…Come Grow With Us!

A farm visitor’s reflection


It is time to register for Farm Camp 2016 at

My five favorite things to do on Bertrand farm.
By Shayna Ellis (long time Farm Camper)

1. Doing animal chores

I like doing animal chores, because it makes me feel like I am a real farmer and I also like it, because it’s fun to do. Doing animal chores means I’m helping to keep alive a part of the farm.

2. Making zucchini bread

I love making zucchini bread, because it is so fun. Baking is not my specialty and making zucchini bread is super fun and easy. I’ve made zucchini bread so many times and it never gets old. From baking to eating, the whole thing is always fun and delicious!


3. Planting, weeding and harvesting

Planting: Planting is fun, because when you plant something at home or the farm, it’s always cool to see what it looks like when you plant it and when it is fully grown.
Weeding: Weeding has never, ever, ever been my favorite thing to do, but after all is done I am very pleased with myself to see what I accomplished.
Harvesting: Harvesting is probably my favorite of the three. It is, because even if you didn’t plant it, it is still fun to compare it to what it was when it started. It is awesome to eat what ever you harvest.

4. The farmers, interns, counselors

Farmers, interns and counselors on Bertrand farm are probably some of the nicest people I have ever met. I am so happy these are the people I get to interact with when I come to camp. I have known Ms. Terri since I was three years old and boy am I glad. She has made me feel welcome for seven years and I am very thankful for that.

5. Getting the eggs from the hens

Getting the eggs from the hens is not my favorite job, but at the same time it is also my favorite job. I like it, because I have some very interesting experiences with my best friend, Ellie. Sometimes we laugh so hard that we fall into chicken poop. Sometimes we get so scared we can’t finish the job, because a chicken is glaring, pecking, and cock-a-doodle-doo at us. But every time we ALWAYS end up laughing our heads off.

Overall, everyone is so nice, the animals are so sweet and cute (especially the cats), and Bertrand is always one of the highlights of my summer. I am so glad that everything here is the way it is, because I would not be the person I am today if it were not for Bertrand farm. 

Seed Order Excitement

After spending hours poring over seed catalogs, fantasizing about what to grow, and figuring out the best deals, our bulk seed order for the 2016 season is off to the races! This year we are able to trial some really beautiful new varieties. In my mind, flavor, health and beauty are inextricably linked, synergistic even, when it comes to the food that we grow. I want to be growing food that emphasizes all of those qualities.


Painted Mountain Corn, an extremely hardy dry corn. Beautiful, diverse, and packed with antioxidants! Photo Courtesy of John Sherck

This year we are growing more heirloom and open-pollinated varieties than ever before. This is the best practice we have to undermine the power of Big Business in our food supply. While some of our produce like beans and carrots must still be bought in bulk, we are working towards growing as much of our own seed as is practical at our scale, and hopefully relying on local seed growers (or at least very sustainable growers) for the rest. After putting some time in to saving seeds this past season, I realized how incredibly easy it is to save more seed than we could ever possibly use.


Merveille Des Quatre Saisons. “Marvel of Four Seasons” Photo Courtesy of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

In addition to growing our seed bank, we are aiming to supply our CSA with a more well rounded selection of items over a longer period of time. Because of our northern climate, this goal requires us to grow storage varieties of vegetables such as Russet Burbank Potatoes, Southport White Globe Onions, Detroit Dark Red Beets, and Danvers 126 Carrots as well as staple foods like dry beans and corn. Last season was the first time I have ever grown corn and now it is one of my favorites. Its a shame that there is so much negativity attached to such a remarkable plant. However, the crowning jewel of our growing this year, and the one I am most excited to offer, is a tomato variety that has been grown and seed saved by our neighbor Jeff for over 40 years! He calls it “Grand Pacific” and I have not been able to find anything like it for sale anywhere. These beauties commonly grow to be the size of a grapefruit and have some of the sweetest flesh I have ever tasted. They hold flavor for canning, make great sandwiches and sauces, and best of all they are have been adapting to our local weather for a long time.   We are hoping to make this our staple tomato and offer a wide selection of cherry and grape tomatoes along with it.


Heirloom White Flour Corn given to us by Charlotte Wolfe of Prairie Winds Nature Farm. We planted less than one ear of this corn and yielded over 10 pounds of kernel with very little care!

Its going to be a fun year, we have lots more new plants to grow like Malabar Spinach, several varieties of Pole Beans, Castelfranco Radicchio, and Hutterite Soup Beans. It wont be long now!



This is a picture of Richie saying goodbye to our broilers. Our meat chickens have gotten big enough to go to the butcher after about 10 weeks of farm life. Our chickens are raised on pasture and also eat some organic grain. The cages that they are in here are actually rabbit cages, able to hold about 10 chickens, used for transport. Our birds averaged around 5-6 pounds. We will raise and butcher about 100 chickens this summer. Now we have a new batch of them to ready to repeat the whole process.


The Diakon Radish

Displaying pastedImage.pngThis is the Diakon radish. It is the biggest radish I have ever seen! It is strong flavored and has lots of edible mass. Diakon radishes are a great cover crop(or companion planting) for future plantings because the root digs deep down in the soil to break it up and bring up nutrients for smaller rooted plants. Farmers will plant them as a cover crop in the field during the growing season and let them dye down over winter. Using diakon radishes in this way can eliminate or lesson the need for deep tilling.

Be sure to try one if you have a chance.


Saving Gas on the Farm

An experienced “scyther” can harvest an acre of grain a day.

Saving Gas on the Farm

A scythe is a manual powered mower. Experienced scythe mowers can harvest an acre of grain in 8 hours. No gas required!

Green Beans are Here!

It’s green bean season here, and nothing beats eating the freshly picked vegetable for any meal. On my night to make dinner a week ago, I made a delicious dressing to go on them and wanted to share.

(recipe taken from Real Simple).

kosher salt and pepper

1 1/2 pounds green beans, trimmed

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted


  1. Boil a large pot of water. Add 1 tablespoon salt and the green beans and cook until very tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain and run under cold water to cool.
  2. Rub the beans vigorously between your hands to break them in half lengthwise. Transfer to a bowl.
  3. Whisk together the mustard, vinegar, oil, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Drizzle over the green beans.
  4. Sprinkle with the almonds.

Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 5.15.03 PM


Trellising Tomatoes with Branches

We have planted so many tomato plants this season that we have run out of t-posts to trellis with wire, string, and cages. Because of this, we have to get creative. On one patch of tomato plants, we decided to try propping the plants up off the ground with branches cut from the adjoining hedgerow of trees. This is an exciting experiment because it’s completely sustainable. We will watch this plot and see how it compares to the traditionally trellised tomatoes.


Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 5.14.44 PM Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 5.14.53 PM

Herb Spiral

This past week we built an herb spiral. It was a great, fun learning experience. Herb spirals are a vertical garden design that are very popular with permaculture. They’re highly productive, energy efficient, and maximize space. The middle is accessible from all sides. This spiral was created and will be planted right next to the kitchen door. It is very practical for cooking and energy efficient for the cook!


herb spiral

Chicken Tractors for Safety

This is a picture of our  new chickens. They grow  for a while in these  cage like structures called chicken tractors . They will stay in these until they get some size, then they will be introduced to the rest of the existing population of chickens already here at the farm in the big pastures. We keep them in here while they are young so that they do not get trampled on or beaten up by the other chickens or snatched up by predators. Their care is a great activity for the kids  during farm camp! We  move their cage every day, multiple times as they get bigger, so that they have fresh pasture. It requires two people to move the tractors so that when the cage is pulled the chicks do not get out or get crushed by it.


Post Navigation


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 485 other followers

%d bloggers like this: