It’s the start of sweet corn. Yep. That’s right, this summer favorite is here, but Upswing Farm style. That means we used organic growing methods to produce this sweet corn. No chemically treated seed, no herbicides to keep the weeds down, no pesticides to kill bugs.
The crew tasted it this morning and they approved. Yep, we eat it raw in the field. We will pick your corn the morning of your CSA pick up, so it will be super fresh – I highly recommend trying it raw if you never have.
The varieties of corn you are going to be trying are Sugar Buns and Sugar Pearl, both sweet, small ears, recommended by my friend Matt at Drumlin farm. He has been growing sweet corn organically for his members for years. They are chosen for their tight wrappings which restrict the entrance of worms. Yes, worms. I’m saying it; it’s a reality, if you don’t douse your corn in chemicals you are likely to find a worm in some of your ears. We do not intended to cut off the tips nor do we intend to pull every ear open to see which ones have worms. And we hope you will also not pull open every ear to check but accept the lottery and know that this corn tastes great and is a special treat.
There are pests in about 20% of the ears. If you are wary of coming across a worm, and have no sturdy friends or family who can face that reality for you, we recommend cutting the tip off the ear before opening it – this will remove any potential pest.
But we are lucky – these ears are in great shape – please enjoy and revel in these delicious and special treats.
We aren’t sure on quantities yet, it’s harder to get an estimate on fruiting crops than it is on items that you bunch/cut for heads, but we think we will be giving pounds of tomatoes this week, which will affect the quantities in the rest of the share.
As for recipes – I’m all out of fresh ideas right now. Salads, grilling, ratatouille, roasting . . . you got this. It’s summer. Enjoy!
Oh, corn. My farmer friend Chris who grows organic corn suggests this for boiling corn: bring big pot to boil, put in corn (shucked) for 4 minutes, removed and enjoy. You can also cut the kernels off the ears at this point and either freeze (if you have too much) or make a Corn/Tomato/Cucumber salad. Corn is also excellent brushed with oil on the grill. Or eat it all raw . . .
And tomorrow is the last day to get the early bird discount on the Fall Shares The crew is working hard this morning hand-weeding the carrots that are everyone’s favorite. Don’t forget to sign up!
Pick, pick, pick. We spend a lot of time picking vegetables right now! Our friend, Bob Durling, got some nice shots of the Friday crew harvesting for the Ashland Market (and a rather humorous shot of the large share last week. I can see at least 4 faces in the vegetable shot – can you?)
After so much rain in the past week, we are feeling pretty good about our crops for the rest of the summer season. The only thing we need to hope for now is that it doesn’t stay too moist and muggy. Organic farming does not allow for the use of fungicides, and wet, warm leaves are a paradise breeding ground for so many different fungal diseases. Downy mildew in basil, powdery mildew in summer squash and zucchini, cucumber mosaic virus, late blight in tomatoes . . . the list goes on.
We use many strategies to help us prevent or deal with these diseases, including multiple plantings of cucumber, zucchini and squash, so if we notice disease we can mow the older plants and start picking from the younger healthier ones, multiple plantings of tomatoes, some with blight resistance, and pruning and trellising tomatoes to keep them off the ground and to increase airflow, keeping the leaves as dry as possible. For basil, we plant varieties that are somewhat resistant to downy milder (although non are fully resistant). We are giving everyone a bunch of basil this week because there have been reports of downy mildew in Western Mass, which means the spores are traveling in these thunderstorms out here – it will be upon us soon. Make some pesto and freeze it to keep the fresh basil flavor available throughout tomato season.
We are doing our office work this morning so we can give the plants in the field a moment to dry out. This afternoon we are picking our first peppers, more eggplants, cucumber and zucchini as well as some tomatoes. It’s best not to touch these plants when they are wet, as you can carry the spores of any fungus (or other disease) along the bed to the rest of the plants. But when it stays wet like this, sometimes you have to go in there in pick, regardless.
We are excited to be into the heavier shares of summer. There will be tomatoes from now until there are no tomatoes (although it probably won’t be such an epically long season as last year, since the deer jumped the fence and ate a lot of our last planting of tomatoes – it should still be about an 8 week season). We are excited to be giving everyone some of our early tomatoes. After this week we will be into multiple pounds of tomatoes for a while!
We also have our first green beans of the season. They will be in a mix and match with the tomatoes. These are very sweet, very crips and great raw or lightly cooked.
Our first peppers are in. We grow bright lime-green peppers, purple peppers and green peppers for our early peppers. Yes, I know everyone prefers the sweet reds, yellows and oranges, but they take about 20 more days to mature, so try some of these neat varieties we grow while we wait for the sweets to ripen.
The onions and carrots will keep coming and our lettuce is ready and much better than the heat-wave lettuce. The basil is awesome right now.
I was going to do a video of Harvey saying all the vegetable names instead of a share email this week, but I guess we can save that for next week since he is sleeping now!
Reminder, tasting tours this week. Come walk the fields with us and taste some fresh produce and other goodies. It’s a great chance to see where you food comes from.
Tuesday and Thursday 4:45-5:30/5:45. No need to RSVP. Tours leave from the stand. Kids more than welcome. Free for CSA members, $10 per non-CSA member family. We will cancel if there is a thunderstorm.
It’s still so hot. A few cool nights and reasonable days and somehow I forgot that is it the middle of summer and the planet is warming. What a different season from last year. We’ll have eggplant in the share this week, and the first tomatoes next week. We have harvested a few pounds of tomatoes already, but with 240 share members, we need to wait just a little longer to have enough for everyone.
This heat has made life for our leafy greens a little tough. We’ll have a little lettuce mix in the share this week, but there will be a gap in the lettuce for next week (unless I can work some farmer trade magic, but it’s this hot all over eastern MA). There is new lettuce that should be ready in two weeks. We hate to have a gap, but we know it happens. For those of you who are happy for a break from salads, next week is for you!
We are happy about the forecast tomorrow evening. We’ve got a big crew tomorrow AM to get some massive projects done before the rain. 11 of us are going to work from 7-12 to pick the Tuesday shares, weed the edges of the cherry tomato beds, hoe the weeds in the pathways of the winter squash, pull the big weeds from the potato beds, lay the mulch to suppress weeds in the third planting of cucumber and zucchini . . . the list goes on, but as you can see, its a long one. Kevin, Erin and I will round out the afternoon.
We’ve still got plenty of planting to do – by Friday we will plant more: beets, carrots, basil, sunflowers, broccoli, cabbage, cucumber, zucchini, arugula and kale.
Wednesday we get to spot-weed the beans (the first will hopefully be in your share next week) and finally, finally do a perfect hand weed in the flower area. YAY. The weeds are magnificently vigorous on our farm, even in a hot dry year, and it take a lot of cultivation to keep them at bay.
We are busy taking care of summer crops but also planting and tending to our fall and winter CSA crops as well. We could not afford to be in business without our fall and winter CSA. We have late land that can’t be planted until June, making it ideal for winter squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, fall broccoli etc. We also double-crop our Spring CSA and early summer CSA beds to make the most of our space. (e.g., popcorn is now waist high where the spring CSA vegetables grew.)
If you haven’t signed up for your Fall or Winter CSA yet, now is your chance to lock in the early bird discount. Yes, it is supposed to be over but I have been so caught up in growing vegetables I haven’t been able to focus on selling vegetables and I’ve done a terrible job promoting the end of the early bird discount, so I am extending it! Sign up by July 31st to lock in the early bird discount for Fall and Winter vegetables.
We are growing you a few treats that are loving this hot weather.
Yep. Sweet corn. We grow organically, as most of you know, although we don’t carry the certification, and we will never spray chemicals (most sweet corn gets sprayed a lot). We seem to be in-between flights of the corn earworm so . . . lucky us!). It probably wont’ be perfect, you might have to cut the tips off some of the ears but the flavor will be awesome. Just giving you a heads up about what’s to come. We are hoping for 3-4 weeks with some sweet corn in the shares.
This is an “I love you” crop for the CSA. Everyone is surprised when I tell them sweet corn is one of the least profitable crops we can grow. The important economic principal is: just because you can sell it, doesn’t mean you are making money. Sweet corn takes up a lot of space and time in the field. In the same amount of space and time it takes to grow two ears of corn I could grow 2-3 bunches of radishes and 2-3 heads of lettuce. Even if I charge $1/ear (what our peers charge for certified organic sweet corn) and even if radish and lettuce yields were low (just two each, retailing at 2.5/bunch or head) that’s $2 for corn vs. $10 for radish and lettuce. Yes you can take into account reduced labor for the corn, but it’s not $8 worth. But we all love sweet corn, and I love you, so we are growing it. If we have extra we might sell some, but this is our extra special, “thanks for being in our CSA” crop. Two weeks and you should start to see some ears in your share. We don’t have enough early land to get an early crop in, so we did two later plantings.
We’ve got a lot of weight coming in this week’s share. We are doing our first mix and match weight option. The choice will be: cucumber, zucchini, beets, kohlrabi and onions (with a potential smattering of other veggies). Small and large share can mix and match these veggies up to a certain weight limit. Get ready for more weighty, less leafy shares for the next month or so – we are entering the height of the summer season!
Kevin made me a killer tuna salad with chopped carrots and celery and fresh onion. I don’t know the details but I don’t think there was much more than that and salt and pepper. You could do the same with chicken or tempeh if you aren’t into Tuna.
Wow, Erin did a great job on her blog last week. It’s made me nervous to even try to write something today. At this time of year I frequently resort to a few pictures, recipes and an “I’m so busy”.
Erin’s blog made me think a lot about how I sensor myself in these emails. How I focus on the biology, or the crop planning, or the recipes and stay away from the politics. But I got into farming because I feel passionately about environmental and social justice. And I figured I could take a second and recount what got me on this path. (Because I definitely don’t do it for the money!)
I went to school at Northeastern University. I was super lucky to get a great scholarship, but I struggled with what I wanted to do. I started out trying to double major in Theater and English but realized that although I had been passionate about theater throughout high school, I wasn’t going to be happy trying to make a career of it. I have, for as long as I can remember, felt like I owe something back in a big way and I didn’t feel like theater would allow me to do that.
I took two sequential seminars, “Nutrition, Public Health and the American Diet,” followed by “Eating and the Environment”. They were my “ah-ha” moment, connecting public health, individual health, environmental health all to agriculture. How we grow food is one of the most significant ways we as a species affect our planet, and what we eat has a huge impact on how we feel and our long and short term health outcomes.
But it goes further than that. My senior year I was able to study abroad in Costa Rica, with a focus on sustainable development. My program had two tracts, environmental sustainability and social sustainability. I was in the environmental tract but there was a lot of overlap. We were able to visit banana and coffee plantations, meet small farmers trying to get by with cooperatives and agri-tourism ventures, and talk to people living in barios, just outside the big city, with little opportunity and many challenges. I was struck by how much of an impact the food people were eating back home was having on this population thousands of miles away.
My number one take away from that semester was: the food we eat has a significant impact on the world. Our demand for cheap and accessible food, regardless of season, or region or climate has created a global food system that compromises environmental rights and worker health, safety and well-being. Profit is the number one priority and when demanding such extreme variety and availability, it is impossible to achieve profit without exploitation.
So, I thought, if I can go back home, learn to farm sustainably, and then convince people to buy locally I would be making a real impact. I could provide an alternative product and direct market demand away from other products that have a more negative impact. Ten years later, that is basically what I’m doing. What I’m not sure of is if I’m really having any kind of impact beyond feeding a few people great food who can afford it and trying to donate as much food as possible while staying in business. The idea is that collectively, small farms can make a huge difference. It’s why I don’t consider other small farms in the area my competitors, it’s why I’ll gladly send someone to another market stall if I don’t have the crop they are looking for that week and I know someone else has it.
But are we really having an impact?
I wrote that question before spending a a few minutes on the phone with a nurse at Harvey’s doctors office. I had a few questions about Harvey (he is ok, just had a little tummy trouble this weekend). She was so helpful, and made me feel so much better. For her its just a 5 minute phone call, but for me, it’s peace of mind that can only come from a trained professional, and yes, it’s a small impact, but for all of the parents and kids she helps throughout her career, it makes a real difference.
So, I’ll venture an answer to my above question with, yes, I hope so.
What’s in the share?
Lettuce and Lettuce Mix
Some notes: I’m sorry the lettuce has so much soil on it. When it rains heavy like this its almost impossible to get it clean. Also, the cucumbers and zucchini don’t keep well if we wash them and so after the rain they have a little more dust on them as well. Your new potatoes will come with some soil because their skins are so tender that if we washed them they would peel off and not keep/look yucky. We really do try and get most of the soil off before we send produce home with you. *edited to refer to all earth material as “soil” not “dirt”. It’s not dirt, it a complex ecosystem that makes food possible.
We are doing our best to keep the produce fresh in this heat! The crew has been coming in early (6am!) on the really hot days to pick, we are very grateful to them. And SO grateful for the storm last Friday. We were really drying up, even after the 2 inches of rain the previous Thursday. Man, time flies.
There is some tip burn on the lettuce. This means the tips of some of the leaves are damaged by extreme heat. You can just cut or tear these bits off – some heads don’t have it, some of it is so insignificant you might not notice, but the heads of lettuce are huge. So you need to cut a little off, but its better than just mowing in the whole planting and not having lettuce this week.
What to do with your share:
You should grill. We grilled carrots, onions, zucchini and broccoli last week and it was great. Just brush with oil and cook. You can do it! Grilling 101
(Below are pictures of bok choy, beets, onions, squash and zucchini all on the grill! Harvey likes the beets best, zucchini second best)
What are fresh onions? Onions that are grown specifically to be harvested while their tops are still green. We have two types on the stand this week: Ailsa Craig a long white onion and Purplette, a small red onion. Both can be used just like onion in any recipe, but we strongly suggest putting them on the grill (with their greens on) and just eat them on their own. They are so sweet and zesty . . . one of the great joys of July.
As are the new potatoes. Fresh potatoes are better than any potatoes. We love that potatoes store well and we think they are delicious in winter too, but there is nothing like the first potatoes of the season. We can’t wait to try ours this week! The variety you are getting is Dark Red Norland, a personal favorite (although I love them all). These potatoes have not been cured and should be eaten this week. If you want to keep them longer you should store them in a paper bag in the fridge. 20 New Potato Recipes
And what to do with all the cukes and zukes (our short-hand for cucumber, zucchini and summer squash). Try this guide to Quick Pickling Any Vegetable (you can even try to add fresh onions and carrots!).
I also made a great no-sugar zucchini bread this week. Harvey loves zucchini bread but lots of recipes have so much sugar its almost like cake. I modified from this recipe: Healthy Zucchini Bread. My suggestions: leave out the nuts if you don’t like nuts. Grate the zucchini onto a towel, roll the towel and squeeze out the excess moisture, then leave the zucchini in a Tupperware in the fridge overnight to dry out a bit more. I used 2 cups of drier zucchini instead of just 1.5 like it calls for. I also added a dash of nutmeg and a glug of molasses. Harvey loves it.
Also, if you are looking for more info, I found out a CSA member is blogging about their Upswing Farm veggies, check it out here. Have some great ideas? Let us know!
Assistant Manager, Erin here. Brittany gave me the honor of writing this week’s CSA email. Today (Sunday) was hot… I spent the morning harvesting zucchini, squash, cucumber, and sunflowers—crops that are time sensitive and want to be harvested at just the right size. Now, I sit here gratefully in my well-air conditioned house enjoying an oversized bowl of ice cream.
As we approach the July 4th holiday, we prepare to grill our veggies and enjoy time with friends and family. Many of us will reflect on what it means to be American. We reflect on American values—freedom, democracy, diversity to name a few. All of which are values also prevalent in our relationship with food. There is perhaps nothing more American than home-grown food.
America was built on a strong agricultural economy. Our founding father, Thomas Jefferson deemed agriculture as “the wisest pursuit because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness” and “one of the four pillars of prosperity.” Additionally, some of the first accounts of effective cross-cultural communication between our indigenous people and the European immigrants we call pilgrims was centered around the growing of food.
Historically, sharing food brings people together, it is both a universal language and culturally diverse. Today, the food we eat is representative of our multi-cultural population. I can accessibly eat huevos rancheros for breakfast, curry stir fry for lunch, and a cheeseburger (my all-time favorite despite my vegetarian status) for dinner.
When we buy locally grown food, we support our regional and local economies, we support the cultivation of polycultural farms, we buy from farms that employ skilled workers earning a living wage, and we protect our precious American land. So again, what is more American than home-grown food?
While I try to remain positive in this post, I can’t help but also express my concern for the future of America’s food system. Unfortunately, we are straying away from our historic localized agricultural economy and relying heavily on imports. Small-diverse farms are competing with large internationally-supported grocery stores and corporate farms. Fertile farmland continues to be displaced by developments or degraded by unsustainable practices, and consumers are taught to choose quick, cheap bites over quality, nutritious products…the concerns are seemingly endless. But not all hope is lost. This is thanks to you, our customers.
Thanks to you, I show up to work every day and continue my career as a young farmer. The conversations I have with you at the farm stand are fuel for my perseverance and restores my hope that small local farms will survive. This 4th of July, I hope you celebrate with our home-grown produce and good company.