Nov 2015 27

Siena Farms Blog

Thursday June 28, 2012



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Oregano is everywhere. At the farm this time of year, our oregano patch is taking off. Fresh or dried, it is a delicious flavor that goes well with so many vegetables and meats. While it is native to the Mediterranean, it can be used in a variety of cuisines. It is often paired with tomatoes. Chef Ana Sortun of Oleana Restaurant tells us it goes great with bold flavored foods like lamb, garlic, and feta cheese. When tomatoes are in season Chef Ana likes to use it on fresh tomato salads or with fried green tomatoes baked with Parmesan cheese.

Check out the following NYTimes article in the archives from 1998 with some incredible recipes with oregano, including grilled vegetables with oregano dressing. Yum!

Fresh oregano is delicious but if you find yourself with too much at once, lay it out on paper for 5-7 days or until it is completely dry. It will store indefinitely like this and adds great flavor even when it is dried. Read more about dried oregano at The Culinary Taste

Comment here or on our Siena Farms facebook page and let us know how you’re using your oregano!

Sunday June 10, 2012

Behind the tractor’s wheel

By Eero Ruuttila

June at the farm comes with the final run of more daylight, warming soils & fragrant midsummer nights. Farm fields & the farm’s suddenly crowded cooler are flush w/late spring salad & braising greens. Recently arrived summer crew members are being trained & coached by Siena’s experienced “ultra full-time” staff. Tractors & farm trucks are in constant movement between & among the farm’s patchwork of Sudbury & Concord fields.  I will not jinx future days by saying the weather has been perfect; instead, let’s just say it’s been “good enough.”

Good enough for significant acreage now established w/most of summer’s crops: tomatoes, eggplant, garlic, onions, shallots, potatoes, leeks, parsnips, peppers, Brussels sprouts, carrots, beets, peas, fava & string beans, broccoli, head lettuce, cucumbers, summer squash, basil, sunflowers, & many, many successive plantings of salad & braising greens mixes.

New seedings continue in the greenhouse (as they will for a couple of more months), but our new greenhouse is no longer brimming w/plants. For the 1st time since early March there are actually gaps on the plant benches.

Prepping in the fields continues for the weekly succession of direct seedings, transplants, &/or cover crops. It will continue all the way into mid-September, but the pace of putting crops in slows as primary tasks shift towards field crop maintenance & harvests. Irrigation, insect & disease prevention (or control), weed cultivation & hoeing, and near daily harvests extend 12-hour work- days for full 7-day weeks.  Fortunately the farm’s crew members are permitted off days each week.

In appearance & practice Siena Farms is a busy place!

What is less apparent is the detailed planning & research that precedes what is initiated out in the fields & displayed via Siena’s public markets or CSA membership.

For a peek at the details of how one crop is nurtured prior to its 1st pollinated blossom & way before its ripening fruit is ready for hand-picking, I’ve collated some notes & field-action photos to demonstrate Siena’s sustainable farming practices.


Exhibit A: Siena Farms tomatoes

2011 soil tests & review of cropping history on detailed farm maps provides appropriate field placement & soil amendment calculations for 2012 tomatoes.  Tomatoes at Siena employ a 3-year rotation before returning to a previous tomato field.

Figure 1 2nd round tomato flats ready to go outside; Crystal carries 3rd round tomato flats to plant benches; Heather is seeding into flats at the potting table


Each year Siena Farms adds to its inventory of tractors & tractor implements. Field manager Max does national computer searches during the winter for new & used farm implements. This year four newly purchased (actually new-used) implements were utilized for the 2012 tomato fields: a New Holland drop spreader, a Rain-Flo transplanter, a front-end mount Brillion cultipacker & a Williams-system flex tine blind cultivator.


Figure 2 New Holland ground-drive drop-spreader for spreading soil amendment minerals


Soil tests determined that 2012 tomato fields required hi-calcium lime, greensand, & Bone Char + Siena’s standard general natural fertilizer, Pro-Gro. Once soil amendments were spread, they were harrowed in prior to covering tomato beds w/a biodegradable cornstarch derived plastic. During the winter, harvest crew manager Anya created an amazing spreadsheet for all of the farm fields w/appropriate soil amendment calculations for each crop. Office manager Jess ordered farm vegetable & flower seed & created a weekly greenhouse-seeding plan.


Figure 3 Max drives tractor & mulch-layer while Avi tucks in biodegradable plastic ends


Tomatoes transplanted into a plastic mulch are provided a weed free environment, where soil moisture & soil organic matter are conserved, & efficient water & plant fertigation can be provided via drip lines under the plastic.  Tomato rows are placed 12 feet apart to provide adequate ventilation to lessen tomato diseases, to facilitate hand-pick harvests as well as space for spraying via tractor & finally to establish a living mulch of red clover in an area of considerable farm traffic during the tomato production cycle. The clover will overwinter & provide considerable organic matter & root zone “fixed nitrogen” for 2013 crops following late spring plow down.


Figure 4 Will drives tractor, Max tweaks Rain Flo water, & Brian & Joy ready transplants for final placement


Figure 5 Medium red clover seed to be sown w/oats in traffic aisles between tomato rows


Figure 6 Scott spins oats to nurse medium red clover as a living mulch between tomato rows


Figure 7 Williams flex-tine cultivator covers oats prior to seeding red clover


Figure 9 Anya & Dan at distant ends of tomato rows pounding in wooden tomato stakes to support basket weave tomato trellis system


Figure 10 Field tomato plants recovered from “transplant shock,” putting on new growth; oats & red clover already sprouted in tomato aisle


Figure 11 1st tomato block off to a good start; tomato plants healthy prior to exhibiting blossoms; oats/red clover living mulch well established