2017: Looking forward, A Whole New CSA World

Changes in CSA across the board

CSA as a movement, a marketing stream, and a way people eat, is in trouble region wide. 2016 saw many local farms (ours included) continue to struggle to meet their membership goals. We have been 15-20% down on our hoped-for CSA memberships the past 2 years. Many friends of ours who farm are giving up on CSA as a marketing model altogether, while others are making large scale revisions to how they will execute their programs in the coming years. Fairshare CSA coalition (a group of farmers out of Madison) is down at least 6 member farms this year, due to farmers giving up on the model.

What’s causing this? Many many things have been pointed at, none of which is likely the main culprit. Shrinking household sizes, non-gmo and “natural” products absorbing some of the organic dollar, more take home money spent on take out, “aggregators,” or companies co-opting (and severely diverting from the original intent) the CSA model in high numbers, the end of home economics as compulsory education, who knows? Maybe it has all just been election year jitters? There have been some of those, I think.  One thing for sure, is that we are seeing a shift in customer commitment to CSA, and we as farmers are needing to listen and respond.

These trends are affecting farmer’s market returns too. Many long standing vendors at your favorite market might not be there in a few years. There has been a great push over the years for more and more and more farmer’s markets. Every neighborhood having a market is convenient for eaters, but doesn’t currently concentrate enough eaters in one place for a farmer to be able to do well enough selling produce at any one market to justify the many expenses of being a market vendor. Many market farmers I’ve spoken with can no longer afford to vend at the farmer’s markets they’ve been at for decades.

LotFotL in 2016

This is the context in which 2016, our 9th season in business began. We knew it would be a challenging financial year, but hoped we could push hard on marketing and get enough folks together to have strong cash flow. Still, 20% down from last year’s 20% down. Then our landlord, Ralph Quinney, passed away. His passing has necessitated the selling of the farm that we currently rent. As renters, you are always a little unsure how the future is going to look. Is your landlord happy? Will they develop different plans? Knowing this, we have always had our ear to the ground for any alternative options that develop, just in case. Still though, having this certainty that we would and will likely have to move again soon, has added much weight to our shoulders, and probably taken a couple of years off my life.
2016 was a hard year.

Our Farm Plans for 2017 and beyond

With all that said, I’m very excited for 2017, our 10th year in business!!!!! April and I have never been the types to stand still very long. We’re always trying to anticipate where this farming thing is going, and increasingly in the last few years, trying to steer the business where we want it to go. We have not solved our cropland situation as of today (though have some interesting prospects nearby), but do have 1 more year on our lease. We’re also in negotiations to try and purchase the 5 acre footprint that the house and primary buildings rest upon. Should everything work itself out there, we will have some time to figure out the cropland side of the package. We feel good about this option. Owning our first home is an exciting prospect for us, and will stabilize and put to rest some of our worst held fears and insecurities.
We are also very excited about some rather sizeable changes we are making to the CSA model for the 2017 season. If our plans work as planned, in time, April will be freed up from the office a bit more, which will give her more time to develop new products (lavender honey and herbal tea blends to name a couple) and gain a bit more of a well rounded experience of the farm. The new systems will simplify everything for us, though changes of course bring with them plenty of new efficiencies to iron out. We are optimistic though, more so than in past winters. We think you will like the changes all and all.

2017 LotFotL CSA Options

So, without further ado, 2 types of CSA shares lay in wait for 2017. The first looks a lot like our main CSA shares from the past. We will have only 1 share size in 2017, kind of a hybrid between the petite and full shares, so 7-10 items/week or so. This main share will be available weekly or bi-weekly. We are shortening our season to 22 weeks and also taking the weeks of July 4th and labor day off from CSA distribution, to allow you to travel and get kids in a school rhythm without having to get to a pick up site or schedule vacation holds. Chicken and Egg shares will still be available. The Bridge share program will be discontinued.
Best of all, what we are calling Traditional CSA shares will now include new items, not seen before, micro-greens and mushrooms being two potentials.  In addition, in-season fruit will be right in the shares; blueberries, cherries, peaches, apples, are some of the items we will be hoping for. Those wanting larger quantities for preserving or heavier eating, we plan to still offer the bulk fruit on our online farm store.
Some sites we have historically delivered to are not in play for a number of reasons. We will be adding some new sites, and also launching a sister drop site program, whereby a motivated individual can set up their own site in their own community by picking up shares at a primary site. We will compensate these folks for their time. So, if you’re motivated to do this, we want to talk to you.
The second CSA option for 2017 is a radical departure from any CSA programs I am aware of in the upper Midwest. We are calling this the Choice CSA program (after days spent pondering names, we gave up and settled on simple, go figure). This is not your usual CSA program at all. Not only does this program provide veggies, mushrooms, and fruit, but also grass fed beef, certified organic eggs and chicken, pork from our farm, fruit of all kinds, cheese, bread, dry goods, maybe even fermented foods, and many other things sourced from businesses with the values we have always upheld; organic and/or sustainable, whole, local, and small scale.
Here’s how this program works. We pilot in 2017 two pick up locations: the Urban Ecology Center in Riverside Park(east side Milwaukee) on Tuesdays from 4-7pm, and Tippecanoe Church in Bayview on Saturdays from 9-noon. You sign up for the full 33 week season (31 distributions, no July 4th or Labor day). Each member of your family signs up. There is different pricing for different age ranges. When you come to the drop site, we will have 14-20 different types of vegetables and herbs, 6-10 different cuts of meat, items such as fruit, bread, mushrooms, etc in bulk bins. You take what and the right amount of what your family needs for the week’s eating ahead. Some items will be monitored a bit, say only 2 pints of blueberries per person, so the last people that pick up have enough left for them too. We will approximate the right amount of meat animals to raise or purchase based on some expected rates of usage (1/3 pig/person/season for example), and communicate what that looks like so that we, as a group, can maintain a meat supply for the entire season.
We envision closer communication with members, before and during the season, to help make sure that we understand your individual needs as eaters, and are better prepared to meet them as your farmer. This will centralize the waste that can happen in a CSA season to being something that only we have to account for. No more crisper guilt for you, better returns on investment, and happier eaters for us. Everybody wins!
Here’s the genius of this model for us. When this takes off, we won’t need to lightly feed 1000 members to make a living, but will instead feed 100 families, to a deeper, possibly more meaningful level. Harvest and training of workers will be easier too, since now bunching beets or bagging salad mix to exactly .3# will be unnecessary. The hopes are to take this program year round as soon as we have good, heated facilities in which to wash, pack, and store products year round. This program will also allow us to develop more of our own specialty production of things on the farm, like krauts, perennial plantings like rhubarb, berries, and fruit and nut trees, and possibly bring more livestock rearing back into our operation. Growing veggies is great, but like many of your visions of the perfect farm, mine includes more than just a field full of vegetable crops and a couple pigs. This model gives us great motivation to develop a well-rounded farm, wherever that ends up being! Details about all of this are available right on the website, lotfotl.com. Check them out.
Lots of changes ahead, but really that’s no different than in any life. Everyone has challenges that are sudden or creeping in their time here on Earth. Our hope is that the way we intend to turn ours into opportunities works well for us and you, and puts us on a trajectory to meet 2020 as 40 something’s with a stronger, more exciting farming model, with deeper relationships to the people we feed, better paid workers and farm financials, and happier days, period. In year 10 of LotFotL Community Farm then, we are not standing still, but massaging this great relationship we have developed between us, working out the kinks, trying to make something great. Hopefully you’ll come along. Don’t listen to what you hear on the news. 2017 is gonna be something special, especially in your kitchens, and on the rolling fields of LotFotL Community Farm.
All the best and with gratitude,

Your Farmer,
Tim
262-951-0794

Ham Potato and Cauliflower Chowder

Ham Potato and Cauliflower Chowder

Ingredients:
1-2 cups chopped cooked ham
1-2 large onion chopped
2 large potatoes cut int small cubes
1 large head of cauliflower cut into small pieces
8-10 cups ham broth or other stock
2 tsp fresh thyme
1/2-1 bunch of chopped parsley
4 cloves crushed garlic
red chili flakes to taste
2 cups cheddar cheese(save some for garnish)
1/4 cup sour cream
salt and black pepper to taste

Directions:
Step 1:  Chop ham, onion, cauliflower and potatoes. I used the ham from my ham bone, but you can buy deli ham and chop if you do not have a ham bone.

Step 2: Saute onions in 1 Tbs of canola oil.  Once onions soften, add chopped cauliflower and 4-6 cups of chicken broth or ham broth.  Bring to a boil and cook until cauliflower is tender.

Step 3: Use a stick blender or a regular blender to puree the cauliflower.  Then add the remaining broth to the pot.  Next add the diced potatoes, chopped ham and chopped green onion and season with garlic, thyme, red chili flakes.   Cook on medium high heat until potatoes are fork tender.

Step 4: Lower heat to medium and add the shredded cheese.  Stir well to melt the cheese.  Then lower the heat to medium low and add the sour cream.  Stir well.  Taste for salt and seasoning and adjust as needed.  Serve hot. Enjoy.

To make the Ham Broth:

Place ham bone in a large stock pot with, one coarsely chopped onion and 12 cups of water (enough to cover the ham bone and meat).  Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer.  Simmer for 90 minutes.  Allow broth to cool down then place fridge over night or up to 2 days.  Once fully chilled, skim the layer of fat off the top of the broth and discard.  Strain broth.  Pull apart all the pieces of meat from the bone and use in the soup. Discard any pieces of fat.

Fall Greens with Comforting Potatoes

Fall Greens with Comforting Potatoes

INGREDIENTS

1 pounds potatoes cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 lemon, juiced and zested
1/6 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2.5 ounces fresh greens washed and chopped (spinach or komatsuna work well)
1/3 cup parsley, leaves only and loosely packed
1/3 cup other garden herbs like dill or oregano (optional- works fine with fewer herbs depending on what is in season)
1 shallot or small onion, peeled and thinly sliced (you may prefer to saute the onion, or add it raw)
Salt alt and freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS

Heat a large pot of water to boiling and salt the water generously. Add the potatoes and cook for 15 minutes, or until they are quite tender and creamy.

In a measuring cup whisk together the lemon juice, zest, olive oil, and sugar. Whisk until well-combined. Pour over the hot potatoes and stir gently until the potatoes are coated with dressing.

Chop the greens leaves (I like to make think ribbons with mine). Mince the parsley leaves (discarding the stems) and any additional herbs. Add the greens, parsley, herbs, and shallot/onion to the potatoes, and toss gently. The greens and herbs will wilt as they are combined with the hot potatoes. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.

Serve hot, warm, or cold.

LotFotL 2017 Winter Meat Share Delivery Area

Our Winter Meat share can be delivered to your doorstep.  We are now working animals-44571_640with a delivery service that serves the following zip codes in the Milwaukee area. Just one more thing we do to Make local EASY!

53097,53092, 53046, 53051, 53224, 53223, 53217, 53225, 53218, 53209, 53005, 53007, 53222, 53216, 53211, 53210, 53045, 53226, 53213, 53208, 53205, 53206, 53212, 53202, 53233, 53201, 53295, 53204, 53215, 53219, 53227, 53151, 53146, 53228, 53220, 53221, 53235, 53130, 53129, 53207, 53110, 53172, 53154,53132, 53150

I’m ready to sign up NOW!

Greens with Ricotta Cheese Dip

Ingredients

•    1 cup ricotta cheese
•    1 cup sauteed or steamed chopped greens (kale, spinach, chard,  Asian greens, or mustard greens)
•    Salt and pepper to taste (other seasoning like paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, or dried herbs can also be added).
•    Bread or crackers to serve

Directions

  • Mix ricotta with greens, and salt and pepper, and bake at 400 about 10-15 minutes. Serve your dip with crusty bread or crackers.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

HERITAGE BREED TURKEY RECIPE

Preheat oven to 325 degreesturkey- labeled for reuse

How long to cook it: Figure 12-15 minutes per pound for 12-20 lb. turkey and 10-12 minutes per pound for turkeys over 20 pounds. You will notice this may be less time than you are used to with a conventional turkey.

Note:  If you have stuffed the turkey, use the longer cooking time.  Your turkey should reach an internal temperature in the breast of 165 degrees (some sources even suggest as low as 140-150 degrees).

Cooking Instructions:

Place turkey, breast side up, in a shallow roasting pan.  Rub with oil or butter to prevent skin from drying and to enhance the color.  Cover the pan loosely with foil and then remove the foil for the last ½ hour of baking time for a nice golden color.  Bake in a preheated 325-degree oven.  If you are making a stuffed turkey, stuff just before putting into the oven.  To test for doneness, a meat thermometer inserted deep into the thigh should reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit.  Once your turkey is done, it is very important to let it “rest” for at least 10-15 minutes before carving to allow the juices to disperse throughout the entire bird.

*Adapted from Dominion Valley Farm

OTHER TIPS

Another great site with cooking tips for your heritage breed turkey is marysturkeys.com.  She takes you through the basic roasting directions and gives great tips.

Local Harvest also has some great advise about cooking your heritage bird.  You will notice that they are suggesting an even lower internal temp (140-150 degrees) for heritage breed birds.

The Dirt on the Farm: Fall Reflections and Predictions

Welcome to fall, y’all!! Sorry I couldn’t resist. It’s officially cold again, at least in the poster choice IImorning. That has had some positive and negative effects on crops. Farmer Tim here. It’s time for another farm update.

Overall, 2016 will go down in my books as somewhat of a poor year, with a few exceptions for a some of the summer crops. Despite that, I feel like we were to give out diverse boxes with quality food that hopefully kept you fed well. Between a rainless July and the crazy bug pressure we ended up with more losses than usual.  Extreme insect pressures made the growing of leafy greens and almost all of the cabbage family crops very difficult for us this year. Thankfully, these colder snaps of weather have finally set back flea beetle populations enough that the remaining fall brassicas, particularly cauliflower and brussel sprouts, are doing pretty well, albeit battle scarred. Carrots and winter squash region wide were also pretty problematic, though the problem there was weeds and irregular water. The winter squash harvest this year is about 50% what it has been typically. Seedlings planted in June that get not a drop of rain in July will always suffer to some degree. That loss of yield in winter squash shouldn’t effect boxes too much, it will trickle into your shares a bit slower than usual, but I think you will get your fill. We worked hard to get some carrots together for fall, but again we don’t have as many as we planned for and planted. We’re going to let them get pretty big before giving them out so they go further.  On a positive note, we expect to have tomatoes for several weeks yet, and the pepper plants out here are the nicest I have ever seen. Beans too have been pretty good this year, and should last a couple more weeks.

Once first frost hits hard, most of the peppers and tomatoes will fizzle out. The quicker-to-food crops, spinach, lettuce, salad mix, and radishes to name a few, are doing awesomely and will thrive even into the early cold weather. We have many plantings of each, and the tunnels are full again with a bit more for later. The more exotic fall roots (salsify, scorzonera, parsnips) did not survive the roller coaster of July and August, but beets (love em or hate em) are growing themselves this year, and coupled with celeriac, turnips, and storage type radishes, will make up healthy doses of fall and winter roots for your shares. This won’t be a great cabbage season, but kohlrabi and fennel are on the cusp of readiness, and the kalettes will likely be harvestable in early October. So, while maybe not our best growing year, we did have some great successes woven in, and are hopeful for an abundant fall.

For those of you that have been with us over multiple years, you have probably seen that every year is different. We plant the diversity, knowing that not everything will have a great year. We celebrate what does particularly well (like the melons and tomatoes this year), and long for what struggles or fails (broccoli, leafy greens, cabbage this year) and we eat what the fields are able to provide. We always take away a slew of new lessons and experience to carry into the next growing season, and so far we have never gone hungry. Many thanks for eating with us, and I hope you enjoy the rest of the 2016 CSA season.

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.