Farm Newsletter June 8, 2021

Farm News        Crop Forecast

 U-Pick       Recipes       Nuts and Bolts

Greetings!

Welcome to the farm for 2021!!!!

We’re so glad it’s time to share the farm and its bounty with you again. It’s been a rough year for a lot of people, and while greenery and great produce can’t directly move all the world’s problems, we hope it is moving and healing for you and the whole community this year.

Thanks for reading our recent emails and responding as needed. We know you’re all busy and we try to make the share as simple as possible, so we appreciate you helping us make it as smooth and safe as possible for everyone. We wish we could feel comfortable with less Covid precautions this year, but with the amount of unknowns regarding this stage of the pandemic, we want to make sure we are fulfilling our mission of providing a service for the community’s health, and not endangering anyone unnecessarily. This year’s modified precautions are the best balance we’ve come up with so far, and we’ll continue to evaluate and adapt as needed as the year goes on. Thanks for pitching in and going along!

The farm has gorgeous food for us this week! As usual in our climate we start with salad and stir fry fixings and have to wait a month or so more for the full juicy fruits and veggies of summer — but oh the freshness and flavors of these June crops are so nourishing! If you’re not sure what to do with some of it, see the recipes page on our website, or just type the veggie’s name in your search bar, and try something out. We love simple salads, and the heartier greens cooked down in soy sauce or any variation of a stir fry sauce — especially in this heat, the light salads and the salty greens get into places in our bodies where water and other foods just can’t get.

The dry weather last fall and this spring has given us wide windows of days and weeks to do our fieldwork, which is relaxing. In wet times it gets stressful to fit all our tillage and weed cultivation and planting in , like recent years when it’s rained every four days. The rains a couple weeks ago were a huge boon and are keeping many plants sustained during this hot dry spell. We had just the right amount of time in between those rains to cultivate the billion weeds that had been waiting for rain to germinate, and last week we started irrigating full time again. Our well is just barely big enough to water the amount of acres we’re growing veggies on (about 16 acres) , especially these weeks when so many of those acres have seeds or baby plants with no roots, which need frequent waterings to set roots and get established. So we’re sneaking through, and reluctantly considering investing in a bigger well to make it through these extended hot and dry spells , with less labor and worry about getting the kiddos what they need.

Which reminds us — humongous THANKS! again to everyone who gave to our hail fund last August. The week after the August 9 storm was an extremely stressful and sad time for the farm, and the way so many of you gave really lifted our hearts (and chins), and kept our budget in solid shape. Sales of the fall and winter veggies we did have remaining for wholesale (ie not wrecked by hail) were fast and furious, so between the hail fund, enough demand on the wholesale side, and a federal stimulus check for farmers to help offset other covid losses and challenges, we are back on even footing. Such a huge relief. As we try to do every year, we were able to upgrade some aging and failing equipment, which involved some long hours of modification in the shop but has been saving us lots of time and harder labor this spring. Good forward motion, to keep us growing strong for you for years to come.

Our crew is all back from last year, or longer, which has been fun and easy and rewarding. We’re having a good time, including making music with dandelion stems and acorn caps, an occasional ice cream cake, and simply being happy to have the chance to work outside with plants and soil growing food for all of us.

Looking forward to seeing you, and to all of us eating this week’s harvest!

Crop Forecast

Leaf and head lettuce, scallions, radishes, salad turnips, boc choi, and spring garlic will be the stars the first couple of weeks, along with  arugula and Asian salad greens (next week), and some spinach.  We’ll have some kale too, but since we choose not to spray pesticides and we haven’t been able to get it quite enough water this last week, it has been beat up kinda bad by flea beetles. When the beetles find stressed plants, they chew holes and stress the plants significantly more, creating tough and bitter flavored leaves — we will try to harvest some, but if you don’t like kale or aren’t sure, this is not the moment to try to like it. We should have better stuff in a month or so, and the september-october harvest is really the best. The boc choi has some holes too but still tastes great when cooked.

Spring garlic is the stalk and leaves (top) and immature bulb (bottom) 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 , probably next week — garlic scapes are the flower stalks which can be used the same as the main stalk, or made into awesome garlic scape pesto. Spring spinach remains a challenge we keep trying to understand and do a better job growing, but the yield might be modest yet again , we’ll see.  The heat stresses it out, but we’ve been watering and feeding it and trying to figure out what it needs…

Asparagus will make a small appearance this week as it exits the stage , and broccoli, summer squash and kohlrabi will come in gradually in a couple weeks.

Overall it’s looking like a beautiful harvest!  Our favorites in the kitchen this past week have been lettuce, boc choi, and scallions (and soy sauce!!!)  It’s just so darn good to have fresh hearty greens 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 will start flowering soon, 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!

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What’s for U-Pick?

THIS WEEK: Cilantro and Dill! Cilantro is unlimited and dill is limited to one handful. Should have them both all season.

You can U-pick anytime again, it does not have to be on your share pickup day or a specific time slot like 2020. Weekends and evenings work for some people, that’s totally fine for us.

Strawberries should be ready to open up for harvest next week.  They could start with a trickle, or with a bang, we’ll see.  We have three varieties in two different plantings, as we try to find a good balance of flavor and berry size, and productivity in an organic system. Would you guess that 10 days ago we had to water them overnight to protect them from a 34 degree night / near frost?!?! MN weather keeps us on our toes.

This year we’ll again use the flag system for bean and strawberry picking.  Start picking at a red flag, and work your way 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.

We often have 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 put some extra time into weeding the strawberries this year, so one planting is very “clean” and the other is … better than it sometimes is 🙂

Snap peas aren’t flowering yet and should be ready by the end of June, green beans by early July. It was too cold to plant beans until three weeks ago!!!

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.  This year we’re also thinking we’ll send an email on Sunday or Monday (of non-newsletter weeks) with a quick U-pick update, in case there’s something new coming in etc.

When you’re picking if one or all of us are around, we might not be able to stop and talk, but you are always welcome here.

If anyone needs help picking their U-pick crops, please let us know. We have a list of folks happy to help and we can match you up with a volunteer.

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Nuts and Bolts

This first newsletter always 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.  We hope you come and upick and get to know and enjoy the place.  Check in on the crops as they grow, pick lots of strawberries, and herbs to add flourishes and depth to your meals, etc — we hope your visits here are a peaceful and health-giving part of your routine. Feel free to sit, rest, and/or play a little. 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.

CSA Handbook for You — Many 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.

Kid’s Play Spaces — Outdoor and Indoor — We’re excited to have the kid’s corner back in the barn, and more space cleared under the trees outside for kids to hang out in while you get your share! See video in last week’s email with more details.

Information about Add-ons!

For Add-ons, we have a bread CSA, a cheese CSA, a Hard Cider CSA, and on the spot purchases of mushrooms and wool products! For more details because this newsletter is too long, please read the add-on email that we sent out last week.

Push Pin Sign-In  When you come to pick up your share, please “sign in” with the push pin by your name, inside the barn door. This helps us know how many people came each day, so we can be sure to pick/have more than enough for everybody.

For split shares — instead of leaving notes on the sign in sheet, please email or text your share partner to communicate “Who gets what this time”.

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. Separate from these donations we also are pleased to sell produce to The Food Group, through their unique Harvest for the Hungry program.  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.

We are also working closely with Northfield CAC Food Shelf on a new program this year, where CAC buys veggies from us and Spring Wind Farm (next door) every week for distribution the next day in Northfield. That will run July-October this year. We are all very excited about this and will share more info, and probably a chance to support that work as well, in the next newsletter.

Share Pickup Hours TUESDAY and THURSDAY 1:30-6:30 pm.  Please note — later in June (and after) the barn may 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.

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.

KID SAFETY —Please Drive Carefully —Children are everywhere.

Please know where your children are at all times. ESPECIALLY All buildings, except the shareroom area of the barn, are off-limits to children. This includes the barn and the machine shed (hiding in the woods up the hill).  There are sharp tools in many places, of all shapes and sizes.  Please keep kids near you when U-picking.

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 barnwe 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.

Covid Recap — Quick points — Masks inside, Limit 6 people in the barn. “Popcorn style” with one adult per smaller tables, two adults at the bigger slanted table.

Hopefully you read the emails and watched the video (s). Please do not come to the farm if you have Covid symptoms. When you arrive — wait in line standing on the driveway, wash your hands. The limit is 6 adult members in the barn — enter the barn with your mask on, sign in with your push pin on the right and continue through the barn to pick up your veggies.

Popcorn style — ie if you see a table open, get your veggies and then pop to another table that has an opening. We are allowing 2 people at the slanted “durables” table, since that takes a little longer to do and was a bottleneck last year.

If you requested a pre-bagged share, pick it up off the table under the tent, and stick your head in the “question” door if you need Erin / one of us. 

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!!

Your farmers,

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

PS -from Luann —

Medicinal Herb Garden News!

Note from LuAnn (Cannon Valley Herbals), caretaker of the medicinal herbs garden plot:

Now in its third growing season, the medicinal herbs garden is looking great, with around 30 new plants added this year.  I look forward to chatting with many of you during CSA pick-up times, and I invite you to stop by the site for a 30-minute folk herbalism mini-class — all ages are welcome.

Your CSA membership covers your personal use of the medicinal herbs and the mini-classes!  

Mini-class #1:  A Very Short Introduction to Medicinal Herbs and How To Use Them

     Tuesday, June 8 and Thursday, June 10 (2:00, 3:30, and 5:30 both days)

Mini-class #2:  Meet Plantain and Yarrow (among my most-used medicinal herbs)

     Tuesday, June 22 and Thursday, June 24 (2:00, 3:30, and 5:30 both days)

Please observe these guidelines when visiting the medicinal herbs garden:

  • Stay on the bark paths — seeds have been planted in what appear to be empty spaces.
  • Children are welcome, but please accompany them, encouraging them to stay on the paths.
  • The “What’s Ready” page on my website will tell you what is ready to gather.  I actively manage the growth and health of the herbs, so please limit yourself to plants listed on that page.  Contact me if you are interested in gathering other plants.

Check out my “Classes” page for additional classes being offered throughout the summer.

Check out my “Products” page for a partial list of herbal products that I make and sell.  I am happy to bring products to the farm for pick-up during your CSA pick up time if prearranged.

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