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Kitchen Garden Journal

Winding Down

After the hysterical flurry of activity that the early fall brings, with our nearly back-to-back festivals celebrating Chilies and Garlic at the end of September, the latter part of the fall has been pretty relaxed. Fall is perhaps our favorite time of year here at the farm; the crops have all been planted, now we just have to get them out of the field and get them sold.sunset-greenhouse

Not that there's been a shortage of work to do. We were blessed with very favorable growing conditions for our fall crops and reaped some pretty astounding harvests of broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, radicchio and other fall vegetables.

We've also been busy making the final batches of our sriracha sauces up at the Franklin County CDC's Western Mass Food Processing Center in Greenfield. This year we processed about 2,500 lbs of chili peppers into sauce and made about 4,000 bottles of Sriracha. We hope it's enough to last the winter! It's been selling really well and we're starting to get some interest beyond the Pioneer Valley from buyers in NYC and Boston. More info on where to buy the sriracha here. It makes a great holiday gift for your spice-loving friends and family. 

Fall is also the time of year for garlic planting and we are really excited about changes we're making to our garlic growing practices. We are seriously stepping up our game in the garlic department, but it's a long term process. This year, we purchased seed for 8 new varieties of garlic from Filaree Farm in Washington State. We plan to save all of the garlic that we grow out for replanting next year, so these new varieties won't actually be available until 2016! We will still have plenty of garlic from our own seed stocks available next year.

Another pet project here at the farm is our crop of several differnt varieties of radicchio. As some of you may know, Tim wrote his Hampshire Div 3 (thesis paper) about a radicchio farming community in Veneto, Italy, and spent time working on farms there in 2005.

We've been excited to see a growing trend toward greater appreciation of bitter greens in recent years, and have fielded many queries from other farmers interested in growing radicchio. The best kind of radicchio, the "tardivo" variety from Treviso, is about to come into season. We've harvested the first batch of plants which we then bring inside and place in tubs of water to force a second growth. The result is an extremely beautiful head of curled crimson and white shoots that are mild and crunchy (amarognolo e croccante). We look forward every year to serving this special radicchio during the holiday season.

You can find us at winter farmers markets so you can get some of this amazing radicchio and other veggies for your holiday tables as well. We are continuing to attend Saturday in Greenfield and Amherst until Nov. 22 outdoors in the normal location. We will be at the Springfield Forest Park winter market on Nov. 22, Dec. 13 and Dec. 20, and the Greenfield winter market on Dec. 6. Our sriracha sauce will be available through Winter Moon Farm at the Amherst and Northampton markets through the winter. 

Chilifest 2014!

Small-2014-ChiliFest-PosterIt's almost time for Chilifest and our annual farm festival is going to be better than ever this year!

Join us Saturday and Sunday, September 13 & 14 at Mike's Maze in Sunderland for a weekend-long celebration of all things spicy!

We have terrific food vendors, great music, three local beers, amazing chef demos, chili cook-off on Saturday and hot sauce competition on Sunday, fabulous art and craft booths, and our own farm fresh sriracha is back by popular demand!


Dozens of exotic chilies from around the world, grown right here on our farm in Sunderland.

Our famous spicy tacos, Brass Buckle's award-winning chili, Laughing Tomato wood fired pizza, plus Bart's Homemade is bringing a special batch of chocolate cherry bomb ice cream made with our cherry bomb peppers!

Local-ingredient beers from Valley-grown grain, malt and hops from High Horse Brewing, Abandoned Building Brewery and Brewmaster Jack.

Cast a vote for your favorite chili at the cook-off on Saturday and choose your favorite hot sauce at the competition on Sunday. There's still time to enter both events if you have a killer recipe! Rules on how to enter are here

ListenAnd the Kids

We have awesome music booked for both days!
Saturday's lineup:
12:00 Eli Catlin
1:15 And the Kids
2:30 Appalachian Still
3:45 Carinae
Sunday's lineup:
12:00 Suitcase Junket
1:15 Lonesome Brothers
2:30 Dire Honeys
3:45 Rusty Belle

LearnJason Halfacre cooking demo

New spicy recipes from some of the area's best chefs at the cooking demo tent. On Saturday we'll have Neil Rogers from Volturno, Jim Zaccara from Hope & Olive making spicy cocktails, and JD Hairston from the Brass Buckle. On Sunday Terry Ragasa from Sutter Meats will show how to make spicy sausage, then see Unmi Abken from Coco, and David Schrier from the The Alvah Stone


Our Kitchen Garden Sriracha is back and soon you'll also be able to find it at stores like River Valley Market, Greenfields Market, and the Atlas Farm Store! We're also making our popular roasted chili salsa, tomatillo salsa and introducing a new peach-habanero salsa available only at Chilifest.

We'll have lots of activities for kids including the Chili Man pinata, temporary chili and veggie tattoos, screen printing your own Chilifest t-shirt and fun farmy games!

Amazing local artists from the Artisans of Western Mass will have beautiful art and crafts for sale and we're planning an artist demonstration each day. 

The full schedule of events is here. Don't miss the coolest farm festival for anyone who loves heat!

The Latest from TKG

This season is off to a great start! We're pulling bountious crops out of the field, each more exciting than the last. We've had incredible broccoli, beets, carrots, peas and greens, and some of the most beautiful and productive squash and cukes I can ever remember growing. We're starting to take the first fresh onions of the season: the crop is huge! Harvest is taking up so much of our time that it's hard to keep up with the weeding! But that's an OK problem to have by me.

Tomatoes and peppers are just around the corner and we're growing a full half acre of hot peppers for our sriracha hot sauce! We're thrilled to announce that Chilifest will take place around the corner from the farm at Mike's Maze in Sunderland on Saturday and Sunday September 13 & 14.

In other news, Caroline is excited to be writing again for the newly relaunched Edible Pioneer Valley. The link to her story is here, if you haven't already seen it.

We are also featured in the upcoming WGBY documentary about local farming that airs next week! It's called A Long Row in Fertile Ground and the link to the trailer is here.

We also got a mention in a short film about one of our favorite local restaurants, Coco in Easthampton. If you haven't made the trek to eat there you are missing out. They will be frying up our green tomatoes all summer long! 

The transition from being primarily a CSA farm over the past two years to moving the bulk of our product wholesale and at our five farmers markets per week has been a smooth one. Thank you to all of our amazing customers and chefs! It's exciting to now be able to supply bigger buyers like Berkshire Organics, Myers Produce, Harvest Delivery, the Berkshire Coop Market, and Greenfields Market.

Our produce is on the menu in dozens of restaurants from the Valley to Worcester to NYC this season.We're particularly excited to be working with Neil Rogers of Volturno in Worcester. Valley folks: do yourselves a favor and make the drive. They're doing amazing Italian food the likes of which you cannot get here in Western MA. We're also on tables at Franny's and Roberta's, two of our favrite places in Brooklyn, thanks to Myers Produce.

Because we've been so busy it can be hard to stay in touch with all of you as much as we'd like to. We've essentially stopped using Facebook because the site now charges money to businesses to have their posts show up in their followers' news feeds (which is borderline extortion and contrary to the spirit of the internet). So we've moved our daily content sharing over to Instagram, where you can follow us at @kgfarmer and see our photographs in real time.


Hustle and Flow

organic certificationWe're excited to announce that we are now a certified organic farm! We've always grown all our vegetables using organic practices but we decided this was the year to do all the paperwork and make it official. Now when you buy our produce at Greenfields Market, the Cummington Creamery or the Atlas Farm Store you'll see it labeled "organic."

We've always felt lucky to grow and market our vegetables in a community that is so well-educated about the value of local and sustainable farming that we didn't need to seek third party certification but now that the farm has grown and we're able to supply larger stores it has already proven useful to be able to say "it's organic!" 

photo 7Look at the smile on Caroline's face now that she's spending more time out in the field harvesting with the crew this season! Here, Caroline and Dolly are bunching spring garlic.

The decision to pause on the prepared foods and catering business we launched last year has really freed Caroline up to be more hands-on in the daily management of the farm. Thank you to all our customers who have told us how much our salad dressings, soups and baked goods will be missed at the markets. Stay tuned for a lot more of our farm fresh sriracha in time for Chilifest on September 13 & 14. 

It's been an incredibly busy month planting and weeding and now we're also in full-on harvesting mode. 

Our new field is already yielding gorgeous lettuce and spinach, and the onions and hot crops are looking robust. 

We're back at all our farmers markets now and look forward to seeing your friendly faces in either Northampton, Greenfield, Amherst or Springfield. 

At our farmers market stand this week we'll have four kinds of kale, swiss chard, spinach, spring garlic, scallions, radishes, hakurei turnips, salad greens, butterhead lettuce, bok choy, and more!
Mi Tierra Toritllas

We are excited to be one of the first farms to offer local organic tortillas made by Mi Tierra Restaurant. As many of you know, Mi Tierra burned to the ground in October and they are still seeking a new site to rebuild. Now you can buy Mi Tierra’s incredibly fresh local organic tortillas at our farmers market stand in Greenfield on Saturdays.

We've also saved 250 lbs of our own corn to be made into fresh tortillas by Mi Tierra for our tacos at Chilifest.

Magpie bagelAnother fun collaboration this year is that Magpie's amazing wood-fired bagels will also be available at our farmers market stand in Greenfield on Saturdays. Crackly, chewy wood-fired bagels in the Valley has been a personal fantasy of ours for years so this is a dream come true. I can't wait until tomato season!

New Beginnings

dirtIt’s really starting to feel like the start of something new and fresh around the farm, and notwithstanding the recent freak snowstorm, it feels like we’re getting some momentum.

We’ve got fresh faces: our new crew of five fabulous females started a couple of weeks ago and are really awesome. Amy, Laura, Clara, Alison and Dolly, welcome aboard! We also bought some new equipment that is going to revolutionize our production systems and allow us to grow much more efficiently. We’ve already gotten out and plowed our new land that we purchased over the winter and are hoping to get plants in the ground by the end of this week!

We’ve got some fresh customers: we’ve been really excited to work with the folks at The Alvah Stone, the new restaurant at the Montague Mill. They are putting out beautiful food and fantastic cocktails and breathing new life into that incredible space. We’re sending our first delivery to NYC with Myers Produce this Friday and the Atlas Farm Store in Deerfield has been moving a lot of our spring greens!

We are also very excited to partner with Cooley Dickinson Hospital and their employee health initiative. The hospital purchased $15,000 worth of our Market Share cards to reward employees if they meet healthy lifestyle targets. Cooley Dickinson has been a leader in the local farm-to-institution effort, and this is one more way that they’re really stepping up their commitment to local agriculture.

With market season fast approaching, now is a great time to sign up for our Market Share program if you have not already done so. The link is here. $200 gets you a $220 gift card and $400 gets you $450 credit good at any of our 5 farmers market locations. Signing up now will help us make payroll and keep up with our bills this spring! Some farmers markets are opening this weekend but we will start attending the weekend of May 18th. That’s Greenfield, Northampton and Amherst Saturday, Springfield Forest Park Tuesday, and Amherst Wednesday (all the details are here). Until then, you can buy our produce at Greenfields Market and the Atlas Farm Store. Or you can sign up for home delivery of our vegetables and more through Harvest Delivery.

We’ve got some fresh ideas, too, and while not necessarily revolutionary, they represent a big change for us. We’re growing sweet corn, for starters. Which is only the most popular vegetable in the summertime but we’ve never felt we had enough land to grow our own. We are super excited to grow this crop, as it is pretty much the only vegetable our kids will eat (ok, I’m exaggerating). We’re working closely with Ruth Hazzard at UMASS extension on implementing organic sweet corn practices.

We’re also starting the process to become Certified Organic. Now that we’ve purchased adjacent land and have been on our leased land for 3 years, about ⅔ of the fields we farm will be Certified Organic. Our newly purchased land will be in transition for the 3 years that it takes to become certified. The paperwork can be a headache, but it’s making the farm seem even more legitimate and established.

Over the next month we’ll be very busy planting all of our awesome veggies, from sweet onions and shallots to fingerling potatoes and dozens of different greens, colorful carrots and beets, and heirloom tomatoes in the greenhouse. See you in May!

Alchemy Artisan Fair

If you love Kitchen Garden tacos come find us at the Alchemy Artisan Fair in Holyoke next weekend, April 26 & 27. We're excited to be food vendors at this great festival of local art in Holyoke's new Gateway City Arts complex. Come have a taste of our own homegrown black beans plus local pork and chicken from our friends at Sutter Meats topped with radishes, cilantro, pickled onions and spicy salsa from the farm! Then check out the work of dozens of high quality artisans (most pieces under $75), plus local beer, music, free workshops and kids activities.

Alchemy Artisan Fair

Kitchen Garden 4.0 Update

Greetings from the frozen wastes of Sunderland! We have been taking a few months to rest before gearing up for the new season, but if you know us you know that we have been anything but idle. We’ve been busy charting a new course for the farm that we are excited to embark on in this coming year. We are turning over a new leaf yet again, and some major changes are afoot in 2014!

2013 was a challenging year to say the least. Aside from the significant challenges due to the weather, 2013 saw the breakup of our merger with Stone Soup Farm that began in 2012. Stone Soup has reformed as a “workers cooperative” and will be farming the land on Rocky Hill Rd. and the Porter Phelps Huntington Museum in Hadley. They will also be taking over all of our CSA business here in the Valley and in Boston. We wish Stone Soup Farm all the best in the future.

The merger helped us grow The Kitchen Garden from 7 to 25 acres in two years--no small feat. Going forward, we’re going to keep farming at this larger size at our home base in Sunderland. We’re buying the neighboring strip of land to the south of us, which will solidify our land base and give us a much more solid foothold to grow on.

By early March we’ll be planting the first seeds in the greenhouse and in April we’ll be ripping up the dirt and planting crops in the fields. By the middle of May, we’ll be doing our 5 farmers markets here in the Valley (in Springfield, Amherst, Northampton and Greenfield), and selling to our stores and restaurants.

The big change this year is that we’re expanding the reach of our wholesale sales into Boston, Worcester, the Berkshires and NYC! We’ll be doing our own delivery route to Worcester and Boston every Wednesday and working with BerkShore to ship produce to the Berkshires, and with Meyer’s Produce of Vermont to get our stuff into restaurants in New York City. If you know anyone in these places who would like to buy our produce, please put them in touch with us.

By making these changes in our business, we are returning to our fundamentals. 8 years ago, when we we started the farm, we had one acre, one farmers market and a handful of restaurants we would deliver to weekly. Now we’ve got 25 acres and we’re doing much, much more of the things we started out doing. We’re excited about expanding our reach and working with new friends like chef Neal Rogers of Volturno Restaurant in Worcester, the only DOP certified pizzeria napoletana in Massachusetts. And we’re excited about growing more of the things we love the most!

In the meantime, we’re busy as ever with our winter work: choosing the best seeds, making our crop maps, borrowing frightening amounts of money and hiring a kick-ass, (almost) all-female crew for the coming season. Tim has also been helping out at Sutter Meats, the new Northampton butcher shop. We are super stoked that Susan and Terry have moved here from Brooklyn to lend their expertise to our local food scene! This weekend we made tamales from our own corn and beans for our Daughter Lily’s 6th (that’s right!) birthday party. We’re using our down-time to get our inspiration up by doing a lot of cooking and eating!

See you all in May! May 2014 be a good year!

2013 Year in Review

IMG 6887As the needle dips below 20 degrees, it’s about time to close the book on the 2013 season. Yes, we’re still collecting the last of the fall crops from the field, but this season is pretty much done for.

I will not miss it when it goes.

In all fairness, this has been one of the most amazing fall seasons ever. But I will remember 2013 for its extremes. Extreme rains in June, extreme heat and humidity in July, and from mid-August until now, extremely favorable growing conditions (read: dry) that have produced memorable crops of broccoli, kale, carrots and beets.

IMG 5244All together, though, it has been extremely difficult. The bumper fall crops have done a lot to ease the pain of earlier losses, but not quite enough. After an unusually dry and dusty April and May, we had over 12 inches of rain in June, making it the second wettest June in 150 years. The extreme tropical weather lasted all through July, culminating in an early August storm that dumped 3 inches of rain in an hour, washing out some of our newly seeded beds of beets.

Due to all that excess moisture, we saw reduced yields in our onions and potatoes, our winter squash nearly wiped out by disease, and literally acres of early summer leafy crops drowned in standing water or choked out by weeds. It really was a shit show there for a while. We were literally carrying crates of squash and cucumbers through impassible mud puddles for weeks. 

SrirachaBut then, in August, the air seemed to clear. All of a sudden, we could breathe a little easier. Things cooled off and dried out, so that it seemed like we had three months of September—big skies, lots of sun, cool nights. Everything we touched turned to gold. We had amazing crops of sweet peppers and chilies, and a perfect weekend for the Chilifest.

We started making our own Sriracha and Habanero hot sauces, and people really like them. (They're for sale at our farmers markets or on our Etsy shop.) We were busier than ever, in the best possible way.

That’s the way I want to remember 2013. But unfortunately, the debt payments on our farm loans will remind me of the real story for years to come. May 2014 be a more fruitful year!

Here are some photos looking back on the year for your enjoyment.

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