…Come Grow With Us!

Interning at Bertrand

Hi all! My name is Emily Mann and I’m a graduate student at IU South Bend studying sustainability.  Through my program, I’ve been given the opportunity to intern at Bertrand for the fall semester and part of the duties I’m taking on is bringing back the blog! I’m very excited to share some of what I’m learning in my time here with all of you.

A little bit about me: I graduated from IUSB’s Physics department in 2015. From there, I took some time off to work and figure out what my next step would be.  I found out about the Sustainability program through some friends in the community and quickly discovered it was a perfect fit for my interests.  Studying physics gave me an incredibly large view of the universe and how it operates on the most basic levels.  While I truly enjoyed learning about the mechanisms that rule the universe, I was always left wondering how so much research is being done to make these large scale discoveries while our planet is on its way to catastrophe.  


I’ve always been interested in food.  Eating it, cooking it, learning about it.  I’ve been an avid supporter of local growing, been involved in community gardens, and made local food the majority of my diet.  Farming is something that began to really catch my attention.  After learning about sustainability and joining the program, I have seen what a big difference I can make in my community–satisfying that desire to work on a small scale and make a big impact.  

This brings us to where I am now; Bertrand Farm!  After hearing about what they do at the farm and how much outreach they do, I knew it was the right place for me.  Public outreach is a huge passion of mine that I’ve carried throughout my life.  In my undergrad, I did a lot of public talks and demonstrations to bring physics to the public.  I still work for the observatory on campus that’s sponsored by the physics department.  When the observatory was opened, it was mostly used by students and professors, which deeply upset me!  I am currently working as the program director–putting on events for the public that allows them to get involved with the department and learn about the universe.  It’s incredibly fulfilling, and I’m gaining some of the same fulfillment at Bertrand.  I appreciate that they not only farm in a sustainable way, but actively educate the surrounding community about their practices.

During these weeks at Bertrand, I have learned many applicable skills, met interesting, like-minded people, and been able to do a lot of reflection on my community, its needs, and how to meet those needs.  I look forward to recording my experiences on this blog and continuing to grow as a farmer, as a member of this community, and as a sustainable person.

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.

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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.


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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

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