Farm Newsletter June 12, 2018
Woooeeee, here we go! Once again it feels like it’s been years since we gave you vegetables. It’s time now, we’re ready — and the fields in this northern climate are 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 in March, and after a 12 or so 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, and building the machine shed when temps were above 0 and it wasn’t too icy out.
The machine shed is keeping the tractors and most of the equipment dry, but still needs doors and electricity to make it fully functional. It’s already saving us loads of time and expense by having things protected from the weather and organized in one place. There are still a couple more phases of organization as the shop gets finished and we move into it, but even the limnal stage is a big improvement over 12 years of scattered tools and equipment, and leaky tarps or modified greenhouses.
The walk-in cooler will be built soon on top of the cinder block wall attached to the barn. Most vegetable farmers consider a walk-in cooler a necessity, but our 3 day a week on-farm pickup schedule has saved the expense and energy use all these years. But the expense has been our labor, since a 2 day a week schedule should make better use of our labor harvesting (doing a little more but less often, for many crops), setting up and cleaning up. So a cooler was a necessary part of that transition, since to reduce our workload we’ll do a little bit of holding over some vegetables a couple days. Most of your share will still be picked the same day you pick it up though. Our growing wholesale business (serving Just Food, the Northfield colleges, Mpls K-12 schools and other institutions in the metro area) will be made easier and more efficient with the summer refrigeration. We tried to design it big enough to support all those summer veggie activities, and add to our winter storage capacity for carrots, beets, cabbage etc, but to be small enough (and well-insulated enough) to use a minimal amount of electricity.
Tackling both building projects this year has taken some careful financing and budgeting, and by doing most of the work ourselves we’ve been busier than the farm alone would keep us (since we’re a little stubborn and unable to justify hiring out all the work) . But the process is fun and the results are another great step forward for us, so we’re making our way through it, taking care of the fields first then working ” catch as catch can” on the buildings.
Alissa and Danny have been our rock star under-staffed and over-achieving crew this spring. Every day they do an outstanding job diving into the days tasks and making sure the fields, equipment and buildings have everything they need to bring you a successful harvest. Scheduling conflicts, travel to Africa and life in general meant our other crew members weren’t able to work much of May — fortunately this week we’ll have Bisharo and Mohammed joining us, and more folks too when the harvest picks up later in the summer. All of our current crew has years of farming experience before coming here, either growing up here and running their own small CSA for a couple years, or growing up on a farm in Somalia before coming to the US — we are so fortunate to work alongside all these talented and kind people who are eager to do their part in feeding 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. The 12″ snow — just EIGHT WEEKS AGO!!!!! was an oddball but didn’t set back our spring plans by more than a week. Fortunately we don’t try to do lots of super early spring crops, or an early spring share — those farmers were set back and struggled to get things to grow, whether in hoophouses or in the field. It was surprisingly dry under the snow as it melted though, and we were in the fields plowing and planting by April 28. There are other years it’s been later than that by a few days or even a week; and fortunately it warmed up soon after. Aside from the July-style heat wave, this May and early June weather have been stellar for our plants. Warm and mellow temps, with dry weeks to get things done in the field, and mostly gentle rains at decent intervals. For the plants’ sake we were glad to see the heat wave go — fortunately it didn’t seem to leave any weird lasting surprises (like diseases, bugs or the like). Though historical weather data says otherwise, we’re hopeful the heat waves will stay away during flowering and fruit-setting that’s coming up in the next couple months. The frequent rains have made it a little tougher to keep up with the weeds, but there have been enough dry days so far to get them mostly on time.
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. Spring garlic is the stalk of the garlic plant, harvested prematurely. It’s delicious and mild, use freely anywhere you’d use mature cloves of garlic. We’ll switch to garlic scapes soon though as they are popping out — the flower stalk which can be used the same as the main stalk, or made into awesome garlic scape pesto.
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 kale, boc choi, scallions and cilantro (and soy sauce!!!) It’s just so darn good to have fresh hearty greens, and herbs, again!
After a few weeks of salad, sandwich and stir-fry fixings, we’ll start having beets, carrots, broccoli, summer squash, cucumbers, and cabbage. Though the squash could trickle in next week and the cukes are flowering 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 should be ready next week. 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.
Last year, we trialed a flag system for bean picking and it seemed to work really well. So, this year we are going to try it with strawberries! When you come to pick, look for the red flags and start picking at one (heading away from the barn). Thoroughly pick the ripe strawberries on each plant as you go, and then put the red flag where you stop. If there are more than one of you working on the same row, you can pick near each other and talk with each other so that the red flag gets placed appropriately when you are done picking.
One of the plantings has very bushy plants with lots of berries hiding underneath — 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 this week. Snap peas aren’t flowering yet and should be ready by the end of June. That’s one thing that would have been planted and growing if it hadn’t been winter in April.
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.
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 a little kid play space in the barn. 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. You will be getting this newsletter every other week for the rest of the season. Please look for it on Monday nights–in it you will find lots of great information to guide you through the season.
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 TUESDAY and THURSDAY 1:30-6:30 pm. You can U-Pick any time (when U-pick crops are in season.) Please note — the barn will be unstaffed from 6-6:30 so we can start dinner and evening time as a family — we’ll try to leave it well-stocked and all set up for easy self-service, but if there is a vegetable we’ve run out of or if you have any other question, please text Erin at the number posted in the barn and we’ll be happy to come down and help. We’ve extended the hours a half hour on each end, since we shrunk to two pickup days per week, to try to make getting here fit into your schedules. Hopefully these changes fit and /or are helpful in your schedule! We’re excited for the benefits of the new schedule for ourselves, for fewer scheduled late evenings in the barn, and a little wiggle room in the week and weekend schedules by having Monday and Friday open for farm work and an occasional long weekend, instead of being filled up by harvest and pickups. The difference between 2 and 3 days in that schedule is significant!
Change Pick-Up Day Form — Click here. Please fill out this form instead of emailing us. Thanks!
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 root cellar and back of the barn, the new construction near the barn (soon to be the walk-in fridge), and the new machine shed (hiding in the woods up the hill). 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, and back up carefully.
Another hazard you should know about is a small drainage pond / mud pit west of the barn— we 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 decent 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, Alissa, Bisharo, Danny and Mohammed
Radish & Goat Cheese Pizza with Spicy Greens
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 small clove garlic, minced (about 1/2 teaspoon)
Pinch salt & freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes + more to taste if desired
Pinch kosher salt
Cracked black pepper
4 ounces goat cheese
2 cups radish greens or baby arugula
5-6 radishes, sliced
Grated Parmesan cheese if desired
If adding chicken to half
1/2 cup diced cooked chicken
If adding chicken to all
1 cup diced cooked chicken
1. In a small bowl or jar, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, Dijon mustard, garlic, and salt and pepper. Taste and add additional salt and pepper if you wish.
Spicy Stir Fried Bok Choy with Quinoa
from Eat Healthy, Eat Happy, April 10, 2015
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa
- 5-6 bok choy stems, chopped (separate the white and green parts)
- 1 carrot, grated
- 7 green onions, chopped (save the green tops for garnish)
- 1 smallish bell pepper (or 2-3 mini peppers)
- 8 oz. mini portobello mushrooms, sliced
- 1 Tbs olive oil
- 5 cloves garlic, peeled
- about 1 1/2″ fresh ginger root, peeled
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 2 Tbs red curry paste
- 2 Tbs lemon or lime juice
- 2 Tbs agave (or your favorite sweetener)
- 2 Tbs soy sauce (gluten free and low sodium recommended)
- 4 Tbs peanut butter
- 1/2 cup boiling water
- plain roasted peanuts to finish, crushed (optional)
- Cook the quinoa according to package. Prep the veggies.
- Combine the sauce ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree smooth.
- Add the oil to a wok or large skillet on medium heat. Add the white bok choy and stir-fry 2 minutes. Add the green bok choy and the rest of the veggies and stir-fry 5 minutes.
- At this point the quinoa should be done, so stir it in. Pour the sauce in and stir-fry everything together for 2 minutes.
- Serve topped with onion greens and crushed peanuts if you like.