Emily’s siblings are all teachers with summers off who realize we are tied to the farm during the season. Therefore we get family visitors often in the summer. It’s not always that they overlap, but we welcomed all 3 of Emily’s sisters this week! We had a total of 9 cousins hanging out and enjoying Dayton. Emily even got to step away from the farm for a day! We have to play a little catch up now but it was worth it!
We can’t manage 30 acres, run a 225 member CSA, go to Farmer’s Market and sell wholesale through Great Rivers Organics by ourselves. No way! We need a crew to help and this year the farm is in great hands. We have partnered with The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) to host interns on the farm who are participating in a Begin Farming Program. OEFFA is doing great work to encourage and support young people (or older folks who are looking for a career change) enter the field of farming and the Begin Farming Program is one of several ways they address this work. 3 (soon to be 4) people are working on our farm this season through the program and will also participate in several webinars, farm tours, and field days with other interns across the state in hopes of addressing their learning goals for possibly starting their own farms or working in a farm management position. Edible Ohio Valley just came out with their summer issue and OEFFA’s work is featured with contributions from Ben and a great picture of our crew planting potatoes!! A fun connection in our farm journey from apprentice to teacher is that the farmer we interned with in Illinois helps direct a similar program in the upper midwest and OEFFA has used her expertise in creating Begin Farming. We are lucky we apprenticed on the farms we did to give a solid foundation on which to grow. We hope the apprentices at Mile Creek this year have a similar experience!
It was an exciting week on the farm as planting our sweet potato crop went far from seamlessly. We order organic slips from a sweet potato farm down South who has supplied us the past few years. We are given their ship date, we cross our fingers it doesn’t rain and when they come we need to be ready to plant.
First the packages of live plants got lost in the mail! We ordered 5 packages and they dribbled onto the farm one by one. (The final package never did make it!) It rained a little in the morning on planting day but by 2 o’clock the ground was dry enough and no storms were on the radar. We made plans with the crew to stay late to get the potatoes in the ground, loaded up all the slips on the truck and headed out to the furthest spot on the farm where the sweet potato beds are. The crew had finished planting one bed when out of nowhere a huge storm formed right above us. It wasn’t even on the radar. And it just didn’t stop. It felt like an eternity for the crew who sought shelter in the truck and for me back at the wash barn not knowing what state the planting was in. It was indeed very stressful to have our afternoon plans of planting 4,000 sweet potato slips thwarted by a surprise inch of rain. And now we had thousands of soaking wet slips to deal with. At least the bed we planted got watered in!
Once the kids were in bed we worked until 1:00am giving the slips a place to hang out until we could plant them. If we just left them wet in their crates they would rot. We placed handfuls of the slips into deep pots with potting mix as a holding station. The little slips actually began to root so we when we planted they had some life to them.
The rain help off all weekend and by Monday afternoon we could get back out to the field and finished planting the final 5 rows! It feels great to cross that off the list…now on to the next thing!
We’ve been farming this plot of land in Montgomery County for 11 seasons and this is our 10th CSA season! In that time, we’ve slowly grown the farm from a 2 acre 30 member CSA to what is is today- a 200+ household CSA on 32 acres (12 of which are in vegetable production, the remainder in resting) Some of you have been with us from the very beginning! (A dedication I am particularly impressed with as those beginning years were full of newbie mistakes….) Thank you! And some of you are joining us for the first time. Thank you for trusting us to provide you and your loved ones with healthy delicious vegetables!
our very first lean-to greenhouse
the greenhouse this spring
Guide to the Blog
We hope you use this resource as you go through your week’s produce. As a CSA member, you will receive lots of different vegetables, some very common and some not so common. It is our hope that you come to love everything we grow! One of this newsletter’s purposes is to help with just that, by providing vegetable notes and recipes. In the harvest list above any highlighted vegetable is linked to another page specific to that vegetable. For example, you can click on “dill” and you’ll be taken to a page that explains what they are and provides ways to prepare this herb. Additionally, each week at the end of the blog there will be links to recipes. I try to find recipes that use 2 or more items from the box. If you haven’t done so already, you can click “follow this blog” on the right and every time I make a new post you it will be sent in newsletter form to your e-mail.
A Note on Keeping Vegetables Fresh
We take great pride in our vegetables being really fresh and long lasting. Most vegetables want to be wrapped in plastic to stay crisp all week long and beyond. You can use grocery bags or ziplock bags, just don’t throw vegetables in the fridge loose or they will lose moisture and wilt quickly. There are a lot of produce saving bags and containers that you can try. I’ve heard good things about Debbie Meyer Green Bags. There are also eco friendly alternatives. We’ve just stuck with zip lock bags and wash and reuse them. If your vegetables are a little wilty by they time they make it to your kitchen, you can refresh them by putting them in a bowl of ice water for a few minutes. That should crisp them back up…but we don’t anticipate this step being necessary.
What a cold wet spring we are having thus far! The red buds aren’t showing color yet and the trees very much look like they are still in winter mode. But the greenhouse is full of plants, just like every spring, so the show must go on! We had a chance to do our first round of planting last week. We planted 25,000 onions of all kinds- cipollini, sweet, yellow, red and shallots! It’s becoming a favorite crop of ours to grow and we excited to try some new varieties this year!
That took all day Thursday. The fields were still fairly wet and in an effort to not work soil when it is too wet we held off making our beds till the last minute. We made beds and planted the same day. Then we did the same thing on Friday in a different field and planted out our first round of spinach, lettuce, beets and sugar snap peas. We even had time to begin training one of our returning crew members, Audrey, to operate the tractor and she drove for the final 3 beds of the day.
All in all we planted 24 beds and over three trailers worth of flats. These vegetables will make up some of the first CSA boxes! We were glad to have mother nature take care of the watering and welcomed this weekend’s rain. However, we do need the ground to dry out again for the next round of planting! Potatoes, herbs and salad mix are next with a whole lot of brassicas on deck!
Aren’t sure a CSA is right for you? We understand that the CSA model is unique. While we love this model of distributing our delicious food, we know it isn’t for everyone. Here are some thoughts on what you should consider when thinking about joining a CSA.
You should truly enjoy eating vegetables. From canned spinach to tasteless sweet potatoes, I feel like the global food industry has created several generations of vegetable skeptics. Tomatoes picked green just don’t have the same flavor and texture has ones picked red (tomatoes picked at the breaker stage -just barely starting to show color- can be sold as “vine-ripened”). Carrots that have never experienced a frost are never going to reach their full flavor potential. Have you tried our fall carrots?? Sweetest. Carrots. Ever. We have CSA customers telling us they can no longer purchase certain vegetables at the grocery store. Even though our vegetables are super tasty and therefore easier to enjoy, you will get a lot of them as a CSA member, so you have to have that preliminary interest in them.
You also have to be willing to try new vegetables! The height of the season comes with summertime favorites of tomatoes and green beans and potatoes. But this summer season is bookended with lots of greens and more unfamiliar vegetables. The CSA will expose you to small pink turnips and large purple radishes. You’ll get mustard greens, fennel, and kohlrabi. All these vegetables will need to make their way from the fridge onto your plate, bringing me to my next point.
Since swiss chard is in the same family as spinach, we encourage people to use it in place of spinach.
Bok choi, or Asian cabbage, shows up in CSA boxes about 4 times each year. Twice in the beginning of the season and twice at the end of the season
Fennel is an uncommon vegetable that can have you getting creative in the kitchen
You have enjoy cooking–or at least be willing to put some effort into it. Boiling Brussels sprouts just isn’t going to create an amazing meal. But roasting them with a little balsamic vinegar and shaved parmesan will have you licking the plate. Getting creative in the kitchen should sound exciting and fun. A side of meat, a side of grain and a side of vegetables will work sometimes but more often then not, during the CSA season, the vegetables have to be the star of the show. Often you just need to tweak your cooking style to accommodate the increase in vegetables. For example if you are having tacos, just throw sautéed zuchinni, spinach or broccoli into the ground beef. It really doesn’t matter which veggies you throw in!
Before I started farming, I never heard of a lot of these vegetables either and I wasn’t very comfortable in the kitchen. (I still remember being educated on our first day of work by a 5 year old farm kid at the very first farm we interned on. She bounded out to the patch of lettuce we were weeding with a container of some very interesting looking lunch. She had to explain to me what her lunch was- pea shoot pesto served over quinoa.) It does take time for some to master CSA style cooking but you can get to the point where meals are original but take little thought and can be made quickly.
savory french toast bake with mascarpone cheese and chard
pizza with mustard greens and sausage
peanut sauce served over steamed kale
Pictured above are some of the creative ways we’ve served greens. We created a savory french toast bake with french toast topped with creamed Swiss chard. Mustard greens and sausage are a great combo for pizza or pasta. We love making a peanut sauce and serving it on a bed of steamed greens.
So you need to enjoy vegetables and cook at home frequently, but why not just get your vegetables from the supermarket? Being part of a CSA is a very deliberate choice. I asked our CSA members why they join year after year and most answers had to do with knowing their farmer and getting local produce. Members like that they are supporting the local economy and a small family farm. They find value in their produce coming from 12 miles away as opposed to over 2,000 miles away.
So this conscious choice to join a CSA comes with some sacrifice–the convenience of the grocery store, the lack of customer choice with veggie selection, the possibility of crop failures. CSA members tell me that their vegetable intake is definitely higher during the 24 week season, so members are also actively finding ways to eat more veggies (a challenge that is definitely appreciated by our returning members but a challenge nonetheless). For these reasons, we are all about supporting our CSA members so they make the most of their box. We provide recipes each week and have a member only Facebook group where members share recipes and kitchen tips with each other. I love seeing what customers come up with. We had one CSA member make fennel upside down cake with her fennel. Yum!
Organic production, local and seasonal food, and community wellness all hold special value for a successful CSA member. I love that the CSA model addresses the health of three things: the land, the local economy, and our bodies! Of course shopping our stand at 2nd Street Market would also support these matters. If after reading this post, CSA feels like a bad fit, we hope to see you at market! We appreciate all our customers! Comment below if CSA solves a problem for you or provides a value to you that I didn’t address!
It is not often that you get ground dry enough to work in March, but when you do, you jump at the opportunity. That was us this past week- all hands on deck as we worked ground, seeded hundreds of flats, and prepped hoophouses. Labor whose fruits will be born in June for the first month of CSA boxes and the 2nd Street Market stand. Speaking of which, we are still taking members for our 2018 CSA season (vegetable delivery program). If you haven’t yet, why not SIGN UP and join today?
We are particularly excited about the chance to subsoil. That is is a step you don’t need to do every year but it had been awhile since our fields had that done. With the wide window of dry weather it was a no brainer we’d do it this spring. In the summer when we get dry spells, we work like mad to get all we can done. When the first sign of rain enters the forecast it is a relief as we know we’ll soon get a break. Until that rain though, we are outside with our plants, ignoring the mounting jobs inside. Piles of dishes and dirty clothes mound up, kids get tucked in super late, and dinners are thrown together as an after thought. The last 2 weeks have felt just like this summer push! So we are actually pretty happy that the farm is currently wrapped in a blanket of snow. We don’t plant in the field until early April so the snow will not be a set back. We can relax- but just a touch. Of course there is lots of computer and shop work that has been neglected during our dry March miracle! Once the ground dries out again we will shape the beds and be ready to plant!