FARM NEWSLETTER // WEEK 1
YIPPEE!!! It's finally here folks. The week we've all been waiting for ;)
I want to start with THANK YOU! This season will be a lot of fun and I'm happy that you're on board with us (again) this season!! It's been a heck of a spring thus far and we're looking forward to another big CSA season!!
To start, I should tell you that I sent out an email in the last two days to all of our CSA Members that was site specific. If you didn't get it or I made a mistake please reach out as soon as possible as next week will be very busy for us.
The email included a lot of site specific info, including your handbook which I like to consider pretty all inclusive. It also included my FARM TO STORAGE GUIDE. Guys, I poured everything into this. It's literally every variety that we grow; pictures, instructions on how to prepare it, even pairings- what it goes with, and of course storage information. Did you know, never to put potatoes and onions right next to each other because the gases from the onions will encourage the potatoes to sprout and actually make them soft very fast? Now you do. Check out more fun facts in the storage guide as the season goes on ;)
SO. MANY. THINGS.
But first, a little housekeeping.
Box rotation. All of our CSA Members will have a custom labeled box specifically for you; it will literally have your name on it. When you arrive to pick up your CSA, there isn't a sign out or check list; simply grab your CSA box and you can be on your way. We designed it like this so it's convenient and quick to pick up & also so that it was a no-contact process.
Some people bring their full box of produce home and unpack it at home. Some people unpack it at the CSA pick up site and then leave the empty box there. Whatever you want to do is great! Please just make sure to return your box so we have one to pack for you the following week. If you forget, we will still pack you a CSA using an extra box. If you throw out your CSA box or destroy it we will ask you to pay to replace it. Sounds harsh, but to date we haven't ever had to (in part because we mention this here).
Please remember that only one person should approach the CSA site at one time. This is a safety measure. Although Covid-19 positive case numbers are down, that doesn't mean that it's just gone. Help us all stay healthy by keeping your distance at the CSA sites please!
If you haven’t already, make sure you go to our Facebook page to check us out. Make sure to select the drop down arrow under our name and select 'see first' because Facebook changed their algorithms and otherwise you won’t see our posts & pictures unless you are actively scrolling on our page.
We also have an Instagram page but I have to admit that I'm new to using it. I'll be posting more once we get rolling this season. The first few weeks of the season are really big for us- so you'll notice there hasn't been a lot of content lately. Don't worry- we will make up for it ;) Ask anyone who knows me; I'm an over-sharer.
Now to the FUN!
Most of my blog posts will start with updates from the fields; how things are looking. Let me start by telling you- lots of things are doing great!! We are watering around the clock and then some. We have the majority of our produce on drip tape irrigation which is basically a thin black waterline laid the length of the field in every row. It's a lot more effective than the overhead watering systems because it delivers water to the plants (and misses all the weed in between). It's also a good way to be able to calculate how much water is going to the field.
For those of you who don't know- we are in a drought. They won't call it that on the news yet because there is a scientific (measurable) standard but I can tell you- we're in a drought.
Watering by HAND:
This is the far end of the tomato patch. We have about 30 rows of tomatoes and almost all of them are the same length. All except the last few rows closest to the pond (that isn't a pond anymore). We couldn't run the waterlines on the last few rows because of the length variation- so we ended up watering these babies by hand (above). We have had to do this with a few different varieties as well.
Look at these melons!! This black mulch helps to insulate the roots, keep moisture in, and also to keep the weeds down which is really hard to do in vining crops. For example winter squash and melons, pumpkins, etc. It is SO hard to hoe a row when you have plants that will stretch across the row and sometimes end up several rows down. This is a huge time saver and plant saver this year as well. If we weren't able to irrigate, these melons would be goners. The irrigation lines are underneath the black mulch, so we can turn on the water and get it right to these bad boys!
We don't have all good news from the fields though- we did loose our first bean crop :( It was just too dry. With everything we have on waterlines, we couldn't sacrifice a sprinkler for the beans if we had to take away from the other crops. The thing is, we can replant beans. We always do, actually! It's common practice to replant certain varieties so that the yield is consistently high all season. Beans, cucumbers, zucchini, pickles, muskmelons, and many more. Some things you don't get a second shot with though.. things like tomatoes and peppers for example. If those die, they're done for the season. Starting them now wouldn't yield any fruits.
We have about 12 acres of produce here which is too much to water all at once. We have about 10 sections that we turn on and off, but the water is never actually off. Just on a rotation. Remember that this has been over 2 weeks of no rain (even though it was forecasted multiple times).
We had to make the hard choice to let the bean patch go. It's not like we tilled them under, but they're not happy with the little to no rain we've got basically all season. How sad is that? Things are looking up though, as we see a solid system moving into our area tonight and tomorrow- and it looks like it's going to stay a while thank goodness!
Ben said we might be harvesting zucchini next week already! This year's early heat wave has helped us out in a lot of ways. Our tomatoes doubled in size over the last week, literally. They're enormous. Ben said these might be the nicest tomato plants he's ever grown guys. He is out cultivating all day today because we need to kill the weeds before the rain comes (fingers crossed!)
I'll brace you now. I will tell you everything. Remember the part above where I mentioned over-sharing? Honestly, I find it to be an important part of our farm! We are growing for YOU and we want you to know how things are going. It's like a weekly report card- what's doing well and what isn't. Nothing in farming is clean or perfect; but it sure can be tasty!!
Bringing me to my next point.
WHAT IS IN YOUR CSA BOX THIS WEEK?!
In the Jumbo & Family Shares: rhubarb, garlic scapes, green buttercrunch lettuce, red buttercrunch lettuce, swiss chard, and kohlrabi.
In the Single Shares: rhubarb, garlic scapes, green buttercrunch, red buttercrunch and swiss chard.
Rhubarb is a special variety that you will see one time this season. It grows best in the cool spring months with better flavor. Everyone always goes straight to the dessert recipes with rhubarb because it’s best paired with sugar and sweets to balance out the natural tartness. That’s why you’ve heard of strawberry rhubarb jam, rhubarb crisp or bars, rhubarb apple fritters, etc. Please store your rhubarb in the fridge wrapped in plastic. Either pre-cut into pieces or in stalks works, but stalks will hold longer than the pre-cut pieces. Keeping them in plastic reduces the air flow around the rhubarb which will keep it fresh for longer (which is true of many veggies we will come across this summer).
Butter-crunch lettuce is MY FAVORITE. I love butter-crunch because it has the tender delicate leaves almost like spinach which is kind of spongy. They’re thicker leaves, but they are still tender and go really well in a salad mix. Fresh lettuces can be a challenge to clean. TO CLEAN THEM: pick the individual leaves away from the head and rinse them under water running your fingers up and down through the center of the leaf. Make sure to go over it several times back and forth to remove all the dirt. PRO TIP: Wash your lettuces right away to prep them for salads. I can tell you that you’ll be much more apt to eat your greens if you can open the fridge and see them already prepared just waiting for your favorite salad dressing :)
GARLIC SCAPES! These are a treasure that we haven't had for a few years. As many of you know, Ben and I started our own farm almost a decade ago and we've always rented land anywhere we could. At one point we had 3 fields in 3 different cities! Being able to plant perennials like garlic was out of the question. Now that we bought our forever farm last spring, we're able to explore more options!
The problem is that we're outgrowing our space already. I'm eyeing up our front yard... wondering where we should be planting these perennials! We will be buying seed garlic this year and planting it in the fall. These garlic scapes actually came from a friend of ours who grow garlic as a BIG hobby in Big Lake (where our farm used to be based out of). They sell at one local farmer's market and pride themselves in the varieties they grow. You'll be able to attest to the flavors later this summer because the plan is to buy enough garlic to add it to the CSA Shares and also have enough to plant for this coming season. The thing about garlic is, if you plant enough of it you'll be able to harvest enough to sell (in our case- put in our CSA Shares!) and also to reserve enough heads of garlic for seed. Every clove will grow into it's own head of garlic.
Garlic scapes are a treasure. These will also only come once per season. The scape of a garlic plant is actually the stem they shoot out as a part of their seed reproduction. It's a culinary delight and sought after by many! They can be considered a vegetable or an herb because of their diverse uses. Some people use them in dishes like grilled scapes on the grill, others make a scape pesto which is amazing! They can also be simply added to a stir fry, or sautéed and added to soup. They are fragrant but also flavorful!!
Swiss Chard is a type of green that can be harvested throughout the season as long as you take individual leaves from the plant instead of clipping the whole plant. So you’ll see bunches of Swiss chard throughout the season (not "heads" like broccoli for example). They’re super colorful too! From reds to yellows, greens and pale/whites, they add a beautiful aesthetic value to any supper. These are actually in the beet family, but they don’t ever produce a bulb. On some of the larger leaves, you will want to remove a portion of the stem in the center because they can get grainy kind of like celery. When cooking with swiss chard, it’s recommended you remove all of the stems and treat the stem and the leaves individually because the stems should be cooked first and then the greens are added at the last minute.
If you haven’t ever cooked with greens, now is the time!! Even if you don’t want to follow a recipe, try heating up olive oil and adding garlic, simmer for a few minutes and add the greens shortly before the cooking process is over. I think one value that our CSA Members will have forever is the techniques that come along with eating seasonally. It’s not always about finding a new recipe. When you start cooking with fresh produce every week, you’ll see yourself trying new ways of cooking that aren’t recipes at all. Mastering some of the techniques is where you'll find a lot of value with your veggies.
Kohlrabi is one of our favorites around here. The leaves and the bulbs offer nutritional value. It's recommended to peel kohlrabi with a small paring knife. You want to take the outer skin off because it's tough. We consider this a multiuse veggie because it really can be transformed into a million different things; much like zucchini.
Let's be real- most people don't use kohlrabi on a regular basis. That's in part because the leaves don't travel well, and also because the kohlrabi are more desirable when they're small-medium sized but they're also more tender at that point. In the grocery store, you'll usually see kohlrabi when they're the size of softballs. Since this is a great example of a produce variety we can learn from, I'll add a screen shot from the farm to table storage guide below. This is the guide that's attached to the email you received a few days ago from me. As you can see below- there is no way I could include all of this information for every variety of produce we will offer you this season. Please take a moment and introduce yourself to the storage guide- it will save you a lot of time this summer- I promise!!
NOTE ABOUT SINGLE SHARES:
Our Single Shares aren't getting kohlrabi this week so I'd like to take this opportunity to explain the logistics quickly. We plan our harvest season around getting everyone all of the produce varieties we offer. We also plan our harvest around the quantities of different share sizes we offer and the number of people it's intended to feed; the volume of produce you get every week. There will be many weeks that you'll get all the same varieties as the Jumbo and Family Shares, but in smaller quantities.
This week we are choosing to exclude the kohlrabi because we are giving you a larger portion (equal to the family share portion) of rhubarb. Volume wise you're still getting the produce you paid for. The reason we do this is because we know that rhubarb is used in recipes that often call for 2-3 cups of chopped rhubarb. The Single Share portion would be half that amount; which would be hard to find a recipe to use it in. We want you to be able to use your produce with ease! So we take these things into consideration. We will have kohlrabi again next week in the Single Shares. So it's not like you're missing out- it's just not until next week.
THANK YOU FOR JOINING OUR HARVEST THIS SEASON!!
WHEW. That was a lot of information to go over. The first few weeks that we're getting to know each other and the routine are always a little challenging. I'll be sending you emails at the end of the week with the newsletter about the following week. Feel free to reach out anytime if you have questions!
For the recipes- you'll notice they aren't in this blog post. That's because we can only fit so much ;) So I actually post the recipes as their own posts and add links for the recipes into the email you receive every week. If you ever want to look at previous recipes go onto the blog page and type the variety you are looking for in the search bar. "Tomato" for example will yield plenty of fun recipes!
I didn't mean to go on and on but here we are, again. haha!
Thank you for the opportunity to grow for you & yours,
We look forward to sharing the harvest with you all season long!!
Stay well friends,
~The Farmer's Wife