We Will Work Side by Side

I grew up singing the hymn, They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love, and was particularly fond of the lines we will work with each other, we will work side by side as they represented for me a strong sense of community. Even as a very young girl, I sensed the unity God wants for his children.

On a recent evening in the fields at First Fruits Farm, this idea played out in the simple act of planting cabbage.  A little ingenuity and team work went a long way to maximize efficiency – and save some backs – as you’ll see from the photos and video below.

Gary Fearnow and Bill Riley feed cabbage seedlings into the planter, while Rick Bernstein and Kevin Fabula check for gaps.

Many volunteers work together throughout the year to further FFF’s mission and the Lord continually brings people with open hearts and myriad skills and backgrounds who, when they work together, create a beautiful synergy.  Last week when it was time to get the cabbage in the dirt, the First Fruits Farmers sought to improve upon the old way of doing things which entailed making holes with a stake and setting the seedling in by hand. They had purchased a transplanter on the Eastern Shore and with some minor adaptations could use it as a cabbage planter.  The beauty of the endeavor was that while more efficient, it still requied team work.

Gary and Bill take a short breather while Wes prepares to begin another row.

Dan Millender provides cabbage quality control.

According to the University of Maryland Extension, cabbage can be planted in the spring for summer harvest or in mid-summer for a fall harvest.  Cabbage is very hardy and can survive in temperatures as low as 15 degrees.  Flea beetles and cutworms have been known to plague cabbage, as well as broccoli, cauliflower, collards. FFF has battled with flea beetles in the past, though it’s too early to tell yet what this planting will bring.  While FFF is too vast to farm organically with its current part-time volunteer staff, one alternative to pesticide application is a dusting with food-grade diatomaceous earth.

Cabbage comes in several varieties including green, Savoy, red, Napa, bok choy and brussels spouts, which are mini- cabbages. We have Bravo and Late Flat Dutch growing in the fields at FFF right now.

Bravo and Late Flat Dutch Cabbage

To harvest the cabbage, twist the entire cabbage head to separate it from the large cabbage stem or cut it from the stem with a sharp knife.  Green cabbage will be ready to harvest as soon as the head is fully formed, and feels solid to the touch, but before it cracks.

Cabbage can be enjoyed raw or cooked.  This time of year, I love cabbage salad, which I think of as cole slaw without the mayo – much healthier that way and still delicious!

Cabbage Salad


  •                     1/4 cup vinegar
  •                     2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
  •                     2 teaspoons garlic salt
  •                     2 teaspoons sugar
  •                     1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
  •                     6 cups shredded cabbage
In a small bowl or jar with tight-fitting lid, combine vinegar, oil, garlic salt if desired, sugar and tarragon. Place cabbage in a large bowl; add dressing and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
If you have a favorite cabbage recipe or any tips regarding growing cabbage, we’d love to hear from you!
– Diann Churchill

The Latest Buzz

“The only reason for making a buzzing-noise that I know of is because you’re a bee…The only reason for being a bee that I know of is making honey…and the only reason for making honey is so I can eat it.”                                               Winnie the Pooh

“Eat honey, my child, for it is good.”  Proverbs 24:13

At First Fruits Farm, we not only grow vegetables but also maintain beehives to produce honey and beeswax for candle making.  While many busy bees are required to keep a hive healthy and active, it is the queen who rules the roost.  Sorry for mixing the farm metaphors here….

The past few winters, both the brutal ones and the recent mild one, have not been conducive to beekeeping and the FFF hives have not flourished.  The queens flew the coop (there I go again) and the worker bees followed suit.  So, Rick ordered twenty more hives and , with the help of Aaron Leininger and Dave Churchill, prepares the bees and introduces them to their new homes.

As you can see, beekeeping is not for the faint of heart and it is critical to wear the appropriate protective gear.  There are many resources available to beekeepers, veterans and novices alike.  The Central Maryland Beekeeper’s Association and Oregon Ridge Nature Center offer classes and other resources on all aspects of beekeeping.

Dave Churchill separates the bee boxes while Rick Bernstein looks on.  Rick and Aaron Leininger introduce a colony to their new hive.

Here Come the Spuds!

The volunteer farmers at First Fruits Farm have been preparing the fields, ordering seeds, and servicing the farming equipment in anticipation of the upcoming season.  We can’t wait to see what God has in store!

In the following video clips, Rick Bernstein takes us on a brief tour of the potato equipment and describes the potato planting process.

In the first clip, Rick shows us the new potato cutter and describes how it will increase efficiency and yield this season.

Rick goes on to show us the potato planter that he and the other farmers will use to sow the potatoes in the fields.

Next, we see the new potato hiller, which will protect and nurture the potatoes and further increase yield.

Rick then shows us the potato harvester and describes how it digs up the potatoes and consolidates them into rows so volunteers can bag them and load them into bins.

Finally, Rick talks about processing the potatoes, transporting the bags and bins to shelters and food banks around Central Maryland.

Light of the World

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5

This verse refers to Jesus entering the world as God incarnate, or according to some Bible translations, God made flesh. Think about what it feels like to be enveloped in complete darkness so that even if you open your eyes wide, wide, all you see is black. Pitch dark. This is hard to come by in our techno age of glowing flat screens, laptops, tablets and smart phones but imagine for a minute that it is indeed pitch dark. Then, imagine lighting a match and that tiny flame bursting into the big darkness. The darkness cannot overcome the light; the light prevails.

I have the privilege of living across the street from First Fruits Farm. My family moved to Freeland Road three and a half years ago and I’ll share more details about this “coincidence” in another post. One December night not long after we moved to our farm, my small group studied this scripture verse from the first chapter of John and we discussed how light prevailing over darkness is a metaphor for the way in which Christ overcomes evil. I pondered this truth as I drove the few miles home. The nights are pretty dark out here in the country and as I drove up the road there was the cross on the First Fruits barn, shining boldly into the cold night. The light shines in the darkness…

The light of Christ began to shine through what is now First Fruits Farm over 20 years ago when God spoke into the hearts of Rick and Carol Bernstein. Out of their desire to serve the Lord grew a vision for reaching people who are hungry not only for healthy food but for the Gospel.

Rick and Carol and their three young children lived in northern Baltimore County in a nice house on a couple of acres. They had a big garden and the Bernstein kids sold veggies from a little roadside stand. Well, one day they were completely overrun with produce – my guess it was either the zucchini multiplied overnight or every singletomato ripened within moments of each other as they do in my garden – so on his way to work in downtown Baltimore, Rick stopped by Our Daily Bread, Catholic Charities’ hot meal program. He carried in a few bags of produce and asked the kitchen staff if they could use some vegetables. As they rarely receive fresh produce, the staff was thrilled and Rick walked away with an idea germinating in his heart. That was 1991.

In 1998, the Bernsteins moved down the road a piece to a farm they named First Fruits Farm from Proverbs 3:9: Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops. Hereford United Methodist Church provided initial support until FFF could become a freestanding nonprofit. Eventually, they acquired more acreage and equipment and today volunteers of all ages and backgrounds work in the fields together to grow food for many food banks, missions, shelters and soup kitchens. All this from a few bags of produce and a couple of open hearts.

Welcome to firstfruitsfarmblog! Our aim is to communicate what’s happening out here at the “Triple F,” from what’s growing in the fields to who is receiving the bounty and everything in between. As we move into the growing season, look for updates, photos, planting and harvesting news, farming ideas, as well as how you can become involved with First Fruits Farm.

Diann Churchill