Category: Newsletter

Going Green in the Greenhouse

Farming at Bishop’s Orchards has truly expanded over the years.  Part of that expansion has been the greenhouses located across the street from the store, behind the barn. In 2006 the first greenhouse was built with the second one following two years later. Originally built to grow the vegetable transplants to be put in our fields, but now they’re being used for several reasons. From April through September, they are used daily to grow not only vegetable transplants, but flower transplants for the fields, and potted herbs for the store.

Now I know what you’re thinking….what is a vegetable transplant? I was wondering the same thing. But thanks to Michaele Williams, the Assistant Farm Manager, she explained the process to me. “A transplant is seeded in our greenhouse 4-6 weeks before the last chance of frost to get a head start. It is then transplanted to our field after the chance of any frost has passed,” Michaele explains. “We have a total of about 90,000 transplants. We germinate approximately 38,000 flower transplants, with the majority being Zinnias (16,000). We also do about 4,000 Sunflowers and a mix of Lisianthus, Delphiniums, Bachelors Buttons, Statice, Snapdragons, Cockcomvs, Queen Anne’slace, and an assortment of others which are for sale in the store and through a CSA share. Every seed is started in the greenhouse and are then brought outside and planted in the fields.”

Michaele added that this year we are also doing more vegetable transplants than we’ve ever done before. And you know what that means? More farm fresh produce to purchase in the store! We will have, Brussel Sprouts, Cucumbers, Cantaloupes, Fennel, Kale, Peas, Peppers, Radicchio, Summer Squash, Winter Squash, and a large quantity of Tomatoes (about 10,000 transplants). New to the crop this year are the Swiss Chard, Pedrone Peppers, and Broccolini transplants.

In addition to vegetables, every year one of our most popular greenhouse items hits the shelf – our Mother’s Day baskets! 75 baskets are made and within two weeks we’re completely sold out. The reason for such high demand is not only because they make the perfect gift, but because of what’s in them and how easy we make it to plant and grow them right at home. The main herbs you could find in them are Basil, Dill, Oregano, Thyme, Chive, Cilantro or Tarragon. They are put into a biodegradable bowl that can either then be put right into a planter, or if you want them to grow larger, you can separate them and plant them individually. We are also adding two new bowls to the shelf – a Lettuce bowl which will contain a combination of both red and green lettuce, and a mixed Kale bowl that can be eaten raw or used for sauteing.

Not only do we sell our herbs and vegetables in the store, but they are also used in our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.  Local restaurants like to get in on the farm fresh goodness too!  South Lane Bistro in Guilford is one of our largest supporters and uses many of our herbs and vegetables to cook with, as well as garnish dishes, in their restaurant. While there are other restaurants that use our fresh, seasonal produce, we are hoping to partner with more restaurants in the community.  Many chefs want that local farm fresh flavor, and knowing exactly where the food they are cooking with is coming from.

If you’re interested in learning more about our herbs and vegetables or starting a partnership with us, give us a call at 203-453-2338 or visit our website at www.bishopsorchards.com. AND be sure to check back soon for our Mother’s Day baskets (available two weeks before Mother’s Day)!

Convenience Eating Made Nutritious

Convenience more than ever plays a prominent role in food choices of today’s consumers. It determines where, when, why, what, and how you eat and prepare your meals, with two perceptions of convenience being related to both time and effort. The demand for convenience foods is at an all time high, especially with home delivery for groceries, meal kits and internet shopping. Here at Bishop’s Orchards we have added convenient traits to certain products marked healthy/beneficial, to compete with this demand, while staying fresh, local and true to our name.

Convenience foods don’t always have to mean take-out and prepared foods in the form of canned soups or quick-cook pasta and rice. Here at the farm market, we limit the amount of processed foods due to the amount of added artificial ingredients. Our Prepared Meals are made with fewer ingredients, with “real foods” on the list. These meals can be heated in the microwave or oven, with side dishes to accompany. Try our Grab N’ Go Crock Pot or Grill Meals, made with fresh ingredients here with everything you need in one bag! They feed a family of 4-5, with no gluten, vegan & vegetarian options available! In the near future, you will even have the option to order online. We will be offering a Webcart option, for ordering all your Bishop’s groceries, for pick-up right at the farm market, taking Grab N’ Go to a whole new level.

Despite the time and effort required for meal prepping, there still comes a sense of gratification when you “prepare” a meal. For this purpose, “Meal Prep Mondays,” or any day of the week, have become a huge success by providing a designated & convenient time set aside. Bishop’s can be your one-stop-shop for enough vegetables, fruit, meats & healthy carbs to plan individual meals or family servings. Everything from salad mixes and marinated, diced & potatoes, to stuffed chicken breast and side dishes. Plan ahead with batch cooking – making a meal in a large quantity that you can freeze in small portions. While you are portioning off, plan healthy snacks to have on hand at all times! Include no-sugar added yogurts, whole fruit, hummus packs with pretzels or veggies, etc. Store them in the fridge or pantry, creating a strategy with minimal time but long run success.

Remember, when thinking of convenience, always be conscious of keeping “healthy” a main factor, with Bishop’s Orchards Farm Market & Winery in mind as your sole provider.

Integrated Pest Management Process (IPM)

Every year we get asked about how we manage our pest problems, and honestly it’s a difficult question to answer. Not that we have reservations about telling anyone – in fact, we are quite proud of our pest management program.

There are two types of pest (and disease) control programs: Organic, and what people call “conventional”. Organic is fairly simple in that only organic based (derived from natural sources) products are used for disease, insect, and plant nutrition. For some reason many people feel Organic means unsprayed. But, in fact Organic crops frequently are sprayed more than Farms using non organic products.

pest management at bishop's orchardsI put parentheses around “conventional” because that is what not being Organic is referred to in the media. Conventional is a term that goes back to the 60’s and 70’s, when synthetic pesticides were new and used to describe a program of Orchard sanitation (kill everything). Basically, the conventional program evolved around the calendar, “It’s the first week of June so we spray.”

That type of program lost its steam when Orchard sanitation failed and people started to realize you need to work within the ecosystem of the farm to manage pest and disease issues. This was the beginning of a program called Integrated Pest Management or IPM – the type of program we follow today.

An IPM program follows a series of guidelines to help a farmer make sound, science based decisions on the actions taken to control pest or diseases. Any given decision is based on multiple factors, creating a complicated process. Factors include weather/environmental conditions, presence or lack of predator insects, establishment of a threat, and meeting threshold numbers for target insects. If a determination is made, a control is needed. Then we evaluate our control options to target whether or not the pest (or disease) is safe, minimally invasive, but can control the target to maintain numbers below an economic threshold. However, sometimes scouting and analysis might show no need to treat. The threshold numbers for control may not have been met, and the weather may not be advantageous for disease to take hold.

For our IPM program we utilize the University extension service to “scout” the Orchard weekly, helping with on site advice and informative research Emails. In addition, we do our own scouting to stay on top of what is going on in the Orchard. We also tract “degree hours”, insect stages, and tree stages which all give us information we use to make decisions.

For every crop we grow there are different Insects and diseases, and evaluations are different for each. It’s very complicated sometimes, but we have a very experienced staff that wants to preserve the longevity and legacy of Bishops Orchards. We do our best to assure the best and safest fruit we can provide our customers.

Featured Personality: Carrie Bishop Healy

Carrie Healy, part of the Bishop family’s sixth generation, always knew she wanted to come back into the family business, it was just a matter of time. Carrie started working at Bishop’s Orchards in high school doing various jobs – from cashier to managing the concessions trailer, she got an overall understanding of the family business at a young age. However, it is a family rule that in order for a family member to come back into the business, they have to do at least two years of business somewhere else, in a related field, to gain “real world” experience.

So, off Carrie went. First stop was college in the Boston area where she studied Accounting. She then worked for seven years in corporate Accounting and Auditing for two different companies. “I always wanted to come back into the business. Even in high school I knew someday I wanted to come back. After being in Boston and working those jobs, my husband and I wanted to start our family. Once we had our first daughter we decided it was a good time to move back to Guilford and join the family business.”

All her hard work in, and outside of the company paid off. Carrie was recently promoted from Accounting Manager to Chief Financial Officer. “With this new promotion I now deal with the administrative side of the business. Everything from financial information, books, HR, IT and the other administrative work we have – I oversee the strategic growth in all these areas.”

Working at Bishop’s is definitely more unique than being anywhere else, Carrie explains. “Going from Corporate America to this is definitely different, but it’s a nice family knit organization where you know everybody. You don’t have to have Bishop in your name to be treated like family and I think that’s a very important aspect of our business. We strive to treat everyone like our own and take care of each other – it’s a big piece of that for me, and that’s why I love it.”

As for the future of the company, Carrie says the biggest thing they strive for is that the business continues in the ever changing economy and food trend industry and they meet the wants and needs of the customers. “We always have to be on top of our game when it comes to what we offer to customers. We need to make sure we’re offering what our customers and community want in addition to figuring out what the niche markets enjoy so we can add experiences that aren’t already in the area. Our biggest thing is talking to our customers and seeing what they want and providing that to them through our business. We employ a lot of people in town which is important to us, and we want to make our employees and customers happy.”

True Meaning of Comfort Foods

We all at some point have heard a reference to “comfort foods.” To everyone specific comfort foods can be different, but more often than not, these items tend to land on the “non-healthful” side. At Bishop’s Orchards our definition of comfort food is valued differently. We challenge our customers to find comfort in where their food comes from. Though often a personal decision, we urge all our customers to care about where your food comes from. Hesitation with this comes from worry of disrupting your lifestyle. However with Farm Markets like us, our goal and mission is to provide a comfortable shopping environment, with all the information you need to know where your food comes from.

Comfort in Farm to Table:

Improve your family’s relationship with food by educating and appreciating where your food comes from. Help yours kids understand how vegetables are grown, how cheese is made, how cows and chickens are raised and emphasize that eating is an experience, which also nurtures your body. Inside Bishop’s Orchards Farm Market, not only will you find our own, locally grown produce and signature items, but you will also see a strong partnership with other local farms in our Cheese Department, Produce Department and our Specialty Fresh Meat Department. Our Fresh Meat Department, though small, stands out, featuring meat that is naturally raised, free range, grass fed, organic, natural and without use of antibiotics or growth hormones.

Comfort in What You Put Into Your Body:

Ever wonder why a bag of pre-cut & washed greens, is less expensive than unpackaged romaine hearts with dirt residue? How about a can of green beans verse the ones fresh from the produce department? When you bring home shelf stable and processed foods, this generally means you are buying a bunch of ‘add-ons’ that you may not want to be consuming. If you take a look at the ingredient list, you will see preservatives, hazardous trans fats, tons of sodium and sugars. Bishop’s Orchards carries a minimal amount of these foods for this particular reason. You can find comfort in what you are taking home from our market with fresh, made from scratch, and whole foods that depict clean eating.

Comfort in Supporting Local Economy:

What makes you feel most comfortable when feeding your family; knowing your fruit came from 5 miles down the road, or buying vibrant, perfect looking fruit from some farm in California? The true meaning of eating local is having a smaller carbon footprint. When your food doesn’t travel as far to get to your plate, it translates to less carbon emissions, which negatively impact the environment. Conventionally sourced produce can travel up to 1500 miles to get to your kitchen! Eating local also means your money stays in your local economy. Create a feeling of contentment when you purchase from local farms and markets because with your patronage, you are providing them with more opportunity to thrive and offer even more services and products to fit to your community’s needs and wants.

Back to Our Roots with Bishop’s CSA Program

Registration for the 2018 CSA Program at Bishop’s Orchards is officially open! For some, you might already know the benefits of being a part of this exclusive program. But for those of you who might not, here is a little background on what the CSA Program is and why you should join.

Our CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) program is designed to give customers an exclusive look into the farm side of Bishop’s Orchards by providing them with farm fresh products, information and news. It’s a way to show our customers what picking local and fresh truly means while exposing people to a side of the business that they haven’t seen before, and providing them with quality products throughout the harvest season.

In order to fit the needs of our customers, we have several different share sizes and options. From vegetables to fruits, cheeses and more, what you receive in your basket each week is always fresh, and locally grown from farms nearby. We also look for small farms that have unique products that add something to our CSA that’s different from any other. For example, garlic, ginger, and mushrooms – there’s a lot of unique products out there and we seek to expose people to not just the products but the farms that are growing them.

This year, we will have our full share (good for a family of 4) and medium share (good for 2-3 people) – both containing fruits and vegetables. We also have our Specialty Share (containing 2-3 Connecticut produced items), a Cheese Share, Egg Share, a Flower Share, and NEW this year, a Mushroom Share that will run for 10 weeks beginning in July. The mushrooms will be provided by Chatfield Hollow Farms in Killingworth, CT and includes varieties such as Maitake, Beech and Royal Trumpet.

Every shareholder will be given a weekly pick-up day and time of the week, where you will pick up your basket, take it home, enjoy what’s in it, and return it to be refilled the following week. AND, in addition to all these farm fresh items, you gain access to a community board. That way, if you don’t know what to make with the items in your share or proper storing, the community board allows you to chat with other local members, swap recipe ideas, and keep up to date on what to expect in your share each week.

Sounds like a pretty good deal, right? Whether you want flowers, mushrooms, fruits or vegetables, there’s sure to be a share option designed for your family and you. Space is limited, so if you’re interested in participating in our 2018 CSA Program, please visit http://csa.bishopsorchards.com/members/types to register today!

Featured Personality: Brad Isnard

Brad Isnard expected to spend his life out in California. But, when he moved to Connecticut in 1990, he took a job as an Orchard Foreman at Bishop’s Orchards, and over 20 years later he has a lot to show for his time here. He’s learned the ins and outs of the business and has become an expert on the production and caretaking of the land and crops grown on the farm. His time, experience, and expertise of the farm is what led to his recent promotion as the new Orchard Manager.

His role at the company allows him to oversee cider production and all packing and sales of Bishop’s items, in addition to activity and labor on the farm. When you think about winter on the farm, it’s easy to assume there’s nothing to do because it’s cold and there’s snow. But in actuality, winter is when all the pruning happens. “It’s the single biggest job we have on the farm,” says Brad. “But, in addition to pruning, we’re also buying seeds and are in the process of figuring out exactly what we’re going to grow for the coming year. From the squash you see growing out on the side of Long Hill Road, to tomatoes, asparagus and more. It takes a lot of time to get the seeds and plan for the season ahead, so the earlier we start the better.”

Brad also started the CSA Program (Community Shared Agriculture) here at Bishop’s Orchards. “I wanted to start the CSA Program because frequently the farm gets overshadowed by the store since it’s become such a substantial farm market. I thought the farm didn’t get the credit that it’s due. So, I wanted to create a program that showcased the farm and the products we grow while also allowing people to learn more about the farm since not many people know about agriculture. We also had a lot more land to utilize to grow more crops, so I wanted to find a way to bring people back to the farm so they could have a unique and exclusive experience.”

Working at Bishop’s has not only given Brad the flexibility he likes, but the atmosphere and the people give him a reason to appreciate coming to work every day. “The seasonal aspect of the job makes it all the more enjoyable. If there’s a job you don’t like, you don’t do it for long because there’s so many to do. And what makes working here unique is the fact that the owner’s are just as willing to “get in the ditch” as you are – I like the shared labor from top to bottom.”

Winter On The Farm

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 11.08.38 AM“So, what do you do in the winter?” is a question I often get asked. Quite a lot, actually. Winter is the time when we prep and repair equipment for the coming spring. We still have apples and pears in the cold storage to pack and sell.  We also try to save a few “inside” jobs for when it is actually raining or snowing, but mostly we are pruning our apple, pear and peach trees. As I mentioned in my last posting, we have 17,000 trees that must be pruned before April, so anytime it isn’t snowing or raining, we are outside pruning.

I have also had folks ask me why we prune if the trees aren’t very big yet. We actually start pruning or training the tree as soon as we plant it. It is important to get the tree started off right and the first several years in the life of a fruit tree is the time we build the framework or structure of the tree. Once the structure of the tree is established, the pruning process is mostly thinning, renewing and cutting back branches to maintain the tree. Over the years I have had friends, customers and neighbors with fruit trees who call several years after they have planted the tree in their yard and they figure it is time to think about pruning it. Usually in these cases the trees are too far gone to ever have a chance of establishing a proper structure.

There are lots of resources on the internet. Here is an example of one that covers the basics.

http://content.ces.ncsu.edu/training-and-pruning-fruit-trees-in-north-carolina

There are articles and even YouTube videos on the subject.

Pruning and training fruit trees are equal parts science and art (Some aspects of farming require equal parts science, art and luck.) Every tree is a little different, but once you understand enough about what the goals are, you can “see” the cuts you need to make. You will be pruning for the current crop, as well as leaving some branches that will be the renewal wood to take the place of the current framework and fruiting wood in the tree.

One of the things I love about farming is that you have a very tangible measure of what you have accomplished. At the end of a day, you can look back down a row or across a field and see what you have accomplished. There is beauty in a well-pruned tree and you can see you made a difference and imagine how that tree will look in the spring with blossoms or in fall, full of fruit.