A Note From Layton | Summer Solstice at Quail Hill Farm

June 21, 2023

By Layton Guenther

Farms for the Future
Quail Hill Farm

Summer Solstice brings about the longest days of our growing season here at 41°N, ushering in a whole new pace and tenor to our workdays. Now several months into working together, you’ll see our crew working about the farm in smaller teams executing important and highly skilled tasks critical to keeping the fields clean and cared for: transplanting, irrigating, handweeding and soon, staking and stringing our earliest tomato round.

On June 17 we welcomed members of all stripes to Birch Hill for a riff on our classic farm breakfast, Coffee and Community! After a stormy night and early morning, we gathered under brightening skies to enjoy baked goods, coffee and juices, and to catch up and meet new members. Many, many thanks to all who brought a dish to share, and to Kathy Masters for organizing this event!

If you’ve spent time in the peas this spring, you’ll notice an abundance of ladybugs crawling about. Anecdotally, farmers and entomologists are calling this an “aphid year,” on account of the glut of aphids we’re seeing on our spring crops. Ladybugs are a beloved beneficial insect and happen to love gorging themselves on aphids – one source I read shared that they can eat up to 50 aphids a day.

Other insects you’ll notice out and about include the dreaded Colorado Potato Beetle. Taking but a few steps into our potato fields, you’ll likely notice the adults, small, ovate with a copper-colored head and pinstripes on its back that would make Beetlejuice jealous. Counterintuitively, however, the tiny offspring of the CPBs are what farmers fear the most. Voracious eaters, the CPB larvae can quadruple in size in a matter of days and can defoliate a vigorous potato plant in as little time as well. To control for CPB larvae, we treat the plants with a combination of Azadirachtin (active ingredient in Neem oil), Pyrethrin (insecticide found in a certain species of Chrysanthemum) and Spinosad (a soil-based bacteria). With any luck, we’ll keep the hungry masses at bay long enough to get a decent spud crop. If you see them about, give them a squish! Your farmers thank you.

Enjoy the coming weeks on the farm– you’ll start to see the (literal!) fruits of our labor in summer squash and zucchini, and soon, cucumbers. And please, thank your farmers – this year’s crew has worked tirelessly to keep the fields abundant and beautiful.

Happy Solstice, and see you in the fields,


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