Monday, November 29, 2010

November 2010 Crop Mob (Stick and Stone) - Recap & Photos!

 No shade, no shine, 
No butterflies, no bees,

No fruits, no flowers, 
No leaves, no birds - 

-Thomas Hood, "No!"

The Ithaca Crop Mob has come to the end of its first growing season. With the first (and second... and third...) snow having touched ground, and with only three more weeks of the Steamboat Landing Ithaca Farmers Market remaining, farmers are counting down the last days of the season and saying goodbye (or just "see you soon") to their employees and interns. Some farmers are headed to off-farm jobs for the winter in order to make ends meet; others are finishing bringing in root crops for winter markets and CSAs before the ground freezes and the cold sets in. Thanksgiving brought with it a bitter wind that left many only too happy to spend the harvest holiday at the dinner table and fireplace, giving thanks for the bounty of the season. But just a week and a half earlier, the Ithaca Crop Mob was blessed with a final taste of autumn.
On this sunny Sunday morning, a large group of mobbers gathered together to celebrate the last Crop Mob of the season by harvesting carrots at Stick and Stone Farm in Ulysses (between Ithaca and Trumansburg). Stick and Stone, a certified organic vegetable operation with cut flowers and free-range chicken eggs, sells its produce at the Ithaca Farmers Market and is a founding member of the Full Plate Farm Collective CSA, providing summer and winter vegetable shares with fellow farms Remembrance Farm in Trumansburg, Starflower Farm in Candor, and the Ithaca Youth Farm project at the former Three Swallows Farm. In preparation for Full Plate's winter CSA, farmers Lucy Garrison and Chaw Chang invited the Crop Mob to their land for the great autumn carrot harvest.

Most root vegetables can be left in the ground for light frosts- in fact, freezing often makes them taste sweeter, as starches are converted to sugars. However, a frozen ground is hard to dig, so root veggies are often pulled in the fall, though some, like parsnips, are left to overwinter until the ground thaws in the spring. To make these carrots easier to pull, Chaw drove over them in a tractor fitted with a bed lifter to "undercut" the bed, loosening the soil around the carrots. We grabbed our plastic bins and got to work, pulling, cleaning, topping, and gathering the carrots in plastic bins. In order for optimum storage, root vegetable greens should be removed, as they sap moisture and vitamins from the root in storage, and dirt roughly brushed from the vegetable, leaving a thin coat of dirt on the outside to prevent water loss and cuts and scrapes that can lead to spoilage.
We dug two varieties of carrots: mostly Bolero, a Nantes type (rounded tip) known for generally doing well in organic operations and for retaining its sugary sweetness in storage, and some Sugarsnax, a hybrid, pointier variety with a exceptional fresh-eating taste and a moderate longevity in storage. When kept in mid-30 degree temperatures and high humidity, these carrots would store for several months.

Our young carrot pullers were quite enthusiastic about their harvests!

Mobbers figured out for themselves the best way to harvest carrots:

Four hours later, we finished up the last row, meeting together in the middle. How many carrots can about 30 people working at a comfortable pace harvest in four hours? As it turns out, approximately 4000 pounds!

After the harvest, Chaw and Lucy were generous enough to offer all of our mobbers an "all-you-can-take" smorgasbord of fresh vegetables, including carrots and beets (reds, bulls-eye Chioggias, and goldens) pulled fresh from the field. They also made us a delectable meal of parsnip soup, bread, local cheese from market, and roasted beets! Yum!

After lunch, we toured Stick and Stone's barn, and Chaw showed us the farm's coolers, other fields, and some of the farm's dedicated equipment. Below, he shows us how to use a rotating root vegetable barrel washer, a high-capacity tool which uses the friction of vegetables jostling against each other with water under pressure to scrub dirt from skins. Other highlights included seeing the farm's chickens (stewarded by the farmers' daughter, Greta) and how much winter squash a 500-member CSA eats in a winter!
The back of Stick and Stone, with high tunnels for year-round growing (paid for by a USDA EQIP grant), and chickens in a movable "chicken tractor" to the left (hard to see, but they're there)!
As if Stick and Stone hadn't been generous enough hosts already, after the farm tour mobbers were invited to take anything they liked from the bins left over from the Full Plate's last summer CSA share. Collards, kale, chard, lettuce, and more- wow! It was an amazing way to end the crop mob's first season- with a harvest, a cornucopian bounty and a big thanksgiving.
In that spirit, the Ithaca Crop Mob would like to thank all of our 2010 volunteers; all of our host farms and farmers; and everyone who supported us with kind words of encouragement and advice. The energy of our mobbers was the driving force behind our effort, and we hope that for every post-mob sore muscle, there was also a smile and a feeling of skill and accomplishment, as well as an understanding that you are making a big difference in your local landscape, and the world!

Ithaca Crop Mob's organizers, Katie Church and Rachel Firak, will be presenting "Stories from the Crop Mob: Barn Raising in 2010" at the NOFA-NY Winter Conference in Saratoga Springs, NY this January, along with fellow Crop Mob organizer Deb Taft of the NYC Crop Mob. We hope you'll join us at 8 a.m. (bright and early!) on Sunday the 23rd of January to hear about how our crop mobs began, how they function, and what cooperative volunteerism and agricultural activism can offer our communities- basically, what all of our volunteers have taught us! 

For those of you unable to make it to the NOFA conference, we'll hope to see you next season for the second year (of hopefully many to come) of the Ithaca Crop Mob.

Thank you!

1 comment:

  1. Wow, Rachel and Kate and all you dedicated Crop Mob Volunteers and host farmers...Congratulations on a fantastic, unbelievably successful first season! You all are just completely awesome!

    Ithaca Crop Mob is Tops!