Wednesday, September 27, 2017

What a Party! A Recap of Our 2017 Harvest Party

By Farmer Richard

Members enjoying a light snack before the wagon tour!
One of our younger members
stretching to step over the drain!
Last Sunday we hosted our annual Fall Harvest Party and had a great day!  Preparation for this party starts days before with planning, sending out invitations, ordering food, supplies, etc.  Then, the Saturday before the party comes and we kick it into high gear to get everything ready.  Our crew still had harvest to do as we finished putting together our orders for the week, but we all worked together to get the jobs done and then spent the last few hours of Saturday washing the work tractors, loading wood crates onto harvest wagons for the tour and making sure we were “parade ready.”  The packing shed crew spiffed up their area, moved equipment out and moved picnic tables in as we prepared for the potluck.  Andrea spent all day preparing snacks and food including some delicious caramelized onion & roasted poblano dip, black bean salad with tomato vinaigrette, fig & apple chutney and purple tomatillo salsa!  Angel, Oscar and Ascencion spent much of the day preparing the underground brick oven and the pork so it could slow-roast overnight.  By the end of the day we were all tired, but excited for the next day and its activities.

We had some members who came on Saturday afternoon so they could camp out on Saturday night.  They set up their tents in our camping area by the river, built a nice fire for cooking and beat the heat with frequent dips in the river to keep cool.  Chris & Lisa (members from Madison) brought a super powerful telescope.  After the sun went down, we had clear skies which made for spectacular star gazing.  We could see Saturn with its rings, Jupiter and its moons and the Andromeda galaxy.  What a cool treat!  All of the campers seemed to enjoy their night with a few hooting owls and other night sounds. 

We enjoyed music performed by Dave & Ryan!
Sunday dawned, clear and warm for last minute set-up and preparations.  Michelle arrived and took over kitchen duties so Andrea was free to mix & mingle.  Scott, Gregorio and Manuel pitched in too to help grill tortillas, finish preparing the pork and make sure everything was ready for the potluck.  Our guests started arriving at noon and enjoyed snacks and the gentle music of the Sonic Love Child.  Dave, one of the band members, is a CSA member from Minneapolis.  Unfortunately the other members of his group weren’t able to come this year, but Dave recruited another musician friend (Ryan) who actually lives in Viroqua and the two of them played for us.  The kids enjoyed giving Captain Jack (the dog) pets on the head and tossed sticks for him.  Kids of all ages tried to guess the number of baby potatoes in the gallon jar.  The winner was Clara, a young CSA member who walked away with the big jar of potatoes to enjoy!

Farmer Richard showing members how to dig sweet potatoes!
Look at this sweet potato!
One of the larger sweet potato finds this year!
Finally, it was time for the field tour!  We had 3 full wagons with a headcount of about 100 people!  We set out for our first stop at the tomato/eggplant/pepper field by the river.  We parked in the shade and spread out to find our favorites.  Some went to tomatoes, others meandered down the rows of eggplant and many enjoyed snacking on bright, sweet, warm peppers!  It’s great to see kids wrestling peppers off a plant and tentatively tasting.  Finding it sweet, they look for more.  You know the expression “kid in a candy store?!”  Yes, it’s a little like that.  After we’d had our fill, we hopped back on the wagons and headed to the sweet potato field!  We passed a very nice field of broccoli and celeriac and stopped to dig sweet potatoes.  This is a much different harvesting experience, having to remove the vines and dig to loosen the dirt with a shovel in order to pull the sweet potato bunch from the dry ground.  We have several different varieties we’re trialing this year, so we dug in several different places to check on the progress of the different kinds.  We found some very nice sweet potatoes, but it was agreed that many were on the small side and needed another week or two to grow to their full potential!

Our next stop was the pumpkin field!  We picked as many as we could including some 20# Jack-O-Lanterns and many smaller “winter luxury” pie pumpkins.  There were plenty of pumpkins for everyone and many still remained in the field as we drove away.  While we would’ve liked to stay and keep picking, we had to get back to the farm for the potluck! 
Some Members prefer the smaller pumpkins.
And some liked the bigger ones!
Chef Andrea with her wee little pie pumpkin.

The roasted pork turned out great and we enjoyed it carnitas style on corn tortillas with cabbage slaw and salsa.  Rufino made a super spicy sauce that took some by surprise!  We filled our plates, making sure we saved room for ice cream brought by Madison member, Sarah!  We had had such a great day, but wait!  We still had more activities to do!  Captain Jack took a place on the sideline, exhausted from chasing sticks and Frisbees.  While he rested, Rafael took a group to test dig the fall carrot field.  His group came back with big bunches of nice orange, yellow, red and purple carrots.  Meanwhile I took a group to check out a magnificent bald-faced hornet nest in the tree behind the office.  We also took a walk through one of our prairie spaces to collect wildflower seeds.  We wandered up to the woods and foraged for hickory nuts and stumbled upon a small patch of ghost plants!  This is a rare and strange plant that is “ghostly white”, having no chlorophyll.  We ended the walk by swinging past the Concord grape vines where we paused to pick a few to pop in our mouths.  One final visit to the goats and ducks and then it was officially time to bring the party to a close and head home!  While we were off on our adventures, our dedicated crew had already started cleaning up the wagons and was getting the packing shed put back together so we’d be ready to hit the ground running first thing on Monday morning.
After the tours, members could go with Rafael to
see and dig some carrots to take home.

Some HVF Crew took breaks under
the wagon to cool off!

Farmer Richard talking with members about Jicama!

Thanks to those that made the time to come and visit us.  We enjoyed your company and enthusiasm and hope you too enjoyed your farm experience.  If you weren’t able to join us this year, mark your calendars for next year and join us for a super-fun day at the farm!  We also want to pass on a big “Thank You” to all of our crew members who pitched in and helped us put on another great party.  Now that the party is over, it’s back to work for another busy week of packing CSA boxes, harvesting root crops, tomatoes, peppers and more!  Hope to see you next year!

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