Summer CSA – Week 3

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We got the weeds out of the flower pathways on Sunday, just before the rain.  Harvey had fun pointing out all of the peas.  “More! More! More!”

Flower CSA Share starts this week.  If you purchased a flower CSA Share you should receive an email with details about pick up.  This is 2-3 weeks before we planned to start the share, but we have flowers now so we are going to get started.  This means the share will go until the first week of September instead of the 3rd or 4th.  It is an 11 week share.

Flowers will be available for pick up during regular CSA hours.  You must cross of your name on  the flower list as well as the veggie list.

4th of July Week: Wow, 4th of July on a Wednesday, what a tough one.
We will be open our regular hours Tuesday July 3rd and Thursday July 5th.  If you need to switch, just let me know.

We will be closed Wednesday, July 4th.

We will be delivering the regular Wednesday CSA pick up on Thursday, July 5th. Same hours, same locations.

On to the veggies!

Carrots are in! Cucumbers are really in!

It rained! We got just under 1/2″, but it’s making a world of a difference.  Some crops grew overnight because of it.  We are still working on irrigation.  We’ve been working with the Ashland Water Dept. to gain access to the hydrant on the corner of South St and Chestnut/Highland.  We will still pay for the water, but it will be at the top of the hill and high pressure, allowing us to much more easily get the appropriate amounts of water on our crops when needed.  Hopefully we get rain again on Thursday!

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The potatoes are one of the crops that grew overnight last night.

We planted the last of the winter squash this morning, which for me always marks a turning point in the season . We still have a few major plantings of fall transplanted crops, but no major blocks to plant all in one go.  It is the beginning of heavier harvesting and weeding, with transplanting still happening (lettuce every two weeks, beets and kale every 3 weeks) and direct seeding (I just planted the next round of beans, arugula, carrots, radish, dill and cilantro this morning) but not in major bursts. I know the summer CSA has only just begun, but half of the year is practically over!

We have a lot of hoeing and hand weeding in our future.  If anyone is partial to hand weeding and wants to join our team we have a group hand weeding from 10am-12pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays.  It is CRAZY satisfying to hand weed large areas with a big group of people, and our weeds are very under control, so it’s rather pleasant.  If I didn’t have so many other things to do, I’d spend a lot more time hand weeding. Also, you get to hang out with Erin and she is the coolest. In fact, email Erin if you want to weed: erin.b.espinosa@gmail.com

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Erin being thoughtful about pea picking.  Photo credit: Bob Durling

Our photographer friend, Bob Durling got some great shots of the crew picking last Tuesday.  It takes a lot of people to make this farm happen.  Not only do we have myself, Erin and Kevin working full time, but we have 4 other people working 20-30 hours/week and then 5 work-for-share members who trade 3 hours of labor in exchange for a large share.  I’m tough to work for, and the work is hard, but they do a great job.  Make sure you give them a big thank you if you happen to see any crew around. (Below photo credit: Bob Durling).

 

So, what’s in the share:

Carrots
Beets
Sweet Turnips
Head Lettuce
Lettuce Mix
Cucumber
Zucchini
1/2 pint peas (most likely the last of the season)

The large share will be able to choose 2-3 extra items in the following list (small shares can trade for these items, we will try to keep the trade fully stocked, if you really want to trade just ask.  Make sure if you are trading cucumber or zucchini that you trade a full pound, not just one cucumber or one zucchini to make it more fair).

Radish
Bok Choy (a little pest damage on the leaves, but good to go!)
Micro Basil
Garlic Scapes
Chard
Kale

Recipes

Honey Glazed Turnips

Zucchini Fritters

Marinated and Grilled Zucchini and Summer Squash

Grilled Beets

Beet and Cucumber Salad

Lebanese Stuffed Cousa Squash

Enjoy!!

 

Summer CSA – Week 2

An inch of rain would make my life a lot easier right now.

We don’t have irrigation at our farm, and we rely on high organic matter, clay/silt soils a high water table and a little bit of irrigation to get by.

A vegetable farm thrives on 1-2″ of rain/week, (best in one or two installments, with warm, dry, sunny weather in between).  That’s 27,154 gallons of water per acre inch.  We currently have 5 acres planted, with an acre to be planted this week.  That’s over 100,000 gallons of water we would need to give our crops the healthy dousing they deserve.

Right now, our only source of water is Ashland water, for which we pay agricultural rates  ($6.37 cents per 100 cubic feet, which is 748 gallons).  At that rate, an inch of rain falling on our fields is worth $1156.22.  That’s why when it rains we legitimately say, it’s raining money.

We have no reliable way of getting that much water onto our crops without rain.  Even the best irrigation systems are challenged when it gets really dry.  Right now we are using two methods to get water to our crops.

We are driving a tank of water (the tool we usually use to transplant) over the beds and letting the water fall directly on the crops.

erin watering with transplanter
Erin driving the transplanter over the onions last Friday. Onions have shallow root systems and depend on regular irrigation for proper development.

We estimate the cost of running our tractor with an operator (including cost of the machine, fuel, annual maintenance, insurance, etc, etc) to be around $60/hour (we do not value our time very highly – but the value of agricultural labor is another topic). We can water about 600 bed feet of vegetables with 300 gallons of water in roughly one hour.  That water costs $3 (based on rates above).  We rely on the vegetables natural ability to use water when needed (like how lettuce leaves act as a funnel to run water that falls on the plants directly to the roots).  We also avoid watering pathways with this method.  But its a negligible amount of water compared to what would make the crops really thrive if we got an inch of rain.

We also drive cube tanks (250-300 gallon tanks) on the the back of our old F-350 flat bed to the top of the hill and use a pump to either water with a hose by hand or feed the water into a drip irrigation system.  Drip tape is a good way to get water directly to the crops roots, allowing them to more effectively use the minimal amounts of water they are receiving. But drip tape is made of plastic, and is only reusable to a point – then it becomes waste which is questionably recyclable.

Most of these challenges would be lessened if we had land security.  We would dig an agricultural well (roughly $20k) with a 15-20 gallon/minute flow rate with an output at the top of the hill we farm, so all water used for irrigation would flow downhill (the opposite of what we have now, where our water source is at the bottom of the hill).  Right now we can’t run hoses up the hill as a part of the restriction of our lease, but that would be another way to at least get the town water up the hill faster.

So how does this effect you?  We prioritize crops that need a lot of water and make people happy (like peas, lettuce, carrots) when we are watering, but what we are able to do cannot compare with real rain.

small carrots june

We would hope the above carrots would be larger so we could put them in the share this week, but they just didn’t get enough water.  We will focus on irrigating them as heavily as possible this week so we can put them in next weeks share.  We try not to pick the carrots when they are super tiny because it reduces our overall yield dramatically.  If we were to pick our carrots now it would probably take 2-3 times as many bed feet of carrots to make enough bunches for everyone.  And that’s less carrots in the future.  So we will wait and let them size up!

We also are very tight on produce, still, so we have limited trades and choice.  We didn’t bring any peas to the Ashland Market this past Saturday to make sure we had enough for the CSA this week.  We do have more zucchini and squash thanks to two cube tanks of water last Thursday and just the fact that the plants are more mature. Hooray!

Lets all hope that it rains tonight.  But just a little bit of perspective: if it doesn’t rain tonight, or at all this week or next, no one is going to starve.  We are very, very fortunate.

What’s in the Share:

Head Lettuce
Arugula
Radishes
Scallions
Kale/Escarole/Dandelion/Frisee Choice
Zucchini/Squash (follow the link of a great picture of each type of squash with a description – we grow most of the squashes in this blog post except the Eight-Ball, and very little Costata Romanesca because its very slow growing)
Peas
Micro Basil/Garlic Scapes Choice

3 Reasons to Eat Bitter Greens (highly recommended article)

3 Reasons to Eat Escarole (Specifically)
Below are some simple recipes that can go a long way with most CSA shares.

I am not a food blogger or a photographer, so I apologize for ugly photos and my many, many grammatical errors. The above collage is of the process of roasting roots (something I recommend if you want a quick, easy way to enjoy some really sweet veggies.  Extras can be saved and put on salad later. If you think it’s too hot to roast you can always do this on the grill.  Just wrap the cut, oiled roots in tinfoil and leave on the grill for at least 30 minutes, maybe longer.

Basic Roasted Roots Recipe

Twist off the roots, wash them, cut the ends off, cut them into 6ths or 8ths (see picture above), toss in olive oil and roast at 400 degrees for 25-40 minutes.  I don’t even bother to turn them sometimes, but you can turn them at around 20-25 minutes.  Just add salt. Simple and delicious.  You can do this with radishes, carrots, beets, turnips . . . any root.

Pesto is a great way to use a lot of greens.  Last week I made pesto with green garlic, a bag of arugula, a bunch of spinach and olive oil and salt.  Adding nuts and cheese and lemon is awesome and delicious and a level up, but this pesto was spectacular like this.  You can put it on pasta, on pizza, on sandwiches, on toast with eggs.  You can freeze it and use it in winter when you are so sad your CSA is over.  ANY green can make pesto.

After roasting the turnips and beets I made pesto with the beet and turnip greens.  With those I added lemon, walnuts and parm.  Not every pesto will be your favorite, but think about how much awesome green goodness you can pulverize into a creamy, yummy paste that goes on almost anything!

Basic Pesto Recipe:

Use food processor to blend garlic (or something like garlic/onion), nuts and cheese (both optional)

Add washed greens to food processor and turn on high, slowly pouring in olive oil until the leaves start to get picked up by the processor.  Scrape the sides, pulse again.  If it is still thick and chunky add a little more oil. Add salt and/or pepper and/or lemon juice to taste.

Freeze in a mason jar, leaving at least 1″ of head room for expansion.  I like using little half pint jars because it’s the perfect amount to thaw and use later.

Dandelion Pumpkin Seed Pesto

More Recipes

Baked Kale Chips

French Frisee Salad with Poached Eggs and Bacon

Escarole Tart

Sauteed Snap Peas with Scallions and Radishes  

Enjoy!!!

PS: For those of you picking up a share at one of our delivery sites, we are going to put pictures of the labeled CSA distribution crates on our facebook page tomorrow during distribution so if you aren’t sure what something is in your share you can check those pics!

PPS: Remember to store your produce in plastic bags in the fridge so it will last longer.  Twist the roots off their tops and store in separate plastic bags.  The bags we are sending your cut greens home in are great to rinse and re-use for other items in later shares.

PPS: Thanks for a great first week – it was nice to see so many familiar faces and meet so many new people! You all did a GREAT job with the first pick up!

PPPS: That “rain” we got on Friday wasn’t really rain.  This is how much water we got – not enough to even cover the bottom of a bucket.  Definitely better than nothing . . .

rain bucket empty

Summer CSA – Week 1

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The women who grow your food. (L to R: Melissa, Erin and Brittany)

It’s the first week of the summer share!  I’ve got to be honest, I’m been biting my nails leading up to this moment.  We happily sold out all of our summer shares in May, and we’ve got a healthy waiting list – but that means we need to have produce . . . Every year about 3-4 weeks out from the first summer share I start to panic.  I’m actually really good at this whole crop planning/farming thing, but for some reason I always worry about having enough. In part it is because I am waiting on fruiting crops (like zucchini and peas) and heading crops (like broccoli and cabbage) that don’t mature with the same reliable regularity as things like radish, lettuce mix, arugula, spinach, beets, etc . . . This year I felt the panic even more because we’ve had some pretty tough pest pressure on our spring brassicas (turnips, broccoli, cabbage . . .) and I thought for certain we’d be short this week.

So, I rushed out and seeded a bunch of fast growing crops, like arugula and lettuce mix and radishes. Luckily, I was being a little over-cautious, and we’ve had some good warm weather, so there are plenty of veggies for this week.  But I’d like to take a moment to let you know that a part of the reason the CSA, which stand for Community Supported Agriculture, works is because you, the customers, have committed to sharing the risks of farming with us, your farmers.

We plant a wide variety of crops and have a great crop plan, so we almost never come up short, but that is a part of the risk you take when joining a CSA.  In 2016 one of the biggest CSA Farms in the state (which is still a small farm by national standards) actually cancelled a whole week of the CSA in July so they could focus on irrigating and taking care of the crops in the field to prevent major crop loss later on in the season.

I was impressed by their decision.  The CSA model was started to protect small farms.  When small farms are left alone to fend for themselves in a market that prioritizes profits and immediate gratification over quality, resource conservation and human rights – a touch of bad luck or a poor growing season can mean their demise.  Through CSAs customers can take a stand and say that they care about the impact of agriculture on their environment and their community and support the farms that use growing methods they value. An added benefit is really fresh, delicious produce varieties that aren’t grown commercially because they can’t handle being stored in coolers for weeks or shipped in trucks across the continent.

We carry a line item in our budget we call “bought in produce”.  It is a little bit of extra insurance (beyond planting extra in the field) which allows us to confidence to buy in some produce from our peers (small farmers, growing locally with the same methods) if we are ever short, without fearing significant financial repercussions.  This is a great way for us to keep our CSA shares full, and support our peers who are doing the same work we are doing to keep small farms in Eastern Massachusetts. But, if everyone is having a tough growing season, this contingency doesn’t help much.

Most of the time though, we have plenty, and then some.

When we have lots of extra sometimes the shares get bigger, and sometimes we donate produce.  This year already we have donated nearly 200 lbs of produce to the Holliston Food Pantry and to several food pantries through the Ashland Market.  Last year we donated nearly 3,000 lbs of food in total – we hope to be able to at least match that number this season.

So What’s in the Share?

Head Lettuce

Lettuce Mix or Arugula

Scallions – don’t be afraid to use these like onions in a recipe.  we just chop up the stalks and cook like onions, then throw in the greens at the end.

Sweet Turnips or Kohlrabi Choice

Peas

Zucchini/Squash/Broccoli Choice

Green Garlic – this is a young garlic plant.  You can eat the whole thing – use in any recipe that calls for garlic

Beets

Spinach

Kale or Chard (Just in large share)

———-

Recipe Ideas

Glazed Sugar Snap Peas and Turnips

Beets on the Grill (You could add the turnips too!)

Grilled BBQ Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi Chips

Simple Arugula Salad (with lemon and parm)

Strawberry Chicken Spinach Salad with Pecans

Swiss Chard and Sausage Pasta

53 Kale Recipes

Can’t Beet Me Smoothie

1 cooked beet, peeled and qt
1 cup frozen blueberries
1 small banana
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 cup coconut water
1-inch knob fresh ginger
1 tablespoon almond butter

Blend together and serve!

What have we been up to?

We are a little ahead of where we were last year, in part because it is a much drier late spring, and in part because our systems continue to evolve and we are more equipped to implement our farm plan.  Last year Kevin spent the first few weeks of June building a cooler.  This year he spent it killing weeds! (And lot of other non-construction related tasks).

We’ve been “irrigating”. 

cubie watering peas

I put that in quotes because driving 250 gallons around and watering with a hose doesn’t really count on our scale.  We can’t afford to put in a well ($20k minimum) mostly because we don’t own the land and our lease is up at the end of next year.  Without land security (a real problem most new farmers face) its impossible to make the infrastructure improvements needed to help a farm business thrive.

But, lets not dive that deep right now.  Suffice it to say, we’ve been doing emergency spot watering to get us through, and we’ve got plans for how to make it through if it stays this dry as the season progresses. You should all be hoping for an inch of rain as soon as possible.

We’ve been hilling and cultivating.

potatoes first hilling
New Potatoes after their first hilling
hilling new potatoes
New Potatoes after their second hilling (5 days later)
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Harvey enjoying the potato hills last Friday.

We aren’t just harvesting the crops we are putting in your shares now, we are also growing and caring for the crops for the rest of the season.  The potatoes get hilled, which means we use discs on a tractor to push soil up the sides of the plants.  This keeps them upright which allows them to grow longer, making the tubers large.  It also increases the number of tubers on the plants.  At the same time it kills weeds!

In the potatoes we found the first Colorado Potato Beetle (CPB) which lays orange eggs on the under sides of the leaves which hatch into larvae.  The Larvae, in large numbers can consume massive amounts of leaf tissue, decreasing yields.  Luckily for us we don’t have too many and we also have a killer parasitic wasp that is laying eggs on the larva’s backs which hatch and consume the larvae before they can do much damage!  If you are grossed out, take a deep breath and realize that this is AWESOME.  Instead of using pesticides we are cultivating field edges and beneficial plants to host beneficial insects to kill the potato beetle larvae. And not using pesticides that might kill the beneficial.  It’s not always this perfect, but this kind of result can make an organic farmer’s skin tingle and heart jump for joy.

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Colorado Potato Beetle that over wintered in the forest edges.
cpb larvea parasitized and dead
Parasitized CPB Larvae!