Farmer John Writes: A Bountiful Crop Report

 In Farm News

Harvest Week 18, October 20th – 26th, 2020

Fall Crops
In this Week’s Farm News, I will update you on the fall crops. Overall, the crops look the best that they have ever looked at this time in October. Of course, frost is flickering its way onto our fields some mornings, bringing extra challenges to our harvest priorities.

There is guesswork involved in properly bringing the season to a close. Are there enough crops? Too many crops? This year, I believe we will be ending on a bountiful note.

Brussels Sprouts
We topped the Brussels sprouts stalks over the last several weeks to encourage sprout development. The sprouts are filling out nicely on many of the stalks; some of the stalks are filling out more slowly. Hopefully, while temperatures still hover mostly above freezing, many more sprouts will fill out to a good size. After some good frosts, the sprouts will sweeten and proceed to convert some of our shareholder holdouts to sprouts lovers.

The last three falls, due to the extremely wet weather, the Brussels sprouts have been very disappointing. This fall, we are encouraged by a more promising harvest. I will also note that the Brussels sprouts tops themselves seem increasingly popular with our shareholders.

Brussels sprouts of suitable size

We have lots of beautiful fall cabbage coming soon—lots.

The fabulous broccoli crop has mostly been harvested. We’ll still harvest a few remaining heads of broccoli, and likely many broccoli side shoots.

Baby Greens
I noted in a former issue of Farm News that due to the intense weed pressure earlier in the season, I compensated by seeding many extra beds of baby greens for fall harvest, anticipating that many of those seedings would be overwhelmed with weeds. I figured that at least a few beds would escape the vast weed pressure of the early season.

Surprise. We have bed after bed after bed of beautiful, mostly weed-free baby lettuce, arugula, and pea shoots. Just as surprisingly, this fall, after harvesting many of these beds, the greens have been re-growing to make for a second harvest, sometimes even a third harvest. I’ve tried in the past to get multiple cuttings from baby greens, and have seldom succeeded. For those of you who love baby greens, this fall is a bonanza. For those of you who prefer fewer baby greens, well, a hard frost will knock them out eventually.

loose-leaf baby lettuce (seems to be outgrowing its baby status)

Head Lettuce
We have an astounding amount of head lettuce. We are getting it to shareholders as fast as possible before we get a hard frost.

Radishes and Turnips
I seeded more fall radishes than ever before, following the same logic as with the baby greens—that some (perhaps all) of the beds would succumb to weeds. Not so. We have lots of mostly weed-free radishes this fall–turnips, too.

radish riot

The leeks are slow this fall. I think we planted them too late. One variety is now about medium-sized; the other variety is petite. Leeks are frost hardy, so I still expect them to size up a bit, though not to their potential stature.

Pac Choi
We have bountiful pac choi to offer this week.

pac choi

The kohlrabi crop is so-so. It encountered early drought hardship. Additionally, I decided to experiment with an inter-seeding of alfalfa and clover sown into it, thinking that the legumes would nourish the crops. This might have been the case, if the alfalfa and clover hadn’t sprung up so fast. Besides nourishing the kohlrabi, it competed with it. It was an ecological experiment with a disappointing outcome. We will still be offering plenty of kohlrabi this fall.

We are holding back on kale a bit, since it will endure hard frosts, whereas some of the other leafy greens will not, so we are harvesting these other greens earlier.

Daikon Radishes
The first seeding of daikon radishes died. I suspect that the fragile sprouts were emerging just when we were experiencing a bit of drought, and they withered. We re-seeded them later than they should have been seeded to get a good fall crop; however, they are growing crazily fast. We might get a crop of Daikon radishes, not sure yet. We will have Daikon greens for sure.

We have the biggest ears of popcorn we have ever grown. We’ll be offering them soon.


Squash, Onions, Potatoes
We still have ample amounts of squash and onions in cozy storage. The potato crop was not stellar this year, but we still have many bins of potatoes in storage. All of these crops will be offered to shareholders on and off through the end of the season.

The crew is now sorting out garlic for seed for the planting of our 2021 garlic crop, and separating it into cloves. Once this is completed, we will know how much garlic we can still offer to our shareholders this fall.

By the time you read this, hopefully our 2021 garlic crop will be planted. In order to get a good garlic crop, it has to be planted in the fall, then germinate and go through a cold cycle in the winter. Last year, due to flooding, we could not get our garlic planted until December 30th (the only time we have ever been able to do any field work here in the month of December.)

We were extremely fortunate to get a garlic crop this year; if we had missed that rare window in late December, we would have had no garlic crop. The quality of this season’s garlic is not pristine; many of the bulbs are not as large as usual, nor as symmetrical, but still, it’s fabulous-tasting garlic, and the crop was bountiful enough, especially in light of the challenges of getting it in the ground last year.

columns of German White Porcelain Garlic, one of our signature crops

The carrot saga of this season is…I suppose I could call it bewildering. 

We planted a whole field to fall carrots last June, and they succumbed to weeds. For those of you who did not follow Farm News updates early in the season, we spent many tens of thousands of dollars more on weeding than ever before, and still completely lost many fields to weeds, including this carrot field. This organic farm had enjoyed a diminishing amount of pressure from weeds over a couple of decades, until the flooding started in 2017 and persisted for most of three years, allowing weeds to run rampant. I decided to seed our fall carrots in another field. This second attempt at a carrot crop was very successful, yielding many bunches of beautiful fall carrots.

(A shareholder wrote us that our fall carrots were so big they were only fit for a horse, and used that assessment as partial grounds for cancelling her share. Another observer wrote that our carrots couldn’t possibly be organic, they were so big. Hard to please everyone, no?)

I kept tilling the persistent weeds in this first carrot field that had been lost to the weeds, and, finally, about mid-summer, I decided to take a chance by seeding that first failed field to carrots again. Not only did it seem likely that the weeds would triumph once more, it was too late for getting a crop of fall carrots. Well, too late if we were to have a normal fall. It certainly didn’t seem responsible to anticipate a lovely, warm fall; however, a lovely warm fall is what we have been blessed with. Those late-seeded carrots are making a crop—not a crop of big, long chunky carrots (suitable for horses only?), but a crop of lean, lovely carrots.

Two weeks ago, these late carrots were about as thin as pencils. A week later, the biggest ones were about as thick as a little finger. Recently, some of them have achieved the status of tender, medium-sized carrots (with petite siblings in tow.) Your end-of-season, somewhat dainty carrots will be delightfully succulent and aromatic. Imagine, when you are enjoying them, that in a normal season, you would not have received them at all.

Farmer John cultivates carrots

I don’t believe I have ever before written such an encouraging crop report at this time of the year. Of course, weather can play some havoc with the remaining crops. However, we are well-positioned with a stellar crew, good harvest equipment and ample amounts of frost-protecting row covers to likely usher us towards a satisfying, perhaps even a joyous, outcome.

2021 Shares Are Available
It’s hard to know what 2021 will bring us. If you want to be part of our farm for another year, you can sign up at

One More Farm Product to Report On
I suppose that as much as crops are products of the farm, and the farm is a product of me, Farmer John, I, myself, am a product of the farm. I realize that the term product is rather commodifying, but for the sake of relational writing, I will, in this section, regard myself as an additional product to the list of products above. As with the other products, what is the condition of your farmer, you might wonder?

You probably know about HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), a federal law to protect sensitive patient health information from being disclosed. Regarding the crops further above, I can write anything about them that I want. They do not benefit from HIPAA federal protection that would prevent such disclosure. Is this fair to them?

As far as my own health is concerned, every time I see a medical professional, they assure me that my medical information is strenuously protected by HIPAA and then they shove a form at me promising they will vigorously uphold the HIPAA act. I usually object, and say that I don’t care at all if the world knows my health details—so what?—and add (somewhat facetiously) that I will only consent to being evaluated and treated at their clinic if a report on my health is made fully available to the public on social media, I then proceed to highlight the irony that in this age of supposed privacy, hardly anything about our lives is private— the model of car we drive; the value of the home we live in; who we winked at in high school German class; our culinary preferences at age 3… it hardly even matters if the information is true. My little verbal disturbance usually doesn’t go down well with the clinic, because most clinics are really proud of how they protect their patients’ information. (Okay, sometimes a clinic’s receptionist at least seems amused.)

Ironically, reports of death are not protected by HIPAA. Death seems like sensitive health information that might be eligible for protection, no? Yet, once someone dies, the news can be spread far and wide of that person’s ultimate health issue.

Anyway, since, as is true of my crops, I am not obligated by HIPAA to safeguard my own health information, I will inform you that my most recent health checkup had me pass in flying colors—pulse, blood pressure, blood analysis. At 71, I feel more fit and resilient than I did 10, even 20 years ago—seems kind of odd to me, but it’s a good report nevertheless. (Please don’t submit this report to HIPAA—I might be breaking one of their rules here.)

My reassuring health report doesn’t mean I plan to farm for another 64 years. I am training in some of my stellar crew members to take on more of the farming responsibility, so that I can at least free up my weekends and my evenings from the workload of farming.

Me with a Fordson about the same age, both in pretty good shape

As Frost Approaches,
Farmer John

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Showing 12 comments
  • Mary Jane Lewis

    Very informative and upbeat report on your fall crops: I’m happy that you had such a wonderful year for growing all the vegetables you provide for your shareholders. I’m going to forward this to Carol and Rosemary who always enjoy reading your newsletters.

    • Farmer John

      It’s important to note when we have a great crop year. Those years are hard to come by.

  • Lori

    Yay for a good fall harvest! I love the Brussells sprout tops. This is the first time I’d ever had (or even heard of them), and they are delicious!

    • Farmer John

      Soon we will be offering the sprouts, sweetened by a couple of light frosts.

  • Debra Barford

    Thank your for your persistence the last three years despite rains washed out planting after planting, and thank you for your persistence and the bountiful season this year.
    We give thanks for all the efforts on the farm and your continuing health as well.
    We are loving all the carrots and greens and squash.

    • Farmer John

      Debra, I appreciate your acknowledgment and your long-term support of our farm. Lots to love this year.

  • Miriam Greenfield

    Glad you had a successful season and I enjoyed most of my share. But…Hate to burst your bubble, but the brussels sprout tops are awful. Tried to find recipes only to read that you can’t buy them in stores as they are usually used for compost. If eaten at all, only the tiny inner leaves are considered edible. I tried cooking them, even after thirty minutes, as recommended, they were bitter and chewy. Does someone have a recipe that produces something tasty?

    • April

      Miriam, For us, we had good results with cooking the brussel tops quickly… surprisingly, this seemed to produce a non-bitter result. The first time we got it, I chopped it into half-inch strips and did a quick saute with oil and garlic. We didn’t mind the taste but the texture was still a bit firmer than our usual preference. The second time we got it…..I used the leaves to make veggie chips and the kids couldn’t gobble them fast enough! Basically made them the same way I’d make kale chips. These brussel tops produced a sweet and nutty flavor, and so crispy crunchy! Recipe: Cut leaves into medium pieces. Lightly toss with a drizzle of oil. Sprinkle in seasoning. (I just used salt and garlic powder but parmesan cheese could be good, too!) Lay a thin layer onto a paper-towel lined plate and microwave on high for around 3 minutes. Voila! Chips! I used to make these in the oven but this way is faster, with even better results.

    • Shef

      I cut them up really tiny (chiffonade) and put them into my spagetti sauce and simmered for a good half hour. They were fine, and the onions and garlic in the sauce made them taste like nothing. I dislike the brussel sprout tops too, but it was nice to know that by cutting them off, the actual brussel sprouts benefit!

      It has been a wonderful harvest this year – thank you so much Farmer John! Glad to know the weather gave you a break this year!

    • Heather

      I treated the brussels tops like kale and they were wonderful in a cabbage slaw with cumin-vinaigrette dressing. Sliced them up thinly and massaged them with a little olive oil to soften them up before adding to slaw.

  • Nikki Golden

    I also cut them into thin strips and sautéed in a wok with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic, then added some goat cheese and walnuts. I usually make this with actual Brussels Sprouts, so figured it would work just as well, and it did.

  • Adam

    At first, after doing a simple sautee on the brussel sprout tops, they were a bit leathery. The second time, I blanched them in boiling water for a minute or 2 before sauteeing and they came out nice and tender. The blanching is key.

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