Small Family Farm CSA

We Dig Vegetables

 

kale February Twenty-First, 2011

Winter time is healing for farmers.  It is a time of rest and relaxation and for a farmer's energy to be less focused on their crops, harvest and delivery schedules and to become more focused on their own personal health and their family connections.  At high tide, in the midst of an overwhelmingly chaotic summer, work and the tasks at hand will literally carry a farmer away like a rising wave.  We can be carried away from those things in our lives that help us maintain balance and order and spiritual purpose.  But all rising tides eventually hit shore and the water recedes once again.  Winter is my shore.  It's when my feet touch the ground and the struggle to float gives way to the primordial struggle to stand on my feet and become conscious of them.  I would not respect or appreciate the movement, power and fluidness of the water if it was not for the stabilizing, fixed and constant land to model the contrast so clearly for me.

The ebb and flow of a Midwestern, four-seasoned Gregorian calendar year is wonderful to witness.  Your farmers are awaking from a winter slumber and coming out of hibernation. We are awaking from the most rejuvenating of seasons with fresh ideas, fresh perspective and fresh motivation. The folks at the Small Family Farm in particular are gearing up for their best growing season ever. We are armed with 5 years of experience running our own CSA farm and the lessons learned on this land. We are young and extremely passionate about educating people about where their food comes from and enriching the bond between an eater and a farm. We are hopeful for a grassroots movement towards sustainable economics and ecosystems. We believe from the depths of our hearts that the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model will aid not only in the existence of this one farm, but in the health of our communities at whole.

Your farmers at the Small Family Farm are making improvements in their farm. As each year passes we are repairing, renovating and re-modeling. We are making improvements in our operation to make the 2011 growing and delivery season run smoothly. We recently purchased a new little tractor for the farm, or a ‘cultivating tractor’, or if you know farmer speak, a Farmall 140. These little tractors are very popular in the world of vegetable production farms for the use of cultivating or “weeding”. We bought a cultivating attachment for this tractor called a “basket weeder”. The baskets will spin across the surface of the soil ripping out weeds. We are hopeful this little investment will save on physical labor, time and ultimately money spent on the farm.

In many ways we wish to maintain a similar size that we were in 2010. We are hoping to regain our 160-member CSA program and not try to get much bigger in that way. We will be opening up a little more land this year to help improve our vegetable rotation plan. We still feel that we have a lot of improvements to make to the management of this land and with the help of experience, proper equipment and a little extra time, we hope we can get there slowly.farmall

One leap we will be making this year is hiring a full time employee. The last five years of our CSA operation have been sustained by the incredible work ethic and drive that your farmers have to manage the farm themselves. But one lesson we’ve had to learn the hard way, is that we can’t do everything oursleves. We believe that we have found a young, hard-working and motivated young woman who can help us on our farm. She is equally as interested in learning about growing organic food as we are interested in teaching her. We feel she will be a wonderful addition to our farm.

Join us again for the 2011 season! Maintain a connection with your farm and your farmers. Remember that by signing up with a CSA farm you are promising to support a farmer through the unpredictable nature of a growing season. You become not only financially, but spiritually invested in this community building program. Attend our on-farm events this summer and bring your friends to the farm to teach them about where your food comes from. You can actually sign up online via our website or print out a sign up form and mail it to us. Early Bird Pricing is $445 for a Summer Share and after April 1st the price changes to $475. Your farmers want to encourage you to sign up early so that we have your commitment before the season begins.

Check out our Calendar page and come and see Jillian at a CSA fair near you!

October Thirteenth

In the relatively few years that I have been farming, I have never seen a fall quite like this one.  The last two weeks of the CSA season are usually quite cool where we are harvesting with stocking caps, gloves, long johns under our pants and tall muck boots with two layers of socks.  Today and yesterday, we were harvesting in sandals, t-shirts and wide-brimmed hats to keep the sun out of our faces.  The warm weather was quite pleasant, however and a rare treat that we chose to savor.  I'm not sure we could ask for more ideal harvesting conditions.

fennel-harvest
Airin and Adrianne harvesting fennel together on Tuesday morning at sunrise.

 

This fall has been ideal in another aspect in that we are getting nice, dry weather for getting our root crops out of the ground.  We will spend the next couple weeks harvesting the last of our parsnips, carrots, beets and potatoes that are still waiting to be rescued from the winter that is gaining ground on us.  We have some late maturing cabbage and cauliflower that will keep us busy harvesting for storage also.  The beautiful weather this fall will lend sweetly to getting done all of our pending outdoor projects.

This season at a whole, has been our best growing season so far, even despite the flooding.  As young farmers who are literally learning as we go in many ways, we jump new hurdles each year and are faced with new obstacles that we could not have even imagined existed, that make us stronger and undoubtedly wiser because we made it through them with the torch in our up-stretched hands.  There have been days, and even weeks in the course of this profession that I honestly question my motives and wonder why in the heck I'm standing in a field of vegetables at 9pm at night, bent over harvesting, sleepy, crabby and hungry.  I wonder why we've chosen a field of work that is so demanding on our physical and spiritual selves.  But I have found comfort in that almost anyone who choose an occupation (that might also be their vocation), asks themselves this question at one point or another at high tide.

You are the answer to this question.  What drives us is knowing that we are working towards something greater than ourselves.  We are working, on a daily basis, towards improving the overall health, integrity and strength of our community.  We are not just growing some produce for you to put in your refrigerators, we are growing a movement that is founded on health, built by community and brought to life by the motivation to heal something that we all sense is lost.  We wish to re-connect to a farm where people genuinely care about the earth and the health of the soils.  We wish to revive biodiversity, because there are so many endangered species of plants and animals because real farmers themselves are an endangered species.  We wish to find soul and spirit and god and wholesomeness in our food and at our dinner tables.

allis-chalmers
This Allis Chalmers WD was donated to our farm by a very generous man named Tom Slawson. It is in peak running condition and looks like it just rolled off the assembly line. We're stoked about our new addition to the farm!

 

In our family, when we sit at the dinner table, just before digging in to all of the farm-fresh goodness, we all say something that we are thankful for.  It is my turn to say that I am thankful that the general awareness of where our food is coming from, how far it travels, what chemicals may be inside it or what nutrition it may contain, is becoming something that people are thinking about.  I am thankful that the knowledge and skills that farmer's behold is something that is a concern or at the very least a brief thought in the minds of our CSA members.  I am thankful for all of you choosing to support our farm so that we can make plans for yet another successful growing season on our farm.

Sooo, What's in the Box???

Russet Potatoes-  Some more of these dirty tubers.  Don't you feel more connected to the farm as you clean the dirt off of these glorius underground growths?

Danvers Carrots- We had a hard time with our final carrot harvest. We actually threw out more than half of our harvest!!!  So many rotten carrots in the ground.  We're chalking it up to all of the rain earlier in the summer.  We're really not sure what it's from.  We haven't had a bumper crop of carrots this year.  Some is better than none!

Pie Pumpkins- It's not fall without a pumpkin!  Believe it or not, you can actually eat this pumpkin.  Make pumpkin pie, pumpkin soup, or pumpkin bars.  Pumpkin's don't really come from a can, did you know that?

Parsnips- In the same family as carrots.  They're a little more fibrous than carrots and take a bit longer to cook.  But they store beautifully.  Make a roasted root vegetable dish, parsnip/carrot cake, or puree parsnip into a creamy potato soup.

Chippolini Onions-  These are actually a gourmet, high-end onion.  These flat spheres are an Italian heirloom that is pronounced (chip-o-leen-ee).  They are meant to be peeled and roasted whole.  They're so sweet you can cut them and eat them with a fork and knife once cooked all the way through.  The Italians roast them whole because they roast so evenly as they are low and flat to the pan.

Asian Tempest Garlic-  More spicy garlic to help you keep up your health this fall as the weather starts to turn.

Radish-  The radishes still looked pretty good.  The greens are turning a little, but the roots still have a nice crunch.  Snap the tops off and store the radishes in a bowl of water so they are ready to pull out of the fridge and eat fresh for a snack.

Radicchio or Cauliflower or Extra Broccoli- Radicchio is a bitter green.  It is meant to be shaved thinly into a salad or make a cooked salad out of it.  See recipe ideas below.  We ran short on radicchio for everyone, and it worked out great that we had a partial crop of cauliflower that sprung up at the very last moment.  When we fell short of those two, we compensated with Extra broccoli for the last few people.

fennel
A breathtakingly beautiful fennel bulb that was just cleaned.

 

Fennel-  The return of the french fennel.  Braise your fennel with a beef roast and enjoy the flavor that it gives.  Fennel is also wonderful roasted with your fall root veggies.  They offer a pleasant licorice flavor that mostly goes away when it's cooked.  If you really like a strong licorice flavor, explore some recipes that call for raw, thinly shaved fennel in salads.

Lettuce- One more head of this beautiful fall lettuce. You may have received the buttercup lettuce or the red leaf lettuce.

Swiss Chard- Small bunches of a cooking green for the end of the season.  The Swiss Chard will actually become sweeter now as we have had a few frosts.  Enjoy Swiss chard in quiche, lasagna or just sauteed with onions and garlic.  Use like you would use spinach.

Peppers- Some of the last peppers that we saved from the frost.  They may be slightly under-formed or under-ripe, but they are firm peppers none the less fine for eating.

Broccoli-  One last giving of this beautiful broccoli.  There is simply nothing like fall broccoli as it is so much sweeter.

Recipes:

Cream of Broccoli and Fennel Soup

Baked Radicchio and Mozzerella Pasta

Baked Ziti with Italian Sausage and Fennel

Pumpkin Custard Pie

October Sixth

The frosts came this week, and they came again, and again.  Saturday, Sunday andMonday night we woke the following mornings to a frost-covered ridge-top.  An impressive wave that we did not really expect.  The good news is that we had many of our tender plants that cannot handle these temperatures and freezing dew already harvested and in storage.  The one section of the field that we did loose was our peppers and eggplants.  We could not have covered these plants considering how many there were.  You may notice that some of the veggies you receive are actually sweeter this week than they have been earlier in the season.  The frost turns the starches in the plants to sugar, turning kale into a sweet treat!  We can look forward to a sweeter broccoli, a sweeter cabbage and a sweeter carrot even.

With one final week to go in the CSA delivery season, your farmers are still strong.  We are feeling a sense of urgency that winter is approaching fast and we must unearth the last of our carrots, potatoes, beets and parsnips that take many hours to pluck from the terra madre.  We are looking forward to having these root veggies for storage over the winter and seeing them stacked up tall in bins in our root cellar.  Some will get used for fall shares (look for an e-mail soon about signing up for the fall share if you're not already signed up), and some will be packaged and carried off to some winter Farmer's Markets.

honeyharvest
Julie and Adam cutting the caps off of the honeycomb with the hot knife so the honey can be extracted.

 

My father came up to visit the farm this weekend and we harvested honey on Saturday.  We like to keep honeybees on the farm primarily because they pollinate our vegetables and possibly increase yields on our fruiting crops.  We manage usually one or two hives on the farm-this year we had just one hive as we lost one hive over the course of the winter last.  We do not even expect much from our bees as far as taking honey from them.  We know it is at least a two year process for a young hive to build up its population enough to make a surplus of honey that will get them through the winter and also have extra to share with us.  We had an educational family day last Saturday, spinning out honey and marveling over the golden nectar.

On Sunday we tried to organize a potato digging party.  On our farm, when a pending large project needs to be accomplished that no one is particularly excited about tackling, we like to turn it into a "party".  For example, when there are more tomatoes than anyone can shake a stick at, we have a 'canning party', and when there are more potatoes than any two people see possible to dig, we have a 'potato digging party' and send our friends home with storage potatoes for their efforts.  The only small trouble is we don't always have the greatest attendance for our working parties.  We've learned that having a few beers in the fridge, Mama Jane's cooking and good company always help the matters a little.  At the end of the day on Sunday, we had one bed of potatoes less to dig than we did at the start of the day.

Sooo, What's in the Box???

Butternut Squash-  The creamy orange colored winter squash at the bottom of the box that adds all of that weight.  This squash is the among the most popular of winter squash and has the most versatile flavor.   We like to make pumpkin pie and pumpkin bars using butternut squash instead of pumpkins.

Rutabaga-  Rutabagas will keep for very long time in storage if the tops are cut off and they are stored properly.  Store in a plastic bag in the fridge to preserve moisture.  Boil and mash rutabagas with potatoes to make a rutabaga mashed potatoes.

jillianbroccoli
Jillian harvesting broccoli

 

Beets with Tops-  Some of the tops on the beets still look really good for eating if you got a good bunch.  We tried to put either a golden beet or a pink and white striped Chioggia beet in every beet bunch.  We may have missed a few bunches.

Arugula-  A tender but bitter fall green.  Arugula is much easier to grow in the fall when the flea beetle population is kept down from the cooler temperatures.  Incorporate arugula into your salads raw, wilt it down into a salad or you can even put it on pizza or a sandwich.  It would be a great addition to spicy Indian dishes.

Peppers-  We were able to give a bell pepper and an ancho/poblano pepper to everyone.  These peppers survived the first two frosts.  We're hoping we can salvage more for next weeks deliveries.

Eggplant or Radish- The eggplants that we gave this week also survived the first two frosts.  These are the very last of the eggplants.  What we came up short on eggplants, we supplemented with radishes.

Leeks-  The beautiful, fall onion supplement.  The leeks this year look great considering how terrible of an onion year we had.  Look for a good potato leek soup recipe.  I love leeks fried in coconut oil!

Broccoli-  Absolutely stunning broccoli this week!  What more do I need to say?

Spinach- More of these young, tender leaves to add to any of your favorite dinner recipes.

rutabega
Rutabega all washed up and ready for packing.

 

Kale- We harvested some curly green kale, some purple curly kale and a few bunches of the red russian kale.  The kale should taste sweeter now that it has endured three frosts.

Lettuce- We had either the red leaf lettuce or the buttercrunch to give.  Some of the buttercrunches are a bit frost-bitten but we thought they still looked really, really nice.  Such a treat to still be eating lettuce!

Next Week: Pie Pumpkin, Russet Potatoes, Carrots, Lettuce, Spinach, radicchio, peppers, fennel, radish, parsnips, broccoli, onion, garlic

Recipes:

Zesty Roasted Rutabega and Carrots

Arugula Salad

Linguini with Arugula, Pine Nuts and Parmesan Cheese

September Twenty-Nineth

On the eighteenth week of our CSA season, I see that the energy of the field is focused downward. The plants are dying back down and they are dropping their seeds in one final flush to ensure their species’ survival for the future Spring to come. The leaves on the plants have faded from a vibrant, lush green to a dull brown and shades of yellow and grey. They are finally giving up on all hope of root expansion, water uptake and foliage growth. The cool nights are triggering our garden plants and weeds into a state of slowed maturity in final surge for life. Fall is taking over.

Esthetics is important to me. The way the garden looks and feels when you are in it is important. A garden should be beautiful, inviting and appealing. However, as all gardeners know, there comes a time when you must simply give in and recognize that the days of décor are over. Now, we must manage the garden in its elemental state. We shift our focus back to soil fertility rather than plant health. Now is our time to plant cover crops, spread minerals and spread manure. The look and feel of the soil becomes the farmers focus rather than the look of their crops.

I love to watch this cycle of plants dying back down to the earth. You might think it would be sad to watch the plants die, but it’s a bit like sending your children off to college or something. It’s a form of graduation. I feel like we are graduating now to a new class of farmer wisdom. Another season under our belts and we know more now than we knew at the beginning of this season. Each season-cycle of death and rebirth in the garden- we are renewed ourselves as people who have learned from plants, and the plants have taught these people about life; the same as a child will teach its parents about things like birth, patience and the fragility of life.

Not only does the garden’s energy go downwards and focus its energy on soil life, so does the farmer go inward. All season long our energy is focused outward on the surrounding farm buildings, animals and plants. All enthusiasm and fervor is poured into the various life forms we foster and maintain. In the winter, we go inwards intellectually to regain a sense of passion for our vocation. Winter is a time for reflection on the season, a time to ‘recharge our batteries’, and plan for an upcoming season of fruitful bounty.

Sooo, What's in the Box???

Youkon Gold Potatoes or Russet Potatoes-  We had a split bed with some gold potatoes and some russet potatoes.  The russets have the brown skin and the golds have more of a yellow skin.  The potatoes are a bit dirtier than usual this time because it was so muddy when we dug them.

Acorn Winter Squash- The large green thing that looks a little like an acorn-that's your winter squash!  The really ripe ones will have a nice bright orange spot on the side of them to show that they are fully ripe.  Squash does not need refrigeration.  Just leave it on your counter or in a cool, dry place.

Danvers Carrots- These carrots aren't my favorite variety.  We're experimenting with new varieties of carrots.  Their tops were strong which made them great for bunching.

Parsnips- A small giving of parsnips this week as we dip into the bed for the first time.  They smelled so sweet during harvest.  Probably the first truly successful year of parsnips that we've had.

Celeriac Root- Yes, another one of those weird, brainy looking things.  But guess what, they're delicious!  Peel and roast or boil like a potato.  These roots will store in your fridge in a plastic bag for months if you want to keep it that long.

Broccoli- Absolutely beaufiul broccoli this week.  It came a bit sooner than I expected it to.  You can eat the leaves and the stalks of broccoli if you want to squeese as much as possible out of them.

Onions- Some yellow onions to go with your everything!

Garlic- Some of our Asian Tempest Garlic.  Garlic will keep for monthes as well in a cool, dark and dry place.  This garlic is spicy, but we like it that way!

Peppers-  Either a colored bell pepper, a dark green ancho pepper or a green bell pepper.  We didn't quite have enough of the colored bells for everyone.  There are more peppers to come as we have our final couple weeks of peppers before the hard frosts start hitting.

Hot Peppers-  Everyone got a hungarian hot wax pepper (banana pepper) and a cayenne (long, red, skinney) pepper.  Rememver you can cut these up and freeze them if you don't need the heat now.  The cayennes are meant for drying.  They will dry down quite nicely in a dry, well ventilated area out of the sun.

Spinach-  More of this yummy, green, nourishing goodness for your salads and casseroles.

Cilantro-  We learned this summer that you are not supposed to harvest cilantro with wet leaves.  We do not wash cilantro anymore because we do not want to get it wet or else it will get slimy.  Wash well before you use it.

Recipes:

Celeriac Potato Hash Browns with Jalapeno and Cheddar

Mashed Potatoes, Parsnip and Garlic

Garlicky, Gingery, Lemony Carrot Salad

Parsnip Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

September Twenty-Second

In my earlier years of journeyman farming, working on other farms as an intern and apprentice I went through various stages of defining what I thought a sustainable farm would look like.  As I spent years traveling north America as something of a 'migrant worker', working on one diversified farm after another, I was being shaped, impressions were being made upon me and I was imagining a beautiful farm, all the while, that epitomized everything that was whole and beautiful and sustainable-as best I understood sustainability in my naivety.

RedRangerChickens
Our Red Ranger chickens feasting on grain. This chicken tractor is moved to fresh grass daily. This way they are not ranging loose on the farm and are protected from predators.

 

In my vision, the farm had animals on it.  In my mind, a farm with no animals was simply not sustainable.  The roll of animals on farms are possibly under-appreciated.  Animals bring life to a farm and a warm energy that feel like part of your family, and this was the initial appeal for me.  We primarly raise vegetables and pay our bills raising vegetables and the chickens and pigs on our farm generate a very small percentage of income, but hold equally as high a value to us.

We raise chickens because they are a smaller, more manageable animals that can be raised in portable chicken tractors that are moved to fresh grass daily.  Their manure can be spread around the farm to new areas each day where soil fertility is needed in the movable pens, eliminating the waste management problem that many confinement farms have.  The chickens are little grass mowers and can also help to keep insect populations on the farm down while greatly improving soil fertility.

We raise our egg laying chickens also because it feels enriching to us to know where our eggs are coming from.  We often times even know which hen they're coming from and can tell by the colors of the eggs that the chickens lay.  The egg laying hens are almost something of a hobby for Adam because he has taken such a strong liking to them.  We feed them more than we should and hold onto older chickens that should maybe be 'culled'.  What can I say, we love our chickens!

We believe that animals should be raised in small batches on farms by farmers who care for their chickens and the environment they live in.  The environment the animals live in and the quality of the grass and feed that they eat is a direct reflection of the nutritional density, flavor and overall health of the animals.  Possibly, we would become more conscious and slower consumers of meat if we had a relationship with the animals or the farmers that raised the animals that we are eating.  Consuming a chicken, pig, cow or sheep is consuming a highly intensive amount of energy that was put into raising those animals.  Possibly we aught to at the very least become aware of where and who our meet is coming from.  If you like the farmers who raised the meat, you might like the way they raised their animals, or vise-versa.

chickentractor
Notice the tall green grass to the left hand side and the eaten down grass from one day after where the chickens have been to the right. It doesn't take long for 40 hungry chickens to eat up a small patch of grass.

 

Sooo....What' in the Box???

Delicata Winter Squash-  Among the sweetest of the winter squash.  Because the sugar content in this squash is so high they do not store very well compared to other winter squash, hence their name, Delicata.

Napa (or Chinese) Cabbage-  This is an example of one of those funky veggies you might not normally pick up at the grocery store, but since you're roped into this CSA gig, you've now got one in your fridge.  EAT IT!  It's soooo yummy!

Kohlrabi-  A white or purple kohlrabi.  A cool weather crop has made its' return.  Peel and eat with dip.

Beets-  The tops on one of our old beet beds were looking a little ruff, so we topped and cleaned them and are giving them loose this week.  They will store in a plastic bag in the fridge for at least a month.

Tomatoes- The very last week of tomatoes.  Enjoy the tomatoes you received!  They don't look quite as choice or juicy as they did a few weeks ago, but they're still seasonal tomatoes.  Remember, if they need ripening, allow them to sit on your counter until they are as ripe as you like them.

NapaCabbage
The center of a beautiful Napa Cabbage

 

Leeks- In the same family as onions and garlic.  Leeks are a long season crop that we put a lot of time into caring for.  They're great in soups.  Eat all the white part of the stalks.

Peppers- The peppers are simply not producing as well this year as they have in previous years.  The peppers we are getting look great, but the number of peppers we're getting are down significantly.  I hope that one a week is satisfying your needs for now.

Spinach- Yuuuummmmmm!  Yummy and delicious fall spinach.  These leaves of this spinach were larger than we normally harvest, but the germination of the spinach bed was poor, so there was more room for the plants to spread out and the leaves grew large.

Broccoli or Eggplant or Cherry Tomatoes-  Not quite enough of each one for everyone so we spread the love around.

Lettuce-  One head of buttercup, romaine or oakleaf lettuce for everyone.  Be sure to wash your lettuce well.

Italian Flat Leaf Parsley- Parsley is amung some of the most nutritional of the plants we grow.  Find ways to incorporate it into your diet and enjoy the health benefits.  Parsley can also be dried in your dehydrator for storage or dried on cookie sheets on low temp in your oven.

Next Week's Guess:  Radish, lettuce, potatoes, carrots, garlic, onion, parsnip, broccoli, cilantro

Recipes:

Chinese Cabbage Salad

Asian-Marinated Tofu Napa Cabbage Salad

Spinach Souflee Casserole

Herb Roasted Whole Chicken