenges

Over the winter, the crew has raised five new greenhouses with one more to go. After putting up greenhouses nearly every year for a decade, the crew has the system pretty well figured out.

In November, the farm got a shipment of greenhouse poles from a large greenhouse supply wholesaler based in California along with a specialized pipe-bending machine. The crew made enough hoops for the six new greenhouses in about a day of work, and then they shipped the pipe bender back South.

Unfortunately during the snowstorm, a few days before the flood in January, two small existing greenhouse collapsed under the weight of the snow. While some of the materials were salvageable and could be used again, the hoops could no longer serve as hoops. In a rush to get the farm up and running again, the pipe arches that were supposed to be for one of the new greenhouses were used to replace the bent ones in the fallen shelters.

Fortunately, John had ordered a number of extra pipes that had been reserved for use as straight sections along the peaks or as horizontal supports along the sides of new greenhouses. Sections from the fallen greenhouse could be substituted for those purposes, but the long straight pipes still needed to be bent into hoops.

Shipping the pipe bender up from California and then back down in order to bend 40 hoops seemed prohibitively expensive, so John (co-owner), Rodrigo (crew foreman), and various other crew members devised a makeshift mold out of plywood and 2 x 4’s left over from another project. The contraption was affixed to a couple of picnic tables and a beam in the packing shed.

Instead of gently feeding poles into a pipe-bending machine, this method required quite a bit of muscle.

The system didn’t work perfectly. There were kinks to be worked out and overly flat sections. The 2 x 4s were reconfigured several times as trial and error suggested improvements.

It was a labor-intensive project. Was it cost effective? Well…maybe.

But at the end of the day, the crew had hoops to work with.

Meanwhile in the field…

Here are the first few farm-bent hoops in the ground. They’re obviously not perfect, but the tension of the plastic and the supports will hold everything together well enough. The only real concern about this DIY bending method is that there may be particular points of weakness that will be extra vulnerable under a future snow pack.

Two of these greenhouses were here last season, but six are new. After two cold, wet springs in a row, the farm management was feeling like it needed to hedge its bets by creating more spaces where the climate could be somewhat regulated. This year, Joelene and the crew will plant greenhouses with crops they’ve never planted under cover before like bunching chard, radishes, etc. More potatoes will grow in greenhouses than out in open fields. These crops will all but guarantee that the farm will have a product to sell at early spring farmers’ markets and will be prepared for a bigger-than-ever group of CSA members expecting produce boxes starting in mid June.

There are also spaces between the greenhouses that serve as small micro climates. Last year, peppers were planted in one such area, and they were highly vigorous and prolific.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Several of the new greenhouses have already been planted with new crops this spring like the one above that’s seeded with radishes and mustards.

Joelene’s primary task right now is rigging up proper irrigation for each of the new greenhouses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joelene (seed, irrigation, and greenhouse manager) sets up all new greenhouses for both drip and overhead irrigation, so that they can accomodate a wide range of crops. Also important is accessibility. Ideally, the crew would be able to get tractors in and out of the greenhouses and be able to drive up to or inside them, too. That means irrigation pipes must be buried. Some of these trenches were dug with a trencher and some were dug by hand. Either way, it’s been a super muddy project.

Guy has been helping Joelene with the fittings and set up.

Joelene prefers PVC pipe over metal because it’s cheaper, holds up better, and doesn’t corrode.

Each of the two sets of three greenhouses will be equipped with its own sand filter, and Joelene has planned to have plenty of easily accessible hookups for drip irrigating the adjacent field or setting up irrigation in neighboring greenhouses that may be built in the future. Planning ahead now will take a little extra time and supplies, but it has the potential to save a huge amount of energy and effort years down the road.

The whole process of setting up irrigation has been hampered by the wet weather. The individual pipes leading to each greenhouse will eventually be plumbed into a mainline that is over four feet underground. The mainline has been located, but it is at present so far below the water table that Joelene will have to wait until the weather dries out a bit to have good enough access to hook up to it.

Joelene is the mastermind and the main source of muscle behind the mélange of irrigation systems that cover the entire farm. Thanks to her (and her assistant, Sarah), GTF fruits and vegetables have the needed water to flourish.