CSA WEEK 4

This Week’s Harvest

Broccoli
Scallions
Spigarello
Bok Choi
Salad mix
Kohlrabi
Fennel
Golden Beets
Zucchini

Farm News

We continue to squeeze in as much as we can between significant rainfalls. Last week we had until Friday evening before we got an additional 3 inches of rain (no wind damage, power stayed on, so that’s great!). We did get the next round of summer squash in but not without excitement. We started planting first thing on Friday and got 3 beds in before the clouds rolled in and the threat of rain seemed imminent. We plant squash with a water wheel transplanter. A large metal wheel with spikes you can place at the appropriate spacing poke holes in plastic mulch. While it pokes holes, it also drops water in each hole from a 100 gallon tank that sits above it. 1 or 2 riders sit behind the wheel and plunge plants into the pre watered holes.

The waterwheel transplanter in action

As soon as it became clear we’d get some rain, the planters popped off the tractor. The tractor operator, Nate, just drove as fast as he could over the remaining 4 beds to get the holes made. Once the holes were made we knew we could easily plant by hand even after a storm. We broke for an early lunch while it thunderstormed and an hour later, and a fresh 1/2 inch of rain later, we finished planting. Got all 7 beds covered for pest protection as well!

We ditched riding on the waterwheel so that Nate could drive faster and poke holes in the remaining beds. We planted by hand 1/3 of a bed before the rain came pouring down. Fortunately we were able to get back out and plunge the rest of the plants in the ground.

We are grateful we don’t have to irrigate, but it’s getting close to being too late to plant some starts that are on deck–including the next round of tomatoes. And the weeds LOVE this weather and we don’t want areas of the farm to get out of control. But we got an awful lot done the last time the fields dried out so I don’t doubt we’ll be able to get back at it in a day or two!

Recipes

Beef and Bok Choy

Zucchini Noodle Bowls with Bok Choy

Roasted Broccoli and Fennel Soup

Roasted Beet and Fennel Sandwich

Coming Up Next Week (our best guess…..) Zucchini, Broccoli, Fennel, Parsley, Kohlrabi, Garlic, Salad Mix, Bok Choy and more!

CSA WEEK 3

THIS WEEK’S HARVEST

Farm News

Today we breathe a sigh of relief. We made it through the last 2 weeks with an “abnormally moist air mass” (technical term as disgusting as it sounds). We got 4 inches of rain, which is 2 more inches than what is helpful. The timing of the rain was such that it never dried up enough in between rains for us to do tasks like hilling the corn and potatoes or cultivating the carrots. We did slog through a few major projects we could do without the tractors- planting our melons and weeding and trellising our tomatoes. And last week I told you about our triumphant sweet potato planting and this weekend we had a repeat. We got an additional 5,000 sweet potato slips arrive in the mail on Wednesday and had to wait until Sunday to plant because of wet conditions.

We were able to plant these beds one day later by hand
Planting by hand. The wheel punches holes to plant into
took a peek 5 days later and the melons have so much growth to them already!
got the tomato posts up and first round of twine tied before another pop up rain storm hit.
another soggy harvest
Still able to enjoy the beauty after a brutal week!

While it was great to take care of the farm work we could last week, the best news is that this week’s forecast is crystal clear so we can hopefully get caught up on weeding and planting. We hope to plant celery, tomatillos, winter squash, the 2nd round of summer squash, 2nd round of tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant, 3rd round of sweet corn, and the 4th round of salad mix! Seems like quite a bit after I’ve typed it all out. I’ll keep you posted on how we do!

Last week’s sweet potatoes loved the rain and have really taken off. Looking forward to getting in there and cultivating to keep the weeds at bay this week!

Recipes

Coming Up Next Week (our best guess….) Golden Beets, Broccoli, Fennel, Parsley, Scallions, Bok Choi, Zucchini, Arugula and more!

CSA Week 2

This Week’s Harvest

Farm News

A major accomplishment of the week was getting sweet potatoes planted. It involved working over the weekend and calling on the kids and Audrey to help but it got done! We weren’t sure of the sweet potatoes’ fate, as the slips arrived in the mail right about the time it finally stopped raining after 2 days straight. Fortunately the sun came out, the wind picked up and temperature increased to dry the fields in time to prep and plant before the next round of rain. We started the week with an inch of rain on Monday morning and a high percent chance of rain is in the forecast every single day this week. This news makes getting the sweet potatoes in the ground over the weekend all the more critical to our success…..but it does not allow me to relax, as the greenhouse is full of the plants on deck that need to planted this week. Not to mention it is absolutely time for us to manage the crops we do have planted–tomatoes need to be staked, corn needs to be fertilized, everything needs to be weeded. We just have to wait and see what this week brings and get in the fields whenever we can doing whatever we can!

The sweet potato slips arrive. Weirdest thing the delivery driver delivered that day!
Saturday night bed prep. The bed pan makes a nice finished bed that is wide enough for our 2 row transplanter set up
The kids set up the mega-net sprinkler system
Audrey came to help plant on a Sunday. This was a treat because Audrey is working closer to home, at Peach Mountain Organics in Spring Valley, this year.
Cool nest from what I think is a horned lark
8 beds of sweet potatoes. 8,000 slips in the ground

Recipes

Israeli Cous Cous with Snap Peas and Dill

Roasted Radishes and Carrots in a Lemon Dill Sauce

Garlicky Spinach and Kale Omletes (I would use at least 4 eggs)

Coming Up Next Week (our best guess…….) Kale, Head Lettuce, Snap Peas, Scallions, Beets, Zucchini, Salad Mix, and Bok Choi

CSA Week One

This Week’s Harvest

Potted Basil Plant

Carrots

Rutabaga OR Kale ย 

Garlic Scapes

Dill

Radishes

Spinach

Salad Mix

Arugula

Farm News

Welcome to either another CSA season or your first CSA season with Mile Creek Farm! 2021 is our 14th year operating a CSA. We’ve grown from 30 members to over 300 members! A handful of you are original members from our first year! It has been a learning curve and we’ve improved so much so we are super grateful we still have folks from those beginning years! I just looked up our first newsletter and our very first box on June 10, 2008 had garlic scapes, salad mix, head lettuce, buckheat sprouts and baby broccoli (this just means the broccoli we planted never made big heads).

Our first garlic harvest

An especially fun and exciting thing is that 2 of our original CSA families now have members who work for us! You may have been helped by Emery, a junior at Oakwood High School, at market last year. She has literally grown up with our food and now helps out at 2nd Street Market! And Nate is starting his third season working for us, but his intro to Mile Creek was way back in ’08 when his dad joined the CSA our very first season.

Nate and Ben give our greenhouse new plastic before we filled it with plants

We are also excited to welcome our brand new members and hope that you enjoy our produce and this unique way of getting it! This blog is a part of the experience so we hope that it provides you with a connection to your food as well as a support for making the most of your box. We’ll always have the harvest list at the top– several of the vegetables listed will link you to additional info pages about the vegetable– and a few recipes at the bottom to help you get started! Enjoy this week’s bounty–the first of many!

Recipes

Garlic Scape Pesto (my suggestion is to serve this with roasted vegetables including carrots and rutabaga)

Lemon Dill Butter (our neighbor recently told me she makes and freezes dill butter and that sounded like a great way to taste summer in the winter. A little goes a long way with dill so you could make several rounds of this with your one bunch of dill!)

Arugula Dill Frittata

Coming Up Next Week (our best guess….) Kale, Sugar Snap Peas, Carrots, Head Lettuce, Spinach, Radishes, Salad Mix

Crop Check

cover crop of crimson clover and winter rye

I walked around the farm this morning to check on the spring crops. Nothing we have planted is tender so all the frosty mornings have not been a problem. Peppers, tomatoes, sweet corn, etc await in the greenhouse, snug and warm. We are in a wet period now but aren’t behind in planting (yet). The weeds, however, are really starting to pop, so we are anxious for the fields to dry so we can cultivate again.

Beets next to garlic and a winter rye cover crop
Spinach and lettuce
Cabbage patch
sugar snap peas
first of the potatoes are starting to pop

A couple weeks ago, we noticed the first generation of our fly pests. These would be the maggots that hatched in the ground this spring from overwintered eggs. There are so many fly pests- onion maggot, cabbage root maggot, seed corn maggot- and we’ve got them all. They feast on the roots and stems of their host plants, but Ben found some on beets so apparently they don’t discriminate. We’ve found that a good defense for these pests is to introduce nematodes, a beneficial organism that is parasitic to maggots and larval stages of other pests too. It kind of feels like magic as nematodes are invisible to the eye. They come in the mail in a powder that we dissolve in water and then spray over the fields. We ordered 50 million, or enough to sufficiently cover an acre. We targeted the onion and brassica (cabbage, kale, broccoli, etc) fields. Ben sprays in the evening so the nematodes have a chance to infiltrate the soil. Doing this before a rain is also a nice way to make sure that they don’t just dry out or blow away. It’s becoming a yearly springtime tradition!

As soon as it drys out we’ll cultivate the entire farm with our Tilmor cultivating tractor as well as hand hoe a few problematic thistle patches. We have another round of salad mix and head lettuce to plant as well as swiss chard. We’ll have to make beds and lay plastic for our tomato and pepper plants and summer squash too!

Thistle interfering with our onion beds

Until then, I’ve been using the wet fields and cold weather as an excuse to do important, but often neglected office work. We need to ready ourselves for the CSA, the start of which is quickly approaching. Ben has been busy fixing our vehicles and making sure everything is in working order. Our crew has been busy seeding and helping with the plant sale. By the way- if you are in need of plants, we still have plenty! We’ll be going to 2nd Street Market on Saturday with our remaining inventory. CSA members still get 10% off!

I am pretty tired of my winter diet and can’t wait to start eating our fresh veggies! I also can’t wait to get them into our customers’ hands. Soon!

Spring on the Farm

Spring comes every year at the same time but is still always such a surprise! The switch from our low key winter pace to the hustle of jam-packed days is swift but definitely welcome! We have been prepping beds for planting in the near term, including our onion, potato, and brassica (cabbage, kale, broccoli, etc) fields. We have been discing down fields that will planted a little later such as our sweet potato, tomato and sweet corn fields.

I harvested a handful of crops that overwintered for ourselves and the crew before the tractor disced them under. These winter survivors are never enough to harvest for profit but they are are a real treat for us!
These beds were pre-hilled in the fall so all we have to do in the spring is a shallow till and they are ready to plant.
Loading up the transplanter with flats of spinach
Red and Golden beets soaking up the sun

We have been treated with such a dry end of March and early April that we have done an entire wish list of field prep tractor work in addition to the bed prep. Ben took out the subsoiler one afternoon and ran it down particularly troublesome fields. This deep penetration of the soil helps to aerate the fields and is a great way to deal with our heavy soils.

Ben ran down this field with a subsoiler. It is currently in a cover crop of winter rye which will be disced under and reincorporated. If we all goes as planned a quick summer cover crop of buckwheat will hold the field over until late summer when we will plant it to fall brassicas (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, etc)

In addition to field work we have also been seeding in the greenhouse, potting up for our plant sale, and tending to our hoop house full of sugar snap peas. We hope that the second half of April brings as much success as the first half. From here on out we are wanting to plant at least once a week and continue to seed more and more! In addition to what’s been on our plate the last few weeks, we will now have more plants to keep weed free and watered (if the sky doesn’t do it for us). I will also start having to plan for the CSA in earnest getting everyones schedules set and mapping out our delivery routes. And finally we have a plant sale to get ready for!

Garlic after several weeding passes and a gentle rain shower
Half of these plants are now outside hardening off before planting later in the week
Sugar snap peas should be in the first couple CSA boxes

If you are wanting any organic garden starts this spring, keep Mother’s Day weekend open. We will have vegetables, flowers and herb plants available. I will post/send details about the sale later but the basics are that we will have the online store available again this year for preordering with pick up either at 2nd Street Market on Saturday or at the farm on Sunday. Additionally, day of sales will be possible at 2nd Street Market. The sale will run for 2 weekends this way starting May 8th.

Creeping Thyme for the plant sale

All in all, the farm is humming along and after a refreshing winter break we are ready to roll! Can’t wait to get food into your hands!

Hurray for spring!

Parsley

Fresh parsley is a wonderful herb that can really elevate a dish. It does look similar to cilantro but the taste is quite different. It is mainly used in Italian dishes, but is not limited to it. It can be served fresh or cooked. A favorite way we use it is to add to grain salads. We’ll roast some vegetables (like beets and carrots), cook a grain (like rice or cous cous), and add chopped garlic, parsley, maybe a squeeze or 2 of fresh lemon and a strong cheese (like feta or goat). Simple and delicious! Parsley can last weeks in the fridge! You’ll want to keep it a plastic bag and wash only what you use. You can also dry fresh parsley by spreading out the bunch and placing in a paper bag stored in a dark dry area like a pantry.

Gremolata

Parsley Biscuits

Meatballs with Parsley and Parmesan

Roasted Potatoes with Parsley Pesto

Cabbage

Cabbage is a great vegetable! It is relatively easy to grow (always more reliable then its fellow family members broccoli and cauliflower) and quite versatile in the kitchen. It can be enjoyed raw by shredding for coleslaw or as a taco topper. When cooked, it can be roasted, boiled, fried- you name it! We especially like it with carrots and potatoes. If stored properly it will last for months. It should be stored in your fridge and wrapped in plastic. If you just leave it out, the moisture will wick away and the crisp leaves will wilt.

Cabbage Rolls

Corned Beef and Cabbage

Easy Taco Slaw

CSA Extended Season Week 3

This Week’s Harvest

Evan helps bring in our storage cabbage on a cold fall day

Farm News

With this final delivery under our belt we can officially make the shift to winter mode on the farm. This is time spent maintaining all the vehicles, tractors and equipment from a season of wear and tear. It’s catching up on office work such as inputting all of our paper copies of harvests in a database so we can easily see and analyze yields and completing farm finances. We’ll have a few planning sessions were we will go over what worked and didn’t for 2020 and what we’d like the 2021 season to look like. We’ll “go” to conferences (this year all conferences will be online), make our budget, launch our 2021 CSA, hire for 2021, and wash and pack a few more large wholesale orders of winter roots. We will also allow ourselves to take a break, sleep in, read a book, play games with the kids, and address much neglected house projects.

From the farmer’s perspective 2020 was a good year. While there was a point in the season that our riding lawn mower, John Deere tractor, and delivery van were all broken at once, we didn’t have any out of the ordinary malfunctions (last year, for example, the irrigation well went out). We did have disappointing crop yields and new disease problems show up in the sweet potato, potato, and rutabaga crops, but we planted enough to have all three of these crops available for CSA, 2nd Street Market, and wholesale outlets. From a purely numbers perspective, 2020 was just fine.

Ben cultivates the fall beets with our new tractor. Both the beet planting and the tractor were major successes this season!

However, we all know that 2020 was anything but fine! We are still in the midst of a pandemic that has been with us the entire season. While we busied ourselves planting, harvesting, weeding, and washing, too many Americans were out of work. On top of the pandemic, social unrest swept across the nation this summer, causing the country to confront its racist past; a past which inevitably infiltrates aspects of current life. For example, past government policies certainly play a role in present farming demographics, which include dwindling numbers of African American farmers and historic low levels of black land ownership. Just last year I learned things I was shocked I hadn’t known before, such as a 1997 lawsuit against the USDA for discriminating against black farmers in loan applications and other assistance programs. I wrote about a few articles I read on the subject in this blog post from 2019.

For me winter is a time to reflect on the season, brainstorm and take necessary steps to improve. Thirteen years in, I am realizing that I can grow as a farmer not just by learning about soil health and plant disease management, but also by thinking critically about land ownership and land use. I don’t pretend to have any answers but just being a mindful citizen is important. I enjoy organic farming and its relevance to so many facets of life! Turns out, our direct to consumer small farm model is a good way to get food to people during a pandemic as well. Thanks for supporting our farm this season!

View of the farm from the fall field of greens

Recipes

Wonderful World of Winter Roots!

A few years back, while I was cleaning out the hoophouse and listening to the radio, I got really annoyed at a food writer’s take on seasonal eating. She spent the entire time complaining about winter vegetables. She was feeling the pressure to eat seasonally and was frankly making accuses not to. I distinctly remember her calling winter vegetables sad and boring. I don’t mean to box people into one way of eating, I just thought the food critic’s piece, which felt mostly like an exercise to make herself feel better, didn’t need to be out in the world. If anything we should be encouraging people to eat vegetables period- and winter vegetables, several of which are unknown to many households, should be celebrated! Plus they are very versatile! They can be mashed, roasted, pureed, fried, hidden in baked goods, or even enjoyed raw in grated salads and slaws. Come March I will be craving garden fresh tomatoes as much as anyone, but until then there is lots of time to enjoy winter roots!

A spread of winter vegetables grown on the farm

A month ago, 2nd Street Market staff asked me to teach a class on root vegetables for them to video tape. I brought in vegetables that are in season in Ohio right now, discussed simple ways to cook them and store them, and brought in 2 favorite recipes. The video is up on YouTube now! If you know everything there is to know about root veggies you can skip ahead to minute 8 for the recipes- a cheesy carrot casserole and a kohlrabi and radish salad with cilantro and ginger!

If you are wondering how to get your hands on these winter vegetables, we are having a sale this Saturday! Orders must be placed ahead of time from the webstore and picked up at the farm (10786 Mile Rd. New Lebanon 45345) on Saturday. We are taking orders until Thursday evening at 8. Visit the store here. This winter, I hope you create a dish or two that you love and discover a vegetable or two that you didn’t know you liked!