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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.


There’s Creativity in Everything

This is the delightful work of our summer farm hand Sam.  After a successful Wednesday CSA harvest I gave Sam the duty to stack up all of the harvest bins to dry.  This was his creation.  Being a teacher at heart I always love to see what someone can create given the opportunity.

Now to the main topic of today’s post:  What to do with those fresh veggies from the farm?

Well our Wednesday CSA members got a plethora of produce and I wanted to share something that I made from it (Yes me and Asa get to indulge in Bertrand Farm’s delicious produce too!)

Tofu Scramble w/ Bertrand Farm’s Veggies (serves 2-3)

– 2 spring onion (sliced thinly)

– 1 large clove garlic (minced or finely chopped)

– 2 medium sized beets (roughly chopped)

– 1 package extra firm tofu (cut into 1/2 inch chunks)

– 4 chinese cabbage leaves (roughly chopped)

– beet greens (from above beets)


Pour 2-3 Tablespoons olive oil in skillet.  Set on medium heat.  When hot add onions, garlic, and tofu.  Season w/ ginger, chili powder, cumin, salt, & pepper.  Cook for 10 minutes turning regularly to crisp sides of tofu evenly.  Add chopped beets to skillet.  Continue cooking until beets are fork tender (10-15 minutes).

In another pan heat up 1 Tablespoon olive oil over medium heat.  Add chinese cabbage and beet greens.  Saute for 5 minutes.  Splash with 1-2 Tablespoons soy sauce.  Cover with lid to wilt greens (5-10 minutes).

Serve immediately over cooked brown rice.  Drizzle w/ extra soy sauce, hot sauce, or whatever suites your taste buds!

*Note:  I used two pans instead of one because I didn’t want the coloration from the beets to bled into the greens.  Also when I cook, I”m a taster so I don’t always know how much of this or that I use.  Trust your tongue is my advice!


Doing the Dance

Somehow it slipped my memory to write last week’s blog post.  I’m not sure how I could forget the memorable experience several of our working CSA members had last Saturday.  What was it?  You might ask.  Well it all started in the way back of the farm, among the beautiful green bushy plants growing from the ground.  Around 9 AM we strolled down the shaded treeline to our destination, our possibly favorite crop on the farm……..POTATOES!!!

I bet any of you who have been out to the farm and worked in the potatoes now know what it was we were doing.

Look closely.  Can you see them on the stems and leaves?  What are they?  Colorado Potato Beetles!  Theri says the farm gets them every year and each season we spend some quality time eliminating these ruthless pests.

Luckily on this particular Saturday the damage was marginal.  We only had a handful of plants that looked like the one above.  In our remaining time, me and my crew managed to comb through 4 – 1oo hundred foot rows looking for the beetle in all of its stages.

The beetle starts off as a cluster of bright yellowish-orange eggs underneath the leaf of the potato plant and occasionally any neighboring weeds.  Then they hatch and turn a dark pinkish color with black heads.  As they grow they become more plump and lighten in color.  Anyone who is on Colorado Potato Beetle eradication duty will attest to the similar color stains they leave on your fingers (from smashing!).  Eventually they mature into full-grown adults like the picture below.

The second of the two beetles is lingering in the shadows behind the illuminated female.  From my experience there are always  two adults together when you find them because the role of an adult Colorado Potato Beetle is: 1) lay copious amounts of eggs (usually 2-4 clusters per plant) and 2) stay busy reproducing to be able to lay more eggs.

After collecting over a cup of beetles, in all different stages, we took them back to a hard surface in front of the barn and I allowed our members to partake in a dance party of sorts, squashing them all!  The first photo in the post is of John and Steve inflicting the pain.  I told them that in the future, whenever they enter the potato field, the beetles will know that they are the reckoners and are to be feared.  Let’s hope it wards off those  pesky buggers for at least a few more weeks!  All in all I think it was an enjoyable experience for them.

The Perks of Being a Farmer

I’ve talked to many individuals over the years about the monotony of their professions.  The long hours they spend slaving over their work.  The repetition of trivial arguments between coworkers.  The lack of stimulation, excitement, or appreciation one receives in their daily dealings.  I suppose that these little things have steered me along my professional path through the years and brought me here to Bertrand Farm.

I wanted to become a chef until I worked 3 to 11 in a restaurant all summer long in high school.

I wanted to be a carpenter until my pleasure for building things slowly slip away at a construction job I worked all through college.

I wanted to teach students until my dissatisfaction for the educational system pushed me to come up with more creative ways for learning.

I wanted to become a farmer because I wanted to simplify my life and kept coming back to the premise that first and foremost I must have food to survive.

PLUS: I love being outside.  I love watching plants grow.  I love sharing delicious healthy produce with others.  I love having animals.  I love early sunrises and sunsets.  I love learning.  I love being challenged.  And I love that I can physically exhaust myself daily knowing that what I accomplished was meaningful to me.

We all have such motives for why we do what we do.  And there are pros and cons to every career.

I like to talk about this topic because many young adults struggle to find something they truly enjoy doing.  When I was a child all I knew was that my dad did this and my mom did that.  Not realizing, the journey one embarks upon in adulthood trying to find a career, can be tumultuous and uncertain.  My naive little brain  thought that acquiring a career was similar to a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat, it just happened.  Or like when I played cops and robbers with my cousin, you assumed the role, simple as that.  Life experience has taught me that I need to have a passion for what I do because there are going to be times that I don’t like it and need to be able to persevere.

My role on the farm has become really enjoyable to me thus far because I get to watch Theri, a seasoned farmer, go about getting things done as she has done for years.  Observe the subtleties in her decisions and learn from her.  I also get to be around PJ, our HS intern from Clay.  He wants to go into sustainable agriculture, but is a freshman farmer in the fields.  Watching him learn each day, ask questions, and experience the farm is neat to be apart of.  Then I get to spend time with our CSA workers who have committed to growing their food for the season, getting a little dirty, and enjoying the community that being on the farm develops.  Life at Bertrand Farm for me is good!

I guess this all came to my mind today while strolling around the farm after working a few hours in the cold nasty weather, feeling a bit more worn down than usual.  My last stop before taking off was the pigs.  I visit them religiously every day.  They were SO EXCITED to see me that my mood lifted and I was reminded why I love this work so much.

They are awesome!

Get ‘er Done!

Farm work seems to be never-ending.  If I ever come to a point in the day when I’ve run out of things to do, I remember I could always be hoeing!  It rare when weeds take a break from competing with vegetables for sun, water, and nutrients. Me and Theri do most of the hoeing ourselves, but larger projects we save for days when our wonderful working CSA members will be here.  At Bertrand Farm, that’s Wednesday and Saturday mornings.  While I’ve been told by members that one may feel like part of a hard-working chain gang at times, I promise it’s always a fun morning.

This week our CSA’ers were working like clockwork transplanting our tomato family vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant).

These are our Wednesday workers.  It’s doesn’t get any better than chatting with like-minded people while growing food!

Our Hole Digger

Our Mater Transplanter

Our Liquid Fish Fertilizer

With this team, we were able to get 150+ plants in the ground… only 2 month until fresh tomatoes!!!

For all those non-foodies of the world, if you purchase fresh tomatoes in May at the farmers market there’s a good chance they’ve been trucked in from somewhere else, a pet peeve of mine.  There is a slight chance they were grown in a local greenhouse, but it’s still early even for them.  Either way, ask your farmer about your food.  You might be surprised what you hear.

While not all of our members worked in our Tomato Planting Team on Wednesday, those who didn’t spent some quality time tying up our beautiful young peas!   Bill swore that trellising peas was a very zen experience.

Our Pea Trelliser

All in all it was a great morning!  Just as it was today with our Saturday CSA’ers.  Thanks to all who dedicate themselves to growing food; you make the world go round!

Farm Update

Every week bring changes at Bertrand Farm.  Thankfully the dueling ducks have made amends and are now buddies again.  After our Wednesday visit from our Montessori students, our mama barn cats decided to abandon their current nesting spots in the barn.  We had a mild panic for a day trying to locate where they moved to.  Theri was worried they had taken them up into the floor boards in the hayloft.  Luckily some of the mamas returned back to their original places the next day.  We found our oldest kittens in a bay in the barn across the driveway (looks like this kitten needs her eye medicine), but we still have two missing litters.  FYI for any youngsters who come out to the farm, we might enlist you as kittens detectives.

In other farm events, I began our chicken tractor experiment.  For the last two months, I noticed that our chickens are not producing nearly as many eggs as should be expected for the amount of hens in our flock.  Thus I have begun using process of elimination to find the hens that are not pulling their weight on the farm.  So I am capturing chickens, breed by breed, and keeping them in our chicken tractor for a few days to see if they are laying eggs regularly or not.  What happens to those not producing you might wonder?  Into the pot they go.

First up are the lovely black ones with the brownish tint, their true name I do not know.

Did you know that chickens are the closest living species to the T-Rex?  I think this picture is a perfect comparison!

Last, but not least.  Our potatoes have broken ground.  We’ve been wondering what they were doing for so long under there?  Now, with most rows all filled in, we have an excellent opportunity to start tilling the walk paths for weed control.  Several of our noble working CSA’ers will be arming themselves behind our beastly walk-behind tillers for the task tomorrow morning!

Damien’s Garden Wisdom for the week:  Did you know that potatoes and tomatoes are related?  They actually look very similar.  Some tomato varieties even have leaves that are identical to potatoes (we are growing some on the farm).  The major difference of course is potatoes grow in the ground and tomatoes above it.


Duck Dueling

Given our diversity of animals on the farm, there rarely is a dull moment.  Whether it’s one of our cats having kittens, the arrival of baby chicks, or the discovery of a family of bunnies in the field.   We all enjoy having animals around to make farm life more interesting.  This past week was no exception.  While I did notice the guinea hens on the move, in search of the perfect nesting spot, I was most taken by the daily duck dueling that was going on.  Our predicament is that we have 3 ducks (l to r): 1 male mallard, 1 imitation male mallard (he’s a little bigger), and 1 female mallard.  Thus, our numbers are unequal.  Ducks apparently, like chickens, do not draw distinctions between varieties when looking for mates.  The daily scene on the farm is that of the two men chasing each other around trying to out do the other and win the rights to the female mallard.  Unfortunately victory is short-lived and the dual starts again each day.   

      For today our champion is our imitation mallard.

He’s not shy about bragging.

One might assume that I spend a large part of my time watching the animals and taking pictures.  I guess I do take notice of their behavior most days, but not to worry, Theri keeps me on task enough to make sure that the fields are becoming filled with lots of scrumptious vegetables for our CSA.  Just planted 4 new rows of beans today with our high school intern PJ!

Grow Baby Grow!

It’s May and the warmth of summer appears to be soon to come on the farm.  With April dumping plenty of rain, everything on the farm is really starting to take off.  The end of frost weary nights are hopefully behind us.  Bring on the heat! Of course nothing above 85 and preferably with low humidity.  While we humans are picky about our summertime weather, the plants soak up everything they can get.  Below some green onions are shooting up like rockets.

The past few weeks, me, Theri, PJ (our high school intern), and occasionally Anna (from Prairie Winds Farm) have been working tirelessly to put plants in the ground.  To date our brassicas are in the ground, our greens have made the transition from the greenhouse, 3 successions of peas are forming tendrils, the potatoes sit 3-5 inches beneath the soil waiting for their sprouts to reach the light of day, and the beans are beckoning germination.  Our raised boxes are filled with carrots, baby lettuce mix, and a spicy greens mix.  We’ll be continuing with biweekly successions of many of these crops throughout the growing season.

This picture is of the spicy greens mix.  I can see Arugula, Red Mustard, Tatsoi, Mizuna, and Red Russian Kale in there.  Theri decided to try some out this season upon my recommendation.  I guarantee if you like flavor, you’ll love this greens mix!

Even as this crop season begins, we still have remnants of last year’s finishing up.  Because of the our mild winter, our curly kale was able to overwinter and go the seed.  Kale is a biennial, meaning it takes two growing seasons to produce seed.  It’s been a huge pollinator magnet for us early this season.

Last but not least, our working CSA members had their first day on the farm yesterday, Hooray!  (I of course forgot to snap a photo.)  We’re happy to have many returning members as well as some new ones.  When I ask these members why they prefer to be working members, I was told: 1) we get spend time building relationships with like-minded individuals, 2)  we get to talk about green smoothies, learn about local food sources, and discuss broader national food issues, and 3) we get some “me time”, coming out to the farm and working a few hours is relaxing and enjoyable!

Sound appealing?  If so, we still have  working memberships available.  Come join in the fun!  For further information visit our website Bertrand Farm or check us out on Facebook.

New Additions

This week has reminded us of what true spring weather feels like.  My cheeks are quite wind burned from the 30+ mph winds on the farm today.  Unfortunately, the weather has not been the greatest for some of our new arrivals.

Number 1: Turkeys!  I showed up Tuesday morning to find 6 new poults in a box brought back by Theri from the feed store.  They are currently sharing space with the baby chicks, who are not so BABY any more (look in background to see a passing chick on the top right).  Young turkeys are incredible sensitive during their first few weeks of life.  We lost one last  night, but are crossing our fingers from here on out.

Number 2: Pigs!  On Wednesday while our GS students were at the farm Brad Bradshaw brought our feeder pigs for the summer.  This year Bertrand Farm will be raising 4 Tamworth pigs, 2 boys and 2 girls.

His wife also sheered our lone sheep on the farm.  She’s feeling 20 lbs lighter!  Well, maybe not quite that much.  Wish I had a before photo.  

I’ve never been around pigs before and am eager to learn more so Theri gave me a book  to read.  It said the first thing to do was spend time with them and observe their behavior so I went back to their pasture at the end of the day to chat.  When I walked around the corner I caught them in this shot.

It’s going to be a summer full of photogenic moments with the pigs!!!

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