Friday, October 18, 2013

Hops, Hops, Hops: We have your hops and cider apples

All the 2013 McCollum Orchards hops are dried and vacuum-packaged. They are available in 2 oz packages, so they're a perfect quantity for homebrewing. There are a few one-pound packages, too, for those high volume home brewers out there. Alpha Acid analysis results for every variety are listed on the Hops Page.

Online Ordering

Customers asked and we made it so you can now order McCollum Orchards hops online and we will ship them to you wherever you are in the country via USPS Priority mailing. The link is: That's pretty awesome!

Farm Stand: One More Week

You can pick up hops at the farm stand if you are in the neighborhood or fancy yourself a drive to the "country."* There is one more week of farm stand:

Saturday, October 19 10am-2pm
Thursday, October 24 3:30pm-sunset
Saturday, October 26 10am-2pm

While you are here, you can stock up on fall fruit, vegetables, flowers, pumpkins and hops. Pie pumpkins and butternut squash add great seasonal flavors to brews. Or be adventurous - lemongrass?

Best Cider Apples Around

And, you can try your hand at cider with our heirloom apple varieties Northern Spy and Rome. Available in bushels, half bushels and quarter bushels. Our apples have not been sprayed with chemicals for over two decades.

*Really we are much closer because the farm is located in the Lockport city limits.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Where we'll be: Two more Saturday Community Markets, Beer Week hops, and our farm stand

With the Autumnal Equinox right around the corner, the end of summer is upon us. We will not dwell on how the summer sped by or how short the tomato season lasted. Instead, we will rejoice in a bountiful hop harvest, bushels of no-spray pears, and loads of bright orange pumpkins and squash!

There are only two more Saturdays in the Extended Lockport Community Market. Come on down to Canal Street between Lake Effect Ice Cream and Sweet Ride on Saturday 10am-2pm for fresh, local produce, baked treats, fresh eggs, honey, maple syrup, canned goods, and handmade arts & crafts. This week, a local Boy Scout Troop will be offering popcorn, too!

September Schedule

Thursday, Sept 19 Farmstand CLOSED
Saturday, Sept 21 Lockport Community Market OPEN 10am-2pm
Thursday, Sept 26 Farmstand 4pm-7pm OPEN
Saturday, Sept 28 Lockport Community Market OPEN 10am-2pm

Local Hops Get Brewed
Friday, Sept 20 is the beginning of Buffalo Beer Week 2013. You can taste McCollum Orchards hops in a local brew by Community Beer Works called Wet Frank Pale Ale, along with plenty of other local brews, at the Brewed in Buffalo Release Party at the Adam Mickiewicz Library and Dramatic Circle in Buffalo, Friday, Sept 20, 7-10pm.

Locally grown hops are really making a splash! We were thrilled to see our friend and fellow Niagara County hop grower, Bob Johnson, featured in an article about Buffalo's growing craft beer scene in the Lifestyle section of the Sunday Buffalo News. Way to go Buffalo area hop growers! Our visit from Harpoon Brewery, New England's largest brewery, made the front page of the Sunday Lockport Union Sun & Journal, too. (Sorry, no photo of that, though.)

October Schedule
In October, we will switch to two days a week farmstands down at the farm, Thursdays 4-7pm and Saturdays 10am-1pm for as long as we can into the month. We will have lots of fall favorites like organic butternut squash, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, carnival squash, pumpkins, leafy greens, beets, peppers, carrots, garlic, hops and no-spray Northern Spy apples. Oooo, it really is the taste and smell of fall.

Stay tuned as we start to offer hop wreaths and hop bine decorations and pre-orders on holiday hop wreaths in early October!


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

2nd Annual Hop Harvest Event!

Long time no post! Yes, it is true we have let regular posting slide a bit. Writing coherent sentences after long days fixing, building, weeding, planting, picking, washing or doing tractor work out in the field seems like an insurmountable feat. That's not to say we have not missed keeping you updated on all the fantastic progress going on around the farm!

Almost Ready to Harvest!

First, let's get to the main reason for this post. We are hosting a 2nd Annual Hop Harvest Party, along with the fine folks at Community Beer Works. This year, it will be a private event, which means you must RSVP either by email to or on the Facebook Events page. We will have a guest list at the welcome table as you arrive.

Tell Me More
Party-goers will experience the whole process from harvest to picking to sorting to loading the oast. It is a lot of fun and smells, well, like fresh hops! And, you will be a huge help as we pick all our hops at the perfect peak of maturity. We will show you how to harvest and provide gloves. There will be samples, a homebrew demo, light food, non-alcoholic drinks and music.
We'll be harvesting rain or shine. If you want to purchase fresh hops to take home, bring a cooler to keep them fresh.

Hops Pricing
Pick-Your-Own is $1 per once for wet hops. We will have a limited supply of 2-ounce packages of dried hops for $5.00 per package. 

No Party Fouls
1) Parking is located at the front of the property. City regs prohibit parking along the street, so you have to park on our property. If the lot is full, we'll direct you to a space place to park. Carpooling is much appreciated! 

2) This is a working farm. There are electric fences, cats, dogs, chickens, tractors and implements around. Kids are welcome but must be supervised at all times. Dogs on leashes are welcome. Yep, there's a bathroom and we'll even clean it beforehand! You are welcome to walk around the house, but inside is private. You can walk around the garden outside the fence. If we have extra produce after market, we might set up the farm stand, too!

Farm Fresh Community
We. Love. Lockport. Selling fresh produce at the Lockport Community Market this summer is just another reason we like it here. The market is wonderful, there are usually 20 vendors selling produce, eggs, plants and crafts and jewelry. It has been so fun and going so well, that all us vendors got together and asked if we could extend the market through the end of September. Bree volunteered to help coordinate it. Well, the city foot the bill for the liability coverage, the Lockport Main Street Corp did the extra advertising and made it happen! Now, we will all be able to offer our fresh, local goods for five more Saturdays. 
Lockport Community Market, Saturdays 10-2pm til Sept 28

 September is a great time for produce - when summer vegetables are still going strong and fall crops are coming in. We'll be at the market on Canal Street near the locks every Saturday from August 31 to September 28, 10am to 2pm. How awesome is that?!

We recently were featured in this great article about finding a great farm stand. Sorry, we haven't had enough produce to open the farm stand for a few weeks. Perhaps our plan to sell four days a week was ambitious or our yields were lower than anticipated. (It was definitely compounded by the seeds and starts being washed out FOUR times in June and July.) Either way, we wanted to open, but knew we needed more quantity. We are hopeful that we can open the stand again this week as tomatoes and lettuce again become plentiful. Can’t wait for next year when we can grow more produce.

At the market we meet new folks who are seeking organic produce. It has been amazing to see the transformation from just three years ago. We were often told this region didn’t want organic; there was no market for it. Now, we meet people who have long been searching and are happy to find local, organically grown produce!

Planning the Land
We see the growing demand for more local, fresh, organic fruits and vegetables. Our top priority this year is to build the infrastructure and prepare the land for planting more next year. Plans of planting cover crops this summer were definitely waylaid by three bouts of major flooding in June and July. Instead, we did continual discing of the cleared land to solarize the deep weed bank. The method is starting to work and has done a commendable job on knocking out the dreaded hogweed.
Wheat bales between a beautiful land and sky
 After watching 2-feet deep floods wash across the fields, we realized we needed a solid drainage plan and contingency plans for washed out crops. In the past two months, the County Department of Soil and Water Conservation helped us survey the fields for better drainage. Our friend Mike helped replace the broken drain pipe under the field road. We applied for a grant from the Department of Environmental Conservation for organic seed, cover crop seed, and improving drainage. Best yet, we were awarded a federal grant through Cornell Extension to cost-share the construction of a cold storage room for better storing our fresh fruits, vegetables and hop rhizomes! Next year, we should be ready to get the hoop house up and plant a couple more acres of vegetables and keep several acres in cover crop to continue to improve the soil health.

And One More Update
Super happy farm family!
We are growing more than plants on the farm this season. We are happy, no excited, no thrilled to announce that we are expecting our first child due in January 2014. They say it is a girl. It has been a good pregnancy so far, she seems to want fresh fruits and veggies more than junk food. It is a good little farm baby, due in the slow wintertime when we can just snuggle up together (and look at seed catalogs). We can’t wait to meet her and we are pretty proud of her being the seventh generation that gets to love this old farm.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Farmstand Closed July 4, Open at Canal St. Market July 6!

The farmstand will be closed on Thursday July 4. We will celebrate our nation's independence AND Bree's mom's 70th birthday. We figured we should give her the day off, right? On Saturday, July 6, we will be open at the Lockport Community Market from 10am - 3pm. Enjoy a safe, fun holiday and see you on Saturday!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Heirloom Apple Orchards Get a Nod of Approval

The old apple and pear orchards got a big nod of approval from an expert organic orchardist this month.
Walking through McCollum Orchards
 On a windy May 11 more than two dozen people came to McCollum Orchards for a Field Day called “The Thorough Orchardist – Planningfor Success with Tree Fruit.” It was organized by the Northeast OrganicFarming Association-NY as a technical consultation for us Journeyperson participants and open to all those interested in learning about planning, planting and caring for organic orchards. We hosted it and gave a brief introduction to the farm and our vision.  The main speaker was an expert orchardist, Mike Biltonen, from Red Jacket Orchards in Genesee, which offers delicious tasting fruit juices and has almost 10 acres certified organic of its 600 acre commercial orchards. 
Bracing against a chilly breeze with hot coffee and brownies, we crowded onto the loading dock of the 100-year-old apple packing shed – a fitting place to talk about orcharding.  We covered three main topics:
  • Land preparations needed for a successful orchard 
  • Growing requirements of apples and pears (and other tree fruits well-suited to the area) 
  • Organic management considerations, financial expectations for tree fruit crops
Telling our story about how History + Learning Bears Fruit!

These issues are at the top of our minds as we plan out the 5-10 acres of fruit trees for the u-pick section.  After clearing the final 8 acres this spring, we are at the stage of preparing the soil. Mike explained that, as with other perennial plants, it is much easier to minimize weeds and amend the soil before planting your crop. He recommended ordering hardy rootstock and disease-resistant tree varieties, preferably semi-dwarf or standard as opposed to full dwarfed varieties, which are less hardy. Orchards should be in north-south rows to maximize sunlight.
Pests and diseases came up often during the discussion. The list of insects and diseases for tree fruits is not long, but worth studying to know their insect life cycles and when to expect certain types of pests, such as coddling moths, apple maggots, etc. The typical organic spray is copper.
"The trees used to be thiiiis tall."
Some orchardists are moving toward holistic methods to disrupt the insect life cycle with pheromones or use other methods like trap trees and adding beneficial insects for more of a balancing act than total control. Aspects of holistic orcharding appeal to us for a couple reasons. Namely, the old trees are simply too tall to spray effectively and we think the trees could be healthy and productive with the right holistic management.
In searching for resources for organic orcharding, apparently, you just have to know who to ask. Mike passed around a chart of disease-resistant rankings of apples that he and other organic growers have been working on for a few years. The Holistic Orchard Network, run by the author Michael Phillips, has a lot of good information and an active forum. They also have a seasonal orchard checklist, which is helpful for busy growers to stay on top of tasks.
Other issues we covered for First Year Orchard Considerations included groundcover, irrigation and fencing and the costs for orchard start-up. We got the recommendation to move away from the conventional orchard grass as a ground cover and toward a diverse group that includes wildflowers to attract pollinators and field radishes if we are concerned about soil compaction. Luckily we plan to plant the cutting flowers between the pears, so that will work out well.

The most fun was when we all trooped out into the orchards and got some hands-on demonstration by Mike on pruning and pest scouting. Now, we have worked hard to bring back the overgrown orchards. But, we know that they are not the prettiest trees. Some are rotted out in the middle. We were prepared for critique. So, our jaws hit the floor when, while looking at the apple orchard, Mike said it looks like a very healthy orchard.  Even though it is overgrown, he is excited about the trees’ potential! The unique variety, Northern Spy, is very appealing and has steady demand. With some more care over the next 3-5 years, we could get an estimated 3,000 bushels from the trees!

Once we picked our jaws up off the ground, we listened to Mike’s recommendations intently. Turns out that we are pruning them too aggressively. Instead of removing all the smaller branches, we should focus on opening up the upper canopy to let through more light to the lower branches and then start training some of the lower shoots to become branches. These will produce fruit in a few years. Training them will give us more low and mid-range bearing surface. So, less work for us in the spring time (but more work harvesting in the fall!) To train the new shoots, we can simply bend them to a 45 degree angle when they are still young and flexible and tie them to the trunk with twine and secured with a nail. If we are worried about the hollowed out branches breaking off, there is no reason we cannot just prop them with posts.
From left: Bree, Mike Biltonen, Rich
It felt great to know that we are on the right track with the trees. The recommendations we received make us more prepared to both bring back the old orchards and plant new orchards, too. Seeing the orchards' future reminded me of the century-old year old banyan tree in Hawaii, that covers 200 square feet. Or the 150-year-old orange tree in California that has been moved twice from flooding. Or the original Red Delicious apple tree in Peru, Iowa, originally called the Hawkeye, that was cut down several times and kept re-sprouting. In this time of such tragedy in Oklahoma and uncertainty everywhere, being amongst some trees that keep giving despite a harsh climate is a small way to feel some peace and resilience.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Rise and Shine! Spring Happenings Around the Farm

Spring Has Sprung! We mark our third spring here on the farm. Amazing how much it has changed in two years, and how much farming has changed us. We get busier and busier as the ground wakes up. Spring flowers – daffodils, crocuses, tulips – have put on a show-stopping performance in the lawn in front of the house. As each spring, there are lots of great updates – and more projects than we have time for – from the new hops yard to orchards to the first garden greens.

Crocus below the schooldesk stairs

Apples and Daffodils
Our impact on the farm is most visible in the orchards. When we arrived three Marches ago, the apple orchard looked like a troop of Kraken sea monsters. We dramatically pruned them back, fighting poison ivy and braving wintery winds to lop out a third of growth each spring. (And held our breath that the trees were not too shocked.) The most dramatic change is probably clearing the overgrowth around the orchard that shaded them and prevented much-needed air flow. In this third spring, many trees are getting their pleasant umbrella-shaped form back.  We snip off sucker shoots, clear out the “mummies” (dead apples that stay on the trees), rake up the leaves where disease winters over, and chip the deadfall to compost and apply as mulch next year. According to “The Holistic Orchardist,” decomposing wood will promote fungal and microbial growth, which helps apple tree root systems.
The Thorough Organic Orchardist
Now, the fruit trees are budding. Just in time for an upcoming workshop we are hosting: The Thorough Orchardist: Planning for Success with Tree Fruit. On Saturday, May 11th 1-4pm, Mike Bilonten of Red Jacket Orchards will be on the farm to discuss planning and planting an organic orchard, sponsored by the Northeast Organic FarmingAssociation-New York. You can register here. We hope to learn a lot from him for the future u-pick orchards.

 Farm to Pint Glass
In April, we had the pleasure of giving a talk at Beerologyat the Buffalo Museum of Science, called “From Farm to Pint Glass: The Art and Science of Growing Hops.” We got to talk about one of our favorite subjects – growing hops – and tag-teamed with a knowledgeable home-brewer who explained brewing with hops. As it was a beer-tasting event, it was a lively audience discussion. Then, McCollum Orchards’ Cascade hops were used in a special Porter-style beer at Cole’s for Community Beer Works’ one-year birthday. We were thrilled to taste the hops in a delicious beer! The beer events piqued a lot of interest in this year’s harvest party, which we plan to make bigger and better.  
Talking hops in front of a big audience.
Rich tilling the new yard
Once again, we are expanding the hopsyard on the newly cleared acreage. (Will there ever be a spring when we don’t lug 21’ poles around?) The expansion required de-rocking the area, discing, tilling, amending with organic fertilizers, and hilling for the 400 Centennial and Chinook rhizomes to be planted this week. Best yet, we will use locally harvested larch poles for the trellis system.

The Mini-Jungle
Garden seedlings are in full swing! The farm stand will open in just two months on Thursday, June 27th. We will also be at two farmers’ markets: Lockport Community Market and Farmers Market at Grider. Now, our office space is a mini-jungle. We start everything from seed (non-GMO and most USDA Organic). Since we must use every inch of the ½ acre garden space as efficiently as possible, we start 99% of plants as transplants, even beets and peas. We can’t afford to have any non-starters that oftentimes occur when seeding directly outside. There’s nothing better than brushing my hand across the top of the tomato starts and smelling that earthy tomato scent!
Baby Peppers, Celery, Onions, Peas, and flowers
This year we have a great selection of tomatoes – seven varieties in all. We will offer better slicing tomatoes this year, along with cute cherry tomatoes, huge heirlooms and a tried-and-true paste/sauce tomato. By demand from our neighbors and customers, we will grow lots of butternut squash, pumpkins, and other winter squash.  We are adding cut flowers to the mix, too!

Flowers, Birds & Bees
Spring has brought the return of flowers, birds and bees to the farm. Spring flowers, probably planted generations ago by Rich’s great-grandmother, have sprung forth with unbridled exuberance. In March, there was a purple carpet of crocus across the front lawn that stopped cars down N. Adam Street for several weeks. Now, daffodils are popping up in unexpected places like bursts of little yellow fireworks. Some black tulips are even emerging and the lilacs are just about to bloom. Blooms and warm weather have brought out bees in droves, which is great for pollination around the farm.
Photo courtesy of Michael Ammermuller

Back-Breaking Debris Clearing
It is a good thing there are so many pretty flowers and birds to look at outside these days because we are usually outside cleaning up rocks and roots from the recently cleared fields. This is a necessary step to be able to get the tractor in to disc up the compacted soil. Luckily for me, Rich enjoys wrestling 30-year-old roots and prying out rocks because sometimes I just want to fall on my knees and cry, “Why?!” Okay, that is dramatic. We are racing against time before weeds hide the debris. The hard work of getting the fields cleaned must happen before we can mark out our permanent rows for the farm’s next evolution.
View past heirloom pears and new hops to the cleared field and new hopsyard
The coolest thing is that land clearing unearthed another ancient rock wall that marked a field boundary. It is fascinating to think the 180 years ago, the same family was clearing the same land…and probably mostly by hand like us! Now, we have horsepower tractors to help, whereas they had horse power. Just like Hiram, Silas, et al did back then, we are working hard to get the job done  so the fields can grow delicious fruit, berries and vegetables once again.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Keeping Busy

What Do Farmers Do in the Winter? They Keep Busy

People often ask us, “What do you do in the winter?” After the last squash is sold and the tools are stored, what do we do until next spring?  We get asked this question so many times that we have a short answer and a long answer. The short answer is, “Prepare for next year.” If you want to know how we are preparing this winter to be better farmers, grow the business and restore the property, here is a quick run-down! 
A fresh coat of paint turned a creepy hallway into a bright living space
First (after we exhaled, washed some clothes, cleaned the house, watched a movie and had a beer) we evaluated what went well and what we can improve. We talked with customers about what they liked and what else we could offer.  We did a post-season recap while it was still fresh in our minds. Everything from seed varieties to harvesting methods was discussed. This helped us make a new game plan. (One that includes a lot more Butternut Squash and some new flowers, too!)

Do More Every Year
Then, we plan, plan, plan.  We drew up a planting and harvest schedule spreadsheet for all 50 types of fruits, vegetables and herbs we will grow next season. The plan covers germination, planting, transplanting, cultivating, and harvesting. One new approach we are trying for next season is to map out now a plan for every week of the growing season. Our goal is succession planting, so we have steady harvests of fresh green beans, squash, and lettuce throughout the summer. We will also track how long each task takes. These two tools will help us get even more efficient during the high season. Then, in January, we placed our orders for seed, rhizomes, equipment and fish fertilizer. 
Seed packets all organized for next season
We did a farm business analysis and prepared and filed farm taxes. It is the easiest thing to put off and the most important to get done early in the winter so it does not hang over our heads.  

Re-charge and Renovate
We have fun, too! We reconnect with friends and family and explore some of the great restaurants and bars this area has to offer. We went snow-shoeing and sledding on the property when the weather was right and tried to go outside as much as possible, enjoying the farm’s winter beauty. We also adopted a puppy – an Australian cattle dog/shepard mix – named Ruby – that has us very busy training. 
Fresh snowshoe tracks from an evening hike
There is nothing like the satisfaction of seeing the place come to life with a few repairs and fresh coats of paint. There are so many renovations needed on the old buildings that the list seems never ending. Last winter, the growing project list completely overwhelmed us. This year we made a rule to finish a project before starting a new one. The list is prioritized by farm/house and then indoor/outdoor categories, so we have projects for any weather. This has allowed us to get more accomplished with less stress. Activities like painting hallways, repairing tractors and sharpening tools are prioritized. Big items like building cold storage space and putting up hoop houses are coming soon. Funny thing that when a project gets crossed off this list, a few more get added. That list never goes away!
Fixing a chainsaw on a cold winter's day
Winter is our time for learning. The NOFA-NY WinterConference in January provided a perfect injection of energy and new ideas to get us fired up for the coming season. We also attended workshops and classes through Cornell on everything from cost of production to pest management.

Season by Season
Needless to say winter keeps us busy. But it is a different kind of busy than the long days of summer.  By this time in March, we are itching to be back out in the field. With the first break in the weather, we started pruning the apple orchard with our new pruners. It seems everyone is ready to mark the passage into Spring. Birds start to sing. Geese fly in their V-formations overhead. We feel so lucky that we get to watch the land wake up for another year. 
Who put 'Grow a beard' on the list?