It has been quite a year of farming, both in Grafton and Harvard. Our Farm Supervisor in Grafton, Annie, and our Orchard Manager in Harvard, Susan, both took some time to reflect back on what an interesting season it was.
It’s hard to believe the season is already coming to a close here at the Grafton farm. The leaves are beginning to turn, the last of the crops are coming out of the field, and our resident hawk, Harriet, has been scavenging in the fields as we pull up the plastic mulch and till the soil, uncovering all sorts of goodies for a hungry bird of prey.
We’ve had a few standout crops this year, as well as a few challenges that we are excited to improve upon next season. Our sweet potatoes did surprisingly well for this region of the country. It was a nice hot and dry summer which is ideal for growing those giant tubers. The lady bell green peppers are always a consistent producer, but WOW did they boom this year! Especially as we clean pick what’s left in the field, we are amazed that so much is still coming in looking as good as ever. Our blueberry total surprised everyone at almost 700 pounds! As one of our only fruits, we were excited to be able to offer more this year to our direct distribution partners.
Along with new varieties of produce, we also started a new distribution model, which included more direct pick-ups at our Grafton farm. This means the produce gets to the client sooner and fresher. We have had very positive feedback on this new program and hope to continue it next year.
From the farmers, we just want to say a huge thank you to all of our partners, team leaders, and volunteers who made this season run so smoothly. We had a great time getting to know all of our new and returning volunteers and working alongside of you. Know that your efforts are crucial to the success of the farm. We couldn’t do it without you and hope to see you back next season!!
As we begin wrapping up our second harvest at Prospect Hill Orchard, it is a good time to reflect on the events of the season. This was a very different growing year than 2015, mostly due to a late freeze and a severe drought. This meant that our apple crop was lighter, about 1/3 of last year’s production, and smaller, because of the lack of rain. Despite the weather challenges, we were still able to harvest over 2,000 bushels or 80,000 pounds of very tasty apples. These apples started going to the Worcester County Food Bank as well as a few other new partners in the first week of September and will continue through October. We also sold a small amount to Wegmans grocery stores and to the Greater Boston Food Bank.
It was nice to see the friendly faces of returning volunteers and many new volunteers to pick, sort, and pack the apples. Although we didn’t have as many apples to pick, we actually increased the number of volunteers at Prospect Hill Orchard by about 400 people. This extra help allowed us to grade and pack all of the produce on site instead of shipping a portion of the fruit to our North Grafton farm. Less shipping means better quality fruit and we heard great reviews from many recipients of the apples.
Aside from taking care of our established orchard, we planted 1,667 new apple trees and doubled our asparagus field this spring. The new apple trees were planted in a high density system, where the trees are planted 3 ½ feet by 14 feet and are clipped to wires. Luckily, the new trees had irrigation and thrived this growing season despite the drought. The trees will start to bear fruit in the fall of 2018 and will add to the amount CHP can donate as well as expand the varieties we grow.
The end of any farming season is a time to rest and let the lessons learned soak in, then use new knowledge from the season to prepare for next season!