Category: What’s going on in the farm

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)!

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.

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!