The Dirt on the Farm: 8/22/2016

Welcome to halftime. Today marks week 12 (the halfway point) of the 2016 CSA season. Farmer Tim here. I hope you are enjoying the produce to this point. I wanted to take some time to update you about the coming 12 weeks, so you know to some extent what to expect. Every year the list of successful crops vs not so productive ones varies (last year we had broccoli coming out of our ears, and nary a melon in sight). This year brassica (broccoli, mustard, cabbage) crops have suffered do to flea beetles, but melons and tomatoes have shined brightly.  July’s lack of rain contributed to some loss and of course weeds overtake something every year. Fall plans are looking good right now with hopes of a abundant and diverse offerings to finish out the year.

Never in my 12 years as a grower, have I seen such a tenacious, continuous flood of flea beetles as i have this year. The species of flea beetle we are dealing with on our farm is the type that, best case scenario, puts little pin prick holes in leafy greens. This year, flea beetles have been much more aggressive, eating heads of cabbage, completely devouring whole crops of arugula, mustards, broccoli, kale (record low for the amount we’ve given out this year) and not stopping like they have always done in the heat of the summer.

The flea beetle scourge has radically shrunk the amount of crops we have available for you in any given week. That should start to improve though in the coming weeks. As cooler temps creep in, we’ll go back to covering sensitive crops with row cover: a thin woven protective fabric. Using this on hot days makes what’s underneath even hotter, and can often force crops to go to seed prematurely. In cool days though, this can keep flea beetles off crops. We are hopeful that arugula, hakurei turnips, radishes, and the other smaller brassica family crops will pull through better from here on out.

What a tomato year! Plants are very healthy, and producing well. Now that we are running a cooler with perfectly calibrated temps (which stop ripening without turning tomatoes to mush) the quality of the tomatoes you receive should be more consistent. We are also bagging tomatoes to try to help keep them safe during transport. Tomatoes should be abundant for another 4-8 weeks.

Melons and watermelons are another success story so far. We expect melons to be harvestable for a bit longer and watermelons will start now, and are typically around for 3-5 weeks.

Carrots have been terribly difficult to grow this year, with zero rain in July, and the usual imperfectly timed weed flushes. We have lots of carrots to weed in the coming weeks. If we make a good dent in them, fall should be redemptive.

We have a good amount of things in the ground already that will bring about new items for the last half of the season, root veggies, short season brassica like kohlrabi and turnip, and hopefully our Brussels sprouts and kalettes will survive the beetles. Potatoes will get bigger and more abundant. Lettuce, spinach, and radish are scheduled to return.

Thank you for eating with us in 2016. We’ll always keep pushing hard to make what goes in your boxes as good as is possible. Your willingness to share in the risks and reap in the bounty is what makes our food community strong. Thank you again for choosing LotFotL and supporting CSA. Now, enjoy the cool nights!

The Dirt on the Farm: 7/21/2016

Farmer Tim here. Wanted to take a few moments to give you some field updates.poster choice II Despite the inordinately high heat in May, and low levels of precipitation in spring, most of our spring cropping went as planned, with some nice new and surprising discoveries (salad mix for 1, which we’ve barely ever grown for CSA). We are now turning a corner towards summer crops, and it’s not a minute too late. Varieties of crops available for harvest over the past couple of weeks have decreased, as the heat, flea beetles (worst I’ve seen them in 10 years!), and the need to not give redundant contents in the shares every week have all whittled down what I have to work with. That’s about to change.

Many of our favorite summer crops are ready or almost ready for shares. Tomatoes have begun to show consistent signs of ripening, and should the weather cooperate(fingers very strongly crossed) we look to have a tremendous tomato crop for 2016! You may see tomatoes in your shares starting next week, but almost certainly before month’s end. These will start as a blend of slicers and heirlooms, and the season will end likely in late September almost exclusively with heirloom types.
Sweet corn and new potatoes will likely show up in shares next week. Sweet corn is being grown for us by Wholesome Harvest Farm in Ft. Atkinson this year and is Certified Organic. We needed to rehabilitate a couple of acres of soil, so didn’t have as much growing space, and they are very seasoned growers. Potatoes come from our farm, but are grown by my partner John Hall, on land he controls. We will give you 2 weeks of delicious smaller spuds, and then take a little break to allow them to size up.
Melons and peppers too look pretty good, and both are being grown in ways that are newer to us. We’re growing melons on a 1/2 acre field that is completely covered by landscape fabric this year. This allows for very little weed competition, and gives us convenient irrigation options too.  Peppers are growing on bare ground this year for the first time in 7 years. We decided to take a break from growing crops on plastic mulch this year, as it creates some weed issues that we have yet to master, and is a just a trashy way to grow produce overall. The plants look healthier than I’ve seen for a couple seasons, and should begin bearing fruits by the end of the month.
Losses for the near term have been considerable. Eggplant was completely decimated by Colorado Potato Beetles, and won’t be in our shares this year, unless we find a reasonable source to buy some in for our members. Our first beans should have been ready this week, but were overrun with weeds, making them too costly to harvest. We’ve replanted them, and are a couple weeks out yet, but with much better results. Same with carrots, of which 3 beds this year were lost to not enough hours in the day to weed them, and poor germination. Brassica (cabbage family) crops are suffering from a major influx of flea beetles. I’ve never seen this bad of pressure this late. Spraying them is not a practical option when they are this strong.  They are even eating full sized heads of cabbage! As a result, kale will be moth balled for a while, and broccoli yields will likely drop, but cauliflower hasn’t been affected, and should start showing up next week. Fennel too is not affected, and nearly ready.
Hope you are enjoying the share contents thus far. We’ll continue to work hard to give you diverse shares with some new items nearly every week. As we shift into a different cropping context, that will be much easier for us to do. Happy eating!

LotFotL’s Swiss Chard crust free Spanakopita!

For the love of greens! They won’t even know it’s good for them.

Ingredientsrainbow_chard_comp

  • 16-18 ounces fresh chopped swiss chard, keep the stems and chop them too.
  • 3-4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons dill weed
  • 8 scallions, sliced OR 1/2 sweet onion sauteed
  • 13 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 13 cup plain nonfat yogurt or 13 cup low-fat sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 12 teaspoon salt
  • 14 teaspoon pepper

Directions

  1. Chop the chard into small ribbons and chop the stems into small pieced.  Steam the entire batch until good and soft.  Don’t really worry about overcooking, you want those stems to get good and soft.
  2. Stir together all ingredients into a bowl and pour into a greased baking dish or  glass pie pan for 45-50 minutes at 375°F or until firm and lightly browned.

The Humble Cabbage

cabbage in the fieldFun Cabbage Facts:

  1. Cabbage was very popular with the early farmers of Wisconsin.  Many brought their seeds from Europe by sewing them into the hems of women’s dresses.  They relied on it to keep them healthy during the long winters.  Since sugar was hard to get back then, children were given the large thick leaves to chew on in place of sugary treats.

2. The world’s largest cabbage was grown by William Collingwood of County Colorful Cabbage IllustrationDurham, England, in 1865. It weighed 123 pounds.

3.  It’s super good for you!  Cabbage helps build a strong immune system so you won’t get sick so often!  It also kills nasty bacteria.

4.  Raw cabbage can have as much vitamin C as lemon juice does. That’s the vitamin that is good for preventing and treating colds.

5. Here at our farm, we harvest our cabbage heads by hand with a knife, but on giant conventional farms, they have special machines that cut the cabbage head and then shoot it into a giant trailer.

You can watch a video here.

6.  Perhaps the best of all….Some people get gas from cabbage!  So, it’s a musical fruit, just like beans.

Fun Facts about Broccoli

  • Broccoli was first introduced to the United States by Italian immigrants in the 1800s,  but did not become widely known until the 1920s.
  • The “head” of broccoli is actually a large flower head, usually green in color, arranged in a tree-like fashion on branches sprouting from a thick, edible stalk.
  • Broccoli is a member of the same plant family as cabbage, kale and cauliflower.
  • The word broccoli, from the Italian plural of broccolo, refers to “the flowering top of a cabbage”.
  • Broccoli is high in vitamin C and vitamin K.
  • Broccoli can take from 50 to 100 days to mature.  The plants are usually about 2 feet wide and nearly 2 feet tall.  To harvest it, a knife is used to cut the stem.broccoli growing

How long does it take to grow a carrot?

It depends.  But here are some basic steps.

First, the soil is turned or loosened. A farmer uses an implement that is hooked up to his tractor to do this.  But a someone with a small garden could use garden tools. Sometimes compost is added to help the soil stay loose and moist.  Compost also contains the minerals that the carrot will need to grow and stay healthy.soil

When the seed is planted in the ground, it can take about 3 weeks for germination to occur.  (Germination is when the outside layer of the seed breaks open and the very beginnings of the carrot happen.)  If there is not enough rain, the farmer will have to water the ground where the seeds are planted to keep them moist.

Next, the tops will appear.  carrotsprouts1Then the root begins to grow.  (The root is the part that we eat.)  If there is not enough rain, the farmer will have to continue watering the plants.

When the carrots are ready to be picked, a big machine is used to loosen the roots, (or a person can loosen the roots with a big garden fork).  Then workers gather the carrots from the field and bring them back to the packing shed.  They are cleaned up and sorted, then sent on their way to your CSA box.

dirty carrotsIf a carrot seed is planted in April, it would usually be ready to eat some time in July.  Enjoy!

Best Practices for LotFotL CSA Members

  1. Only take what is listed after your name on the check list. You have now joined a community. If it is not listed after your name, it is intended for someone else.
  2. Call right away if something isn’t right. We cannot fix it if we don’t know about it. The sooner you call the higher your chance of optimum results.
  3. Consult your member account or the FAQ page on our website.  Your farmer needs to have time to grow your food.  You can help by looking for information on your account page or our website.
  4. Send helpers prepared. If you are having someone else pick up your box, make sure to give them all the information that they need. It is fine to ask them to do it, but make sure they know the size of the box they need and to consult the check off sheet.
  5. Set an Alarm. We all get busy and no one wants to miss out on their food.  Remember, unclaimed food is NOT returned to the farm, but donated at the end of the day on Thursday. Setting and alarm or using post it note reminders helps you to make sure your box gets picked up.

Spring Greens Ginger Soup

Ginger Spring Greens Soup with Noodles
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon of sesame oil
  • 1/2 bunch scallions or green garlic
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 2 cups vegetable broth or pork broth
  • red pepper flakes (a few shakes for flavor)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 head bok choy or 1 lb of any mixture of spring greens (arugula, spinach, radish tops, dandelion greens, etc)
  • 4 ounces ramen noodles (not instant)
  • Salt to taste
  • Toasted Sesame Seeds, for topping
Instructions
  1. In a stock pot, heat olive oil over medium-low heat. Trim the ends off the scallions/or green garlic and chop. Cook scallions/green garlic, chopped garlic, and ginger on low to med heat, stirring occasionally for 1-2 minutes until the garlic and ginger is fragrant.
  2. Measure in the broth and water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 5 minutes.
  3. While broth is simmering, prepare your greens.  Take well washed greens and chop into strips (making for easier eating). If any of your greens have stems, you may choose to remove the stems and cut them into smaller pieces.
  4. Add the stems to the broth and cook for 5 minutes or until stems are starting to be tender. Follow with the leaves and cook for another 5 minutes more. Finally, stir in the ramen and simmer the soup until the noodles and greens are tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Taste and add salt as needed.
  5. Divide soup into two bowls and top with chopped scallion greens, sesame seeds, and red pepper flakes.  This soup is even better if it can sit for a day before you add your noodles, but delicious no matter what.

Delicious Pan-seared Parsnips

This recipe was passed onto to me by my uncle.  It is both simple and satisfying. And, it gave me a new appreciation for how good parsnips really are.  They get so sweet, you will think they are candy.

Delicious Pan-seared ParsnipsSFC_parsnips_labeled

  • 2-6 Parsnips: chopped into 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices (if parsnips is large you may want to split in in half length wise and then slice it).
  • Garlic: 2-4 chopped cloves
  • Oil (olive oil works well): enough to coat the pan

Heat the oil to med high.  Add the sliced parsnips cover and cook until soft and caramelized (watch your heat and turn it down if you need to). Stir as needed.  Let them get really nice and soft. Right before you take the parsnips off the heat add your chopped garlic and stir for about 1 minute.  Salt to taste and serve.

 

2015-The Year in Review

20151116_135353-1 (2)After 24+ weeks of hard work, both on the farm and in your kitchens, the 2015 CSA will officially end this Thursday. 2015 will be archived by us as a pretty good year, with mild weather, few diseases, and some marked abundances in production. We are anxious look at the member feedback in our survey results and get moving on year 2016.  While we have grown and raised at least 2 farmers to fruition (we will say goodbye to both Casey Lynn and Dan), we are eager to bring some new blood into the mix next year.  And most of all, we could not have done any of it without the support of our membership. Thank you for all of the energy that you put into making the LotfotL food community successful.

In a nutshell, it was a record year for broccoli, and we were able to get it into almost 1/2 the shares this year. This was the first year in recent memory, too, where our tomatoes never experienced late blight. Along with the successes, came the less than hoped for.  Some of the fall crops didn’t come out as strong as hoped. We will also remember the summer that wasn’t (did we ever even break 90 degrees?), the ravaging effects of Canada Thistle on all cropping, and the warmest fall so far on our new farm. Since the drought year of 2012, the night time low temps of summer have been far below what is required for good summer cropping. Incidentally, these temps seem to be just fine for our most troublesome weed: Canada Thistle. Not only did thistle and cool temps set back summer production of melons, peppers, and once again eggplant, but a resurgence of fall thistle took its toll on long standing fall roots, leaving celeriac, rutabaga, beets, and turnips conspicuously absent from fall shares. The fall shares looked more like spring ones, filled with spinach, arugula, salad mixes, and radishes. Though not ideal, we know that soon all that will be available locally will be root cellar crops, so we may as well enjoy the leafy greens while we can.

The 2015 member survey results have begun trickling in (fill out the survey today, so we can better serve your needs and the needs of our membership broadly in 2016). I’m happy to say that most of the responses so far, even when critical, are in good spirit, and do make substantial impacts on how we crop and pack shares. To those of us who do not eat potatoes all that often, our CSA must seem rather nuts for giving out potatoes as regularly as we do. Year after year though, potatoes rank in the top 3 of crops that members feel we gave the right amount of. The focus on more beets and broccoli early this year was a direct result of the previous year’s surveys. Next year’s push for more cauliflower (a super finicky, tough to grow crop) will be not only because we like a challenge and love eating cauliflower, but because of your feedback. Please do let us know how we did.

I can’t express enough how grateful I am to all of you for helping to fund our adventures in CSA this season. The results of this decision you’ve made have far greater benefits to the farming community of SE Wisconsin than just keeping our bills paid and your meals on the stove-top. Together, we have grown 2 more new farmers for 2016. Dan, our long time crew leader will be leaving in 2016 to begin his own agricultural enterprise on soon-to-be family land in NE Michigan. Casey Lynn, assistant extraordinaire,  will take on full time farm management at Farm290, the ingredient backbone for Pier 290’s restaurant on Lake Geneva.

While we will miss them specifically, there’s a new crop of future growers waiting in the wings to work with us. While with us, they’ll learned how to develop the chops, exercise decision-making tools, and burn into their core the work ethic needed to succeed in the world, as growers of food. Together we are not only growing LotFotL, and growing food for you, but we’re growing the next generation of farmers, so your children’s niece’s and nephew’s local food choices are abundant and diverse. To this end, 2016 starts this Friday, as we look forward to another season of considerable growth.

Thank you all,

Tim Huth
Managing Farmer
LotFotL Community Farm