April Update

How is April almost half over? I’ve been trying to write this update for three weeks now – I had this crazy notion that I was going to send it by the first – ha! We knew this year would be busy, but we didn’t quite remember what full-on start-up feels like, perhaps because we’ve never done anything this extensive before. The good news is, we’ve got a lot of new team members on board.

Important reminders before I dive in: Spring Share starts May 4th (Holliston) and May 6th (Weston Nurseries/Pepperell) and Seedling Sale Pre-ordering is live until May 9th. We finally put up the photos of the zucchini and summer squash, and have been updating inventory as we pot up plants into their final pots and packs. We will continue to update for the next week, and after that – it’s just grow time!

Where do I start? Our to-do list every week is a two page word document that gets translated onto a white board during our Monday Morning Meeting where we check in with one another and the weather forecast. It’s sometime hard to sit down and talk about what needs to be done when there are so many pressing tasks, but it really helps us “game the week”, as our new manager Jess Clancy says.

We met Jess in 2013 when she worked at Powisett Farm in Dover. Since then she managed Fishkill Farm’s vegetable operation for three years, and for the last five years worked at the Hudson Valley Food Hub. She has a wealth of experience and skills ranging from tractor operation to medicinal herb propagation. And she’s a pleasure to work with.

She has also introduced me to an affliction that I have that I didn’t know what to call until now: Farmer-Time Brain. It’s when you wildly underestimate the amount of time a task will take. I have a serious problem with thinking things will take less time than they do – when we schedule the week I almost always schedule 3 days worth of work for Monday. At least I’ve learned to leave Friday’s fairly unscheduled so there is time to complete all the work I underestimated (and all the work that comes up during the week).

We also hired two assistant growers who will be working with us full time this year: Haley Goulet and Avery Westa come to us with experience working on other farms in Massachusetts. Lucky for us, Haley is interested bringing our social media accounts back to life (for those of you who follow you may have noticed a 4 month lag since our last post – we needed a mental break). Over the next few weeks Haley plans to introduce our crew and update everyone on the goings-on at the farm.

We got our first crops in the field on Friday and Saturday last week! Nearly 3/4 of an acre planted with kale, chard, beets, spinach, scallions, collards, dandelion, radishes, sweet turnip, cilantro, dill, arugula, mustard greens, carrots, peas and lettuce!! Phew! Avery got to learn to drive the transplanting tractor because it’s really nice to take turns – I somehow wasn’t paying attention and planted 1400′ left handed (my weak side).

There were some challenges getting to the point of planting (like a tractor not starting while hooked up to an implement we were about to use) but we got it done. And covered most of it with the biggest piece of row cover I have ever used . . . (which blew off in the wind and we had to re-cover last night – luckily Jess moved in with us and went for the greenhouse closing loop with Harvey and me so we had some help putting it back on).

(Side note on row cover: it’s made of plastic. I’m really questioning the value of growing crops early if it requires plastic – I know we all need to eat, but maybe we should figure out how to invest communally in glass and metal frame greenhouses? Basically, plastic is cheaper (both initially and to maintain) and if short term profits/breaking even are everyone’s priority, investing in more logical and lasting structures isn’t possible. The plastic used in row cover and to cover greenhouses is not really recyclable and re-usable only to a point. As we move forward I’m determined to think critically about some of our material uses and look for alternatives.)

Speaking of greenhouse plastic, in the last month we have skinned 3 high tunnels (two of them are ours, one is rented) and 4 caterpillar tunnels:

Our friend Bob Durling came up to take some pics of the skinning process (and he stopped taking photos when our overzealous attempt to skin a second tunnel in one day resulted in a near blow away). We had a lot of help, both from friends, family, employees and new neighbors.

Greenhouse skinning is stressful – but we got it done, and we are putting them to good use!

A long-term endeavor on the farm is building soil fertility. Since we are applying for organic certification, we can only use certified organic compost if we are spreading it within 120 days of harvest – so we bought in certified compost from Brick Ends Farm for our spring crops which Haley learned to scoop and spread with the tractor and manure spreader before planting last week (and helped me spread with a shovel, rake, and wheelbarrow in the high tunnel we are renting to grow the first spring share).

But composting isn’t everything. A soil test taken last June revealed that the soils on this farm are very deficient in potassium and magnesium. Without a proper balance between calcium, potassium and magnesium many other minerals in the soil are made unavailable both to our crops and to the microbes that live there. So we are adding a lot of those nutrients, as well as micronutrients and nitrogen to make sure this year’s crop will be healthy, and to improve the soil for the future.

We hope to use cover cropping and long fallow periods (2-4 years in cash crops, 2-4 years fallow or in pasture) to build our soil health. And we will continue to use minimal tillage to prepare beds for planting.

Oh, and the wash station. We’ve made some major progress! We got the concrete poured to bring up the floor level in the station barn (after scraping/brushing away the decades of caked-on manure). My mom and dad came out to help and power washed the whole thing for us while the team worked over-time on Saturday to finish planting. We are very lucky to have such supportive parents! Now to put up the washable wall and ceiling surfaces. . . oh and install the coolers, and lights, and plumbing . . .

I hope you feel a little more connected to what we are doing. If I am slow to respond to your emails, please know that I’m working harder than I have in a long time and communications is falling down on the priority list. I promise to get back to you in a few days. I can’t wait to see everyone soon!

Oh, and a special thanks to Jim Tiralli – I have no idea where we would be without him and his signature phrase “I’ve got the tool for that”. We know we are deeply fortunate to have him in our corner – more on this in another email.

March Update

We are cruising on our 2021 farm plan. Thank goodness we’ve started farms before. We know that this year (and next year, and a little bit the year after) will be a big push. The to do list will always feel immense, the urgency of important infrastructure projects will dominate the priority list, and there is a lot of learning and system building every day. You can expertly plan a farm (our friend calls it “farming of the mind”) but then you have to contend with reality: delayed contractors, challenging weather, a broken water heater, new opportunities . . .

We are doing GREAT. (Except we are delayed on listing our seedling sales to our online store. Our goal was March 1st but there has been a massive disruption in seed supply this year due to wildfires, drought and COVID-19 related disruptions – we didn’t want to list things for sale without having viable seed on hand. We are very close now and will send an email as soon as they are uploaded. No later than March 15th!)

We finally listed the FLOWER CSA SHARE on the online store! Our beloved Erin got a job working for Gaining Ground in Grafton. Gaining Ground is a non-profit farm that donates everything they grow to hunger relief organizations in greater Boston. Usually they take lots of volunteers (I highly recommend it, especially for groups) and hopefully will be able to take volunteers this year. Erin is their Farm Education Manager, which, if any of you have ever been on one of Erin’s tours or taken one of her classes you know it is a job she is well suited for and we are very happy for her.

I will be managing the flower share at the new farm this year with an old friend. It was a lot of fun putting the crop plan together and thinking about flowers again after a year off. I can’t wait to actually pick a few buckets of flowers this year! In 2019 I picked 30-50 buckets every week, last year I picked 0!

One of the 2019 bouquets that Bob Durling captured for us.

Our days are not this bright or beautiful right now – it’s mostly brown potting soil, black and beige seeds, silver greenhouse metal and gray concrete in the wash station. I’m so ready for some green!

We got the stanchion barn cleaned up in time for the concrete cutter to start removing the curbs (left photo). Our goal is to have a smooth, level floor with drains so we can ROLL vegetables around. Last year we picked up the produce so many times. One goal in designing new spaces on this farm is to preserve our backs and take advantage of wheels as much as possible.

We also removed 6 horse stalls which makes room for storage and work space (second photo). We saved all the wood for future use.

And we have made major progress on our greenhouses (last photo, which is not actually up to date, but it’s dark now and I can’t take one!). We hope to skin the first two next week . . . but in the mean time . . .

We planted the first seeds! Ali, Karen and Melissa (our Ashland/Franklin/Bellingham Team) came up for the day on Sunday to help us get off to a good start and see the new farm! It was so nice to see everyone and get work done! We seeded 170 trays, and we’ll do another 100 more tomorrow . . .

We are renting this greenhouse from a farm across the street. We are super lucky to have a fully functional propagation house available to rent. Thanks Phil and Lynn (and Frank for building such a great greenhouse – we are definitely stealing some design ideas for ours)!!!!

We hope you are all staying warm, and thank you, again for your continued support! We can’t wait to show up with veggies and see you all again soon!

In case you hadn’t heard . . .

We bought a farm. It took 26 months and one failed attempt, but we are now farming permanently at 65 Brookline St, Pepperell, MA. Read more about our farm acquisition here.

It’s kind of hard to see, but the bright green in the background is 6.5 acres of rye and vetch cover crop we planted in September, and the mid-ground dull green is 3.5 acres of oats planted at the same time. Yes, we gambled and prepared land we didn’t own – it was the only way we would be ready to start paying our mortgage in 2021.

So, now the work begins.

Our plan this year is to:

  • construct 5 high tunnels and 4 caterpillar tunnels, totaling nearly 18,000 square feet of protected growing space
  • retrofit the old stanchion barn to create a FSMA compliant, comfortable and efficient wash and pack facility
  • make all necessary structural, electrical and plumbing repairs to ensure the safety of the existing infrastructure
  • modify the main house to create separate living space for 3 farm employees
  • complete our organic certification application and receive organic certification
  • add compost/manure/organic matter to 10 acres of land prepared last season for vegetable production
  • grow and sell produce for a 4 season CSA (SIGN UP NOW sliding scale pricing, payment plans and SNAP/HIP payment options available), beginning distribution in May for 3 CSA pick up locations, AND attend the Ashland Farmer’s Market and offer online produce ordering for our CSA pick up sites
  • partner with regional producers of other agricultural products to sell through our online store.

Our future goals we hope to begin working on this year:

  • provide access to farmland for other new/beginning farmers who face land access barriers through secure, low-cost leases and equity sharing collaborations and to diversify the farm by inviting in growers with diverse enterprises like: egg and meat production, beekeepers, orchardists, mushroom growers . . .
  • work with area conservation groups to increase access to public lands that abut the farm by creating an on-farm trail that connects these spaces, and adding parking to increase access
  • collaborate with individuals and groups interested in creating community programming and products relating to food, farming and land-based education

We’ve been doing lots of the regular early season work: hiring, crop planning, greenhouse planning, managing CSA sales, and ordering supplies. And we’ve made some major progress on some of our early projects.

We’ve had lots of help from the Jim’s in our life (my dad and our friends). We’ve leveled an existing cement pad and drilled holes in it for the ground posts for our propagation house. That sentence summed up many days of work and problem solving very succinctly!! Kevin is actually out there right now, with Jim T. moving snow out of the way and preparing put up the first ribs!

We’ve also set the ground posts for the first of two high tunnels we hope to complete before May, the second two will be completed in the late summer.

And we’ve made some progress in the demolition needed to prepare for the cement work in the stanchion barn. We can’t wait to be able to push produce on wheels instead of carry it around.

My arms are very sore from knocking out half of that concrete curb yesterday.

We’re moving along in the hiring process – it’s amazing how many talented and passionate people are interested in working with us – we are very excited to be putting together an all-star team.

And we are overwhelmed by the support of our CSA customers who have signed up in droves for our CSA shares this year. Your up front support makes this all possible – and we can’t wait to get started growing food for you. I mean, the work we do now is a part of growing the food, not a very romantic part, but we’re getting all mushy thinking about starting our first seeds on March 1st.

“March 1st?!” you ask? Yes – we are renting a propagation greenhouse from a neighbor to get us started this year, just in case ours isn’t finished on time. We just had the heater serviced on Tuesday and everything seems to be in working order. I should probably get around to unpacking and organizing the first seed order . . .

We’re working on plans to effectively heat this old farm house, but for now, I don’t mind dressing for the weather!

Thanks for reading and thanks for your support! Stay warm.

Fall CSA: 4th Distribution

Our greens (and many of our field crops) are safe. Some growing in greenhouses, some harvested and stored in the cooler. I wasn’t sure it would happen this year, but our cooler is stuffed to the gills.

I love greenhouse growing (in fall, winter and spring). I’m pretty sure it’s because I’m a control freak and I am allowed a little more control than in the field. We have a really nice crop of spinach, lettuce and frisee/escarole we are “banking” for the last distribution (next week). Believe it or not, all your greens this week will come from the field. We did rush to harvest some before the snow, and some we kept under row cover, and then under piles of heavy snow, but they will come out ok.

When temps get below 28, like they did Saturday morning, that’s when we start to lose crops that are otherwise somewhat cold hardy. But a nice insulating layer of snow can go a really, really long way in protecting those crops from the cold. It hadn’t all melted yesterday when I was at the farm, but I feel pretty confident that everything we left in the field will be ok.

And sweeter! The colder it gets the sweeter our fall veggies get. Plants that can “overwinter” begin creating and storing more sugars when the days get shorter and the weather gets colder. These sugars, which plants as energy when things warm up and the plants convert to seed creating growth in spring. We, however, intercept these plants while still full of sugar (and vitamins and minerals and fiber).

You know what else is sweet? A functioning democracy. Don’t forget to vote on Tuesday. If you can’t make it to pick up because you are voting or volunteering, please just send kevin@upswingfarm.com an email and we can arrange an alternative pick up. The easiest option for us is for you to come to Weston Nurseries on Thursday, 12pm-5pm, but we also have offers from members to deliver shares, or you might be able to pick up at a few other locations.

Tuesday temps are going to drop down to 26 at night from a high of 40. I’m not sure when we will hit “freezing” but as most of you know, our produce doesn’t like to be at less than 32 degrees after harvested. We encourage Tuesday members to come before 5pm this week, but we will be there until 6, as usual.

It’s another great few weeks to be eating local produce. We’ve got great variety in the share and we hope you enjoy it. Our potatoes, coming form Sparrow Arc Farm are here abundantly. Harvest was slowed for them, the rain that didn’t rain all summer to help the crops grow came in a deluge during harvest, slowing down the process and delaying delivery. We were fine to wait.

We love being patient and understanding. It feels WAY better than being demanding and disappointed. Kindness and understanding provide generosity and flexibility but requires little more than grace and patience. We are so grateful to all our customers and community members who are patient and understanding with us.

Jess has some great recipes this week, but I just wanted to add one that I’m really into right now:

Fennel, watermelon radish and shallot salad
One bulb fennel
One watermelon radish (peeled)
One small shallot, or half a shallot
1 tsp balsamic
1TBSP olive oil
1 TBSP orange juice or 1 tsp lemon on lime juice
1 tsp honey
Lettuce, pea tendrils or other salad greens
Instructions: Chop fennel, radish and shallot very finely, but allow for “longer” pieces, no need to dice. Toss with dressing ingredients and serve on top of salad greens, or mix with salad greens.

We hope you enjoy your veggies!!!!

What’s in the share:
brussels sprouts: (roughly 1 quart)
potatoes: 3-4 pounds
mix and match 3-4 pounds: small cabbage, beets, rutabaga, sweet turnips, fennel, green peppers, watermelon radish
carrots: 1 bunch
lettuce heads/mix: (depends on yield)
pea tendrils: 1 bag
herb choices 2: cilantro, parsley, baby celery, thyme, sage, oregano
leeks: 1 pound
shallots/garlic pint
greens choice, choose 1: escarole, frisee, tatsoi (like a combo between spinach and bok choy), sugar loaf chicory
sweet potatoes, squash or pumpkins mix and match

Recipes

SIMPLE LEEK FRITTATAhttps://www.cookinglight.com/recipes/simple-leek-frittataPerfect for breakfast or a quick weeknight meal.
CHICKEN WITH CREAMY DILL AND LEEK SAUCEhttp://www.eatingwell.com/recipe/252715/chicken-with-creamy-dill-leek-sauce/Whenever I see leeks, I think of this recipe. This is my favorite way to roast chicken. Not only is it super easy but it makes a whole meal in one roasting pan (although I usually add a salad as well). As an added bonus, cooking the chicken on a base of veggies keeps it from splattering grease all over the oven, causing massive quantities of smoke to pour out of the oven and setting off your fire alarms. While this is a great way to ensure that your family knows it’s time for dinner, I prefer the quieter method used in this recipe.
20 LEEK RECIPES THAT ARE LIKE “ONIONS WHO?”https://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/slideshow/23-favorite-leek-recipes-like-onionsLeeks have a more delicate and slightly sweeter flavor than onions – these recipes really highlight their amazing flavors.
CREAMY MASHED POTATOEShttps://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/our-favorite-creamy-mashed-potatoesLooking for the perfect mashed potato recipe? Look no further. They recommend using a ricer but they’re still delicous if you mash them by hand.
SWEET POTATO VEGGIE BURGERShttps://www.ambitiouskitchen.com/vegan-sweet-potato-burgers/These veggie burgers happen to be vegan as well (but I don’t like to put that in the name because it scares people away). They’re DELICIOUS.
ESCAROLE SALAD WITH RED QUINOA AND HAZELNUTShttps://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/escarole-salad-red-quinoa-and-hazelnutsThe honey vinaigrette and apple contrast beautifully with the slightly bitter escarole and the quinoa adds some protein making this perfect for a light lunch or dinner side.
APPLE, CARROT & CABBAGE CHOPPED SALADhttp://www.eatingwell.com/recipe/252998/apple-carrot-cabbage-chopped-salad/This colorful autumn slaw has a hint of cinnamon and orange.
SAUSAGE MEATBALL SANDWICHES WITH FENNELhttps://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/sausage-meatball-sandwichesThese meatball subs are a step above any meatball sub you’ve ever had before. The sauteed fennel in the sauce and the simple basil sauce really take it to the next level.
CREAMY ROOT VEGETABLE STEW WITH GRUYERE CROSTINIhttps://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/creamy-root-vegetable-stew-with-gruyre-crostiniWhenever I see rutabaga, I think of this recipe. Surprisingly hearty for a vegetable stew and the gruyere crostini with fresh rosemary are scrumptious!
WATERMELON RADISH 411https://www.peelwithzeal.com/watermelon-radish-recipes/Everything you ever need to know about watermelon radishes! How to store them, how to cook them, and even how to make a cocktail with them!



Fall CSA: 3rd Distribution

I hiked up Mt Wachusett by myself last week. Kevin took Harvey to help him repair a piece of equipment. It was really nice to be away from everything for a half a day. I highly recommend it. I parked at the Audubon Sanctuary and hiked the mid-state trail, but there are lots of other trails and roads. I was impressed with how accessible it was. The photo is of Echo lake, close to the top of the mountain. It was a perfect day.

We took it easy last week. The pictures below might look like I’m a great mom and Harvey is a perfect kid, but honestly, snagging a smiling picture is an accomplishment. It was important to take a little time to be one on one with Harvey without trying to also get things done on the farm, or around the house and to take a little time away from Harvey, because parenting takes a lot of effort. If you feel like a terrible parent right now, don’t worry, you aren’t. That’s what Kevin tells me anyway.

Last Monday was Indigenous People’s Day. As I get older (35) time has gotten a lot smaller. One hundred years doesn’t seem like much. Five hundred is even comprehensible and can be a part of my linear understanding of time as opposed to some abstract, disconnected history. I can imagine New England before colonization and industrialization. I can stand in the forest even with the sounds of airplanes and car traffic humming in the background and imagine no suburban sprawl. No houses that couldn’t easily be re-made with natural materials. No fences.

But there are still people in that imagining. Many Indigenous people who managed a vast ecosystem with the intention of cultivating immense quantities of food to be accessible without excessive work.  The land management practices of Southern New England’s Indigenous peoples were so different from those of the arriving colonizers from Europe, that they couldn’t see what was right in front of their faces. They decided that because the land was not “improved” based on European standards that it must be up for grabs.

Many early contracts between Indigenous populations and settlers in Southern New England are now understood to be a cultural misunderstanding (perhaps deliberate misunderstandings in many cases) with grave consequences. Indigenous people harvested much of their animal proteins through fishing, foraging and hunting. They managed forests with slow-burning fires to create easily navigated hunting grounds. They negotiated land use rights between families and tribes. But there was no concept of land ownership, only land use. Fences would have no use, since there were no domesticated animals to contain (and keep away from the cultivated plots). When they made agreements with colonizers, they most likely understood them as land use, or usufruct rights, not ownership.

What if we had managed to preserve Indigenous sovereignty and adopted their views towards land and ownership? What would the landscape look like today?

Chris Newman, an Indigenous farmer in Virginia, is imagining a regenerative and sustainable food system that goes beyond any fantasies of going back to white settler-owned small farms.  He posted recently on Instagram:

What if agriculture could be completely different?
.
What if farmers’ compensation and equity weren’t tied to the value and commodification of owned land, or a pipe dream that people will someday pay the “true value” for food?
.
What if, for every 1,000 acres of “farmland,” only 100 were devoted to intensive regenerative agriculture, with the rest devoted to extensive indigenous management?
.
What if that 900 acres were managed to produce a diverse, healthy, culturally appropriate diet for free or pay-what-you-can to communities suffering under food apartheid, all in a rich ecosystem expressing its natural character and remaining open to the public?
.
What if BIPOC farmers spent 10% of their time doing this extensive management and actually got paid for it?
.
What if we reimagined our ideas of what parks and green space – things the public happily pays for anyway – are, and what aims they serve?
.
What if tax dollars, institutional endowments, and private fortunes paid for this low-maintenance landscape model?
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What if a farm producing 50K chickens for $1M revenue had an additional $1M revenue from extensive land management?
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What if half that extra $1M went to real living wages for people in the food system?
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What if the other half, free of the need to produce returns for speculative investors, turned that $20 chicken into a $10 chicken?
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What if we turned the power of public and large, private purses and landscapes toward an agriculture and ecology that ACTUALLY worked for everyone? What if we did subsidies in a way that actually works?
.
What. If. We. Won?”

We are not going back to anything. We are going forward and one of our many opportunities for success (if the goal is to preserve our planet by protecting and sustaining the life on it) is to center Indigenous communities whose land we stand on right now.

We are very interested in expanding our vision of food production to be more equitable and sustainable.

Additional Resources (and indirect references):
Hunger For Justice Podcast Series
Commons and Enclosure in the of Colonization of North America
Chris Newman’s Blog
“Changes in the Land,” by William Cronon.

….back to the here and now. It finally rained a lot. Maybe better late than never? I don’t know. What a year. I keep catching up with farmer friends on the phone who I would probably have run into already at some point this year at a workshop or gathering of some sort if it weren’t for COVI-19 and it’s the same story for all of us. Somehow there is still food to harvest and distribute, but we can’t figure out how because it’s been such a tough growing season. It’s nice to have peers who understand. I recommend calling someone you love/admire/respect who you haven’t chatted with recently and ask them how they are doing.

What’s in the share:
carrots: one bunch
radish: one bunch
onions: one pound
sweet potatoes: two pounds
head lettuce: two
mild mixed greens: one bag (a little larger than salad leaf, just cut before adding to salad or lightly saute. We just ate some under lentils and rice and they were lovely.)
spinach: one bag
pumpkin/butternut: 4 pounds
napa cabbage: one head
peppers/eggplant/tomatoes: 1-2 pounds
choose 3: beets, sweet turnips, kale, collards, chard, arugula, fennel, frisee, bok choy, herbs
hopefully brussels sprouts*

*we have a bad case of aphids in the Brussels sprouts this year. We did everything we could to have great brussels sprouts (except for spray them with toxic chemicals). It’s rough. But that’s farming in 2020 for you.

Baby ladybug on a brussles sprout plant infested with aphids. Here’s some more info about aphids on the brassica family, in case you are interested. We are picking the best brussels to put in the share this week but unfortunately, we are going to loose a fair amount to aphids. They won’t be perfect, but we just ate a pint and they were delicious.

Summer CSA: Week 6

Let’s do a photo blog today.

We found the first cherry tomato while weeding around the plants last Thursday. It’ll be a week or two before they make it to the share, but they are on the horizon!

I can’t remember if we posted about the winter squash – but they are growing! So fast! The oats we seeded in the pathways to help hold soil together and suppress weeds are working wonders.

Harvey loves fennel, you might too!

We got to spend a day and half at a friend’s family cabin over the weekend. A Smithsonian Magazine from October 2019 was on the table. Along with articles about how George Washington may have actually fired the first shot that started the French and Indian War (7 Years War), women scientists who have not been credited for their discoveries, and a socialist uprising in Oklahoma 100 years ago, there was an article about how Indigenous people are finally being allowed to forage for some traditional food crops (specifically sochan) in National Parks. (A really good 4th of July magazine.) Imagine instead of intensively cultivating little (or vast) plots of land by turning soil and working tirelessly against nature, working with nature to cultivate vast ecosystems full of food, which is what Indigenous communities did for thousands of years on the very land we stand on today.

Imagination is an important part of “Emergent Strategy” by adrienne maree brown (the book I’m reading and referencing weekly on this blog). I actually was reminded of the book when LeVar Burton interviewed Walidah Imarisha after reading one of Ursula K. Le Guin’s short stories on his podcast “LeVar Burton Reads” (my go-to this March/April when working alone). Imarisha and adrienne maree brown co-edited a collection of short stories entitled “Octavia’s Brood”, “Science Fiction from Social Movements An anthology of visionary science fiction and speculative fiction written by organizers and activists.”

During the interview Imarisha states: “All organizing is science fiction . . . every time we imagine a world without borders, every time we imagine a world without prisons, every time we imagine a world without oppression, that’s science fiction because we’ve never seen that world . . . We can’t build what we can’t imagine.”

It’s important to remember, to know, that we are being fed lies constantly by people and institutions with power who benefit from the short-term profit of the current global/industrial agriculture complex. They say that there is not enough food to feed the world, that we constantly need to improve our yields through chemical input and technology. What we need to know is that there are examples of food production throughout history and around the globe that are capable of producing immense quantities of food in a much more sustainable and just way. We need to imagine the world that is well taken care of, feeding us what we need to thrive.

And always remember that famine is a result of social injustice. Not environmental disaster.

My evolving goal is to be as humble as possible and to listen and learn from people who are already working towards a more just and sustainable food system that steps outside the European/White Colonizer paradigm of food production. Below is a link to the broadcast I mentioned last week which has me thinking intensely about how flawed the paradigm of the family farm actually is, and how we might need to put it aside almost completely in order to move forward towards real, productive change.

Juneteeth Broadcast by A Growing Culture (htttp://agrowingculture.org/hfj). Chris Newman’s presentation begins at 2:55:00 and has been on my mind constantly for the last two weeks. The whole broadcast is important and should be watched.

I accidentally typed ‘sidway.b’ (my maiden name) into a google search the other day (I meant to try and sign into an old email account) and it linked me to a genealogical report on the decedents of “Elder John Strong” and early British Settler in New England (turns out he is one of my ancestors). A quick Wikipedia search revealed:

“He later moved to Windsor, Connecticut, on the Connecticut River where he was a leading figure in the new Connecticut colony. In 1659 he moved 40 miles further up the river to the Connecticut River town of Northampton, Massachusetts—then a frontier town surrounded by Nipmuck[3] and Pocumtuc[4] Indian nations about 100 miles (160 km) inland from Boston. One of the early settlers of the town, he operated a tannery for many years, helped defend the town against Indian attacks during King Philip’s War (1675-1676) and also played an important role in town and church affairs.[5]

A more accurate way to say “helped defend the town against Indian attacks” might be “violently prevented Indigenous people from reclaiming stolen land”. It doesn’t feel good to think about it like this, but it’s the honest way to think about it. I want to live in a society that is just, kind and generous. That can’t begin to happen until I fully acknowledge the long history that brought me here and the means that made my existence possible.

And now on to the share . . . it’s a really good one this week.

WHAT’S IN THE SHARE

Carrots
Peas (the last)
New Potatoes (quart)
LOTS of Zucchini/summer squash
Cucumbers
Head Lettuce (a little damage from hail but actually pretty primo)
Choice of 3 more items (slightly smaller bunches this week so you can choose more items): celery, fennel, basil, cilantro, scallions, beets, radish, kale, chard, extra head of lettuce, cabbage, arugula, bok choy . . .

RECIPES

CRUNCHY ASIAN SALAD WITH PEANUT DRESSING https://juliasalbum.com/crunchy-asian-salad-with-peanut-dressing/ I love the flavors and textures in this colorful and crunchy salad.

HERBED POTATO SALAD WITH FENNEL RADISH AND MUSTARD VINAIGRETTE https://recipes.oregonlive.com/recipes/herbed-potato-salad-with-fennel-radish-and-mustard-vinaigrette Summer isn’t the same without potato salad. This is a fun twist with fennel and radish. Don’t throw out the fennel fronds – chop them up and toss them in for added flavor and color.

SUMMER KALE SALAD https://www.eatwell101.com/summer-kale-salad-recipe


RAINBOW CHARD SLAW https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Rainbow-Chard-Slaw-51169200

Too hot to think about cooking your chard? Check out this colorful summer slaw. If the dressing is more than you want to deal with just use your favorite slaw dressing either homemade or store bought if you want super simple.


SLOW COOKED SUMMER SQUASH WITH LEMON AND THYME https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/slow-cooked-summer-squash-with-lemon-and-thyme This is a great dish to cook up on the weekend and then use it in meals all week. It’s perfect as a side with grilled meats, tossed with pasta or used in sandwiches.

Summer CSA: Week 5

Hail at our house in Bellingham. The hail in Franklin wasn’t quiet as large, but lasted at least 15 minutes (says Tim, the farm owner). We also got between 4 and 6 inches of rain . . . we are having a hard time figuring it out since there are different amounts in all the buckets we leave around as “rain gauges”.
Did I invoke the wrath of the weather when making this art with Harvey on Sunday morning? Rain, humidity, thunder, lighting, “brown” (Harvey’s idea), clouds and . . . HAIL!

It looks bad, I know, and it is bad for some crops, but honestly, it could be WAY, WAY worse. We luckily had a lot of weeds in the pathways and covers over some of our most tender crops to try and keep flea beetle, leaf minor and root maggots out, so they didn’t get too badly beaten. So far the only thing we planned to pick this week that we lost completely is . . . was a super gourmet mild mustard mix that would have been a choice with the arugula and lettuce. We lost a really stellar looking planting of lettuce, but we have another one at Eliot St in Ashland which did not get hail. Plus some of the lettuce might pull through.

Oh well. We have lots of produce, and yes I wish we didn’t lose that mustard mix or that lettuce, and our epic battle with getting a good stand of carrots in 2020 is made even harder by the wash out, but guess what? We are really good at this and it could have been way worse. (If you’ve been with us long enough you will remember the hail of 2017 . . . it was almost the exact same date, June 27th!)

If you all could dial down your invocation of rain though . . . I think 1-2 inches at a time, and a little gentler would result in more of a net gain for the farm. 😉

Quick update on my anti-racism work: still reading Emergent Strategy by adrianne maree brown (see week 4 blog for more). Here’s a really important quote that elaborates on something I read the other day that stated: “White Urgency Is Violence”. I am attending this virtual workshop by Ebony Janice Moore on July 22nd.

In emergent strategy, the author states:

“There is such an urgency in the multitude of crises we face, it can make it hard to remember that in fact it is urgency thinking (urgent, constant, unsustainable growth) that got us to this point, and that our potential success lies in doing deep, slow, intentional work.” – AMB

I am also reviewing the National Young Farmer’s Coalition’s Racial Equity Toolkit and trying to be open to/seek out new information from new voices. I found this article from the Stanford Medicine particularly interesting and inspiring: “All-black ambulance service inspired today’s EMS system.” If you need an example of divesting from police and investing in communities/community care, this one is clear cut.

WHAT’S IN THE SHARE

Beets or Sweet Turnips (if you haven’t tried sweet turnips yet, do it now! wrap in foil and grill!)
Kale, Swiss Chard or Frisee
Radish, Fennel or Broccoli (might be different choices on Thursday)
Peas
Zucchini and Cucumbers 2-3 fruits
Scallions or Cilantro
Arugula or Lettuce Mix

RECIPE CORNER

GLAZED SUGAR SNAP PEAS AND TURNIPShttps://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchen/glazed-sugar-snap-peas-and-turnips-recipe-2107215Super quick saute with just a kiss of sweetness.
HONEY GLAZED TURNIPShttps://www.marthastewart.com/326905/honey-glazed-turnipsThis super fast side dish is so yummy even your kids will eat it!
QUICK-PICKLED BABY TURNIPShttps://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/quick-pickled-baby-turnipsDon’t be afraid to try baby turnips even if you’re not usually a turnip fan. Baby turnips or salad turnips are mild and tender and don’t have the bite that some people are opposed to. You can chop them up and sauté them with their greens, dice them and throw them into a fried rice dish, roast them, grill them or slice them up in your salad. You can also pickle them! This recipe makes slightly sweet, slightly spicy pickled turnips but you could use any quick-pickle recipe if this one doesn’t sound like your thing.
SAUTEEED SALAD TURNIPS WITH TURNIP GREENShttps://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2016/06/japanese-turnips-saute-easy-side-dish-recipe.htmlWhile it’s always a good idea to separate your turnips from the greens as soon as you get home, don’t toss the greens! They’re packed with antioxidants and nutrients and pair perfectly with the turnips in this super simple side.
RADISH AND TURNIP HASH WITH GREEN GARLIC AND FRIED EGGShttps://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-radish-and-turnip-hash-with-fried-eggs-230586Great for breakfast or breakfast-for-dinner, this recipe makes a mouth watering hash from radishes, turnips and green garlic. Top it with some farm fresh eggs and sprinkle with microgreens or pea shoots.
REFRIGERATOR PICKLES WITH CARROTS, CUKES, YOU NAME IT!https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ted-allen/refrigerator-pickles-cauliflower-carrots-cukes-you-name-it-recipe-2119945OK – I’ve been holding out on this one, but I think it’s time. This is my favorite “use up my share” recipe. It works great for the veggies listed but you can also include green beans, scallions, radishes, zucchini, onions, peppers, asparagus. The options are endless. I usually do at least a triple batch at a time and the kids LOVE to make them. They help cut up the veggies and then they build mini jungles in the jars. The tall veggies are the different trees, the garlic is birds, the seeds and spices are the leaves and (I hesitate to include this part but it’s adds significantly to their amusement level) the cauliflower is bird poop. LOL. To finish it off, we flood the jungle with the salty tsunami brine. It’s good clean fun. These pickles are not shelf-stable but will keep in your fridge for about 3 months.
CHICKEN AND SUMMER VEGETABLE TOSTADAShttps://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/chicken-summer-vegetable-tostadasThese tostadas are as pretty as they are delicious. If you’d prefer a vegetarian option, skip the chicken and throw in some black beans!
BAKED PARMESAN ZUCCHINI FRIEShttps://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchen/baked-parmesan-zucchini-fries-3365019Got zucchini? I know you do! While zucchini bread is delicious and is often everyone’s go-to for using up zucchini, it actually uses shockingly little zucchini. These fries are delicious and easy and will use up quite a bit of your stash. I highly recommend adding some fresh chopped dill in with the bread crumbs and don’t use plain breadcrumbs – the panko breadcrumbs make them super crispy.
ZUCCHINI FRITTERS WITH FETA AND DILLhttps://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/michael-symon/zucchini-fritters-with-feta-and-dill-2111879I like to slice zucchini into thin strips, toss it with balsamic vinaigrette and grill it for a few minutes on each side but I have a hard time getting the kids into eating it this way. Fritters are a great way to use up lots of zucchini that the kids will still eat. I love the different spin on these with the feta, dill and lemon.
CHARRED VEGETABLE AND BEAN TOSTADAS WITH LIME CREMAhttp://www.eatingwell.com/recipe/270963/charred-vegetable-bean-tostadas-with-lime-crema/While we’re talking tacos we shouldn’t leave out these hearty vegetarian tostadas. They’re a flavor explosion and brimming with good-for-you ingredients.
CARROT ZUCCHINI CAKEhttps://mamasgottabake.com/2013/04/carrot-zucchini-cake/I (Brittany) made this with Harvey, as you might know if you follow us on social media. I did tweak it: I used 2 cups zucchini and 3/4 cups carrot and added 1/2 cup flour. I also made buttercream frosting, because I didn’t have cream cheese.
GRILLED GRUYERE AND ZUCCHINI SANDWICHES WITH SMOKY PESTOhttp://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/grilled-gruyere-and-zucchini-sandwiches-smoky-pestoI make these sandwiches weekly during the summer. They’re quick, inexpensive and the whole family devours them. I usually make up a big batch of regular pesto whenever we get basil in the share and freeze it in silicone ice cube trays so I have plenty on hand which makes this recipe even faster. I love the Hearth & Stone Garlic Herb English Muffins (I get mine at Whole Foods) for these but they’re good with whatever kind you have on hand. I frequently swap out summer squash for the zucchini if that’s what I have on hand and they’d be delicious with tomatoes or peppers too.
ZUCCHINI BREAD (OR MUFFINS) WITH OATShttps://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/zucchini-bread-oatsWe’re up in Maine camping this week so I made up a big batch of these muffins to have on hand for breakfast and snacks. The recipe makes two loaves of bread but I put the batter into muffin tins and reduce the cooking time to 25-30 minutes (makes 24 muffins). I also swap out most of the flour for white-whole wheat flour.


Summer CSA: Week 4

The hero of the share this week? Burgandy purple sprouting broccoli. Outrageously stunning, fun to pick, delicious to eat. What a treasure. So glad we gave this variety a whirl.

So, I was going to write a rain blog, but guess what? I’ve written like five of those over the last 10 years. Click here, to read the rain blog from 2018, the last time it got dry like this. We are on sandy soil right now instead of silt/loam which holds moisture better than sand. Think” hot beach” when you think of our fields right now. We do have irrigation this year (town water, $$$, yikes!!) and we are running some kind of irrigation almost 24/7 to keep plants alive (and growing). A little rain would go a long way.

Instead, I’m going to write a little about the book(s) I’m reading and work I’m doing, in my attempt to educate myself more on how to dismantle systems of white oppression so I can be ready to take action. For years I have struggled with the manifestation of my desire to “be part of the solution”. I studied environmental policy and sociology in college and basically decided it was “too depressing” so I started working on farms so I could be “a part of the solution.”

What an incredible amount of privilege to chose to put aside dealing directly with systemic environmental justice problems so I could go learn how to farm. Second, without all my class privilege I don’t think I could have afforded to say, “hey, it’s ok, I will make almost no money for years so I can learn how to do this job that might not make any money.”

After more than a decade of farming full-time, I’m not sure I’ve done much more than promote an overly idealized, white-colonizer version of sustainability in the form of the “small family farm”.

I’m going to stop here, because I want to make sure you know the things I am watching and reading. And because I don’t have much clarity beyond my need to keep reading, keep listening, even when its painfully uncomfortable, and I need to be ready for change.

The book I’m reading is “Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds” by adrienne maree brown. (I’m also simultaneously re-reading “Parable of the Sower” by Octavia Butler, which is one of the foundations for the authors understanding of emergent strategy). I’ve meant to read this book for years. I should have read this book years ago. It sings to me – I almost feel guilty for how much joy I derive from it.

“Emergence is a way complex systems and patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions” – Nick Obolensky
“Emergence emphasizes critical connections over critical mass, building authentic relationships, listening with all the senses of the body and the mind . . . Emergent strategy is how we intentionally change in ways that grow our capacity to embody the just and liberated worlds we long for.” – adrienne maree brown

Without having finished the book I already know it is an incredible guide, not only for how to work more deliberately support and make space for Black, Indigenous and People of Color, but how to reinvent the way I have been trained to exist in the world so that I can be a better collaborator, a better ally, and maybe transform my entire approach to farming and life?

I also tuned in to a portion of the Juneteenth Broadcast hosted by A Growing Culture on Friday as I bagged greens for market. I don’t think you can watch a recording right now, but I think it will be available soon. I got to hear Chris Newman of Sylvanaqua Farms speak for the first time. I’m going to paraphrase, because I can’t yet find a recording to get a direct quote but, during his presentation he said, ‘agriculture in America is the result of Europeans stealing too much land from indigenous people and then stealing African people in order to have enough labor to farm it.’ There is a lot more to what he said than that, and I have since read subsequent articles he has written which clearly articulate other ideas I have been exposed to over the last few years . . . read “Small Farm’s Aren’t The Answer.”

I don’t have presentable takeaways from this work yet, other than I have a growing understanding that I’ve been doing lots of things wrong, perpetuating injustice and there is so, so much room to grow, change and evolve as a person and as a business so the effort and energy I put into the world can directly move us all closer to a “just and liberated world.” AMB


Eastern Black Swallow Tail in the greenhouse last week. Protecting pollinators is important – not as important as social justice and dismantling systems of oppression. We can do both.

What’s in the Share:

The first cucumber and zucchini: 1-3 fruits depending on yield
Carrots
Peas!
Purple Sprouting Broccoli
Head Lettuce
Scallions
Choices (2): (lots of odds and ends this week) kale, escarole, scapes, cabbage, beets, extra lettuce . . . maybe a few other things)

Recipes:

WHAT IS PURPLE SPROUTING BROCCOLI?https://www.olivemagazine.com/guides/best-ever/best-ever-purple-sprouting-broccoli-recipes/Purple Sprouting Broccoli is a nutty, more tender version of traditional broccoli and it’s even better for you. Higher in Vitamins C and A, fewer carbs and more protein. You can use it in any recipe that calls for broccoli or try out one of these recipes designed to highlight this variety.
CHICKEN AND SUMMER VEGETABLE TOSTADAShttps://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/chicken-summer-vegetable-tostadasThese tostadas are as pretty as they are delicious. If you’d prefer a vegetarian option, skip the chicken and throw in some black beans!
SNAP PEAS WITH MEYER LEMON AND MINThttps://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-snap-peas-with-meter-lemon-and-mint-recipes-from-the-kitchn-81633On the rare occasion that the kids and I don’t polish off the snap peas by the time we get home from picking up our share, I love to sauté them which really brings out their flavor. This recipe has all the flavors of the season with Meyer lemon (I won’t tell if you use a regular lemon) and fresh mint.
CURRIED COUSCOUS WITH BROCCOLI & FETAhttps://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/curried-couscous-with-broccoli-fetaAnother quick and inexpensive vegetarian summer main dish that can be made in advance and served up whenever you’re ready for it. For an extra protein kick you can add grilled chicken or steak.
FRISEE SALAD WITH ROASTED BEETShttps://www.finecooking.com/recipe/frisee-salad-with-roasted-beets-orange-vinaigretteFrisée is a type of lettuce in the chicory and endive family. It has a slightly bitter or peppery flavor and looks exactly like it sounds. Pair them with beets and an orange vinaigrette in this side salad – add grilled chicken for a main dish.

Summer CSA: Week 3

We are loving this cool weather.

Hello Everyone,

Well, here we are in week 3 of the CSA. We haven’t been posting CSA emails on our blog, in part because it makes it a two-step process and we’ve been really short on time, and in part because demand has been so high for our products, we felt bad flaunting sold-out shares. Also, shares haven’t always been the same on Tuesday and Thursday this year, more so than in previous years, and people complaining about fairness in the CSA makes us crazy.

But, the Ashland Farmer’s Market is now open, and although it is different this year, you can still get tons of great farm products (snacking on an egg on locally-grown-whole-grain-sour-dough-toast from Crust right now). As always, we do our best of prioritize our CSA members, but we also love our farmers market customers, and we are excited that production (after a weird and wild spring) is finally ramping up.

This week’s share has the first carrots and peas of the season, as well as more delicious salad and cooking greens and kohlrabi!

What’s in the share:
Carrots (tender, baby – don’t cook, just consume!)
Kohlrabi
Head Lettuce
Salad Greens Choice: Micros, Arugula, Mild Mustards/Mix
Cooking Greens Choice: Bok Choy, Kale, Swiss Chard, Escarole, Frisee
Peas/Strawberries: (some amount of either or both)
Broccoli (for Tuesday)/Zucchini (for Thursday). Lots more zucchini on the horizon.
Garlic Scapes


This is a garlic scape still on the garlic plant.

RECIPE CORNER

GARLIC SCAPE GREEN GAZPACHOPerfect for a steamy night! You can use pretty much any combination of greens in this so it’s a great way to use up any extra greens you have.
ABOUT GARLIC SCAPESGarlic Scapes are the curly stems that shoot up out of garlic bulbs. They will eventually flower but they are typically trimmed off to allow the garlic plant to use all of its energy on making a delicious flavorful garlic bulb. Scapes taste like a cross between garlic, onion and scallions and are fantastic sautéed with eggs or to top pasta, made into pesto, grilled or added to a soup or stir-fry.

KOHLRABI FRITTERSKohlrabi is something that I wasn’t familiar with until I started getting a CSA share but now I get it whenever there is a choice. Also called a German Turnip, kohlrabi is in the cabbage (Brassica) family and has a mild flavor like a cross between a cucumber and a turnip. The whole plant is edible and can be eaten raw but I typically strip off the stems and leaves and if the skin is feeling on the tough side I peel it with a veggie peeler. We love to make these fritters with them and I frequently mix half kohlrabi and half shredded carrots if we have them on hand. Scallions or scapes would be great in here too and I think this week I’ll add some shredded kale too.
19 NEW WAYS TO EAT LEAFY GREENSIf you ever start feeling overwhelmed by greens, don’t despair! There are so many ways to use them up without having salad for every meal.
QUICK SAUTEED ENDIVE, ESCAROLE AND FRISEEYou can either use a combination of Endive, Escarole and Frisee in this or just pick one or two depending on what you like and what you have on hand.
ENDIVE APPLE AND CELERY SALADI love a crunchy salad and this one has loads of crunch and a fantastic combination of flavors.
SNAP PEA SALAD WITH BUTTERMILK DRESSINGCrunchy and delicious snap peas served over a super simple buttermilk dressing. It will look like you were in the kitchen slaving for hours!
WILD RICE GRATIN WITH KALE, CARAMELIZED ONIONS, AND BABY SWISSThis is a great recipe to have on hand because you likely have all of the ingredients in your pantry or can easily swap them for ones that you do have. The wild rice could be swapped for pretty much any kind of rice and it would be equally delicious with cheddar cheese, fontina or feta if you didn’t have swiss.

News on our Spring Seedling Sale and How to Garden Videos

I don’t know about you, but being cooped up in my house (especially on these rainy days) makes me even more eager to get my hands dirty. On so many levels, COVID-19 has opened our eyes to the gaps in the resiliency of our communities. As a farmer, I’ve thought a lot, always but more so now than ever, on the lack of self-sufficiency in our more industrially-dominated food systems. Without getting on my soapbox (I could go on for days), I want to remind you that buying from local farms, advocating for farmland preservation, and growing your own food are three major ways to increase the resiliency and sustainability of your local food system. In the coming weeks, Upswing Farm will release a series of videos to help you get your garden started, as well as launch our online seedling sale. 

Last week, Brittany shared a video on Seed Starting. This week, I discuss the Garden Planning process. In a nutshell, the five steps to planning your garden are:

  1. Make Observations & Take Notes
  2. Create a Plant Wishlist
  3. Design Your Garden
  4. Map It Out
  5. Buy Materials

For more details, what the full video!

Currently, we have some Early Spring seedlings for sale at our online store for pick up next weekend April 17th and 18th. This is different than ordering for our main event. 

We are hoping to launch the full 2020 Seedling Sale online store early next week! This is a treat. Customers can read descriptions, see pictures, and use this time on the computer to practice some of those research tips from the planning video. You can purchase your plants online for pick up in May. For now, you can browse our inventory for herbs, flowers, and vegetables. My suggestion is to plan your garden out and purchase your seedlings soon, so when the May sun comes around you can jump into planting your garden!

If you are new to gardening or simply want to improve your gardening skills, feel free to reach out to me (Erin) for help! In addition to being the Flower Manager for Upswing this year, I am offering at-home garden coaching, consultation, planning, and installation at an affordable rate. Currently, I am offering virtual planning and Q&A sessions in hopes of preparing clients for a successful year in the garden come May. If you are interested and want to learn more about my services and pricing, email me at tinyfarmer.mass@gmail.com

Happy Gardening!

Erin Espinosa