Monday, April 20, 2015

First Harvest for 2015!

by Stacey Cooper, Co-op Organic Garden Manager

We have transplanted our first seeded flats into the hoop house raised beds at the Shaker Organic Gardens, in addition to the direct seeded crops. I have utilized floating row cover to help conserve moisture in the beds as well as buffer the plants from extreme heat during the day and cold at night. The spinach is finally germinating.

We harvested our first crop last week, being pea tendrils. Having clipped them about an inch from the soil surface we should look forward to a second crop soon. Look for them in the produce section of the Co-op's Concord store! I will then incorporate the remaining tops and root systems into the soil to help build organic matter and return nitrogen to the soil.

Watch the video below...

I have started to harden off some of the seeded flats to prepare them for transplanting into the outside raised beds. I have removed the row covers, lessened watering, and I am putting them outside for a few hours each day to expose them to direct sunlight. Often if crops are transplanted directly from inside to field conditions, the sun is too strong and scalds the plants.

We should have pac choi, spinach, scallions and arugula ready to transplant outside this week.

The fields have been tilled once and are looking good. The relatively dry weather has allowed us access to the fields earlier than I would have anticipated, which is giving me a chance to break up the weeds. I will amend the field soil based on soil test results and then we will till a second time to break up the clumps of soil and weeds.

A good portion of the field will remain in cover crop the first season to help break up the weed regime as there is significant yellow nutsedge established in a portion of the field. This section was seeded to white clover last week.

I hope to be able to use white clover in the sections of the field that are transplants, as opposed to direct seeded, as an in row cover crop. This will hopefully help to reduce weed pressure in newly turned soil as well as reduce compaction.

To read more from Stacey and her developments at the Canterbury Shaker Village hoop houses click here.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Planting the Seed in the Hoop House

Concord Food Co-op Organic Garden Manager Stacey Cooper has been busy planting the seeds for future produce, even while there is still snow on the ground! The hoop house located on the historic Canterbury Shaker Village grounds has been staying warm enough as the days are getting longer to begin the first of many plantings. Watch the video below to find out what Stacey has planted so early in the season and she also has some helpful tips for the home gardener.

If you have any questions for Stacey, leave them in the comments!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Future of the Hoop Houses

Co-op Organic Garden Manager Stacey Cooper has some big plans for the hoop houses at historic Canterbury Shaker Village. Watch the video below to see what she envisions...

If you have any comments, leave a comment for Stacey!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Building Raised Garden Beds in your Hoop House

by Stacey Cooper, Organic Garden Manager

Raised beds can be built and back-filled with a variety of materials.  It is usually handy to utilize materials you have access to on site or at your home.  Some examples of reclaimed materials that you can utilize to help keep expense down are concrete blocks, untreated barn boards, re-bar, sand, compost, or topsoil.
I choose to use wood to build the raised beds in the Shaker Organic Garden hoop house largely because access is an issue in the winter and spring months.  Concrete blocks would have been a chore to get on site, while lumber could be carried to the greenhouse by hand or with the tractor.  To facilitate using the tractor to move materials, I pre-cut the lumber into 6' lengths. This helped in a few ways: I was able to fit the lumber in the tractor bucket to move it, the shorter lengths allowed for more flexibility with the varying grade of the hoop house floor, and it readily marked where 25% were needed to stabilize the lengths of the beds.
I chose to construct the beds at 3' wide, which is about a foot more narrow than the average raised bed.  I choose to do this because it is easier to reach across for fertilizing, weeding, and harvesting without needing to rest my arms on the soil surface, which can lead to compaction. 

I also set the raised beds in about 2' from the outside edge of the hoop house. This allows the outer area to be used as an access path. The outside strip of soil around a hoop house collects the run-off condensation that is produced inside the house and leads a strip of soil with leached nutrients.  This outside edge is also the first to freeze and last to defrost.  By setting the raised beds in a little, I am able to use the least conducive soil for access and the best for growing plants.
The weight of growing medium along the length of a raised bed can cause the boards to bow out and eventually break.  By placing stakes or rebar hammered into the soil, every 6' or so, we have alleviated this pressure.  I prefer to place stakes on the inside of the beds.  This allows easier weeding and cultivation of aisles and also keeps clothing and equipment from snagging on the sides of the beds when working around them.
To backfill the beds I used some onsite loam, stockpiled from the existing floor of the hoop house that accumulated from grading and leveling the area along with compost, sand and greensand.  The approximate ratio for the 10" beds was 2" of loam, 2" of sand, 5" of compost and then appropriate amounts of greensand to improve drainage and prevent clumping of the compost. A bit of balanced organic fertilizer is all that will be needed to get seedlings or seeds started in the beds.
The first crops I plan for these beds are beets, peas (for tendrils), and radish.  The heating system is not yet operating, so getting seedlings going and planting them is risky. I've selected cold hardy direct seeded crops to start the season to better utilize the space.  In a few weeks mizuna, lettuce, pac choi and kale should also be ready to transplant.
I have a few early season flats that were in need of sunlight, but not ready for the cold nights in the hoop house.  I experimented with digging out a section of the raised beds, placing the flats into the channel and then placing an on site Plexiglas door over the flats, creating an improvised seedling chamber. So far the experiment has worked as the seedlings were left in the chamber over the weekend and seem to be growing fine.  The mizuna and lettuce seem to be responding the best.  Since this system seems to be working I will get a few more flats seeded this week and move them to the chamber once germinated.
One of the most gratifying components of small scale farming for me is the constant need for improvisation.  Using what is on hand, creating new processes and sometimes finding success makes for a good days work!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Preparing the Shaker Organic Garden Hoop House for Spring

Tucked away behind the snow drifts at Canterbury Shaker Village you will find the Co-op's Organic Farm Manager, Stacey Cooper happily digging away in the dirt under the protection of the hoop house that will soon be flourishing with seedlings to produce fresh veggies and leafy greens.
Stacey has been busy cleaning and weeding to prepare the space for raised garden beds. Watch the video below to see the progress...

If you have any questions for Stacey, ask away in the comments below...

Monday, March 2, 2015

Reviving the Organic Gardens at Canterbury Shaker Village

The rumors are true! The Co-op has formed a Strategic Partnership with Canterbury Shaker Village to revive the historic Shaker fields with organic produce, cultivate beehives, and offer workshops and classes in the unique spaces available on the picturesque grounds in Canterbury, NH.

Starting this Spring 2015, the Co-op's newly appointed Organic Garden Manager, Stacey Cooper will work with Celery Stick CafĂ© Chef's, the Co-op's Produce Manager Shawn Menard, and Lakes Region Community College Culinary Arts Program Chef Patrick Hall to grow organic produce to meet demand. Fresh produce will also be available for purchase at the Co-op and at the Shaker Box Lunch and Farm Stand.

Stacey will be sharing updates via the Co-op's blog so you can follow the gardens progress online or visit the Canterbury Shaker Village to see it in person. Now let us introduce you to Stacey...

Hello and thank you warmly for welcoming me to the Concord Food Co-op! The collaborative efforts of the Co-op and Canterbury Shaker Village have everyone involved excited about the many ways we can more directly contribute to the local food system.
My journey into organic farming began with many years of field and office experience in the landscape architecture and horticulture industries. After finishing graduate school, I acquired the farming bug and decided to switch gears. In 2007 I joined Larry Pletcher at Vegetable Ranch, LLC and for years thrived in my new chosen career path.
The opportunity to work at Canterbury Shaker Village with the Concord Food Co-op's support and encouragement was a perfect fit for my interests and background. I'm very much looking forward to embracing the history of the Shaker Organic Gardens site while renewing the agricultural uses of the land.
The beauty of the site, even under 5+ feet of snow, has me invigorated already. To date my efforts have been focused on reclaiming the hoop house. Weeding, grading, pulling up old fabric, shoveling snow and general cleaning. Fortunately on a sunny day it is over 65 degrees inside and I have been getting my full dose of vitamin D.
I will continue to get the hoop house ready and begin seeding flats and building raised beds as the weather improves. I am also working towards getting the land re-certified as organic for the coming season.
I look forward to meeting more of you and I hope that as the season progresses you will be able to stop by the Village and see the results of our efforts!"
Stacey Cooper
Co-op Organic Garden Manager

Monday, January 5, 2015

Long Wind Farm: Vermont Organic Tomatoes

by Shawn Menard, Produce Manager

Just a few steps over the New Hampshire border in Thetford, Vermont lie the magnificent glass greenhouses of Long Wind Farm. Here, the growing season truly begins in early January, when most of us are still enjoying fresh snow on the ground and warm cups of tea.

Within the greenhouses, employees are busy planting thousands of tomato seedlings that have already been slowly growing in Emerald City, the farm’s largest greenhouse. All hands are on deck as the greenhouses see a rapid change in atmosphere. Rows upon rows of beautiful, glowing tomato seedlings fully grounded and by March will be producing fruit.

Once the tomatoes begin ripening, the greenhouses emit an intoxicating combination of aroma, color, and taste. The vibrant red can be seen from wall to wall. Nutrient-rich soil adds a wholesome smell to the air. And the taste, oh, the taste! If you’ve ever had a Long Wind tomato, you know that their taste is remarkable. Fruit and vegetables grown in a greenhouse often have a bad rapport due to the seemingly unnatural conditions that exist within the structure. However, it is here in the greenhouse that Long Wind Farm has been able to capture the very best conditions a tomato can thrive in.
Since 1984, founder David Chapman has been committed to growing the very best-tasting and healthiest organic tomatoes possible. He had always been struck by conflicting qualities he had seen in other greenhouse tomatoes. Fruit that looked spectacular was usually lacking is taste. Chapman knew that people were looking for both attractive and delicious tomatoes and he has become a master in growing such fruit.

Today Long Wind Farm is as committed as ever to growing organic tomatoes that taste amazing. Believe me, I eat these tomatoes throughout the growing season, and the flavor is never disappointing.

Along with paying close attention to the tomatoes, the farm also closely monitors its number-one resource, its employees. The farm invests a lot into its employees, knowing that people want to work hard and be happy. This is very evident to me each time we receive a delivery directly from a Long Wind Farm staff member. Our produce staff is kindly greeted with each delivery, and we enjoy seeing the Long Wind van pull into the parking lot each week.

Even though the seasons are rapidly changing your flavor palate, food cravings are still begging for fresh produce. Long Wind Farm’s “Good ‘n’ Ugly” variety is my favorite along with the smaller-sized “Vermatoes.” Also try the perfectly sized and wonderful-tasting Grade A’s. We hope you enjoy choosing Long Wind Farm tomatoes from our produce department every year from March through December.

Photos courtesy of Long Wind Farm. Learn more about Long Wind Farm at