Farm School Week 28: The Grain Harvest


A photo of Alison Spaude-FilipczakWe have hit the six-month mark at the Greenbank Farm Training Center. We spent the spring planning, prepping and planting. In the summer we watered and weeded. And now, with the onset of fall, we are in full harvest mode. Each day the zukes and cukes seem to double in size, the green beans generate new fruit by the bushel-full, and the tomatoes redden and ripen into globes of goodness.

Many of these crops are under our constant supervision. Zucchinis the size of baseball bats don’t sell, and if we don’t pick the beans they will stop producing all together. We check on our vegetable crops daily and tend to their ever-present needs. We weed. We trellis. We sucker. If a crop is ripe, we harvest it for our CSA or try to sell it at the farmers market. We move the goods we grow from farm to table. Or farm to grocery store to table if you count the produce we sell to independently owned grocery stores. We check radishes to make sure they don’t get to pithy, peas to make sure they aren’t too fibrous, carrots for crispness and arugula for spice.

We do a good job keeping on top of our game, but there are those few projects that get forgotten about during the deep of summer. It took me by total surprise when I finally noticed that the experimental grain crop we had planted in spring was losing color and the little grain heads were hardening up and falling to the ground.

In June, we planted one-hundred feet of two-row barely and one-hundred feet of hull-less oats. This was strictly for fun. None of us, with the exception of our program director, had ever grown grains. This was one of the experiential learning projects that we were not going to have to sell at market or give to our CSA members.

My memories of the grains’ life cycle are vague. We planted. A few weeks after the grains germinated we had some issues with Canada geese, but the grain bounced back. We watered throughout the summer and a flock of birds made the thigh-high grain an afternoon hang out spot. At some point we tasted the grains, taking in the milky, under-ripe taste of oats and the chewy hulls of barely. Those grains seemed to grow themselves, and they made farming seem easy.

This was a small operation. You don’t use a combine to harvest two hundred feet of grain. You can imagine that we had to be innovative with our harvesting method. We cut down the grain with a hand sickle and tied armloads into bundles. We let the bundles dry in our barn house for a few weeks.

Sarah Long
10/10/2010 1:09:20 PM

Allison!!!!! Wonderful to see the beautiful things you are doing! Miss you and all the Northland folks! Much love!

Nebraska Dave
10/10/2010 8:31:10 AM

@Alison, I can’t say that I’ve ever grown grain in the garden. I have been on farms where they have raised grain in acres. I must say that the concept of raising grain on a small scale is intriguing. It seems a little labor intensive for me but then again gardens tend to be that way. It sure sounds like you have a great harvest in progress and all the time spent in studies and planning are paying off with the bountiful harvest. Will you continue to blog after this year is over? I hope that you will. It’s been wonderful to follow your group through the planning stages to the harvest. My garden is done for the year. The end of this week I’ll start putting it to bed. I already have plans for next year. It will be a wonderful year with two more beds and an ever increasing head full of ideas. It’s been a wonderful year for me too. Have a great autumn harvest day.

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