Thursday, April 23, 2015

Meet Our Farmers' Market Crew: Sarah

Meet Sarah Janes Ugoretz!
By Andrea Yoder
     If you read our weekly newsletters, Sarah’s name is likely familiar to you and you may remember some of the excellent newsletter articles she contributed last season.  Sarah researched and wrote all of the National Geographic series articles entitled “The Future of Food.” You may also recognize Sarah’s familiar, smiling face as she’s been a member of our market crew since 2011.  We've been working with Sarah for over 4 years and have come to appreciate her warm, positive personality as well as her other areas of skill and expertise.  Sarah has become an important part of our farmer’s market crew and the farm in general.  We have enjoyed getting to know Sarah over the past several years and thought you might too!
      Sarah was born and raised in Wisconsin and currently resides in Madison with her husband, Justin, and their two playful dogs.  Sarah is currently a doctoral student at the University of Wisconsin in Madison in the area of Environment and Resources.  She will be traveling to El Salvador this summer to begin working on her dissertation which is centered around studying women’s management of household gardens in that country.  Sarah’s career path and areas of interest have developed from a unique evolution centered around developing local food systems, an interest in personal gardening, and a contagious excitement for fresh produce, cooking, and naturally….eating!
     Sarah grew up in rural Racine, Wisconsin.  Her father grew a huge garden and, much to Sarah’s dislike, included Sarah in the entire experience.  Sarah would have rather been having fun with friends and such, but instead she was working in the garden.  Needless to say she didn't enjoy her childhood gardening experiences.  Her parents tried to get her more involved with cooking as well, but Sarah wasn't into that so much either.  It wasn't until she went to college that she began to develop more of an interest in food, gardening and cooking.  She had a group of college friends who started doing weekly potlucks and began to ask questions about where their food came from.  They started a garden at school and Sarah began experimenting more with cooking and experiencing different foods.  During her undergraduate studies, she had the opportunity to live in Mexico for nine months.  Part of the work she did while in Mexico involved spending some time talking with women in the community who made homemade tamales and other foods to sell at the markets.  Sarah became even more interested in cooking and the community as it relates to food as she watched these women make their traditional foods.
     As Sarah’s interest in local food systems and agriculture grew, she felt like she needed to get her hands in the dirt and experience it for herself.  She sought out opportunities to immerse herself in local agriculture and that is how she came to work with Harmony Valley Farm.   In 2011 Sarah contacted us because she wanted to have the experience of working on a vegetable farm.  Unfortunately the commute from Madison was a little too far, but we did offer her a position on our farmer’s market crew.  She was a natural fit and quickly learned the ins and outs of all the vegetables we grow over the season.  With four years under her belt now, we’re happy to see Sarah’s continued excitement and interest in food continue to grow.  Sarah also had an opportunity to work with Tipi Produce, near Madison, where she was a member of their farm crew for a growing season.  Now she has personal, hands-on experience and a greater appreciation for how vegetables are produced on a scale larger than gardening.  At Tipi she did weeding, harvesting, packing and more.  She describes her work at Tipi as “very hard, but fun.”
     Sarah brings a lot of skills and interests to the table.  Last year we recruited her to help us with doing research and writing for our farmer’s market and CSA newsletters.  She accepted the challenge and had a lot of fun researching agriculture and different food related topics as well as interviewing some of the producers and farmers who supply fruit for our fruit shares.  She has also stepped up to the plate and become our Farmer’s Market Crew Manager.   She helps us make crew schedules, design the layout for our market stand each week, and continues to stock vegetables and interact with customers.
     When she isn't studying for school or working at the market stand on Saturdays, she enjoys some of her favorite past times.  Let’s start with the one we both share….eating & cooking! Sarah likes to use cooking as a form of “kitchen therapy.” I asked her the hard question… “What’s your favorite food?” After a long pause and a little giggle, her first answer was “I really like bananas!”Beyond the tropical fruits, she considers onions, garlic and mushrooms to be staples in her kitchen and really enjoys a simple, well-made mushroom risotto.  If you’d like to take her out for dinner, you can safely choose any restaurant serving Asian or Middle-Eastern food and Sarah will be very happy.
    One interesting food-centric fact about Sarah involves her husband Justin and a weekly tradition they call “Burger Monday.” About seven years ago Justin, who works at a bike shop in Madison, started going to “boys’ night” at the Old Fashioned with some of the guys from the bike shop.  The Old Fashioned is a well-known Madison restaurant offering 2 for 1 cheeseburger night on Mondays.  Somewhere along the way their “boys’ night” was crashed by girls (including Sarah) and they've never been able to take it back!  So if you are looking for Sarah and Justin on Monday evening, you will be sure to find them at the Old Fashioned enjoying “Burger Monday” with their friends.  
     Beyond burgers, bananas, and cooking, Sarah also enjoys non-academic reading, taking care of her own garden, hiking with her dogs, and going for bike rides with her husband Justin.  We’re very happy to have Sarah on our crew and hope you've enjoyed getting to know her better as well.  Next time you’re at the market, stop by and meet Sarah in person!

Friday, April 17, 2015

April Spring Update!

By Andrea Yoder

Spring is always an exciting time in our valley and this year is no different.  While we’re grateful for the bounty of fall root crops which nourish us through the winter months, we always breathe a sigh of relief when we finally have something fresh and green to eat again!  Last week we pulled the row cover off the overwintered spinach and were happy to see a sea of green leaves!  Couple that with the pretty little ramps growing in the woods and thus marks the start of our spring season.
Manuel and Juan Pablo planting the first Salad mix crop!

 Every year we anxiously await the transition from winter to spring.  It seems like nothing is happening and then suddenly everything is happening!  We’re excited to be attending our first farmer’s market in Madison this weekend and our first CSA delivery is only 3 weeks away.  This week we’re harvesting the first of our overwintered spinach and the first ramps of the season!  Soon the asparagus will be poking through the ground and before we know it May will roll into June and we’ll start picking strawberries!  Here’s a little snippet of just a few things happening on the farm.

Field of overwintered Spinach

First ramp harvest of the year!

       Last week our first group of field crew members returned after spending a few months in Mexico with their families.  The pace and energy of the farm changed overnight and we’re thankful that everyone made it back to Wisconsin safely.  Juan has been staying busy managing repairs in the shop.  Rafael got right to work spreading minerals on fields.  Jose Ramon wasted no time subsoiling
Jose Alejandro taking a turn at correctly putting out a fire!
some of the fields that were still a little wet so they’d dry out faster.  Rogelio has split his time between helping Juan with repairs in the shop and spreading compost on the dry days.  We've also taken advantage of these first few weeks of spring to put fresh coats of paint on our harvest wagons and to some of the rooms in our employee housing.  We managed to squeeze in a few safety trainings including how to use a fire extinguisher and an entire day devoted to chainsaw safety.
Benjamin helping to unload a bin of overwintered sunchokes.

       Chef Martin Clark, our summer farm chef for the 2015 season, joined our team this week.  The crew is anxious for him to start preparing lunch next week.  We’re excited to share all of our wonderful vegetables with Martin to see what kinds of creative things he can make with them!
The greenhouses are quickly filling up.  This week we’re transplanting celeriac and pepper plants into larger trays.  The jicama just started poking through & I’m happy to say the ginger plants are the healthiest looking sprouts I've ever seen!  Within the next several weeks we’ll be planting the herb packs so they are ready to send to CSA members in May!
Overwintered parsnip crew!
While we were able to plant some things last week, the rain held us back from doing very much.  We’re anxious to get some important plantings done this week.  Beets, carrots, peas, chard and even onion transplants are on the list for Friday and Saturday.  The guys have been busy preparing the fields and we have our fingers crossed that the rain will hold off until we can get some more seeds into the ground.

Juan Pablo with new baby goat!
Earlier this week the harvest crew finished the overwintered sunchoke harvest and quickly moved onto planting potatoes.  The packing shed crew has been diligently moving through each of our packing areas as they do our annual spring cleaning. Every corner gets cleaned, equipment is being repaired, and we’re getting everything ready to start a new season.  There’s nothing that makes me happier than a clean, neat and organized packing shed!
As for the pasture update, we’re happy to announce the birth of our first little baby goat of the spring.  He’s a healthy little guy who had enough strength to walk to himself from the pasture where he was born to his cozy little goat house!  Juan Pablo & Angel are back as our resident animal care-takers.  The chickens were so happy to see Juan Pablo that they laid 17 eggs one day last week!

       Needless to say we’re staying busy.  We’re happy to be back in the swing of farming and are looking forward to the growing season.  Thank you for your continued support of our farm and we look forward to growing delicious food for you this season!

Creamed Ramps and Overwintered Spinach

Chef Andrea Yoder, Harmony Valley Farm

Serves 4
2 bunches ramps,  ½ lb.
4 oz spinach
3-4 quarts water
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 pint cream
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
½ tsp salt, or to taste
¼ tsp ground black pepper, or to taste

  1. Bring 3-4 quarts of water to a boil.  Cut ramps into 1-2” pieces keeping the  bulbs separate from the leaves.  Blanch the ramp leaves by boiling just until wilted and bright green.  Remove from water and put in a colander.  Rinse with cold water and squeeze off excess water.  Repeat the same procedure with the spinach.
  2. In an 8-inch oven proof skillet, heat oil.  Saute ramp bulbs just until slightly tender.  Remove from heat and top with ramp leaves.  Season with ¼ teaspoon salt and a pinch of black pepper.  Layer spinach on top of ramps and season with ¼ teaspoon salt and pinch of black pepper.  Pour cream over vegetables and top with cheese.  
  3. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 20-30 minutes or until cream is bubbling and has thickened, and the top is golden brown.

Ramp Butter

Chef Andrea Yoder, Harmony Valley Farm
Ramp butter on bread served with soup!
Yield ½ cup

1 stick unsalted butter, softened 
½ bunch ramps
  1. Soften butter to room temperature.  
  2. Clean ramps and remove the root end.  Roughly chop the ramps (white bulb and green tops) into 1-inch pieces.  Place ramps in the bowl of a food processor and process until they are finely chopped. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  3. Add the butter to the ramps and process just long enough to evenly incorporate the ramps into the butter.
  4. Put into a covered bowl and refrigerate until ready for use. Will store for about 1 week in the refrigerator, or put some in the freezer to enjoy this winter!
  5. This is a super simple, yet delicious way to enjoy the flavor of ramps and can be used in a lot of different ways.  Here are a few ideas to get you started:
  • Melt ramp butter in a saute pan and cook your morning eggs in it.
  • Put a pat of ramp butter on top of a grilled steak.
  • Spread ramp butter on bread and bake it in the oven until the bread is toasted. Serve it as a side with your favorite soup!
  • Melt ramp butter on grilled asparagus spears.
  • Stir ramp butter into warm rice or pasta.