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?
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
Green Garlic – this is a young garlic plant. You can eat the whole thing – use in any recipe that calls for garlic
Kale or Chard (Just in large share)
Beets on the Grill (You could add the turnips too!)
Simple Arugula Salad (with lemon and parm)
Strawberry Chicken Spinach Salad with Pecans
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”.
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.
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.