Farm Newsletter September 15, 2020

Farm Newsletter September 15, 2020

Farm News        Crop Forecast

U-Pick       Recipes       Nuts and Bolts

Greetings! 

A huge hearty THANKS AGAIN !!!! to all of you who gave to the hail damage fund! We raised a little more than our $50,000 goal, and, combined with some belt-tightening, it has really helped offset enough of the storm’s losses to set us on solid footing for the rest of this year and heading into 2021. We are really fortunate to have you all to help us through this.

And as odd it always is, we will soon be ready to begin sign-ups for the 2021 CSA season! You’ll get a separate email in the next week or so with details when we’re ready to start taking deposits or payments for next year. We start renewals now so that by the end of the share in late October we know how many folks are coming back to join us next year — we hope you will!! — and whether we have any spots available to fill for next year.

As a community you have supported this farm this year more than we ever thought to ask — we heard from so many of you how you were totally fine with a smaller share and damaged produce, and wanted to help offset some of our losses in wholesale crops. That still blows us away. Given all that generosity, we are very timid about this next announcement / request — there will be a price increase for 2021 CSA shares, an additional $50 on the sliding scale.

Our last price increase was in 2016, to begin raising wages for our crew. Farm wages are always among the lowest, and that hurts workers, farmers, and the communities we live in. We haven’t done our job in raising our prices as our own costs rose, and as food prices rose everywhere else. We did an analysis around that time and found that the retail / store value of the veggies we give out in the share to be around $1,000 per year. Ideally we would have done another increase or two in the meantime — but in those 4 years, despite the clear facts of rising input costs (seeds and wages especially) and rising food costs everyone was seeing at the stores, CSA demand seemed lower than in our early years. We’ve never wanted to price anyone out of our services, and we were concerned about losing too many of you. Among most CSAs, member retention is around 70%, or lower. Despite our average of return customers being around 90% over the years, in the last 5 years it has often been lower, as many of our long time members have had life changes so our unique, somewhat limited CSA arrangement just hasn’t made sense in their lives.  (Despite the challenges Covid has brought on you and the world, we were delighted when many of you joined again in 2020 with the life changes that Covid brought!) When we didn’t raise the price for 2020 (a decision we made Sept 2019), we were 99% sure it would be time to raise it for 2021.  Then seeing our budget after this hailstorm and with Covid losses, ie the need for layoffs and fundraising, we saw for sure that the CSA price needs to pull its weight in our budget. It’s time to move toward charging enough so that if we were ever to only grow veggies for the CSA, everyone who works here would have wages and benefits approaching fair for our skills and labor, and the business would have adequate capital for equipment and infrastructure investments. 

With CSA shining so much this year as a model for farmer – eater relationships, you may have wondered, why did we wander off into the risks and rewards of the wholesale market? 

Our expansion further into the wholesale realm was because at the time, 7 or so years ago, we didn’t feel like we could charge enough for the CSA for it to cover what most business people consider basic expenses — especially capital investments in building and equipment, and wages to retain skilled employees more than 2 years, let alone retirement or any other kind of benefits for employees or us as employers. With modest price increases in or around 2009, 2012 and 2016 we were hearing from a few too many people that they were close to being priced out of it, but for our first 10 years we were continually coming up with inadequate amounts of  capital for equipment and infrastructure investment, and for fair compensation for all of us working here to grow food.

We could tell by sorting through the numbers that we were earning much more per acre from the little bit of wholesaling we did.  We clearly needed to bring in more income for ourselves and our employees.  We were more efficient at those few crops, and even those modest volumes provided more returns than the wide variety of CSA crops at a small scale, even with the many benefits of the CSA model.  We saw opportunities for us in a few developing local foods markets, and decided to go for it.  

Selling to schools and a bit to distributors has been a great addition for us.  We’ve still lost crops to the weather or pests, of course, but we were able to earn enough to afford loans for the big cooler/root cellar, and then the smaller cooler and the machine shed and shop.  We had wanted some of those things for years, but without wholesaling we weren’t able to do them.  We’ve been able to raise employee wages 50-100% over what they were 10 years ago, including providing winter work.  They are still low-paying jobs, as most in food work are, but we’ve struggled and strived to make the wages sufficient at least for the passionate few to start to stick around longer than a couple years. We’ve saved a super modest amount into retirement accounts, for us, and our longer term employees. 

So while CSA is an amazing model for spreading out the risks of farming, the rewards of wholesaling have been worth the risks. And like we said before, it’s time for the CSA price to fully pull their weight in our budget. If we had raised the price enough 3-5 years ago, the extra thousands in those budgets would have meant our situation after this hailstorm wouldn’t have been as precarious, if at all. Your gifts to the hail fund, with that in mind, help make up for us failing to raise our CSA price in the past. Pricing better is part two of solving that problem; we’re also tweaking the wholesale side of the business for even better returns, including raising prices to some of those customers, and researching creative insurance options that might work better for an operation like ours than what the market currently offers.

We really hope this price increase fits ok in your budget, and that it feels good to pitch in to supporting us and our employees to keep doing the work we love to do for you, and live with more financial stability. We hope you understand and will come back for more great veggies in 2021!

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Crop Forecast

According to the calendar, and last week’s chilly days, it’s time for a little more fall food! We didn’t get any frost, which is nice, but what was left for summer crops are slowing way down. This week we’ll have delicata squash, and more acorn squash. Next week we should have ambercup and carnival squashes, and buttercup and butternut coming soon after that, with 2 squash per full share for 2-4 weeks. Those squashes need a little more time to cure and develop their flavors. We still have some of the summer crops — maybe a last trickle of summer squash, zucchini and eggplant. Tomatoes and peppers we usually have more of but the shortage of them is the biggest remaining sign of the hail. While not perfect produce or perfect wide selection, overall the share size is and has been pretty close to normal! That’s due to our big plantings for wholesale customers, and your willingness to take some beat up looking veggies. The CSA and wholesale combination often has a good synergy like this. Thanks for rolling with the way things are!

Tomatoes —are, sadly, done. There are basically none left on the plants, which usually happens in October sometime, but those pickings were undone by the hail. We’ve been picking fruits that were lower down on the plants — they were protected by the younger fruits above them, which got holes, cracks, and or torn off the vine by the hail.  Those survivors are now gone. Yields were 1/3-1/2 of normal / what was on the plants when the storm hit. Tomatoes in late September /early October slow down and usually don’t taste quite as good due to the cooler temperatures, but they’re still a super nice fruity pairing with the hearty foods of fall and winter, and it’s always great to eat summer as long as possible….this year, this is what we get though.

Peppers — didn’t turn red last week cuz they were so cold, so this week we barely have any. We’ll have good green peppers though. We miss red peppers as much as tomatoes — we’ve been growing enough to let you take as any as you want, and we know you love it too. There are some small green peppers on the plants that didn’t get hurt by the hail. We are hoping they will get enough warmth to size up and turn red, for a little more of that amazing taste of summer/fall.

Kohlrabi, Radish, Celeriac — In recent years the Septembers have been so warm and abundant we haven’t pulled out these wintery veggies until Octboer!! But without red peppers to fill up the table, we may put a few of these out to help make sure there’s enough of everything to go around.

SPINACH!  Still looks great and we should have a half bag or more for everyone for the coming weeks. Spinach is taking the edge of the absence of red peppers and tomatoes for us — the diversity is one of our biggest strengths!

Garlic! Extras for sale in the barn anytime, $1 / head.

Lettuce and Greens — look amazing. We may have less lettuce this week and next, and may supplement with spinach or the other greens.

Onions —  We’re almost through the red onions, then will have yellow onions which will store long, and a few shallots.

Kale — it’s been fun, and easy for us to do in a bin. That’s our big fall wholesale planting coming in. You may want to rinse it, since we’re letting oursleves skip that step. And chard —  finally! This week we’ll be able to get at least some.

Carrots, Beets, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Celery all look good. Fennel we are out or nearly out of — it has been noted, your fennel consumption has gone up, and we’ll plant more next year!

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What’s for U-Pick?

Basil, Cilantro and Dill — Still look pretty good!

Other Herbs This Week –Parsley (flat and curly), thyme, oregano, anise hyssop, and nasturtium flowers.

Green Beans — We moved the flags to actual useful places today, and got a sign on the edamame. We’re sorry we haven’t been able to get out there in the past month with everything else going on. There’s lots of edamame, this is the time to pick! The green beans … there are some to be found in the later plantings, further east. Soon we’ll mow some more rows to make it easier to know where to go, too.

Flowers !  So glad we missed the frost, so we still have them all.

Always check the U-pick board when you’re here to see what’s available, and picking amounts.

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Nuts and Bolts

2021 Sign Up Info Coming in a Week or So! And Storage Share Info coming Soon too!

The Storage share is a one-time pickup the week before Thanksgiving, separate from the regular share. We’re still trying to figure out how to do it with good Covid precautions, probably over 2 days.

Time Slot Note — Overall the time slots have still been working well, with the exception of 4:30 – 6:00 on Thursdays. It’s been pretty crowded around then! If you are able to come earlier on Thursday, that would be great; it’s been quieter then, so you’d avoid the line. If not, we understand.

If you like the book Everything Elderberry by Susannah Shmurak — say thanks to Susannah by leaving a review on Amazon and/or Good Reads! We hope you enjoy it, we have been loving elderberry for staying healthy in recent years. And thanks to Susannah for gifting us the sales proceeds from the book at the farm the last couple weeks!

Last Share Pickup Days are October 13 and 15, with double volume / two weeks’ worth that week.

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 : Spinach $5 / lb. Kale $2/lb. We’re a little tight on the rest.

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.

Thanks for your support!

Your farmers,

Erin and Ben, with Allia, Alexandra, Alissa, Emily, Erika, and Harper

Recipes

Deb’s Kale Salad with Apple, Cranberries and Pecans

from http://www.cookieandkate.com

INGREDIENTS

Salad

  • ½ cup pecans
  • 8 ounces kale (I used regular curly green kale, but Deb recommends Cavolo Nero or Lacinato, Dinosaur or Tuscan Kale)
  • 4 to 5 medium radishes
  • ½ cup dried cranberries (or dried cherries)
  • 1 medium Granny Smith apple
  • 2 ounces soft goat cheese, chilled

Dressing

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ½ tablespoons apple cider vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
  • 1 tablespoon smooth Dijon mustard
  • 1 ½ teaspoons honey or maple syrup
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spread the pecans on a baking tray. Toast them until lightly golden and fragrant, about 5 to 10 minutes, tossing them once or twice to make sure they bake evenly. Remove the tray from the oven and set them aside to cool.
  2. Pull the kale leaves off from the tough stems and discard the stems. Use a chef’s knife to chop the kale into small, bite-sized pieces. Transfer the kale to a big salad bowl. Sprinkle a small pinch of sea salt over the kale and massage the leaves with your hands by lightly scrunching big handfuls at a time, until the leaves are darker in color and fragrant.
  3. Thinly slice the radishes (this is easier to do if you first chop off the root end so you can place the base of the radish flat against your cutting board). Add them to the bowl.
  4. Coarsely chop the pecans and cranberries (or cherries) and add them to the bowl. Chop the apple into small, bite-sized pieces and add it to the bowl as well. Crumble the goat cheese over the top.
  5. In a small bowl, whisk the dressing ingredients together and pour the dressing over the salad. Toss until the salad is evenly coated with dressing. Serve immediately, or for even better flavor, let the salad marinate in the dressing for 10 to 20 minutes beforehand.
  6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spread the pecans on a baking tray. Toast them until lightly golden and fragrant, about 5 to 10 minutes, tossing them once or twice to make sure they bake evenly. Remove the tray from the oven and set them aside to cool.
  7. Pull the kale leaves off from the tough stems and discard the stems. Use a chef’s knife to chop the kale into small, bite-sized pieces. Transfer the kale to a big salad bowl. Sprinkle a small pinch of sea salt over the kale and massage the leaves with your hands by lightly scrunching big handfuls at a time, until the leaves are darker in color and fragrant.
  8. Thinly slice the radishes (this is easier to do if you first chop off the root end so you can place the base of the radish flat
  9. against your cutting board). Add them to the bowl.
  10. Coarsely chop the pecans and cranberries (or cherries) and add them to the bowl. Chop the apple into small, bite-sized pieces and add it to the bowl as well. Crumble the goat cheese over the top.
  11. In a small bowl, whisk the dressing ingredients together and pour the dressing over the salad. Toss until the salad is evenly coated with dressing. Serve immediately, or for even better flavor, let the salad marinate in the dressing for 10 to 20 minutes beforehand.

Herb Roasted Parmesan Acorn Squash

from http://www.therealfoodrds.com

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large acorn squash (or 2 small)
  • ⅓ cup shredded parmesan cheese + more for garnishing
  • 2–3 Tbsp. fresh herbs or 1 tsp. dried (we suggest: thyme, sage, rosemary, or oregano)
  • 1 Tbsp. ghee or butter, melted
  • ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt + more to taste
  • ⅛ tsp. black pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 400℉.
  2. Cut acorn squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Then slice each half into ½-inch thick slices.
  3. In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients (minus the squash) and toss to combine.
  4. Transfer to a large sheet pan. Using your hands, gently press parmesan cheese onto the squash for maximum coverage.
  5. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes or until squash is cooked through and parmesan cheese is crispy and slightly browned. Garnish with additional parmesan cheese and herbs, if desired.

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