It’s Share Renewal Time!

Hi Food Farmers,
Welcome to the Food Farm’s 25th growing season! We’re finally set to go with our new online ordering system. To reserve your shares either follow the link above or click on the CSA Shares tab of this website. The ordering process has changed, but in the long run I think the new system will make things easier for us and for members. You can now signup quicker, get access to more information about your membership, and it should reduce our burden of data entry and the chance for mistakes, and make it easier for us to run reports and get an accurate count for each share type.
Please call or email if you run into any problems!

Overall, things are going well on the farm this winter. A poor carrot harvest last fall means that the winter wholesale orders can be put together quickly by Teri and Karin, and regular farm chores are fairly quick to complete. Truman turned the corner on potty training over Christmas, and Ellis just had his first birthday and is happy and healthy after getting over early winter colds. Annie is working three jobs but hasn’t gone completely insane yet, so we’re considering ourselves fortunate! I just returned from a four day trip at two conferences in New York giving workshops on cover cropping with some researchers at Cornell that I met a few years ago. I’m planning this season’s crop rotation, starting the organic certification paperwork and preparing for a presentation at the organic farming conference in LaCrosse at the end of the month.

Seed orders have all been made and are beginning to arrive. It’s hard to believe that we’ll be opening up the greenhouse in three short weeks to begin planting onions for next season!
We’re looking forward to seeing many of you at the annual Food Farm social hour at Zeitgeist Arts on Wednesday, February 21st from 5-7 pm.

Season Wrap-up 
2017 felt like we were constantly on the edge of disaster. With the exception of early June there was excess wetness pretty much the entire season. However, the year turned out to be pretty darn good. Summer Shares in particular were a high point, and we were really proud of the boxes we sent every week. It’s been nice that we’ve been able to keep adding a little bit of diversity to keep the boxes interesting. We did lose about 20,000 pounds of carrots due to the wetness—there are plenty for the Winter Shares, but our wholesale deliveries for early 2018 are significantly less than usual.

We had a really great crew last year, and they did a great job staying on top of the weeds—a particularly difficult job on a wet year. The new cultivation equipment I put together also really helped reduce some of the hand work that we needed to do. The crew pushed hard all the way to the end of the season even after getting an unexpected 10” of snow on the 27th of October.
See the next blog post back for the nice season review and slideshow that Karin put together a few weeks ago.

Looking Ahead 
The big change for this coming season will be that we are no longer raising meat chickens or turkeys. Egg share folks shouldn’t worry–we are keeping the laying hens. We’ve been considering the change for a couple of years, but decided this year was the time. There were a number of things that figured into the decision, but the most immediate was that our insurance company no longer covers on-farm processing which meant that we’d either need to bring them somewhere else to be processed or else get a much more expensive policy from a different company. The birds have been a big part of our farm, and it’ll be sad not to have them around.

When we moved to this farm 30 years ago, most of the land was badly depleted from years of cutting hay with no added fertility. The way we raise chickens and turkeys on pasture played a vital role in bringing it back into vibrant productivity without a lot of tillage and added soil amendments. The good news is that our friend and neighbor Maggie Schulstrom of Spectrum Farm will increase her production of birds to accommodate our members. We became good friends with the Schulstrom/Vavrosky family during our pipeline fight a few years ago, and we know they do a nice job in caring for their animals. They’re also the family that is taking over strawberry production at our beloved Finke’s Berry Farm as Diane and Doug are retiring. You can contact Maggie by email or phone at (218) 380-258 seven.

That’s the big change for this year, though of course we have a lot of ongoing projects to catch up on. Among them are finishing the new high tunnel greenhouse that we started last fall, completing last fall’s drainage project, putting up new deer fence across the road, and working to rehab some of the older buildings on the farm. We are intent upon making this farm as resilient as possible in the face of increasing climate extremes, and many of these projects are designed to do just that.
We hope members are proud not only of the farm they have helped build, but the networks and support for local agriculture in general that has come out of your support of us. Never forget that eating is a powerful act!

For the farm crew,
Janaki

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2017 Season in Review

The farm is tucked in now with a cover of snow for a winter rest that is going by very quickly. Janaki sent in the order for seed potatoes just last week; even as stacks of this year’s crop abide in the root cellar. So it begins: another investment in the future of food and job security for those of us who weed the rows and harvest the eventual crop. I’m letting myself jump ahead too far for a retrospective post. First, a few photos…

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The little farm boys are as cute as ever. Truman sings songs about excavators and tractors (and everything really) and can name more implements and parts of tractors than I. Ellis is not yet a year, but has already crossed that threshold of looking an awful lot like a little boy and less and less like a baby. He gets carrots to gnaw on with his adorable teeth.

Our growing season panned out pretty well, considering how wet it was. There were many soaking wet harvest days, many almost-too-wet planting days and a couple of times we were running out of the fields with a black sky approaching from the west. Our crew, Caitlyn, Sara, and Garrett, took the weather and subsequent heavy weed pressure in stride and worked hard through the mud. There were also several volunteers who came out on some notably drenching harvest days. Thanks to all of them!

This year marks Dave’s 25th season with the Food Farm. The farm is lucky to have someone so diligent and caring. I can’t imagine the farm without his attention to things that slip from anyone else’s (at least my) purview. Or without his sense of subtlety about why seedlings should be cared for this way or placed over that way. He is a nurturing presence to the farm and everyone he works with.

There have been several projects accomplished and started this past season. The farm has another set of solar panels and has been producing more than enough electricity for our needs. At the end of the season, before the ground froze (but after our fingers and noses did) we were able to put up the frame of a new greenhouse on the front of the property.  It’s 30’ longer than the biggest greenhouse we currently use. It will be nice to have more space to push our season to the edges and make our greenhouse crop rotation more sustainable. Between finishing building the ends of the new greenhouse, putting plastic on it and replacing plastic on another one, I expect to be a greenhouse pro by next spring.

This late fall a project was started to put drain tile under some of the lowest and wettest areas on the farm. The project will be finished this spring when things thaw out. With the exception of 2015, each of the past 8 years has had some period of extreme wetness that has significantly impacted production. This year alone we lost about 25,000 lb of carrots. After a couple years of thought, Janaki is hoping this infrastructure investment will help mitigate the extreme weather events that are now apparently routine. The drain tile is plastic 4” pipe that gets buried 3’ underneath the surface. Perforations in the pipe allow water to get in and then drain away down to the irrigation pond in the back. If we have another season like last season, the water will have somewhere to go and the fields won’t be soaked to the brim. Keeping the ground from becoming saturated should also decrease the risk of erosion since additional rain can sink in rather than run off. I won’t lie, I’m hoping this next season doesn’t put it to the test.

As always, thanks to all of you who support us with your interest, involvement and with your kitchen table. Knowing how many of you have supported and cared for the farm  (and still do!) over the years reminds me that I’m a part of something great and long lasting through life’s changes. Happy New Year.

 

Farm Open House THIS SATURDAY!

Come enjoy what you have helped build by being part of our CSA!

Our annual open house is Saturday, August 19th from 3 to 5pm at the farm – 2612 County Road 1, Wrenshall, MN, 55797. We’ll give tours of the farm and have some kid friendly activities. At 5pm we’ll head down to the Free Range Film barn at 909 County Road 4, Wrenshall MN, 55797 to watch the new Wendell Berry Documentary “Look & See”. We’ll have popcorn on hand for the movie but if you want more sustenance bring a bag dinner.

This is all free and open to the public so bring friends and neighbors!

May Farm Updates

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There have been big things happening on the farm this spring–some good, some not so good. My mom Jane had a stroke about 3 ½ weeks ago. She just returned home last weekend after a stay in the hospital and a week of rehab at Miller-Dwan. The stroke has mainly affected her vision and spatial awareness, and we’re grateful that there wasn’t an impact on speech or any paralysis. The doctors still don’t know the cause, and think that she’s likely to recover most of her functionality with continued therapy. It’s a frustrating situation, but her spirits are high and she’s happy to be home again. My dad John was just beginning his recovery from rotator cuff surgery, so the last month has been a big adjustment for two normally active and capable people. My parents have been reducing their role slowly over the years, but it looks like we might be going cold turkey this summer which will be a big change for all of us.
On a happier note, we have a great farm crew on board this summer! We’re just waiting for one more person to show up in early June, but the other two new crew members are working out great so far. Look for more info on the crew in a few weeks. We’re excited to announce that Glen Avon Presbyterian has agreed to be our new Woodland pickup site! Other than that, we’re not planning on any significant delivery changes for this season.
We’ve definitely been on a weather roller coaster so far this year, with big swings from wet and cold followed by beautiful warmth. We got almost 3” of rain this week, so things are quite wet in the fields. Plantings are generally on schedule for a start to deliveries the week of June 12th, but we’re hoping that things dry out enough next week to get our third planting of broccoli in the ground. Meanwhile, the greenhouses are filling up and we’re getting a lot of miscellaneous projects done.

Finally, I was honored to be on the Farmer to Farmer podcast about a month ago with host Chris Blanchard, a former CSA farmer in Decorah. The episode I was on provides a good overview of the history of the Food Farm and where we’re at now. Here’s a link to the episode, or subscribe to Farmer to Farmer in iTunes if you’re interested hearing all about market vegetable farming!

Food Farm CSA Week #3

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Hello Food Farmers!

Things continue to roll along nicely here at the farm, as your box this week indicates! What a variety of produce! This week we’re sending the first broccoli, cukes, and beets…yummy vegetables, and good signs of the further bounty that is to come. We continue to get ample amounts of rain which is great for growth, both of the veggies and unfortunately, the weeds. As long as the fields have a couple nice drying days in between the wet, we can get out the hoes and the cultivating tractor and knock the ever-present pressure of weeds back, albeit for a moment. This past week we got to break out the Reigi Weeder implement, a fun and sort of wild tool to use. Janaki drives the tractor while two members of the crew are seated behind on the machine. Each person has control of two spinning wheels that twist and turn through the soil, pulling weeds and kicking dirt around, while the tractor rolls down the bed. It’s an effective and fast way to get after a lot of weeds. Here’s a goofy video from another farm showing it in action https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_R-fTC7uYk

As promised, we’ll be introducing the 2016 farm crew over the next couple weeks in this newsletter. They’ve been busy working their tails off but Maia and Madeline were kind enough (and are really, just all around super motivated) to write these little bits about themselves. So here they are:

Maia Killerud: Hi, my name is Maia and I am a UMD student interning at the Food Farm. I grew up raising beef cattle in Willow River, MN where I plan to continue farming after I’ve finished school. My internship at the Food Farm has given me a great opportunity to learn about a different part of the agricultural world. The amount of planning, planting, and care that goes into raising vegetables is incredible. I enjoy the camaraderie of daily work with the crew, all of who are amazingly dedicated and enthusiastic folks. The chickens and baby turkeys at the farm are fun to hang out with, too! I look forward to seeing how the season progresses and having more good times along the way. Enjoy the summer and the veggies!

Madeline Bear: Name’s Maddi Bear and this’ll be my second season at Food Farm. I balance two jobs working a couple days a week here and a few days at Positively 3rd Street Bakery. Both jobs cater healthful ingredients and for this, I am grateful. A little bit about me: I hail from Apple Valley. Since leaving suburbia, I’ve bounced around from one venture to the next. Reasons depended on what mission held fast in my mind. School in the North at Vermilion in Ely; worked on a dairy/vegetable farm out in Skowhegan, Maine. I moved to the woods and back to town just to do it all over again. All for a higher education. Along the way, all roads lead me back to the Lake, to Duluth: home. When I’m not working, I mend and sew and read and write and bike on and on and on and run through the woods like there’s no way I’d ever fall down and sometimes I do and I laugh about it. I’m excited to be a part of this world here at the Food Farm again and looking forward to the season ahead.

Food Farm CSA Week #2

Hello Food Farmers!

Storms, heat, Grandma’s Marathon…summer is here! We at the farm wish you a happy summer solstice. Enjoy these beautiful bright days while they last. We certainly are.

A couple quick notes on the box: there are lots more greens this week; lettuce, greens mix, more spinach and bok choi. Along with some sweet and delicious white turnips, the first radishes are ready! A great and simple way to snack on these little red jewels is to butter a slice of nice bread, cut the radishes thin on top and sprinkle with sea salt and a crack of black pepper. Yum!

Farming in harmony with nature, while often romantic, is sometimes a difficult endeavor in reality. A couple of weeks ago we planted our winter squash for the season…Delicata and Kabocha, Buttercup and Butternut, among others. It wasn’t long before Janaki noticed the plants beginning to mysteriously disappear, vanished to the void. Disease? We asked ourselves. Nope. Must be ground squirrels. No again. Turns out, the culprit was our wily and elusive friend, the groundhog. Groundhogs, also known as woodchucks and whistlepigs, are rarely seen here on the farm but can be a heck of a pest in the back field, where the dogs don’t often roam. Janaki and John put their heads together, did some digging around, and thankfully we have lost no more plants. Groundhogs, rabbits, the mouse and the mole… we are grateful for these creatures and value the vibrancy they bring to the farm, despite their sometimes inconvenient (for us) presence.

Over the next couple of weeks we’ll be including short bios of the 2016 Food Farm crew so you can all get to know us a little better. So! To start things off, my name is Sam Karns and I’m responsible for the newsletter this season. I grew up in Minneapolis, have worked on farms in western Wisconsin for the past several years and moved north to join the Food Farm in March. I am SO grateful to be working here, surrounded by such wonderful folks on a spectacular farm. The north country is a truly inspiring place, and I’m loving biking around, running through the woods, the community of good-natured folks in and around Duluth, and the ever-present comfort of the lake. I look forward to getting to know the place better, and getting to know you as well! If you have any questions or comments about the content of these weekly writings, feel free to email me at sam.karns@gmail.com. I appreciate any thoughts or feedback! Thanks, and have a great week.

Summer Solstice moon over the broccoli

Summer Solstice moon over the broccoli