Jones' Farmer Blog

Behind the scenes and lessons at Jones Family Farms in Shelton, CT


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100 Days.

Today, September 16th, is 100 days till Christmas.  To some that may seem like a long way off, and about this time is when folks are upset about seeing winter season displays in stores when it hasn’t even finished summer (that technically occurs on September 22nd)!

It is a VERY busy time for the farm now.  We post regular photos of our farmers at work behind the scenes on our Instagram feed, and long-form videos on our Youtube Chanel. Here is a sampling of what is occurring here this week.

Pumpkins:

IMG_20150916_141454199.jpgWe are busy harvesting the pumpkins as this crop has become ready.  Beyond the traditional jack-o-lantern carving pumpkin, we have many other ornamental squash and gourds, and harvesting these fields allows us to disc the soil and seed it with a cover crop of grass to get established before the winter.

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Sugar Pumpkin Flower Wall (1).jpgHarvesting pumpkins now and placing them in our barns to “cure” (the outer skin hardens a bit) makes it tougher for the skin to avoid being blemished or nicked.  We have MANY edible squashes and delight in the many recipes that utilize them over the colder months of fall and on into winter (squash can store very well if kept in a cool dry place).  Our website has many recipes for your inspiration.

Staff have been busy creating a new theme for the Pumpkin Season!  This year’s theme is a new one for the farm, and it incorporates many educational elements that are also entertaining!

Pumpkin Season begins on Saturday September 24th at our Pumpkinseed Hill Farm location: 120 Beardsley Road.  Follow our signage as your phone or GPS is often incorrect.

Winery:

The Winery aspect of the farm is one enjoyed by more people every year as new vintages of our wines are produced.  Currently, the Winery’s Tasting Room is open Thu-Sun, 11a-5p.  Stop by an see why we like to say “Memories Are Always in Season”!  There is much information on our website regarding a Wine Tasting Experience, the various wines we offer, and most other aspects related to a visit.IMG_20160914_122339126.jpg

2016 is the 100th anniversary of the Big E Exposition where this year our wines were judged as some of the best!  Our Pinot Gris was awarded a Bronze Medal, with a Gold Medal going to our Woodlands White, Blueberry Bliss, and Ripton Red.  Our First Blush received the 2nd highest ranking of all wines at the entire competition, and was awarded a Double Gold Medal!  Our staff will be at the Big E again this year, so give them your congratulations if you stop by!

IMG_1530.JPGThis is the time of year when our vintner has completed the process of production in our fermentation tanks, and the bottling begins!  All of our fermentation, finishing, aging and bottling is done right here at the farm, and there is great satisfaction to see all the hard work come to a conclusion with the bottle sealed and labeled!

 

IMG_20151015_145740262.jpgThen of course, there is the current year’s harvest of grapes from the vineyard!  Thankfully the different varietals become ripe and different times, and not all at once!  Removal of nets that have protected the crop from birds is the first step, then the harvest begins in earnest to collect the grapes into large bins which we put into refrigeration units to chill them down.

The Winery’s Tasting Room is located at our Homestead Farm location: 606 Walnut Tree Hill Road.  Please note that our pumpkins and winery are separate addresses.  Our website has detailed information for visiting either of our farm locations.

Christmas Trees:

IMG_20160907_150657340.jpgThe Christmas Tree season will be upon us shortly after Pumpkin season, and some preparations for that winter period are already underway!  We have done some regrading in the barnyard, painting of buildings, and replacement of sub-grade pipe infrastructure.  With the Winery’s Tasting Room open Thu-Sun, that gives us a short window of Mon-Wed to do this work.

You may have noticed the refurbished stone wall along the parking lot at our Homestead Farm.  That was all part of this year’s improvement to the Homestead Farm’s setting for arriving guests!

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Miscellaneous:

The popular Harvest Kitchen Cooking Classes have a few openings, but many are fully subscribed.  There are many exciting offerings as each class is a unique experience.

The fall school programs are fully subscribed and our educators are excited to welcome the students to learn about how we grow pumpkins, squash and gourds!

As always, our Crop Report Message (203-929-8425) is the current and regularly updated information for what is occurring around the farm.

Our website is an excellent resource for information about most every aspect about the farm.  That URL is http://www.jonesfamilyfarms.com

 


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Winery Opens 2016 season

Today, March 4th, is the opening day for our Winery’s Tasting Room!  We look forward to seeing some familiar faces visit again this year, as well as introducing ourselves to new guests.  The spring hours for the Tasting Room are Fri-Sun 11a-5p.

Behind the scenes, we always use the period between New Years and March to revitalize some of our spaces – such as the Tasting Room.

FBCover02g-IMG_20150131_145154762During the first weeks in January, the holiday decorations were put away and furniture moved to storage.  All of the counter tops in our room were sanded down and given several coats of urethane finish.  The wood for all the counter tops came from the farm, and we want to make sure they last for many years to come!

The building was historically a Dairy Barn, and although the guest foot traffic isn’t as heavy as the cows of days gone by, the floors were stripped and re-finished to maintain a fresh appearance.

IMG_20150922_122518453The spring furniture is brought back in, shelves get restocked with our award winning wines and farm made jams, local honey, maple syrup and other farm goodies are arranged for guests to choose from.

We look forward to seeing you back at the farm this year!


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New Website

Several years ago, the farm created a website which provided information about our farm that guests could readily view to prepare for a visit.  Much has changed since then, and we have updated our website in response to how our guests have used it.

Screenshot_2016-03-01-19-46-50Over 75% of our viewers now visit our website via a mobile device.  Our new website is now “responsive” so that your experience is optimized for how it is being viewed, be that a desktop, tablet or mobile phone.

If you are on a tablet or mobile phone, the manner in which you hold the phone will cause the website to respond with a landscape or portrait orientation to fill the screen.

If you are familiar with mobile website viewing, you may recognize the bars in the upper right corner of the photo on the left, to be a menu drop-down, providing quick access to deeper pages of our website.

In a laptop-view photo, it’s easier to illustrate some of the new features added to our website.  Follow along below with some screen-shots.

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Our menus are now a drop-down style, and if you hover over a top level menu item such as “Kitchen”, you can go deeper via a direct jump to a particular webpage.

The top of our page will have upcoming events at the farm.  In the above illustration it shows the times our Winery is open for the spring season, and an upcoming event at Easter.

Social media wasn’t a facet of society when we first constructed our website, but we now have a presence on all the social media platforms.  Our site provides links for you to follow/like our feed/channel on some of the top platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram).  Of course we are also on Youtube, Pinterest, Google+ and many others, but we had to stop somewhere on our page!

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Speaking of social media, our homepage shows our Twitter feed (the last several tweets), so even if you aren’t a member of these various social media platforms, you can see what we are posting upon them!  Please understand that we do not have some far-off dedicated social media team in an office, but rather we farmers are often in our fields attending to crops or guests, so we may be delayed in some of our responses, but they will be authentic!

We have a dedicated paragraph we update seasonally to let you know generally what is going on at the farm at this time.  In the above example, we are looking forward to opening our Winery for the season in just a few days.

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Maybe you have found our webpage you want to share with others, such as the recipe to our popular “Trail Mix Holiday Cookie”.  Sure you can copy/paste the browser’s address into an email, but now you can directly pin, tweet, share or like a particular page from our website!  For example, if you are looking to visit our strawberry fields in June, you could head to our “Plan Your Visit” page, and immediately share it with your social network of friends (assuming you are logged into your social network) to co-ordinate a visit together.

If social networks and regularly visiting our website isn’t convenient, how about receiving an occasional newsletter from the farm?  We now have an easy method for subscribing to the three newsletters we offer (Jones Family Farms News, Jones Winery, Harvest Kitchen), as shown to the right of the above screenshot.

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Do you need driving directions to the farm?  People often forget that our activities occur at three distinct locations across the seasons (and it can often change daily as to where we are harvesting our delicious berries).  We have feature pages for each farm location with directions in text form, or a link to take you directly to Google Maps and automate your mobile device’s audible instructions guiding you to the specific farm you are visiting.

The website also has e-commerce capability and is the place to visit if you want to register for our cooking classes, or purchase gift certificates online.

Of course,the best way to experience our farm is to visit in person.  Despite all these technological marvels – we still have the old reliable Crop Report Message to call and hear the guaranteed updated message from our farmers regarding what is currently happening at the farm. During our harvest seasons, Farmer Jones updates that message daily (sometimes again during the day as weather can change) to give you the current crop conditions.  That Crop Report number has been the same for many years: 203-929-8425.

We look forward to seeing you out at the farm, where “Memories Are Always In Season”!

 


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Santa’s list and math

One of the themes of the farm is to Educate, and Celebrate.  There are many examples from the farm that teachers may use as illustration to educate, and here is one courtesy of Santa!

Santa visits Jones Farm

Santa’s elf helps him keep good records!

Santa keeps copious records beyond a simple naughty and nice list.  He has many toys to make by his Christmas deadline, inventory to manage, elves to keep busy in the workshop, etc.  Much of his work is accomplished with simple math.

Santa shares his statistics with us regarding his visits to the farm.  He traditionally visits the farm on the weekend just previous to Christmas, and takes time to meet all the people (young and old) who want to see him.

In 2013, Santa’s helper noted that there were 9 children that were crying when they met Santa.  In 2014, the records indicate that there were 8 children crying.  What trend or conclusion would you draw from Santa’s records?

Looking deeper into Santa’s data: 267 children visited him in 2013, and 218 children visited in 2014.  Would you change your conclusions given this extra information?

Teachers can draw up your own question list.


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Farm online – how we use it

The Jones Family Farms wants you to have a fantastic experience when you visit as our guest.  One way we do that is providing you information to become educated as to what we offer and how we operate so that your visit will be all that it can be.

Crop Report Telephone: 203-929-8425

First and foremost, while not an online reference, we must begin with our “Crop Report” telephone message.  It is updated regularly throughout all of the seasons, making it a handy and important reference to call before you visit, even if you have been here before!  During a summer crop’s season, we can shift between our farm areas that have the most available crop to provide a better harvest experience for our guests, so you can even give it a call en-route.  If weather or localized traffic might impact your visit – Farmer Jones is quick to update the telephone recording so you are informed.  The Crop Report message has been made available for years via the same telephone number: 203-929-8425

Website:  jonesfamilyfarms.com

The core online presentation is our website.  It is the first place you should visit to learn about the farm.  The main landing page has a brief synopsis regarding activities that are occurring currently on the farm.  There are tabs for the Farm (and the crops grown), the Winery (with its tasting room and our wine list), the Kitchen (with our recipes and cooking classes), Events on the farm (both Cooking and Wine education classes), Learning experiences on the farm (Fall School programs, Walks & Talks) and a tab regarding guidelines as well as answers to frequently asked questions for when you Visit our farm.

Facebook: facebook.com/JonesFamilyFarms

A great deal of our interactions online take place via Facebook.  You don’t have to be a registered user to make use of the site, but if you are, many more options are available to you for posting a message on our timeline or sending a message to us privately.  Facebook serves as a way for us to promote upcoming events and crops to our guests and dialog about them, as well as providing a way for us to share tidbits of the farm’s operations and history.

Twitter: twitter.com/JonesFamilyFarm

Some folks prefer the Twitter social network over Facebook.  Currently we stream all our posts made on Facebook to carry through onto Twitter.  We do respond to Direct Messages made via Twitter, but know that all interactions under this channel can be viewed by the public.

Google+plus.google.com/+JonesFamilyFarms

This is the social network hosted by Google, and we make informational posts on it separate from those on Facebook or Twitter.  Although it has a smaller user base for fans of the farm, the integration with other Google services is important.  Information we have provided for our page’s profile, feeds into Google’s search engine results, and you do need to have a Google Plus identity to comment on our Youtube videos.

Instagram: instagram.com/jonesfamilyfarms

We are a working farm, and folks want to know – what are you doing on the farm today?  A photo that is either timely or informative to be shared on it’s own will be done via the instagram image sharing platform.  Since our imagery can only be shared by us via a mobile device, you will find that they will be a “boots in the field” type of photograph to graphically tell the story of what we are doing at the moment as farmers.

Pinterest: pinterest.com/jonesfamilyfarm

In contrast to Instagram being a tool to instantly share timely images with others, Pinterest is an image archiving platform where photos are pinned onto boards in a way that keeps them organized around a subject matter which can then be used for future reference or inspiration, such as for recipes or places to visit.  Current boards exist for our crops (Strawberry, Blueberry, Pumpkins, Christmas Trees), winery and kitchen, as well as ornaments, winery tasting glasses, stone walls on the farm, and a “general” board.

Vine: vine.co/JonesFamilyFarms

This is a video-clip creation and hosting service that has the limitation of 6 seconds maximum length.  This puts our focus on efficiently communicating an activity or setting in a way that is somewhere between a static photo and a full length video.  The video clip can only be created and shared via a mobile device, so the content is always related to a present state of activity on the farm.

YouTube: youtube.com/jonesfamilyfarms

This is a video hosting service, as well as a social network where people can watch, rate and comment on videos we post.  Our focus for this platform is to use the greater length and caption capabilities to be more descriptive regarding activities to prepare our crops for harvest, along with aspects of farming that come under the umbrella of “Good Agricultural Practices”.

Soundcloud: soundcloud.com/jonesfamilyfarms

This is an audio hosting service, as well as social network where people can listen to, rate and comment on recordings we post.  In 2014, we hope to create audio that you can choose to listen to while visiting the farm, and augment your in-person experience with a farmer’s perspective of what you are looking at.

Foursquare: foursquare.com/jonesfamilyfarm

This is a geo-centric social network where you “check-in” to tell your circle of friends where you are at, or leave a “tip” to anyone in the public that might check in there subsequently.  There are three physical street addresses for the farm areas that make up the Jones Family Farms, but we added specific Winery and Harvest Kitchen place-holder references to create a total of five virtual locations for you to “check-in” at.

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/company/jones-family-farms

This is a professional social network, and if you have ever worked at the farm and want to illustrate that association with us accurately on your resume, this will help.

 


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Blueberry Bloom

Bloom is a protective, natural wax coating on the berries.

When you’re picking in the blueberry fields this summer, take a closer look at the many shades of blue covering the bushes. Berries don’t all ripen at the same time and the developing fruit may be green, purple, or a deep blue. Many of the ripe ones even appear a dusky shade of light blue, caused by a thin white coating on the berry. That color is caused by bloom – a natural wax produced by the blueberries to help protect their skins from the elements.

Bloom is a naturally-occurring shield on other fruits – such as apples and pears too. If you have ever shined an apple on your shirt before taking the first bite, then you just wiped off the bloom!

As a natural product produced by the plant, bloom is safe to eat and helps preserve the fruit longer. But don’t worry if your fingers wipe off some of the waxy coating as you pick! Blueberries will keep for up to two weeks if kept dry and stored in the refrigerator.


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Get Ready for Blueberries!

Is that blue I see?

July is around the corner and blueberry season is quickly approaching! Because blueberries are planted on areas of the farm with different microclimates, some fields ripen sooner than others. A few berries are already starting to turn that beautiful deep blue color at our Coyote Den field on Pumpkinseed Hill. Keep checking in toward the end of this week for updates on the first picking day of the season!