Year in Review

**   PRESENTING OUR 2019 CSA SHARES   **

 

Well, technically, presenting just 18 of our 28 deliveries. Oops, I missed photographing 10 whole weeks of deliveries! That tells me we were very busy last season. Seeding weekly from mid-February through July, planting weekly from mid-April though August, harvesting almost daily from late May through November, delivering four days a week June through November, and staffing 35 weeks of farmer’s market can do that to you! Oh, and did I mention daily washing, packing, weeding, fixing and communicating? So, no hammock time  but that’s ok!

Our goal is to grow the most delicious and nutritious food we can for our customers, and to grow our customer base so the farm can provide a viable income for both Ben and me and provide our staff a good wage. We also hope that there’s money left to invest in the farm and to purchase equipment to improve our efficiency,  which in turn leads to better quality of life – whether more reasonable hours for us or wage increases for our employees. Thanks to an experienced, caring and hard-working crew we’ve been able to grow the most flavorful and wholesome food we can. And thanks to increases in both CSA membership and wholesale sales over the past three years, we’ve been able to reinvest in the farm.

The 2019 season brought planned improvements to our packing facility. We concreted the entire floor of the packing barn, installed lighting, bought a rinse conveyer for washing efficiency and added a 60-foot insulated shipping container for more vegetable storage space.

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After many improvements in 2019, our pack barn really came together. Here we are washing sweet potatoes for a wholesale account.

 

The 2019 season also brought unexpected expenses. For 10 years, our 1950 Allis Chalmers G cultivating tractor was reliable to complete all of the cultivating work. This year, though, we seemed to push it a bit too hard. Our expanded production area, together with the naturally heavy soil, meant we ran G in a higher gear then we think it maybe likes. In short, it expired.  Being without a cultivating tractor during peak cultivating season meant we had no time to spare to get another cultivating tractor. Ultimately, we ended up going through two more G engines, which would require a whole other blog post to explain. Fortunately we had enough in the business bank account to meet these unexpected expenses, and now we know we need to look for a cultivating tractor upgrade for 2020! Also fortunately, there are lots of options for cultivating tractors with larger engines and more capabilities. Ben has been surfing the tractor classifieds and has a few tractors in mind that he will check out next week.

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We think we have out grown our G. We will probably keep it to complete more specialized tasks but we need a main cultivating tractor with more power

 

We’re enthusiastic about building on our 2019 improvements both in terms of equipment upgrades and production knowledge. In 2020 we hope to continue to serve our market customers incomparably delicious veggies, grow our 260-member CSA a little bit, and refine our wholesale accounts in a way that allows us to maximize efficiency. I’d also like to grow some quality of life improvements in 2020: being more present with the kids, more on top of laundry, maybe a little less stressed. I think it can happen! And if I manage to take a picture of EVERY SINGLE CSA share this coming season, you’ll be the first to know. By the way, 2020 CSA info found here and online sign up happens here! Very excited to bring the 2020 season on!

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Salad greens on a crisp fall morning

 

Happy Valentine’s Day

What better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than to go down memory lane and revisit the life you’ve steadily been building with your partner? From our days as newlyweds at a Hawaii goat dairy farm to the start of Mile Creek Farm to bringing kids into the fold, enjoy these pictures of the last 13 years!

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Ben on the goat dairy
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Emily on the goat dairy
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Mile Creek Farm purchased! This combine was sold at an auction and ended up in a Demolition Derby. Good- bye conventional grain, hello organic produce
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Our first market
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Farmer’s Ben and Emily
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Hanging diapers, must have welcomed a kid
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Halloween market with kid #1
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Riding along always a hit
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not impressed with the crop walk
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white barn, one greenhouse, expanding beyond 2 acres and starting to build the farm
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helping with the garlic planting
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helping with the turnip harvest
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Kid #2!
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Gathering potatoes
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Washing squash
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Daikon toys!
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Our first OEFFA Presentation on Scaling Up
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Spring on the farm
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in the kale
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on the tractor
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Working on a major irrigation project on our anniversary
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Exploring larger fall root harvests
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the back 40
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growing more, growing better
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More fall roots
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Trying to keep the fields clean
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Brassica magic
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Trying to be cover crop pros. Red barn, more hoophouses
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Kids getting older
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Even learning to drive the tractors!

 

I’m really looking forward to the next 13 years and excited to experience all that they have in store for Mile Creek Farm and my family! Happy Valentine’s Day!

CSA Extended Season – Week 4

This Week’s Harvest60DF9A1E-B306-4A65-B70A-4CFF2B24D837

Sweet Potatoes

Nicola Potatoes

Red and Golden Beets

Red and Yellow Onions

Garlic

Rainbow Carrots

Rutabaga

Daikon Radish

Beauty Heart Radish

Red Cabbage

Green Cabbage

Farm News

While this delivery concludes our 2019 CSA season, it does not mean we are out of vegetables! We will be setting up a winter market table at 2nd Street Market every other Saturday throughout January and February! So, mark you calendars because we will be at market on 1/4, 1/18, 2/1 and 2/15. We still have ample supply of everything (minus the garlic) in this week’s box, plus butternut squash, turnips, and purple daikon. We are so grateful that our CSA and market customers have fully welcomed “seasonal eating” into their diets and find value in a box of vegetables that is heavy on storage roots!

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On the other hand the coop through which we sell some of our produce was recently told by a grocery store that their local food program had come to an end for the year and they would not be purchasing from us again until next summer!?! Interesting, considering we still have thousands of pounds of food grown right here on our local farm! This is really just a minor inconvenience because there are many other outlets for our produce that understand the seasonality of local food.  And, while we do run into some hiccups like this when growing and marketing produce through our coop, the upside to growing larger quantities of food are many.

In fact we have found that increasing our production has allowed us better serve our market and CSA customers. Since we’ve been growing and selling more produce through our coop the last three years we also think our market stand and CSA have been stronger in regards to quality, quantity and variety! Really when you get right down to it, we are so grateful to ALL of our customers for supporting us through yet another year! Our CSA and market customers have been and continue to be there for us throughout the entire season, while we’ve also been given an opportunity to grow the farm through our involvement with Great River Organics (our coop). All of this to say, that as we look back on the year we want to thank everyone who has supported our farm and let you all know that we are very much looking forward to charging ahead and growing lots more produce in 2020!

We hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season and we hope to serve you soon in the New Year!

Recipes

Rutabaga and Potato Gratin

Sweet Potato Pie

Maple Roasted Beets and Carrots

Sweet And Sour Red Cabbage

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Extended CSA Season Week 3

CD0773BF-E719-4279-A657-215283AC9D8EThis Week’s Harvest

Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes

Spinach

Onions

Beauty Heart Radish

Purple Top Turnips

Rainbow Carrots

Butternut Squash

Cabbage

Kohlrabi

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Farm News

When I walk around the farm these days, the scene that greets me is field upon field covered in a blanket of cover crop. I love seeing the all green against the gray winter sky and feel proud that our fields have been put to rest for the winter in a way that will build the soil, hold moisture, prevent erosion, and increase organic matter. I’ve mentioned covering cropping several times before as it one of the main farming practices we implement in our organic system, but what I have new to report is that more and more farms are covering off season fields in cover crop!

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winter-kill oats interplanted with clover
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close-up winter-kill oats interplanted with clover and fetch

According to the NCR-SARE (Program, cover crop acreage increased 49.7% between 2012 and 2017.  While the total crop land in cover crop is still only at 4%, state initiatives are proving to be effective means to encourage farmers to cover crop. Take Maryland, for example, where the crop land now in cover crop is a whopping 43%! This is because of a decades long effort to improve the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay and watershed which ultimately led to “a mandate to manage nutrient runoff on farms with money to compensate farmers for adopting certain practices such as growing cover crops — a practice that dramatically cuts down on nutrient runoff into the Chesapeake Bay.” More about the national movement towards adopting “climate-smart” agriculture practices can be found in an article published this week in Politico and linked  here. Coming off the heels of yet another impactful weather year (20 million acres of crop land did not get planted due to excessive rain) it is good news that everyone, including bigger players like the American Farm Bureau Federation, seem to be on the same page about climate change and solutions.

If this topic is of interest to you, climate change happens to be the theme of  OEFFA’s Annual Sustainable Farming Conference coming up here in Dayton in February! Special early bird pricing for the event ends Dec. 12 by the way!

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Recipes

Kohlrabi Carrot Fritters

Butternut and Chickpea Stew

Grilled Cheese with Shredded Veggies

Sweet Potato Scones

Turnip and Carrot Soup

Extended Season Week 2

This Week’s Harvest86E14676-3B41-4B61-940F-3305EB5737CC

Rutabaga

Potatoes

Butternut Squash

Pie Pumpkin

Onions

Sweet Potatoes

Carrots

Kale

Brussels Sprouts

Fennel

Farm News

We really enjoy providing food for families for their Thanksgiving table! We’ve not always been able to do so. Understandably, the few first years of our farm featured shorter seasons while we were still learning how to farm on our own.  The CSA started as an 18 week season and we stopped going to market around October. Since 2011 we’ve been going to market at least up to the Saturday before Thanksgiving. And since 2016 we’ve been able to offer the extended fall season on top of a 24 week regular season. This year we’ve grown the most food yet! We are so very thankful for our family, community, employees and customers to be able to continue to grow our business and nourish more people than ever! We hope you have a restful and reflective Thanksgiving holiday full of delicious food! Your farmers will!

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Washing sweet potatoes for CSA, market and our co-op
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We increased our fall carrot crop this year and fortunately they grew beautifully
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Half of our butternut squash harvest before being moved into the storage barn
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Rutabaga for Thanksgiving and beyond!

 

Recipes

Apple Fennel Stuffing

Slow-Cooker Glazed Root Vegetables (use any root veggie combo you’d like)

Scalloped Potato and Kale Casserole

Rutabaga Pie

 

 

 

 

 

 

Extended Season Week 1

This Week’s HarvestB7CFACA9-F4DD-42A4-BBE9-8A6CF7F69BF3

Cilantro

Parsley

Spinach

Potatoes

Carrots

Brussels Sprouts

Kale

Red and Yellow Onions

Garlic

Hakurei Salad Turnips

Braising Greens

Farm News

Winter came early this year! Fortunately we got all our storage crops out before the cold. This year we barely managed to get things harvested in the knick of time. We finished our sweet potatoes before the first night under 40 degrees, we pulled all the carrots before rain settled in and with it muddy conditions that would have hindered an efficient harvest, we picked the exposed crops like cabbage before 20 degree nights, and this Monday we wrapped it all up finishing with rutabaga and turnip harvest.  Currently all three coolers are pretty full of vegetables!

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harvesting carrots with the under-cutter which rides under the carrot and lifts them up for easy pulling
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gorgeous!

We did have some crop loss. In a different, milder fall we could have arugula, kale, Brussels sprouts, chard, spinach, and even lettuce up to Thanksgiving.  And even cold hardy brassicas like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower could still be growing in the field. Our entire final planting of broccoli died with the cold temperatures before we got to cut a single stalk. Jury is still out on Brussel Sprouts, spinach and Kale but I’m not holding my breath.  Last year we also got hit with nights in the teens early on. I’m hoping next year we get spared unseasonable cold weather! But I’m also grateful for all the storage crops we do have and all the help we had to bring them in. It was a successful fall harvest season! And staying inside all day this past Tuesday was certainly a welcome break from the nonstop hustle of the year!

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thousands of pounds of various root vegetables made their way from the field to the cooler
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Harvesting purple top turnips in the sun
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Bulk bin rutabaga harvest

 

Recipes

Chimichurri (make this! we tossed it with roasted veggies and couscous and also put dollops on pizza)

Sausage, Kale and Potato Soup

Carrot and Turnip Hash with fresh herbs and fried eggs

shaved-brussels-sprouts-spinach-pecan-salad-with-bourbon-balsamic-dressing

 

 

CSA Week 24

236E31CF-F416-4FA9-A966-D2E6D0B070C8This Week’s Harvest

Sweet Potatoes

Butternut Squash

Cilantro

Swiss Chard

Head Lettuce

Carrots

Golden Beets

Red Onions

Beauty Heart Radishes

Rutabaga

Spinach

Brussels Sprouts

Apple Share

Fuji and Gold Rush

Farm News

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Phew, we can put another CSA season in books! We continue to learn and grow (in multiple ways– veggies, the business, our pool of knowledge!) making the CSA a great way for folks to get their veggies. This year we were able to invest in the farm with several pack shed upgrades. A new cooler housed all of summer squash in the summer and is now nearly at capacity with potatoes, carrots, beets, cabbage, and onions. The rinse conveyer has sped up the washing process and saved us hundreds of hours (which, by the way, somehow get filled elsewhere on the farm) Even the simple fact of adding lights to the barn (which was still complicated enough that it took over 10 years to install!) has been an enormous improvement to the space and process.

We continue to struggle with equipment, which isn’t all that surprising when you are dealing with old equipment. Here are just a few of the things that broke this season: the well pump, the harvest truck’s brake lines, the undercutter while in the middle of a onion bed, the market truck’s catalytic converter AND fuel pump, one G’s transmission and another G’s clutch, the key switch on the Farmall, and the water pump on the John Deere. Don’t think that covers it all but you get the picture!

At this point equipment malfunctions come with the territory, just like variable weather. We have come to realize that there are unknowns to every season and we are often at the mercy of things out of our control. So we focus on the things we can control–crop planning, soil health, irrigation, cultivation. We and the crew work hard at these things! Despite the hiccups, the hard work pays off. For me this year’s highlight was the sweet corn! After a rough start with birds coming in and feasting on the tips of the 1st planting, the 2nd and 3rd plantings were perfect! I also liked all the new pepper varieties we tried. Remember the scallions from the start of the season? Those were the prettiest we’ve ever grown!

We hope you, too,  have enjoyed the literal fruits of our labor! Thank you for your season long support!619EB045-97F0-463C-80A4-F12500EA5458

Recipes

Black Bean Chili with Butternut Squash and Swiss chard

Roasted Sweet Potato and Picked Beet Sandwich

Ginger Curry with Rutabaga and Brussels Sprouts

Coming up 1st week of extended season (our best guess)……Carrots, Purple Potatoes, Kale, Onions, Red Cabbage, Braising Greens, Brussels sprouts, Gold Ball Turnips, Spinach, Parsley