Our Katama asparagus is beginning to come in! It will still be a few days before we are harvesting at full strength. By Monday, we expect to bring in about 100 pounds every other day or so, if the weather remains cooperative. Asparagus needs sun to shoot up to its full potential—by up to one centimeter an hour, under ideal conditions.
This is absolutely peak time for our spring spinach. It’s green, glorious and abundant this week. We are selling it for $4.95 a pound. That’s a BIG bag of spinach, but you don’t have to buy the whole pound—we have it loose, as well as conveniently bagged, so you can choose a little or a lot.
We like a lot, and we’re throwing our spinach into everything this week: soups, salads, smoothies, scrambled eggs, you name it.
Tender spring spinach is delicious both raw and cooked, and only needs 2-3 minutes of steaming to be ready for the table. You can season it simply with butter, salt and pepper; lemon juice; yogurt and cumin; or any number of other favorite flavor combinations.
Along with tasting fresh and delicious, spinach is a terrific source of plant-based minerals—potassium, magnesium, calcium, manganese, folate, phosphorus, choline, zinc, iron and copper—as well as vitamins A, B2, B6, C, E and K.
Jim Athearn plowing at the old Waller Dairy farm, now owned by the town of Edgartown, just to the north of the Katama air field.
Dad says “It’s time to plow everything.” Last week’s wet weather made the cover crops jump up, and kept us out of the fields because they were too wet. Many to most fields now are covered by our staple cover crop, a mix of winter rye, legumes and radish. We grow it to 10 inches, the optimal height for plowing down while it’s most biologically active and before it gets too carbonaceous.
Winter rye puts on a huge amount of growth in the spring, and establishes easily even into late November. And the best part of rye is its ability to hold fertility over the winter. Even when 2 to 4 inches high in November, it binds up many of the soluble nutrients that might otherwise disappear down to the water table. Then there is the bonus of a large crop of “green manure”‘ to plow down in the spring.
I love that term, “green manure.” It applies to any vegetation that when grown can add to the soil after plow-down.
Mixed in with the bodacious rye are hairy vetch, Austrian winter pea and daikon radish. Vetches and peas, like alfalfa, are part of the legume family. This means they have that magical ability to “fix” nitrogen from the air and store it in nodules in their roots. So these little cold-weather legumes will grab the farmers’ most valuable nutrient from the air (I hear there is too much in the air as it is) and store it for use during the growing season, then we plow it down and take advantage of those nutrients.
Daikon radish, also known as tillage radish, sends its taproots several feet into the earth to pull up minerals from the soil. Killed by winter’s cold, the radish roots decay and make fantastic food for our greatest unpaid labor source, the worms.
I could watch that rank green winter crop slide over and under into the earth as it leaves the plow all day, just beautiful. And luckily I do get to watch it all day, because this part of the season a lot of time is put in on the plow. At a fast pace on a long field (with less turning around at the ends) I can plow up to about two acres in an hour—that was a record time, though.
It’s a lot of time in the saddle, and just the beginning of the process. Plowing is followed by: disking, fertilization/lime, compost spreading, more disking, perfecting (a tool for leveling and smoothing), planting, cultivation, irrigation, and harvest.
But every year, we’re plowing less of our land. This year we are planting no-till crops on about 22 of the 60 or so acres we are planting to vegetables.
Some crops, like carrots, will always require tillage. But no-till agriculture is better for soil health, which is one of our primary concerns here at the farm. We have been working with Rodale, Island Grown Initiative and the federal National Resource Conservation Service to improve our no-till methods.
Thought for the day: Spring makes the farmer happy because his fields are still full of promise and he hasn’t had time to screw anything up yet!
Here are some of the Morning Glory crops we’ll have at the farmstand this month:
Arugula, microgreens, eggs, nettles, parsnips, radishes and spinach are all available now, along with produce from New England farms on the mainland—including some truly spectacular, certified organic vegetables from our home state of Massachusetts!
On or soon after opening day, we also expect to have our Martha’s Vineyard grown lettuce, salad greens, radishes, rhubarb, fresh batches of both pork and grass-fed beef, boc choi, catmint, spearmint, peppermint and chives.
Sage, oregano, thyme and rosemary come in mid- to late May and we also will have asparagus by mid-month. Read More
If you’ve driven past the farmstand over the past few weeks, you have probably noticed the new building going up between the farmstand and the rosemary patch.
Our new vegetable washing (VW for short) barn is a state-of-the-art modular design that meets all the standards of the federal Food Safety Modernization law that was passed in 2011 and modified in 2014.
“It’s built like a kitchen,” head farmer Simon Athearn said. “This building is all about sanitation.”
Crops from the field will go straight to the barn for cleaning and refrigeration before they are distributed to Morning Glory’s farmstand, wholesale and kitchen divisions. The results you’ll see, beginning this summer, will be cleaner, fresher produce, provided more efficiently.
The new barn will be outfitted with dunk tanks, washing tables, a “bubble tub” to scrub produce with air as well as water and a device that washes bunched root vegetables.
Simon’s original pencil drawing of the new barn’s south elevation.
Dedicated refrigerators will allow workers to quickly cool farm produce after cleaning it. “Prompt cooling can add significant time to the shelf life,” Simon said. “This will all improve the flow of produce.”
The building is made with structural insulated panels, also called SIPs, which are mold- and termite-resistant and contain no ozone-depleting fluorocarbons. The goal is a barn that is both healthy to work in and easy on the environment.
To fund the new barn, Morning Glory worked with a grant-writing consultant provided by the business-to-business platform What’s Good, a “virtual farmers market” we use to connect with our wholesale customers. With this help, we successfully applied for a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR)’s Agricultural Preservation Restriction Improvement Program, which provides not only financing but also access to resources and professionals in the industry.
As a result of the grant, a engineer provided assistance designing the building; a professional business planner has been helping Morning Glory to chart its course forward; and a team of federal biologists, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Resources Conservation Service, surveyed the farm to create a conservation plan.
“It’s a free federal service to analyze farmland and aid the farmer in soil and environmental conservation,” Simon explained.
“They analyze farm slopes, endangered species, types of grasses, your problem weeds, disease issues and so on, and provide resources if they feel it’s necessary. The federal government often will pay for a culvert to be put in to protect a water source,” for instance.
“These resources are valuable and we are trying to take advantage of them,” Simon said. “It’s an opportunity to leverage the governments’ good will into creating a more powerful local food system.”
At both the state and federal level, he added, “they want you to succeed.”
Would you like to find out more about what we’re doing at Morning Glory Farm? Subscribe to our email list and we’ll let you know when we have news to share.
Pea shoots are one of the crops we’ll have for you at the farmstand when we open this Friday (Day 5), along with spinach, nettles and microgreens. On opening day, you’ll also find:
• Fresh produce from select off-Island growers—always10% off with the Moglo Card! • Freshly-baked pies, cookies, zucchini bread, yeast breads, cheddar biscuits and other favorites from our scratch bakery. • The return of our hot soup and salad bar along with carry-out entrees, soups and side salads from our kitchen. In May, Moglo Card members get $2/lb. off on the newly expanded salad bar. • Garden plants, seedlings and more in the greenhouse.
• 10% off all fresh off-Island produce • 5% off your next shopping orderevery time you reach $100 in purchases • $25 gift cardevery time you reach $1,000 in purchases
In May, enjoy a $2/lb. discount at our expanded salad bar, with more items than ever this year. Regularly $8.95 a pound, salad bar is $6.95 for Moglo Card members in May.
Hot soup is $4.50 a cup for members in May.
Watch your in-box and keep an eye out for Moglo Card signs in the farmstand—starting next week, we’ll have more member specials as well, including breakfast sandwiches with gluten-free options.
• Moglo cards take one to two weeks to activate, so we recommend applying now if you haven’t already: morninggloryfarm.com/moglocard • You do not have to be a year-round resident to apply for the free Moglo Card, as long as you have an Island address. • We ask for a photo ID to make sure we are giving you the right card. • We will not record your ID in any way! We just need to check that it’s you. • You’ll receive a FREE card and key fob for your exclusive use. • We are no longer honoring the Our Island Club card.
Please don’t forget your card: • We will not be able to honor your membership at the register if you do not have your card or key tag with you. There can be no exceptions. • Replacing a lost card and tag will require a small fee and a processing time of several days.
A 38-star American flag flies proudly above Agricultural Hall in West Tisbury in this 1889 photo from the Athearn family archive. The following year, five stars were added for new states that joined the union in 1889 and 1890.
Now known as the Grange and owned by the Vineyard Trust, this building is still the home of the summer farmers market on Wednesday and Saturday mornings.
The Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society now operates out of a rebuilt historic building on Panhandle Road. That’s where the annual fair takes place, as well as the winter farmers market, Barn Raisers Ball and other community events.