The Green Thumb farm stand might be closed, but the greenhouses are busy growing produce for the nearly 30 shares of their winter CSA for Brookhaven National Labs. Only in its second year, the winter CSA is still in its trial phases but, if all goes well this season, they hope to open branches in Huntington and on the East End next year.
“We are trying to keep the numbers low because we are experimenting,”says Clinton Applin, an employee at the Green Thumb who manages their winter CSA. “We want to make sure we don’t get overextended.” After working at the farm for the past eight years, he proposed a winter program, because as he wanted to make his work “more of a year-round job.” The Brookhaven CSA was started with an employee of the lab, who was a member of the farm’s summer CSA with a drop off in Huntington. Applin delivers the vegetables to the lab, where the members pick them up.
The 13-week share boasts the wide variety of vegetables that the Green Thumb is known for, including Swiss chard, kale, arugula, mizuna, tatsoi, French breakfast radishes, spinach sweet potatoes, beets, winter squash, turnips, celery root and Jerusalem artichokes.
The winter greens are grown in two of three greenhouses at the farm, while the rest of the vegetables are harvested now and stored through the winter.
“The weather was so nice, we were still picking carrots outside,” says Applin, who was harvesting rutabaga during the interview last month.
“That’s the beauty of the CSA versus a farmstand, you can plan ahead,” says Applin. However, he admits that organizing the plantings in the greenhouse can be difficult. During the winter, the greenhouses mostly keep plants alive and are not able to generate new growth. This means the plants have to be timed to when the crops must be harvested.
“Last year we planted a little early, so they were ready in November when we were still picking in the fields. By February, things were going down,” says Applin. This year, he planted later and will keep the greenhouse colder longer.
“I wanted to start farming, I thought it would be a piece of cake,” says Applin, who first came to the Green Thumb to learn more about agriculture. He ended up staying because the farm is “really open to teaching, not just grunt work.”
Although organizing the winter CSA takes extra planning on Applin part, there is one bonus: fewer bugs and less weeding. “In the winter, it is just a matter of keeping the plants alive,” says Applin. “It gets to the point where the days are so short.”