May 24, 2017

Wolgast Tree Farm & Apiary at Duke Farm’s “Farm To Table” Market

Folks who venture out to Duke Farms on Saturdays should make a point to stop by and say hello at the Farm to Table Farmer’s Market.

Len and Mother-In-law, Gloria, in the  Wolgast Tree Farm & Apiary booth at Duke Farms Farm To Table Market in Hillsborough.

Len with his Mother-In-law, Gloria, in the Wolgast Tree Farm & Apiary booth at Duke Farms Farm To Table Market in Hillsborough.

This is the first time Wolgast Tree Farm & Apiary is participating in a farmer’s market as a vendor, and we’ve had a great time meeting people and sharing out enthusiasm for locally produced food – especially for local honey!

The Farm To Table Market at Duke Farms emphasizes  foods and other agricultural products that have been produced within about a 50-mile radius of Duke Farms.  Since we’re only about 10 miles away from Duke Farms our honey and other hive products fit right in.

We’ve been offering three distinct types of honey: “spring wildflower honey,” “fall wildflower honey” and “buckwheat-wildflower honey”.  The difference between the three is based on the flowers from which our bees have been collecting nectar.  Spring flowers produce a light, floral flavored honey, while the fall is darker and tastes more full-bodied.  The buckwheat-wildflower is the darkest of all and has a strong molasses-like flavor that many people find addicting.

Some of our hand-crafted soaps on display.

Some of our hand-crafted soaps on display.

Along with the honey, we’re offering an assortment of handcrafted beeswax lip balms (Lemon-Lavender, Wintergreen, Raspberry, Mandarin Clove) and soaps (Queen Bee Honey Soap, Balsam Honey Hemp Bar, Oatmeal Honey Scrub Bar, Honey Latte Shower Bar), and more.

Customers at the Farm To Table Market at Duke Farms checking out the lovely produce offered by Dogwood Farms.

Customers at the Farm To Table Market at Duke Farms checking out the lovely produce offered by Dogwood Farms.

Chatting with folks who come to the Farm to Table Market has been lots of fun, but so has meeting all the other wonderful vendors and seeing the beautiful fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses and other items they produce.  Two of the vendors, Dogwood Farms and Harvest Moon Farm,  are part of Duke Farms’ Incubator Farm program, which, in conjunction with the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA-NJ),  helps to bring along the next generation of farmers.

Kyle from Harvest Moon Farm showing fresh cut flowers to a visitor at Duke Farms' Farm To Table farmers market.

Kyle from Harvest Moon Farm showing fresh cut flowers to a visitor at Duke Farms’ Farm To Table farmers market.

They each offer a lovely spread of just-picked produce and other items every Saturday.

Green Duchess Farm is right around the corner from our farm on Bennetts Lane (howdy neighbor!).  They produce pastured pork, poultry and eggs, and specialize in raising the Bourbon Red, a Heritage Turkey breed that’s perfect for Thanksgiving (better order your bird early!).

Jessica from Green Duchess Farm talks turkey with a customer who wants to order one of her Bourbon Red Heritage Turkeys for Thanksgiving.

Jessica from Green Duchess Farm talks turkey with a customer who wants to order one of her Bourbon Red Heritage Turkeys for Thanksgiving.

Hot Sauce 4 Good is another local vendor at the market that offers an amazing variety of hot sauces. Many of the ingredients in the hot sauces include produce not only grown by New Jersey farmers, but on farms in Somerset county.  Something else that’s special about Hot Sauce 4 Good is that it’s produced

Hot Sauce 4 Good makes incredible hot sauce that benefits many charities both in New Jersey and around the world.  Many of the ingredients come from New Jersey farms which adds another layer of "good" to an already giving enterprise.

Hot Sauce 4 Good makes incredible hot sauce that benefits many charities both in New Jersey and around the world. Many of the ingredients come from New Jersey farms which adds another layer of “good” to an already giving enterprise.

for the benefit of many deserving charities, both around the world and in the Garden State.  At least $1 from each bottle sold is donated to these charities.  So far the efforts of the good people behind Hot Sauce 4 Good has raised over $65,000. Great hot sauces for great causes!

A trip to Duke Farms is worthwhile by itself, but we think the addition of the Farm to Table Market on Saturdays is even more reason to visit.  How often does one get the opportunity to have access to truly LOCAL, seasonal foods and can chat with the actual persons who produced them?  Plus, the food is delicious and supporting these farmers is an important part of helping to keep Somerset County green.  It’s a honor for us to be among such a good group of people and we hope to see you at the market!

 

For more information on the Farm To Table Market visit: http://dukefarms.org/en/Visit/NEW-Farm-to-Table-Market/

 

 

Praying Mantis Egg Cases Now Available At Wolgast Tree Farm!

Praying mantis egg cases are now available at Wolgast Tree Farm!

Chinese Praying Mantis Egg Case.

        If you’ve ever been on one of our farm tours during the fall, you’ve likely seen one of the numerous Praying Mantises that call our farm home foraging for insects among our Christmas trees and elsewhere.   We think they are among the coolest-looking, most interesting insects in the world, and now we are offering for sale Praying Mantis egg cases that we collected on our farm. 

A Praying Mantis showcasing its cryptic coloring as it waits to grab its next insect meal.

We have mostly Chinese and European Mantids on our farm, and both species have ravenous appetites.  We’ve seen them snacking on all manner of insects including grasshoppers, wasps, hornets, biting flies and even brown marmorated stink bugs (too bad they don’t only eat stink bugs, because if they did I think they would wipe out the stink bug population on our farm!).  Because Praying Mantises are considered generalist predators they probably don’t have a huge impact on insect pests of Christmas trees, but they definitely eat some and are part of our Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan for our farm which includes encouraging the presence of beneficial insects.  Beneficial or not, we admire their sleek, cryptic look and we love to see them in our fields.  

European Praying Mantis Egg Case.

I’ve spoken with gardeners who’ve seen them eat tomato horn worms and other garden pests, which probably explains why so many home gardeners find the Praying Mantis to be an appealing addition to their yards.  It should be noted that their legendary appetite isn’t just limited to pests and if they are hungry enough they will even eat their own kind if given the opportunity.  Talk about a dog-eat-dog-world!

Raising Praying Mantids from an egg case can be an interesting and fun classroom project as well.  To learn more about Praying Mantises, check out this link from the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service:  http://www.ca.uky.edu/entomology/entfacts/entfactpdf/ef418.pdf. We think it provides a nice introduction to this fascinating and beneficial insect.

We have egg cases from both Chinese mantises (Tenodera sinensis) and European mantises (Mantis religiosa), the European egg cases being more limited in supply.  The egg cases were produced on our farm this past fall and cost $3.72 each, plus tax ($4.00 each total) – less than half of what many others are selling them.   Folks who would like to buy a praying mantis egg case (or two, or three, …) are welcome to call and make an appointment for pick-up, or we will mail as many as you’d like as can comfortably fit in a US Postal Service Priority Mail Small Flat Rate Box with some padding for $6.00 in the continental United States.  Because we have no idea how the egg cases will be handled once they leave our possession, we do NOT guarantee  how many praying mantis nymphs will hatch or that they will even hatch at all.   What we will guarantee is that the eggs were  laid in the fall of 2011 and kept in refrigeration after they were gathered.  They will be available for sale between now and mid-April, or while supplies last.  We’re not set up to take credit cards, but we do accept cash (in person) or checks.  Contact info@wolgasttreefarm.com or call 732-873-3206 for more information.  Always include a phone number at which you can be reliably reached with all correspondence.  It helps to move things along.

We like that Praying mantises are part of the scene at Wolgast Tree Farm. They fit right in with the bluebirds, honeybees, snapping turtles, and all the other creatures that call Wolgast Tree Farm home.  Maybe a Praying Mantis or two would be a nice addition to your “back forty,” too!

A Praying Mantis eating an insect on the farm this past fall.

Monarch Magic At Wolgast Tree Farm

We’ve been seeing Monarch butterflies flying among our Christmas trees here at Wolgast Tree Farm.  The Christmas trees probably aren’t of much interest to the Monarchs, but what we have growing in between the rows of trees is: Common Milkweed.

A Monarch butterfly goes through four life stages: egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, and butterfly.  Monarchs lay their eggs on the leaves of milkweed because when the eggs hatch that’s what Monarch caterpillars will feed on.  Special chemicals in milkweed are absorbed by the caterpillar when  it eats the leaves which makes the Monarch poisonous or taste very bad to birds and mammals.  It is thought that the bright orange color of Monarch butterflies serves as a warning to predators that they are poisonous and taste bad, and that it would probably be a good idea to find their next meal elsewhere.

Milkweeds are a key feature of Monarch butterfly habitat, so we like to do our part to help make our farm a place that Monarchs would like to visit as part of our wildlife-friendly, sustainable farming practices.

Earlier this spring we marked the locations of milkweed plants with bamboo stakes and flagging so we wouldn’t accidentally cut them down when we mowed between our trees. 

It’s definitely less convenient to mow around milkweed, but we enjoy the trade-off.  Having Monarch caterpillars and butterflies be part of Wolgast Tree Farm’s wildlife menagerie is one of the things that makes our farm special and we’re very proud of that fact.

On The Grow at Wolgast Tree Farm

It’s been a banner growing season so far this year here at Wolgast Tree Farm.  All the rain we’ve had coupled with just enough sun has really helped to bolster the growth of the 800 seedlings we planted this past spring. 

Usually during the first year after a seedling is planted, most of its energies are directed towards establishing a strong root system with very little growth in the branches.  But this year has been different.  We’ve noticed lots of new growth along the branches, which means that the seedlings not only have strong root systems, but that they have extra energy to devote to green growth as well.  This bodes well for seedling vigor in future years.   Here, Len is admiring all the new, light green growth on a Canaan fir that was planted this past April. 

We grow nine species of Christmas trees and each one has special needs in order for it to grow healthy.  Some seedlings, like white pines, can grow well on wet sites.  Others need to be on a site that is high and dry.  We plant each individual seedling according to the microsite conditions where it will grow best.  Healthy seedlings are better able to fight off insect pests and other environmental stresses (like drought), which is part of our Intergrated Pest Management program (IPM).   

We can’t predict what the future holds, but if we continue to have favorable weather during the growing seasons, coupled with being on the proper soil site, this Canaan fir seedling could be ready to be someone’s special Christmas tree in six or seven years.  Things are really “On The Grow” at Wolgast Tree Farm!

Brookdale Environmental Science Lab Visits Wolgast Tree farm

Students taking the summer session Environmental Science Lab at Brookdale Community College went on a farm tour of Wolgast Tree Farm this past week to learn about wildlife on our farm, River-Friendly farming practices, beekeeping, Integrated Pest Management and how we grow Christmas trees.

One of the things we talked about was the different types of manmade nesting structures that certain kinds of wildlife will use. To the left of Len on the ground is a roofed nesting platform that can be used by Eastern Phoebes, American Robins and Barn Swallows (far left), and a larger nest box for American Kestrels, which  can also be used by Eastern Screech Owls, Gray Squirrels or Flying Squirrels, depending on the habitat where it is placed. 

Of course, no farm tour at Wolgast Tree Farm would be complete without mentioning one of our favorite cavity nesters, the Eastern Bluebird. 

A few minutes before the class arrived, Len checked a nearby nest box to make sure the fledglings that were inside weren’t old enough to be flushed from the nest box.  Confident that the nestlings would stay put if students took a peek, he placed the roof back in place, but accidentally left behind the screwdriver that he used to open the top.  It certainly didn’t keep the adults away as they returned with food to offer the nestlings.

When the class arrived and it was time to look at the nest box everyone was instructed to quietly walk up to the box and take a quick look at the nestlings.  Many of the students had never seen an Eastern Bluebird before, let alone young bluebirds still in the nest.  It felt good to be able to provide a new experience with nature in this way. 

The same thing goes for tree farming.  Many people aren’t aware of what goes into producing a Christmas tree so we provided an overview of some of the things that must be done, including shearing.  We had finished shearing our pines a week before the class visited, but we saved two so we could demonstrate how our shearing machine works.  Here Len shows how he uses a SAJE shearing machine to trim back extra growth and produce that perfect “Christmas tree shape”.  The backpack that he’s wearing has a motor with a flexible drive shaft that comes around the front and plugs into two 8-foot long blades that are sandwiched together and move back and forth to cut excess growth.  It must have made an impression since several students took out their phones and recorded his demonstration.

Said one student when Len had finished shearing, “There’s a lot that goes into growing Christmas trees.”

Indeed, there is!

Pollinators On Parade At Wolgast Tree Farm

In honor of National Pollinator Week, we’d like to show a tiny portion of the many pollinators that make Wolgast Tree Farm their home.  

Pollinators are creatures (bees, butterflies, birds, etc,) that move pollen around either within flowers or carry pollen from one flower to another.  This causes fertilization which leads to the creation of seeds and fruit.  Producing seeds and fruits is how a plant reproduces, and without pollination the plants would not be able to reproduce as well or provide the seeds, fruits and other products that we depend on.  Around the world, about 1000 plants are grown for food, fiber, medicines, spices and beverages, that need pollination in order to produce those goods.  Many popular foods that need to be pollinated include apples, strawberries, peaches, blueberries, coffee, chocolate, almonds, pumkins, tequila, vanilla and many others. 

Having a wide variety of pollinators is needed for a healthy ecosystem, too.  

Unfortunately, it seems pollinators of all kinds are declining for a variety of reasons. 

Here on the farm we try to help pollinators in a number of ways.  We allow a variety of flowering plants that provide pollinators with nectar to grow among our Christmas trees, in our our River-Friendly stream buffers and in our hedgerows.  We also made brush piles to provide various native bees with nesting sites.  We never mow the whole farm all at once, but rather do small sections at a time so pollinators have a better place to hide from predators, forage for food and reproduce. 

All of these farm practices not only benefit a wide variety of native pollinators, but benefit our own honeybees, as well.

Everyone can help create a better environment for pollinators.  Visit Pollinator Partnership at www.pollinator.org to learn about the many ways you can help reverse this trend to help these important and interesting creatures.

Wolgast Tree Farm is a River-Friendly Farm

Wolgast Tree Farm, a family-owned Christmas tree farm in Somerset, New Jersey, has just passed it’s 2-year check-up as a certified River-Friendly Farm.

Wolgast Tree Farm is a River-Friendly FarmBeing River-Friendly means we’re helping to protect the water supply, protect soil and enhance habitat for wildlife while we grow Christmas trees. 

Our farm was evaluated on a number of criteria including the ways we keep soil from running off into waterways, minimizing our use of irrigation water and fertilizers, and how we maintain vegetative barriers at the edges of our fields to protect streams from any run-off that we might accidentally generate.

All these farm practices add up to having a healthier watershed for us and the community, as well as a healthy tree farm with lots of wildlife to boot!

Farm Tours This Summer At Wolgast Tree Farm

Would you like to visit a real working farm this summer? Wolgast Tree Farm in Somerset, New Jersey welcomes groups this summer to tour the farm.

Come out and learn about wildlife, beekeeping, how honey is made, river-friendly and sustainable farming.

Children, adults and all kinds of groups are welcome!

Call Cathy Blumig at the farm for more information  732-873-3206