Wooooeeee! Here we go again. It feels like it’s been years since we gave you vegetables. It’s time now, we’re ready to do feed you fresh yummy veggies!
We delivered the last carrots out of the root cellar on March 9th, and after an 11 week “break” (Ha!) we are ready to embark on another 40+ weeks of harvesting and washing to feed our community. It was a full and still relaxing winter, with the crew working part-time washing roots, and all of us learning the ins and outs of the new winter routine. It was challenging and great, and it’s fun to be in a new stage of the farm — with a new building and enterprise up and running, and the chance to “just farm” and not build or undertake any other major improvements or projects.
In the last couple months we’ve been cleaning out and organizing — giving away and throwing out lots of unneeded materials and supplies that had accumulated, and organizing the things that were worth keeping around. Ben has the organizational habits of a dog (“just drop it when you’re done playing with it and maybe find it later, maybe not”) and the pack rat tendencies of a, well, of a farmer who started off with very little cash and who enjoys making something passably useful out of trash. So fortunately Ray, Anna and Erin actually enjoy organizing and discarding stuff! And they know how to do it. They’ve been teaching Ben new tricks.
We’re excited to see you all! Whether it’s another trip on the farm season merry-go-round, or the first time you’ve eaten with us, we hope you taste, see, and feel all the care and work that has gone into growing food for you. Your excitement, any given day and over the years, is deeply gratifying to us, helping us know we’re doing our job. As a farm family and crew we’ll do our best every step of the way this year to make sure you’ve got the best fresh eating experience possible. So thank you for joining us in this CSA relationship! It’s a great thing, a farm this diverse supported and enjoyed by its community and supplying lots of healthy food. You’re part of a modern reinvention of the old-time traditions of getting food from your farm, yard or neighbor. We hope you love it every step of the way.
Other Farm News
We’ve got an awesome 1/2 acre of prairie growing on the farm. It’s between the two oak trees down by the road, on a gravelly ridge. Notice the blue tree tubes — those are protecting elderberries, juneberries and hazelnuts, native flowering shrubs that we planted this spring among dozens of species of native flowers and grasses. This is the first and most visible of several such plantings in progress around the farm (and our neighboring friends’ farms)– we’ll write more about the plantings and bugs later this season — to increase the insect habitat for our six-legged friends. Native pollinators are great for pollination of crops (alongside honeybees), and also great for fierce predation of pesky caterpillars, aphids and other vegetable pests. Besides, we like pretty flowers.
You may have heard that our beloved dog Cody passed away last week. She was such an amazing sidekick, hunter, greeter, playmate and snuggler. We miss her, and expect we and you will look out in the driveway and think to see her at her post, watching all the cars and people coming and going. And some of you have lost your car vacuuming service! Cody knew some cars, especially minivans, where the doors were left open for her to snarf up spilled snacks. For years she has been on Erin’s trail (almost as long as Ben has been!) If she didn’t know where Erin was (which was rare) she would sniff until she did — usually finding the last trail of Erin’s footsteps in less than 10 seconds.
Cody died peacefully, quietly at home, with kids playing and adults laughing nearby. And a cat snuggling with her, when people weren’t watching. Her annual checkup in March showed nothing unusual, but an aggressive liver cancer took over this spring. She was maybe 12 years old, and had clearly been slowing down for a few years, but a month ago she started skipping meals and sleeping even more, then eventually completely refused food and water in her last 24 hours. She spent her last day outside, around people and her cats, and put herself in the straw of her old doghouse for her final lay-down.
Of course of all the suffering and hardship in the world this is small, and we don’t mean to dwell too long on her and the details, but so many of you loved her and will notice her absence that we wanted to share some of those things with you. The Groll family said that this farm will always be “Cody’s Farm,” as Eleanor named it when she was first learning to speak. Veggies are our main thing, but that awesome dog made this place even sweeter. Animals usually make for better stories and interactions, especially such kind and interesting animals as Cody. Our lives are richer for the time we had with her.
Onward! We hope you enjoy the first fresh beautiful harvest, and all the ones to come!!!!!
As usual your share will start out small and gradually get bigger and more diverse as the season progresses. With the early snow melt, we waited a little but were still able to plant some lettuce on March 20th or so. It remained too chilly to plant anything else though, until our “regular” / hoped for planting start in mid-April. And it was a good thing we waited — between cool soils rotting sensitive seeds and that hard frost in mid-May, it was a spring where taking chances by planting early in the field wouldn’t have really paid off. As it was we saw some bean seeds rot and some bean seedlings get frosted away. It has been a good year to not be in a hurry, to let spring be spring.
So it’s been warm enough that it looks like we’ll get off to a decent but not spectacular start : we expect to have radishes, scallions, maybe a few turnips, and spring garlic this week to compliment all the leafy stuff. Some of the head lettuce may be a little small, but we plan on picking it anyway so you all get a head or two, hopefully two. Kale maybe next week, and kohlrabi and boc choi the week after. Spinach, leaf lettuce, radishes, salad turnips, and spring garlic will be the stars the first couple of weeks, along with scallions, head lettuce, arugula and Asian salad greens. The spinach is flavorful and looks like it will produce abundantly, and the leaf lettuce is tender and colorful. (Spring garlic is the stalk of garlic plant, harvested prematurely. It’s delicious and mild, use freely anywhere you’d use mature cloves of garlic.
Asparagus experiment — We don’t have much, but the asparagus is still producing enough for us to have a token amount in each share. We planted enough and the planting is old enough to produce a pound per share per week, but it’s never yet come close to being that productive. This is the first time it has still been yielding when the share starts. So we will experiment with adding the meager harvest into the mix, probably with a limit of 3 or 4 stalks per share. We know it’s not enough for a meal and might not feel worth taking, but it’s your share of the harvest so we’d like to give it to you. Eat it raw on the way home, add it to the asparagus already in your fridge, or don’t take it in favor of a few extra radishes or scallions. It’s up to you. Thank you for understanding.
As is often the case the scallions are a little small, the radishes and turnips might be a little big, and overall it’s looking like a beautiful harvest. Our favorites in the kitchen this past week have been spinach, leaf lettuce and spring garlic. The spinach leaves are tender and mild, they fit perfect in a sandwich or just in your mouth. Or cut into strips and sauteed with whatever else is in the pan — cooked greens just add that special something to a dish. Be warned — Spring spinach has no chance at being as sweet as our fall spinach 🙂 It takes very hard frosts to make that melt in your mouth (not your hand!) sugar, and we kinda like that there’s usually no such thing in spring. Maybe that frost a couple weeks ago added to this crop’s flavor, though. Think of spring spinach as a different food — tender, mild, nourishing, your welcome back to farm fresh vitality. We’ll have it 1-3 more weeks, it looks great now but it doesn’t like heat and might change dramatically if next weekend’s 90 degree forecast comes true.
After a few weeks of salad, sandwich and stir-fry fixings, we’ll start having beets, carrots, broccoli, summer squash, cucumbers, and cabbage. Right now those crops look aeons away, but fortunately plants move fast at solstice time. Sometime in later July the tomatoes start trickling in, along with peppers and eggplant. By August we hope to be swimming in the unbeatable mix of juicy and delicious warm-weather fruits and veggies. We often wish it would start right now, but spring and early summer eating is simply lighter and just as luscious!
What’s for U-Pick?
Strawberries could be ready in two to three weeks, everything else is soaking up the sun and on its way. The strawberry plants are loaded with flowers and green fruits, even the ones that are surrounded by dandelions! Next week we’ll have cilantro, mint and lemon balm. Snap peas haven’t flowered yet but may be ready by late June; they’re just knee high now. This spot in the newsletter will keep you informed, and always check the U-pick board when you’re here to see what’s available and picking amounts.
U-Pick Help: If at any point in the season you are not physically able to U-pick due to an injury or any other reason, please let us know. We have a list of generous folks that are interested in volunteering to pick your U-pick crops for you.
Nuts and Bolts
This first newsletter gets long, we know, thanks for reading! There’s a lot to cover to start the season.
A special welcome to new members We’re so glad to have you on board! If you have questions about how the share works, please ask one of us. It’s your farm—please visit anytime. Get to know and enjoy the farm. Check in on the crops as they grow, walk the path down by the honey bees, or feed the chickens some grass through the fence. There is a sandbox opposite the barn door — and now it finally has sand in it! We cleared some branches and brush and added a picnic table to try to make that a better play and break area, so make yourself at home. It’s a spot that needs some more TLC, but it is a better place than it used to be to sit, rest, and/or play a little. And if one or all of us are in the fields, we might not be able to stop and talk, but you are always welcome.
Remember your reusable bags and also to sign in when you pick up your share. We have plastic bags for you to use and as usual will also have reusable bags for sale in the shareroom. The bags we sell are the same size as the plastic ones we supply for figuring amounts of veggies in your share. Feel free to ask one of us for details.
CSA Handbook for You A few years ago we assembled a CSA Member Handbook to answer common questions and help make being a part of the farm as great an experience as possible for you and the rest of your household. It contains info about logistics on the farm, and lots of tips for U-Picking, storing and preserving the farm’s bounty. It is available online on our “Information for CSA Members” page (click here), but we have hard copies too. We’ll be handing them out this week to new shareholders to take home and read; if you’ve gotten one before but would like another, we’d be happy to get you one next week after all the new shareholders have gotten one.
Sign-In Sheet When you come to pick up your share, please sign the sign-in sheet on the table inside the barn door. This helps us know how many people came each day, so we can be sure to pick more than enough for everybody.
If you split a share, please sign in on the same line as your share partner. Also there is a “share partner notes” sheet. Feel free to use this to communicate with your share partner regarding splitting details.
Food Shelf Donations With your support of the farm, each year we are able to donate 4-5,000 pounds of fresh produce to the Northfield Food Shelf. These veggies are simply the leftovers from the share pickups, the same fresh, high quality food that you get in your share. With the help of a few very dedicated volunteer drivers, it gets delivered to the food shelf the next day. So if at any time you do not want to take all that is yours in the share pickup, you can leave it and it will go to the food shelf to help feed those in need, an unfortunately (still) growing number of people in our community. Separate from these donations we also are pleased to sell produce to The Food Group, through their unique Harvest for the Hungry program. Each year we participate we like this program more. We look forward to being able to continue supplying more great food into the hunger relief supply chain for the metro area. It is a solid win-win. Harvest for the Hungry purchases from local farms are all funded by donations, if you are so inclined your donation makes a direct difference for both local farmers and folks who struggle to put meals on the table.
Share Pickup Hours Monday, Wednesday Friday 2:00-6:00pm. You can U-Pick any time (when U-pick crops are in season.)
Where is the farm? 4151 320th Street West, Northfield. 2 miles north of Northfield off of Highway 3. From Highway 3, go west on 320th Street West, and pull in the 1st driveway on the right.
Parking Please park on the right (east) side of the driveway. Try to pull in perpendicular to the driveway so you can turn around as you back out. Or back in, perpendicular to the driveway, so you can pull straight out. We ask that you not use the turnarounds near the barn or the house during the share pickup, to help keep kids safe around the barn.
Please Drive Carefully —Children are everywhere.
On the note of children, please know where yours are at all times. ESPECIALLY All buildings, except the shareroom area of the barn, are off-limits to children. This includes the new building / root cellar, and the tractor “greenhouse” (though it looks like fun in there!) There are sharp tools in many places, of all shapes and sizes. Also stay a good distance from the beehives so they don’t think you’re a bear. If you don’t bother the bees they won’t bother you.
Be aware that farm trucks and tractors may be going up and down the driveway, near your cars and/or near the barn. We all drive carefully but please pay attention to small children especially in those areas.
Another hazard you should know about is a new small drainage pond / mud pit west of the barn— we will have it fenced off for safety and it is completely off limits. It catches, and drains, excess rain water from parts of the hill, along with water and soil from washing veggies in the barn, and keeps it all from eroding into the fields. We’re glad to finally have a good solution to that problem but need your help in making sure kids know it is not a place to play.
We love having all of you come to the farm and hope it can be safe and fun for all! Thank you for making it such a great place to be! Thank you so much for your support!!
Erin and Ben, with Allia, Ali, Anna and Ray (with Jesse and Karl pinch-hitting)
Lettuce and Orange Salad
from Recipes from America’s Small Farms by Joanne Lamb Hayes & Lori Stein
3 large oranges, peeled and white membrane removed
8 radishes, thinly sliced
2 green onions, thinly sliced
6 cups lettuce mix
½ cup crumbled goat cheese or feta cheese
¼ cup sunflower kernels or coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons balsamic Vinegar
salt & pepper
Quarter and slice the oranges over a medium bowl, allowing bothe the slices and the juice to fall into the bowl. Remove membrane, if desired. Stir the radishes and gren onions into the orange pieces.
Arrange the lettuce on a large large serving platter. Transfer the orange mixture tot eh lettuce using a slotted spoon; reserve the orange juice. Sprinkle the salad with the cheese and sunflower kernels.
Whisk together ½ cup of the orange juice from the bowl, the oil, and the vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle over the salad and serve.
From Farm-Fresh and Fast Cookbook
1 ½ cups whole wheat pastry flour
½ tsp salt
½ cup oil
3 Tbsp milk
1 Tbsp oil
1 onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch greens of choice, chopped (about 6 cups)
1 cup milk
1 tsp salt
1 cup shredded cheese
Crust: Place all the ingredients in a pie pan. Mix with a fork until well blended, then press over the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Flute the edge with your thumb and finger.
Filling: Preheat an oven to 400 degrees. Heat the oil in a skillet and saute the onion and garlic until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the greens and cook until wilted. Set aside to cool slightly.
Beat the eggs and milk in a large bowl. Mix in the salt and the greens mixture. Pour into the crust. Sprinkle the cheese on top, pushing slightly into the egg mixture. Bake until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, 30-40 minutes.