Farm Newsletter June 12, 2017
Yippeeee!!! Here we go! Once again it feels like it’s been years since we gave you vegetables. It’s time now, we’re ready to feed you fresh yummy veggies. We hope you’re ready to eat, and there’s space in your fridge!
We delivered the last carrots and radishes out of the root cellar on in late March, and after a 9 or 10 week “break” (Ha!) we are ready to embark on another 40+ weeks of harvesting and washing to feed our community. It was a full but still relaxing winter, with the crew working part-time washing roots, trying out a couple farmer’s market days, and all of us working on various improvements to the farm.
Many of those improvements are visible — together we’ve painted the barn, built a couple grape arbors, hired out a retaining wall and an upgraded floor drain in the barn for washing veggies, put some wood on the barn ceiling to cover up the insulation, planted more waterways and wet areas to prairie for beneficial insect habitat, planted a few small sugar maples along the driveway and in the woods, and elderberries along a couple field edges. And oh yeah, we cleared a spot in the woods to start putting up a machine shed and shop, and got the posts set in the ground last week. It’ll take a good harvest year to fund its completion, but it feels great to get started on it. The smaller projects have been on the list for a couple years; that shed has been on the wish list for about 11 years.
A few improvements are invisible — in the office we’ve been trying to streamline our systems for communications and managing information. You’ve seen some of that, with the new Google forms for sign-ups and changing pick-up days (which can be found here), and we’ve also made big strides in digitizing training and record-keeping for general farm tasks and for food safety. With help from the U and the Minneapolis Public Schools, we’re undergoing our first food safety audit with MDA, a rare thing for a farm our size. There’s lots of office work in all this, but a lot of this year’s effort has been in setting up new and improved systems to lighten the load in the future.
Anna, Paul and Ray have been fantastic in all these projects, from swinging a paint brush, a hammer or a hoe, to teaching us how to use Google forms and the like. Unfortunately Ali had to leave us due to a back injury — we miss her and wish her luck in her next steps! Anna too will be moving soon ; we will have three new folks starting in August, good people who are eager to do their part infeeding you!
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.
As usual your share will start out small and gradually get bigger and more diverse as the season progresses. Even with the snow being gone since February and mild weather ever since, including no late fr—, until last week it just hasn’t been warm enough to get the annuals (ie most all veggies) to take off and mature. Perennial plants got ahead of “normal” — trees seem to have grown a huge amount with last year’s rain and leafed out early and vigorous, woodland wildflowers seemed about 3 weeks early, and strawberries and fruit trees were blooming a few weeks ahead too. Fortunately for the orchards, as far as we’ve heard, we were spared weather cold enough to damage the flowers or developing fruit. But it was a warm late winter followed by a cool spring — as we’ve seen a few years recently — so any new plants we set out can have a slow steady start but it’s not like the years it’s been 80 for weeks in May, when the veggies jump out of the soil into our buckets before we can count to 10.
Despite the coolness we almost had enough food to start the share last week, but not quite. All the crops grew last week though so we’ll have a good variety and a little more than we usually start off with — turnips are ready and the boc choi and kale are big and tender, and we’ll probably have two heads of lettuce for everyone. Kohlrabi and even summer squash are coming very soon — maybe even next week. Spinach, leaf and head lettuce, radishes, salad turnips, boc choi, kale and spring garlic will be the stars the first couple of weeks, along with scallions, arugula and Asian salad greens. The spinach is flavorful and looks like it will produce decently (our favorite variety, the only one we ever liked, is no longer available, so we are trialing new varieties), and the leaf lettuce is tender and colorful. The arugula and Asian greens have a little brown on the edges — it’s tip burn from the intense wind Saturday, rubbing the leaves against their bug cover. They are totally fine to eat, it’s just a minor cosmetic issue. (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.
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 as frosts that hard in spring. We’ll have it 1-3 more weeks, it looks great now but it doesn’t like heat and might change dramatically — so far it’s holding up well.
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 most of 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 satisfying!
What’s for U-Pick?
Strawberries, that’s what! They too got off to an early start, being perennial plants. They are loaded with fruit and so far are making big berries, despite our neglecting them last fall — we usually keep them thinned with tractor cultivations so they don’t outcompete each other and make small berries. The later berries might be small, we’ll see. So far they look (and taste) very good. We have four varieties in two different plantings, as we try to find a good balance of flavor and berry size, and productivity in an organic system.
The trick to picking strawberries in such crowded plants is to wave your hands around to find the berries, brushing the leaves aside to see the berries.
We also have Cilantro, and next week we’ll also have mint and lemon balm. Snap peas are flowering and should be ready by late June; they’re thigh-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. If you’re interested in being on the volunteer list, please let us know too!
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 or U-pick anytime. Get to know and enjoy the farm. Check in on the crops as they grow, pick herbs on the way home from work, hang out under the new grape arbors. There is a sandbox opposite the barn door — and it actually has sand in it! Feel free 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.
Floral Arranging Class with Amanda Eastvold!! — Amanda comes to us with many years of flower arranging experience and she is kindly offering a floral arranging class to our members. In this class, she will share with you the basics of harvest, arranging, and maintaining bouquets so you can maximize your flower experience with our u-pick flowers. The class is Thursday July 13th from 6-7:30pm. Cost is $15 per person. Please email us to sign up. Space is limited, so let us know soon.
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.)
Change Pick-Up Day Form — Click here.
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.
Grape arbors — There are tiny and fragile grape plants at the bottom of each post, please tell your kids to be careful around them as they get established — they can be snapped and broken, which makes us sad. Also please no climbing on the arbors. You are welcome to hang out under the arbors, have a picnic or snack etc, but the grapes will be for our personal use. Thanks!
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 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, Anna, Paul and Ray (with Bisharo, Sahara and Zach joining us later on)
Chinese Grilled Chicken and Bibb Lettuce “Wraps” (Serves 4)
From Fresh from the Farm by Susie Middleton
-5 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
-2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
-3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, plus 20 more short sprigs
-1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh minced ginger
-1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh minced garlic
-1 tablespoon light brown sugar
-1 tablespoon peanut oil
-¾ teaspoon Asian chili-garlic paste
-2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, trimmed
-¼ cup thinly sliced scallions (any part)
-2 teaspoons oyster sauce
-20-40 medium or large Bibb or Boston lettuce leaves,
washed and dried
(from about 3 heads of lettuce)
-20 fresh mint leaves, basil, or Thai basil leaves
-1 1/2 cups cooked white rice, hot or reheated if leftover,
Or 4-5 ounces rice noodles, cooked rinsed and drained
-2 medium carrots, julienned or coarsely shredded
-¼ cup chopped roasted peanuts
In large nonreactive bowl, combine 3 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons lime juice, the chopped cilantro, 2 teaspoons ginger, two teaspoons garlic, two teaspoons brown sugar, the peanut oil, and ½ teaspoon chili-garlic paste.
Mix well. Add the chicken thighs, toss, and let sit for 30 to 45 minutes, tossing occasionally.
In a small bowl, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 teaspoons lime juice, 2 teaspoons ginger, 2 teaspoons garlic, 1 teaspoons brown sugar, 1 tablespoon of the scallions, the oyster sauce, and 2 teaspoons water.
Mix well and put into little serving bowl. Arrange the lettuce leaves, herb leaves, and cilantro sprigs on a platter. Put the rice or noodles, carrots, peanuts, and the remaining sliced scallions in small serving bowls or on a serving platter.
Heat a gas grill to medium. Arrange the chicken thighs on the grill and cook, covered, until grill marks for on the first side, about 3 minutes. Using tongs, move the pieces on a slight angle and continue cooking, covered, 2 minutes to form crosshatch marks. Flip the pieces over and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until the thighs are shrunken and cooked through. Transfer to a cutting board, let rest for a couple minutes and cut lengthwise into thin strips. Arrange the chicken on serving platter and bring all the components to the table for everyone to assemble their “wraps” as desired.
Bread with Radish Butter
From The Homemade Kitchen by Alana Chernila
Serves 1, with lots of butter left over for snacks and hors d’oeuvres later
4 tbls. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 or 3 small radishes, finely minced
2 chives, finely snipped with scissors
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. finishing salt
2 slices bread (sourdough with a thick, crunchy crust is best for this)
Stir together the butter, radishes, chives, lemon juice, and salt in a small bowl. Spread generously on bread, reserving the rest of the radish butter for a snack later.
Storage notes: Refrigerate the butter in a tightly covered container for 4 to 5 days, or freeze it in an airtight container for up to 3 months.