Farm Newsletter August 18, 2020
Bulk Produce Now Available! See Nuts and Bolts for more info.
“We love what you do for the community, and if the damage and loss is that bad we want to help you with the wholesale side of the business too, so you can keep providing food for so many people. We want to give to you.” — long time CSA member, encouraging us to do fundraising of some kind
It’s been a sad week around here. The hail on Sunday night August 9/10 was dime sized for several minutes, with quarters mixed in. Though almost all of them are still standing and now growing, no plant on the farm escaped damage. Most of them were pelted hard over and over again.
Thank you so so much for all your understanding, and kind words, about the weather-related changes in this fall’s CSA share , and our wholesale crop losses. There’s a lot to say, hopefully we cover it all.
Many of you have asked how you can help — we may need some volunteer labor this fall, though not much most likely. It is awkward to say, but really what we need is money to make up for a portion of the lost crops, so the budget is realistic and we have enough going into 2021. We plan on planting and growing the same amount of food next year as in recent years — moments like this make us re-answer that question for ourselves, and we are eager to keep doing what we do for years to come.
Several of you expressed feelings similar to what the quote above summed up. Thank you for your directness and kindness. We do not ask for money lightly; we’ve never done it before. We’ve relied on profitability and loans as our way of getting through hard times. This loss is too big for a sane loan, so as several of you told us you want to give us money to help us through this year — we wrestled with the many reasons why not, including that there are so many people who need the money more than us. We wrestled and discussed … and combed through the budget numbers and options several times. Then we had to accept that right now we are people who need financial help to get through, or otherwise be set back many years worth of excessive debt, which would make us unable to weather another less severe storm or other type of farming setback.
We have had many weepy moments. Not bawling – the world is full of reasons for that, and this is relatively mild in that sphere — but teary eyes and swelling hearts. With your kindness, and the joy and great attitudes of our great crew, the losses of crops and money has sometimes turned from weepy moments into moments of weepy smiles , as we (all 8+ of us who have worked here this summer) feel more than ever that we and our work are respected, and cherished. We weep for lost food, lost income, and for some of our great crew, lost work. We smile because we enjoy the work and the products of what we do every day, doing it with each other, and for the broader community around us.
With heavy hearts this week we laid off or reduced hours for 4 of our employees, 3 of whom were full time. We’ve seen plenty of crop loss over the years, from hail, rain, disease or bugs, but the timing and severity of this hail storm took such a huge bite out of yields and the wholesale budget that we can’t enter 2021 in a stable position if we keep everyone on. We’ll keep harvesting and washing for your CSA pickups, the storage share, and doing a small fraction of our usual wholesale sales too, with a skeleton crew of Ben and Erin, one full-timer (3 years strong with us), and hopefully we’ll be able to keep our next “most senior” employee with us part-time (if we can raise enough money). We are super sorry for the others of our crew whose work lives this “perfect storm” is disrupting, and hope they’ll adjust comfortably, and maybe rejoin us as soon as we can rehire them. There’s a small chance that would be later this fall if carrot yields look good, but more likely next spring.
With the crops remaining to sell, and the fundraiser going on Go Fund Me, we should be able to enter 2021 on solid footing, ready to move the farm forward and keep raising great food like we have been for all of our awesome customers, and weather what comes our way. We’ve seen 3 damaging hail storms before this one (2006, and 2 in 2007), and repeated heavy rainfall ; those would put a major strain on any farm budget, as they did for us. But this far and away has damaged more and reduced yields more than anything we’ve been through. Unlike a springtime hail, this time summer crops were so severely beat up, fruits and leaves, and don’t have time to regrow new fruits. And fall crops , mostly the roots — which are safely underground, and an escape from hail being central to why we got in to selling roots in the first place!! — lost so much of their leaf volume that they are unlikely to size up and yield the amount we normally rely on. We didn’t think that there was a worst time for fall roots to get hail — we’re guessing this is it.
Looking at the field from afar, many plants actually look ok. But looking closer it’s easy to see the battered fruits and the shredded or tattered or severed leaves, or 10 days worth of leaf growth laying on the ground, chopped of by the hail.
Still, this week, a week after the storm, walking around is fascinating. The farm is green and lovely, nearly all the plants are growing well — if we can accept the events of the last week we can see that what’s remaining looks beautiful.
This is truly the kind of situation that puts many farmers, of any kind, out of business — the normal operating expenses, bills and loans of a farm business, plus a market disruption (Covid changing and mostly reducing usage of many kinds of produce), and a major weather event. We all know people who themselves or their families used to be farmers…this kind of situation is major reason why. It gets worse, we know, and many farmers hang on by their fingernails for years — we send a big heartfelt thank you for helping us stay out of a fingernail-hanging position, by your support as a CSA member, and if you are able to give to the Go Fund Me campaign. If you would like to give, but do not want to through Go Fund Me, we will happily accept checks in the mail or slid into the “money box” that is on your left as you come into the barn.
CSA was devised as a way to keep farmers out of these positions. As we’ve said before, and so many of you so gracefully do — sharing the risk with us so we don’t have to shoulder all the risks of growing food. It’s a way better model than the profit-making business of insurance, if we dare say! Not applicable everywhere, though, but it works great for a vegetable farm. Selling bigger volumes of veggies to schools and distributors has been a great addition for us, even though we’ve never found crop insurance that works for farms like ours. But the CSA is the heart of what we do, and times likes this make that crystal clear.
We look forward to seeing you this week. Feel free to ask any questions etc if you have them. If you say something nice to us and we can’t find the words to respond, know that our hearts are full (our eyeballs might be too!!) , we hear you, and sometimes we’re having a hard time finding words lately. Thanks for your support in all ways. We truly are humbled and we will always be grateful for how you are helping us weather the many storms of 2020.
So like we mentioned in the email last week, last week’s share was actually about the same size as pre-storm, since we were able to get you damaged pieces that hadn’t rotted yet, or ones we’d picked before the storm. This week … will be a little bit smaller share. We might have to count everything out like in the spring, we’ll see. Out of all this damage, we’re gonna miss peppers the most, for the fun of eating them and the color and joy they bring to the share and to you.
The share for September may feel the most sparse — it’s usually such an abundant month. But without peppers, much or any of them, and reduced yields in other crops too, chances of the share looking abundant are very small. It will be different and less full, though it’s hard to predict exactly how right now.
Tomatoes — you’ll get a handful of good tomatoes in your share for the next few weeks. There are so many green and red ones rotting on the vine from hail damage that our hands smell terrible after picking. But it’s worth the effort, we can still find some needles in the haystack! Tomatoes are a crop we planted more of to make up for crops we wouldn’t be able to sell in Covid times (like tons of celeriac for a distributor that sell to restaurants); we’ve lost a huge percentage of those extra fruits, but there are still some to go around, both for the share and as extra boxes.
Garlic! Was safely in the shed so didn’t get harmed by the noisy weather, just had to listen to it hammering on the metal roof. 3 more weeks of garlic in the share, but plenty of extra to go around.
Melons — fortunately we’re sneaking through this with a decent melon harvest. Reduced volume and quality, but decent. We had picked many watermelons the Friday before the storm, as they (unusually) ripened all at once. Many of the remainder were ripe when the storm cracked them open ; hopefully they were great when you ate them last week! Cantaloupes have dings and dents, but very few hailstones penetrated the rind. So far so good. The flavor is 90-95% of our normal, and they’re a little soft fleshed. We think , since the plants lost about 75% to the ice onslaught, they can’t photosynthesize enough sugars to make them sweet, and whatever compounds keep them firm. This will probably be the last week of melons — normally we’d keep picking, but the quality of what’s left in the field is starting to decline. We’ll give them to you if they’re decent.The remainder might not be. Anyway, since the plants are so weak, heed this warning : EAT THIS WEEK’S MELONS WITHIN A COUPLE DAYS — THEY DON’T HAVE MUCH SHELF LIFE.
Peppers — we may offer you unlimited damaged peppers. We haven’t looked yet to see how they are holding up. We picked 3 bins full that were still edible a day or two after the storm — holes and cracks, but edible. We’ll sort through them and give you what’s not gross. Peppers are a crop we sell to a couple bigger wholesale accounts; we tried to get a couple of them to take the damaged ones but it didn’t work out. Aside from these damaged ones, there won’t be much for peppers in the share for the next few weeks. If we’re lucky we’ll get more in Sept as small ones — some of which evaded the hail — size up if it’s warm enough. If we’re really lucky we’ll get a few red peppers. That’s a big bummer to miss out on those!!
Lettuce — was shredded but bounced back decently. There may be some torn leaves. It may be a little more bitter than usual if we have to pick from an older planting this week. We should have plenty this fall as new plantings grow up.
Greens — were under row cover, the big white blankets in the field, so suffered almost no damage. The row cover now has holes, but the greens look good. Glad to finally have a pretty good supply of them after a summer of weedy and buggy plantings.
Summer Squash, Zucchini and Cucumbers — were struggling a bit before the storm, and now are the only plants showing major disease symptoms (veggie plant pathogens are common after so many wounds). There is a chance of new growth but we’ll be short on them most likely for the rest of the season.
Winter Squash — oh, who knows. Harder skin varieties — acorn, buttercup– show basically no damage. Every butternut has several dings, holes and or cracks. So far very few are rotting. That could change as they continue ripening in the field the next couple weeks. Pumpkins have a soft skin at this stage and at first glance we think we won’t have many.
Onions — the yellow onions were safely in the greenhouse (which fortunately did not blow away). The red ones get harvested later and were still in the field — most of them have dings or minor bruises. KEEP THE RED ONIONS IN THE FRIDGE, and USE THEM ASAP. We don’t think they’ll store at all. They’re good now though. You may have to cut out brown spots but the rest of the onion should be fine. We have a few sweet onions left; when both of these are gone we’ll start giving out the yellow ones, which we expect to store normal.
Cabbage — some heads got pinged some did not. Should be good all fall.
Carrots, Beets — we still have. We might run out of beets for a couple weeks as we wait for the almost-ready ones in the field to regrow enough leaves to make big beets.
Celery, baby leeks , and we should have some fennel too, next week.
Kale and chard — chard was almost back before being tattered. The kale … looks terrible, so we’ll wait for the fall planting in 2-3 weeks. We’re weighing our options to avoid this gap in cooking greens next year, we miss them. Once that planting is in, hopefully we’ll have more than you can eat, and it should be tender and perfect.
What’s for U-Pick?
Basil, Cilantro and Dill — actually look pretty good.
Other Herbs This Week –Parsley (flat and curly), thyme, oregano, anise hyssop, and nasturtium flowers.
Green Beans — we’ll hopefully mow the old plantings this week. Keep picking, maybe those younger plantings will put out more flowers? Some are, some aren’t.
Cherry tomatoes — sooooo many got knocked to the ground — but some are ripening well on the ground! The flavor isn’t always perfect, but still pretty good. You have to sort a little, and kneel, and wipe the dirt off — depends on how hard you’re willing to work for them, I guess.
Flowers ! Honestly, we’ haven’t looked very close. They look pretty from 20 feet away.
Always check the U-pick board when you’re here to see what’s available, and picking amounts.
Nuts and Bolts
Upick Time Slots are over — Come U-pick any time , daylight hours, 7 days a week! Please stick with your barn/ regular share pickup time slot — you can now U-pick during that time too, or come back another day, during your old U-pick slot or whenever.
Please do try to stick with your Barn / Regular Share Pickup Time on Tuesdays and Thursdays — it helps keep the line short or non-existent by spreading people out, given the 5 person limit in the barn. Thanks! It’s ok if you can’t make it at your time slot every week, but do try, it does help.
Bulk Produce for You —
Check here each newsletter for what we have available for extra purchase.
To place a bulk order, simply call or email us at least 2 days ahead of the day you’d like to pick it up. Orders can be picked up at the farm during our regular pickup hours, but it doesn’t have to be your share pickup day.
This week’s selection is : Carrots! $1 / lb. Cantaloupe $5 each.
From LuAnn in the You-Pick Medicinal Herbs Garden:
Share Pickup Hours TUESDAY and THURSDAY 1:30-6:30 pm.
Change Pick-Up Day Form — Click here. Please fill out this form instead of emailing us. Thanks! If you need to come during a different time slot on your same pickup day, that is ok, no need to email us or fill out the form.
Please Drive Carefully —Children are everywhere.
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.
If You Send Someone Else to Pick Up Your Share — Please forward them the basic pickup and Covid Videos that we sent you. Then just tell them to introduce themselves to us in the barn just so we know.
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, Amelia, Emily, Erika, and Harper
Tomato Basil Salad with Shaved Parmesan and Balsamic Reduction
from Farmer John’s cookbook
1 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tsp honey
¼ tsp mined garlic
¼ tsp minced shallot
1 small sprig fresh rosemary
4 medium tomatoes, cored, cut crosswise into ½ inch slices
8 large fresh basil leaves, sliced very finely
freshly ground black pepper
red onion, to taste, sliced as thinly as possible
1-2 ounces Parmesan Cheese, very thinly sliced
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil or more to taste
Put the balsamic vinegar in a stainless steel or ceramic-coated pot over medium-high heat. Add the honey, garlic, shallot, and rosemary sprig. Bring the ingredients to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Gently simmer the mixture, uncovered, until it has reduced to about 1/3 cup and is the consistency of syrup, about 20 minutes. Remove the pot from the stove and set it aside to cool. Strain if desired.
Arrange the tomato slices on individual plates. Scatter the basil evenly over the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with onion to taste.
Drizzle 1 ½ tsp of the balsamic reduction over each serving. (Don’t drench the plates; the reduction is concentrated and very flavorful—a little goes a long way.) Top each serving with Parmesan slices and drizzle with about 1 Tbsp oil, or more if you desire. Serve immediately.
Celery Salad with Walnuts and Gruyère
This salad is simple enough to make for yourself at a moment’s notice, and it’s elegant enough to make as the salad course for a dinner party—just serve it over a bed of leaf lettuce. Our Angelic Organics farm friend always gets asked about it: “Nobody invites me to potlucks anymore,” she exclaims. “They invite my salad.”
From Angelic Organics.
- 3 ribs celery, cut into matchstick-sized strips
- 1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts
- 8 ounces Gruyère cheese, cut into match-stick-sized strips
- 1 teaspoon minced shallot
- 1 scallion, thinly sliced
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons prepared Dijon mustard
- 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
1. Combine the celery, walnuts, Gruyère, shallot, and scallion in a large bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste.
2. Whisk the mustard and lemon juice in a small bowl. Add the cream in a stream, whisking constantly, until everything is well combined.
3. Pour the dressing over the celery mixture and toss gently but thoroughly. Sprinkle with the parsley.