Kopp's Crops is a family-run business specializing in maple syrup, honey and fresh vegetables. We are located 45 miles north of Minneapolis in Bradford Township on our 65 acre farm.

*Now Selling at the Cambridge-Isanti Farmers Market!*

Local Orders: For pickup in Isanti, Cambridge, Brooklyn Park or Arden Hills, please email koppscrops@gmail.com or call 763-772-7057 to place your order and arrange payment & pickup. Available products are listed in the shopping cart below.

Outside the Twin Cities: Please use the online shopping cart below. USPS shipping charges will be calculated at checkout.

For questions, please email us at koppscrops@gmail.com


Monday, August 29, 2011

For the Love of Tomatoes - Part 1 (Growing)

It’s tomato season!  It’s tomato season!  It’s finally, finally tomato season!  Tomatoes are about the last thing in the garden to reach maturity (other than some squash and our Brussels sprouts), and the most anticipated.  But throughout their long, long growing season they’re a ton of work.  You say toe-may-to, we say toe-way-too-much-work!  When the plants get about 16 inches high, it’s time to start tying them to stakes so they don’t fall over under the weight of the growing tomato clusters, and we have to keep tying the upper branches as the plant grows through the summer.  But as we’ve found out the hard way, staking alone doesn’t guarantee upright tomatoes. 
Our tomatoes (stakes & all) toppled in wind storms, two years in a row now.  The plants don’t break off, but it does cause blight, which is caused by a fungus that is almost always present in a garden, in the soil. The fungus only infects tomato plants through the leaves, when the leaves of a tipped-over plant come in contact with the ground, or when it rains and mud splashes on the leaves.  This is why we prune back 20% or so of the bottom leaves of the plants, so that there’s less chance of fungus splash-back.  And because it makes it that much easier for our preschooler to find tomatoes to munch on during her daily garden visit.  She can’t yet fit an entire Roma tomato in her mouth at once, but it’s not for lack of trying.
We also need to “sucker” the plants throughout the season, which means we pinch off the tiny branches that start forming at the intersection of larger branches.   This reduces the number of branches so that the plant puts less energy into growing braches, and more into growing the tomatoes themselves.  We get fewer, but much larger, tomatoes this way.  By this point in the year (at least up here in the soon-to-be-frozen-again Tundra), any blooms at the top of the plant won’t have time to grow fully ripe tomatoes, so we also lop off the tops of the plants.  This puts even more energy into the existing green tomatoes, helping them ripen faster.  So basically we act like the Tomato Electric Company, diverting energy to the areas of highest demand.  Too bad that pesky blight is giving us “rolling brownouts”! 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Source of the Sweetness

A couple weeks ago, we harvested the first honey of the 2011 season, our “Spring Flower” variety.  To determine what kind of honey we had, we took into account the color, flavor and known nectar sources within a two mile radius, which is the furthest bees will travel to find honey-making supplies.  We also noted what nectar was available at the time it was produced – nectar is the sugar source for honey.  The earliest nectar available to bees is from blooming maple trees in the early spring, but it’s usually too cold for bees to fly at that point.  So the first collectable nectar source for most bees is dandelions, and this was the main source for our spring flower honey.  Try not to let your hatred of lawn-dotting dandelions bias you against our honey – celebrate the fact that dandelions finally have a positive purpose in life!
After the dandelions are tapped out, there’s usually a lull in available nectar.  This is about the time of the year that they start thinking about swarming.  We can’t really blame them – if you suddenly cut off our food supply, we’d probably get ticked and leave, too.  Right now we’re in the thick of the main nectar flow, which typically runs from early July to mid-August.  During the prime season, it’s not uncommon for a strong colony to collect up to 30 pounds of honey each week - almost 4 gallons!  Our seven new hives aren’t producing quite this much because new colonies have to use their first nectar and honey to produce the wax to make their honeycomb.  The bees in our two older hives can recycle last year’s comb – very eco-chic of them.
We are eagerly awaiting our first taste of the mid-summer honey to find out what kind we’ve got.  Last year’s variety had what we delicately referred to as a “polarizing taste.”  Some less charitable tasters called it “reminiscent of dirty socks.”  It was a distinctly strong flavor that we couldn’t identify, and we had to reach out to one of our local honey experts to help us identify it.  Turns out we had buckwheat honey, which is highly prized by some (soiled laundry aftertaste notwithstanding) for its higher antioxidant content.  We still don’t know who within a 2 mile radius was growing the buckwheat our bees found, so we don’t know if we’ll end up with buckwheat honey again this year or not.  Hives are like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get!