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Kitchen Garden Journal

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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Winter Market News

fall spreadOutdoor Saturday Markets continue for another 2 weeks in Amherst and Greenfield. Come and stock up for the holidays!

There will be no Northampton Winter market this Saturday, due to a last-minute change of venue. The Northampton Winter Market will start Saturday, November 23 at a location TBD, most likely Smith Vocational High School.

Here is the schedule for winter markets in Amherst and Greenfield:

Amherst: Amherst Regional Middle School, 170 Chestnut St., Saturdays, 10am-2pm, starts Dec. 7. (No market 1/18.)

Greenfield: Greenfield High School, 1 Lenox St., one Saturday per month, 10am-1pm. Dec. 14, Jan. 4, Feb. 1 and March 1.

We will let you know as soon as possible about the details for Northampton. We are excited to keep bringing fresh produce to you all winter!

Garlic & Arts and Barleyfest!

garlic4It's festival season again and for the 7th (or is it 8th?) year we're gearing up for our annual garlic bonanza at the North Quabbin Garlic & Arts Festival this weekend in Orange, MA.

As ever, the Garlic festival is the culmination of our year, a chance to see lots of farmers and friends we've neglected during the busy season and a chance to show off some of our fabulous fall vegetables in all their glory.

garlic braidsAs always, we're bringing a good supply of six varieties of garlic (Rosewood, German White, Russian Red, Bavarian Purple, Music, Spanish Roja). If you're hoping to stock up on seed garlic come early on Saturday for the best selection!

tacoIn addition to our market stand on the main festival grounds this year we're excited to be setting up our taco stand up the hill at the food court! Come find us for a terrific taco filled with local meat or homegrown beans topped with our own salsas and tangy Mexican slaw. A few drops of Habanero Hot Sauce or Sriracha will make it extra memorable!

We've also concocted some delicious homemade beverages: jalapeno-watermelon limeade and we're especially excited about the concord grape cooler we made with grapes from Clarkdale Fruit Farms in Deerfield.

large-ga-2013-postcardThe Garlic & Arts festival is this Saturday and Sunday, October 5 & 6 from 10am-5pm. Check out the website for the full schedule of live music, cooking demos (catch Caroline & Tim at 2:30 on Saturday!), food, farm and craft vendors.

Next weekend is Barleyfest, an annual celebration of the local grain harvest and the beer it begets hosted by our friends at Valley Malt.

If you loved KGB don't miss this chance to sample an amazing selection of truly local beer on Saturday, October 12 from 1-6pm at the Young Men's Club on East Street in Hadley.

My kids had a blast last year touring the antique tractors, dancing to the No-No's and going nuts in the bounce house. The wood-fired pizza was a highlight for me.

Valley Malt is one of the only malthouses on this side of the Mississippi and by offering the missing link in the processing chain Andrea and Christian Stanley are responsible for an incredible renaissance in local beer production on the East Coast. Don't miss their malthouse tour at 27 Middle Street from 11-1, before the festival!


Chilifest: Behind the Scenes

We've been busy in the kitchen lately getting ready for Chilifest!

habanerosEvery year, we select specialty seeds and grow a wide variety of exotic hot chili peppers. We sell some of them fresh to equally adventurous eaters, but most of them get used to make our favorite chili salsas and sauces.

This year, we've been working late into the night to make our own, home-grown sriracha! Our friend Toni Young designed this awesome label for the sriracha bottles. We love it so much we decided to put the graphic on a tote bag so festival goers can load up on all the spicy sauces we've been concocting: sriracha, habanero hot sauce, tomatillio salsa and roasted chili salsa.

Chilifest! is Saturday and Sunday, September 14 & 15 from 12-5pm. Check out the full schedule of events. See you there!

Keep scrolling for a sneak peek at some of the spicy goodness in store...

sriracha making

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Sriracha bottle

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salsa making

Chilifest 2013!

The 6th Annual Chilifest! is almost here!

chilifest-chileChilifest! is the Valley's hottest farm festival, celebrating all things spicy. Come on down to the farm for a chili cook-off, local food and beer, great live music and local art. This year, Chilifest! will be a full weekend of fun for spice freaks and pepper geeks. Join us Saturday and Sunday, September 14th and 15th, 2013. The event will be at the Hadley farm, 81 Rocky Hill Rd, from noon-5pm each day. Admission is only $5. Check out this year's poster and the full schedule of events.

This year we're growing over 30 varieties of rare and unusual chili peppers from around the world, including the Bhut Jolokia, aka Ghost Pepper, aka the world's hottest pepper. We're also experimenting with making our own sriracha style chili sauce and extra hot habanero hot sauce, which will be on sale at Chilifest!

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If you'd like to be a part of Chilifest, we are looking for Chili Cook-Off contestants. You can enter in either the meat or vegetarian category. Check out the Chili Cook-Off page for more details and how to enter. You'll need to deliver two gallons of chili by 11am on Saturday.

Here's a preview of what you can expect!

Food & Beer (Sat & Sun)tacos2
Kitchen Garden Beer brewed by the High Horse from homegrown barley, malted by Valley Malt

Kitchen Garden taco stand: pork and bean tacos, Mexican grilled corn, agua fresca.

SrirachaNEW! Our own, homegrown Sriracha, Habanero Hot Sauce, Tomatillo Salsa and Roasted Chili Salsa!

King Street Eats: spicy pork and veggie banh mi sandwiches.

Velma's Wicked Delicious Kettle Corn.

Bart's Ice Cream: margarita sorbet, chili inspired ice cream.

Live Music!smallEphemeral String Band
12pm: Ephemeral String Band
1:30pm: Bela's Bartok
3:00pm: Primate Fiasco

12pm: Appalachian Still
1:30pm: Kris Delmhorst
3pm: Rusty Belle playing "Queen of the Boss" Bruce Springsteen cover set

More to be announced...

Chili Cook-Off with local foodie celebrity panel of judgessmallchili display

Cooking Demos
Neftali Duran of El Jardin will show us how to make traditional Mexican salsas
Stephen Viarengo will show us how to make Enzo's Hot Sauce
Jim and Maggie Zaccara of Hope & Olive will show us how to make spicy cocktails and bar snacks

Art Demos and Workshops by the Artisans of Western Mass

Fun Farmy Games for Kids led by The Farm Education Collaborative
Screen Printing your own Chilifest t-shirt
Chili and veggie tattoos

Chili Pepper Tastings led by the Kitchen Garden's Tim Wilcox... how many can you handle?

Want to enter the Chili Cook-Off? Want to be a sponsor? Want to volunteer to help out? Email Caroline at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

chilifest-chileSee you at Chilifest!

Tags: summer events