Watch as Farmers Grow

Farm Consulting – Technical Service Provider

December 15th, 2022 | Posted by miker in Special Projects - (Comments Off on Farm Consulting – Technical Service Provider)

Farm Consulting – Mike Rassweiler


Over 25 years’ experience using Organic Management Practices to produce crops in NJ.

Special Interests: Whole Farm Planning, Natural Resource Conservation, Regenerative Strategies, Labor, Training, Elements of Operations and Enterprise.

Consultation Minimum $80.  Rate $80/hr,

research, labor and meetings billed by project.

Written Summaries of Consultations, including recommendations, references and critical issue listings, on request.

Soil Health and Insect Scouting 2020

December 31st, 2020 | Posted by miker in Special Projects - (Comments Off on Soil Health and Insect Scouting 2020)

North Slope Farm 2020 Insect Scouting Report

Scouting and Report by Paige Sirak

(Apologies – Photos were not loading properly, and will be added asap.)

From late June to August of 2020, I scouted insects on three major crops to monitor the effects of the reduced tillage practices on soil biology, namely the insect population. These crops included summer squash, green beans, and carrots. While each vegetable faced its own issues, there was a common presence of beneficial insects among all three.

The summer squash had two main obstacles in the insect world: squash bugs of varying life stages and adult cucumber beetles. The squash bug grows quickly in size and goes through multiple life cycles in a growing season. They are a piercing-sucking insect that causes interruptions in the transport of nutrients to the plant and often leads to chlorosis, wilting, and death of a leaf or a plant (Hahn). This type of damage was commonly seen in the summer squash, especially in the more mature crops (see Figure 1). Although the squash bug caused visible damage, the mature plants were able to cope with the loss of a few leaves in favor of focusing their energy on producing the fruit. Secondly, the cucumber beetle was present on almost every summer squash that was scouted. The cucumber beetle is a biting-chewing insect that feeds on leaves, stems, flowers, and the fruit of the plant, leaving holes and brown spots (see Figure 1). This damage was not severe, but the cucumber beetle is also known to carry and transmit disease (Snyder). Beyond its feeding habits, its high mobility most likely played a part in the spread of powdery mildew among the later generations of summer squash. The powdery mildew, which is transmitted through small spores, had affected much of the later generations of the squash (see Figure 1)(Wyman). However, as these later generations were mature, they were still able to yield fruit without much loss. While there was a significant presence of harmful insects, the summer squash produced marketable fruit and was not critically damaged.

The second crop, green beans, was only slightly affected by insects but was more heavily affected by disease. The bugs that were often found on the beans were flea beetles. These biting-chewing beetles left small holes in the leaves (see Figure 2). The damage was typically reduced to 10-15% of the leaf and did not cause any severe issues. Previously, flea beetles had affected napa cabbage on the farm, but as that crop was not present, the population was not as significant. The beans were facing issues with a fungus, bacteria, or another disease that caused them to brown, curl, and shrivel (see Figure 2). Due to the lack of severe harmful insect presence, it can be concluded that the green beans’ slight struggle was with another foe.

The carrots, the third crop monitored, were experiencing significant rotting damage due to what was previously believed to be the carrot rust fly maggot. The carrots that were monitored often had tunnels that were eaten away and rotting (see Figure 3). In order to identify this pest, the carrots would be pulled and observed, and the soil would then be sifted through to look for any living insects, specifically larvae or maggots. The damage was found mostly on the more mature carrots. While the affected location of damage fluctuated, it became clear that, as the carrots matured, the marred surface appeared on the top/middle of the carrot, as opposed to near the tip. It was this fact that allowed an expert at a NOFA event to identify the pest to be the carrot weevil. The damage between the carrot rust fly and carrot weevil are nearly identical with the exception of the location of the affected area. As carrot weevils are notoriously difficult to get rid of, this issue is expected to persist and harm future carrot crops.

While these crops experienced some unfortunate insect-related issues, there was also a strong presence of beneficial species that were common to all three vegetables. One insect often found was the ladybug in varying life stages (see Figure 4). Ladybugs typically consume harmful pests such as aphids, whiteflies, mites, and cabbage moths (Telkamp). Further beneficial insects included pollinators, such as varieties of bees, butterflies, and moths (see Figure 4). The presence of flowers being grown for market and the wildflower populations on the farm ensured that pollinators were frequent visitors. Additionally, native milkweed was found between fields, which supported lots of these beneficial insects. It served as a habitat for monarch butterflies and caterpillars, as well as for other pollinators and bugs looking for a wild strip of land.

At the end of this project, it became apparent that while the squash and beans interacted with insects in their own ways, they were able to overcome these obstacles and yield a sufficient crop. While the conclusion to the mystery of the carrot weevil was not what we had been hoping for, it helped me gain real-life experience for practices such as the scientific method and research. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to engage in hands-on experience and to have worked with such wonderful and knowledgeable mentors.

Works Cited

Hahn, Jeffrey. 2020. “Squash bugs in home gardens.” University of Minnesota Extension.

Snyder, William E. 23 December 2019. “Managing Cucumber Beetles in Organic Farming Systems.” eOrganic.

Telkamp, Mike. n.d. “What do Ladybugs Eat?” HGTV.

Wyman’s Home and Garden. 1 July 2018. “Powdery Mildew and How to Control It.” Wyman’s Home and Garden Blog.

Table Top Greens

May 1st, 2016 | Posted by miker in Table Top Greens - (Comments Off on Table Top Greens)

Table Top Baby Greens –

MikeR posted 5/1/2016

Photos from Historical FIle

During the downtime, and when the greenhouse is less than full – we’ve flipped the tables, doubled them up and layered in rich growing medium.  We seed

heavily, a variety of quick growing greens, and hope for a tasty harvest in two to three weeks.

Click on the photo below to access the photo web site Flickr – depending on your device and Flickr – you can scroll thru the TableTop Baby Greens Album:

Tabletop Baby Greens

Special Project Summary – Perennials – 2013

January 22nd, 2014 | Posted by Casey in Perennials - (Comments Off on Special Project Summary – Perennials – 2013)

Special Project Summary – Perennials – 2013

Report on status of Perennials and practices from 2013.

Also note: CH Served as ‘Farm Manager’ from July to end of Season, to cover for MR.

Micro Greens

February 25th, 2013 | Posted by Kyle in Micro Greens | Special Projects - (Comments Off on Micro Greens)

Special Project: Micro Greens

Prepared By KG 2/25/2013

Proposal: Explore the viability of producing micro greens on a small scale. The minimal input of worker hours and materials combined with the resulting high value product will hopefully find this technique financially sustainable.

Execution: I plan to order 4 varieties of micro greens to trial in small quantities and establish a weekly seeding and harvest cycle. Ideally harvest will take place on Fridays and/or Saturdays after work for the weekend markets. The seeding date will be approx. 10 days before harvest, possibly changing with experimentation. I will seed into soil filled trays (old trays in seed shed) and experiment with different modes of covering (soil, vermiculite) and determine which yields best results. I plan to start with 2 trays of each mix and one tray each of the herbs, 6 total trays, and adjust the scale of output based on yield and market feedback. I expect 1 tray to yield about 4-6 half pint clam shell containers. I will keep records of production costs and sales to assess the viability of the project and whether it could be expanded to include more varieties/output.


–         Trays (already existing on farm)

–         Potting soil – can be tracked and cost determined

–         Space in Heated Greenhouse, preferable on heating mats

–         Containers for packaging – pint or ½ pint clam shells or some alternative

–         Seed – initial order would probably be around 50-60 dollars

–         Worker hours – Tracked


JSS 2566 Mild Micro Mix

JSS 2567 Spicy Micro Mix

JSS 944 Ital. Large Leaf Basil

JSS 919 Santo Cilantro

Summary: Having completed a season growing micro-greens, my overall conclusion is that it was financially viable on a small scale. The project ran for 20 weeks in total, with an average labor input of an hour a week. During the course of the project I developed and refined the system of production until I finally got it to a place I thought acceptable. The main issue I was dealing with was poor germination and low yield, both of which I feel I eventually got a handle on. See the Notes section for more details.

Below is an overview of the finances of the project. I’ll use the term “unit” to mean 1oz. of micro-greens packed in a clear plastic clamshell.


Total seed cost:            $149.85

Packaging:                    $42.71

Labor*:                        $250.00           *25hrs @ $10/hr (conservative estimate)

Total Expense:  $442.56


Market Sales:               $1024.00

Net:                             $581.44

Initially production was inefficient due to issues of poor germination and irregular yield. Since generally we sold out and were often only supplying one market, it is reasonable to expect increased sales without necessarily increasing production but by applying lessons learned this past year to increase yield. Even despite these issues starting out, the enterprise proved to be financially viable.

Notes on Technique:

Seeding and Germination– My basic technique for seeding was to broadcast seed into soil filled trays and cover with a thin layer of soil. I used the same potting mix that NSF uses for its seedlings as my growing medium. Seeding was done regularly on a weekly basis to ensure a constant supply. I struggled for a long time with irregular germination, every week varying the process slightly and taking notes on results. Eventually I started using a technique I found here where you stack the trays after watering to create a humidity trap. This technique worked great! I didn’t have any trouble with germination after switching to this method; I only wish I discovered it sooner. One thing to watch out for is to un-stack the trays at the right time, I was a day late once and lost a few trays worth of micro greens which had grown into the bottoms of the next tray in the stack.

Growing– Daily watering a must. The two week interval between seeding and harvest worked in mid-summer, but as days got shorter I ran into problems with growth. Switching to three week intervals solved the problem and would probably use a three week interval from the start in future.

Harvest– I harvested after first set of true leaves developed. Harvested using sanitized scissors into a clean rubber bin and packed the night before market, then refrigerated.

Notes on Materials:

Packaging– Used 8.oz plastic deli container. Good size, when full held approximately 1.oz of micro greens. Nice snap seal, clear to display product, flat top for label. Cost around $0.15 per unit.

Trays– Used old 11x21x2.5 inches greenhouse trays. Worked great, easy to handle and clean, plus they didn’t cost anything.

Greenhouse Space– Space wasn’t an issue as the project was started on 6/23, after a lot of space was freed up in the greenhouse. If done again next season, could maintain this size operation on a single table, although having a sunny spot is vital.

Seed– Initial ideas of having a large variety of micro green types didn’t seem practical when faced with reality. The key to having this be profitable on a small scale is keeping worker hours low, and uniformity in the process helps achieve that goal. A large selection of varieties, each with different needs and days to maturity, adds complexity. I settled on two mixes, one mild and one spicy, with similar requirements.


Using what I’ve learned this past year will mean an improvement in production. To make the most of this increase some marketing work can be done. Giving out free samples early on at market could help increase sales and introduce customers to the product which they may not be familiar with. In addition, I found bringing un-harvested trays to market for display was aesthetically pleasing for the stall as a whole, attracted attention to the product, and introduced the costumer to more of the process of growing the product.

2012 Perennials Manager Summary

February 6th, 2013 | Posted by Casey in Perennials - (Comments Off on 2012 Perennials Manager Summary)

Perennials Manager Summary 2012

by Colleen Harrington

It was my fifth season at North Slope Farm when we undertook “the great fruit/nut planting of 2010”.  After digging 125 holes and getting these plants settled in, it was already time to jump in to the main vegetable production season.  The season was flying by and the time we could put towards this new undertaking (perennials) was just bare minimum.  We had numerous casualties by the end of the season.

The following spring of April 2011, when replacing dead trees, we utilized the same varieties.  Time spent caring for our fruit and nut bearing “friends” did increase slightly but not nearly enough.  Our trees were just surviving when they could and should be thriving.

In 2011, much of my time was spent outside of our primary production areas working to re-establish our perennial herbs in the “Corner Garden”.  It made sense for me to increase my responsibilities to include all perennials.

In 2012 I took on the role of Perennials Manager.  At the start of the season, my goal was to be sure all our perennials had:

  • Enough water.
  • Protection from larger predators in the form of fencing and trunk guards (for trees).
  • Quality compost.
  • Ramial woodchips(to promote a more fungal dominated soil) and
  • Pruning and thinning
  • Hand weeding around plants.

These goals were part of a one year management plan which incorporates what I consider to be most “basic needs” for all perennial plantings.

Overall, it was a successful year.  Our Lemon Verbena crop was excellent, with a yield of 7.6 pounds of dried herb tea per 120 square foot bed.  We saw our first peaches ripen and all “basic needs” were met.  As a result the survival rate of our trees increased from just over 50 % in 2010 to over 90% in 2012.

Among this seasons challenges was the “unhappy cherries” (less than half survived).  We also saw severe disease and pest damage in our oldest apple trees along with a harsh spring frost which resulted in our lowest yield in years for apples. Deer pressure continues to be a threat in the form of trunk rubbing and terminal bud nibbling.  The “market garden” is protected by an electric fence which had been destroyed on the entire north side.  We spent a day repairing the electric fence and we were also able to erect a deer fence around the “fruit cluster” in early winter.  Yeah!

The long term management strategy will build onto the “basic needs” plan as we learn more about the specific varieties we grow. We will become more familiar with specific fungal, bacterial and pest challenges here at North Slope Farm.  We also hope to foster the growth of healthy plants by promoting diverse and abundant soil microbiology and by increasing overall diversity on the farm.

Additional goals for the 2013 season:

  • Application of the “Four Holistic Sprays of Spring” (see Michael Phillips book The Holistic Orchard or go to
  • To utilize compost extracts and fermented herb teas to promote plant health (The Compost Tea Brewing Manual, Fifth Edition by Elaine R. Ingham, Soil Foodweb Incorporated at
  • Establish and map soil sampling sites for future reference.
  • Establish beneficial plants in and under drip line of fruit and nut trees.
  • Take soil samples and send for analysis.
  • Track degree days to help monitor specific pest and disease pressures.
  • Tracking exact dates of: (1) bud break (2) week of quarter inch green (3) early pink (4) bloom (5) petal fall and (6) first cover to help with the timing of any holistic spray applications.

A final component of the long term plan is to double the herb production and sales each season until we reach $10,000/year.  This will require identifying more production space, increasing herb seedling sales and upgrading our tea drying process.

As more of our perennial fruits and nuts come into their prime production years, our goal is to gross $20,000 per acre.  However, for the next few years the focus will be on boosting health and vigor by utilizing holistic orcharding techniques.

Click on image below to view varieties and planting details for the Perennials Project. 
Perennial Crop Inventory

 Information about the project, including annual summaries, will be shared on our website under Special Projects; Perennials or a specific crop name.

Introduction to Perennials

February 6th, 2013 | Posted by Casey in Perennials - (Comments Off on Introduction to Perennials)

Perennial Crops– at North Slope Farm


January 2013

Prepared by MR and CH, January 2013


Intent: To increase the potential income of the farm by establishing crops that will yield a diversity of fruits, nuts and vegetables in a regenerative manner.  Ideally the perennials will make use of land otherwise marginally, productive or accessible, for annual crop production.  Perennials may ultimately become a primary focus of the farm, but in the beginning, tasks should be coordinated with the Farm Manager to ensure a “Wholistic Farm Plan.”



  • Capital Investment; North Slope Farm.
  • Daily Management; Directed by Perennials Manager – CH
  • Site Details; infrastructure and fields managed by North Slope Farm, planted areas and future expansion delineated by Field Maps.
  • Enterprise; Establish recommended varieties of diverse Perennial Crops to get practical experience with the crop management and make judgments about the crop viability on our Farm.  Make use of ‘marginal agricultural land’ for minimally disruptive, long term crop production.
  • Regular records will be kept of costs and production.  North Slope Farm will be responsible for costs and income of the operation.
  • Information about the project, including annual summaries, will be shared on our website under Special Projects; Perennials or a specific crop name.


Data Points:

  • List Crops, Amounts Established, and Locations – LINK TO TABLE
  • Sources
  • Costs and Values
  • Yield information


Summary as of December 2011:


When North Slope Farm was purchased in 1994, there was a single, old fruit tree growing next to the farmhouse.  A crunchy, tart pear, great for storage, we refer to it, fondly, as the” farmhouse pear”.  The following year, six apple trees and two Asian pear trees were planted around the farmhouse.  All of these trees have grown to produce beautiful blossoms, organic looking but delicious fruits, while also providing a perfect classroom for practical’s, in pruning and observation, of the short and long term needs of these valuable members of our community.


By 2005, the main vegetable production areas were well established and incorporate perennial herbs and flowers, as well as “wild strips”; a place for our native plants, insects, birds and critters.  As stewards of this land, always looking to diversify flora and fauna, the next step in this journey was to establish more fruit trees.  Five apple trees were planted in the market garden and plans for a larger expansion were solidifying.  Expansion of perennial plantings is often a risk, due to potential for loss.  In 1997-98 we lost a new block of 40 Apple saplings, due to lack of irrigation and Rabbits chewing the bark from the trunks.


In 2010, with fifteen years of experience in vegetable and flower production, the land and its stewards were ready to get rolling on plans which would establish more diversity of berries and fruit trees within the “Market Garden” and “Corner Garden”.  The plans also included the establishment of a 1/6th acre plot dedicated to fruiting perennials and a 50’x 25’ area for hazelnuts.  These planting areas, known respectively as the “Fruit Cluster” and the “Sycamore Plot”, were chosen based on their proximity to infrastructure but also because these soils are least suitable for annual vegetable production.


This ambitious 2010 plan included:  (Peaches) 20 Curlfree, (Pears) 3 Bosc, 3 Red Anjou, 4 Seckel, 2 Moonglow, 2 D’Anjou, (Cherry) 6 Kristen, 10 Windsor, 6 Bing, (Asian Pears) 2 Large Korean, 2 Chojuro, 2 Shinseki, 2 Hosui, (Apples) 3 Enterprise, 3 Goldrush, 3 Jonafree, (Paw Paw) 4 American, (Fig) 5 Brown Turkey, (Gooseberry) 4 Pixwell, (Hardy Kiwi) 6 male, 3 female, (Grapes) 3 Ontario, 3 Buffalo, 3 Candice, (Blackberries) 72 Chester, (Strawberries) 400ft mixed Albion, Earlyglow, Sparkle and Honeyoe, (Filberts) 3 Butler, 3 Barcelona, 3 Royal, 12 Fingerlakes.



  • CH Personal Introduction to 2012 Special Projects – Perennials
  • 2010 planning map


Future discussion:  Assess production management; strengths and weakness.  Assess production potential and identify limitations to operation.  Identify values and costs of enterprise not reflected in hard data collected.


Click on picture below to visit our Photo Sets at


Pastured Poultry: Introduction to ‘Factors to Consider’

July 10th, 2012 | Posted by miker in Poultry - (Comments Off on Pastured Poultry: Introduction to ‘Factors to Consider’)

Pastured Poultry: Introduction to ‘Factors to Consider’

 Each week we move our chicken coops to a new section of pasture.  At this time the Farm Worker is responsible for the following items:

  •  Where is the coop moving to, and what is the best way to get there?  Where will the coop be moved to next time – such that the new position leads smoothly to the next placement.
  • Open fence to allow access for ATV to move coop to new location.  Hanging feeder inside coop should be secured to avoid wild swinging and injury to birds.  Move at slow, steady rate, avoid sharp turns and steep inclines.
  • Pre mow new pasture perimeter to facilitate fence set up.  Fence should be set up without sagging and bottom edge of fence must be fully in contact with ground.  Over uneven ground additional fence stakes may be necessary to secure bottom of fence.  Be sure that all additional fence stakes are collected and move with each new pasture.
  • Coop Orientation is Important!  Main solar access should be to the South East (morning sunshine) to encourage laying.  Windows should not be to the West as this leads to potential overheating on summer afternoons.
  • Coop Placement in pasture is Important!  Pasture should be assessed for best forage, worst weeds, and previous placement.  The chickens will kill whatever is beneath the coop, so placement in the midst of a nasty patch of weedy growth can be beneficial.  Likewise their poop is concentrated below the coop and so placement in the pasture should be rotated to allow for uniform fertilization of the area over time.
  • If predation is an issue, choice of pasture location must be as close to human activity as possible, followed by within electric fence.  At the very least, nearby boundaries should be mowed to reduce cover for foxes and regular monitoring is necessary.
  • Mowing the pasture after chickens have moved off can be beneficial to control the seed set of undesirable plant species.  Reseeding with desirable plant species can also be done after chickens have moved on.

Poultry Report 2011

March 5th, 2012 | Posted by miker in Poultry - (Comments Off on Poultry Report 2011)

Poultry Report 2011

Materials Reviewed: MikeR, Nov. 2011.



Regular records are kept of Feed Comsumption, Egg Yield and Special Expenses.  In the winter, eggs are sold wholesale (Whole Earth Center, Bent Spoon, Zone 7) and income is tracked through regular invoicing.  During the Farmers Market Season, sales are recorded at each market, and a summary of sales prepared at the end of the season.

It is our intention to use these numbers to track our real cost and income from the season of 2011, and publish the results, right here.  Ultimately, this effort is intended to encourage similar cost assessment amoung the agricultural and food consumming communities.  Hypothesis:  If we accurately track our real costs of production, we can accurately price the product…adjusted by our real yield.

Challenges:  Accounting for costs – Infrastructure, Labor, Intangebles (sometimes as benifits), Markets.

The final goal is a strong “Wholesale Value” that NorthSlopeFarm will stand by as a reasonable value for our product.

Off the cuff calculations now show very little money left to pay for labor after we’ve shelled out Thousands of Dollars for Certified Organic, Fresh Feed.  Its an important topic, and the report will be published here.

MikeR, March 5, 2012



Hoop House Tomatoes

October 6th, 2011 | Posted by steven in Hoop House Tomatoes - (Comments Off on Hoop House Tomatoes)

Special Projects – Hoop House Tomatoes
Prepared by ST 10/6/11

Grafted Heirloom tomatoes were trellised with the double leader technique. Each tomato plant’s leaders were pruned except for two which were clipped to its own individual string hanging from the top of the hoop house. This provided adequate airflow for the plants and made it easy to harvest in an efficient manner. We mulched the beds and aisles with hay for weed suppression and to prevent soil from contacting the plants. The outside rows were non grafted indeterminate red slicing tomatoes. We trellised and pruned them using the same method for the grafted tomatoes. Soil moisture sensors were placed in two of the rows to inform us when and how much to water. On average we watered once a week for about an hour. This changed according to the weather. On hot weeks we watered twice a week and during rainy periods we did not water at all. A humidity chamber was built for the newly grafted tomatoes. This consisted of a tent of plastic under the greenhouse table. Cardboard was placed on top of the table to block light out. This created the right environment for the grafts to heal. I learned this method from the first farm I worked at: Blooming Glen Farm.

How to Graft: Grow seedlings of heirloom and rootstock so their stems are about the thickness of a pencil. Cut the top of the root stock off. Cut a downward slit on the rootstock with a matching upward slit on the plant you want to graft. Insert the cuts together and plant into a single pot. Hold plants together with graft clips and mist the cut with a spray bottle. Place under the humidity chamber for 3 to 5 days. Pull the plants out and cut halfway through the base of the heirloom. Twist tie the plants to a skewer for support. Water the base of the plant gently to avoid soil splash. Place the plants back into the humidity chamber for another 3 to 5 days. Take the plants back out and cut all the way through. Now the root stock will be attached to the heirloom. There are some variables to this procedure. Observation of the plant’s health is vital. Slowly introduce the plant back to full sunlight before planting.

Root Stock: Maxifort

Heirloom Tomatoes: Brandywine, Striped German, Paul Robeson, and Black Prince

Non grafted Tomatoes: New Girl

4 beds planted: 2 Outside beds new girl, 2 inner beds with grafted heirlooms (1/2 of bed for each variety)

Single row planting at 18” spacing

Important Dates:

3/4 seedlings were planted

4/22 to 4/27 tomatoes grafted

5/13 tomatoes planted

7/12 first harvest

9/23 last substantial harvest

Yield from 300 row feet of tomatoes:

Grafted Heirloom-1410#


Worker Hours:

Seeding – 1 hr

Grafting – 16 hrs

Planting – 1.5 hrs

Trellising – 30 hrs

Harvesting – 32 hrs

Clean up – 12 hours