"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.
Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County is excited to launch the Third Annual Celebration of Local Foods this August. The first annual Celebration in 2005 was inspired by the Eat In Act Out week initiated by The Food Project, a Boston based sustainable food systems and youth development organization. Organizations interested in improving our food systems were invited to participate in planning events for their communities that would call the publics attention to how supporting local farmers is a key link in developing a sustainable present and future.
When Gandhi said We must be the change we want to see, he couldnt have said it better. If we take a look around at our local food system, there is a lot happening right now, right here, that is the change we want to see for a sustainable food system in our community. The Celebration of Local Foods is intended to do just thatcelebrate and highlight the bounty of local food and farms around Ithaca and Tompkins County. Supporting local farms is about being a part of the change that will maintain our working landscapes, preserve the quality of our soil and water, build a vibrant local economy, and perhaps most importantly, produce food that tastes like food, nutritious food that is full of flavor and nuance with a story that is connected to our community.
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New in Produce
|Grow Your Own - With Local Lettuce Seed|
March signals spring and warmer times. This winter has been something to remember, but now its time has come to an end. Sure, there is substantial rain forthcoming, but, though I enjoyed the winter, I’m ready for the power of the sun. The days are getting longer, and by the end of the month we will have added 1:26 hours to the length of daytime (sunset at 7 pm anyone?). On to the produce! The local offerings are slim this time of year, but support our farmers where you can. Blue Heron Farm has parsnips, red and gold potatoes, and rutabagas, while Stick and Stone Farm offers their root medley. Our organic seeds are in — this year we have a new organic local seed company, Fruition Seeds. Their lettuce seed mix is sourced directly from our friends up the road at Remembrance Farms! We’ve also got McEnroe’s Organic Soil and Growing Mix for all of your seed-starting needs! Goodbye snow, hello soil.