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Kitchen Garden Journal

Ready to Go!

kale seedlings

Well it’s been a long, cold winter, and though it seems like it will never end we know that spring is coming. Eventually. Even if we have to force the issue. Our greenhouses are busting at the seams with plants ready to go in the ground. Our crew is back and itching to get their hands dirty. We’ve been getting our equipment dusted off and greased up. And it’s looking like we might actually get back in the dirt this weekend. Fingers crossed.

We have been dreaming and scheming all winter long and have so much excitement heading into 2015, our 10th season farming! We bought 6 acres of land across the river in Whately, and it might be a bit of a trek to get over there but this piece could be a game changer for us. It’s light, sandy, high and dry land of the kind that’s in short supply on our home farm.

Whately landThe new piece just about doubles the amount of prime farmland that we can farm. This year we’re growing 25 acres of vegetables - about half of our land is nice and sandy but the other half is heavier. Many of our most important crops require the lighter type of soil to thrive: carrots, tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, onions, potatoes…. Now that I think of it, pretty much everything we grow prefers this type of soil, so it’s a big deal. Having more land will help us improve crop rotation so that we can more quickly build up our soil fertility across all of our land, and more fertility means more vegetables!

Max tractorWe are also very excited to have most of our amazing crew from last year joining us for another season. Clara, Dolly, Amy, Laura, Max, Steve and Rosie welcome back and thanks for sticking with us! You are the heart of this operation. And we are really jumping out of our skin to have hired two new exceptional people: Courtney and Mike we are so excited to work with you guys!

barlottisWe’ve got a bunch of new crops that we’re excited about growing this year. As I explained in our fall post, we planted a bunch of new garlic varieties and we're really trying to step it up in the garlic department. All of the garlic is up now and looking pretty healthy despite the harsh winter. We’re going to be growing a lot more beans this year: favas, barlotti beans, and romanos. Southern purple hull peas are back on the list again after missing them dearly for many years. We’ll also have a lot more Italian specialty greens: mainly spigariello, a type of kale used in southern Italy, broccoli rabe, and a lot more radicchio. Other notable increases include eggplant and specialty peppers, especially red chilies and habanero types that we’ll be making into our sriracha sauce.

Edible spring 2015Caroline wrote an article about Annie Myers from Myers Produce, a new local food distributor, for the spring issue of Edible Pioneer Valley. Check it out if you haven’t seen it. We are excited to grow more unique specialty items for Annie to bring to chefs and stores in New York and now Boston as well! We’ll be regularly supplying the coops in Greenfield, Northampton, and the Berkshires as well as dozens of great restaurants throughout the Valley, as usual. And our #1 restaurant customer in 2014, The Alvah Stone at the Montague Bookmill, just celebrated its 1 year anniversary last week. We are excited to continue our collaboration with this amazing team, so if you haven’t eaten there yet, what are you waiting for?

We’ll be back out at the Farmers Markets starting in May (with the exception of Amherst Saturday) and we have Market Share cards available. See the list of markets we attend here. We’re looking forward to seeing you all again!

sriracha salsa squareOur sriracha was an astounding success and we have just sold the last of the 4,000 bottles we made last fall at the Western Mass Food Processing Center in Greenfield. We are planning to scale up our production again this year - about four times more than last year - in hopes of keeping the sauce flowing freely year-round starting this September. Bottles are still available at stores all over the Valley, while they last. We're also planning to make a lot more salsa!

On that note, save the date for Chilifest! It will be September 12 &13, at Mike’s Maze here in Sunderland. We’re growing over 40 varieties of hot peppers that will be on display, we’re booking bands and really excited about the lineup of food vendors this year. Stay tuned for more info! 

Winter Wonderland

winter greensWe've been pulling some gorgeous greens out of the greenhouse this week gearing up for our last farmers market of the 2014 season. We're bringing a truckload of spinach, spicy mix and a wide selection of frost-sweetened vegetables to the Springfield Winter Market in Forest Park on Saturday from 10-2. All the details are on our farmers market page. 

It's a special privilege to provide the ingredients for your festive holiday meals!

CDC carrotsThis week we made a second delivery of 1,500 pounds of carrots to the Western Mass Food Processing Center to be diced and flash frozen for our local school cafeterias. This is made possible by the Franklin County CDC's investment in a new IQF liquid nitrogen cooling system that preserves freshness better because of the quick freezing method. We're thrilled to be able to participate in this important new farm to school program and you can read more about it in this week's Valley Advocate.

In other news, we're very excited that our Sriracha was featured in the 2014 Holiday Gift Guide in Edible Manhattan! It's been wild starting to ship our sriracha around the country but we're also thrilled to report that you'll soon be able to find our hot sauce at Whole Foods in Hadley! 

Dolly and ClaraThank you to all of our loyal customers for your support all year. It's an honor to grow food for you all!

Thanks are also due to our amazing farm crew, many of whom we are so happy will be returning to work with us again next season. We couldn't do what we do without all of you!

Here's to spring and more good things to come in 2015!

-Caroline & Tim

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