Newton Community Farm
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August 2014

Basil and tomatoes and corn are the essence of summer for me. My sprigs of basil from the farm are sitting in a cup of water, perfuming the kitchen. In her article below, Lisa Cohen shares her tips for turning that basil and the bounty of vegetables into delicious meals while also preserving some for future months.

Susan Tornheim 

Newsletter Editor

From the Farmer

I’m still amazed, after all these years of farming, that by the end of July we’re already preparing for late fall and even winter harvests. The greenhouse is full of broccoli, kale, kohlrabi, and hakurei turnip transplants, and the field is getting prepped to receive them. While there are a few exceptions (like arugula, which even in the fall grows fast), we pretty much aim to have most of our fall and winter crops in the ground by mid-August. That’s farming for you—we’re just starting to harvest our tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers while simultaneously planting for harvests in October and beyond.


During a recent session of plowing (getting beds ready for those winter crops!) I was struck by an image of Pigpen from Charlie Brown. It’s been a relatively dry summer, and as I walked along behind the tractor in a cloud of dust all I could think was how I must look just like Pigpen. The dust gets everywhere, and by the end of the day the only parts of me that aren't covered in dust are the lines where the sweat has dripped down my brow.


I was asked last week about asparagus—could I please, in my next article, talk about how it’s grown. So here it is, the lowdown on asparagus. Unlike the majority of the vegetable crops we grow here, asparagus is a perennial. A healthy asparagus patch can live for 15 years or more. Ours, if you’re curious, is eight years old.


Asparagus is one of the first crops up in the spring. We usually begin harvesting asparagus around the middle of April, cutting all the stalks as they reach about 8 inches tall (again, for the curious, it takes about two to three days for a stalk to reach 8 inches). We then cut asparagus every day for the next eight weeks. Now, I love asparagus, but I have to admit that by the end of the harvest season I’m really glad to be done.


One of the common questions we get about asparagus is how long we cut it and how we know when to stop. As I said, we cut it every day for eight weeks. We know to stop cutting by using a calendar. Really. It doesn’t have to do with the stalks growing more slowly, or getting thinner, or anything like that. We record the first harvest date and then know to stop when it has been eight weeks.


Why do we stop cutting after eight weeks? Being a perennial, asparagus needs to spend the summer storing energy for the following growing season. After eight weeks of cutting, the asparagus continues to send up new shoots daily well into the summer. We don’t cut them because those very same shoots that you eat, if left to grow, produce the leaves that the plant uses to convert sunlight into energy. We stop cutting to ensure that the plants still have enough energy reserves to produce the leaves they need to store energy for the next season.


When you visit the farm during the summer you can see that the asparagus patch, which in the spring looks like just bare earth with some shoots sticking out of it, is now a lush green hedge (many people often confuse it with dill). We leave the hedge standing late into the fall and only cut it down once the fronds start to die back. After cutting everything down, we do a careful weeding, apply compost, and wait for spring when we fertilize it and wait for the next round. It’s a fair bit of work, all that cutting and weeding. And it’s only around for eight weeks. But when those first shoots appear after months without fresh, green vegetables, all the work seems worth it.


Greg Maslowe 




Despite school being closed, July has seen a lot of learning take place on the farm, and I am not just referring to the students in our programs. The Farm Sprouts have been learning about the worms, the chickens, and the different parts of the plants we eat, while the Little Diggers started to think about all the different parts of the farm ecosystem. The Socially Aware Young Farmers talked about the farm as a system with inputs, processes, and outputs and some of the factors that can alter the system, but in all cases we have talked about the soil.


It is through these lessons and activities that I have started to develop a fuller appreciation of the critical role in our lives that soil, this often overlooked natural resource, has. When I was a student of geography back in the United Kingdom, there were times soil was discussed―composition, horizons, erosion of―but, I have to be honest, I was never truly interested and kind of looked at those who were interested as some form of geography geek! Yes, I liked to be outdoors and be in my garden and get dirty, but I never had that true appreciation for soil’s role in sustaining life like you have for water or air.


It has never been something I really thought about, and I am very guilty of taking it for granted. I was talking with Dan the other day about the frustrations I feel when I look at the peppers growing in my garden (the first I have ever grown in my own garden), and the plants are half the size of those at the farm and are not showing any signs of producing. This is despite being the same seedlings and being planted at a similar time as those on the farm. While Dan and I brainstormed possible reasons for these discrepancies it was he who stated quite simply, “Don't forget that we have great soil here at the farm….” That’s right, the farm has great soil courtesy of the wonderful stewardship taking place now but also that of past generations, and as Dan said, again quite simply, “…and that takes time.” So as I learn to have a deeper appreciation for soil I am left feeling very grateful that some people learned this lesson a long time ago.



Farm Sprouts – limited spaces are available for most dates throughout August

Farmer in Training (FiT) – spaces available throughout August


For more information and to register please visit our Web site at Please note that preregistration is required for all programs. And coming up in the fall we have Cheese Making, Beer Brewing, Fall Farm Sprouts, and more. Registration for fall programming opens mid-August. Check our Web site for updates.


Alison (Wilson) Scorer

Education Coordinator


Fruit Share Program


Newton Community Farm is pleased to offer a weekly fruit share in conjunction with Autumn Hills Orchard in Groton, MA. Each weekly share consists of a bag of about five pounds of delicious apples, though the share may occasionally include pears, plums, grapes, or peaches. The program costs $78 per share for eight deliveries starting in late August or early September, depending on when the fruit ripens (NCF will notify sharers of the start date). The eight deliveries may not be in consecutive weeks because there may be a need for some gap weeks, particularly early in the season. Sharers can pick up the fruit in the barn at NCF on Wednesdays or Thursdays from 2 to 7 p.m. The completed form and check must be received at Newton Community Farm by Friday, August 22. To learn more about the program and to sign up, go to NCF’s Web site at 2014 fruit share.


Dede Vittori


Dinner on the Farm

DoF_some_cooking_crew_7_14.jpgMother Nature kept me on my toes all day, but I am so pleased that she decided to hold off and give us a fabulous evening! The food was delicious, the music was delightful, and the farm’s community of volunteers continues to amaze me.



NCF President Peter Barrer is flanked by Sam and Margaret Fogel, who were honored at the Dinner on the Farm for their dedicated work.


Whether you helped Jon in the kitchen at the high school, moved the tables at the last moment, checked in guests, helped keep the buffet full or cleaned up, or everything in between, your efforts are greatly appreciated! Volunteers are the key to the success of events on the farm.


Mara Gorden


Fall Festival

The next big event on the farm is our annual Fall Festival, which will take place on Sunday, September 28. Plans are already underway for this event. A volunteer sign-up will be posted soon. If you are interested in helping with the planning of this event, please contact Mara at


Mara Gorden


Training Young Farmers

Training the next round of young farmers is a priority for Newton Community Farm’s Greg Maslowe. But he says the farm has moved away from a formal apprenticeship program, since he believes in giving those interested in studying the trade improved wages while learning also about the farm’s day-to-day operations.


The average age of farmers nationwide rose to 56.3, according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, from 54.9 years old in 2007. With an aging farm operator population, the importance of providing on-the-job training for the next group of farmers takes on added importance. And that’s even though training these days may or may not come with a formal “apprentice” title, for decades the de facto training method known for its low wages and at times questionable labor practices. Newton Community Farm used to have an apprenticeship model, says Greg. But after experiencing working conditions at several local farms, he says he decided last year that an hourly-pay model for his workers is the best choice—and it’s something he says other small farms are moving toward of late.


“It was really clear to me that the people who just hired [farm] laborers had the best labor practices, in terms of treating . . . employees well and giving them breaks, not exploiting them,” says Greg of his experience working at various local farms. Hourly pay—not the typical apprentice weekly stipend—affords him the flexibility as a manager to assign “grunt” work without feeling obligated to educate workers at every moment. This lets him assign someone—possibly assistant grower Dan Bensonoff, who began work at the farm this season and is the farm’s only hourly field worker—to spend six hours weeding, for example. Still, the farm manager says he has a goal to share when he can both practice and talk about farming techniques. “In some ways I treat it like an apprenticeship because I want [Dan] to get experience doing things he wants to get experience on,” he says.


Greg says he never had a formal mentor of his own, nor was he ever an apprentice because he got into farming at age 35; he already had a family and couldn’t take advantage of communal housing, a common offer to apprentices, who are often single with more flexible lifestyles. But he did benefit from the generosity of another farmer who shared his knowledge and time eight years ago during the first year at Newton Community Farm. “It’s very common in this community in Eastern Massachusetts to do that,” he says. “I wanted to start offering my experience back to the community.” Indeed, Greg took on a formal mentee this year, a woman running a farm in Dorchester who asked him if he would mentor her. The two talk about once a month, and he shares his experiences on labor practices, variety selection, crop planning, pricing, and equipment purchasing.


Greg, 44, has been a famer for nine years. He grew up in Arvada, Colorado, learning about gardening from his mother, who he says is a master gardener, and for many years he worked as an ornamental gardener. He holds a master’s degree in theology from Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, California, and a master’s from Boston University’s Science, Philosophy and Religion program.


Meredith Derby Berg


Preparing and Preserving in the Same Meal

When people find out that I preserve food, one of the things people often say to me is that they are overwhelmed by the time commitment involved. And yes, when you decide to process 100 pounds of tomatoes into sauce, it’s a weekend-long affair. But preserving doesn’t have to be a big production. Think about what is abundant in your garden and/or CSA share, and while you are preparing to use that item in your meal, you can also squirrel away any extras for later. Here are two examples from this month’s bounty.



When the basil is growing fast and furious, I like to eat a lot of fresh pesto, and one of my go-to meals is a “kitchen sink” pasta pesto in which I toss everything and anything. I usually choose a protein (leftover fish or chicken, or tuna fish if I need to turn to the pantry) and whatever veggies are threatening to take over the fridge. This week it was zucchini and cherry tomatoes.


Put the water on for pasta while you make the pesto. Bowties, shells, or ziti work well for this. While the pasta cooks, chop desired vegetables. Sauté firm ones like the stems of bok choy, or zucchini; you can use such produce as chard, spinach, and tomatoes as is.


Drain the pasta and put back in the pot. Mix in the prepared vegetables and protein (if using); mix in one batch of pesto. Add salt, pepper, and hot pepper flakes to taste. Serve hot or cold.


For the pesto:


Wash and dry 2 cups of basil leaves. Blend in a food processor with 1/4 cup pine nuts and 2 cloves garlic and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add 1/2 cup of olive oil and pulse until well mixed. (I generally make two batches, freezing one of them at this point. Pesto freezes well without the cheese, which you can add when you are ready to use it in the depths of winter.) Put mix in a bowl and stir in 1/2 cup of grated Romano/Parmesan cheese and additional olive oil if needed for your preferred consistency.



Kale and its cousin chard freeze well, but you have to blanch them first or they will not keep. Blanching stops the enzymatic process that breaks down the nutrients and causes frozen veggies to discolor. Blanch in small batches by cooking washed and chopped kale in boiling water for approximately 2 minutes. Remove to a bowl with ice water to halt the cooking process. Spin in a salad spinner to remove most of the water. You can then use the kale in a lovely light meal like a crustless quiche (also amazing for eating through your weekly share!), and freeze any you aren’t going to eat right away in quart-sized freezer bags.


Fresh Summer Quiche

Grease a pie plate. Preheat oven to 400 degrees (not a meal I’d necessarily suggest when it’s the dog days of summer, but you can make two at once, and they are delicious cold as a breakfast food.)

Sauté onions and when ready, line the bottom of the pie plate(s) with a layer of onions.

Sauté 2 cups per quiche of whatever veggies you have on hand.

Add veggies to each pie plate, along with any leftover protein you want to add (like chicken, steak, or sausage).


In a large bowl, mix 6–8 eggs, 1 cup milk, and 1 cup shredded cheese per quiche. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour mixture over the filling. It should come almost to the top of the pie plate. Bake for 45 min. to 1 hour, or until the egg custard sets.



Lisa Janice Cohen



In the time of cucumber overload I discovered this quick, easy, and tasty recipe. I suspect it might work for raw zucchini as well, although I haven’t tried that variation yet.


Cucumber Pickles

6 pickling cukes, unpeeled and thinly sliced

Salt, to taste

1 tsp. sugar

¼ tsp. crushed red pepper

2 Tb. soy sauce

1 Tb. rice vinegar

1 Tb. toasted sesame seeds

2 tsp. toasted sesame oil


In a large bowl layer the cucumber, salt, sugar, and red pepper. Set aside for 15 minutes, tossing at intervals. Add the soy sauce, vinegar, sesame seeds, and sesame oil. Toss again. Taste and adjust seasonings and serve.

(Tony Rosenfeld, in the Boston Globe)


Pesto seems to be on everyone's mind at the moment. Here is a low-fat sauce with plenty of basil flavor that you can use in place of pesto.


Tomato and Basil Sauce

(Low-Fat Pesto-y Sauce)


Good on pasta as a low-fat basil sauce with more liquid than traditional pesto. It’s also good on such things as grains, steamed vegetables, and cold cooked chicken.


2 large cloves garlic, finely minced (2 tsp.)

1 cup seeded, chopped tomato

3 Tbs. minced fresh basil

2 tsp. olive oil

1⁄2 tsp. salt, if desired

Several dashes cayenne


In a blender puree the garlic and tomato. Put mixture in a nonreactive bowl. Stir in the rest of the ingredients. Serve at room temperature.

(From Jane Brody’s Good Food Book)


Susan Tornheim


Farmers' Market

Location: Elm Street, West Newton

Time: Saturdays, 10–2, starting July 5 and running through the end of October


Farm Stand

Farm stand hours for August: Tuesday through Friday, 1:30–6; Saturday, 9:30–1. Please check our Web site, and Facebook page for updates.


Volunteer Hours

Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 a.m.–10 a.m., and again from 10:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.; Saturdays from 10 a.m.–noon, May through October.


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