January News 2013

There’s a pretty healthy cover of snow out here, which is good because it is keeping the strawberries mulched.  If the snow melts off at some point, we’re ready to cover them up again with a substantial pile of straw 🙂 We do see a fair amount of tracks all over a few of the fields, so  we know the snow is not impeding the turkeys, deer, bobcat, rabbits, coyote, geese…..

We have ordered the seed potatoes (back in October) and are working on other veggie seed orders now. A lot of the interesting ornamental plants have been ordered and it is SO hard to resist ordering way more than we need. That said, we always manage to order a few things that don’t materialize. For example, last year we had the oats and rice ready to go, but never got them into the field. We tend to take a year to organize ourselves, so perhaps this is the year I harvest some of my own oats and rice. Glenn is always amused by the countless new cabbage varieties introduced yearly. Really, how many do we need? We are happy to try something new, but very reluctant to give up something we like.

Some might wonder what the criteria are for growers like us when selecting seed varieties. Well, I can’t speak for any other growers, but for us taste is the number one criteria. Then comes productivity, disease resistance, and salability.  For example, Glenn is always looking for another orange tomato to grow. He really likes the flavor of the variety he grows, but it is plagued by problems and is not productive. Every year he tries a few other varieties to replace it but ends right back where he started because the flavor of his main orange variety is superior to any others. SO, we’ll see what this year brings.

Purple Kale Sprouts at Stillman's Farm

Purple Kale Sprouts at Stillman’s Farm

I’d like to think I am the one who adds on the more unusual items, but it turns out, Glenn does just fine adding to our already humongous growing list! This benefits all of us. Our gardeners enjoy a larger, more comprehensive collection of plants, our market shoppers and CSA members enjoy greater variety, and we renew our passion for growing. It’s all good .This year, I think Glenn is getting excited about some of the Asian greens, I am always wanting escarole and huge beets to store, but my guess is we will end up with at least two new pepper varieties, another tomato,  lettuce, and heirloom eggplant. Go figure.

Glenn and I sit by the fire daily (almost) during the winter with our coffee and talk for hours. Yes, we need this to happen in order to rejuvenate ourselves for the next season, and we like each other ;).  Recently, he was reading the brochure for a friend’s offered CSA and noted that many farmers make a lot of hoopla about “normal” farming practices. Our friends had a whole page of their brochure talking about what great stewards they are and how they take care of the soils…how fresh their product is. Specifically, they mentioned how they put up bird boxes and showed a picture of a House Finch. Now, we put up lots of bird boxes, for Bluebirds (we have 55 up), for Wood Ducks(one up and 5 ready to go), a mansions for the Purple Martins, but have never thought to carry on about it because it just seems like the right thing to do. It seems like taking credit for breathing. Maybe we are wrong about that And are keeping our light under a bushel basket. Those who know us well and spend any amount of time out here know we spend a huge amount of time creating a wonderful environment for our fellow creatures. Perhaps our philosophy is more Native American in our reverence for everything in our environment, and do not need a special label. The best part of the whole “putting up bird boxes” brochure was they pictured a House Finch (they don’t seek out bird boxes but will be perfectly content in your hanging basket or in a Spruce).

redpoll (Medium)

A Redpoll and House Finch at the feeder: 250 Redpolls on the farm! If you know about these lovely birds, you are psyched for us and know we are doing a good job. If they are new to you, you must realize that we have provided a great place for them to inhabit for these harsh winter months.

We are perhaps guilty of taking for granted our sustainable practices on this farm, we are also terrible at tooting our own horn. This is what goes on here on a regular basis: careful placement of Bluebird boxes around the farm, away from primary English Sparrow locations, regular scouting of these boxes to keep them clean and make note of who has nested where and how many times for the season; maintenance of hedgerows, preserving food sources for native wildlife (like dogwood and blueberry) but eliminating invasive species such as bittersweet and multiflora rose; leaving corn standing or just knocked down for the turkeys and migrating geese to feed on; planting winter rye and vetch for erosion control, nitrogen fixing, winter browse for birds; scouting and notation of ground nests (turkeys, killdeer…) in cropping areas to ensure safe perimeter; the highest scrutiny of any chemicals (organic or conventional) and their effects on humans and wildlife — especially our amphibians; (oxymoron alert) maintenance of natural wildflower buffer strips for the butterflies and other insects that share our space.


Leopard Frog hanging out in the shade of some purslane and grass growing at row’s edge at Stillman’s Farm, New Braintree MA

As a side note, we have several farmer friends that have a policy of every coyote, squirrel, rabbit, and crow is shot on site. Glenn thinks we are able to coexist with these farm menaces because we allow them to maintain their own balance. The predators will balance out with the prey. We do not feel we can do this better than nature, and perhaps we are willing to accept a certain amount of loss that may be unacceptable to others. Planting the deer’s favorite vegetable near our active areas is a better idea than is the most isolated field. You get the idea.

Anyway, I think our friend has it right, most people want to hear about what your good farming practices are, and we should not assume they are the practices of every farm — even if they should be. I know I write about the wildlife often, but humility prevents me from taking any credit. Having said that, in our town, there is no bigger flock of turkeys, or more interesting birds, and that is no accident. I will give the credit to my farmer husband who is not only a phenomenal grower, but a compassionate steward of the land.

Glenn scouting the Fall planting of tomatoes (holding French Breakfast Radishes). *note the Goldenrod strip growing in the background which many insects, arachnids and birds depend on

Glenn scouting the Fall planting of tomatoes (holding French Breakfast Radishes). *note the Goldenrod strip growing in the background which many insects, arachnids and birds depend on


About stillmansfarm

Stillman's Farm® is a family owned farm in Massachusetts. We currently operate at two locations: a greenhouse/retail business in Lunenburg, and the majority of vegetable production in New Braintree. Glenn Stillman started the business in Lunenburg over 20 years ago and now enjoys the promise of the next generation further expanding the very diverse enterprise. The farm also has several Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs established in Boston, Lunenburg, Jamaica Plain, Brookline, New Braintree and the Southborough/Framingham area. In addition, the Stillman's trucks have become a fixture at the Boston Area Farmer's Markets. Our Philosophy Most of Stillman's produce is grown without chemicals. For a few crops this simply is not feasible. For these particular crops, we participate in the State Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program. This entails systematic scouting of fields, protection of beneficial insects, bio-controls, and well-timed applications of only the safest pesticides. With growing concern about genetically modified organisms (GMO), as a patron you can be confident that none of the produce we grow have been engineered, in fact, we often experiment with many heirloom varieties! Conscientiously Grown® The combination of no pesticides, good cultivation management, and IPM practices allows us to offer the widest possible selection of fruit and vegetable varieties and be a thriving sustainable farm. We have developed our own label, "conscientiously grown" to convey our commitment to the safety of our environment, family and customers. All of our hormone free, pasture raised meats carry a conscientiously grown label too!
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3 Responses to January News 2013

  1. Tammy says:

    Looks like it’s all coming together perfectly!

  2. Karen says:

    Thank you for your hard work and delicious produce! If you are looking for an addictive seed catalog, check out: http://www.landrethseeds.com 🙂

  3. Donna Hassett says:

    And don’t forget milkweed for the monarch butterflies!

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