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Supporting Our Community

Farming is hard work and often I'm asked by friends and customers why I do it.  Well, part of the answer is because of you.  One of the driving motivations for me to farm is to provide something of use and value for my community, every day, year round.  Healthy food raised in a sustainable manner that respects the land and the animals that we raise is a direct way to do this. I grew up here in Jericho Center where our main farm is located. When we started dabbling in farming over 15 years ago our first customers and supporters were the great network of friends I have from having lived here all my life.  They supported us and helped us get going, and as the farm has thrived we have been able to give back.  

 The Vermont Foodbank truck on one of its weekly trips to the farm.

The Vermont Foodbank truck on one of its weekly trips to the farm.

The primary ways we support our community are through donations of food, partnerships in fund raising, and education opportunities. 

Every week the Vermont Foodbank truck rolls into our driveway and we load it up with any excess veggies we produced that week.  We donate over 10,000 lbs of food each year to the Foodbank and our local food shelf. We also host the Intervale Center's Gleaning Program, which provides free fresh produce to families in need and social service organizations in the Burlington area.  Every Friday during the growing season a group of volunteers gleans produce from our fields that we would not otherwise harvest.  

 Christa shows aspiring farmers from Saxon Hill School how the tractor works.

Christa shows aspiring farmers from Saxon Hill School how the tractor works.

 

We support many schools and Farm to School programs in our area through food donations, fund raising partnerships and learning at the farm.  From pre-schoolers to college students and beyond, we host numerous school groups each year for learning opportunities, class projects, and research projects. We have hosted leek moth research with St. Michael's faculty, IPM aphid control studies with UVM Entomology lab, harvest bundle fund raising with Essex Farm to School and MMU girls soccer team, class learning with the UVM Agroecology class, tours with UID and Saxon Hill School students, and planting and harvest days at the farm and taste-testing in the cafeteria with Richmond Farm to School.

 

 

 

Thank you for supporting our farm which enables us to give back to our community in these important ways. We love growing for you and learning with you how to grow Good Food Year Round!   

- Christa

 

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Why We Raise Animals on Pasture at JSF

From the beginning, as our farm business grew and we ventured into raising more animals for meat and egg production, we committed to raising the animals on pasture.  With careful pasture rotation we can meet the nutritional needs of the animals, utilize different pastures to their best potential, and provide the animals with the opportunity to live in their social groups. We set up their paddocks to provide natural shelter, shade and fresh water as well as ample forage.  The pigs help renovate woodlots, some recently cleared to transition to pasture. The sheep graze the prime forage lands during lambing and lactation, and when young stock are growing rapidly.  At other times, when the ewes nutritional demand is lower, they can utilize marginal pastures that are less productive, which they help bring back into better production through their grazing. 

 

Sheep are ruminants, which means they can digest grass and other vegetation effectively to meet all their nutritional needs without needing any grain.  We time the breeding and lambing of our flock so that ewes lamb in May when pasture forage is plentiful and rich, which allows us to produce healthy, 100% grassfed lamb in Vermont without needing to supplement with grain (which is commonly needed for a ewe lambing in March).

Because pigs and chickens are not ruminants they cannot get all their dietary needs from pasture alone, so we supplement with Non-GMO grain. Our pigs and chickens are also great recyclers, munching on the veggie "seconds" that don't make the cut for human consumption. In vegetable production there can be a lot of "waste" product: we aim to sell what we can, donate what we can't sell that is still suitable for human use, and recycle the rest with the help of the pigs and chickens. Of course, the compost pile is also in action at JSF for anything that gets beyond even what a pig likes.  Our goal is to recycle the energy of the farm as much as possible, keeping the nutrients in the soil, animals, and plants.  

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The animals on our farm play critical roles in the whole farm cycle, from nutrient management to land renovation, crop rotation, and energy efficiency.  In essence we are capturing the conversion of solar energy into pasture forage and then into meat.  We aim to produce healthy meat in a manner that respects the needs and lives of the animals, that benefits your health and the health of the land that we farm.  Plus they bring enjoyment and wonder to our day.

Enjoy the benefits of our sustainably raised animals with a Meat CSA share or stock your freezer with a whole or half pig or lamb.

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Preparing for Winter Growing at Jericho Settlers Farm

Summer's not giving up yet, but nonetheless the crew at Jericho Settlers Farm is getting ready for winter. Preparations for our Winter CSA and our winter greens production are well underway. We've been hard at work clearing tomato plants out of our hoophouses so they can grow fresh greens all winter long.

From April through August our two largest hoophouses are full of tomato, cucumber, zucchini, and basil plants. In early September, while our other ten hoophouses are still pumping out tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers, we clean out these two large houses to get a jump on establishing transplants for winter greens production.  So clearing out tomato plants means......lots of green tomatoes!  You'll often find them featured in our late summer CSA shares. A BLT sandwich with fried green tomatoes is a staff favorite.

 Pulling tomato plants gets a little messy. Liz found plenty of dirt and a little friend in the process.

Pulling tomato plants gets a little messy. Liz found plenty of dirt and a little friend in the process.

Once the tomato plants are out of the hoophouses we weed, fertilize, reset our planting beds, lay new driplines for irrigation and get ready to plant winter greens!  

These young lettuce and kale transplants are ready to go in the ground.  The days are getting shorter, so even if the weather is still hot in September and October we cannot delay planting the winter greens or the plants just don't get big enough before the short days of December set in.  Think of it as "banking" greens now to harvest later.

By mid-December the hoophouses are growing lush greens like this!  Starting in late December or early January we very minimally heat (30F at night) these two large hoophouses with a biomass furnace that burns wood pellet or dry corn to heat hot water that is pumped underground beneath the planted beds. The little ground heat and a remay blanket at night is all these cold-hardy greens need to be happy through cold January nights. 

And what joy to see the likes of this on your plate in January!  Get in on this Good Food Year Round by joining our Winter CSA!  Click here to sign up online or contact us at csa@jerichosettlersfarm.com with questions.

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Integrated Pest Management in OUR HOOPHOUSES

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Integrated Pest Management in OUR HOOPHOUSES

 What's wrong with aphids? They feed on and stress leafy plants like tomatoes, spinach, and zucchini. Their feeding weakens the plants and makes it difficult for the plants to produce well all season long.

What's wrong with aphids? They feed on and stress leafy plants like tomatoes, spinach, and zucchini. Their feeding weakens the plants and makes it difficult for the plants to produce well all season long.

Last August we presented a blog post about the UVM Entomology Research Lab's on-farm investigation into whether “habitat plants” can sustain predatory insect populations to assist in keeping the aphid population low in our hoophouses. We planted habitat plants at intervals among the tomato plants in one of our heated hoophouses. Each type of habitat plant had a purpose of either providing food, shelter, or reproductive sites for beneficial predatory insects.

Read the full blog for fascinating detail about the types of pests and predatory insects we catalogued last year.

  We establish habitat plants consisting of beans, alyssum, borage, marigolds and dill. Last year we found that borage, alyssum and dill attracted the highest diversity of insects, including pests. These pests in turn attracted beneficial insects which preyed on the pests and relied on the habitat plants to host a consistent food source for the season. Once in the hoophouse the predatory insects move throughout the plants, finding and preying on aphids throughout the hoophouse crops, thus helping to keep pests such as aphids at tolerable levels for the plants.  Already this season Hannah has seen a good volume and diversity of predatory insects present to help control the aphids.

We establish habitat plants consisting of beans, alyssum, borage, marigolds and dill. Last year we found that borage, alyssum and dill attracted the highest diversity of insects, including pests. These pests in turn attracted beneficial insects which preyed on the pests and relied on the habitat plants to host a consistent food source for the season. Once in the hoophouse the predatory insects move throughout the plants, finding and preying on aphids throughout the hoophouse crops, thus helping to keep pests such as aphids at tolerable levels for the plants.  Already this season Hannah has seen a good volume and diversity of predatory insects present to help control the aphids.

 Juliette, our Greenhouse Manager, with a newly seeded "banker plant" before it was transplanted into hoophouse

Juliette, our Greenhouse Manager, with a newly seeded "banker plant" before it was transplanted into hoophouse

In a second hoophouse we are trying another method of aphid control.  We transplant a succession of “banker plants”, which are bunches of winter wheat grass purposefully "infected" with a type of aphid that is tasty to predatory insects but that does not feed on tomatoes or other vegetable crops (it feeds specifically on wheat grass and a few related plants). The purpose of the banker plant is to sustain the "good aphids" so they can be a consistent food source for predatory insects that feed on all types of aphids. This way when the bad aphids show up in the hoophouse to feed on the tomato leaves, there is an established predatory insect population that preys on and controls the aphids.

Why go through the trouble? We want to grow vigorous, healthy tomato plants and other crops in our hoophouses all season long without having to rely on chemical controls that can be unhealthy for us, for you, and for the many good insects and small animals that inhabit our farm.  Plus it's simply amazing to learn about and watch all the different insects!

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A New, Safe Way to Manage Pests

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A New, Safe Way to Manage Pests

The Good, The Bad, and the not-so Ugly : Managing Aphids (the Bad) with Natural Insect Predators (the Good) and Habitat Plants (not-so Ugly) in Hoophouses

Jericho Settlers Farm has been collaborating with the University of Vermont, Entomology Research Laboratory testing whether certain "habitat plants" can help establish natural insect predator populations in our hoophouses to help manage aphids and similar pests.  We are one of 5 farms participating in this study throughout the northeast.  Aphids can become problem pests for some plants (like leafy greens or tomato plants) if their population numbers get high.  Often in indoor growing areas (like greenhouses and hoophouses) the aphids natural predators are not in great abundance, and aphid populations can grow unchecked. So we planted specific plants known to be favored by these natural predators within our tomato hoophouses, in hopes that these habitat plantings would attract the aphid predators into the hoophouses.  The habitat plantings were combinations of plants (such as dill, borage, beans, alyssum and marigold) that provide food (pollen, nectar, or pests) and shelter and/or reproduction sites to the pests' natural enemies. 

Preliminary results show these habitat plants are attractive to several types of naturally occurring parasites and predators. Over 500 natural enemies were collected in our hoophouses this summer. The highest abundance and diversity of natural enemies was observed on borage, alyssum and dill. Generalist predators (predators that consume a wide variety of pests) commonly observed were syrphid hover flies, minute pirate bugs, lady beetles and lacewings. Syrphid fly adults resemble bees and consume pollen and nectars. Their larvae (maggots) consume several types of soft bodied insects, especially aphids. Lacewing larvae prey upon a wide variety of small insects including thrips, mites, whiteflies, aphids, small caterpillars and insect eggs. Similarly, lady beetle adults and larvae and minute pirate bugs adults and immatures are both voracious predators of the former list of pests. Several species of parasitic wasps were also observed (don’t worry, these don’t sting people!). The majority of these parasitic wasps lay eggs inside aphids. As the wasp develops inside the aphid it turns it into a golden brown ‘mummy’.

This sustainable plant-based system has the potential to provide an ongoing source of free natural enemies to manage pests. This helps farmers lower the costs associated with pest management as purchased natural enemies are expensive and time consuming to release. This project is currently being conducted in collaboration with scientists from Penn State and the University of Maine. If you would like more information on the use of these habitat plant systems, please contact Cheryl Frank Sullivan at The University of Vermont, Entomology Research Laboratory. E-mail: cfrank@uvm.edu Website: http://www.uvm.edu/~entlab/

 

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We're Solar Powered!

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We're Solar Powered!

The organic veggies and pasture we grow are not the only things soaking up the summer sunshine at Jericho Settlers Farm. We also have 6 photo voltaic solar trackers that convert solar energy into electricity to run the farm! It’s part of our commitment, and mission, to farm in a sustainable way. The trackers communicate with satellites to "track" the movement of the sun across the sky, rotating throughout the day to maximize the amount of sun exposure (just like a sunflower).

These trackers produce all the electricity the farm needs to operate.  We use solar power to do everything on the farm, from passively heating our greenhouses to actively cooling our large produce coolers, to growing the vegetables and livestock pasture on which all our animals thrive. Our "solar egg" labels make sense now, don’t they?

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Garden-Fresh Tomatoes in June!

 Tomatoes Growing in our New Hoophouse!

Tomatoes Growing in our New Hoophouse!

At Jericho Settlers Farm we are committed to year-round growing of fresh organic vegetables for your table.  This means we have a lot of hoophouses, most of which are unheated, to grow salad greens during the winter and to coddle our tomato plants during the summer.  Still, without a heat source we really can't push the tomato envelope too far, especially in a cold spring like this one.  So this past season we invested in a larger hoohouse that is well-insulated and holds a lot of solar heat due to its shear size.  In addition we installed a biomass furnace that burns wood pellets or corn to heat water, which is pumped into in-ground lines to heat the soil in the hoophouse. This allows us to start growing tomatoes at the end of March, with anticipated harvest in June.  This project is particularly exciting for us because it came to fruition with the help of several great partners, including The Farmhouse Group, Vermont's Working Lands Enterprise initiative and Efficiency Vermont.  It's a cool private/public partnership to bring Vermont closer to feeding itself, no matter the weather!

It takes more than some added heat to grow early tomatoes.  It also takes bumble bees.  We have a hive of these handy pollinators living right in the hoophouse, so they can pollinate the early tomato flowers in April, when the native outside bees are still hibernating.  Bumble bees are particularly good at pollinating tomatoes.  The tomato flower needs a lot of buzzing to vibrate the pollen off the anthers and onto the stigma inside the flower to achieve fertilization and fruit development.  We love working alongside the bees in the tomato crop.

  Bumblebees pollinating the early tomato crop at Jericho Settlers Farm.

 Bumblebees pollinating the early tomato crop at Jericho Settlers Farm.

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