interns and apprentices

Grower’s Row: As Summer Ends

By Patrick Lang

There is no better place to be than the farm for tracking the changing of the seasons. It seems that, in the blink of an eye, tender zucchini and sweet cantaloupe are replaced by potatoes and dark green kale, and we enjoy our first glimpse of winter squash being harvested and stowed away for the fall and early winter. Since farm labor is entirely impacted by the seasons, we also have been saying goodbye to amazing PFP farm interns, as well as a special longer-term crew member who is moving on to other exciting projects.

Veg Report
Crops are generally in very good condition after abundant summer rainfall: blueberries and green beans offered particularly large and tasty harvests this summer. Fall brassica crops (broccoli, kale, cabbages, radishes, rutabaga) are looking splendid following the surprisingly cool nights we’ve enjoyed throughout the summer. As always, however, there are winners and there are losers. Cherry tomatoes and peppers growing in the field this summer have not experienced the ideal amount of hot and dry weather that allows them to stay healthy and produce excellent fruit. If you notice haggard-looking cherry tomato plants in the pick-your-own section, know that cool and wet weather has precipitated the spread of fungal diseases. Peppers have been hit hard this season, first by hail when they were very young, and then by multiple heavy rains, all of which has made them more susceptible to bacterial diseases. While we are still able to harvest peppers, fruit ripened rather late this season, and we do not expect the plants to last long into September (despite this, of course, the crew continues to smile brightly while happily harvesting what they can!).

Internships and Training at PFP
We are sad to say goodbye to cherished summer interns, Fiona and Liz. It has been a joy to train and work with these engaged and energetic humans, and also to learn from them. We also say a temporary good bye to Merle, who fortunately plans on returning next season. We will miss you!

German, who is a full-season apprentice this year, has recently begun training in mechanical cultivation, which he will be taking over fully next year. This task, which involves weeding beds with tractor implements, requires much focus and careful coordination, since a slip of the steering wheel can translate to 10 kale or broccoli plants being uprooted in an instant. PFP has four cultivation implements that are used regularly, and they help us accomplish the same goal – a weed-free vegetable/fruit bed – in a variety of ways. Some bury weeds, some uproot them completely, and some cultivate the furrows. After brief training last fall, I managed cultivation this season; I am happy to have the opportunity to transfer that knowledge to another individual learning to farm here at PFP.

September on the Farm
I hope that I’ve helped to explain why patience is needed this season in the pepper and cherry tomato area. Remember how wonderful many other crops have been, due to the same cool, wet weather! The winter squash, potato, onion, and garlic harvests are now complete, and the farmers are excited to chill out a little more and sweat a little less. We are also excited to begin harvesting fall greens and roots! Parsnips, rutabaga, and celeriac continue to size up, and the first tender arugula and spinach leaves have our mouths watering. Enjoy the bounty!

Dan Gets into the Swing of Things

By Dan Salisbury, Education Intern

Getting back into the swing of things here as an Education Intern has been completely refreshing. As the new semester begins, I think I speak for all of the interns when I say we’re extremely excited to test brand-new recipes, come up with new lesson plans, and, of course, see the lovely kids again. While it was great to see our families and loved ones back home, it’s invigorating to see our PFP family once again.

We have been perusing various seed catalogues, carefully selecting vegetable crops for use in the Discovery  Gardens. Fun and whimsical produce is going to come into play; the students love working with all kinds of funky fruits and vegetables. We are setting aside a plot of land for a DIY plant Tie-Dye garden, another for the ever-popular Obstacle Course, and we’re always thinking of ways to further engage the throngs of happy and excited students as they make their way around the farm.

As a culinary student at the Culinary Institute of America just down the road, I always feel at home in a kitchen. A lot of recipe-testing has been going on inside the farm kitchen, and brand-new recipes are going to be making their way into classrooms and homes in and around Poughkeepsie. On a personal note, getting the chance to work with some amazingly fresh and delicious produce is something that I absolutely cherish about my time here at Poughkeepsie Farm Project; when the ingredients you’re using are of this caliber, it doesn’t take much to elevate them – all I’m doing is making sure things don’t burn!

I’m extremely excited to be involved with the return of Farm Fresh Home Chefs. These workshops are a chance for us to work directly with the students in the local schools of Poughkeepsie - best of all, the parents are there right beside their kids the entire time. Passing on some basic cooking tips and making kids smile with the occasional deft flick of a knife or a sauté pan is something that I’ve come to deeply enjoy; it doesn’t hurt that the parents leave with some cool ideas for easy, nutritious, and delicious meals.  

I’m also looking to get the CIA more engaged with the local communities of Poughkeepsie and Hyde Park. One of the projects the senior Applied Food Studies students are planning involves establishing an education garden in one of the local schools in Hyde Park. We’ll be looking to follow some of the successful models established by PFP, and I’m excited to lend the experiences I’ve gained here to the other students and faculty at my school. I’m also working on getting The Brewery at the CIA (yeah, we have our own brewery…the scotch ale is absolutely delicious!) to donate their spent grains to PFP for use in compost. Spent grains are a by-product of the brewing process, and it only makes sense to utilize this by-product that otherwise would be thrown out. In a way, everything comes full circle: CIA students learn how to brew beer, a small percentage of spent grains are used in baking and other cooking applications (think a sort of nutty/malty flavor profile) and the rest will be donated to PFP’s compost pile, where school-aged students will learn all about the process of decomposition. This kind of small-scale community impact becomes a sort of cyclical endeavor that I strive each and every day to reach in all aspects of my work at PFP. Now, it’s time to get cookin’!

PFP Alumna Starts Rock Steady Farm & Flowers

Rock Steady Farm & Flowers turns four this week -- four months old that is! As a PFP alum it feels particularly special to share the news of my new farm with all of you!

I apprenticed at PFP, under farmers Asher and Wendy, for two transformative seasons in 2010 and 2011. I moved on to manage Huguenot Street Farm for a few years, a 12 acre vegetable CSA in New Paltz. In need of some inspiration and a new challenge, I accepted the flower grower position at Sol Flower Farm in Millerton and built their cut flower operation from the ground up. Sol Flower decided to shift focus last fall, and the veggie grower and I were presented with the opportunity to purchase the equipment and CSA membership list.  Not able to pass up the opportunity, I teamed up with two amazing human beings and highly skilled farmers, Maggie Cheney and D. Rooney, to start Rock Steady Farm & Flowers in Millerton!

Rock Steady Farm & Flowers is a vegetable and professional cut flower farm with a growing CSA membership, that sells to farmer’s markets, wholesale accounts locally and in NYC, and direct to brides and grooms who want DIY wedding flowers. We are a small farm with a big vision! We are deeply rooted in social justice and have a strong commitment to making sure all of our community members have access to the food we grow. In addition, we hope to create a cooperatively owned business that empowers its workers, provides stable employment and a living wage.

Part of what inspired me to take the big leap and start a farm was our ever expanding community of support, both here in Poughkeepsie (where my partner and I still live) and in Millerton. Getting Rock Steady Farm & Flowers off the ground isn’t just about us three owners working our tails off and pouring over budgets until wee hours of the night. It’s also about the people and organizations that have stepped in and stepped up because they believe in what we are trying to do in the community.

This winter and spring our CSA members stepped up in true ‘Community Supported Agriculture’ style. They stuck with us through the farm transition and their commitment allowed us to purchase our first seeds, to buy the first tank of propane for the greenhouse, and pay the electric bills. They helped bridge that gap, which literally made all the difference. Although I’ve been working on, and managing, CSA farms for many years, it’s been in the last few months that the power of a committed CSA has actually started to settle in.

As a start up farm, I’m particularly proud of the fact that Rock Steady has been able to launch our low income CSA share program in our first year, with the goal of serving 88 families in 2016. This was possible through two important non-profit partnerships. The first, started three years ago, and is sponsored by the North East Community Center. Through this partnership we will provide vegetable boxes to 70 families in the Millerton area. We are also actively fundraising with Neighbors Helping Neighbors and The Watershed Center, to expand our program to reach an additional 18 families in Ancramdale. Our goal is to raise $12K by May 1st. Learn more about our low income CSA program and how to donate here!

The Watershed Center (WC), is a social and environmental justice retreat center, that shares the farm property with us. The energy and community around the WC were a big draw in choosing to farm in Millerton. The founders and staff have been working with us from day one and we are excited to expand our impact through integrated programming. They introduced us to The Working World, a non-extractive investment fund that supports worker owned businesses, which provided Rock Steady with the financing needed to purchase equipment, infrastructure, supplies, and the working capital to run the farm. We’re proud to be the first business to receive a loan through their new “local community fund” that’s developing!!

With all of this community support, starting Rock Steady has been both an empowering and humbling experience. It calls me back to my time at the PFP as an apprentice - having so much to learn, relying so heavily on my mentors (yes, Asher is still on speed dial) and impatiently looking forward to the first harvest!  What I learned at PFP, both in the fields and through my involvement with the sponsored share program, informs my work every single day. It’s grounding to carry forward the work of PFP, and I’m thrilled to have Rock Steady join the local network of individuals, organizations, and businesses that are committed to social and economic justice.

Follow Rock Steady’s adventures this season by following us on Instagram and Facebook, and visit our website to learn more about the farm and contribute to our low income CSA program!!

With much gratitude,

Angela Defelice

Intern Finds Inspiration at PFP

Intern Finds Inspiration at PFP

One of my academic interests has always been food and farming: how can we provide enough quality food for everybody without exploiting workers and undermining ecosystems?  I often can only see the obstacles – pest resistances, ecological damages, low quality food, wasted food, poor wages for farm workers, poor working conditions, depletion of soil health, food deserts – the list goes on.  The question of individual action always comes up: what can we as individuals do to help?