St. Olaf Garden Research and Organic Works

STOGROW Farm- It’s a jungle out there…

Hey all! The summer is soon coming to a close- it’s already August- yikes! With the end of summer comes the beginning of fall- leaves changing, classes starting, harvest increasing. We started harvesting during July and have continued harvesting with an increase in pounds and variety of vegetables harvested. The first week harvesting included a few pounds of basil and mixed greens. At this point we are harvesting almost everything in the garden- squash, peppers, eggplant, carrots, beets, radishes, onions, peas, basil, green beans, and tomatoes. The only crops left are pumpkins and watermelons. The watermelons should be ready within the next few weeks and we’ll be leaving the pumpkins for harvesting a little later this fall.

Our tomatoes have just begun to turn red, after a long-awaited ripening. We watched the green tomatoes on the vine get bigger and bigger and still bigger and wondered if they would ever turn red or just stay green for the rest of eternity. Luckily, our tomatoes wanted to be picked and decided it was time to get on board with harvesting. Our figures show that we were harvesting tomatoes at the beginning of August last season, so our tomatoes are coming in much later than last year. However, this is beneficial to us in a couple different ways: Bon Appetit (St.Olaf’s catering company and our guaranteed buyer) has a greater demand for vegetables after the school year starts because of the arrival of students, which means the bigger the harvest after school starts, the better. Also, last growing season we were overwhelmed with the amount of tomatoes- we had planted over 900 plants(this growing season we’ve planted about a third of that). When school started we didn’t know what to do with ourselves and didn’t have enough hands to pick them. This year our crops are more diversified and the tomatoes will not be overwhelming once the school year starts and we have busier schedules due to classes and other activities.

Besides the excitement of harvesting, we’ve been kept occupied with maintaining the garden and attending to visitors of varying interests and ages. The garden seems to always surprise us with the number of weeds that seem to “pop up,’ especially after a good rain. “Where did those come from? I swear I just weeded that last week…” Getting on top of the weeds is a big task, but we seem to find motivation when the task is at its greatest. (That is, harvesting becomes an even greater chore because the weeds are bigger than the plants and blocking our view of the fruit). So, we get on our hands and knees and start pulling. Amidst the pulling we hear loud screams and quick bursts of noises- the nettles and thistles got one of our farmers again! Four hours later, we seem to have made some progress. Sort of. We bike up to lunch with dirty nails and dirt-crusted ankles, sweat dripping from our brow and our feet and hands still stinging from all those darn nettles.

We’ve had the privilege of hosting several groups at the farm this summer. Quite a few YMCA groups ranging in age from 5-15 years old have come to the garden to take a peek and nibble on some fresh veggies. Other groups included an environmental ethics summer class at St. Olaf, a group of Leaders for Social Change from St. Olaf and McCallister, and a St.Olaf staff retreat of about 50 people. My favorite groups are the YMCA groups- they always have the most interesting comments and questions- “Ew, the chickens poop in the garden?!!!” or “Oh, a radish, I WANT ONE!!!!”; “Do chickens eat humans?”; “CHICKENS!!!! Let’s catch ‘em!!! Can you catch a chicken for us again, please, please, please, PLEASE!” “Are we done yet? Can we play duck-duck gray duck?” As you can see, the kids seem to have a thing with chickens, or perhaps just birds in general. I can tell you that we had to stop them from eating our profits. The green beans and peas were just so yummy apparently.

We will continue harvesting into the school year until the frost intensifies and Minnesota winter creeps in and kills our plants ( yes, it’s very sad, but this is the cycle of life and the reality of living in Minnesota). That means we’ll need volunteers to help us harvest. We send out emails to our alias and if you would like to be on that alias, just email to be added. We will also be involved during Homecoming/Family weekend, Friday and Saturday, September 25-26. Our annual farm festival planning is still underway, so look for information sometime this fall. Until then, any visitors are welcome at the farm at any time. Everything is growing and sprawling quite nicely- the transformation from seed to harvest has been quite remarkable, yet again. Just beware, it’s a jungle out there…


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