Newton Community Farm
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October 2015

As I write, it’s raining. The much-needed rain is another sign, like the falling leaves and cooling temperature, that fall is here. It’s time to start thinking about rakes and getting the yard ready for winter. But as you will read below, if you sign up for the late fall produce share, you can continue to take part in the harvest. Happy fall to all!

Susan Tornheim 

Newsletter Editor

From the Farmer

I’m often asked what I do during the winter. There can’t be much farm work to do, right? Well, yes and no. There’s certainly a seasonality to my work, with long hours from May to October. But even during the rest of the year there’s work to be done. Chickens and rabbits need to be fed and watered. There’s equipment to repair, crop planning and budgeting, projects around the farmhouse and barn that I can’t get to during the summer months. Oh, and there’s still some harvesting to do.


This last often surprises people. Harvesting to do in the winter? Really? Yes. As we move into the dark months of fall and winter we still have quite a few crops in the field: collards, kale, chard, spinach, lettuce, mesclun, parsley, cilantro, perennial herbs, carrots, scallions, leeks, Hakurei turnips, and beets. Some of these, like the carrots, beets, and turnips, need to be protected from freezing, but most of the others are capable of freezing and thawing and still being harvestable.


The real limiting factor of vegetable production, according to Eliot Coleman, is not so much temperature as it is daylight. As we begin the long, slow descent into darkness, plants grow more and more slowly until finally, around mid-November, there are just not enough hours of daylight, and they stop growing. From this point on, the plants are dormant, waiting for the sun to return in late winter (around mid-February) before they begin growing again. This means that one of the tricks to winter growing is getting the plants to harvestable size before they stop growing.


Of course, if your plan is to overwinter a crop―that is, have it ready for a very early harvest the following spring―all that goes out the window. While cold may not be the limiting factor, it is a limiting factor. Crops that are going to be in the field all winter and subjected to the coldest temperatures are likely to be damaged or even killed if you don’t time things right. Teenagers, as it turns out, are more robust than adults. With overwintered crops, the goal is to have teenage plants going into the dark months, and allow them to complete their growth in the spring.


We use a number of “structures” to help ensure high-quality crops during the winter and early spring. The simplest is row cover, the ubiquitous white fabric you see in our field all year long. We cover crops like spinach that we’re overwintering with row cover to protect it from the ravages of winter. Some years, like last year, we don’t really need to do this; the snow does this work for us. But living in Boston we unfortunately can’t count on consistent snow cover so we use row cover just in case. Then there are the low tunnels: hoop structures about 4 feet high and 4 feet wide. We use these for some overwintered crops, like carrots, to keep the ground from freezing. We also use them for crops that we’re going to harvest before the snow flies and the deep cold comes. They’re cheap, easy to build, and very useful.


Finally, there are high tunnels. These look like greenhouses but are completely passive (that is, no additional heat). We use our two high tunnels for mesclun and greens that we want to be able to harvest right through the winter. We’ve received a USDA grant to build another high tunnel, so by Thanksgiving you’ll see a new structure in the field. These tunnels are extremely valuable as we can harvest from them all winter long and then use them in the spring to get an early start on the tomato season.


Our goal as we move through fall into winter is to have our entire field planted. Much of this will be with the crops mentioned above, planted during the end of summer and early fall for harvest during the dark, cold months or early next year. The rest we try to plant with a cover crop to protect the soil and capture nutrients that might otherwise wash out of the soil. While these cover crops do not produce a harvest, they are a crucial part of our farm economy as they protect and nurture our most important asset―the soil itself. This is one of the big challenges of extending our growing season into the winter: how to maintain and even build soil quality when even during the winter months it gets no rest.


This is the new reality of vegetable farming in New England: starting to harvest earlier and earlier in the spring and later and later in the fall. It’s an exciting reality as it means more income for farms and greater access to fresh, local produce for our community. It’s exciting because it presents new challenges, and it pushes farmers to learn and be creative. And while it means more work more of the year, I enjoy harvesting in the winter. My life isn’t as hectic so I feel like I can enjoy the harvest more. And frankly, it’s a pretty amazing experience to be harvesting fresh vegetables in the depths of winter.


Greg Maslowe 




I think fall just might be my favorite season. I love the crisp mornings, the changing colors, the slightly cooler temperatures, picking apples with my boys; I feel it is a time that you can really enjoy being outside without being too hot or too cold. I also find that it is a time when one can reflect on all that has been achieved. The fields are still bountiful, and you really get a sense of all that the land has provided us with. In our Farm Sprouts program and school visits we have been focusing on saying thank you for the harvest and celebrating just how clever nature is. This brings me to Food Day, another great opportunity to celebrate real food.


What is Food Day?

It is a national celebration on October 24 with events that unite people by a vision of food that is healthy, affordable, and produced with care for the environment, farm animals, and the people who grow, harvest, and serve it. In 2015 there is a special focus on greening our diet for the health of ourselves and the environment.


I want to be part of this but how do I get involved?

There are already a number of activities planned across the Newton community to start people thinking about our food system. The Newton Free Library will offer stories and crafts for youngsters; kids at Countryside Elementary School, local preschools, and students at Newton South are working on their own celebrations; and the Centre Street Food Pantry is offering cooking demonstrations to its clients in partnership with Whole Foods. We are hoping to show one of the latest food movies and will be offering a Farm Sprout special that Saturday afternoon.


The most important thing, though, is that an activity doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated. People can get together to have a potluck dinner featuring “green ingredients,” or you may commit to spending the day in your garden. The point is that you commit to doing something that day (or the week before) that celebrates one of the key aims of Food Day. For lots of ideas and resources visit, and be sure to let us know at so that we can add you to the list of participants.


So what else is going on in October? Please remember that preregistration is required for educational programs.


Mon., 10/5, 10:00–11:00 a.m., Farm Sprout Special

Join us as we celebrate all things pumpkin with our friends at the Newton Senior Center. Through hands-on activities we will compare the different types of squash, look for seeds, complete a simple craft project, share some short stories and, most important, welcome seniors to share in the Farm Sprout fun. Click on special to register.


Tues., 10/6 and 10/20, 10:00–11:00 a.m., Regular Fall Farm Sprouts continues

Spend time outdoors learning about how plants and animals adapt to the cooler weather. This program is geared toward preschool children with a caregiver.


Tues., 10/6, 2:00–3:00 p.m. Gardening Social Hour

Join our discussion/support group. Topics to be discussed will be decided by the group.


Thurs., 10/8, 1:30–3:00 p.m., Early Release Fall Fun

Join us at this Fall Fun event as we spend some time outside cleaning up the Learning Garden but also finding out about the ways we extend our growing season.


Tues., 10/20, 7:00–9:00 p.m., Cheesemaking In this class you will learn how to make your own ricotta and mozzarella.


Fri., 10/30, 3:30–5:00 p.m., Halloween on the Farm

Get your spooks on and join us as we get you in the mood for all things Halloween. There will be crafts, games, and stories; ideal for children preschool age to third grade with an adult.


To sign up for classes, visit our Web site for information. Preregistration is required for all of our programs.


Alison Scorer

Farm Educator/ Coordinator


New Storage Shed


The new storage shed is complete and almost ready for use for sheltering our small tractor and other farming equipment out of the weather. With its shed roof and glass front the design is reminiscent of the old Angino pullet shed that used to stand at the same location between the greenhouse and the farm stand. In October we will install lighting. Thanks to our generous donors for making this important farming support building possible!


Peter J. Barrer



Fall Festival



    Fall Festival Crowd



    Fall Festival Bake Sale


Late Fall Produce Share

Enjoy three distributions of delicious fall produce from NCF and other local farm partners. Newton Community Farm is pleased to offer a late fall share made up primarily of our own produce but with a few additions from Drumlin Farm (potatoes and winter squash) and Picadilly Farm (sweet potatoes). The precise composition of the share will be determined at harvest and may vary over the three distributions (Tuesdays, 11/3, 11/24, and 12/15) but will include typical fall vegetables. The cost is $150 per share, and enrollment forms are due to NCF by Saturday, 10/31. For more information go to late fall share on our Web site, or download the 2015 Late Fall Produce Share form. The number of shares is limited to 30 that are being distributed first come, first served. Shares are going fast, so sign up soon!


Dede Vittori


NCF People: A Conversation

with Intern Andy Miller


What did you do this summer? If the answer is “I picked jalapeño peppers, led other interns, and sold produce at a farm stand,” then you may be talking to Andy Miller, a summer intern and farm-stand attendant at Newton Community Farm. If you stopped by the farm this past summer, there is a good chance you met Andy, who was either working in the fields in the morning in his third year as an intern or was staffing the farm stand in the afternoons, quietly reading in the shade or selling farm-fresh produce to customers who came to shop.


Andy_in_field_10_15.jpgAndy started volunteering at the farm after his parents gave him a bit of a push to find something to do as an alternative to day camp. He wanted something that was close to home, outside, and meaningful, so he applied and quickly became a regular at the farm. The second summer he became a paid attendant at the farm stand, and the third summer he took on the role of seasoned intern, which allowed him to develop his leadership skills. As his enthusiasm grew, Andy’s family joined the summer CSA share program, and he became involved in the Newton South High School sustainable agriculture program.


Andy said his experience on the farm has been really fulfilling. He was struck by how much Greg, NCF’s farm manager, and Dan, NCF’s assistant grower, trust the interns to do responsible work, the tasks that translate into revenue for the farm by ensuring produce is available for sale. With supervision, interns are expected to “hit the ground running,” learn from their experiences, apply their growing knowledge, and take on more responsibility. Andy particularly enjoyed the interesting conversations he had with Greg and Dan during lunch and appreciated their knowledge and willingness to listen.


Andy also gained an appreciation for manual labor and the strain of working under the sun for four hours each morning. He described the experience as “almost cathartic, meditative, very relaxing.....clears your head.” He enjoyed the hard, dirty work of harvesting food and found the messy task of washing food in large bins rather refreshing. He said having the very active chickens nearby added a rustic touch to his work and offered some welcome entertainment.


So what’s next for Andy? He hopes to apply the many lessons he learned at the farm as he pursues a degree in chemistry at Northeastern University and explores careers in alternative energy. We are grateful that Andy gave his time and talents to the farm for many years and really appreciate his contributions. We wish him tremendous success in his future and as with all the interns, we hope he stays connected to the farm.


Dede Vittori


The Orchard:  From Eight to Eight Hundred

We are having the best apple harvest since the orchard started producing apples in 2010. We harvested about 800 Honeycrisp, or 325 lbs. of mostly perfect apples, by early September, and about 600 Liberty apples, or about 180 lbs., by mid-September. By the end of September we expect to harvest another 500 apples, about 200 lbs., of Empire, Galarina, and Crimson Topaz. We were aided this year by dry weather, our use of apple maggot traps, good irrigation, and the timely use of mostly organic insecticides and fungicides.


Our orchard contains 33 dwarf apple trees of bearing age and 11 varieties: 8 Honeycrisp trees, 7 Liberty, 5 Crimson Topaz, 4 Goldrush, 1 Crimson Crisp, 2 Enterprise, 1 Empire, 1 Resi, 2 Galarina, 1 Roxbury Russet, and 1 Florina. All trees have total or partial resistance to apple scab, a major fungal pathogen.


The results this year are a little deceiving, as last year we had a very productive crop of six varieties except for one. That one variety was Honeycrisp whose yield of apples for all eight Honeycrisp trees was eight. Yes, eight apples! This year we harvested 800 apples. Why?


We think growing apples is not so simple. It appears that our Honeycrisp trees decided to bear fruit biannually or triennially. This is a very frustrating situation for most farmers, but because our orchard is diversified, our disappointment about Honeycrisp in prior years is mitigated by our big surprise harvest this year. We hope that our Honeycrisp trees will become less temperamental and will produce at least modestly next year.


Sam Fogel


Feeding Our Community: Our Farm Volunteers

As we swam in a sea of bright red tomatoes this past August, we were all reminded that this is a season of plenty. In fact, it’s sometimes a bit too much—for all we eat or store or give away, in August it seems there are always more tomatoes. So it is no surprise that on a Wednesday in August, volunteer Claire Caine and her family are delivering 20 pounds of our farm’s sweet cherry tomato bounty to the Newton Food Pantry at the Waban Library Center.


This is by no means Claire’s first trip to the Newton Food Pantry, nor will it be her last. Newton Community Farm has donated a share of its vegetables to the pantry each week for several years. Tracie Longman, copresident of the pantry, estimates that the pantry receives 25 to 30 percent of its produce in July through October from Newton Community Farm.


“The food we receive from the Newton Community Farm has a major impact on our clients because it is so much more fresh than the produce we can obtain from the Greater Boston Food Bank,” says Tracie. “Also, the diversity of the produce the NCF provides us is especially appreciated by our clients.” The pantry currently provides a five-day food supply to 600 to 700 Newton residents each month, an increase from last year.


With help from her husband, children, and family friends, Claire starts each season delivering three crates of fresh greens to the pantry each Wednesday morning before either the farm-share pickup or the opening of the pantry. By August she is delivering eight crates a week, filled with eggplant, zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, and more. As the school year starts up, her husband, Dan, continues to make weekly deliveries into the fall.


The Caine family are not the only ones who have noticed a great supply at Newton’s farm stands and a great demand for fresh vegetables among Newton residents in need. “There’s a lot of need in Newton,” says Joan Balaban, cofounder of Food to Your Table.


caroline_and_amy_silberstein_food_to_your_table_10_15.jpgFour years ago Joan Balaban and Amy Silberstein (both volunteers at Newton Community Farm) noticed a large amount of produce left over at the end of the day at the Newton Farmers’ Market and were inspired to keep it from going to waste. They founded Food to Your Table, an organization that delivers fresh produce “from those who grow it to those who need it.”


Amy, Joan, and their small team of volunteers collect at least six large bags of produce from the Newton Community Farm each Saturday during the growing season and deliver it to Second Step, an organization that provides transitional housing for women and families who have been victims of domestic abuse. Food to Your Table also delivers Newton Farmers’ Market leftovers to the Centre St. Food Pantry, which serves up to 60 families a week.


There can be no doubt about the impact of our food volunteers on our community. This is not just a matter of providing food to those who need it; this is about providing high-quality, nutritious, locally grown produce to those whose nutrition sources might otherwise be limited. It is something truly special that only local farms can offer. “Our pantry’s partnership with the Newton Community Farm allows us to provide an amazing offering of ‘farm to table’ produce to our clients,” says Tracie Longman, “and as a result helps us improve the diet and health of Newton residents in need.”


Elise J. Simons


Food to Your Table


Newton Food Pantry

1608 Beacon St., Waban

Waban Library Center Basement

Open Wednesday, 1:30–5 p.m.

and 3rd Saturday, 11 a.m.–noon



Centre St. Food Pantry

Trinity Episcopal Church

11 Homer St., Newton Centre

Furber Lane entrance

Open Tuesday, 4:00–7:00 p.m.

and 1st Saturday, 11:00 a.m.–2:00 p.m.




Fall is the Season of Butternut for me. I really like butternut squash soups, so here is your connection to the farm’s wiki, Shared Harvest, with its great collection of recipes. Looking over the winter squash recipes, I’m drawn to Squash Soup with Ginger, which looks healthy and tasty. Explore and enjoy!


Susan Tornheim


Farm Stand

Farm stand hours for October: Tuesday through Friday, 1:30–dusk and Saturday, 9:30–1


Farmer's Market

The Saturday market is located on Elm Street in West Newton and runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through 10/10.


Volunteer Hours on the Farm

Volunteer hours: Wednesdays and Thursdays, two sessions: 8–10 a.m. and 10:30–12:30 p.m. Saturdays, one session: 10:30–12:30.


Please contact us if you have any questions about this newsletter or ideas for future issues, or if you want to be added to our mailing list. Just e-mail Susan Tornheim at For more information about the farm, e-mail our farm manager, Greg, at or check out our Web page at (or click on the image at the top of the page).
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Newton Community Farm
303 Nahanton Street
Newton, Massachusetts 02459