This year I made a concerted effort to take a picture of each CSA share we put out. While every single jam packed week had me scrambling to find the time for a photo shoot, I’m really glad I stuck with it. (Regrettably, I did miss 2 weeks due to farm schedule insanity! It truly is impossible to complete everything we want to accomplish on the farm.)
I love that the season is documented in this way. It is fun to relive the season and also a wonderful way for people to see what our CSA is all about.
We made great progress this year by dropping our flower production to focus on vegetables. We had some of our biggest bell peppers ever, had several distributions of typically tricky crops like carrots, enjoyed giving herbs throughout the season, and rediscovered favorite vegetable varieties that we had hadn’t grown in awhile, like Delicata winter squash and purple cauliflower.
We are really looking forward to building on this past season’s success and making the 2017 season even better! We want to further improve our sweet corn and melon production and revisit crops that we have cut from production like celeriac and rutabaga.
There are several reasons we love farming. Given the shear amount of vegetables and varieties out there, the different ways to grow these crops, the seasonality of farming and sense of renewal every year, farming is very invigorating. We love the natural drive to take what we’ve learned and do better every year!
This week was the first that we experienced weather challenges that winter farming can often bring. Given that we are past the middle of December, we consider it lucky we hadn’t had problems before this week. Looking at the 10 day forecast we devised a plan where I would wash the storage vegetables on the only day above freezing. We were promised a high of 52 on Saturday. I had my doubts since the day before was 18. Turns out we barely hit 40 on Saturday, but that was warm enough to drag hoses from our basement, out the window, snaked through the yard and into the barn. And before I could get to mad at the weather people, I saw a weather map of temperatures for the day and Cincinnati enjoyed a high of 58 with warm air present all the way up to Springboro. It hurt knowing comfortable weather was only a few miles away! But we were able to get the job done (minus the butternut squash which comes with some organic Mile Creek Farm dirt this week) and are excited about our final CSA box of the season! Thanks for joining us on this extended season culinary adventure! We certainly enjoyed sharing the bounty of the farm for a little bit longer!
In the grand scheme of things the organic farming community is pretty small. So when issues facing organic farms are featured in the national press we are always interested to read about things that other farmers are facing. This summer Ben and I came across several articles about the changing landscape for locally grown produce and how these changes have effected small farms–from farmer’s market sales being down for seasoned farmers (found here) and long time CSA farms experiencing a membership squeeze (found here). Overall the consensus seems to be that there was a local foods bubble the last couple of years that has begun to burst.
Assuming that this is an accurate description of what is happening we pretty much started our farm just as the local food bubble was beginning. And we have grown while interest in locally grown foods has been trendy and relatively widespread. While it has been great to feel part of a national wave of interest and engagement in local foods we’ve never wanted to grow organic food simply because it was popular to do so. Rather we want to grow organically and sell locally because we want these practices to be normal, not necessarily trendy!
At the same time we recognize that sourcing locally grown produce is not as convenient or easy as picking it up at the store or simply going out to eat. Plus in our attempt to grow a wide breadth of vegetables we are sure that most people receive a least a few unfamiliar items in their CSA share throughout the season. For all of these reasons and so many more we sincerely appreciate all the support that we receive from our customers. This time of the year we are grateful to have made it most of the way (we will still have another box on December 20!) through the season, and we are planning and excited for the year to come. Furthermore we are hopeful that “trendy” or not the local and organic food movement will continue to grow!
We are pleased to say that 2016 was our most successful season yet! Ben and I are very blessed that we get to do what we are passionate about and we know that this farm is not possible without the support of our family, customers and employees.
This year we were able to double our CSA– thanks to returning customers, word of mouth advertising, and folks new to the entire CSA concept willing to take a chance on us. This increase was crucial to our success as we transitioned the farm from vegetables and cut flowers to just vegetables. The change seemed like a good idea in theory, over the winter when we first considered it even a possibility. We are so thankful that it turned out to be a good decision.
We have also been blessed with really great reliable help for the past several years. Our packing shed manager who started the year with us, Jen, was coming into her 3rd season here at Mile Creek. She mastered the post harvest handling aspect of the operation and it was amazing not to have to train anyone the past couple years. When Jen had to leave us this year with a couple months left of the season, we were lucky to have an eager market customer take her place. David was such a joy to have on the farm. His sincere enthusiasm for the quality of the produce and beauty of the farm was so refreshing to have in the final stretch of the season. The harvest crew and I would place bets on what exclamation David would say when we brought the produce into the barn. Speaking of harvest crew, half of them had been with us before as well, so we had to do little in way of training. We had 2 home-schooled high-schoolers and a CTC student with us this summer. This was Timothy’s third season, Drew’s 2nd season, and his sister Elsa’s first year with us. We also had a recent Miami University grad, Anissa, join us this summer into fall and it was a joy to share our passion for farming with her. She dabbled in all aspects of the farm–even driving the tractor on her last day! These days it is just me and Ben on the farm. Last Saturday at market, Jen and Anissa came to market separately and visited our stand at the exact same moment. The heartfelt and long embrace they shared was really wonderful to witness.
Of course we are indebted to our family. Not only did they not question this career move, they embraced it. Ben’s parents own the land we farm and willingly take care of our children during the day and even happily agree to last minute sleepovers when Ben and I have to work until 10pm finishing something up.
This Thanksgiving season we are grateful for our community supported agriculture family, our work family, and our personal families. We are also particularly grateful this year that we still have wonderful diverse vegetables to make a fantastic Thanksgiving spread!
Recipes (with Thanksgiving in mind)
Carrot Casserole (We make this every Thanksgiving with grated cheddar cheese instead of processed cheese and crushed saltines mixed with melted butter instead of breadcrumbs. It’s always the most popular dish!)
This week marks the end of our regular CSA season. No two seasons are ever the same, each with different successes and disappointments. The only constant is that each season feels like a lifetime. As I was recalling the season, I couldn’t believe that we started the year with Ben frantically fixing a broken radiator on one of tractors. That really happened this year? Each day brings its own set of challenges so that broken tractor seemed so long ago. Despite these daily challenges, we were very pleased with this season and every box we put out. We were especially excited about our spring and fall carrot crop, our selection of herbs throughout the season, trialing new crops (like radicchio, braising greens, watermelon, and long Italian sweet peppers) and having a diverse vegetable selection throughout the season. Of course, the fact that we are offering an extended season should tell you it was a good year! We hope you’ll join us for these 3 final deliveries of our organic produce– if not, thank you for your membership during the regular season!
Gold Rush (Yellow, sweet and crisp eating apple that keeps for a very long time) and 20/20 (a good tart green cooking apple that is a cross between Granny Smith and Golden Delicious) and Downing Land (apple only found on Downing Fruit Farm, developed by the Downing family. It is a small sweet red apple that is a cross between a Golden Delicious and Rome)
Last week we completed one of the final major fall tasks on the farm, planting the 2017 garlic crop! For some reason we always seem to plant garlic on the warmest day of fall, so it was funny, given how warm this year’s fall as been, that we planted on one of the colder days. Another way more significant difference with this year’s planting was how quickly it went thanks to our waterwheel transplanter. Typically we are crawling around on the ground plunging garlic cloves into the soil as we race against the setting the sun. This year we planted 100 pounds of garlic in 4 beds, 3 rows per bed and were done shortly after lunch! Last time on the transplanter for the season or planting the first crop of next season –either way you look at it, we are excited!
This is the last week for some of our half (biweekly) shares. We want to thank you for joining the CSA this year and hope you enjoyed it! We hope that you discovered new vegetables and rediscovered old vegetables, ate delicious meals, and felt connected to a small family farm whose farmers are stewards of the land. We believe in what we do, enjoy what we do, and recognize that none of it is possible without our customers support! Thank you and have a wonderful winter!
Turkey Meatballs Over Greens (braising mix cooks quickly –it just needs a quick saute in a pan with a little cooking liquid-not the 10 minute boil the recipe calls for. If you use other greens like broccoli raab or mustard the cook time on them is longer)
Braising mix is mix of greens all in the brassica family harvested young. Your bunch may include arugula, tatsoi, red mustard, mizuna, and/or red kale. Braising greens can be chopped and eaten raw or cooked. We either saute with oil and sometimes add a little cooking liquid such as stock or salted pasta water. Braising greens can also be steamed, blanched, or added to soups. It takes longer to cook then baby arugula but faster than full grown kale.