Bog renovation – winter 2020

While the rest of our team is hard at work on our usual winter tasks such as sanding, our bog renovation team is also keeping busy!

Bog renovation is a time-consuming and capital-intensive but necessary project that will increase both yield and quality by improving bog and irrigation design. Effective bed drainage is critical, especially in New Jersey, where the humid climate can provide a favorable environment for Phytophthora cinnamomi, a known cause of root rot. Other improvements to the water system will include new gates, rebuilt ditches, and relocation of pumps, if necessary. As part of our irrigation redesign, and with the redesign of some of the beds, it’s sometimes necessary to make some changes in order to maximize water flow to the pump. Relocation of the pump houses is also helpful for improved access, both for refueling and repairs.

“We’re moving along with this year’s acreage,” says bog renovation manager Steve Manning. “We’re working on Panama and Bell out at Sim Place and Red Road on the home farm. The sand’s in at Panama, we’re starting to put the sand in at Bell, and Red Road is up next.”

One of our biggest projects, however, is just getting started.

A couple of years ago, Pine Island bought back some of the acreage known as Birches, originally purchased by our founder, Martin L. Haines, in the late 19th century. Our team did some dry harvesting as an experiment in fall 2018, and now our focus has turned to upgrades! We’ve removed some structures that were declared unsafe (the original packing house remains and won’t be going anywhere!) and our bog renovation team has started work on the beds.

“We were just over there today figuring out our plan of attack,” Steve says. “The water’s off, the old vines have been burned, and now we’re pushing them off and starting to pile them to the side before we take the next step.”

That’s just the beginning! We’re going to document every step of the process of bringing the original Haines family land to maximum production and efficiency.

Bog renovation 2016 – planting update

Bog renovation, as always, is an ongoing project at Pine Island, and our team is moving right along! Manager of Bog Renovations Steve Manning is pleased with the current progress. “Two weeks ago, we finished Osborne Spung,” he says. “It’s been all sub-graded, we’ve built the canals and the dams, and now it’s ready for sand. We’re continuing to put sand in over at Worth Tract; Jeremy [Fenstermaker] is designing the irrigation set-up, the pumps are going in, the structures are being built. Wilfredo [Pagan] has a crew putting gates in.”

Another current project is finishing the planting at Warehouse #1. While our team planted most of that acreage back in the fall, they were only able to finish about 3/4 of the portion alloted to the Haines variety. “There was a problem getting some of the material, but ultimately it won’t really be a big deal,” says manager Mike Haines. “There’s not going to be too much of a growth difference.” Tim [Bourgeois] and Jeremy have been working on getting the planter calibrated in order to keep as few people as possible walking behind it and fixing plants. “The wet weather means we need to keep the planter out of the newer beds, so in the meantime we also have a crew out at Old 11 Acre replanting some spots that died due to Phytophthora,” Mike says. (Phytophthora is a fungus that leads to rot.)

Eliminating fruit rot is a top priority of our team. “It’s usually caused by having too much water on for too long, especially during hot and humid weather conditions,” Mike says. “Last year on these beds, I tried to sub-irrigate by bringing ditches up instead of running sprinklers. But these have a heavier soil, which holds water longer, and I ended up watering more than needed. So we considered all that and decided to keep ditches down and just water as needed. Matt [Stiles] is incorporating that as part of his irrigation plan, as well as taking some other preventive measures. Jeremy did a lot of research and found we can switch nozzles on sprinklers so we can irrigate using 33% less water, which will be great for next year when these beds will be ready for frost protection.”

“Everyone’s doing a great job; it can be really tedious hand planting everything,” Mike says. “But things have been moving faster than I’ve ever seen before!”

Pine Island Team Profiles: Steve Manning

Pine Island said farewell to Bog Reno manager extraordinaire Joe Colon back in December, and in February, Steve Manning came on board! Steve comes to us from over twenty years in the construction business, and has stepped right up to the challenge of renovating dozens of acres for 2015 and beginning the process for our 2016 phase.

“It’s been a busy season,” Steve says. “We’re just about finished at Turf and we’re in the process of installing the suction lines at Black Rock. We’re installing some additional drainage so we can widen the dams for tractor trailers, and large portions have already been land levelled. I’m expecting to flood Black Rock so we can settle everything and assist dirt compaction, and we’ll be land levelling at Warehouse next week.” He expects to be planting in about five to six weeks so we can have it all finished before harvest.

“I’m enjoying it a lot,” he says. “My previous job was construction, and I did a lot of what I’m actually doing here: clearing land, putting in roads, installing water mains. The difference is that now I’m always at the same job site, which makes things a little easier. I like working outside, and I have a good team.” He also sometimes forgets to eat lunch, which he says means he’s really liking the work. “I’m glad I made a move.”

GM Fred Torres is pleased with Steve’s work. “Steve works hard, and he plans ahead,” Fred says. “He plans for equipment, he plans for labor, all of it. He’s all about improvement, and is always looking for ways to make things better.” He’s also proven to be flexible when necessary. “It’s a big farm, and a lot goes on. Sometimes we need to change direction pretty quickly. If I have to move guys to another job temporarily, Stev will make do with who he’s got and change direction if he has to. He’s a team player all the way through.”

Look for more from Steve as our renovation progresses!