Friday, June 15, 2018

Newsletter for CSA Week 1

Farm Update



Our edible nasturtiums are looking bright and cheerful!
Hi everyone!  It’s been a pretty hectic week tying up the many loose ends that need to be tied before the CSA starts next week!  Along with the usual work that fills our weeks, Fred and Carson have been reconstructing our walk-in cooler, because we dismantled our old cooler system when we built the new barn.  Now that we’re going to have a ton more produce going out each day, we’re going to need some significant cold storage, so they’ve been getting that set up.  I’ve also been getting all of my ducks in a row.  Every year, I forget the sheer number of hours it takes to make sure everyone has all the information they need, and that I have all of the information and supplies I need in order to be prepared for anything on drop-off days!  I kind of feel the way I did each time I was nesting before having a baby, only this time the baby is the CSA!  And like when you bring home a new baby, there will likely be things I didn’t think of, and it will probably take a week or so to work out all the kinks.  So if you ever have any questions, or find a detail that went under my radar, definitely let me know!  Getting things up and running is always a huge job, but we are so excited to be getting started again, and we are so looking forward to seeing you all next week!




What to Expect in This Week's Share

Everyone will get some of these gorgeous strawberries in
their shares this week!
If you are picking up at one of our traditional style drop-offs (Alma, Mt. Pleasant, or Midland), here’s what the options will be at the different stations.  If you have a half share, you’ll choose one item at each station, and if you have a full share, you choose two items at each station.
  •          Strawberries for everyone!
  •         Romaine head lettuce or spring mix
  •         Green onions
  •         Cilantro, basil, or frisee
  •         Bok choy or Easter egg radishes
  •          Kale or Swiss chard
  •          Zucchini, carrots, or beets


If you have a prepacked share (Midland hospital, St. Johns, Lansing, Okemos, or home delivery), here are your options.  If you have a half share, you’ll choose either share A or share B, and if you have a full share, you can choose two of them.

Share A:                               Share B:
Strawberries                         Strawberries
Spring Mix                           Romaine head
Green onions                        Green onions
Basil                                     Cilantro
Bok Choy                             Easter egg radishes
Kale                                      Kale
Zucchini                               Carrots


Also, a note on the basil:  You’ll want to keep it out at room temperature on the counter, because if you put it in the fridge, it will turn blackish.  If that happens, you can still eat it, but it just doesn’t look as nice.  So it’s best to just leave it out and let it make your whole kitchen smell good! J


Recipes



Exactly seven years ago when we started the CSA, kale was not as much of a household staple as it is now.  In fact, more often than not, people would nod knowingly at the carrots, radishes, and lettuce, and stop short when they came to the kale.  “What’s this?” they’d ask.  That almost never happens now, because kale has since come to be known as a superfood, and you’ll find recipes for it in any newspaper, magazine, or blog that features recipes.  But just in case you don’t have a favorite kale preparation, or you’re just looking to try something new, here’s a great Sautéed Kale recipe from the New York Times.  This is very similar to how we usually cook it at home, and you can’t go wrong with a quick, delicious side dish like this!


And if you’re not quite sure what to do with bok choy, here is a fantastic recipe for 10 Minute Lemon Garlic Sautéed Bok Choy from Inspired Taste!  Can you tell I love fast recipes with sautéed veggies?  They’re so easy and yummy!  Enjoy!

Monday, June 11, 2018

What to Expect at Your First CSA Drop-Off

Farm Update



Fred holding one of our new hens!  We got a
 new group of ladies last week, and we hope
they'll start producing some eggs soon.
Hi everyone!  The start of the season is coming up quickly, and we are so excited to get started!  We finally have an official start date, and it's going to be next week!  So Alma is going to start on Monday the 18th, Mt. Pleasant will be Tuesday the 19th, the Lansing area drop-offs will be Wednesday the 20th, and Midland will be Thursday the 21st.  Thanks so much for your patience as we've been trying to figure out when we'd be starting.  We've basically been waiting on the strawberries to ripen, and we weren't sure until today if they'd be ready in time for next week.  But now we're confident that we'll have some good, ripe strawberries for next week, which is the perfect time to kick off the CSA!

In other farm news, it’s been super busy at the farm!  June is always a whirlwind of planting, harvesting, irrigating, seeding, weeding, delivering, and random construction and repair projects.  Fortunately, this year we’ve had plenty of rain when we needed it, so we’re super thankful for that, and we also have a fantastic farm crew in place.  So as far as we can tell, it’s shaping up to be a good year!  We’re looking forward to seeing you all next week! J










What to Expect at Your First CSA Drop-Off

One thing I’ve learned over the years of being a CSA farmer is that each CSA operates a little bit differently from the next.  So if you’ve never been part of a CSA before, or you’re just new to Monroe Family Organics CSA, here’s the rundown of what you can expect at your very first CSA drop-off!

First of all, we actually have two different styles of drop-off.  If you are picking up in Alma, Mt. Pleasant, or Midland, you’ll have our traditional “market style” drop-off.  When you show up at your appointed drop-off, you’ll see several long tables set up with seven or eight different stations, and at each station you get to make a choice.  Each station will have a sign that says something like “Spring Mix or Romaine Lettuce:  Half Share Choose 1, Full Share Choose 2”.  So then you’d get to choose a bag of spring mix or a bag or romaine if you have a half share, or you could choose both if you have a full share.  Then you’d go down the line and make a choice at each sign until you get to the end, which is our trading table.  The trading table exists so that if there is some veggie that you really don’t like, or you already have some of it at home, or whatever, you can take an item from one of the stations and trade it for something you like more at the trading table.

If you have a reusable bag or market basket, bring it along!  We’ll have some heavy-duty grocery bags there just in case, but if you bring your own bag, it’s more earth-friendly and also allows us to go through fewer bags.  As always, we’ll be there too to answer any questions you might have, offer recipe ideas, etc.  We’ll often also have additional farm items for sale on the side, such as extra pints of blueberries when they’re in season, or our free range eggs.  So if you’re interested in any of those items, you’ll want to carry some cash.  We’ll see what the egg situation is for the first few weeks of the CSA; we just got 52 lovely new Isa Brown hens, but they’re not laying yet as of right now.  So my guess is we won’t have a ton of eggs at first, but the supply will grow as the season goes on.  Keep your fingers crossed!
Here's what the tables at our traditional style drop-offs look
like!  This picture was taken last year at the Midland drop-off.

So that’s pretty much it for the traditional drop-offs!  Our other kind is the type with pre-bagged shares.  If you pick up in Lansing, Okemos, St. Johns, or the Midland hospital, or if you have your share delivered to your home or workplace, this will be your style of drop-off.  Basically, the way this works is as follows:  I’ll send out the newsletter each weekend, and there will be a section entitled “What to Expect in Your Share this Week”.  You’ll see listed the choices for “Share A” and “Share B”, each of which will have seven or eight items.  Then you can just choose which share sounds best to you, and let me know by email or text at least a day before your drop-off.  If you have a half share, you’ll choose one bag, and if you have a full share, you’ll choose two bags.  Then we’ll pack up your preferred share in a bag with your name on it, and drop it off at your pickup location.  Pretty simple!

If you’re new to the CSA (welcome!) and don’t remember when and where you’re supposed to pick up, here’s the schedule:

  • Alma: Mondays from 5-6 PM in front of His Place (200 W. Superior St.)
  • Mt. Pleasant: Tuesdays from 5-6 PM behind Herbs, Etc. (503 E. Broadway)
  • Lansing: Wednesdays from 4:30-10:00 at the Soup Spoon Café (1419 E. Michigan Ave).  Just pop in and tell them you’re picking up a CSA share, and they’ll get it for you!
  • Okemos: 4:30-6:30 at Mert’s Meats (1870 W. Grand River)
  • St. Johns: I’ll send you guys a separate email because the drop-off is actually at someone’s house, but it’s going to be Wednesdays any time after 4:30, just a few blocks from the downtown shopping district.
  • Midland: Thursdays from 5-6 PM in the pavilion behind the Eagle Ridge Church of God (2808 Waldo)
  • Midland hospital: Thursdays after around 4:00 at the seating area behind the Center for Women’s Health.
So that’s the schedule!  Here are some additional notes:

Every time a bank holiday rolls around, I have a lot of people wondering if the drop-off is still happening that day.  And the short answer is “Yes, it is.”  If your drop-off happens to fall on the 4th of July or Labor Day, it will still be occurring as scheduled, but we totally understand if you have an event going on and can’t make it to the drop-off.  In a case like that, just let us know at least a day in advance of the drop-off you intend to miss, and we’ll make some alternate arrangements. You can either have a friend pick it up for you, or postpone your share and pick up double the following week, or pick up at one of our other drop-offs that week, or even arrange ahead of time to pick up a double share the week before.  We can be pretty flexible about that, we just need to know at least a day ahead of time so we can adjust our harvest schedule.  That also applies if you’re going out of town or if you are otherwise unable to make it to the drop-off on a particular week.

Also, if you ever realize one evening that you totally forgot to pick up your veggies, never fear!  You can just email or text me to let me know, and here is what we usually do.  Because we harvest the right number of shares for the people we know are coming, we can’t necessarily add an extra share to the harvest list for you the following week, but chances are good that we’ll still be able to get you some extra veggies to make up for what you missed.  There are always a few people who forget to come to the drop-off, so we pretty much always have a few shares worth of veggies left over at the end.  So the week after your missed drop-off, if you come by after the main rush has gone through (usually around 5:15), we’ll have a pretty good idea of how much extra we’re going to have, and you can probably pick out some extra veggies to make up for what you missed.

That brings me to one major piece of advice!  At the traditional drop-offs, there is usually quite a line of people waiting when we open up at 5:00.  That’s because early in the drop-off, all of the options at all of the stations are still available.  As the drop-off goes on, some of the choices often get snapped up, so toward the end of the drop-off, some of the variety is gone.  If you want to have the widest variety possible, getting there a few minutes early is a good idea.  Conversely, if you hate waiting in line and don’t have strong preferences about which veggies you get, you might want to come later.  It’s usually fairly packed until 5:10-5:15, and after that, there’s almost never a line.

So that’s it!  If you have any questions, just let me know, and we’ll see you soon! J


Recipes



After a long, long winter of mostly stored root vegetables, having such an abundance of fresh green veggies is wonderful!  And as anyone who gardens or has been part of a CSA before knows, June is full of a bunch of leafy greens.  Fortunately, I’ll have plenty of recipe ideas during the next few weeks on how to use your leafy green goodness, starting with this Strawberry Romaine Salad from allrecipes.com!

Monday, May 7, 2018

Planting Time: The Beginning of the Veggie Life Cycle

Farm Update



Fred in the greenhouse placing flats of microgreens.
Hi everyone!  Well, like every spring at the farm, this one has been up and down.  It took quite a while for things to start growing since it was so cold for so long, but things are really starting to take off.  We have been planting like crazy to get things in the ground for later in the season, including our 50,000 onion plants!  This is the first time we’ve ever grown something on quite such a large scale, and it has been a pretty huge project, since each onion plant has to be planted by hand.  All in all, we’re putting in about two miles worth of onion beds!

Along with the planting, we’ve also been harvesting for a little while for our store and restaurant customers.  Although we don’t have enough volume or enough variety to start the CSA yet, we are able to provide some veggies (like spring mix, spinach, radishes, pea shoots, and microgreens) to local stores and restaurants throughout most of the spring.

Another thing we’ve been doing lately is repairing and reinforcing the coldframes and greenhouse.  We’ve had several days of high winds in the last few weeks, so we’ve been doing our best to minimize damage by making sure everything is as secure as possible.  However, we did have a strong wind Friday blow the plastic off our heated greenhouse, so it was in pretty bad shape.  Fortunately, Fred was able to save all of our flats of microgreens and transplants from blowing away by jerryrigging some of the ripped plastic up on the west side of the greenhouse to protect the plants from the prevailing wind.  Then he made an emergency trip to Grand Rapids that evening to get some new greenhouse plastic, and he and Ben put it on the house Saturday.  It’s a huge job that kind of came out of nowhere, but that’s one of the realities of farming.  And fortunately none of our plants were ruined.  So that’s a win, I suppose.

These days at the farm, there is always something to be done to get everything up and running for the summer season.  There are flats to seed, transplants to put in the ground, veggies to harvest and pack, coldframes to tend, irrigation to manage, greenhouses to fix, and a barn to be set up and organized, as well as a million other small tasks that make up the body of work on the farm.  And after a long winter, it is so nice to be back out there in the sun doing all of it!



Planting Time:  The Beginning of the Veggie Life Cycle

In the greenhouse, there are flats of microgreens, as well as
transplants waiting for the day they can be planted in the field.
Long before all of our farm’s veggies end up on your plate, and even before they become pretty rows of plants growing in the field, they begin their life as tiny seeds.  The first seedings of the year are a really big deal to us, because they determine the timetable the veggies will follow for the rest of their life cycle.  We generally start planting a lot earlier than most farms because we want to begin harvesting as soon as possible, although this year many of our plantings were pushed back significantly by the extended cold weather. There are a number of factors that go into getting the timing just right.

We do two types of seeding at the farm: transplants and direct seeding.  The seeds that are destined to be transplanted are first seeded into black plastic flats filled with potting soil.  Traditionally we’ve seeded all of these transplants by hand, but a few weeks ago, we got a new seeder that can do about 15 times the number of flats in the same amount of time, so that has been a huge time saver!  Once the flats are seeded, we cover them with a layer of vermiculite, water them, and place some of them in our homemade germination chamber (really just a tent of greenhouse plastic with a heater in it) to help speed up the germination of the seeds.  We usually start this in early March, so the plants can get a head start growing long before the weather outside the greenhouse is suitable for growing plants.  Once the baby plants begin poking out of the potting soil, we check each cell to make sure there is only one seedling growing in it, and move any doubles into empty cells where the original seeds never germinated.  The goal is to have one plant per cell and no empty cells, because having as few flats as possible saves space in the greenhouse, and it also makes our jobs more efficient when we eventually transplant them (when they’re about two inches tall)  into the field. 

When it becomes time to plant the transplants in the field,
we put all of our little plants into the field by hand.  Here I am
 planting some lettuce transplants.

Also around this time, we plant some seeds directly into raised beds in the coldframes, so we can begin getting things like radishes and greens earlier than the outside weather would allow.  Once the nighttime low temperatures are consistently out of the single digits, we can work the ground with our tractor and apply our organic fertility mixes.  Then we shape raised beds in the coldframes and plant the seeds with our 5-row push seeder.  We irrigate with our overhead sprinklers during the day when it is above freezing so our water lines don’t freeze up. We also cover these plantings with large sheets of perforated clear plastic to act as a secondary greenhouse to get the soil temperature high enough to germinate the seeds.

Then, after the first round of seeding the transplants, coldframes, and greenhouse, there is the first field seeding of the year.  This usually takes place in late March when the weather is fair enough and the soil is dry enough to support the weight of the tractor. The first field seeding is a huge deal, because this is where the majority of the veggies for the first few weeks of the CSA come from.  This seeding usually includes cold-tolerant crops such as spinach and lettuce.  Immediately following this seeding, we set up wire hoops that resemble large croquet wickets, and cover the hoops with perforated clear plastic with an implement that we pull over the hoops with the tractor.  These serve to protect the plants from the wind and excessively cold temps when they emerge from the soil so early in the year. It is amazing that this year these first plantings seeded around March 25th were able to survive out in the field with these simple hoops. These plantings actually look great despite being snowed on and frozen too many times to count!

So that is the beginning of the veggie journey, and before we know it, all those veggies will be ready to harvest and eat!

Recipes



Now that the cold weather is finally behind us, there is a much larger variety of local produce around us than there was a few months ago!  But for me, one of the first signs of real spring is the radishes.  Radishes are one of those veggies that you either love or hate; I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone whose feelings about radishes were ambiguous.  Personally, I love them sliced really thin on a salad or on top of a stir-fry.  So if you’re looking for a few new ideas for an old favorite, or you’re thinking of giving this lovey spring veggie another shot after dismissing it decades ago, here are 13 Tasty Radish Recipes from Real Simple to give you some inspiration!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Springing Forward into Our New Barn

Farm Update



We're starting to plant!  Here I am seeding our onion transplants
in the greenhouse.
Hi everyone!  It feels like the season came on all of a sudden, and we are definitely back in production mode now!  Our new barn is up, and Fred has been busy moving everything in and figuring out how to arrange the things according to the different activities that will take place there.  We’ve also been making deliveries of spinach, microgreens, and pea shoots to a few of our restaurants and stores for the last few weeks.  So if you’re interested in getting a hold of some of our spinach, you can find it at GreenTree in Mt. Pleasant or LaLonde’s in Midland.  In other awesome news, we started planting in the field on Monday!  The first field planting day of the year is an extremely big deal to us, because the veggies we put in the ground this time will be the veggies that you get in your first few shares.  The earlier we can get things growing in the field, the earlier we can start the CSA, so we were really excited to be getting seeds into the ground.  We’re also really glad to have Carson back working for us this season!  He started working on Friday, which is great timing because we’re going to have a huge amount of work ahead of us.

We are also happy to announce our partnership with GCC Organics, a certified organic farm that raises free-range meats.  They are kicking off a meat CSA this year, and we’re going to have an arrangement where any of our CSA members at the Alma, Mt. Pleasant, or Midland drop-offs who also sign up for their meat CSA can pick up the meat shares at our drop-off.  For more information about that, you can email them at info@gccorganics.com.



Springing Forward into our New Barn

March is a month of beginnings; it's when the farm wakes up for the year.  It is the month when we begin harvesting the greens that have been overwintering, it’s the month when we start our transplants from seed in the greenhouse, and it’s the month when we plant the seeds that will become the vegetables in the first CSA shares.  There is a lot going on at the farm right now, but by far the most significant beginning this March is the inaugeration of our new barn!  The barn project is the culmination of many years of projecting and many months of planning, and now it stands where our old makeshift packing area used to be.  Like those home shows that take you from broken-down house to beautiful remodeled home in half an hour (and leave you with the impression that somewhere out there, there is a fairy godmother who can give you a sparkly new kitchen with a wave of her wand), I'm going to give you the really condensed version of the month-long project.  So here are some pictures from each stage of the construction of our new barn!

Stage 1:  The excavator comes out to level the ground and take
off the topsoil where the barn will be built.


Stage 2:  The team from Integral Builders puts up the frame.
These guys work really quickly, and they have the frame up
in one day.

Stage 3:  The windows are hung and the siding goes on the barn.
It's starting to look more like the finished project.
Stage 4:  The ground is leveled inside the building so they
can pour the concrete floor.

Stage 5: While the concrete floor dries, the holes where the
garage doors will be are closed off to keep the new wet floors
out of the elements.  Soil and construction materials pile up outside.



Stage 6:  The large garage doors are added to the building,
and the barn is complete!  Now we just need to do the electrical
wiring and move everything in!


Recipes



Oh, March.  Not quite as tricky as February for the Michigan locavore, but still not exactly an abundant month.  The upside is that local spinach is more readily available in co-ops, small grocery stores, and indoor farmer's markets.  The downside is that that's pretty much it.  But you can still make some pretty amazing meals with just the produce that's available locally in season, like Chef John's Spinach and Feta Pie!  Perfect for an Easter morning breakfast!  Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

What's New at the Farm for 2018?

Farm Update



In one of our coldframes, spinach is overwintering so it will
be available sooner than normal.  It is insulated from the cold
and protected from the wind, and the spinach under the plastic
low tunnel (at right) has an additional layer of insulation.
Hi everyone!  The weather is starting to turn, and although the temperature doesn’t reflect it yet, spring is around the corner!  We’ve noticed that the winter grayness has faded away in the last few days and the sun is out, cheerful and bright, a sure sign that spring is thinking about making an appearance in the not-too-distant future.  There isn’t much growing at the farm right now, but there is plenty of activity, as Fred is deconstructing our old packing area in preparation for the new barn that will be going up in a few weeks!  It’s a pretty big job, but the barn and packing area will make pretty much everything this summer more efficient.   We also had the chance to get away for a couple days in January to speak at the Northern Michigan Small Farms Conference in Traverse City!  We had so much fun with our presentation, and as the conference is pretty much the social event of the season for small farmers, we always get to catch up with a bunch of our friends as well as learn new things.  It has been both a productive and a relaxing off-season, and pretty soon, we’ll be right back into the swing of things at the farm.  But in the meantime, I’m planning to thoroughly enjoy the rest of our winter break!







What's New at the Farm for 2018?

Our old makeshift packing area (which was never pretty at the
best of times, and looks downright dreary in the winter) is going
by the wayside in favor of a beautiful new barn!
Each year the farm looks a little different than it did the year before.  The beginning of the 2017 season saw two new coldframes and a deer fence that weren’t there at the close of the 2016 season, and virtually every year we get a few new (old) pieces of small farm equipment and maybe even some infrastructure.  But this year we are investing very heavily into the farm in several ways that should make it easier to serve all our customers and make it a better, more efficient place to work.  The first big change is that after renting our land for the last seven years, we are finally purchasing the property!  This is kind of a huge deal for us, and it will allow us to make some more permanent infrastructure changes to the farm.  With the land purchase we are also acquiring an additional 5-6 acres of growing space, which is a dramatic increase in our growing area.  Now we’ll be able to grow more crops for winter storage (such as carrots and potatoes), and just more in general.  We’ll also now have enough acreage to not use our current ground so aggressively, and allow for more soil building cover crops in the crop rotations.  And for all of you who have asked about it, you’ll be excited to hear that we’re finally adding asparagus to our cast of fruit and veggie characters!  We haven’t had enough land to justify it until now, but the asparagus will be going into the ground this year.  Because it takes two or three years to become established, we won’t have it in the shares this year, but we’re laying the foundations now for a lovely harvest of asparagus in 2020.

Now that we have ownership of the land, and there will be a significant increase in the amount of produce to wash and pack, we are finally addressing another major bottleneck of the farm: the packing area.  We put up our current packing area six years ago in a few hurried days and on a shoestring budget.  It was originally meant to accommodate three people and about a third of the produce we currently go through, and the limited capacity and lack of space made washing and packing all those veggies extremely inefficient and frustrating last season.  Now with the increased production we have planned, we know it will never accommodate what we’ll have this season.  So we’re putting up a much needed, long awaited barn!  The new building will be a 30x60 pole barn that will hold our packing area, a storage area, and a more permanent bathroom (as opposed to the portajohn we’ve been using for the last few years).  Since it is enclosed and out of the elements, it will also allow us to wash and pack in all four seasons, instead of just the three we’ve previously been able to stand.  So now we’ll be able to keep up some level of winter production as well, between the storage crops (such as carrots and potatoes) and some coldhardy greens in the coldframes.  I could go on and on about our further plans for this building, but in short, it will enable us to offer our veggies for a much longer portion of the year and allow us to be much more efficient in how we store, wash, and pack.

Some of the lumber for our barn has been delivered already,
and it's waiting to be used in construction in a few weeks.
Another change this year at the farm is that we are constructing another 30x72 coldframe (this will be our seventh one!) that we got on the cheap at an auction.  Since we now have so much hoophouse space, we can grow early tomatoes that should be a few weeks ahead of when you normally see them in your shares.  We are having another local organic grower help us start the plants from seed in his greenhouse since he has more experience in growing these early plants, and because he has more heated greenhouse space than he can use and we have the opposite problem.

So now that we will have veggies for more of the year, we’re considering doing an early spring CSA (starting in 2019) and a late fall CSA.  Don’t be surprised if you see our veggies in some of our local restaurants and stores for more of the year as well!  We are talking with a local farm that raises organic pastured meat, to develop a reciprocal program where people can pick up their meat at our drop-offs, and their customers could also pick up our veggie shares from them.  Collectively we would be able to give our customers better and easier access to truly good local food without everyone involved having to do a lot of extra driving.  We are still working out the details, and it definitely isn't set in stone, but we hope to get this plan off the ground soon.


Most of these changes take money (a significant amount of it), and we are grateful to the many CSA members, restaurants, stores, and other partners who have made this possible and given us the confidence to invest heavily in the farm.  We hope you will be a part of this big season of change along with us and that we will be better able to serve you and our local community well into the future!



Recipes





February is a tricky month for the locavore in Michigan, because the variety of locally sourced produce has often dwindled down to some stored root veggies, the herbs on your windowsill, and whatever hearty greens are coming out of your local farmers' coldframes.  But never fear!  This recipe for Winter Spinach Potato Casserole makes the most of exactly those things, and will warm you up after being outside in the cold February chill!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

New Year's Resolutions: How to Set a Goal You Can Stick With this Year

Farm Update


The farm takes a winter rest from production under a blanket
of snow.
Hi everyone!  Winter is upon us and the farm is under a blanket of snow.  There isn't much production going on this time of year. We've stopped heating our greenhouse, and the overwintered veggies in the coldframes and under plastic tunnels in the fields are just biding their time until the sunlight hours get long enough for them to start growing again.  You could say that the farm has just settled down for a long winter's nap, as the saying goes.  But although there isn't actually anything growing at the moment, there is still some activity being done.  This is the time of year when we make plans for next season, and there are a lot of new and exciting things coming up this year!  Not only are there the normal things like selecting our veggie varieties and acquiring new tools to make next year's work more efficient, but this year we're planning a major construction project at the farm!  For the last several years we've washed and packed all of our veggies in a pretty ramshackle makeshift packing area, and this year, we're upgrading to a long overdue pole barn packing area.  We've been poring over websites, designing floor plans, arranging financing, and lining up contractors, and this year we're making our dream a reality.  And speaking of turning dreams into reality, it's time to set a New Year's resolution!  Check out the tips below to choose a meaningful, specific, actionable goal for 2018!

New Year's Resolutions:  How to Set a Goal You Can Stick With this Year


Let’s talk New Year’s resolutions.

When I was a kid, I used to love to come up with a good New Year’s resolution.  There was something about identifying the ways in which I’d like to be better in the coming year and making a (fairly shaky and somewhat fickle) commitment to it.  (Because okay, I was 10.)  But like most of us, I would inevitably decide it was unrealistic and forget about it by February. (Which is probably why, despite resolving it every year, I didn’t manage to stop biting my nails until well into college.)

There are several common traps we fall into when making New Year’s resolutions that pretty much set us up to fail.  One of them is making a resolution to do something that we feel like we should do instead of something that is actually meaningful to us.  For example, you might make a resolution to read two non-fiction books a month for the next year because you feel like that would make you a more well-rounded, smarter, more impressive human being.  But maybe you’re more of a fiction person.  Or a magazine person.  You don’t actually care all that much about reading non-fiction books, but you feel like it’s something you ought to do in order to be taken more seriously by others, or for a myriad of other reasons that you probably haven't articulated to yourself.  So chances are you’ll read a book or two by the end of February, but you won’t stick with it.  However, if you set a goal that you actually feel strongly about (say, get out of work at a reasonable hour every day so you can spend time with your family), you are way more likely to succeed at that, simply because you value the result of that resolution more.

Another common pitfall is setting goals that lack specificity.  How many millions of people each year vow to lose weight, only to have the scale read the same number the next Christmas that it did on New Year’s Day?  But if you add some specificity to the resolution, you are more likely to stick with it.  Maybe instead of “lose weight”, you could resolve to lose 10% of your body weight, or lose five inches from your waist.  By setting a more specific goal, you actually know what you’re shooting for, and you’ll know if you’re making progress or not, and even more importantly, you’ll know when you’ve succeeded.

But all the specificity in the world won’t get you far if you don’t turn your goal into an actionable plan.  For instance, if you want to lose weight, you need to figure out what actions will get you there.  First, be specific about your goal.  (For example, “Lose 24 pounds this year”.)  Then if necessary, break it down even farther in order to make it more measurable.  Two pounds a month, say, instead of just 24 pounds over the course of the year.  And really, if it were that easy on its own, you’d be doing it already.  There are so many things that can derail your good intentions (and probably have hitherto), so one thing that can really help is identifying the things that might trip you up.  Often, after a failed project, teams do a post-mortem analysis to determine what went wrong.  So you’re going to do a pre-mortem, so to speak.  Ask yourself the question, “If I haven’t lost two pounds at the end of the month, what will be the most likely reason?”  Spending too much time sitting at work?  Paying too little attention to my snacking?   Pretty much always choosing a fried entrée when I go out to dinner?  And figure out what you need to do to avoid that outcome.  If too much sitting is likely to be your problem, maybe sign up for a cardio-based exercise class a few times a week, or watch Netflix while walking on the treadmill instead of sitting on the couch in the evening.  Or if you think that snacking throughout the day will trip you up, get rid of all the unhealthy snacking options in your house and stock up on those cute little clementines, or some other healthy option that you love.  And while you’re at it, switch out some of the more calorically dense foods on your plate for more fruits and veggies!  If eating too many calories in general is your trouble, you can easily take in fewer calories without having to measure or record anything.  Since most fruits and veggies are less calorically dense for their volume than meat and other heavier foods, you can eat the same volume of food so you’re not hungry, but with a much smaller calorie price tag.

Or maybe you’re one of the many millions of people who vow at the beginning of every year to “eat healthier”, and you really mean it.  It’s important to you.  While it’s a great thing to do, as it stands, “eat healthier” is basically just a blob of undoability.  What does that actually look like?  How will you know if you’ve succeeded?  And what specific actions are you going to do to reach that goal?  Maybe to you, eating healthier means cutting sugar, incorporating more fruits and vegetables, and cooking at home more.  Or maybe it means choosing healthier options when you go out to dinner and staying better hydrated.  There are a lot of ways to “eat healthier”, so choose the ones that are the most pertinent to you, and start there.  So once you know what “eat healthier” looks like for you, you can form a game plan.  Maybe you want to reduce your sugar intake.  You might make a goal to reduce your sugar intake to X amount per day or per week.  Then do a pre-mortem analysis.  If you don’t reach you goal of X amount of sugar per day, what will be the most likely reason?  The insane amount of sugar in your daily can of soda?  The 20 boxes of Thin Mints you bought from your daughter when she was selling girl scout cookies?  Determine the most likely problem, and figure out how you’re going to handle it before the situation is right in front of you.  Perhaps you could ask whoever does the grocery shopping in your house to please please please support your goal by not bringing pop home from the store.  Or don’t carry small bills with you to work, so it becomes harder to go get a can from the vending machine at your workplace.  Or give each of your friends a box of the girl scout cookies.  It’s a win-win.  Your friends will love you forever, and you won’t have the temptation of those delicious cookies calling your name every time you walk into your kitchen.


Then, keep analyzing.  Did those measures enable you to achieve your goal?  If not, then figure out what else needs to be tweaked.  If so, then awesome!  You did it!  Now keep doing it.  Because it’s pretty easy to keep a resolution for a week or two, but harder to keep doing it in the long run.  If you experience a setback, acknowledge it, form a plan for how to tackle similar setbacks in the future, and keep on moving.  And at the end of the year, you’ll look back at the goal that was once so hard and realize that it’s become so much a part of your life that you don’t really think about it anymore.  Except to appreciate how it’s contributed to your quality of life, of course.



Recipes





If you're looking for a way to do the traditional New Year's Eve celebrations in a healthier way (perhaps to get a jump start on those healthy living resolutions you set?), check out these fun New Year's Eve recipes from Eating Well.  Whether you're throwing a party or just planning some celebratory snacks for while you watch the ball drop on TV, these can help you munch festively in a healthier, more natural way.  Enjoy!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Final Drop-off: A Farewell to the 2017 Season

Farm Update


The leaves are starting to fall, and the
crops are continuing to shut down.  Time
to say good-bye to the CSA for this year.
Hi everyone!  What a cold, wet week!  It’s weather like we’ve had this week that marks the natural end of the growing season, and this year is no exception.  This week will be our final week of the CSA, and we have so enjoyed seeing you all throughout the season!  But even as we’re putting the 2017 season to rest, I’m already thinking ahead to 2018.  We’re starting sign-ups for next year, so if you’re interested in doing the CSA next year, just let me know and I’ll put you on the list for next season.  The cost will be $300 for a half share and $550 for a full share, and we can split it into payments in whatever way works out best for you.  Just let me know if you have any questions about any of that!  And if you're wondering where you can continue to get our veggies for a little while, we'll be making deliveries to Green Tree Co-op in Mt. Pleasant and Lalonde's in Midland for a few weeks.  Thank you all so much for being with us and supporting our farm this season, and we hope to see you all again next year! J






What to Expect in your Share this Week


If you are picking up at one of our regular drop-offs (Alma, Mt. Pleasant, and Midland) this week, here are the options you’ll find at each station!  If you have a half share, you’ll choose one item at each station, and if you have a full share, you’ll choose two.

These are (probably) the last tomatoes of the
year, which we harvested two days ago.  That's
a pretty good run!
Potatoes
Spinach, arugula, or cabbage
Sweet potatoes or winter squash
Carrots, beets, or Brussels sprouts
Kale, 4 onions, or cilantro
Leeks, bok choy, or radishes
Celery root, garlic, or shallots

And if you’re having your share delivered or picking up in Lansing, Okemos, or the Midand hospital, here are your options.  If you have a half share, choose either share A or share B, and if you have a full share, you get to choose two.

Share A:                               Share B:
Potatoes                                Potatoes
Spinach                                 Arugula
Sweet potatoes                      Sweet potatoes
Carrots                                  Brussels sprouts
4 Onions                               Kale
Bok Choy                             Leeks
Celery root                           Garlic


Recipes


Is anyone else out there already thinking ahead to Thanksgiving?  I can't be the only one.  If, like me, you have dreams of turkey, stuffing,  and cranberries dancing in your head, here's a fantastic recipe for Sweet Potato Pie!  I've been making this recipe for a few years now, and it's my favorite sweet potato pie recipe out there.  Or if you're still stuck for ideas for your celery root, you can find some in last week's newsletter, or check out this recipe for Celery Root Soup.  It has a bunch of fall favorites, including potatoes, leeks, and apples along with the celery root, so it's bound to be a hit!  Or if you're looking for a little carrot inspiration, here is a recipe idea from chef Josh at the Brass Café in Mt. Pleasant.  He used our tricolor carrots to make this dish with grilled duck, roasted carrots, basil, balsamic, feta cheese and a broccoli pecan pesto.  Yum!