Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Donaldson Farms

I talk about Harvest Hosts a great deal and for good reason. I love the program and have met some wonderful people and learned a great deal.  Of the program members that I have been to so far, Donaldson Farms was the most welcoming.  From the moment  I called to obtain permission from their event coordinator, Joan, to the minute that I pulled out the next day, the employees made me feel as if they really wanted me there.

Donaldson Farms has been in business since 1906 and is family owned and operated.  They have seasonal pick your own activities, festivals, educational agricultural events, a greenhouse and nursery and of course the wonderful market.  Their brochure says, and I quote, "We set our goals high.  Our most important goal is that you leave here feeling fulfilled, and not only with a bag full of healthy, tasty produce - but also with a sense that you can rely on us to deliver quality produce, superior customer service, and an excellent all-around experience."  As for me, they are that and much, much more.

When I arrived, I located Debbie who showed me where to park and stayed to talk to with me for awhile about my travels and Miss Kitty. I ran in before they closed to get tomatoes for my dinner. She came back later with a small melon and a peach saying that this was for my dessert and that coffee would be on about 7:30am.  In addition, she was making lunch the next day and I was invited to join them.
After a very restful night, I went over to the market to take the Sunflower tour to view the Black Oil Sunflowers that are grown for bird seed for the New Jersey Audubon Society that buys the seeds from the farm.  Per Katie, wife of the owner, their goal was is to grow on the 40 acres set aside for the sunflowers; 22,000 plants that should produce 8,000 pounds to make 80 bags of seed.    Unfortunately, the storm that had passed through recently had destroyed some of the crop. The tour is not just about the sunflowers but you get to take a fun hayride around the property with my very interesting guide Gary, who is also the driver, as he narrates about all the produce they grow.

You will learn about the importance of nourishing the soil all winter and may get to sample some of the produce.

Watermelon was sweet and delicious!

Blackberries straight from the bush.

We passed radishes that they use as a winter cover crop.  The radishes puts down roots that are three feet deep and keeps the soil moist.  We also passed peach and nectarine trees, lettuces of numerous types, plus all types of vegetables.

String beans are the few crops harvested with a machine that rips the string beans out and deposits in them in plastic tubs.  Everyone on the tour was given green beans that had been pulled up from the soil.   For me, I just added them to the ones that I purchased.

Indian Corn, not good to eat but is used for livestock feed.
Pick your own pumpkin patch.

We stopped at one of the sunflower patches where they have a viewing stand so you can see the field.

Sunflowers are planted in two week cycles like all the planted done on the farm.  Thus, we were able to see the very young as well as mature ones.

 We were shown a pollination chart and told of all the insects including the honey bees that live on the farm.
Once  the sunflower starts to open, they track the sun to the east and will stay facing the east. The leaves are edible but was told that they taste like notebook paper. The pattern of the sunflowers are not random put are in a spiral pattern using the fibonacci sequence.

The storm has damaged these sunflowers.

We were given some of the seeds to see how soft they were and they should be hard.

Photo taken by Katie

In the greenhouse they grow 15,000 poinsettias.

This is the maze that is made when the corn is only 6 inches tall with a lawnmower that is GPS guided.

Justin Donaldson designed the maze on a computer. Frankly, after looking at the aerial shot of the maze, I am not sure how anyone gets out... Great job Justin!

I learned a lot more but you will have to go to the farm and take the tour yourself.  You will not be disappointed and will leave as excited as I was.

After the tour, I went shopping and then went to meet Debbie to see what was for lunch. She had made portobello mushroom pizzas. I had never had them so Debbie told me how to do it:

- You take a portabello mushroom and put a little soy sauce on it before roasting.
- Once roasted, put on a slice of tomato and top with mozzarella cheese then stick back in the oven to melt the cheese.  

There was also a side of the sweetest and most delicious corn I have had in a long time.  I was glad that I had purchased some.

Plaque on the wall that I thought was fantastic!

Do you see these gorgeous vegetable? Everything I purchased tasted just as good as they looked.

I truly hated leaving. If I had not had a campground reservation to keep in Maryland, I would have asked to stay another day just so I could talk to the the wonderful people at Donaldson Farm.  One lady actually offered to take me to her home so I could do laundry because I mentioned that I had to find a laundromat on the way to the campground. Now that is service up over and beyond! When I arrived in Maryland, I checked my email and I received a thank you note from Katie!

Will I be're darn tooting! I will be back next year on my way from Fiber College so I can take part in some of the activities and meet up with these great and wonderful people. I wish I had an RV large enough to fit them all in and take them with me. From the lady stocking the produce to the owner that asked me if I had a nice stay, I felt welcome.

On the way back to Maryland, I had to stop for gas and wanted some coffee so I could make it to the campground. As I was walking across the parking lot, a very cute man named Stephen asked me if the Viper was mine. We must have talked for an hour because I was an hour late in my travels. He wants an RV too so I might see him on the road someday.  I did give him my card just in case.  Did I say he was cute ?  I forgot to ask if he was single.

I am in Maryland at the Duncan Family Campground in Lothian.  I will be here until the 28th, visiting my son and daughter as well as going through things I left with them. I also will be using this time to  reorganize Miss Kitty to see what I need or what can get rid of.                                                                                    

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