What is a CSA anyway and why should I join one in winter?

 

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inspecting the crops
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harvesting summer squash
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view from the sweet corn patch

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a wonderful producer consumer relationship; one in which a consumer agrees to get his/her main source of vegetables for a season from one farm and that farm agrees to produce a diverse range of high quality vegetables. It is a hyper local diet because the farm is oftentimes located in the same county as the consumer and the weekly harvest is dictated by the season (ie sugar snap peas for 2 glorious weeks in June, copious amounts of tomatoes in August, and no sweet potatoes until October–but it’s worth the wait!).

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spring boxes feature greens, fast growing roots, and seasonal treats like garlic scapes
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summer deliveries consist of peppers, tomatoes, beans and other heat loving crops
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fall boxes welcome the return of greens and crops like sweet potatoes and pie pumpkins make their debut

It’s a win win for both the farmer and the consumer. The consumer hears directly about how their food was grown and the freshness and quality of the vegetables usually results in superior tasting food. We often hear things like “I didn’t even realized I liked beets!” and “I don’t even buy greens from the grocery anymore.” The CSA customer is encouraged to try new foods. We hear from CSA members that they eat more vegetables during the 24 week CSA season. They welcome this challenge and enjoy the health benefits that come with it. The farm, in turn, benefits from having a season long relationship it can count on, often beginning in the dead of winter before any seeds are even started!

 

In fact, now is the perfect time to sign up for a CSA! We have a lot of expenses at the front end of the season. Seeds and plants are purchased in January and cost more than $5,000! We are also restocking the farm of all the supplies we’ll need for the season from tomato stakes to fertilizer to irrigation lines. It is much easier to get these supplies in winter before we are too busy managing plants. We also usually have a major piece of equipment to buy each season or a costly project and having funds from CSA members helps pay for these big ticket items. Finally knowing what our CSA membership is before the start of the season helps us plan accordingly.

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equipment like this transplanter are purchased in winter
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at least one farm upgrade, like this new well, happen each year
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seeds are ordered and organized in winter

While we are calling on folks to join now, we recognize that paying upfront doesn’t fit everyone’s budget. We strive to keep our CSA affordable and have several payment options. You can break up the CSA cost into 3 or 7 installments and you can pay with credit card or check.  For those members who can not get through a box of produce every week, we offer a biweekly delivery schedule. You can even place your deliveries on hold if you go out of town so you won’t have to pay for something you’re not going to get. Boxes picked up at a neighborhood pick up location are just $25 a week, farm pick boxes are $23, and home delivered boxes are $29.

Sound good? Sign up HERE today! To see more about our CSA visit here.

CSA Week 17

In this week’s box

Onions
Napa cabbage
Scarlet turnips
Hakurei salad turnips
Red or green kale
Red leaf lettuce
Summer squash (last of the season)
Bell pepper
Jalapeño and Hungarian hot wax peppers
Kossak giant kohlrabi
Green beans

(We updated our web program and I can’t figure out how to make a link anymore, so for any vegetables you are unfamiliar with, just type into the search bar at the right and if there is an info page it will pop up for you)

Farm notes:
This week marked our final field planting. We had a few flats of head lettuce and salad mix to plant and enlisted the help of our flower harvester and bouquet maker, Brooke, to get the job done. The greenhouse is now empty, circulating and vent fans turned off. It is hard to believe that the greenhouse will remain empty until the end of February when we will start next year’s onion seedlings. It is also hard to believe there was once a time when the greenhouse was so full of flats, we were strapped for space. But the brisk air, shorter days, cool nights and changing landscape are all daily reminders that the summer season, the season of a packed greenhouse, marathon planting days, and endless weeding jobs is coming to a close. At the same time, the vegetable harvest is still going strong. We love fall for this reason: a slightly decreased work load with an abundance of vegetables still coming out of the land. We hope you will enjoy all the unique varieties of turnips, kohlrabi, greens and radishes we grow as much as we do!

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Recipes
Roasted kohlrabi, turnips and green beans
http://trustedearth.com/2012/07/18/roasted-kohlrabi-green-beans-and-turnips-recipe/

Napa cabbage with spicy peanut sauce
http://www.theperfectpantry.com/2011/02/recipe-vegan-napa-cabbage-soba-with-spicy-peanut-sauce.html

Kale and sausage hand pies
http://www.marthastewart.com/862207/kale-and-sausage-hand-pies?czone=food%2Fproduce-guide-cnt%2Fproduce-guide-winter&gallery=286367&slide=862207&center=276955

Mashed turnips and potatoes with turnip greens
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/05/health/nutrition/mashed-turnips-and-potatoes-with-turnip-greens-recipes-for-health.html?_r=0

CSA Week 16

In this week’s box

Green or purple kale
Hakurei salad turnips
Easter egg radishes
Green leaf lettuce
Romaine lettuce
Red onions
Summer squash and zucchini
Chiogga “Candy stripped” beets
Tomatoes
Potatoes
Garlic

Notes from the farm
Over the weekend Ben and I had a chance to leave the farm– only to discuss the farm over breakfast and coffee. This was the first of several discussions we will have as we gear up for next season. When we order next year’s seeds, we will first go through the list of veggies one by one and talk about how they faired: Did fennel sell well at market? Did we have enough early season cabbage for CSA? Was there too much bug pressure on zucchini? Etc, etc. When the season comes to a close and we make our final sale, we will have a financial discussion. Hopefully we will see that the farm didn’t spend more then it made!

The purpose of the talk we had this weekend was just a general discussion of how the season went/is going. We want to discuss things while we are still busy, while things are still fresh in our mind, and before we relax and forget issues we had earlier! We wanted to see if there are major changes we need to think about for next season. One thing we discussed was increasing our mid week flower sales and increasing our storage crop (potatoes, winter squash, onions, etc) production. In order for this to happen we need a new walk in cooler! As our Friday crew can attest, when we have buckets of flowers, freshly harvested market vegetables, and towers of onions and potatoes in the same cooler, we are constantly looking for an inch of free space! I spend too much time on Fridays reorganizing the cooler! So, it is becoming apparent that we need a separate flower cooler. Add “construct another cooler” to the winter work list! I imagine it will be like all improvements we make on the farm: “how did we do this before??”

Instead of leaving you with a picture of me and Ben talking about the farm, I’ll just include some shots from the week– cabbage looking real good, pumpkins harvested and starting their curing process, and some sort of contraption Ben had to rig up in the machine shed while performing regular tractor maintenance!

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Recipes
Kale and potato gratin (I used cheddar cheese because that is what I had on hand and whole milk. Also to increase amount of greens to equal 3 bunches of kale, use your turnip greens and add in final minutes of sauté OR the beet greens and add along with the kale)

Baked potato with beet salad ( our potatoes are on the small side so I would serve the beet salad over roasted potatoes)

Sweet and sour turnips

CSA Week 15

In this week’s box

Sweet corn
Acorn squash
Swiss chard
Radishes
Salad mix
Head lettuce
Garlic
Scallions
Beets
Purple potatoes
Bell peppers
Tomatoes
Arugula

Farm notes
With the appearance of winter squash and the disappearance of tomatoes in this week’s box, this week really signals a shift in seasons. While this current heat wave would seem to suggest differently, summer crops are on their way out while the number of fall crops ready to harvest increases every day. We’ve harvested the acorn squash already while the rest of the winter squash harvesting is just around the corner. Unlike some winter squash, acorn squash doesn’t need to cure to develop its sweetness. Once the butternut squashes are harvested, they will sit in our barn for a couple weeks to cure. During this time, the starches will turn to sugars, making a sweeter squash. This is also what happens to sweet potatoes, which won’t be in your boxes until the final weeks of the CSA. The potato harvest is nearly complete with just a few more beds yet to harvest. Pumpkins are turning from green to orange. Pretty soon our barn is going to be full of these storage crops! Also in the category of fall crops are some of the cooler weather loving crops we had earlier in the season. Back are the nice large heads of lettuce, arugula, kohlrabi and radishes. The brassicas that take a little longer to mature (broccoli, cabbage and the like) are looking really good despite this hot and dry weather.

Being part of a CSA is not just giving you a direct connection to the people who grow your food, it is also giving you the culinary experience of eating seasonally. We hope you are enjoying this way of eating and preparing food! While there is heat advisory out today and most likely tomorrow as well, cooler weather is on its way. With a high of 67 and a low of 42, this Friday is looking like a good day to turn the oven on and cook up this week’s acorn squash!

Recipes
Roasted corn pudding stuffed winter squash (use both squash, not the recommended 1 squash)
Swiss chard and potatoes
Fall beet salad

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CSA week 14

In this week’s box

Edamame beans
Kohlrabi
Head lettuce
Salad mix
Summer squash and zucchini
Radishes
Broccoli raab
Scallions
Tomatoes
Sweet corn
Basil
Eggplant (not grown by us)

Fruit Share: Asian pears, European plums and magnolia gold apples all from Downing Fruit Farm

Vegetable notes:
Our eggplant crop is not producing well this year but we were able to get some from our friend and fellow grower Michael Malone of Hungry Toad Farm for this week’s box. Please note that the eggplant is not certified organic, but Michael does grow through organic methods. Some eggplant are traditional globe eggplant while others are long slender Japanese eggplant.

Watch out for corn ear worms in this week’s crop. It is best to shuck the corn now, get rid of the worms and then store the corn in plastic in the fridge until you are ready to use it.

PLEASE JOIN US!!
We have set the date for our CSA member potluck! On Sunday September 22 from 5 to 8 we will open up the farm to our CSA members for a potluck. Please join us as we celebrate the season with wonderful food and great conversation. We will also give tours of the farm during the event. We will provide tableware, apple cider and vegetable chili and ask our members to bring a covered dish to share. We hope that you and your family (friends are invited too!) will be able to join us!

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Recipes
Roasted edamame and corn salad

Zucchini eggplant lasagna

Kohlrabi slaw

Broccoli Raab and sausage (one of our favorite combos! Add the kohlrabi greens to this recipe as well)

Week 10

Week 10

Tomatoes
Sungold cherry tomatoes
Celery
Leeks
Sweet onions
Salad mix
Cucumbers
Summer squash and/or zucchini
Potatoes
Basil
Fairy tale eggplant OR haricot verts OR tomatillos

Food notes
We recommend that you store all of these tomatoes you are getting on your kitchen counter. Refrigerating tomatoes compromises the flavor and they should still have a long shelf life if left out. All other vegetables should be stored in the fridge in plastic bags. They won’t last as long if left uncovered. Basil is a confusing one as sometimes it lasts awhile and other times it only lasts a day. We are not sure what exactly can be done to increase storage, so we just recommend you use this week’s basil soon. Our eggplant and tomatillo planting are not producing as vigorously as we had hoped so we will have to rotate what pick up sites they go to. This is also the case with okra, whose production is really low and has only been to one pick up site so far. We will try to get all these summer crops to you soon!

Farm notes
While we are in the thick of summer with bucket-loads of sunflowers harvested everyday and hundreds of pounds of tomatoes coming through the barn, these days we have fall on our minds. We have been busy taking down the pea fences, pulling out old drip tape, and mowing in finished crops. The birds are having a blast in the old fields. Mowed down sunflower heads that never got cut are now providing food a plenty. We have never noticed so many Goldfinches before. Next up for these finished beds is seeding a cover crop, which will build the soil by adding nutrients and preventing erosion.

Also on the agenda for this week is direct seeding several fall crops including arugula, turnips, cilantro, and radishes. We used to direct seed beets but, because of weed pressure, are trying something new this year. We started the seed in flats in the greenhouse, several seeds per cell, and then transplanted out a few weeks later. The first planting we did this way is almost ready. The greens look amazing and the beets are just starting to size up. We are so pleased with the way the first planning looks that we just transplanted out Swiss chard the same way this week. Eventhough we are in our seventh season farming, we are always learning new ways to do things and trying out different techniques. It keeps the job interesting! And keeps us striving to be the best we can be!

Best cucumber recipes (according to Food and Wine magazine)

Potato leek soup

Tomatillo guacamole

Char-baked tomato, eggplant and zucchini (can also use summer squash)

Spaghetti sauce

CSA Week 9

This week’s box

Potatoes
Dragon tongue beans
Sweet onions
Summer squash and zucchini
Tomatoes
Sungold cherry tomatoes and Juliette tomatoes
Basil
Garlic
Bell peppers
Hot peppers ( jalapeño and/or Hungarian hot wax)
Cucumbers

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Fruit Share
Peaches and blackberries from Downing Fruit Farm in New Madison

Farm Notes
Somehow we were able to plant those thousands of brassicas I spoke about last week. Because we had gotten 2 inches of rain over the weekend the fields were not dry enough until Friday. Of course Friday is typically our harvest day and bouquet making day for market. We tweaked the schedule a little and harvested some on Thursday, making it possible to have a planting crew on Friday. We are so glad we were able to squeeze the planting in, because, as you know, we got another 2 inches this past weekend! (right after we ran irrigation all night long to water the seedlings in!)

During a typical week not dictated by weather, Wednesday is our planting day. Since the fields were still too wet last Wednesday, we had to come up with another job for our crew. Of course there are no shortages of things to do, it’s just a matter of prioritizing. We decided to pull the onion crop. This was perfect timing as the fields were just moist enough to make the onions pull out very easily, but not too wet to have the onions come up coated in wet mud. We transferred the onions to tables and had them dry in the sun for a couple days.

20130730-165644.jpg And now the onions are living in the barn where they will finish drying, develop their skins, and then eventually make it into your boxes. We still have a few more weeks of sweet onions before you will get these storage onions.

Perhaps the most exciting thing about harvesting the onions was that Ben was then able to mow the field. Seriously. By this time, the field was just covered in weeds and being able to mow weeds in before they go to seed is an absolutely crucial step in organic farming. Speaking of organic farming, we had a surprise visit from an OEFFA employee. OEFFA is our certifying agent and they came to sample our fields and crops for pesticide residue. They have to test 5% of the farms they certify. So off to a lab our tomato field soil and fruits will go to be tested for 300 pesticides and herbicides! We had no idea this was something organic certifying agents have to do! We also had no idea there are 300 hundred kinds of pesticides/ herbicides! We hope you enjoy the bountiful, pesticide free, tomato harvest this week! Here are some tomato filled recipes to get you started.

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Roasted cherry tomatoes with fresh ricotta

Roasted tomato soup

Summer squash and white bean sauté

Potato and tomato frittata