Tiny Farm School – The Story of a Bean
New Morning Farm used to be known as the "bean farm," because in the past, Jim and Moie Kimball Crawford grew lots and lots of green beans! The 95-acre certified-organic vegetable farm in south-central Pennsylvania is a bit more diversified now, but green beans are still a major crop. They grow 2 varieties – "Jade" (everyone's favorite), and the lighter green, fatter "Provider."
Jades require warmer conditions and have a longer period to maturity than Providers. So while it would be great to grow Jades all season long, Providers are the first and last planted and play a crucial backup role during extended wet periods when fields aren't accessible for Jade planting.
The earliest generations start in the greenhouse in early April – 2 beans per cell in a 72-cell flat X 70 flats … that's a lot of green beans! After a couple of weeks, they transplant the beans into plastic mulch and hoop and row cover to protect them from the spring frost. In mid-May, when the ground is ideally warm enough and dry enough, Pearl, the field manager, gets into the field on a tractor and seeds directly into the bare ground.
Green beans are not very frost-hardy, so the folks at New Morning Farm have put a lot of time into learning best practices for season extension. They plant 20 or 21 generations of beans to ensure a steady supply throughout the summer and fall, and harvest from June to October. Late plantings are always a gamble, so when the temperature drops, the race is on!
Caitlan, the apprentice who manages the bean crop, regularly checks in. She watches their size and determines when it's time to harvest. She estimates how many bushels of beans a patch will yield, checks how many cases the markets are asking for and offers any excess to the Tuscarora Organic Growers Cooperative. The harvesting crew, composed primarily of three guestworkers from Jamaica, picks the beans. As the crop comes in, Caitlan makes any necessary adjustments.
Each bushel is weighed and labeled. The final destination? Your dinner table – freshly harvested and organically grown!