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 • From a Run Out Hayfield to
    a Prosperous Organic Farm
    in Ten Easy Years

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 • Where We Sell
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 • Just Pretty
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 • Newsletter Archive.
 • What We Will & Won't Ship

 • Working Here
 • Our Apprentices
 • Our Farm Workers
 • Pictures of Us at Market

 • Fresh Vegetables
 • Fresh Fruit
 • Fresh Herbs
 • Perennials
 • Aloe - a magical plant
 • Our Bird Houses
 • Lupines
 • Rosemary Plants
 • Lovage, Tansy & Yarrow
 • Our Product Brochures
 • Dried Vegetables
 • Dried Culinary Herbs
 • Maple Syrup
 • Maple Syrup, p.2
 • Sugarin' Is Like Ice Fishin'
 • Our New Sugarhouse
 • Tomato Seedlings
 • Tomato Seeds We Offer
 • Tomato Seed Production
 • Paste Tomatoes
 • About Garlic
 • Garlic for Sale
 • Garlic Year Round
 • Mulching Garlic
 • Growing Rounds from Bulbils
 • Whole Bulbil Cluster Method
 • Planting Garlic

 • Using Mulches
 • Combatting Quackgrass
    with Mulch

 • We Want Your Leaves!
 • In Praise of Chips

 • Buying in Bulk for
    Storage, Canning & Freezing

 • Winter Storage Tips
 • How to Freeze Our Veggies
 • Building Techniques
 • Our Outbuildings
 • Evolution of the Farm Table
 • The Story of Our Cooler
 • Prepping Veggies for Market
 • Crop Rotations
 • Drip Irrigation
 • Low Pressure Water
 • Planting with Spreadsheets
 • Greenhouse Vegetable

 • Let-tuce Begin
 • Recipe Favorites
 • Our "Remay Roller"
 • Gardening Class Notes
 • Your Most Expensive Crop

 • Being Green
 • Digging Potatoes by Hand
 • Farmers' Markets in 2012
 • History of Pittsfield
 • Hybrids or Open Pollinated?
 • Making Websites
 • Open Source Software

    Our Retirement Plan
 • How Should a Farmer Retire?
 • Impediments to the want-to-be     farmer
 • Reducing the Value
    of the Land

 • Who Will Farm Here When
    We're Gone?

 • Apprentice Terms and Stages
 • From Apprentices to Partners
 • Transferring Farm Ownership

…and now for something completely different…

At dawn
Canoe bow waves are quickly lost
    on the shoreside
But go on out of sight
    on the lake side.


The constant swish-swish of skis
    On a day long ski.
The constant swish-swish of wiper blades
    On a day long drive.


My dog, trotting barefoot
Steps on a garden slug
And thinks
Nothing of it.


Word spreads quickly
as I approach the pond.
All becomes quiet.


Hidden in the vines
a large warted cucumber
jumps out of reach.
A toad!


Delicate puffs
of marshmallow snow
carefully perched
on a branch,
await the trigger of my hat
to melt their way down my back.

Deep in the tomato jungle
Fruits of yellow, purple and red
Tell of their readiness
To go to market.

Sugarin' Chores
Snowflakes hurry through my flashlight beam,
As my boots knead new snow with spring mud,
On my nightly Hajj to keep the boil alive,
For as long as possible until the dawn,
To match the power of the flowing sap,
With my meager evaporator and will.
The prize at the finish line are jars of syrup
And Spring.


Marketing garlic year round

by Tom Roberts, Snakeroot Organic Farm, Pittsfield

Garlic is a strange plant. When people at market ask about growing it themselves, I tell them to forget everything they know about how plants grow because garlic is different. It does not flower, and has no seeds. All reproduction is vegetative, so your harvest is genetically identical to your planting stock. You plant in late fall and harvest in mid-summer. Each year, garlic has two modes of reproduction, a one year plan (plant cloves, and get bulbs) and a two-year plan (plant bulbils, get rounds; plant rounds, get bulbs).

We grow stiff-neck, or rocambole, garlic exclusively. As the plant grows during the season, it produces a cluster of 12-20 bulbils at the top of the plant. Planting these bulbils in the fall produces garlic rounds---undivided garlics from chickpea to golf ball size---by mid July. These rounds behave just like cloves, and when planted in the fall, produce regular garlic bulbs in early August. Rounds may also be used just like garlic cloves in the kitchen.

Ninety percent of all the garlic we grow is on the two-year method, as this is the quickest way to expand production and allows us to sell all of our bulbs and not hold any back for planting. It also allows a wider range of garlic products of offer for sale.

Garlic bulbs are harvested in early August and are sold at farmers' market during the rest of the season. Many folks buy extra garlic late in the season to store through the winter. These bulbs keep pretty well till late winter, but few make it into May. Typically there is a "garlic-less" season from the time markets begin in May until the harvest begins again in August.

Therefore the problem arises how supply garlic to garlic-loving shoppers from May until August.

Many marketers have realized that cutting the scapes (curly-cue tops) in mid July offers the flavor of real garlic in another form several weeks before the season's bulbs are ready. So they begin teaching the garlic fans shopping at market to use scapes as garlic, too. Scapes can be cut up just like scallions to add real garlic flavor to any dish where you would use garlic cloves. Extra scapes can be chopped and frozen for later use. The Chinese are already accustomed to using them as tsuan tie. Koreans know them as manil chong. We offer them at market with anywhere from ten to twenty in a bunch for a dollar. They are such strange-looking items in a produce display, that many people want to know what they are. This provides a lead-in to explaining them, and we always ask people to taste them before using them, because they are not like garlic---they are garlic. "Think cloves, not chives."

For six years we have been selling more and more scapes as garlic fans look forward to this early-season taste of garlic. However, simply selling field-grown scapes provides only a few weeks additional marketing. We have taken this a step further by dedicating two eighty- foot beds in our greenhouse to early season garlic production. We generally plant in early January. This allows us to cut scapes in early June from the greenhouse garlic, and harvest garlic bulbs by early July. Thus we are simultaneously marketing both garlic bulbs (from the greenhouse) and garlic scapes (from the field) by mid July.

This leaves only a few weeks at market without garlic. So to solve this garlic void, we have developed two entirely "new" products at our stands.

One is garlic grass, where we plant a handful of bulbils in a tray in the spring, and sell it to cut like wheat grass to be added to salads, omlettes or stirfries. We do several plantings so we are able to offer flats of fresh young garlic grass all during May. Again, folks who taste samples are usually surprised by the strong true garlic flavor.

The second product is garlic scallions. These are akin to green onions, where onion thinnings are sold like scallions. Since we are able, using the two-year method, to produce large quantities of garlic bulbils, we grow some to be harvested early as garlic scallions. These are bunched like regular onion scallions, but since they are larger, we put six to ten in a bunch, and offer them next to the scallions with separate labeling. The flat leaves of garlic make them easy to tell apart from the round hollow leaves of onion scallions.

Unlike scallions or green onions, garlic scallions require removing the remains of the old round they grew from. This is quickly accomplished in the field along with any peeling required to remove older lower leaves that are beginning to yellow.

We discovered garlic scallions by accident this year because we neglected to harvest all of the rounds from last year's garlic patch. These field-grown garlic scallions were ready to harvest by late May. Next year we will take advantage of garlic's ability to grow in the cold by starting some early in the unheated greenhouse in order to offer garlic scallions to a garlic hungry public when markets start in early May.

Now our year-round garlic marketing looks like this: Our season will start off in May with garlic grass and greenhouse garlic scallions. Early June will see our greenhouse scapes at market along with field garlic scallions. By late June we will be offering greenhouse scapes and bulbs, which will continue until the field scapes taper off in late July, when we will be offering field bulbs until markets close in late October and November.

Even without a greenhouse, by using garlic grass, scallions and scapes, anyone with a garden can be eating fresh garlic just about year-round, and direct marketers can be teaching their customers about new forms of a favorite food available from their local grower all season.

For the shoppers who want to become growers of garlic, we also offer rounds and bulbils for sale at our market stands, as well as bulbs. Of course this also leads to some explaining of the garlic life cycle, which is entirely new to most people, even the most ardent of garlic fans out there.

Whether we are explaining garlic grass, garlic scallions, scapes, bulbils, rounds or the garlic planting cycle, we see this opportunity to inform people about garlic as a way to build non-monetary connections between the buying public and local farmers. Although we may end us selling them some scapes for dinner or garlic stock to plant, the information about garlic is free. And they will remember they heard it from a local farmer.

Tom Roberts has been growing organically since 1980, and selling organic produce at farmers' markets since 1983. He and Lois Labbe cultivate Snakeroot Organic Farm's two acres of market gardens in Pittsfield and attend the Unity, Fairfield, Orono and Pittsfield Farmers' Markets.

This article appeared in the Fall 2001 issue of the Maine Organic Farmer and Gardener.

27 Organic Farm Road, Pittsfield Maine 04967
owned and operated by
Tom Roberts & Lois Labbe
Tom: Tom@snakeroot.net (cell) 207-416-5417
Lois: Lois@snakeroot.net (cell) 207-416-5418

Gardening for the public since 1995.

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