Saturday, June 22, 2019

CSA Newsletter for Week 2

Farm Update


The carrots and potatoes are growing up really
nicely in the coldframes!  They're much farther
along by now than they'd be if they had been
growing out in the open field, because the
greenhouse has protected them from all of the cold,
wind, and rain of spring. 
Hi everyone!  Now that the weather is finally warming up, things are really coming to life out there at the farm!  The lettuces are really doing well, so expect plenty of your favorite spring mix, romaine, and head lettuces over the next few weeks.  The strawberries are also taking off, so we'll have some in the shares this week!  If you don't happen to get some this week, we should have a bunch for everyone next week.  We also had several people asking at the drop-off how we were able to get carrots and zucchini so early, and the answer is our coldframes!  We grow a lot of our early veggies in the coldframes (also called hoophouses), which are basically unheated greenhouses.  They protect young plants from the cold, wind, and damp that is prevalent in spring so that they can be planted and reach maturity a lot earlier than they would in the open field.  The coldframes also allow us to grow many veggies later in the fall than usual, to protect from the fall cold, wind, and damp that often produce plant diseases and signal the end of the growing season.  That's why we're able to provide everyone with 20 weeks of veggies in a climate that doesn't usually allow for that long a season.  So we are extremely thankful for our coldframes!


In other news, it was so good to see many of you again at the drop-off!  We started the Midland, Lansing, Okemos, and St. Johns drop-offs last week, and we'll be kicking off the Alma and Mt. Pleasant drop-offs this week!  For those of you who haven't had their first drop-off yet, I'll see you in the next few days!  


What to Expect in This Week's Share


If you are picking up at one of our traditional style drop-offs (Alma, Mt. Pleasant, and 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!

  • Broccoli
  • Carrots or strawberries
  • Spring mix or head lettuce
  • Green onions
  • Kale, chard, dandelion greens, collards, or bok choy
  • Zucchini or kohlrabi
  • Microgreens, garlic scapes, or radishes

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, B, or C, and if you have a full share, you can choose two of them.  So just email me by the day before your drop-off to let me know which share you want for this week!  If I don't hear from you, I'll just choose for you. :-)

Share A:                      Share B:                            Share C:
********Either carrots or strawberries in all shares******** 
Broccoli                       Broccoli                            Broccoli
Spring mix                   Romaine                           Head lettuce
Green onions               Green onions                    Green onions
Bok choy                     Kale                                  Bunched greens
Kohlrabi                      Zucchini                           Zucchini
Microgreens                Radishes                           Garlic scapes
       

             


Recipes



It's a broccoli kind of week!  Everyone gets broccoli in their shares this week, so if you're stumped on what to do with it, or are just looking to try something new, here are 27 Broccoli Recipes You'll Want to Make Tonight from Bon Appetit.  Enjoy!

Sunday, June 16, 2019

CSA Newsletter for Week 1

Farm Update


The potatoes are in bloom!  Most
people have never stopped to consider
that potatoes do indeed have a part that
grows above the ground, and this is
what it looks like when it's flowering!
These potatoes are growing in one of our
coldframes so we can have them a lot
earlier than we normally would.
Hi everyone!  Welcome to the first week of the CSA!  Just in case you missed the announcement a few days ago, we are going to be starting half of the drop-offs this week and half of the drop-offs next week.  So if you pick up in Lansing, Okemos, St. Johns, or Midland (or have your shares delivered to your home or office in those areas), you'll have your first drop-offs on Wednesday and Thursday of this week!  Everyone else is starting next week, but the good news is that you'll have an extra week of goodies in the fall!  It's been such a weird year, with the cold, wet spring, and it has definitely pushed back the schedule we have come to expect from the crops.  Hopefully we'll start getting some warm weather soon, and we can get summer on its way!  In the meantime, we have a nice lineup of cool weather veggies this week.  And if this is your first drop-off, welcome to the CSA!  If you're not quite sure what to expect, never fear!  Here is a post I did last year, which details all you need to know for your first week of veggies!  And if you have any questions, definitely feel free to send me an email or give me a call at 517-896-6884.  See you soon! :-)





What to Expect in This Week's Share


If you are picking up at one of our traditional style drop-offs (just Midland this week), 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!

  • Baby carrots or spinach
  • Green onions
  • Spring mix
  • Bok choy, kale, or red-rib dandelion greens
  • Broccoli or zucchini
  • Frisee or head lettuce
  • Cilantro, microgreens, or garlic scapes

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.  And next week when more of the crops are ready, we'll add in share C for even more variety!  So just email me by the day before your drop-off to let me know which share you want for this week!

Share A:                               Share B:
Baby carrots                         Baby carrots
Green onions                        Green onions
Spring mix                            Spring mix
Broccoli                                Broccoli
Bok choy                              Kale
Frisee                                    Romaine head
Cilantro                                Microgreens


Recipes



Sautéed Dandelion Greens with Eggs. This five ingredient breakfast or dinner utilizes one of the healthiest vegetables: fresh dandelion greens!One of the fun things about being part of a CSA is getting to try veggies that may have never found their way into your kitchen before.  My guess is that there is at least one thing on the roster for this week that you've never tried, and maybe even a few things.  So here are some recipes for the more unfamiliar items to get you started!  Enjoy!

Stir-Fried Bok Choy with Ginger and Garlic:  Really flavorful and amazingly quick to make, this delicious bok choy recipe makes a fantastic side dish!

Sauteed Dandelion Greens with Eggs:  Another really fast, really simple dish, this would be fantastic for breakfast.  Or any meal, really.... eggs and greens are great any time of day!

Frisee Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette:  So are you sensing a theme here?  This is another really fast dish that doesn't require any complicated techniques, but just lets the fantastic ingredients shine.  Which is basically how we cook at our house.  :-)

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Official CSA Start Dates! ( CSA MEMBERS PLEASE RESPOND!)

Hi everyone!  After a long, cold, wet spring, we finally have official start dates for the CSA!  We've been watching the plants with bated breath to determine when they'll be producing enough food for us to start the CSA, and it looks like it's going to be next week!  BUT--- (And this is important, so don't just skim over this!) instead of starting on Monday the 17th like we had originally hoped, we're going to be starting the Lansing, Okemos, St. Johns, and Midland drop-offs next week, and the Alma and Mt. Pleasant drop-offs the week after that.  Fred's expert eye has determined that the plants will be ready on Wednesday the 19th (and unfortunately, not in time for Monday), so that will be our first CSA drop-off!  Here are the official dates and details so you can mark your calendars:

Lansing, Okemos, and St. Johns:  Wednesday, June 19th.  The Lansing drop-off is at the Soup Spoon Café on Michigan Ave. anytime between 4:30 and 10 PM.  The Okemos drop-off is at Mert's Meats on Grand River anytime between 4:30 and 6:30 PM.  And if you're picking up in St. Johns, I'll be sending you a separate email with the address because it's at someone's house, but you can pick up your share anytime after 4 PM.

Midland and MidMichigan hospital:  Thursday, June 20th.  The Midland drop-off will be at the Eagle Ridge Church of God between 5 and 6 PM.  The hospital shares will be dropped off at the seating area/ delivery turnaround behind the Center for Women's Health, and you can pick them up anytime after 4 PM.

Alma:  Monday, June 24th.  The drop-off is at His Place on Superior St. between 5 and 6 PM.

Mt. Pleasant:  Tuesday, June 25th.  The drop-off is at Herbs Etc. on Broadway between 5 and 6 PM.

So mark your calendars, enter a reminder on your phone, and let me know if you have any questions!  And since I really really want to make sure everyone gets this message and doesn't miss the first week of veggies, can you PLEASE JUST SEND ME A QUICK EMAIL SO I KNOW YOU GOT THE MESSAGE?  I'll send another email to any CSA members I don't hear from by Saturday and try to get in touch with you that way, and if I still don't hear back from you, I'll give you a phone call.  But it would make my life a lot easier if you just let me know you got the message, so I don't have to track you down over the weekend.  :-)  Thanks so much, and we are so looking forward to seeing all of you at the first drop-off!


Tuesday, May 28, 2019

CSA Newsletter for May 2019

Farm Update


The first produce to come out of the fields each
year is precious after a long winter of preserved
foods and grocery-store fare, so we've really
been eating a ton of spring mix lately!  And look
how lovely these lettuces are!  I'm so thrilled that
fresh produce is coming back to even frozen
Michigan for the year!
Hi everyone!  It's been a busy month at the farm!  We've been doing a lot of planting (including planting 50,000 onion plants by hand... yikes!), a fair amount of harvesting (mostly for some of our stores and restaurants), and a bunch of ground prep, last-minute equipment acquisition, and even a little bit of weeding already.  Basically, all of the many things that need to happen on a diverse farm in May.  Even though we had a really cold spring, we're still hoping to start the CSA during the third week of June.  We don't have an official start date yet, but we're projecting that we'll kick things off the third week of June, and we'll definitely let everyone know as soon as we know for sure.  Usually the signal to start the CSA is when the strawberries are ripe, so we're really hoping that celebrated event won't be pushed back by the unusually extended cold weather.  And just in case you're wondering, we do still have a few spots available in the CSA, so if you or a friend wanted to sign up but figured it was too late, there's still time!  We have about 20 spots left, so you'd better act quickly if you're interested!  
These Easter Egg Radishes are among the prettiest
of spring vegetables, and they are plentiful
right now!
I've also had a few people ask if they could get their hands on any of our veggies even before the season starts, and the answer is yes!  You can find our spinach, spring mix, radishes, and (sometimes) even microgreens at GreenTree Cooperative Grocery in Mt. Pleasant, LaLonde's in Midland, Campell's Market Basket in East Lansing, and Argus Farmstop in Ann Arbor.  We are so excited to get the season started, and we are looking forward to seeing all of you in a few weeks!  I'll keep you posted as soon as we have an official start date for the CSA!







Recipes

30 Spinach Recipes to Make You Stronger than Popeye
This Vegan Creamed Spinach is just one of the many awesome
recipes (vegan, vegetarian, and carnivore-friendly) that are in
this collection of recipes!
Yay for spinach!  One of the first vegetables to become available locally each year, spinach is pretty much the veggie mascot of spring in our house, even before asparagus starts popping up.  In celebration of this wonderful, flavorful, nutritious green, here are 30 Spinach Recipes to Make You Stronger Than Popeye!  While I can't personally guarantee that they'll instantly make your biceps bulge, the fresh stuff is definitely better than that awful canned spinach that Popeye had to eat.  So enjoy!

Friday, April 5, 2019

CSA Newsletter for April 2019

Farm Update

Fred harvests spinach in the coldframe
to take to Lansing last Wednesday.
Hi everyone!  Things are really starting to pick up at the farm!  March is when we really get things started, and this year is no exception.  A few weeks ago, Fred spent two days spreading our specialized compost mix and getting the fields ready for planting.  Most of the veggies that we'll be harvesting later in the spring and early summer have gotten their start over the last few weeks, whether it's lettuce transplants that we've started from seed in flats in the greenhouse, green garlic that we've seeded directly into the ground in the coldframes, or microgreens that go from seeding to harvest in just two weeks or so.  Fred was also able to do the first big field planting last Wednesday!  That's one of the biggest days of the spring for us, because getting the timing just right on that first planting is crucial.  Getting seeds in the ground earlier allows us to get our first crop earlier, but if we plant too early, we risk any number of adverse weather scenarios wiping out the first planting.  So we were very happy to get things growing in the field last week.  Then Fred spent the next few days covering the first planting with a plastic row cover to protect our little baby plants from wind and cold until the weather is consistently nice.  We've also been able to harvest some of the heartier overwintered vegetables (like spinach and kale) for some of our restaurants in stores.  In fact, you should be starting to see our spinach and spring mix in local stores such as LaLonde's in Midland, GreenTree Co-Op in Mt. Pleasant, Argus Farm Stop in Ann Arbor, and the brand new Campbell's Market Basket in East Lansing.

These little lettuces were started from seed in the greenhouse.
They'll stay in the warmth of the greenhouse for a little while,
and then when the time comes, we'll transplant them into the
field.  This allows us to get an earlier crop in the spring, and
get them onto your plate sooner!
Aside from getting things growing, we've also been doing some construction projects around the farm.  Fred is finishing up the greenhouse he started building back in the fall, but on which he had to pause construction during the cold winter months.  We've also been meeting and talking with a wide variety of groups lately!  Two weeks ago, we got to do a question and answer session with an environmental studies class at Alma College about sustainable agriculture.  I was really impressed with how enthusiastic and knowledgable the students were!  We also recently got to speak to the Great Lakes Garden Club and the Lansing Raw Food Meetup Group about the Community Supported Agriculture concept, which was really fun.  All in all, the farm season is really picking up for us!  And ready or not, it's time to jump in with both feet!  

Also, if you haven't signed up for the CSA yet this year, now is the time!  The cost for a full share is $560 and a half share is $305, and you can just email me and I'll put you on the list.  We would absolutely love to have all of you in the CSA this season! :-)






Recipes

It's no secret that I love kale.  Some people just don't get the kale thing, whether it's because of the hearty texture, the strong, earthy flavor, or just that's it's so ubiquitous that they're weary of seeing it around everywhere.  But what you might not know is that before kale becomes the large, hearty bunch of greens you see at the CSA drop-off or farmers market, it starts off as light and tender baby kale.  I especially love baby kale, which works out pretty well for me, because we have plenty of it right now!  So in honor of this wonderfully flavorful, tender spring green, here are several recipes for baby kale!

kale saladBaby Kale Salad with Lemon, Parmesan, and Crispy Roasted Chickpeas:  Yum!  I love that this recipe is so simple to whip up, and so good for a side dish or the main attraction!
Sauteed Baby Kale with Eggs Over-EasyBest Sauteed Baby Kale with Eggs Over Easy:  This is another recipe that is so easy, and so delicious!  We make some variation of this most mornings for breakfast. :-)


Friday, March 1, 2019

CSA Newsletter for March

Farm Update



Some little baby lettuces are starting to come up
in the coldframe!
Hi everyone!  Not a lot is growing at the farm right now, but we are keeping busy with off-season projects in preparation for the upcoming season.  Fred has been working on pruning the blueberry bushes for the last few weeks, which is a surprisingly time-consuming endeavor.  Fortunately, he estimates that it will only take about another eight hours of work, and then we'll be done with the blueberries!  He also recently built a germination chamber, which increases the speed with which seeds come up, as well as the percentage of seeds planted that actually germinate.  Last year, we made a really basic one that was essentially a folding table covered with greenhouse plastic that had a space heater inside, but this year we constructed the new and improved version.  The new one is much better insulated, will have space for many more flats of seeds, and it will take up less space in the barn.  Speaking of seeds, the majority of our massive annual seed order has arrived, so we'll be ready to rock when the weather turns around!  We're waiting until it's just a little warmer to begin seeding our flats with the seeds that will become microgreens and field transplants.  Right now it's a little too cold for them to thrive in the greenhouse (and a little too expensive to try and heat said greenhouse), but it's only a matter of a few more weeks before we'll be able to start our seeds.  In the meantime, we've been working on record-keeping and paperwork tasks that we won't have time to do once the season starts. 
The new germination chamber has many wire
shelves inside where we can place flats of
seeds.  The heat and moisture inside the
chamber (provided by a slow cooker filled
with water) help increase the germination
rate of the seeds we start.
As much as Fred finds paperwork generally useless and boring, he was glad to have something low-stress to work on after the big wind storm we had on Sunday!  Whenever the forecasts call for high winds, we know that the chances are high of sustaining damage to the coldframes.  Fortunately we didn't lose any of our structures, and we were able to minimize the damage to the coldframes.  Some of the spinach that we had overwintering inside took a beating (because we had to roll up part of the plastic on the ends of the tunnels to keep them from getting lifted up and destroyed, and the freezing wind sweeping through the structure really did some damage to the spinach).  But the danger is over and all of our greenhouses are safe.  Now we're counting down the days until the weather starts to turn and we can get back out there for 
another season!



Recipes



The trouble with winter in Michigan (aside from the snow, freezing temperatures, icy roads, etc.) is the lack of locally available produce.  I do a lot of canning in season so we have plenty of tomato sauce, apple sauce, and pickles to fall back on, and we store a bunch of root vegetables for the long winter months, but we always end up having to supplement with produce from the store.  And after years of eating our veggies, I've been spoiled by great produce, and store veggies that have been shipped in from far-flung places just seem kind of lackluster and sad to me.  Fortunately, spring is right around the corner, and we should be seeing the first of the hearty greens grown in coldframes around Michigan start to appear in co-ops and farmers' markets before the end of the month!  So when that happens, and you're able to get the first winter spinach of the year, definitely check out these Spinach Brownies!  They're not a traditional brownie with chocolate (although that would probably be good too), but they're more of a baked spinach side dish with a brownie texture.  And what's not to love about that? :-)

Thursday, January 31, 2019

What's New at the Farm for 2019?

Farm Update


The spinach in the coldframe is insulated by
three layers of protection:  the perforated low
tunnels that act as a blanket for the plants, the
coldframe above, and the layer of snow outside
the coldframe, which helps keep the wind out
of the structure.
Hi everyone!  Wow, is it cold out there!  We hope you are all staying safe and warm in this crazy polar vortex we've been having.  Since there isn't much growing at the farm right now, we've mostly been hunkered down inside by the fire for the last few days, working on the many indoor farm tasks that abound this time of year.  This is the time of year when we research and order seeds, put all of our records in order for our organic certification, submit the many tax forms that come due for businesses around this time, and get all of our 2018 business records together in preparation for tax time.  We've also been making our 2019 financial plans, trying to get the word out about the CSA, and talking with the buyers from the restaurants, stores, and food hubs we work with to make plans for the upcoming season.  Until a few days ago when it just got too cold, Fred had also been spending plenty of time at the farm fixing equipment and trying to improve upon our existing farm tools to make everything even more efficient in 2019.  Even though it's ridiculously cold out there right now, we're definitely glad to have the snow.  It's counterintuitive, to be sure, but having a thick blanket of snow on the fields actually helps to protect last year's plantings of strawberries, garlic, asparagus, and overwintering spinach from the wind.  This will help them be in much better shape once spring finally arrives.  So let the snow fall, and in a few months, it will give way to a new green, growing world.

What's New at the Farm for 2019?


It's no secret that during the main growing season, it gets pretty crazy around the farm.  We are always going, always running, and always doing, and there is very little time to stop and think about much of anything except what needs to happen at that particular moment.  The winter, however, is just the opposite.  It is our time to reflect, contemplate, project, strategize, and make plans for the upcoming season.  Each year we tweak a few things and make a few changes to help the farm and the CSA be even better than they were in the past.  This year is no different.  So without further ado, here are some of the changes you can expect for the 2019 season!

We're adding a third choice to the prepacked shares!  For those of you who pick up a prepacked share at the Lansing, Okemos, St. Johns, or Midland hospital drop-offs, or who have it delivered to you, we are adding a C share to the tried-and-true A and B share choices.  So now you can choose one of three prepacked bags for a half share, or two out of the three for a full share!  The C share will usually be just a different combination of the items in the A and B shares, and it will make it even easier to get exactly what you want!

We're excited to add Honeynut squash to the lineup this year!
Not only is it really delicious, it is also really cute!
As always, we're adding plenty of new veggie varieties this year.  The one we are most excited about is Honeynut squash, which is a really sweet winter squash that looks like a Butternut squash, but smaller.  We've wanted to grow Honeynuts for a while, but the seed always sold out before we could get any, and this year, we were able to get the seed!  To find out more about this fantastic squash, check out this article from Bon Appetit about its development, history, and uses.

Speaking of changes to the veggie roster, we're making plans to decrease the amount of kale in the shares (so to the kale haters among you, you're welcome!), and we're going to increase the amount of bell peppers, beets, broccoli, cabbage and squash we're growing.  We're really excited to bring more of these favorites to the CSA this year!  After taking a year off from growing garlic, we're going to be adding that back into the roster this year as well.

We're also increasing our greenhouse capacity this year.  Fred has been working on constructing a new heated greenhouse so we'll have additional space to grow microgreens and start our seeds, and we're also going to be putting up another coldframe as soon as the weather allows.  All in all, we're going to be adding 2700 square feet of covered growing space, so we can have more veggies earlier in the spring and later in the fall.

Another thing that will make our season a little bit crazier, but a lot more financially advantageous, is that we're adding a weekly route to Ann Arbor for this year.  We're not actually expanding our CSA out that way, but we're going to be making weekly deliveries to Argus Farm Stop, which is a store that sources entirely from local farms for the locavores in the Ann Arbor area.  We're also going to be contributing to a group CSA in that area that is made up of produce from several local farms.

Here is the new (old) potato digger right after Fred picked it up.
It's old and rusty, but it's effective.  The picture also
shows how gray and gloomy everything is at the farm in the
winter... I can't wait until everything becomes green again!
Fred also has plans to modify several pieces of farm equipment to increase our labor efficiency, particularly in the fall when most of our employees go back to school and we don't have as many helpers.  He recently bought a new (old) potato digger (yup, that's a thing!) on Craigslist, which he informs me is an improvement on our old potato digger because it's PTO-driven rather than ground-driven.  This means that the speed with which the digger operates is independent of how fast the tractor is moving, so if we need to slow the tractor down in heavy clay soil, the digger can continue to work effectively.  So he's planning to modify our old potato digger to be a sweet potato digger, which actually requires a different set of characteristics.  Sweet potatoes require a much gentler machine because they are prone to scuffing and breaking, so the jostling that is beneficial to potatoes (because it helps shake the dirt off) would just damage the sweet potatoes.  He also acquired a barrel washer to help clean the root vegetables.  Basically imagine a large barrel laying horizontally and rotating on a central axis.  Now imagine that there are jets of water shooting out of the central axis that help wash dirt off of carrots, potatoes, beets, and other root veggies.  That's basically what a barrel washer is.  These small improvements at the farm will help us save so much time this fall, because all of these tasks are things we've traditionally done by hand.

So that's it!  We're really excited about the upcoming changes, big and small, at the farm this season!  And we're especially excited to see you all again this summer!  Now's the time to sign up for the CSA, so just let me know if you want to sign up for the 2019 season!