Summer CSA – Week 15

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It’s starting to look more fall-like on the farm.  This field used to have sweet corn, beans, winter squash and a few other small crops like fennel, celery, lettuce and sunflowers.

This is going to be a short email.  We are working hard to get our storage crops out of the ground so we can get a healthy cover crop planted.  We managed to get rye cover crop down on almost all of the fields that are on the hill.  The rye will live through the winter, holding the soil together and scrounging up excess nutrients in the soil, which will be turned in when we get ready to plant next May and feed next years crop.

We still have 3.25 beds (450ish feet/bed) of sweet potatoes to dig.  They are amazing this year.  Not only are we seeing yields of about 2.5 lbs/bed foot, the tubers are situated right at the top of the hill, without much running under ground.  It makes excavation so much easier.

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Sweet potatoes growing together in the hill. We dug the soil away.
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Erin digging the sweet potatoes after we mowed the vines.
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Sweet potatoes vines.
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The total yield from one, 450′ bed. Roughly 1100 pounds of very nice sweet potatoes.

Sweet potatoes need to cure in the greenhouse for at least two weeks to sweeten.  Right now they are edible, but still very startchy. We will put a few sweet potatoes in the last summer share, but these impressive yields are going towards the fall and winter shares.

So, what’s in the second-to-last summer share?

Lettuce

Tomatoes

Carrots

Sweet Peppers

Choice: Kale/Chard/Cilantro

Choice Mix: Beets, Green/Purple Peppers, Eggplant (limited quantities), Potatoes, Onions, Leeks, Delicatta Squash . . . maybe a few more items

Choice Containers: Paste Tomatoes, cherry tomatoes (maybe), husk cherries, hot peppers, shishito peppers (maybe).

Just a quick note reminding you that although we love being able to offer choice, we sometimes don’t estimate correctly what people will choose or we simply don’t have enough for everyone.  We are grateful that you chose to participate in our CSA and we want you to have the best experience possible, while still honoring the intentions of the CSA, which is to eat what the farm has available.

You are on your own for recipes.  I might make fajitas, potato leek soup, carrot soup, salads, pasta with roasted tomatoes and onions . . . .

Enjoy!

Summer CSA – Week 14

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Last week was the last official flower share of the season.  For those who opted for an extra week instead of extra vegetables for the week we skipped this summer, this week will be your last week.

Hooray for rain.  We needed it. Kevin spent all of labor day in the heat getting our irrigation set up to use the hydrant at the top of the hill and then Tuesday when they came to turn it on it turns out the hydrant it broken!!!!!  (not broken enough so they couldn’t put out a fire, but broken enough for our purposes) I think that was the last thing any of us, especially Kevin, needed at this point in the season. But . . . what can we do?

We did manage to get some excellent cultivation in during that dry spell.  Erin got to get in some practice with the cultivating tractor. In the rain this week we will get in some much needed hand weeding, which will very quickly make things look pretty sharp.  Melissa hand weeded for about 10 minutes today and cleaned up 100 feet of savoy cabbage!

Hooray for our onion party!  Ten different individuals/families participated and we cleaned roughly 1300 pounds of onions!

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Just some of the onions we cleaned at Sunday’s Onion Cleaning Party!

We managed to clear enough space in the back of the greenhouse for the 6 bins of winter squash we hurried to harvest before today’s rain!

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I might be wearing my Boston Area Gleaners Shirt, but this harvest was all for our CSA.

Winter squash harvest is so fun. So fun. It’s like a combination between farming and softball. The yields are pretty good too, which makes it all the more enjoyable.

We are putting spaghetti squash in the share this week.  The woodchucks liked the spaghetti squash too, so this will be the only time spaghetti squash is in the share.  We got just one bin.  We almost always end up with a woodchuck family in the winter squash that we don’t notice until it’s too late.  I mean, could you find a woodchuck in this sea of giant leaves and vines?

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The winter squash at the end of July.

I think some of the plants may also have succumb to bacterial wilt, since there was some heavy cucumber beetle pressure at planting, and the spag. squash plants are wimpy, which makes them easy targets. (Cucumber beetle transmit bacterial wilt from plant to plant when they bite them.)

We will harvest the rest of the winter squash on Friday (we hope) after it has had a chance to dry out.

We also pulled a lot of tomatoes in from the field before the rain, we’ll still have a good amount in the shares this week (yay!). If you choose cherry tomatoes, especially the round varieties, eat them fast, or at least eat the split ones fast.  We were not able to pick them before the rain today/tomorrow so they will be bursting.  They are still delicious.

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Sunpeach and Sungold cherry tomatoes. They are delicious but delicate!

Also, if you picked up your share before 1:30 last Tuesday (about 36 of you) I completely forgot to put carrots out for the CSA until then.  So – you get an extra 1.5 lbs of carrots this week.  I ran to the list and starred all the names that had been crossed off, so I’ll be able to give you a reminder tomorrow. Sorry about that.

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We are still busy planting seeds for our greenhouse and tunnels.  Spinach, lettuce, bok choy and more!  Don’t forget to sign up for your fall and winter shares!

 

That’s it. Easy email this week. we’ve got some doozies coming up, so we’ll throw you an easy one this week.

This weeks share:

Tomatoes

Lettuce Mix

Weight mix: Carrots, Potatoes, the very last of the Zucchini/Summer Squash, Leeks, Onions

Container Choices: Cherry tomatoes, Saladette Tomatoes, Husk Cherries, Shishito Peppers, Hot Peppers (mostly jalapeno and anaheim), Shallots

Spaghetti Squash

Greens/Herbs Choices: Arugula bunches, Radishes, Swiss Chard, Bok Choy, Cilantro, Parsley

(kale will be back next week, sorry for the lapse for those of you who crave it.  The Brassica pests, particularly flea beetle, gave us a run for our money this summer)

Recipes

9 Restaurant Worthy Shishito Pepper Recipes (these are very trendy.  We just coat them with oil and roast at 400 for like 15 minutes until the are starting to char.  Make sure you are ready to eat them.  Think of this like an app. or a snack, or the last thing you want to finish when you are serving a meal.)

Carrot Soup Variations

Pan Seared Salmon with warm tomato, basil and arugula salad

Shallot Info and Recipes from Martha

And Ms. Stewart on Leeks

Grilled Mushroom and Bok Choy with Asian Cilantro Pesto

57 Spaghetti Squash Recipes (this seems a bit excessive, but it was fun to scroll through!)

Enjoy!!

Summer CSA – Week 13 (Labor Day Post)

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Last Thursday actually was cool T-shirt day.  (Luckily Bob Durling was also at the farm to capture this delightful photo). We still haven’t decided who won. We were going to have you all vote, but we aren’t sure you can see each of them clearly.  It was also Morgan’s official last day as his violin lessons pick back up since the school year started. 😦

Labor Day is upon us – I think it’s time for that labor blog I promised earlier in the season.  It’s a lot easier to write about what is happening on the farm, or about how to grow and cook vegetables, but I started farming because I want to make significant societal chance, and after ten years at this I accept I can’t do that by keeping quiet.

But this is the third time this season I have started to write about it and I get tripped up.  I could study and research my whole life and still not feel confident that I had come to any real conclusion regarding labor, compensation and affordable pricing in agriculture (or any industry). But agriculture in particular is tricky because we simultaneously want to pay people fairly AND we want food to be affordable.

I farm because I want to change the food system so that food is:

  1. Produced with minimal environmental impact
  2. Produced using a labor force that is both treated respectfully and fairly compensated
  3. Affordable for the majority of people in my greater community
  4. Fresh, high quality, nutritious and enjoyable

(The fact that farming itself is also enjoyable, stimulating and deeply satisfying are benefits of the job, not reasons why I do the job – in fact, they make my total lack of actual benefits more tolerable. Oh, and ConnectorCare and MassHealth help too.)

It’s really hard to work on a farm, especially as a crew member.  Most people, if given any other choice, don’t want to do it, especially not with the high expectations of productivity required to make a farm like ours survive. Not many teenagers or college students are interested either, and those who are frequently need training not only in how to farm, but also in how to be a functioning employee and adult.

Erin told me last week about her friends, traveling in Australia, who were fired from a blueberry farm because they couldn’t meet the minimum pick-and-pack rate (12 lbs per hour). I think that’s great. We raise our children to believe they have value, no matter what, which I believe is true.  But in many situations, there are clear metrics for success that need to be met, and I have a hard time finding people who are able, and willing to meet those metrics for the compensation we are able to offer.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just flit around the fields picking this and that on a whim, not go out in poor weather . . .

Those incredible people who do work on our farm and choose to be out in the blistering heat or pouring rain regardless of low pay and lack of benefits (besides produce), are there because of a passion for agriculture.  And they are subsidized by parents, a spouse and/or other jobs, because it would be next to impossible to afford to live in this community on a crew-member’s income.

You could try to simplify it and say, “just pay them more” but at this point, Kevin and I still make less than $15/hour ourselves.  Paying people more either means taking a cut from our own variable paychecks, or raising our prices, which makes food less affordable to other people who are also working low-income jobs (and we know our prices are already higher than some grocery stores . . . but not all and not always – we can talk economy of scale and external costs in another blog). We did just give our regular crew a raise, and we plan to give bonuses as we meet budget goals for the year, but it still doesn’t come close to making working on our farm a viable opportunity for most people.  You can get better pay working for a landscape company, or construction company, not because you need more skills, but because our society values manicured lawns and new buildings more than it values healthy food.

I obviously have not solved the puzzle, and I probably won’t, but I’m fortunate enough to be able to try. And I’m telling you this just because its a reality of what we do, and too often I feel that we gloss over some of the less savory realities of our line of work.

All this is to serve just as a simple reminder that so many things we need to survive are made available because of low-wage workers.  And those workers have some of the greatest work ethic you can imagine.  They are smart, and kind, and passionate, and valuable. Our society depends upon people who work for less – most people’s wealth wouldn’t exist without underpaid labor and resource exploitation as the backbone of our economy.

I’m not arguing against a competitive economy. I think competition has value – I am probably one of the most naturally competitive people you will ever meet.  But I think other people and our environment have value too – more value than short-term profits.

Can we have both?  I think so.  But it will take a lot of work, a lot of conversation, a lot of reflection and puzzling to get there. I choose to believe that given the opportunity people will be generous before they are selfish.

Thanks for reading.

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Zach and Erin definitely get the prize for prom photo posture.

We’ve got a cool event coming up at the farm.  September 9th is Farm Day in Holliston.  Since 98% of the land we lease is in Holliston, we are going to be at the stand hosting an “Onion Cleaning Party!”.

What’s an Onion Cleaning Party you ask?  Well, a bunch of people sit together, chatting and listening to music while trimming roots and tops of cured onions, and pulling away some dirt and extra skins in the process.  It’s easy work, but we have a LOT of onions, so we are inviting you to join us.  We’ll give you two pounds of onions for every crate you fill with cleaned onions!

Date: Sunday, Sept 9th
Time: 10am-2pm

What’s in the share:

Well, there is definitely a tomato slow-down happening, so no more 5lb tomato shares, but we hope to have tomatoes for the next 3-4 weeks in increasingly smaller quantities.  We are still waiting for the fall greens to come on.  We are actually putting the irrigation strategy we worked out during the June dry-spell – the town of Ashland is putting a meter on a hydrant which we can use to quickly fill an inflatable pool which we can pump out of to overhead water.  It’s not perfect, but its much better than driving up hill with just 250 gallons!

So we’re going to dip into some of the fall veggies that are doing really well and we know we have an abundance of.  We’ll have leeks, delicatta squash and purple potatoes in the choices this week, along with some larger red and yellow onions and garlic. Delicatta squash does not need to be cured to sweeten, so you can enjoy it right away, but if you don’t want to it will be good on your counter for at least a month, maybe even two months.

Tomatoes

Cherry Tomatoes – Consider just roasting these and tossing with pasta if you are slowing down on your cherry tomato intake.

Husk Cherries – 5 Recipes (if you don’t just eat them all)

Red Peppers

Head Lettuce

Carrot Bunch

Bunches Choice: Cilantro, Chard, Celery, Leeks

Weight choice: Adirondack Blue Potatoes and Anushka Potatoes, Red and Yellow Onion, Cucumber (limit one per share), Zucchini/Squash (limit one/share), Delicatta squash (limit one/share), Eggplant (maybe), Green Peppers

Garlic

Recipes

Blue Potato Soup

Leek and Potato Soup

Leek and Tomato Gratin

27 Leek Recipes that are like “Onions Who?”

Roasted Delicatta with Maple Syrup and Thyme