CSA Week 7

This Week’s HarvestIMG_6582

Carrots

Cucumber

Zucchini and/or Summer Squash

Sweet Onions

Garlic

Salad Mix

Tendersweet Cabbage

Celery

Basil 

Tomatillos

Jalapeño Peppers

Farm News

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Oh July, you are a shock every year, even though we’ve been doing this 12 years. Vegetable farming is a marathon that you have to sprint! There is so much that needs to be done and not enough hours in the day or days in the week to complete it all!

We currently have 7 acres of vegetables planted, 3 coolers full of produce, and a greenhouse that is quickly filling back up with seedlings for fall. Weed pressure is high, bug pressure is higher, and the crops don’t stop needing our attention wether it be picking, tomato staking, irrigating, or fertilizing.

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This weekend we just wanted to nap (Ben) or watch the World Cup (Emily), but winter is for resting and relaxing, maybe a day or two in the fall, but certainly not in July. We sat over our morning coffee and tried to prioritize the to do list and come up with a game plan. It’s very stressful knowing that you can’t get to everything. The fact that it had dried out quick a bit, coupled with the heat and no rain in the forecast, made irrigating the entire farm a necessity that felt very daunting. We started our Sunday with no prospects of rain–both weather sites we use had a 10% chance of rain. So it was decided Ben would have to spend time getting water set up on the squash during the day and sweet corn during the night.

Fast forward to early afternoon and we were nearly done with our squash harvest for the day.  It had cooled off considerably and the cloud cover that had been with us all harvest started to thicken. Even so, rain was not on our radar so our pick pace reminded the same–fast but not frantic. When we got to the final row, though, we realized that it was in fact going to rain. Ben ran to get the tractor that sits in the middle of the field and houses all our picked crates as I speed down the final bed harvesting like a maniac (nothing like the threat of rain to kick you into high gear). We got the field picked and crates loaded, but not before getting SOAKED. The release of pressure to irrigate the entire farm right away far outweighed any feeling of discomfort. We happily road in (did I mention the squash field is the farthest field from the barn?), so amazed that this surprise storm hit us and actually produced enough rain to take a couple days off irrigating. Not only that, it meant that half the things on our to do list we could no longer do, so our decision making was decided for us and the day’s tasks suddenly became much more manageable.

However, now it’s 1 day later and dry enough to do all the things! Fortunately it’s no longer the weekend and we have a hard working dedicated crew to help us have a productive week!

 

Recipes

Celery Tomatillo Chutney

Zucchini Noodles with Avocado Pesto

Cabbage Soup

Chicken and Zucchini Enchiladas with Tomatillo Salsa

Coming Up Next Week (Our Best Guess….) Fairytale Eggplant, Zucchini, Sweet Onions, Swiss Chard, Bell Peppers, Radishes, Salad Mix, Celery, Carrots

 

 

 

CSA WEEK 6

THIS WEEK’S HARVESTIMG_2285

Carrots

Golden Beets

Fennel

Dill

Green Leaf Lettuce

Kale

Basil

Scallions

Broccoli

Zucchini and/or summer squash

FARM NEWS

Garlic is out of the field and curing in the barn! We actually pulled it a couple weeks ago right on our preferred pull date of 6/20. We used to let it grow longer but we have a pest, the onion maggot, that shows up in July.  The conditions were not ideal–this was during the wet spell– but more rain was forecasted and it was dry enough to get the job done. At first we thought we were going to have to pull it all by hand– which would have been very tiring and slow. And we did in fact have to pull the first 30 feet of each bed by hand, but the rest of the field was just barely dry enough to drive the tractor and under cutter through.  A heavy duty bar attached to the tractor gets dropped into the bed and lifts the soil and every thing above it up. This is a great way to harvest root crops and garlic is no exception. We harvested a full wagon load and transferred the garlic to drying racks in our barn. I just checked on the drying process and everything looks great! No rot and no maggots! You’ll enjoy your first of many bulbs next week! Until then enjoy another allium– scallions– which are making their final box appearance this week.

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Not the best stand of garlic, but the ones that made it are nice!
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Testing to see if it was dry enough to use the undercutter
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Success!
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old Killdeer nest amongst the garlic planting
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In and out of the rain!
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Garlic and Onion drying tables
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Looking good!

 

RECIPES

Maple roasted carrots with carrot top chimichurri

Caramelized fennel and kale pesto pizza

Salmon with dill butter and fennel

Skillet eggs with Kale and Leeks (use scallions in place of leeks)

Coming Up Next Week (our best guess……) Carrots, Cucumbers, Sweet Onions, Celery, Garlic, Green Bell Peppers, Zucchini, Salad Mix, Broccoli, Fennel

 

 

CSA Week 5

This Week’s HarvestIMG_6386

Escarole

Head Lettuce

Swiss Chard

Salad Mix

Scallions

Garlic Scapes

Kohlrabi

Cilantro

Broccoli

Cabbage

Zucchini and/or summer squash

Farm News

Happy Summer! Let’s hope summer is a bit drier and calmer than spring was! The wet weather is wreaking havoc on Ohio farms.

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According to the USDA, by June 9 only 50% of Ohio’s corn crop and 32% of its soybean crop were planted. And I imagine a significant number of the fields that were planted have experienced flooding. Vegetable farmer friends of ours are weeks behind and the weather just isn’t breaking. For us we’ve managed to have long enough breaks in the rain to get field work done and even had to run the irrigation a couple times this spring. But this past week was the first time I felt that we had indeed gotten too much rain. The ground was saturated after a first round of rain and then we got more rain on top of it. With water logged ground, crops will melt down. Disease thrives in wet humid conditions so we have to monitor crop health. We missed a salad and basil planting and have some late season peppers and eggplant ready in the greenhouse that won’t get in the ground unless it dries out in the next couple of days.

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The good news is we have plenty to do harvest wise to keep us busy during this wet spell.  In addition to harvesting a large variety of crops 3 days a week, some of our spring bulk harvests are underway including cabbage, kohlrabi and beets. These crops keep for months and we can sell them out of our cooler to CSA, market and wholesale accounts.  Which brings me to another wet day project– building another cooler as we are quickly running out of cooler space!

Coming Up Next Week (our best guess…….) Kale, Golden Beets, Fennel, Basil, Carrots, Zucchini, Salad Mix, and more!

Recipes

Escarole Soup with Sausage and Zucchini (use scallions in place of onion)

Garlic Scape Vinaigrette (make a hardy salad with hard boiled eggs or grilled chicken or both)

Stir Fry Veggies with Rice Noodles and Peanut Sauce (use any veggies you’d like and garnish with chopped cilantro)

Creamy Cilantro Coleslaw

 

 

 

 

CSA Week 4

This Week’s Harvest16DB4039-8336-4228-87C8-BB367BF1B805

Sugar Snap Peas

Spinach (last of the spring season!)

Kohlrabi

Salad Mix

Garlic Scapes

Beets

Flat Leaf Parsley

Arugula OR Braising Greens

Radishes

Swiss Chard

Save the Date

Our CSA member field walk will take place Wednesday June 26 from 6:30 to 8:00. We will have light refreshments and tour the farm. Come see how your food is grown and ask your farmers your questions! We’ll see what we’ve been picking and what goodies are still to come. Comfortable walking attire is recommended! See you then!

Farm News

With the arrival of our brand new rinse conveyer, custom built by an Amish farm equipment manufacturing company in Pennsylvania, our redesigned packing barn is complete! 

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Unloading the rinse conveyer using unconventional methods

Just last year a third of the packing barn (where produce comes in from the field to be cleaned,  processed and stored) was unusable. Now the entire space is being used. With space restrictions lifted, we are able to wash both produce and bins so much more efficiently than years past. With so many variables out of our control in this line of work, how efficient we are is key to the success of the farm.

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Lights and concrete are also new additions to the pack barn this year

So imagine my delight when it only took 10 minutes to wash 80 some bunches of radishes for the inaugural run of the rinse conveyer. Just the day before, when the rinse conveyer was on the property but not yet set up, it took 45 minutes to wash the radishes. In fact, I ended up having to work past 5 to get the washing for the day complete. 

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We’ve had 4 work days with the rinse conveyer and everyone is happy with the upgrade. Washing and sanitizing our bins is done in no time, produce is handled less and gets cleaner,  and mud from the field is contained. Even though the packing barn space is now bigger, it takes less time to clean it up at the end of the day.

This piece of equipment was not inexpensive and it has been on our wish list for a couple of years. We are so glad we could finally get one and can see how it will easily repay for itself! A farmer we follow on instagram who recently acquired the same rinse conveyer commented that it was their best farm tool.  I think I’m going to second that!

Recipes

Garlic Scape and Parsley Pesto (toss with steamed snap peas, pasta or dollop on pizza recipe below!)

Roasted Beets and Kohlrabi

Beet, Chard and Garlic Scape Pizza (red beets will fine in place of golden)

Coming Up Next Week (our best guess…….)  golden beets, snap peas, butter lettuce, scallions, radishes, kohlrabi, cilantro, escarole

CSA Week 3

This Week’s HarvestIMG_6334

Spigarello

Scallions

Salad Mix

Arugula

Radishes

Head Lettuce

Beets

Sugar Snap Peas

Kale

 

Farm News

I’m going to cut to the chase– we are so excited about our spring offerings! So far all of our early season crops are working out wonderfully. Everything was planted on time (so the transplants never got root bound or experienced transplant shock and therefore just kept right on growing), weeded on time (so they were able to continue growing uninhibited), side dressed on time (given an extra dose of organic fertilizer), and thrived in good weather. This cooler weather is perfect for the lettuces and snap peas and other crops that like to mature before the heat of summer. All this is leading to easy harvests and gorgeous produce!

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I’m going to go ahead and allow myself to be excited because the feeling won’t last–we will most certainly have crop failures from disease or just not having the time to properly take care of things. And the pressure is definitely mounting. This weekend Ben was holed up in the garage fixing our cultivating tractor (for the THIRD time this season!) and the weeds sure don’t wait for him to be ready.

 

IMG_6317The tractor’s clutch got fixed by Sunday night (Ben is my hero) but with the rain that followed we couldn’t jump on the tractor and cultivate right way. This is a tough feeling when we had been out of the fields for the repair for 3 days.  It looks like we’ll get a couple field days in this week to hopefully get us back on track! After all, at the same time that we are harvesting for you today, we need to be planting and weeding for you for next month!

Recipes

Sugar Snap Peas and Scallions with Coddled Lettuce

Roasted Beet and Arugula Panini

Kale and Beet Salad with Farro

Coming Up Next Week (Our Best Guess….) Snap Peas, Spinach, Parsley, Garlic Scapes, Kohlrabi, Golden Beets and more!

 

CSA Week 2

This Week’s HarvestIMG_6261.JPG

Bok Choi

Head lettuce

Salad mix

Scallions

Parsley

Red radish

Spigarello (leaf broccoli)

Kale

 

Farm News

While the farm puttered along in its usual routine of harvesting, planting, seeding and weeding this week, the Dayton region’s week was anything but usual. The tornado outbreak on Memorial Day was surprising for all and devastating for many.

The good news is that in tragedy, community comes together. I was heartened to see so many helping hands while I was delivering last week’s veggies. Pallets of free water out for those in need, grills fired up serving hamburgers and hot dogs, and so many people clearing debris. I offered hand me downs to a friend whose home was in the path of one of the tornados. She declined my offer because thanks to friends, family and community she had more clothes now then she had on Monday morning.  I hope everyone affected has the same experience as my friend and gets the aid they need. Collectively we can make a big difference and I trust it will be enough!

The tornado outbreak made me realize that in addition to our family, community were we live, our community of customers, Ben and I also have a community of fellow vegetable farmers. The very first people to reach out to us to make sure we were ok were not our parents, but rather our fellow co-op farmers. It is very comforting to know that we have farmer friends who have our back should we ever find ourselves in difficult situations.

Here’s to a quick and comprehensive recovery for Dayton and surrounding communities!

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Recipes

Spigarello with Raisins and Pinenuts

Bok Choy and Shiitake Mushroom Mu-Shu Wraps

Parsley Vinaigrette 

Coming Up Next Week (our best guess…….)  beets, snap peas, Spigarello,  garlic scapes, arugula, radishes, parsley, kale

Spigarello (Leaf Broccoli)

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Spigarello is an Italian heirloom variety of broccoli. Its tender skinny stalk never produces a large tight broccoli head and instead it is harvested before any flowers form.  It’s a tender green and most like a cross between kale and broccoli. You can and should eat the leaves and stem. The tender leaves can be eaten raw or can be cooked along with the stem. You can blanch it, sautéed it, have it in soups and braise it.  It goes well with garlic, strong cheese, nuts and lemon. You should store all greens in a plastic bag to keep the moisture from wicking out. It should last 10 days in the fridge.

CSA Week 1

This Week’s HarvestIMG_6141

Bok Choi

Salad Mix

Spinach

Dill

Head Lettuce

Daikon Radish or Purple Top Turnips

Sweet Potatoes

Basil Plant

Veggie Notes:

Be sure to click on the highlighted vegetables in the list above to be sent to a veggie info page specific to that vegetable.

As many of you know, we are part of a cooperative of organic farms in Ohio, and our fellow co-op member farm, Wayward Seed Farm still had beautiful sweet potatoes from his 2018 crop. We are thrilled to be able to offer these certified organic Ohio grown sweet potatoes to our CSA members to round out our first harvest of spring veggies! Adam is a wonderful grower and mentor to us! 

Farm News

What a spring! I feel like a broken record, but once again the drainage tile that we installed over the 30 acre farm in 2016 is proving to be a life saver. It’s definitely been a wet spring, but because our drainage has improved so much the fields have dried out in time for us to stay on top of all the bed preparation, planting, and weeding. Because of our tile, even if it rains a quarter inch we are still able to get back in quickly–sometimes even the same day!

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We were able to plant our celeriac and celery all in one day with a rainstorm intermission during lunch. It was definitely slippery- but planting in wet conditions won’t damage the soil.

One casualty of the wet spring we’ve never experienced before is rotting potatoes. The potatoes were one of the first things we planted and the low parts of the beds that have stayed wet pretty much from the time of planting have no potatoes coming up. I did a little digging and sure enough came across a rotten seed potato. The good news is our beds are 400 ft long, so we still have plenty of potatoes even if the first 20 feet are wiped out. Even though this has never happened before we are wondering if we should just push our potato planting date back a bit.

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Wishing the entire potato field looked like this
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Low lying front of field where only weeds are present

 

Setbacks in farming are inevitable that’s why our mantra is “just keep planting.” We have fields and fields of really good looking crops nearly ready to pick and have been right on time with planting the first round of summer crops. All in all we’re in excellent shape!

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Recipes

Sweet And Sour Bok Choy and Radishes (use the purple Daikon for your radish)

Curried Sweet Potato Fries with Creamy Dill Dip

Greek Spinach and Dill Rice

Lettuce Soup

Coming Up Next Week (Our Best Guess……..) Scallions, Dill, Salad Mix, Head Lettuce, Bok Choi,  Red Radishes, Arugula, Spigariello Liscia

 

Spring Update

After a real nice cruising start to spring, we’ve had to hit the pause button to let some rain pass. It really looked like we’d be able to cruise a bit longer and plant some delicious leaf broccoli which is apparently all the rage. It seemed so promising–Wednesday we checked the fields for dryness and actually found 7 beds just dry enough to lightly till and bed shape. And our multiple weather apps all seemed to be saying that rain would come in Thursday afternoon. Perfect! Unfortunately it rained overnight Wednesday, just enough to make planting by tractor impossible. No worries– we’d plant by hand! But after planting one bed by hand, the rain really settled in we had to abandon that plan. Since then we’ve gotten about 2 inches of rain, further delaying planting, so now we not only have the rest of the leaf broccoli to plant, but another round of lettuce and spinach are ready to plant, as well as Swiss chard and kohlrabi! Yikes! We just have to cross our fingers that this week’s predicted thunderstorms miss us so that we can maybe squeak in another round of planting!

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one bed planted and covered–5 more to go!
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Back in the greenhouse waiting for the next chance to plant

While it’s easy to stress about not knowing when the next time we’ll be able to plant will happen, I should trick my brain into being happy about all the planting we HAVE gotten done. We’ve planted an acre of potatoes (Kennebec, Harvest Moon, Desiree and Nicola), which will happily feed our CSA and market customers from the end of July to December, and several beds of onions which, if customers cook anything like I do, will serve as the start of many a meal. We’ve also planted cold-hardy springtime goodies like beets, spinach, sugar snap peas, scallions, fennel, dill, parsley, head lettuce, escarole, bok choi, cabbage, broccoli, kale and salad mix. Wow, that is a lot! And typing it out just now actually did help calm my nerves!

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Ben checks the weather app before planting peas
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Inaugural run with our third unit planter. Just had to make a few adjustments. Now we can plant 3 rows of certain crops!

However, the rain not only interrupts planting, but it also keeps us from weeding all the crops I mentioned above. We did get one round of cultivating in before this wet period, so that’s great. But we were awfully close to not even getting that round of weeding in. That’s because our very old cultivating tractor, an Allis Chalmers G, wouldn’t start. This is typical for this aged tractor, after sitting in the barn all winter, but whereas in the past Ben’s always been able to fix it with a new spark plug or a gas tank, this time when he started to investigate, it became clear the G now needs a complete engine overhaul. Ben can do this–but not in April! As soon as the prognosis became clear, Ben spent several hours on tractor websites, crowd sourcing farms on Instagram and calling friends to track down a working cultivating tractor fast. The good news about these tractors is that they are very small, so when we found one Ben traveled north in our market truck and was able to bring a working tractor home the same day. After some hammering and tweaking, we took our new G out to work the very next day.

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Dan cultivates beets and spinach

We have a few additional crew members starting up work this week and next,  so once the fields dry out, we’ll have enough people to do all the work at once–planting, cultivating, and getting the next round of beds ready. That would be for summer crops like zucchini, peppers, and tomatoes, all with planting dates that are just around the corner! While I know we are all eager for that first taste of fresh veggies, I’m glad we haven’t added “harvest” to the to-do list yet.  We’ve got plenty to do before that happens! Hang tight and the start of CSA will be here before we know it! (P.S. We’ll start going to 2nd Street Market with our garden starts May 11 and hopefully add fresh veggies to the offerings by Memorial Day)

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Spring fields

Survey Says……

Over the years we’ve conducted a few customer surveys about our CSA program to help tell us how we’re doing: what customers like about the program and where we can improve. We had over 100 responses this year and they were overwhelmingly positive. My biggest takeaway was we should keep doing what we’re doing! But I’ll break down the results in more detail in this post.

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An August CSA Box

For this survey, customers rated us for overall satisfaction, vegetable quality/quantity/selection, convenience, customer support, value. For each category, respondents chose among very satisfied, satisfied, neutral, unsatisfied, very unsatisfied. They could elaborate on their responses and we also asked what we should and shouldn’t change. 

Here’s how we did:

Overall satisfaction: 98% rating of “very satisfied” or “satisfied”

Quality of vegetables: 100% rating of “very satisfied” or “satisfied”

Quantity of vegetables: 99% rating of “very satisfied” or “satisfied”

Selection of vegetables: 91% rating of “very satisfied” or “satisfied”

Convenience: 94% rating of “very satisfied” or “satisfied”

Customer service: 100% rating of “very satisfied” or “satisfied”

Value: 98% rating of “very satisfied” or “satisfied”

Given the unconventional nature of CSA, I’m not surprised the lowest-rated categories are selection of vegetables and convenience—but I’m super happy they still scored in the 90s! In a lot of ways, CSAs ask a lot from their customers. No tomatoes until August and none after the fall frost! No broccoli or cauliflower during the hot summer months! Don’t like kale? Too bad! And those garlic scapes you didn’t know what to do with the first week but learned to love the second week—those are gone until next year!

In a food landscape where it is easy to get whatever fresh vegetable you’d like whenever you’d like, the single-farm-sourced and strictly seasonal nature of CSA requires a complete retraining of how people consume food. It’s our hope that we counter this unusual way of getting vegetables with superior quality—and according to our survey results it looks like we’re doing that!

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Scouting the fields for CSA harvest

With a 100% very satisfied or satisfied rating for quality of vegetables, we feel there’s no question that our vegetables are top notch! One explanation for this good rating is that seasonal local eating lends itself to a fresher and therefore better tasting product. But I’d venture to guess that our high quality has more to do with a concerted effort to give our customers only the best! It’s great that our survey confirms what we hoped—that only high quality vegetables are leaving the farm.  

I was pleased that customer service got a 100% rating. We recognize that we’re retraining consumers, so we try to provide ample support. Survey respondents pointed to our CSA blog and CSA Private Facebook Group as resources that help them use the less common vegetables. Another customer favorite that was mentioned repeatedly on the survey was our “swap box” where CSA members can swap something from their box with something in our swap box. We’ll continue to offer the swap box and whenever possible fill it with even more extra vegetables for folks to choose from.

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Advice from the Mile Creek Farm CSA private Facebook group

Of the 114 respondents, only one didn’t care for the CSA and they rather apologetically admitted that they are a picky vegetable eater. For some, our produce is never going to win them over. But we feel that’s the exception and that, more often than not, we have successfully turned reluctant vegetable consumers into veggie lovers. We’ve turned the feeling — when opening the CSA box and stuffing everything into the fridge — from “overwhelmed” to “over-the-moon”.  

I have a farmer friend who says it takes a few years of getting a CSA box to become a master CSA member. One respondent to our survey said, “Still learning how to use some of the vegetables, but gets less overwhelming each year” and I see this person as on the path towards CSA mastery. Once proficient, suddenly the “inconvenient” nature of CSA is thrown on its head and being given a box of vegetables hand-selected by someone other than yourself couldn’t be more convenient. When asked what we can do to improve the CSA experience, one member for whom this rings true responded: “Help with making going back to grocery stores at the end of the season so much of a chore?” Well, we can’t help there, but we can take the results of the survey and our 10 years of CSA experience and strive to make the 2019 CSA experience the best yet! If you want to sign up for our CSA do so here! And many thanks to everyone who took the time to respond to our survey!

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