Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Distribution by the dozen

With two weeks under our belts, it is now time for a little reflection on our community process. Distribution of the shares each week involves every one of us, farmer and CSA member alike, for it to run smoothly. On my end, I am responsible for at the very least sending in the right number of items for the shares. Contents of boxes must be filled based on the number of partial shares or full, and farm or off-farm distribution spot. This accounting responsibility is one of the trickier aspects of being a CSA farmer.

So, once counted and packed, labeled and delivered, the shares become the property of the CSA. With our ‘build your own’ or ‘buffet style’ distribution method you get a lot more choice than would be available if we boxed the shares at the farm. However, as is often the case, greater freedom requires greater responsibility. Thankfully, there is a cadre of talented folks among you who have taken on the weighty responsibility of organizing the shares so that you all can get them (i.e. distribution). The City and Liberty distribution coordinators show up early, stay late, haul lots of tables and boxes around, field inquiries, and clear up confusions every week for 24 weeks. We are so very grateful to these gals (by and large, it’s the ladies, the ladies...) who put their heart and soul into their work. Next time you pick up your veggies, you can help them by remembering a few things. First, wait until setup is finished and the workers have given the ‘all-clear’ before attempting to fill your share. Or better yet, lend a hand and make it go that much faster. Make sure to check your name off the list and take the time to read the labels on the boxes. Some weeks you may take three heads of lettuce, but next week it may be only two. And finally, have fun, commune with your fellow CSAers and rejoice in the abundance of the spring season.

What's in the Share Week 3

This is the time of the year where things are growing fast, both plants and animals. One place you notice it is in the yolk of eggs from pasture-raised chickens. The green grass and bugs that enter their diet give the yolks a deep, dark yellow color, a sign of their increased nutrition. When I serve the egg salad recipe below to people they often ask if I added mustard or tumeric because of the wonderful color of the Parker Farm eggs we use.

While we don't have a bug share, the chicken does show how eating the things growing fresh around you can make for healthy living. If you are still learning to cook all of those greens, we suggest trying the kale chip recipe from last year. While a choice this week, we will have more kale over the next couple weeks. You can also go to the Greens section of our Recipe page for everything from Steamed Tat Soi with Peanut Sauce to Radish with Arugula Salad.

While the wet cool weather wasn't liked by all the vegetables this Spring, some have really flourished. In particular the lettuce has met all of our wishes so far. This week we will be handing out one of our more interesting looking lettuces---Forellenschluss. Meaning "like the back of a trout" in German, it is a wonderful romaine style lettuce. Each head is spotted differently, the variety being quite a pretty sight in the field.

Egg Salad
At the end of last year we made a big batch of green tomato and pepper relish at Bad Seed. We use it all the time in egg and potato salads. You can find the recipe here. For us it's our secret ingredient.

6 hard-boiled eggs (Parker Farms or other pasture-raised chicken eggs)
2 to 3 tbsp mayonnaise
2 to 3 tbsp pickle or pepper relish
2 tbsp finely chopped Lovage, dill, parsley or cilantro
1/2 cup chopped Asian green
1/4 cup chopped green garlic or scallion
¼ tsp salt

Chop eggs with a knife or an egg slicer. Add remaining ingredient and mix.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

New Solar System in Clay County Missouri

While not of the astronomical type, a new solar system has set down at Fair Share Farm. The system, dreamed up by us farmers, and engineered & fabricated by Henry Rentz of Missouri Valley Renewable Energy (www.movre.com), arrived on May 11 and was put to use this week.

With all of the rain and cool weather this Spring we were beginning to wonder if we would need it at all. But a week of warm and sunny weather saw the necessity to water in our new tomato, pepper and lettuce transplants.

The schematic shows the general, simple layout of the system. Solar panels provide the electricity needed to power an electric submersible Grundfos pump. When turned on, the pump provides irrigation water to the fields for as long as the sun is shining. When we aren’t irrigating, we can use the solar panels to charge up the batteries on our electric tractor.

With a rated flow of 25 gallons per minute, and “plenty of pressure” according to Henry, the system appears to be meeting our needs. The beauty of the system is the fact that it is “on-demand”, pumping lots of water right to the drip tape in the beds, without the need for any type of storage tank system. On Tuesday we were able to pump water to one of the higher points of the fields, while irrigating another area at the same time.

We are looking forward to seeing just how far we can pump water, and then working up a permanent layout for our main lines. We are also going to see how large an area we can overhead water. This can be useful in getting cover crops to germinate during dry periods, as well as allowing us to foliar feed large areas with EM (beneficial bacteria).

We are still learning to enjoy the fact that we can run the system from this point on without the emissions, noise and cost of a gas-powered system. Except for additional irrigation supplies, operating the system from here on out should cost basically nothing but our time. The pond we are pumping from drains a large area and has not required a large amount of rain to fill up in the past. We are lucky to now have such a dependable and inexpensive source of water.

The little video below is of the pump controller. It shows that water is flowing (green arrows on left) and how much power the solar panels are providing in watts. On our first day, when the sun was bright and right overhead, the panels were providing 400 watts of power. We’ll see how much more we get by the first day of Summer.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Week 2 - At the Farm

Looking Forward to a Bright Future
In the shadow of week one’s numerous lettuces washed, alliums pulled up by the roots, tomatoes planted, potatoes replanted, distribution numbers crunched and re-crunched, puppy achievements and set-backs, our solar panels and irrigation pump arrived. This week we found some time to get it running. Tom spent most of a day assembling the above-ground plumbing that makes it all possible. We all took part in laying out tape on the newly planted tomatoes, peppers and lettuces. The final touch was changing the angle of the panels to more closely face the sun, about 30 degrees for now. Remarkably, without a misstep the lines filled and the plants were watered well. The pressure seems to be at least comparable to our old gas pump’s capacity if not better. We also appreciate the quiet that has returned to the farm, and of course the reduction in our reliance on petroleum. Our electric submersible pump, like the electric tractor, has only one fault, which is it is so quiet we forget to turn them off. I have begun the habit of walking our 7-month-old, 80-lb. pup, Rocky, to the pond in the evening to turn the system off. He likes to splash around in the shallows in an attempt to scare up frogs, or at least chase the thousands of tadpoles that swirl around his legs. I have yet to see him swim, but he sure likes to wade.

Walk Along With Me
Several years ago while visiting my mom in rural central Missouri we stopped in for a visit at the home of a fellow gardener who offered up her garden for us to dig. She pointed out a patch of what looked to be green onions and explained how the walking onions had been there since the 1940s when she moved to her home. Mom and I dug up a few and split them up between the two of us. Since Tom and I planted our walking onions at the farm they have multiplied into a very nice patch. Last week they made their debut in the full shares. The Saturday crew helped us dig up the remaining and later that day we re-planted them one per foot back in the bed. By next spring they will have multiplied to their previous numbers. Walking onions do this in two ways: by growing in a bunch, like a shallot does (one multiplies to 6 or so) and secondly, by producing a seed stalk that walks by falling to the ground and sprouting - creating a new plant. While they do multiply readily, I wouldn’t say that they are ‘invasive’ at all. They’re easy to pull, don’t need any coddling, and give us green onions for the kitchen as early as March. For those of you who are sold on planting some of these Missouri heirlooms in your garden, we will be sending in some crates to distribution. After re-planting the walking onion area, we were left with many extras and would like to share the wealth.

What's to Do With Your Share Week 2

It is the time of the year to enjoy the greenness of your share. We have been doing just that ourselves, taking advantage of some of the best salad ingredients of the year. You can’t go wrong with a simple mix of lettuces, Asian greens, onions and your choice of dressing. You can keep on topping it with nuts, seeds, hard boiled eggs, and/or grated cheese, to add some protein.

You will notice that the Asian greens have started to flower. For some vegetables, like lettuce, this signals that it is turning bitter. But for others, like tat soi, bak choi, and yukina savoy, they simply get more flavorful. Snack on the flowers, or cut them off and use them as garnish, or in a salad.

You can’t get any greener than this week’s recipe. The version below is based on what’s in the shares, but it could be just about any greens. Our favorite is cream of sorrel soup. Just make sorrel the main green that you use. You can also add a potato with the onions to thicken it up a bit. You will notice that this recipe is quite similar to last weeks, but is really quite different.

Cream of Green Soup

2 cups chopped onions, walking onions, and/or leeks
3 green garlic
½ head of lettuce
3 to 4 cups spinach leaves
¼ pound asparagus
1-1/2 tbsp lovage
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 bay leaf
1 dried hot pepper (optional)
Grated Parmesan, yogurt of sour cream for topping
Chives and chive flowers for garnish

Wash any mud off the vegetables. Cut the root end off the leeks, green garlic and walking onions. Next cut each just below where the tops start.

The tops are used to make a quick stock. Simply chop them once or twice, and add them to a 2 qt stock pot filled with cold water. Next add any trimmings from the asparagus, bay leaf and dried hot pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, finely slice the leeks, garlic and/or onion. In a medium saucepan sauté them in the olive oil over high heat for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt and butter and turn heat to medium low for 10 minutes.

Chop the lettuce, spinach, asparagus and Lovage. Add to the onions. Stir and cook for 1 minute. Strain stock into the pan, bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes. In a food processor, puree the solids until smooth. (Note: it is best to strain out the solids and puree them separately before adding back to the liquid).

Top with grated cheese, yogurt or sour cream, and chopped chives and chive flowers. This soup is also good lukewarm or cold.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Recipes from City Distribution Week 1

Minted Veggie Dip (adapted from Astray Recipes online)

Mix the following ingredients
  • 1 1/4 cup Plain low-fat Yogurt
  • 3/4 cup Light Sour Cream
  • 4-5 green garlic, chopped
  • 2 T mint, chopped
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Creamy Lovage and Mustard Salad Dressing (adapted from Recipezaar online)

Mix the following ingredients
  • 1/4 cup mayo (I used light canola)
  • 1/4 cup Plain Low-fat Yogurt
  • 1 Tbs. Lemon Juice (or more to taste)
  • 1 Tbs. Dijon Mustard
  • 2 Tbs. Chopped lovage leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Week 1 At the Farm

Tomorrow morning will be the official start of the CSA season on the farm. It’s a time of nervous anticipation at the farm. We hope that you all are as ready as we are for the season to be here. It’s been a long time coming.

Tomorrow’s harvest crew will initiate our new wash & pack area. Not new precisely, but a big improvement over last year’s model. Tom outdid himself on the addition to the loafing shed roof, which now extends over the wash area. No more need for the temporary canopy we have used for the past five years whose hobbies included sailing across our fields in the wind and dripping water on the workers. A table for spraying root crops is going to save a lot of backs and our fabulous apprentice, Jenn Baughman, & I built new tables adding lots of workspace. For the entire construction thanks to more CSA member angels, only the nails are new.

Oh we love our new wash area so! Especially since it is a bright spot on an otherwise nerve-racking sight at the farm. Two out of seven beds of peas rotted , the others only so-so. Two out of six beds of potatoes rotted; ditto on the others. We’re hoping to plant more potatoes this week. Half or more of the broccoli ‘buttoned up’. We’re sending in some of these lovely buttons for you all to see and eat. Thankfully the greens and the alliums survived the muck and the cold. You will see that this week’s shares are filled with them. While the fields are full of crops of which many will undoubtedly produce a bountiful harvest, these first few weeks are going to be a struggle. We’ve got loads of lettuce planted, so be prepared to make some salads. Meanwhile, we will continue to do our best in keeping our commitment to feeding all of our wonderful member families. In four seasons, we’ve had drought, flooding, and pests of all sizes. So far we’ve been able to muddle through these events and still have plenty for us all to eat. Here’s hoping the trend continues! On a positive note, thanks to the chilly spring for the first time ever there is asparagus in the shares. Granted its only ¼ lb. bunches (I recommend eating it raw in your salad), but the cold-induced late start brought its six-week harvest window into the CSA season so that we can all enjoy the crunchy shoots. Hoorah!

And finally before you head out to pick up your shares, a few points to keep in mind…

Fair Share Farm CSA Top Ten List: Things for a CSA Member to Remember:

  1. Pick up your fair share. For the next 24 weeks you have a date with your food, don’t leave it to rot… or have it eaten by others, more likely.
  2. And, perhaps, your other shares. Your meat, bread or egg shares come every other week or once a month.
  3. Bag up your fair share. Used plastic grocery bags may be available at distribution, but bring your own bags of your choosing if you can.
  4. Read about the fair share. Look for a new post about the shares and happenings at the farm every Tuesday night for the next 24 weeks.
  5. Share about the shares. Fill out the surveys sent mid and end of season. Post a comment on the blog.
  6. Eat your fair share. Check out Tom’s blog for all the yummiest recipes.
  7. Contribute your fair share. Distribution & farm shift schedules are posted on our website. All payments due by July 31st, 2008.
  8. Preserve your fair share. Order extra food from the bulk list, once we have extra….
  9. Share your appreciation with the distribution workers and the core. Without the diligent efforts of your fellow members, we farmers would be in a real pickle.
  10. Celebrate the season’s share. Join us at the End of the Season Dinner October 25, 2008 for food, fun and family entertainment.

Until next week,

farmer rebecca

Week 1 What's in Your Share

Welcome to week one of 2008. In our new weekly format, I, Tom, will try to provide assistance to the membership in enjoying their share. With 4 years of newsletters in the archive, there is a lot of information and recipes at your fingertips at www.fairsharefarm.com/newsletterarchive.html. I will suggest some past recipes and hopefully provide one new one each week.

The theme this week is greens and allium---as Spring as you can get. A blend of the alliums (leeks, green garlic and walking onions) makes a nice soup. Check out the recipe below, farm tested, it is mellower than you might expect. You can also check Week 1 of the 2004 through 2007 newsletters in the archives for a nice list of recipes including baked leeks, leek and tomato pasta sauce, and angel hair pasta with leeks.

The greens part of the share can be cooked or eaten raw. They provide a tremendous amount of nutrition, especially when in combination with the alliums. The Asian greens have a crunchy texture, and can stand being marinated in the dressing of your choice. Add some nuts or pumpkin seeds for flavor and protein. Our very first newsletter has a recipe for Asian Salad with (or without) Beef. A little sesame oil and Lovage (see below) is also good in this recipe.

Another green in this week’s share is something new---sorrel. This hardy perennial comes up every year first thing in the Spring and is usually passing its prime by the time the season starts. But this year it is ready to be harvested for the first week of the CSA. A tangy green with a citrus flavor we like it in salads, on sandwiches and in one of our favorites, Sorrel Soup.

The herb choices this week include Lovage, chives, mint, or dried herb. We hope you have a chance to try the Lovage. A little goes a long way, so don’t add too much. A tablespoon for a large salad is usually plenty, and adds a unique taste to dishes. It goes well with potatoes, in cole slaws, and in Asian dishes. It retains its aroma when dry, so don’t throw any leftover out. Air dry it, and then warm it on the lowest setting of your oven to drive off any remaining moisture, before storing it in a sealed container.

Three Onion Soup

2 medium leeks
4 green garlic
4 walking onions
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 bay leaf
1 dried hot pepper (optional)
Grated parmesan or other cheese for topping

Wash any mud off the vegetables. Cut the root end off the leeks, green garlic and walking onions. Next cut each just below where the tops start.

The tops are used to make a quick stock. Simply chop them once or twice, and add them to a 2 qt stock pot filled with cold water (see photo). Add bay leaf and dried hot pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, finely slice the leeks, garlic and onion. In a medium saucepan sauté them in the olive oil over high heat for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add butter and turn heat to medium low for 10 minutes. Strain stock into the pan, stir, and simmer for 5 minutes.

Top with grated cheese. If you have oven proof bowls you can brown them in the broiler before serving.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Let the Season Begin (Ready or Not)

As mid-May approaches we ready ourselves for the start of the season. The farm is drying out and warming up after an exceptionally cool and wet Spring. The fact of the matter is we have only recently “broken a sweat” it’s been so cool out. This weather has set the clock back at least a week on many of our early vegetables, but we still plan on starting the season next week, May 14th. We hope to have a full share, but may be a little light. We hope you understand.

Our best projection of what items may be in the share is the following: lettuce, green garlic, leeks, Asian greens, herb choice (chives, mint, lovage), a small bunch of aparagus, walking onions, and maybe some other greens.

The rain predicted for Tuesday and Wednesday passed us by, finally letting the farm dry out, and allowing for lots of planting, tilling, thinning, and good growing. Summer squash, cucumbers, beans and more tomatoes have joined the crops in the field. In the greenhouse there are melons, pumpkins and winter squash germinating and getting an early start. We plan on getting the eggplant, peppers and rest of the tomatoes to the fields over the next week.

The weather has created a few problems. The 70 mph straight-line winds last week put some of the row cover and deer fencing in disarray, snapped a few tomato plants, blew off some roof shingles, and put us out of power for the day. As we’ve mentioned, we lost 2 plantings of peas and the ones that came up are a little thin due to all the rain. Many of the potatoes that were under water are still not up after almost a month in the ground, though we have some hope they are just laying low.

Also a large portion of the 1,200 broccoli plants we have in the field have “buttoned up” (see photo), flowering early and creating a small, small head. Our Extension agent Lala Kumar said that this happens when broccoli is exposed to extended periods of cold weather. The plants are otherwise quite healthy, so we will clip off the small heads and see if new ones develop.

Finally, we have been using our electric tractor quite a lot and it has been wonderful. This time of year it is important to cultivate when the weeds are in the “thread stage”, that is quite small and easy to kill. Creating a weed “free” bed when the onions, carrots, beets, spinach and other crops are still small goes a long way towards helping them out compete the weeds. Check out the video of Rebecca quietly weeding 200 bed feet of spinach.