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winter day on the farmLast week, my son Lee and I attended the annual Ecofarm Conference in Pacific Grove for a day. As a presenter–I spoke at a session on CSAs in the morning—I was given free admittance for the day along with lunch and dinner. The session I spoke at went well. It was great to see a large, enthusiastic group of people committed to the CSA movement. It was also great to hear the stories of the other two farmers that presented with me. Most of all it was good to spend the day in such a beautiful setting being inspired by some of the impressive things that others are doing.

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harvesting in the rainShortly after 5 am this morning, as I sat down in front of the computer to check the weather forecast, the possum that lives under our tub in the adjoining hall bathroom got into a fight with a skunk that wandered into the crawl space looking for shelter from the rain. I heard the whole thing transpire and ran into the bathroom stomping on the floor in an effort to break it up, but it was too late. The skunk let loose at full force, and now the entire house is permeated. The joys of rural living can be exaggerated at times.

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ring roller with cover cropThings have played out perfectly here this fall. We’ve had enough rainfall to bring up the cover crops and stabilize the hillsides with breaks in between that have allowed us to get the work done that we’ve needed to.

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cover crop with blackbirdsThe winter session is upon us with nice cold weather to usher it in. Our winter plantings are coming along well, while on the rest of the farm the cover crops are greening up the landscape nicely. For the winter boxes, you can expect a similar mix to last year, with kales, collards, leeks, fennel, beets, winter squash, dandelion, arugula, curly cress, escarole, cilantro, dill, parsley, radicchio, as well as broccoli and cabbage later in the season. In addition to apples, we’ll bring in some goodies from our friends Steve Marsalisi (lemons and limes), and Phil Foster (like this week’s celery root). It’s shaping up to be a good winter!

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cover crop November 2015This week we’ll deliver the final boxes of the regular season. Thanksgiving week will be off and then we’ll start the biweekly winter deliveries the following week (December 2 and 3). Sarah has information below about the winter session logistics.

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fall cover cropYesterday’s rainstorm was a very pleasant surprise. The National Weather service was only calling for a quarter inch or less in our area, and we ended up getting over 1.25 inches. It was mainly the steady, gentle early season type of rain that is perfect for getting cover crops established without doing any damage. It is amazing how fast the dry ground sops up that much rain. If 1.25 inches were to fall on already saturated soil in the middle of winter there would be standing puddles everywhere—but less than 24 hours after the rain stopped there is little sign of it.

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New CratesThe first batch of reusable crates has arrived! We will try out our new crates this week for the Thursday route. Please bring reusable bags (like the High Ground Organics Bagito bag you got if you made a donation to the crate fund) to the pick-up site. Take your fruits and vegetables out of the crate and leave the open crates in a nested stack. Thanks to all of you who helped make this happen. We look forward to fewer trips to the landfill!

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pumppatchlaniorianaIt’s been a hectic week here on the farm. The well drilling went along super smoothly—Jim and Jose from Chappell pump said it was one of the easiest wells they have ever installed. After the test well was finished they brought in an outside contractor who did an “e-log” which measures the resistance of the substrate the well passes through. From that they determine at what depth the water-bearing formations are at.

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pumpkidIt’s the middle of October already and that means pumpkin time! This year we’ll have two opportunities for you to come out and pick out your pumpkins for the holidays – this Saturday, October 17th and the next Saturday, October 24th between 10 AM and 2 PM. The pumpkin patch grew well and ripened quite early this year. We’ve got a nice crop of Jack-o-Lantern style (35₵/lb), beautiful and delicious Rouge Vif d’Etampe or Cinderella (50₵/lb), and compact Winter Luxury baking pumpkins (80₵/lb).

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well drilling rigWork on our new well here at our home site has officially begun. Last Friday the drilling company moved all of their equipment over in a caravan. It looked like the fun-zone of a small town carnival had come to set itself up on our farm. After a day of site prep and set up, they will begin to drill in earnest today. The first step is to drill a small diameter exploratory hole. Then they run an “E-log” which measures the resistance of the substrate material that the hole passes through and is able to determine where the water bearing formations are.

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bagradaIt was too good to be true. The Bagrada Bugs are here at last. The home farm is still free of them, but they moved into the Lewis Road ranch en masse last week. Fortunately some of our young tender greens are already covered with row cover, which works to some extent if you get it on before the bugs arrive. We may need to invest in a better system for using the row cover if we need to cover larger areas with it. At least this pattern seems to indicate that the bugs are not overwintering here, so we have a substantial part of the growing season when we don’t have to deal with them.

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turkeysupclose2Well, the wild turkeys seem to have established residency for the time being on our home farm, so I’ve been reading up on them to try to determine whether we should consider them friend or foe.

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tractorAhhhhh, the cooler weather is nice for working in the field, a little rain is sneaking into the forecasts – in general, a little bit of gloom produces positive mood changes on the farm.

Yesterday I got a first-hand look at agriculture on the other end of the spectrum—size wise. Matt Bamrud, a long-time family friend, invited my cousin Josh and me to tour the packing and harvesting operations for the Morningstar Company which is the State’s largest tomato processor.

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pumpkins with turkeysThere were turkeys in the pumpkin patch yesterday — a “gang” of about twenty birds. (Gang or rafter are the appropriate words for a group of turkeys.) We don’t usually have wild turkeys around here, though we’ve seen a couple on nearby properties during the past year.  They will likely become a new farm pest, at which point the word “gang” will seem more appropriate, but for now we’ll just enjoy the novelty of having wild turkeys around. The turkeys among the pumpkins make it feel like fall, even as the warm weather makes it hard to believe it’s the second week of September.

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crate packed with veggies compWe’ve had an excellent response to the WorthWild campaign to fund the reusable crates.  We’re already a third of the way to our goal! We appreciate all your supportive comments as well. I think this is a good direction to go in.

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crate packed with veggies compFor awhile now we’ve been exploring ways to become more environmentally sound in our packaging. The waxed cardboard boxes we use to deliver CSA produce can be used several times, but the fact is, the boxes are not recyclable because of the wax coating and end up comprising a large portion of our landfill bulk from the farm. We’ve used the plastic liner bags to keep the produce fresh and to make the boxes last longer, but even with the bags, which also become part of the waste stream, we get between 4 and 10 uses out of each box. Last winter we asked around to other farms who have switched to plastic delivery crates and got a good report on crates from a company called Orbis.

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greenhouse Aug 2015We are entering the final stretch for this season. The seeds I am setting out to be planted in the greenhouse will be the last we plant until we start up again in November and December for next season’s transplants. Most of these late plantings are the veggies that can stand the cool temperatures and wet soils that usually occur over winter—like leafy greens and things in the brassica or cabbage family. The last plantings of the season are usually about twice the size as the earlier successions so that they will last into the rainy months when we can’t get into the field to plant with our tractors.

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beesBy Keith Kimes, Kimes Apiary

Keith Kimes is a local beekeeper who keeps many of his hives on High Ground Organics’ two farm properties. We know that many of you are interested in the plight of honeybees worldwide, so we asked Keith for an update on his own efforts at limiting losses in his beehives.

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AG Farmstand 5We’re busy this week putting the final touches on our new railcar farmstand before our opening this Wednesday in the new location in the Annieglass parking lot on the corner of Riverside Drive/Highway 129 and Harvest Drive in Watsonville. For ten years we operated the farmstand on the old Redman House property which was sold early this year. Losing our lease there was sad, but we’re really fortunate and excited to be able to open at the Annieglass location.

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Restoration volunteer day 2015Our restoration volunteer day last Saturday was very productive and fun. Thanks to those of you who came out to help! We got a lot of mulch spread in a short amount of time. Laura Kummerer turned her spotting scope on the osprey nest, so we got a great view of the 2 chicks and their parents, and took a walk through the grassland to identify the different native and invasive species. Thanks to intern Clare Peabody for organizing a successful volunteer day!

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strawbalesWanted: several willing people to help spread mulch in our habitat restoration area by Harkins Slough. The ospreys and turkey vultures will be supervising this fun work day event from 10 am to 1 pm this Saturday. Laura Kummerer (habitat restorationist) and Clare Peabody (restoration intern) will teach you about the native plants that we are trying to reestablish in the grassland habitat as we spread straw over the weedy areas to prevent weed seeds from sprouting.

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Strawberry u-pick June 2015It’s hard to believe it’s the middle of July already! We have a couple opportunities for you to come out to the farm this summer. First, we’ll hold Strawberry U-Picks the next three Saturdays – July 18th, July 25th, and August 1st. Picking time is between 10 AM and 2 PM, so please try to arrive on time to finish up your picking by 2. Now’s the time to make that jam or stock up the freezer with berries for smoothies! Berries cost $2 per pound. Bring your own containers if you can.

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pumpkin plants June 2015 2 compressedThe initial spring frenzy has passed and things have calmed down a little around here. The winter squash and pumpkins are up and growing quickly and the heat loving crops like tomatoes, peppers, beans and basil have really taken off. After a very cool spring, it’s finally starting to feel like summer.

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Clare WeedwackingBy Restoration Intern Clare Peabody

High Ground Organics’ home farm is protected by two easements, an agricultural easement and a conservation easement. This summer we are lucky to have Brown University student Clare Peabody working as an intern to help our restoration efforts on the half of the property under the conservation easement. This part of the property is a thriving (if weedy) coastal prairie grassland adjacent to one of the few remaining fresh water wetlands in central California. Clare contributes this week’s article, giving you a glimpse of the grassland habitat through her eyes.

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green tomatoes on vineI’ve been getting some questions about tomatoes already so I guess people are getting in the mood for summer vegetables and fruits. It certainly feels like summer with these long days, kids out of school, and the solstice just around the corner. The thing about summer vegetables is that they need those long warm days to grow! Our tomatoes are shaping up to come in earlier than we’ve ever had them before, but they still need a few more weeks.

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elkhorn sloughLast Tuesday I went to the Elkhorn Slough Water Quality Workshop at the Moss Landing Marine Labs. I had signed up for it months ago when things were less busy, so when I received an e-mail reminder a few days before the event, my first reaction was that I could never afford to take half a day off. After thinking it over, however, I decided that it would be a welcome chance to get off the farm for a while—Moss Landing Marine Labs are located atop a sand dune with expansive views of the Monterey Bay, and the subject was one that is near and dear to my heart. I’m glad I went.

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blueberry u-pick kids 3We’ve been enjoying meeting a lot of you at our u-picks!  One more to come this Saturday, and then stay tuned – we’ll probably do some more in the summer. We should have both strawberries and blueberries for you to pick this weekend.

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Bob - loaves and fishesFor at least the past decade, we (and CSA members) have been donating vegetables and fruit each week to a local food pantry called Pajaro Valley Loaves and Fishes. For years, Loaves and Fishes volunteer Bob Montague was the face of the food pantry program for us. He would arrive every Thursday with an old Ford pick-up truck and load up the CSA vegetables donated by members who were on vacation that week or had even paid to provide a donation share weekly. Since the old truck gave up the ghost, we’ve been delivering the vegetables directly to the food pantry ourselves.

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blueberries ripenThe blueberry bushes are in full swing! You’re invited to come out and pick your own blueberries on May 23rd, May 30th, or June 6th between 10 am and 2 pm. Please bring your own containers if possible. Friends and family are welcome too. No charge for entry. Blueberries cost $5/lb. You do not need to be a current CSA subscriber to come to the u-pick. We recommend close-toed shoes and long pants. Please come only during the designated days times and plan to arrive in plenty of time to wrap up your picking by 2:00. Find directions here.

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squash tunnelThe activity level on the farm has been ratcheted up these last few weeks. This time of year finding time to do anything other than harvesting is difficult. We have three crops—strawberries, blueberries and squash—that have to be picked 2-3 times a week and when you throw in all of the other crops we are harvesting there is very little time left for all of the planting, weeding, pruning and other activities that have to happen to keep the farm going.

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SIGN UP FOR CSA PROGRAM

When you join our CSA, you sign up with the farm to receive a share of the harvest during our 36 week season from mid-March to mid-November. In return, you get a weekly box of organic vegetables and fruit (and optional flowers) delivered straight from our farm to a pick-up site in your neighborhood.

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View our CSA Members Page

This is where you can go to find out what's coming in your box each week, find recipes, identify your vegetables with pictures, and view or print the current and past newsletters. Check here for the information you need to use your box to the fullest.

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