Okraphobia, okraphilia

As with many of the world’s wonderful vegetables, okra’s birthplace remains disputed. Though the drought and heat-resistant mallow appears to come from a tropical location, okra lovers and scientists from around the world can’t seem to agree on exactly which tropical location it is. The proposed parent species of okra still live in East Asia […]


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Brassicas: They’re Back!

Once they’ve grown into their mature forms and been cut, cleaned up, and displayed in big green bins arugula, kohlrabi, kale, collards, cabbage, radishes, turnips, mustard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, tatsoi, bok choi, radish, broccoli rabe, and hon tsai tai’s unique qualities shine out. In their youth, however, they are almost identical… Which one of these […]


Ancient Alliums

We are nearing the end of August and in ‘farm time’ that means fall is just around the corner.  Omens of the cold are appearing..  Pumpkins, winter squash, and onions that we seeded in early spring are curing in the greenhouse and garlic planted last fall is hanging from the rafters of the barn, foreshadowing […]

Certified onion seed also comes in seed packets of course.

Eggplants at Bellair

Eggplant: The Purple Beauty

The deep, alluring shades of purple make the eggplant a standout in the rainbow of summer vegetables we grow at Bellair. The eggplants soaked up the early heat of summer and have grown wonderfully this season, looking gorgeous in their shiny violet skins. Eggplants are in the Solanaceous (nightshade) family, and have varieties categorized by […]


Like a Pheonix from the Ashes: Compost

Anyone who’s gone on a walk across the farm and made a couple wrong turns by the storage barn can tell you, the compost pile is no place for a picnic.  Even before you catch sight of the pile you might catch a whiff of excess nitrogen evaporating into ammonia, bacteria producing any number of […]

Compost heap.

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Soil: Science and Alchemy

We’ve heard it a thousand times from enthusiastic science teachers, “the soil is teeming with life!” And it’s true. Get on your hands and knees and stare at the apparently motionless soil and you will see ants building cities, worms mining for nutrients, and all manner of creepy crawlies going about their business as oblivious […]


Organic Matters

One sweltering Thursday last summer, Michelle and I arrived at the farmers’ market with our weekly offerings. As we carried out the bins of veggies in our freshly mud-slathered jeans a woman stepped up to the garlic bin and asked, ‘How much are these?’ I responded, ‘Two dollars for a large head.’ The mood changed […]

Sustainable farming methods tend to be much more labor intensive because precise mechanical tasks such as weeding cannot be replaced by chemical sprays.  Here Dana and Michelle make sure that the plastic mulch we use for weed control is firmly tucked under the soil.

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Eagles at Bellair Farm

  This Spring, during potato planting, we spotted a pair of bald eagles next to a field bordering the Hardware River.  Upon closer inspection, we discovered their nest.  Since one of the eagles is constantly in the nest right now, its big white head is visible from the field.  We are very lucky to experience […]


Bellair in the bleak midwinter

It’s nearing the end of January here in the Blue Ridge and things are looking a lot less green.  Tractor implements are resting where we left them after seeding cover crop in late fall and the greenhouse is used for keeping people warm rather than seedlings.  A butterfly-less ‘Operation Wings’ overlooks snow-dusted pick-your-own fields where […]

greenhouse winter

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Prolonging the Magic

The grasses are turning brassy, the chirping of the crickets has taken on a new timbre, and suddenly you realize: fall is practically here and the CSA season is practically over! We’ve already mostly said goodbye to the tomatoes, and while the other heat-loving crops will keep pumping out food for a little longer, the […]