WELCOME TO OUR 2023 CSA!!!
Welcome to the 2023 CSA Season with Brown Family Farm. If you're getting this email it means that you already signed up for your CSA Share (paid in full, or on a payment plan) and your CSA Share is reserved for you this season!!
I want to quickly touch on communications before we get into introductions! In the coming weeks you'll be seeing more blog updates and emails just like this one!
Once our CSA harvest starts (June 19th), you'll be getting an email from me every week like clockwork. It is what we call the CSA Newsletter! I go in depth on what to expect in your CSA that week, some ideas for how to use your veggies, what we're up to on the farm. The good and the bad, you'll see it all! That's part of a CSA though; you're a stakeholder in how our farm operates and I love keeping everyone in the loop! Spoiler alert- you're in good hands!
Check out the lettuces from the first week last season! I love these buttercrunch lettuces because they are so bright and they have a lovely crunch. The great thing is that they have a nice supple leaf- more like spinach. I'm so excited to show you why these are some of my favorites!
Now, for the introductions!
Many of you are Returning Members and we’ve known each other for years. Some of you are New Members and we’re practically strangers- that just won’t do!!
We're the Browns! Nice to meet you!
**Don't get used to these nice pictures ;P
99.9% of the time we're in work clothes, but I figured we'd put our best foot forward!
We are Ben & Jodi! A husband & wife team growing fresh produce, raising heritage breed hogs and canning homemade products from the farm here. We started our farm in 2013 when we were newly married, having babies and living in an apartment in Zimmerman MN. We had full time jobs and were farming on the side trying to make a go of things. 10 years later, we are living in our forever farm in Oak Park! We slowly transitioned out of our day-jobs and put every bit of our energy into operating our Farm. Now we have the privilege of offering our homegrown produce, pork, and canned goodies to our CSA Members across the metro area!
We started with 18 CSA Members and have grown now to serve hundreds of families around our area with 2 dozen CSA pick up sites! That's who we are in a nutshell, but I want to explain a little more about the day-to-day operations because I think you'll benefit from seeing how we work together :)
Ben is the brains behind of all the field operations and ultimately is the person who puts all these fresh veggies in your hands every week! He is the planner, the one with all of the experience, field surveyor and irrigation specialist. He is the only reason we're able to offer produce- I grew up in Apple Valley and didn't even know what a zucchini was until he grew them for us!! He has decades of experience, starting at the neighbors farm when he was 8, and now operating our produce farm, he's seen a thing or two!
I'm Jodi, the talker. Just kidding, I do have other roles! :) But I really do enjoy keeping up with you all and sharing our adventures throughout the summer! I write the blog, organize our delivery routes, handle all taxes & payroll, and actually deliver most of the CSAs myself after I pack your CSAs with my crew. I'll be your contact this season if you need anything, don't hesitate to reach out! The thing is, it's just us! So if you call, I'll be the one to answer!
We have been BUSY this spring!
Let's start with the cutest update first, haha!
These piglets came from our neighbors down the road. They farrow as many as they can for us. They have a handful of sows (females who have given birth) but they only have so much space to farrow (have babies) so we do source piglets from another farmer up north too. This season we're hoping to raise about 50 in total. We have a waiting list if you're interested in getting a half or a whole pig please visit the website under the pork page (I'll link it at the very bottom). We ONLY sell to our CSA Members so please keep that in mind, we want to increase production to the point where we can accommodate every CSA Member who wants a half/whole pig.
Eventually we might be able to sell to those who are not in our CSA as well, but we'll always put you first whenever we can! I will be sharing more info about our pork soon. I'm working on putting together a fact sheet with some FAQs so it's easy to see all the details in one place!
Many of you have been watching on social media and saw my post about the maple syrup a while back. I have not-so-good news that this spring was a terrible maple syrup season! The ideal conditions for maple syrup production are having freezing overnight temperatures and having highs during the day that are over 32 degrees, ideally 40 degrees. We have been seeing the same thing most of the state has been dealing with, this stinking weather won't cooperate for anything!
It was too cold and the daytime temps never made it above freezing (the sap doesn't run if it doesn't get to 32), and then we had a warm snap (remember those nice days then it got really cold again?). When it gets nice and warm outside the maple trees bud out, and when they start to bud this is an indication that the trees are basically done running. (Budding meaning when you can see the leaf buds popping- when they're getting green, sap is done running). We've been doing this for 5 years, so we're not experts by any means, but this is just our experience.
In our grand plan, the thought was that with 150 taps out we would be able to make enough syrup that we would have some to sell. That doesn't look like the case anymore, because we don't even have enough to cover our own family for a year and give a jar to the Grandparents. We look forward to a hopeful, better maple syrup season next year!
We are in the thick of it! We have THOUSANDS of seedlings in the greenhouse already. We start up the greenhouse April 1st. We start all of our tomatoes and peppers in the germination chamber.
These are all pepper plants! We start them in small cells so that their roots grow into a nice tight root ball. Then we transplant them out of this size cell and into larger ones, like a 50 count. We do that for a handful of reasons.
First, it's because we start them in the germination chamber. That's a controlled environment where it's really hot and steamy, with no light. The germination chamber is about the size of a closet, it's not big at all. There is a heating element in the bottom of it in a tray of water, hooked to a thermostat so we can monitor and adjust the temp. If we provided light, the seedlings get "leggy". Meaning they can really long and skinny, and that's not a healthy plant! So we have to use tarps and make sure it's completely enclosed/ no light gets in.
We also start them in smaller cells like the one above because we know that they need a tight root ball. It's good for development, but only at this size. It provides a healthy root structure for when they're transplanted into the larger cells, and it gives them a leg up on our MN growing season- which is never long enough!
The trays are all the same size dimensionally (about 14 inches by 30 inches), but the cell sizes change. So we have some that are 250 cell trays (like this one above), and some that are 50 cell trays. The bigger the number, the smaller the cell size! I'll fish out a picture here-
OK so this is NOT right now. Our tomatoes are tiny, but perfectly on schedule! These are 'maters from a previous season but I wanted to show you- this is the transplanter we use to get them in the field once they're big enough (video to come this summer!) These cells you see above are that 50-cell count. It allows them to grow and expand into nice plants before we put them outside in the field! Peppers and tomatoes are the only varieties we start in the germination chamber in small cells like this. None of the others are transplanted or handled with such care, because none of the other varieties are this fragile.
We are happily working away here at the farm. The greenhouse is up and running, we've got piglets in the barn for now (it's been so cold!), chickens... but that's a whole other blog post, haha! So many projects we're working on and preparations to be done before the CSA harvest season starts.
Bring it on!!
Reminder that our first CSA delivery this season starts the week of Monday June 19th. I'll also be sending out your Member Handbooks in the coming weeks after we're done finalizing our holiday schedules and making some small additions. The Member Handbook is site specific, so every single CSA Member will get a Handbook for their pickup site! It has categories like "what to expect on your first pick up", "what to do if you can't pick up", "box rotation" information too. It's very detailed and will have all the dates and info specifically for you- which is also why it takes me a minute to get those together ;)
Thank you for joining us this season!! We look forward to showing you what we're up to over here at Brown Family Farm!
Eat Good & Be Well!
~The Farmer's Wife
*If you'd like to get on our pork list and be contacted when we have availability, please follow the link below and check out some info on our pork! You'll notice there is a waiting list at the very bottom of that page, but we're hopeful to have enough pork for everyone this season. We keep expanding and raising more pigs!!