Tuesday, June 8, 2010

June Crop Mob at Early Morning Farm- Recap & Pictures!

"Take thy spade,
It is thy pencil; take thy seeds, thy plants,
they are thy colours."
-William Mason, The English Garden, 1782

"If it weren't for the last minute, nothing would ever get done." - Anonymous

The solstice may not have arrived yet, but it is definitely summer in Ithaca. Last Wednesday a small Crop Mob gathered (in 85+ degree heat!) at an Early Morning owned land plot in Lansing to plant potatoes for the farm's CSA and farmers' market patrons. Aided by several Early Morning employees, our dozen or so volunteers set to work in the hot afternoon sun.

We started out by cutting our seed potatoes into seeds by dividing them into 1 1/2- 2" chunks, each containing one to three "eyes," or buds. For the larger varieties, a single seed potato would make between 2 and 4 seeds; we left the smaller varieties whole. We planted about a half dozen varieties, of which some had names (including Red Maria, Reba, Carola, and Andover), and others were known simply by a license-plate-like collection of numbers and letters. As some of us kept chopping, others began moving the potatoes out to the field in large tubs to begin planting!

Anton and his employees explained that planting was a four-part process. The first step was making the furrow (Early Morning used a tractor for the 6" deep trench). The second step was removing from the furrow all quackgrass, an undesirable perennial grass that can cut right through potatoes in the ground. Quackgrass reproduces from rhizomes left in the soil, so we were careful to remove any and all roots. The third step? Well, the art of placing potatoes, of course. Potato seeds were placed about 1' apart, with the cut side up, so it would form a callous over the next day. The callous helps to prevent the potato seeds from rotting in the ground. Over the next few days, the potatoes would be covered up and left to sprout- the final step we would not ourselves experience. In 2-3 weeks, the little potato plants would appear above ground.
The day was certainly difficult, but we persevered and were rewarded. By the end of the day, we'd planted 1700 pounds of potatoes, filling 1.5 acres!

Afterwards, we headed back to Early Morning's main location in Genoa for a spectacular Mexican-themed meal of homemade tortillas, local beef, beans and rice, fruit salsa, tomato salsa, a refreshing salad of local greens, and a strawberry shortcake with (vegan & nonvegan!) ice cream. We also got a tour of the farm's plentiful fields, almost ready for the first harvest for Early Morning's CSA, which started June 5th. We saw everything from strawberries (HUGE from the cooperative warm weather!), beautiful dark green kale, Italian dandelion greens, and tomatoes in high tunnels. Early Morning takes advantage of plasticulture methods for season extension purposes- black plastic mulch for keeping the ground several degrees warmer, and high tunnel greenhouses to make tomatoes produce more.

Thanks to Anton and everyone at Early Morning for having us, and thanks to all the Crop Mobbers who braved the heat to do some amazing work. July's crop mob is in the works- hope to see you there!

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