Loaves and Fishes tomatoes

Grow and Give 2018: Produce in Production

In Gardening, News, Serving our Community by Jessie Jacobson

This week, we are featuring a guest blogger from Kimberly Greene-DeLanghe, the Site Coordinator and Farm Manager for Farm for All, which provides thousands of pounds of food to Loaves & Fishes.

Loaves and Fishes Farm for All

From Kimberly Greene-DeLanghe:

2018 has been the 4th year of Loaves & Fishes’ farm to table initiative, Farm For All. Since our second season, Tonkadale Greenhouse has graciously donated the seeds and plant starts to make this part of our mission possible. Often nonprofits are only able to get donations from leftover stock at the end of a sales season, but Tonkadale Greenhouse provides all of our seeds and plant starts at prime planting time and grown to order! This allows us to plan the entire field preseason and to use succession planting, where we plant multiple times in the same beds during a single season. In addition to succession planting of our edible crops, this year we have also focused on growing cover crops like buckwheat in any areas of the field where our vegetable crops have finished for the season. These areas of lush growth will be tilled back into the ground to build the organic matter in the soil and improve growing conditions for future years.

Loaves and Fishes saladWe focused on growing “salads” this year and that shows in the numbers. Throughout the summer, we plant heat tolerant lettuce every two weeks from starts grown in Tonkadale’s greenhouses. This year we have harvested 554 lbs of this lightweight crop. Other salad item weights include 521 lbs of red peppers, 798 lbs of cucumbers, 811 lbs of slicing tomatoes, and 1055 lbs of cherry tomatoes! This has been the most productive year yet for the Loaves & Fishes gardens. So far we have harvested about 6000 lbs of produce with 900 lbs being from the last two weeks. The produce is incorporated into meals at Loaves & Fishes’ 27 open to the public dining sites and used by our other community partners. In the summer we partner with youth programs to provide meals for youth and this year every single plate at youth programming utilized farm produce. In total farm produce has been on over 50,000 plates this season!

Lettuce and carnations growing through weed fabricThe growth in production this year to a projected over 7000 lbs from 4500 lbs last year is in part due to infrastructure improvements. This year a missions trip donated the materials and erected our new tomato trellises. We also started using landscaping fabric with holes burnt into it to reduce weed competition and water evaporation and replaced our ½” irrigation lines with 1” irrigation lines to provide adequate watering. All of these improvements are reusable for many years.

As for the rest of this year, we are still harvesting tomatoes, peppers, green beans, green onions, salad greens, herbs, radishes, and leeks. In early October, we will be adding compost to our new garlic beds and planting garlic for next year. Around that same time we will wrap up the growing season by composting plant material, taking down trellises, rolling up plastic mulch, removing our irrigation system and putting everything into storage until mid April when (weather permitting) we’ll start again with onions, peas, and cool weather greens.

Farm For All and our Loaves & Fishes dining sites are made possible by volunteers. Sign up to volunteer at the Loaves and Fishes website. If you have a group interested in volunteering at the farm and want to set up a time in late September/early October or the 2019 season, please contact Kimberly at farmforall@loavesandfishesmn.org.