Things really start hopping here at the farm once August rolls around. The harvester has been dusted off and we are digging new potatoes almost every day. (I often mull over the point of cleaning off the harvester since it immediately gets covered in dust again as soon as it hits the fields!) Picking enough sweet corn to meet our orders is a daily job. The corn stand is super busy as our at-the-door-customers come back time and time again to pick up fresh produce for dinner. All the winter wheat has now been combined and trucked to the grain elevator much to the relief of our combine operator. He had been dreading the combining job due to all the wheat knocked down during the numerous storms this summer. So from now until the harvest is completed in mid-October we will all be moving at top speed. Who needs to sleep anyways?! To see a video of the wheat being combined you can visit "A Combine In Action.”
What’s growing at the farm this week? The potatoes are thriving with all the rain this summer. They are sizing up nicely and it looks like we should be on track to start selling them in early August. The sweet corn is not as far along as we would like to see given the very cold and rainy start to the summer, but rest assured it will eventually be ready to eat. The winter wheat is close to maturity, even the sections that were knocked down earlier this summer. John finally made the first cut of hay and we can only hope the rains hold off for a few days so it can dry properly. So the farming trade off continues….what’s good for one crop may not necessarily be ideal growing conditions for another crop. You can visit our “Production Gallery” to see more photos of our crops growing as well as the equipment we use.
Over the last few weeks the potato plants have burst into flower leading RJ to nickname the fields beside our house “The Garden.” Rather a big garden indeed! Not only are the delicate flowers beautiful to look at, it means good news for those of us who are waiting for new potatoes. The flowers are proof that the tubers are thickening up into potatoes. The white flowers are on our early potato plants called AC Chaleur and the pink flowers are on our Yukon Gem plants. There is a wide variety of potato sizing when the plants are this young as you can see in the picture of the potatoes I scrubbed up and sorted by size. So while they are ready to feed my family for dinner, they are not quite ready to be sold to our customers. To learn more about new potatoes you can visit “One Potato, New Potato!”
To quote a famous author “A River Runs Through It.” And let me tell you, there is NOT supposed to be a river running through our sweet corn fields. Our fields here are generally very sandy and drain quite well. But this summer there has been too much rain for our fields to handle. As you can see from these pictures, water is rushing from the forests and pooling in the fields. Hopefully the rain will cease, the fields will dry up and the little sweet corn plants won’t drown. To see a video of RJ planting sweet corn in the extremely dry conditions of the summer of 2016 you can visit “Sweet Corn – Coming Soon!”
As with every profession in the world, farming comes with its own set of unique challenges. This slide show of pictures I took last summer highlight four different problems we worked through while growing our crops.
The Colorado Potato Beetle
The first photo in the slide show clearly depicts the devastation of the Colorado Potato Beetle. This single potato plant demonstrates what would happen to our entire crop if the population of pests was left unchecked.
The second photo shows seed contamination. The tall corn stalk does not belong in our sweet corn field. It is grain corn and meant for animal feed. Our employees know to avoid picking this corn for our sweet corn table.
There are many corn plants scattered through the field of potatoes in the third picture. During the previous year, this field had a crop of corn planted on it. The corn plants voluntarily grew from corn kernels that were missed by the combine when the corn was harvested.
2016 brought one of the driest years in recent memory. The crippling effect on our crops is illustrated in the fourth picture. While irrigation was a benefit for some of our crops, we do not have the capability to irrigate every field. The lack of water caused smaller potatoes and a lower yield per plant than we hoped for.
To find out more about how we grow potatoes, you can follow this link to “Spud Smarts: About Growing Potatoes.”
After months of tending the crop, we have finally reached the ultimate reward – new potatoes.
Flowers begin to form once the potato plant is fully grown. Tuber initiation occurs around the same time the potato plant starts to flower. It takes several weeks after flowering for the tubers to grow big enough to eat. As with most living entities, the plants get ready for reproduction as their life cycle comes to completion. Potato reproduction is a very interesting topic as the plants reproduce two ways – but that’s another story for a different day.
This is the only time of year we can harvest potatoes and sell potatoes without a set skin. The lack of set skin makes a big difference in how the potatoes can be stored. During this growing stage they are tender. We only harvest the amount we are planning on packing and selling the next day.
Our early variety of potatoes is called AC Chaleur. It is a popular choice for our restaurants and chip trucks since the potatoes do not have to be peeled. They just need to be lightly washed and cooked. They are a treat to eat whether they are boiled, baked or turned into French fries or home fries. My favourite way to cook them is to simply boil them so the full flavour of the potato can be enjoyed.
To get more information about our potatoes and how we package and sell them, visit “What We Offer – Potatoes.”
Summer is short in Canada so we have learned to savour every moment. And nothing says summer more than fresh sweet corn. It’s a very busy job keeping the corn stand and the corn orders filled. There is no machine harvesting of sweet corn. Every single cob is picked by hand. By the time the season is over, we will have picked over 150,000 cobs of corn! Here are some pictures of Roberto, Cornelio, Alfonso and Eduardo in the field picking the sweet corn.
Our corn stand will be open at the farm seven days a week over the next five to six weeks. We also deliver to local grocery stores if you cannot get out to the farm. For our location and more information about our farm fresh produce for sale at the door please visit “What We Offer – At The Door.”
Our winter wheat was planted late last summer. The crop remained dormant in the field during the winter and reached maturity last week. Harvesting wheat and grain crops is generally referred to as “combining” instead of “harvesting” since the machine used is a combination of a swather and a thresher. The combine takes only the heads of the wheat. Those are shipped to a grain elevator and turned into food products. We never know where our wheat may end up. Perhaps even on your table!
Wheat is an essential element of our sustainable farming practices for many reasons. Crop rotation means we plant different crops on our fields in successive years. This practice ensures that nutrients are not depleted in the soil. It also increases crop yield and prevents soil erosion. Through crop rotation we can decrease our reliance on pesticides since insects and disease attack crops differently.
Once the grain is combined, we work the stalks into the land. While the stalks can be baled into straw and sold for animal bedding, we prefer to take advantage of the organic matter left by working it into the land and bumping up the nutrients in our soil.
You can visit “Spud Smarts – About Growing Potatoes” to find out more about how we grow our crops.
We had two combines here last weekend harvesting our winter wheat. They are impressive machines to watch. A combine is a time-saving and efficient piece of farming equipment since it performs several functions at once. And trust me when I say they are also somewhat noisy! To learn more about combines and why we grow winter wheat be sure to read the portion of The Common-Tater entitled “Farewell Winter Wheat.”
What are you doing this August long weekend? Things got a little hectic here at the farm as we harvested three crops at once! Here we are picking sweet corn, digging new potatoes and combining the wheat. Happy Civic Day!
Thompson Potato Farm
Farming is fascinating!