Summer CSA Week 2

Notes from the Farm


 

In the growing seasons of my life I end up with a lot of bruises on my legs. I tend to throw my body around a bit and have little grace and take little care when legging up onto a wagon or truck bed. Last week I fell off a new transplanter we were using to put in the 5th planting of brassicas. I have a pretty epic bruise on my left calf. It doesn’t keep me up at night, but it does hurt to put on socks, or pants, and I can’t cross my left leg over my right. I am not trying to impress anyone out at the farm, or anywhere really, so I’m still wearing shorts and skirts. Why hide?

Last week I went to see some UMD students perform Much Ado About Nothing on the grounds of Glensheen. It was a lovely evening for it –I get such a kick out of that play. The little song in the middle of the play is cute and has a simple ring of truth that Shakespeare lends to words: “Sigh no more ladies, sigh no more. Men were deceivers ever. One foot in sea and one on shore, to one thing constant never. But sigh not so and let them go and be you blithe and bonny, converting all your songs of woe into hey nonny, nonny!” Take the role of gender with a grain of late 16th century salt.  

And Benedick, having found love after swearing to never marry, has a couple of lines “Serve God love me and mend” and  “live unbruised”. I love those lines. They’re also lines set to music in Mumford and Sons first album. A great song.

So, my leg is bruised.

Other parts of me are bruised in a different way.

And I think parts of our country are bruised. It hurts, and it’s ugly and we can’t pull up our socks or turn on the radio or drive down the street without being reminded of the bruises.

I don’t know what it means to “live unbruised” but I long for that. It is not necessarily that the bruises aren’t there anymore –one just doesn’t have to let them dictate one’s path. I can still love my legs and my brain and my country even if it hurts and is dark and unnaturally yellow somehow.

Whatever bruises you might find yourself noticing or acquiring this week, I hope you live out of that place well and that the good food in your belly sustains you through all of it.

For the farm crew,

Karin


 

In your share this week:

  • Pac Choi
  • Cucumbers
  • Greens mix
  • Green onions
  • Kale
  • Radishes
  • Spinach

Baked Kale Chips

1 bunch (about 6 ounces) kale
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt, to taste

Preheat oven to 300°F. Rinse and dry the kale, then remove the stems and tough center ribs. Cut into large pieces, toss with olive oil in a bowl then sprinkle with salt. Arrange leaves in a single layer on a large baking sheet (I needed two because mine are tiny; I also lined mine with parchment for easy clean-up but there’s no reason that you must). Bake for 20 minutes, or until crisp. Place baking sheet on a rack to cool.

Kale-Dusted Popcorn If you’re making the chips with the intention to grind them up for popcorn, I’d use less oil — perhaps half — so they grind without the “powder” clumping. I ground a handful of my chips (about half) in a mortar and pestle and sprinkled it over popcorn (1/4 cup popcorn kernels I’d cooked in a covered pot with 1 1/2 tablespoons oil over medium heat, shaking it about with potholders frequently). I seasoned the popcorn with salt. I liked this snack, but I think Parmesan and Kale-Dusted Popcorn would be even more delicious. Next time!

Spinach and Smashed Egg Toast (For one)

1 large egg
1 slice of your favorite hearty bread
2 ounces spinach
1 pat butter
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 tablespoon heavy cream
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon smooth Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon crumbled cheese, such as goat cheese or feta

Bring small pot of water to boil. Lower egg into it and boil for five (for a runnier egg) to six (for a less-runny but still loose egg) minutes.* Rinse egg briefly under cool water and set aside.

Wash your spinach but no need to dry it. Put a small puddle of water in the bottom of a skillet and heat it over medium-high. Once the water is simmering, add the spinach and cook it until it is just wilted, and not a moment longer. Transfer it to a colander and press as much of the excess water out with the back of a fork as possible. No need to wring it out here; we’re hoping to those lovely wilted leaves intact. Keep that fork; you’ll use it again in a moment.

Put your bread in to toast.

Dry your skillet if it is still wet. Heat a pat of butter in it over medium-low heat. Add shallots and cook them for a few minutes, until translucent and a little sweet. Return spinach to skillet and add cream. Simmer them together for one minute, then season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Put your toast on your plate and spread it thinly with Dijon mustard. Heap the spinach-and-shallot mixture on top, then add the crumbled cheese. Peel your egg; doing so under running water can make this easier. Once peeled, place it on your spinach toast, smash it open with the back of that fork you used a minute ago, and sprinkle it with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Eat immediately.

* When you’re eating a soft-boiled egg right away, six minutes is the way to go. But here, since we boil the egg and then prepare the rest of the toast, it continues to cook and firm up a bit in its shell, so I’ve found that a 5 to 5 1/2 minute egg will give you the equivalent in the end.

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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.