Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What's New at the Farm

Harvesting Tomatoes for Seed

After a hiatus of several weeks I’m back to writing about what’s new at the farm. The cool and sometimes crisp mornings signal that the end of another growing season is fast approaching. The days are noticeably shorter, and there’s less heat in the sun than there was. On a brighter note, the humidity has dropped off and it’s great working weather.

We started harvesting tomatoes for seed this week, so I thought I’d share some photos of the process:
We’re harvesting Brandywine tomato here. This is about a quarter of an acre in this field; we have another three-quarters of an acre, too. Our “Vine Harvester” is on the right side, hooked up to our Farmall 200. This machine separates the tomato seed and juice from the majority of the pulp. We only use this machine on larger seed productions, as it’s harder to clean than our smaller unit. The first stage of the seed harvest involves picking the tomatoes, filling up all the buckets, and starting up the seed separator.

 As the tomatoes are dumped into the hopper, they are crushed to release the seeds and the juice. Not ground, for we don’t want to damage the seeds, but rather crushed. The crushed fruit are then dumped into the rotating drum, where the separation takes place.

 Once the slurry is collected at the bottom of the machine...

 ... it is placed into barrels to ferment overnight.

 The next morning it looks like this.
The gel coating around the seed has broken down and the seed is ready for sluicing.
The sluice is filled with water and the slurry mixture is added. The good seed sinks to the bottom while the skins, dirt, pulp, and immature seeds float off. Here’s a shot of the good seed waiting to be removed from the sluice.
Once the seed has been taken out of the sluice it goes into one of our seed dryers, and then into our controlled atmosphere storage to await milling. In October, it will be cleaned further and then sent to our warehouse for storage and packaging.

Working for a seed company like we do, we get to see what we call seed-to-seed. We start the seed in the greenhouse, grow the plants, and harvest the seeds from these plants. When we grow these crops again, we’ll use seed that was grown here previously—a full circle, you might say.
Until next time, I’ll be in the field. Enjoy the changing of the seasons

09/17/2012—Albion, Maine

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