Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tuesday highlights

Washing dishes today, I noticed that we had dirtied (and I was washing) all 7 hotel pan lids that the farm possesses. Seven lids, new record! I got a little bit geeked about this, thought about posting a blog, and realized that this is why I never post blogs. Inane. Hey readers out there in readerland, today at lunch we used seven lids! Also, your hardworking farm crew put away 98 burritos today. Way to go, team!

In other news, I just cut into my first winter squash of the year. Heavenly. I love that smell. It reminds me of jack-o-lanterns. Tonight for dinner I am making the roasted corn pudding in squash recipe from Heidi Swanson's recipe blog, 101 cookbooks. It looks like it will be pretty awesome.

The farm continues to be busy. Always busy busy busy. Fall is elbowing its way in.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Busy busy busy

I walked down to put a letter in the mailbox this morning and this is what I saw:

Whole Foods truck arrival,

cabbage coming on to the yard,

bagging tomatoes, cleaning turnips, cleaning onions,

construction/adding on to the box shed, wagon repair, chicken manure delivery &

porta potty servicing. I didn't even get into the barrel washing room. Not to mention office work, field work & Chef Bri cooking away (lunch today will be black eyed peas & pork, sauteed kale & a fruit salad. Yum.)

Busy busy busy day (it's also a CSA pack day, so lots to harvest/wash/pack). Actually a busy week. For real, a very busy season! I've been living and working here for two years now so you'd think I'd be used to the level of activity. But today I was astounded. It's a lot to keep track of! Way to go Richard, you captain of industry, you!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ranting and Raving and Raspberries

Raspberries – To have or have not?
Just taking an informal survey: Should we grow raspberries for our CSA or not?

The following is just a little ranting & raving, in the hopes that you’ll come to understand where we’re coming from and appreciate the challenges facing farmers & CSA farms:

We’ve been putting raspberries in the CSA boxes, but not listing them in the newsletter as an item in the box. Sometimes we can’t pick enough to put in all of the boxes, so rather than put them on the list and get complaints from someone who didn’t get a container in the box, we put them in as many boxes as we can and consider it a bonus.

We try to harvest the day we pack boxes, but depending on the weather or the other work, we sometimes pick them the day before we pack CSA boxes. Each berry is picked and packed by hand, with care. Raspberries are fragile little things. The bushes ripen at different rates, so a container of berries may contain under ripe, overripe and perfect berries, depending on the person who picks them. (Plus the crew has to deal with the perils of snakes and spiders in the raspberry rows!) We put an absorbent liner in the containers and keep them in a cooler with a fan blowing on them, in an effort to keep them dry and fresh. We visually inspect each container before we pack it in a box – if there is any mold or decay, we don’t pack it. Sadly, after the boxes are packed, closed and put on the truck sometimes mold grows, as quickly as overnight.

We’ve had a few complaints that the bonus raspberries were moldy when the CSA member opened the box or after being in the fridge for a day or two. Moldy raspberries are very disappointing, but some acts of nature are out of our control. I am probably way too sensitive and need to grow a thicker skin, but we take complaints seriously (and a bit personally). We hold ourselves to a high standard and we pack exceptionally high quality boxes each and every week. Considering the number of boxes we pack, we get very few complaints, thankfully. Personally, I think you should only complain if you’ve already complimented – please don’t criticize for one bruised item in the 4th or 15th box you’ve received if you didn’t take the effort to tell us about how much you loved any number of items in boxes 1-14. Look at the whole season with some perspective!

CSA boxes do not grow on trees or sprout fully formed out of the ground. Each item in your box was planted, cared for, harvested, cooled, cleaned and then packed carefully & mindfully in your box. The boxes are not always going to be perfect and there is bound to be differences in the produce found in each box – different sizes, different colors, different varieties.
If you came into CSA with the expectation of a perfect box each week, full of your favorite items (unblemished and faultless) and only containing familiar and favorite items, then CSA may not be right for you.

If you find fault with the box because you saw something on our Farmer’s Market list or an item of ours at the co-op that wasn’t in your box, our CSA may not be right for you. We grow about 100 different crops for three different markets: CSA, Farmer’s Market and Wholesale. This diversity protects our CSA members – if we have a crop failure, we can still pack our CSA boxes by utilizing the crops originally planned for those other markets. We do everything we can (and with almost 17 years of CSA experience & 35 years of farming experience, Richard knows what he’s doing!) to provide for our CSA members.

Richard & Andrea work 7 days a week consistently, generally getting up at 5 in the morning and working until 9 or 10 at night. (I don’t work that much without getting a bit “bent out of shape” as Richard characterizes my crankiness. I try to keep happy (myself & those around me) and limit work to around 45 hours a week)

Our crew of 50 (!!) starts at 8am and works until at least 6 pm, M-F, with an hour for lunch. We’ve had a full crew for most Saturdays this season too! Besides the time invested, it’s blood, sweat, tears and a lot of pride in the work we do. Because we put so much of ourselves into the work and put such great effort into each CSA box, it’s hard not to take complaints personally. I think it’s important that CSA members remember that joining our CSA is not simply purchasing a box of produce –it’s not the same experience as going to the store or market to pick out your own produce. One of the main tenets of CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is the development of a relationship between grower and consumer. It’s not simply an exchange of goods for cash. It’s a commitment to a farm for the season – good and bad. It’s a connection between CSA members and the farm, a relationship to the place where your food comes from, and recognition of the effort it takes to produce it.

Thank you for listening. Now go eat your veggies!

CSA box pictures - End of July,August & September so far

Thursday, September 3, 2009

My favorite vegetable

Eloquently described by Chef Bri in this week's newsletter:

Broccoli Romanesco is perhaps the most dramatic vegetable you can hope to find in your CSA box, or anywhere. Our September 20, 2003 newsletter listed some of the descriptions this unique vegetable has earned, including “it may be part starfish, part wedding cake.” I would like to suggest that dinosaur be added to the list. Although I have never actually seen a dinosaur, that’s what I tend to think of when I look at the pale green vegetable’s spirals of bumpy buds.

Broccoli Romanesco’s spiraling shape, in fact, is that of a logarithmic spiral, or fractal. This unique shape is repeated in surprising places throughout the natural world, from the shells of mollusks, to the heads of sunfl owers, to the shape of the Milky Way galaxy. The simplest way to describe the logarithmic spiral is to say that, as the spiral grows larger, its total shape is unaltered by each successive curve. To say that the shape of Romanesco is a fractal is to say that each smaller section of the vegetable is patterned after the shape of the whole. For instance, you will notice that the bumpy florets on the cone-shaped vegetable are successively smaller as they spiral toward the pointed tip. Within each floret, however, there are also spiraling bumps arranged in this same pattern. For a vegetable, that’s pretty remarkable! So before you dig in, be sure to gather round friends and loved ones, gaze into Romanesco’s logarithmic spiral, and ponder the mysteries of the universe.

Romanesco is more closely related to caulifl ower than broccoli. Like broccoli and cauliflower, the part of the plant we eat is the flower. Its closely bunched buds have a similar texture to cauliflower, but are slightly more tender and have a shorter cooking time than cauliflower. Its light texture makes it good eaten raw as crudités. Like broccoliand cauliflower, its flavors are carried nicely by fats, such as butter or olive oil or a creamy cheese sauce. The entire head of Romanesco can be roasted whole, for a dramatic presentation. Or it can be cut into individual florets and steamed or sautéed. We recommend gentler cooking methods, to help maintain the unique shape of the florets. Like cauliflower and broccoli, Romanesco can quickly become unpleasantly mushy if cooked just slightly too long, so keep a close eye on it.

Romanesco can be stored several days in the refrigerator, loosely covered. It seems to be more perishable than caulifl ower, so keep an eye out for softening or discoloration. You may be tempted to put it on display as a conversation piece, but remember to eat it before it starts to go bad. Take a few photos, then cook it up and enjoy.