Stout Oak Farm

Apr 27, 2016

Scenes of Spring

By: Julia Holup

Springtime has arrived at Stout Oak Farm, and our fields are ripe with activity. Our season is off to a strong start with the help of a mild winter and our talented new farm crew. Together, we've been hard at work preparing for the months ahead and heeding the wise words of Margaret Atwood: "In the Spring at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt."

And delightfully dirty we've been. Here's a peek at what's been happening on the farm:

All month, we've been busy preparing the fields for planting - discing, tilling, fertilizing, and irrigating beds of soil to create comfortable conditions for our young seedlings to take root.

Planting is also a top priority. Sugar snap peas, arugula, baby kale, lettuce, napa cabbage, and bunched kale plants have already found their way into our soil. Soon, spinach and bok choi will follow. (Left) Abbie and Amber plant kale at the top of the hill. (Right) Amber transplants Red Russian kale.

Peppers, bright green and vigorous.
Meanwhile, we are hard at work in the greenhouse - seeding flats of plants for both the farm and our annual Spring Plant Sale. Many of our plants, such as tomatoes and peppers, have already outgrown their cells and are ready to be pricked out and transplanted into a larger pot, where they'll thrive from now until they find a new home  - in our fields or a future garden.

As the days grow longer, so do our to-do lists. Spring is a notably busy time on a farm. Yet it's a season that demands patience as much as hustle. Sometimes a rain shower puts tilling on hold for the day, or a mother Killdeer decides to build her nest in the middle of the field. In which case, it's all you can do to pause for a moment and admire nature at work at the turn of the seasons.

A Killdeer nest found in the middle of our fields one morning.

Apr 20, 2016

Introducing Our 2016 Farm Crew: Amber Walker

By: Julia Holup

Assistant Grower, Amber Walker

If you spend time in Exeter, it's likely you may have seen Amber's smiling face around town. An Exeter native, Amber is a veteran of the small business community. Before joining Stout Oak, she worked for over a decade at such downtown establishments as Blue Moon Evolution and St. Anthony's Bakery where she specialized in various kitchen and retail positions. 

"I really just love my community," Amber echoes. 

A passion for community, food, and farming led Amber to Stout Oak this year. Throughout the season, she hopes to build upon her knowledge of vegetable cultivars,  enhance her growing skills, and learn more about the systems behind organic vegetable production. "It's going to be an adventure," says Amber, "and I'm really looking forward to it."

Outside of the farm, Amber enjoys keeping her hands busy.  She currently lives in Kensington with her partner, their four children, and a gaggle of pets. There she enjoys homesteading, tending a thriving garden, and caring for a flock of new laying hens.  

Fun Facts About Amber: 

Favorite Vegetable: "Asparagus!"
Cooking Inspiration: "The Enchanted Broccoli Forest," or any book by Mollie Katzen. 
Free Time Fun: "Reading, learning, and adventuring." 

Stay tuned for more bios about our fantastic new crew! 

Apr 14, 2016

Introducing Our 2016 Farm Crew: Abbie Hatch

By: Julia Holup

Assistant Grower, Abbie Hatch

A self-described Mainer at heart, Abbie grew up in Fairfield, ME and currently lives with her fiancĂ© in South Berwick. Before joining the Stout Oak crew, Abbie worked in education and childcare, primarily with preschoolers. 

She first discovered her passion for sustainable agriculture while working on an educational farm on Martha's Vineyard. It was during this time she realized she wanted to get her hands dirty and learn more about the craft of growing vegetables on a full working farm. In 2015, she completed a MOFGA apprenticeship at Frinklepod Farm in Arundel, ME. 

This season, we're excited to have Abbie join Stout Oak as an Assistant Grower. She brings to the job experience in organic vegetable production and a passion for healthy food, nutrition, and the farming craft. 

"I love being outside everyday and getting my hands dirty," Abbie adds. "I'm looking forward to working at a female-powered farm and learning more about the large variety of crops grown here." 

Fun Facts About Abbie: 

Favorite Vegetable: "Beets. Don't have to think about that one!"
Cooking Inspiration: "I'm inspired by the seasons. I like to be true to what's growing in the moment."
Free Time Fun: "Hiking, camping, kayaking, and being outside as much as possible. Baxter State Park is my favorite spot."

Stay tuned for more bios about our fantastic new crew! 

Apr 10, 2016

adventurous, for a chicken

It may not feel like spring this morning, but it is time for our chickens to get out onto our pastures and growing fields!  Jeff moved them out of their winter coop, got them loaded into their "summer home" and drove them across the street to one of our future vegetable fields. They are already eating weed seeds like crazy!

Mar 30, 2016

Overwintered Spinach: Spring's Sweetest Secret

By: Julia Holup, Assistant Manager

You may have noticed recently on our Facebook page (see: evidence pictured above) that we're a little spinach-crazy at the moment. We're picking, washing, and savoring those dark, textured leaves for markets, restaurants, and our own plates, too. After a winter of root vegetables, it's hard to resist a bright, classic spinach salad. And right now,  there's no better time to enjoy spinach. Those of you who came by the market last Saturday to pick-up a bag of your own might know what we're talking about. Overwintered spinach: Spring's sweetest secret. 

Spinach is a cold-hardy crop that thrives in cool conditions, making it ideal for early Spring or Fall plantings. Just yesterday, we sowed trays of spinach which will be planted out into our fields in the coming weeks. However, this spinach differs from "overwintered" spinach in taste, texture, and timing. "Overwintered" spinach refers to spinach that was planted in the Fall, protected from winter's harshest temperatures by some sort of cover or insulation, and then allowed to finish its growing in the early Spring. As you can see pictured above, our spinach was planted both inside a hoop house (top left) and outside under plastic-covered low tunnels (third photo at top), each of which provided a warmer, more insulted environment for the plants to endure the winter. 

What makes overwintered spinach so sought-after is its sweet taste and unique texture. As temperatures drop, the plants convert their starches into sugars as a survival technique, lowering the plants' freezing temperature and enabling them to endure the winter. What's beneficial to the plant is also advantageous to the eater. The process concentrates the plant's flavors, resulting in a sweet, irresistible leaf. 

The texture of overwintered spinach leaves is also distinguishable. While spinach planted and harvested during the season often bears small and smooth leaves, overwintered spinach frequently has large, thick, and savoyed leaves that are juicy and crinkled around the edges. These characteristics help the plant to tough it out through the winter season. But lovers of baby spinach shouldn't be intimidated by its size or appearance. Overwintered spinach is wonderful chopped into a salad, lightly sautĂ©ed, or showcased in a tasty saag paneer.  However you use it, savor its special sweetness. It only comes around once a year. 

Wondering how you can get your hands on your own bag? We have lots more to come in the weeks ahead. You can find us at the Winter Farmers' Market at Exeter High School on April 23rd, and the Exeter Farmers' Market in May. 

Interested in joining our vegetable CSA or purchasing a Farm Store Credit Share? Find out more information, here