News and blog

Current happenings on and around the farm!
Posted 2/5/2013 2:05pm by Jenna Untiedt.

As we enter February, things are in full swing at the farm. By this time next week, Paul will be busy preparing all the greenhouses for the upcoming planting season. Flowers will be arriving shortly thereafter, and the 2013 growing season will be underway.

What goes into prepping the greenhouses? Well, all of the heaters must be tested and in working order before any flowers arrive. The heaters get checked multiple times a day, including a few times a night once the plants arrive to ensure they are functioning. Any time a heater goes out, plants become suseptable to frost. The soil we use to fill pots has arrived, and just before our plants arrive, we will begin filling all of our pots for planting. We can't wait to get back into the greenhouses and feel a bit of the tropical weather!

Farmer Jerry is finishing up seed orders as I write this blog. It has taken him many weeks to compile all of his seed orders in order to ensure that we have farm fresh produce for our customers all season long. Many people have switched over to computers to track crop rotation, yields, and other important information, but the old pen and paper still work for Jerry. His desk may look like a tornado has struck, but he has a system that has worked for many years, so why change?

In addition to seed orders, we have been busy promoting our CSA program for the upcoming season! To do this, we have been visiting local businesses and doing some lunch and learn sessions with employees. This has been a fun way to educate people about what a CSA program is, as well as share how we operate our program. Interested in having Untiedt's come to your business? Let us know!

We are also looking forward to the upcoming events that we will be at in the coming months. Check out our calendar to see where we will be at! 

Have questions for Farmer Jerry or someone at the farm? Let us know! 

Until next time, have a great day!

Posted 1/29/2013 1:19pm by Jenna Untiedt.
Untiedt's Vegetable Farm, Inc.

Waverly, MN 
 
 

Everyone from Untiedt's is wishing you a Happy 2013! We would like to thank you for subscribing to our Newsletter Updates. Offering a newsletter to our customers is a goal we have had for quite some time, but this is the year it is being implemented! We are excited to share about current happenings at the farm, and keep you up to date with what's currently in season.
 
What's New?
First things first, we launched our new website in January! With this upgrade, we hope to be able to communicate more effectively and efficiently with all of our customers. We would love your feedback and would enjoy hearing your thoughts regarding information you wish to see on our site. Check it out here!
 
 
What's Happening?
One may think that January is a slow time on a vegetable farm, and for some, it probably is.  But that is not the case at Untiedt’s Vegetable Farm!  We take this “slower” time of year to catch up on what we don’t have time for in the summer months and also for planning and preparing for the upcoming season.  January can be quite cold, as we experienced last week, but there is still lots to be done outside.  On those days that are not too cold or icy members of our team can be found outside trimming trees and cutting down menacing branches.  Over the years we have planted many many trees on our farms.  Our job is not over once the trees are in the ground.  We need to maintain those trees for years to come as those trees provide a service to us, whether it be shade or windbreak. 

January is also a busy time for preparing our greenhouses to start planting in February.  Our lead grower, Paul, is out checking to make sure all the heaters are working properly and that they will be ready to make the houses warm for all of our springtime plants to grow big and beautiful.  Once February comes, spring is in the air on the Untiedt farm.  Walk into a greenhouse and feel like you are in the tropics!  Catching a tan is a perk of working in the greenhouse too! 

We are busy ordering all of our summertime vegetable seeds too!  Always an exciting time deciding what to grow for the season and what experiments to try, as there is at least one of those a year!  It is so fun to look through all the seed catalogues and pick out what looks interesting or new.  New lettuces will grace our CSA boxes this year as well as some turnips and dried beans. 

CSA planning is still in effect here on the farm.  We have been busy setting up lunch and learn meetings with many of our corporate sites.  It sure is fun getting out of the office and meeting our customers face to face.  It’s also a great way to educate people on how we farm and produce our products, sustainably! 

 
 
 
Posted 1/11/2013 3:13pm by Jenna Untiedt.

Happy 2013! One may think that because there is snow on the ground, there may be less to do on the farm, but that is not the case. Everyone at the farm had a few weeks off for the Holidays, but we are all back to work now, and busy with a list of never ending tasks to prepare for the upcoming season.

 

Plans for the 2013 growing season are well under way. Flower orders have been placed, seed and plant orders are well on their way to being completed, and greenhouses will soon be prepared so planting can begin! February will be here before we know it and planting season will be in full swing in the greenhouses. Crews are out trimming trees and putting up fences to help with deer issues that we experience each year. Our CSA program for the year is up and running, and the girls are busy getting the word out! Have you signed up yet?

 

This mild weather we have had is making us think that spring will arrive early like last year, but we will wait to see what Mother Nature has in store for us. We are in definite need of moisture, so we truly wouldn’t be too disappointed with a little more snow this season to help prepare the soils for planting this spring!

 

All of us here at the farm hope this update finds you well! Again, Happy New Year and we look forward to growing for you this upcoming season!

Posted 8/23/2012 10:13am by Jenna Untiedt.

When one thinks apples, a Minnesotan does not think of August. This season has brought about many unexpected surprises. They have resulted in an early harvest of almost every crop in Minnesota, yet for the apples, it has also caused a damaging blow to supply.

It is true, we are currently harvesting our SweeTango variety with the Zestars already being sold out.  But due to the unseasonably warm spring, and hard frost, much of the early apple blossoms died off thus resulting in a limited crop.

The king blossom, the one that produces the bigger fruit, was the one that froze off during last April’s sudden drop in overnight temperatures. This frost took about 70 percent of the crop potential. The secondary blossoms were able to be pollinated, but during a summer hail storm, over half of the remaining fruit clusters were damaged.

This season, we will be able to pick only about 10 percent of what the orchard is capable of producing.

Put aside this despairing news, we are excited to be able to bring you Honeycrisp, SweeTango, Sweet 16s, and Haralsons in the coming weeks

You can see in the photos above that we have planted many Honeycrisp trees that are very short in height. Some farmers are experimenting with these shorter trees, because the apples can all be harvested without the use of a ladder. They are commonly called pedestrian orchards.

We’ve only planted a few rows of these B9 rooted Honeycrisp grafted trees. The next rows over, we’ve planted SweeTango’s grafted with M26 root structures. They’ve been supported with a taller metal pole. Comparatively the B9 root structure is known to be cold hardy as it comes from Russian growing climates. The B9 will yield fruit earlier than the M26 rooted trees, yet requires this permanent eight foot stake to support the tree.

Every spring we prune the trees, meaning we decide which branches should be cut off to encourage new growth and proper tree formation. Remember that fruit doesn’t grow as easily from old wood. New wood encourages new growth. 

It also is imperative to position the branches so they grow horizontally, thus we built a trellis structure to support this endeavor. The horizontal branches allow the apples to plump up to a decent eating size and decrease the vigor of the tree thus producing more fruit and less vegetative growth.  

We’ve also placed crab apple trees throughout the orchard, as seen in a few of the photos. These are not edible, but the bees sure love them and they are great pollinators for our apple trees.

Our early apples, Zestars, are known for a thin flesh and soft texture. These have already been harvested (well ahead of schedule), and are known to be Minnesota’s first taste of autumn. Our SweeTango tastes like pure apple juice as you bite in, and can be purchased at our Farmer’s Market locations now. The next to come in two weeks will be Honeycrisp and Sweet 16s. These are known for their crunchy texture – a true Minnesota favorite!

Please let us know if you have any apple questions on our Facebook page. We will be sure to get back to you.

Sincerely,

Jerry

 

Tags: Apples
Posted 8/15/2012 1:33pm by Jenna Untiedt.

Farming is all about weighing risk and minimizing it. There is absolutely no way to be a farmer and not feel the effects of nature. There are so many variables working every second that contribute to the success or failure of our crops.

Over the last 40 years we’ve researched what works within our growing climate, high tunnel operation and our specific soil type. We’ve come to learn about many natural soil amendments, and ways to make the most of the excess our farm produces by starting our compost program so many years ago.

I truly believe each season that we are better educated and more aware of what is possible. We document every lesson learned. So when it’s time to buy seeds, the discussion can be had “what’s new and exciting,” but we can also know that the venture crop variety could possibly work at our farm because of our seasonal records, and growing methods.

The sweet Italian pepper we tried to grow this year, is a perfect example. This seed is very expensive to buy, and is considered “risky”. Many people will not devote much land to the crop since it is expensive to grow with low return compared to others. But we want to offer our customers variety, and the best small fruits and vegetables available in Minnesota.

You can see from the photo album below this experience has turned out some beautiful peppers, but there has been much at risk as well.

The peppers in the photo gallery have been grown in our high tunnels. We have another portion growing out in the field, but we’ve combated many issues with that plot.

First, it is very difficult to shade these plants in the open field. There are cloths one can buy, but with wind and stormy conditions they don’t hold up for too long. As a result, many of the plants experienced sun scald on their fruits.

Second was that many of the plants experienced blossom end rot on their first sets of fruit, which is a sign of calcium deficiency.

We feed our plants the nutrients they need through drip tape irrigation. One of those nutrients is calcium. Well, similar to how your shower head or kitchen faucet clogs due to calcium build up, our drip tape can experience this as well, and did in this field.

Once we realized the drip tape was no longer irrigating the field properly, we had two options. Weigh the risk of sending a vinegar solution through the lines to unclog them, which could result in a lower pH level in the soil, potentially harming the plant. Or, leave it as is, and hope the rain will be sufficient.

After weighing the pros and cons, we’ve left the drip tape alone, and pulled off the first fruit sets to allow the plant to focus on its next cluster. We have learned a lot from this experimental variety, and are excited to bring you the sweet Italian peppers harvested from our high tunnels. Look for them at the Farmers’ Market soon.

Let us know if you have any questions on our Facebook Page.

Until next time,

Jerry

 

Posted 8/8/2012 1:45pm by Jenna Untiedt.

Our Minnesota grown black diamond seedless watermelon will be at our roadside stands soon. This variety of melon took a heavy blow down south due to the extreme weather this season. The heat killed off many fields in Georgia, Indiana, and Arkansas, and supply was hard to come by. Luckily, we are ready to harvest!

 

On the Farm this last week the question was raised – Why is there a small green one next to the black diamond? Well, seedless watermelons cannot self pollinate. So, you need to plant a variety next to it that will act as a pollinator. These small green ones are not really edible, but have a dramatically different rind color – essential when harvesting to tell the two apart. Planted near to each other, they complete the combination needed to produce the sweet seedless Black Diamond you all have grown to love.

Fall Raspberries are now being harvested. You can see in the photo gallery below that the canes have grown so high, they’re pushing their way through the high tunnel plastic, which is nearly 15 feet into the air.

 

 

 

We are also harvesting strawberries, but many plants are producing smaller then normal berries because of the heat.

In the photos you can see the difference between the one year old plants and two year old plants. The two year old ones have straw on top of them. Their berries are smaller because it has been too hot, and they will fill out once it cools down a bit. The one-year-old plants did not have enough nutrients stored in their crown before the fruit started to be able to feed the cluster. And since their root structure was immature, it was not established enough to absorb the nutrients we are attempting to feed these plants through their drip tape. Can you only imagine filling up a box with berries this small? Remember though, the sweetness is still fantastic, large and small, with the smaller berries sometimes exceeding the sweetness of the larger.

Most of our onions have been pulled and are drying in the tunnels. And our field of Italian sweet peppers is looking great!

Despite popular belief there is basically no difference between cantaloupe and muskmelon. Most people identify muskmelon as having ribbed rinds, and having a softer flesh. The name muskmelon was taken from the word mush because of their soft, mushy texture. Personally I just want to eat something that is sweet, and not dried out or woody. These field grown cantaloupe are just as sweet as the ones we grew in the high tunnels, and will be coming to market soon.

We are also very excited to be offering squash in August. We will be publishing a guide on summertime squash grilling, and what the differences are in each variety.

Squash types, which will be available soon are listed below, as well as what one should look for to know when the squash is ripe:

Acorn – Dry and very hard stem with bright orange blaze where the fruit made contact with the ground

Buttercup - Bright orange blaze on the bottom

Butternut – Should be free of green lines, dry stem, and wonderful light golden color

Spaghetti – Deep yellow rind and dead hard stem

Let us know on Facebook if you have any questions about the vegetables we grow. We love educating people on the healthy benefits and differences in crop production.

Until next time,

Jerry

 

Posted 7/31/2012 1:47pm by Jenna Untiedt.

 We are excited to say the early planting of our squash crop is about ready to be harvested – in August! These varieties will consist of Acorn, Butternut, Buttercup and Spaghetti. We started this plot ahead of schedule, while weighing the risk of frost, we went for it. The plants were only slightly protected in this open field, but thanks to a mild winter transition into spring these plants were off to the start they needed. Now you can expect to find Minnesota grown squash varieties at the Minneapolis Farmers Market, and roadside stands within the next few weeks.

 

Where will this early harvest lead us? We aren’t quite sure. We know that bees have a hard time pollinating new fruit sets on these plants when it is hot, because a bee’s body is similar to a aircraft. When the air is really hot it is less dense, than when it is cool, so just like the jet, it is harder to gain lift. Therefore the bumblebees stay lower to the ground, and may not quite make it into as many flowers (or deep enough to reach the pollen) as if it were a tad cooler air.

The other challenge of these squash varieties is that they’ve been bred to maintain a denser canopy. Maybe your grandparents grew squash plants, or you can remember the plants sprawling across the entire garden and up the fence. Well, they don’t quite do that anymore. Instead, their leaves shoot straight up and in a central area. What this means is that the bees also can have trouble penetrating this canopy to pollinate the plants when it is hot.

We hope to hold onto this cool down a little longer than the weatherman predicts.

 

Another area of excitement is the special sweet pepper varieties from Italy are doing quite well. We tried the red, orange, and yellow conical pepper called Belcanto, Oranos, and Xanthi. This trio is said to be superior in flavor compared to bell peppers of the same colors. So look for these at the stands along with a few recipe cards inspiring some great meal ideas. Let us know what you think of them!

Below is a photo gallery of these above products and our heirloom collection. Have you read our Untiedt’s Heirloom variety guide yet? We have it posted on our website. Click here to view the PDF.

 

 

We are busy harvesting away! Days go long, and sleep is coveted, but we are very pleased with the outcome of this season so far. Hopefully CSA shareholders, you are also enjoying the crops we’ve delivered. Let us know on our Facebook Page. We love hearing from you.

Sincerely,
Jerry

 

Posted 7/24/2012 2:06pm by Jenna Untiedt.

Check out the photos below from this past Friday of the tomato vines and raspberry canes. Both plants have grown to reach the top of the plastic high tunnel covers at a record time of year.

A few weeks back we explained how we pruned our tomato plants to prompt the leader stem to grow vertically. Well, once that plant reaches the top string we must cut off the meristeam on that leader so the plant knows to stop growing foliage, and to start sending its energy to the fruit clusters. If we happen to miss a few plants you can see that the plant will start to crowd around its neighbor, or the trellis posts for support. This could be detrimental as the fruit clusters grow. Since the branch does not have adequate support, it could snap due to the fruit’s weight. When considering what loss could be experienced, pruning becomes a very high priority, but very labor intensive.

Over in our raspberry high tunnel rows, the floricane (June bearing) variety is done producing fruit, but our primocane (ever-bearing) variety is growing quite rapidly. There are many ripe raspberries on the plant, but we cannot harvest all of them due to the cane overgrowth we’ve experience. In the photos below, Craig shows us how the team had to weave the canes underneath the trellis’ main support wires. Then they had to add a new metal wire to intersect with each of the main ones to pull the two main wires running parallel to one another, closer together to gain access to the row.

Colleen is shown in a part of the tunnel that has not been worked, versus what the row looks like after the team has trellised the canes.

The other big news on the farm is that our mums have been planted! A few weeks later than normal (due to not enough hours in the day), but growing quite well. They’ve just reached about 4 inches in height. To produce the high quality, bushy mum we are known for, this week we had to prune these plants down to about 2 inches. Completed by hand, this initial prune is called “pinching the buds,” and encourages bushiness and a later bloom, so you’ll enjoy your mum’s color later into the season. If we did not do this, than the mum would grow quite tall, and thin, plus bloom in August. We want the flower color to just be coming in as it awaits its purchase come late September.

We hope everyone enjoyed a few cantaloupes this weekend. We are quite excited with their sweet flavor. Some of you may have noticed our black diamond watermelons at market. This variety of melon experienced quite a detrimental blow in supply due to the South being so incredibly hot this past June, but we are happy to say the irrigation in our fields ensured a healthy plant, and sweet fruit.

Please let us know on our Facebook page what your favorite item is. We love hearing from you!

Until next time,

Jerry

 

Posted 7/17/2012 2:09pm by Jenna Untiedt.

We consider it a success! Not only for the early corn harvest (we harvested corn out of the high tunnels on June 20, 2012 – three weeks earlier than normal), but we feel the high tunnel corn worked because we’ve found a way to work copious amounts of organic matter back into our high tunnel soils.

When farming, one typically wants to rotate a broad leaf crop with a grass every year. Since most of the crops we grow are broad leaf, it is imperative we find a way to cycle through. Now we could also use rye or wheat, but corn plants add a significant amount of biomass when considering tonnage. Think of the plant. The stalk, ears, leaves, tassels – every part can be chopped and worked back in.

The photos below show Craig chopping the high tunnel corn so that we add this plow down material back in to the soil to provide for a healthy plant rotation. We expect to be rotating corn through various tunnels in the next seasons.

 

Great news this week! We’ve started our cantaloupe production, and these fruit are exceptionally sweet!! Expect to find these in your CSA box or at our roadside stands in the coming week. View the photo gallery below for a full photographic recap of the plant stages on the farm:

 

Posted 7/14/2012 2:18pm by Jenna Untiedt.

Our sweet corn harvest continues! But due to the very heavy rains earlier this spring, and the very hot weather - our ear size is quite variable. But don’t let a small ear or an oversized one fool you! Customers (and we agree) have been saying the flavor seem to be sweeter than ever.  I will be enjoying some of these ears with a side of a BLT sandwich tonight, so ask me at Market this weekend how sweet these ears really are!

The underground irrigation pipe that exploded last week due to high use and too much pressure, has been repaired. The photos below show how big the area was which was effected. We also ran a new line to water some areas of our fields more efficiently. But, another one of our major irrigation motors went down again this week; this time due to a mouse shorting out the 100 horsepower engine.

View the photos below for the shots related to the flower blossoms on our pepper plants being aborted due to the extreme heat wave we’ve experienced. As a defense mechanism, when the plant needs to save resources, the plant will send its energy to protect the fruit it is currently growing instead of starting new fruit.

We don’t know the full extent of damage this heat has done, but we do know each one of those fallen blossoms is a fruit we will not be harvesting. But these are the trials a farmer faces, and we bare the burden to bring you the best produce possible. 

Take special note of the last of the photos are of the asparagus that we’ve let go to its fern stage. It is important to allow your asparagus plants to build up the carbohydrate level in its root structure so the plant remains strong enough to make it through a Minnesota winter. This also allows for the plant to produce a large crop next spring. You can see in the photos how the rows look when we let the asparagus shoots turn into ferns instead of cutting them.