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!  


Saturday, October 21, 2017

Fall Reflections: Nothing New Under the Sun

Farm Update



I just had to stop and take a picture of these Easter Egg
Radishes as we were setting up for the Mt. Pleasant drop-off
on Tuesday.  Look at those colors! :-)
Hi everyone!  We are really winding down the season now!  Most of the farm tasks that we do continually all summer (weeding, planting, working the ground, moving around irrigation) are pretty much done for the year.  We're still irrigating in the coldframes, but that is a lot less time consuming than field irrigation, so the main thing we're really still doing is harvesting for the CSA and the stores and restaurants that get vegetables from us.  We have two more weeks left of the CSA, and then we'll be closing down for the winter.  But never fear!  We're starting to sign people up for next year, so if you're interested in joining for the 2018 season, just let me know, and I'll put you on the list!  The cost will be the same as this year ($300 for a half share or $550 for a full share at our regular drop-offs, and a little more if you have home delivery).  There's no hard and fast deadline for sending in a payment, but it definitely helps us to have at least part of it before the new year, because we incur a lot of large farm expenses in January and February.  So sooner is better than later, and sending in at least a partial payment locks in your share for the year in the event that we sell out of shares.  So if you want to sign up for next year, just let me know!  We so appreciate you being with us in the CSA this year, and we would love to see you again in 2018!



What to Expect in your Share this Week


Lettuce, kale, and rainbow chard are still growing well in
one of the coldframes.
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.

Carrots or Brussels sprouts
Potatoes or sweet potatoes
Acorn squash or butternut squash
Spinach or lettuce
Celery root or large onion
Bok choy, cabbage, or bag of shallots
Kale, beets, or radishes

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:
Carrots                                  Brussels sprouts
Sweet potatoes                      Potatoes
Butternut squash                   Acorn squash
Spinach                                 Spinach
Large onion                          Celery root
Cabbage                                Bok choy
Kale                                      Beets



Fall Reflections:  Nothing New Under the Sun


Inevitably every fall, as soon as the air becomes chilled and the leaves start to turn from green to brilliant red and yellow, I get a little sentimental.  There is something about this time of year and the preparations for the long winter ahead that make me think about the generations of people before me, doing these same actions, canning applesauce and putting extra blankets on the beds, and how no matter how humanity progresses some things never change.  Bringing in the final harvests of the year and putting away the abundance of the season to last through the cold winter always reminds me that there is nothing new under the sun. (Except of course, that the advent of grocery stores with shipped-in food means that the seasonal frenzy of canning is more of a hobby than a necessity, which itself is absolutely unprecedented in most of human history.)

I was reflecting on that yesterday as I canned applesauce.  While our apple trees did really poorly this year due to a late frost in the spring (and, truth be told, to the fact that trees as old as ours are a little bit unreliable and not well-suited to organic production), a friend of ours had an abundance of apples and gave us several bushels.  As often happens, after a few weeks of sitting at room temperature, they started to get a little wrinkly, which pretty much means it’s time to make applesauce.  Once they lose that delicious crunch, no one wants to eat them plain anymore, and you have to doctor them up a bit.  So I was making applesauce yesterday, and I was thinking about my grandma Kitty.  She passed away a week and a half ago after a long downward health spiral, but while she was healthy, she canned applesauce every year.  When my mom and my aunts were preparing her home to be sold after she went into a nursing home a few months ago, everyone was going through and picking out things from around the house that they especially wanted, and my mom pulled out grandma’s old applesauce sieve for me.  Now, I’m not a super sentimental person in general, and I’m kind of a minimalist too, so when my mom gave that to me, I was dubious about how much I would actually use it.  After all, I already had a perfectly good blender, so why clutter up my house with two tools that do the same job?  But I pulled it out a few weeks ago when I made my first batch of applesauce of the season, and it turns out that my mom was totally right.  That applesauce had the best texture of any I had ever made, and although it looks like kind of a hassle to use, it was actually really easy.  There was also something really comforting about using only a simple tool and my own arm power to make applesauce (no electrical outlets required), and I was hooked.


Then Grandma passed away, and making my second batch of applesauce yesterday, using the same tool that she had used for decades to preserve the abundance of apples for the winter took on a whole new meaning.  Suddenly I wasn’t just making applesauce.  I was connecting.  Not only with the memory of my grandma, but with generations of people who have used similar tools at this time of year for the exact same reason.  And I realized that that connection is what makes the type of farming we do different.  In an age where most people not only don’t know what farm their food came from (or what country, for that matter), they don’t even really know their neighbors or the people they pass every day as they go about their lives.  So I love that by growing food for local people we actually get to see from week to week, we’re helping to re-establish that sense of connection with the food we eat, our own native place, our neighbors, and the communities we live in.  And that is worth preserving, in the same way that the apple harvest is worth preserving even though I could get applesauce at the store.  Because it has quality and soul in a time when so much of what we consume doesn’t.  So let time march on.  But next October, you’ll find me right here making applesauce with my old hand tool, probably thinking these same thoughts again.  Nothing new under the sun. J


Recipes



I can almost hear you reading through the list of what will be in the shares next week and saying, "Okay, what the heck is celery root?"  Celery root (also called celeriac), is a really weird-looking, really wonderful root vegetable with a nice celery flavor.  Traditionally, it was one of those winter storage vegetables that people would be able to keep through the winter in the pre-refrigeration days, but you don't see it very much anymore.  It's great in soups and stews, and here are also 10 (Yes, 10) Things to do With Celery Root from Six Burner Sue.  These are some fantastic recipe ideas for a veggie that is probably unfamiliar to most modern cooks, but that you will be so glad you tried!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

CSA Newsletter for October 14

Farm Update



The bright, colorful stalks of our rainbow chard reach toward
the sky in the coldframe.
Hi everyone!  It's been a really nice October so far!  We've definitely enjoyed working outside in this weather, and the plants seem to be enjoying the nice weather too.  Wednesday and Thursday were a little nasty, and they were a reminder of what is likely to be headed our way.  Because the second half of October is usually marked by cold rains and dreariness.  We've been seeding a lot lately, both in the field and the coldframes.  We recently seeded two of our coldframes with spinach after taking out the old, worn out tomato plantings that used to occupy that space, and we also planted some spinach in the field, which we'll soon cover with plastic to overwinter.  You may remember from last week's newsletter that we had our food safety inspection on Monday, and I'm pleased to say that went really well!  And now that that's done, we can take a break from rounding up all the records and paperwork that we hold on to for that, and get back to our regular everyday farm routine.  In other news, we are going to have some acorn squash in the shares this week that we wanted to let you know about.  Since we didn't end up with a lot of winter squash this year and we've pretty much already gone through most of ours, we decided to include some in the shares that was not actually grown by us.  It was grown by our friend Reuben Mast, who is a certified organic Amish grower.  Like many Amish growers, it is hard for him to market and transport his crops due to the lack of phones, computers, and cars, and he had a really good year on his organic squash and happens to have plenty.  We figured that folks in the CSA would definitely want to have more squash in the shares so we decided to include some of Reuben's, but we wanted to let you all know about it.  On the very rare occasion that we include someone else's crops (this is the second time in our seven-year history), we want to make sure everyone knows about it, because we never want to mislead anyone.  So we hope you enjoy the delicious squash, as well as everything else in the upcoming shares this week!


What to Expect in your Share this Week


Kale leaves are continually harvested from the bottom of the
plant, so as the season goes on, the plant gets taller and taller,
and begins to resemble miniature palm trees.
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.

Acorn squash
Carrots or beets
Potatoes or Brussels sprouts
Lettuce or tomatoes
Bok Choy, radishes, or collards
Kale or cabbage
2 Onions or 2 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:
Acorn squash                       Acorn squash
Carrots                                 Beets
Potatoes                                Brussels sprouts
Tomatoes                              Lettuce
Radishes                               Radishes
Kale                                      Cabbage
2 Onions                               2 Shallots



Recipes


I never grew up eating squash except on Thanksgiving, and I remember distinctly thinking that it might very well be the grossest food ever.  How wrong I was!  It turns out that like most things, it's all in the preparation, and it was simply that my very wonderful and beloved aunt who brought it to the Thanksgiving feast every year just wasn't very good at making squash.  It has since become one of my favorite foods though, and this is pretty much our go-to preparation for this delicious, fantastically comforting fall food.  Check out this classic recipe for acorn squash right here!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

CSA Newsletter for October 7

Farm Update

Check out these crazy sweet potatoes we
found during the harvest!
Hi everyone!  Looking around the farm this week, we can tell that the season is starting to wind down.  Fred turned under a lot of old, picked over plantings over the last few days, so many of the fields currently lie empty.  But what still remains looks pretty nice.  We have a lot of the more cold-hardy crops (such as kale) still doing well out in the fields, and several really nice plantings in the coldframes (things like lettuce, arugula, and radishes) as well.  The rain we got during the night was really helpful, and we were really glad to finally get some good moisture in the ground!  But by far the biggest event at the farm this week happened early Tuesday morning, when our crew member Ben had a pretty terrifying car accident on his way into work.  He was rear-ended at full speed while waiting to make the left turn into the farm driveway, and from what he looked like at first, we were fearful he would have some pretty significant injuries. He turned out to be okay, but his truck was destroyed, and he lost a lot of blood.  In the end, they sent him home from the hospital on the same day with instructions to take it easy for a few days in order to recover from his concussion.  We're definitely all grateful that he's okay!  So last week was pretty eventful, and this week is shaping up to be pretty busy as well.  On Monday, we have our food safety inspector coming out to the farm, which actually involves a lot of paperwork, along with a general inspection of the farm.  I'll also be speaking on Monday night after the drop-off to the Alma Lions Club about the CSA concept, so I'll probably see some of you there!  And for those of you not in the Alma area, I'll see the rest of you at the drop-offs this week! 


What to Expect in your Share this Week


We actually eat the head and the leaf of the broccoli plant; the
broccoli heads go into your CSA shares, and the leaves go
into our cooking greens mix.
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.

Broccoli, spring mix, or beets
Tomatoes or Brussels sprouts
Kale, bok choy, or collard greens
Carrots or potatoes
Sweet potatoes or winter squash
Onion or shallot
Parsley, radishes, small head of lettuce, or leeks

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:
Broccoli                               Spring mix
Tomatoes                             Brussels sprouts
Kale                                     Bok Choy
Carrots                                 Potatoes
Sweet potatoes                     Sweet potatoes
Onion                                   Onion
Small head of lettuce           Leeks



Recipes


Sweet potatoes!  I'm so excited that they're finally here!  Our standard favorite preparation is to cut them into chunks about half an inch thick, throw them into a pan with some butter, cook them until they're soft, and then sprinkle brown sugar all over them.  Or you could try them with a kick with these Sweet and Spicy Sweet Potatoes!  I also can't wait to try these Addictive Sweet Potato Burritos this week.  So many possibilities!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Power of Negative Thinking: An Unconventional Look at How CSA Can Help You Reach Your Goals

Farm Update

Fred cleans some yellow shallots with our ancient root washer
that we got working earlier in the season.  Meant for potatoes,
turnips, and other root vegetables, it's also very effective at
cleaning onions and shallots.
 Hi everyone!  It's definitely starting to feel more like fall out there.  We've been continuing to plant crops for the last part of the season; today Fred planted a bunch of arugula and radishes in one of the coldframes.  We've also been planting spinach out in the field in anticipation of next season; the most recent spinach planting will be protected under a layer of perforated clear plastic for the winter so it will be ready to harvest early in the spring.  Fred also transplanted some lettuce last week into another coldframe, which will be the spring mix in the final week's share.  Speaking of the last week of the CSA, that will be the week that runs from October 30-November 3.  So we still have five weeks of veggies left!  In other news, we and a lot of other growers in our area have really struggled with the white aphids this year.  They're a pretty common fall pest, but this year they have been a lot more severe due to the dry weather.  We've been irrigating a lot for the last several weeks, and we were glad to get a little bit of rain this weekend, even though it was a very small amount.  It dried up pretty quickly, but we'll definitely take whatever rain we can get.  We are now entering the home stretch of the 2017 CSA season.  While we're often pretty tired (okay, exhausted) by October, as every endurance athlete knows, this is the time to kick it in and finish strong.  So here we go!  Bring on October!



What to Expect in your Share this Week


Although they start small, by this time of year, our shiso plants
have grown up into a beautiful purple and green hedge!
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.

Broccoli for everyone!
Lettuce
Cherry tomatoes or slicing tomatoes
Carrots or potatoes
Kale, collards, or Napa cabbage
Surprise veggie
Red onion or yellow shallot

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:
Broccoli                               Broccoli
Lettuce                                 Lettuce
Cherry tomatoes                  Slicing tomatoes
Carrots                                 Potatoes
Kale                                     Napa cabbage
Surprise veggie                   Surprise veggie
Red onion                           Yellow shallot



The Power of Negative Thinking: An Unconventional Look at How CSA Can Help You Reach Your Goals


Timmy can't wait until he's old enough to help
take care of the chickens!
One of the occupational hazards of being a farmer is that you have all the time in the world for half of the year, and then you are crazy busy for the other half.  Like, have to work from 5:30 AM to 11:30 PM just to pack in all of the non-negotiables on the to-do list busy.  Given that this is my life from June to November, one of the things that pretty much gets me through the summer is audiobooks.  I check them out and download them from the library’s extensive catalog of audiobooks, then I put them on my phone to listen to while I’m washing dishes, doing laundry, weeding, and packing up all those nice little bags of carrots and potatoes in the CSA shares.  One of my favorite book genres is the self-improvement type, and I find myself drawn to books on organization and time management in particular.  I don’t know why; I think that that type of literature just appeals to my nerdy, type-A self. 

One book that I listened to recently over the course of a few days was by an author named Sarah Knight, and I won’t name the book because it has an expletive in the title, but suffice it to say that it was a very funny take on how to hone your ability to get stuff done.  One thing she talked about was harnessing “the power of negative thinking” which sounds not only counterintuitive, but counter to what pretty much all of the self-improvement people have been talking about for a long time.  Like, aren’t we supposed to be focused on thinking positive?

Before you start saying “Okay, what is this even about?  This has nothing to do with farming, or vegetables, or anything…”  That is all true, but despite the extremely long rabbit trail I’ve just been on, it does have something to do with the CSA.  In particular, why you’re a part of it. 

It’s been suggested by a lot of really prominent people from megachurch leaders to TV personalities with their own networks that what we ought to be striving for “our best life now.”  There is something appealing about this line of thinking.  In my best life, I would always have hair perfect enough to rival any Disney princess, and all the time (and inclination) I’d need to stay in good enough shape to run a marathon with just a few weeks’ notice, and I’d be able to jaunt away to Europe for a few weeks every year or two.  (Spoiler alert:  That’s not actually what my life looks like.)  My guess is that for some of you, signing up for the CSA was a largely aspirational act, because in your best life, you’d be cooking up Martha Stewart level meals every night in your state-of-the art kitchen, and of course you need the highest quality organic produce to make food that phenomenal.  And your family would be amazed, and your kids would beg you to make those awesome veggies, and since you’d be getting so much amazing nutrition, none of you would ever get sick again, not even a cold.  (My guess is that’s not what your life looks like either.  That makes two of us.)


So where does the power of negative thinking come in?  Maybe instead of thinking entirely aspirationally, like in the Disney-princess-hair, Martha-Stewart-kitchen fantasy, we should think about identifying the thing in our lives that isn’t working for us.  Because that aspirational dream of perfection is a moving target.  You never actually get there, and after a while, you start to think, “Okay, this is never going to happen.  Maybe eating well and being healthy is just unattainable.  Better just pick up a dozen frozen pizzas and a huge bulk box of ramen noodles and call it a day.”  But with the power of negative thinking, the though process is different.  It goes more like, “It really bums me out that I get sick so often, and that I can’t wear all my favorite clothes that I could wear 15 pounds ago.  So what do I need to change to get to a point where I feel well consistently and can dig those cute clothes out of the storage boxes?”  That is where the CSA can fit in.  Once you identify a strategy to reach your goal, such as “Replace four processed meals per week with home-cooked veggie based meals”, and you commit to doing the actions outlined in the strategy, you’ll start to see results that move you in the direction you want.  And sometimes an up-front commitment, such as signing up for a CSA, is the kick you need to keep doing the actions you know will move you toward your goal, even when the goal isn’t shiny and new and surrounded by a beatific haze anymore.  And then who knows?  Maybe the day will come that you’re standing in line at the CSA drop-off with your cute market basket, wearing that cute dress that you couldn’t fit into a few months ago, planning the great meal you’re going to cook that night in your fancy kitchen (which is also somehow magically clean all the time), and you’ll realize that at least in one area, your best life kind of sneaked up on you when you weren’t looking. J


Recipes




And speaking of Martha Stewart, here are 30 Tried and True Broccoli recipes she created to get you on the way to those amazing dinners!  Check them out for some broccoli inspiration!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

CSA Newsletter for September 23, 2017

Farm Update

Ben harvests cherry tomatoes for the
shares on Thursday.
Hi everyone!  Wow, what a hot, dry week!  We've been irrigating a lot more lately than we usually do this time of year, because it has just been so dry.  Folks to the north and south of us got rain this week, but so far nothing has hit the farm, so keep your fingers crossed for us!  We've also had higher than normal insect pressure for this time of year (especially the white aphids), because of the extended hot, dry weather.  This week we've been continuing to plant for the fall; we planted some spinach this week and transplanted lettuce into the hoophouses.  We're also going to be seeding some arugula tomorrow.  We harvested the rest of the shallots this week, so they are all officially out of the ground.  In some funny news, apparently we've made the list of top 100 organic blogs in the web, coming in at #100!  I'm not sure what metrics they used to create that ranking, but we're on the list, and you can check it out here!  See you all this week! :-)


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.

Carrots or potatoes
Broccoli or cabbage
Lettuce
Green beans or Brussels sprouts
Cherry tomatoes or 4 larger tomatoes
Onion or kohlrabi
Kale, herbs, or collards

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:
Carrots                                 Potatoes
Broccoli                               Cabbage
Lettuce                                 Lettuce
Green beans                         Brussels sprouts
Cherry tomatoes                   4 tomatoes
Onion                                   Kohlrabi
Kale                                     Collards



Recipes


You know I always like to give you recipes for things in your share that might be new to you.  This week, that thing is collards.  (Unless you're from the South, in which case, you probably know how to handle collards like nobody's business, and I should take some lessons from you.)  So if like me, you're a Midwesterner who hasn't been eating them since you learned how to walk, here is a great recipe for Kickin' Collard Greens from allrecipes.com!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Veggie Spotlight: The Humble Carrot

Farm Update

After being harvested and washed, these carrots dry in our
packing area before going into your shares.
Hi everyone! It's been another buy week at the farm!  This morning Fred and Logan cleaned 2000 pounds of onions using an old root washer Fred found in one of our outbuildings.  Although it's designed for washing potatoes, beets, and turnips, it also does a great job of taking off the excess peels of onions and brushing off the dirt.  We also pulled the last wave of onions and shallots out of the ground, and they are now drying on top of the soil in the field.  It's been really dry lately, so we've been irrigating a lot as well, but we know in a few weeks, drizzly October will arrive and we'll have to irrigate a lot less.  The tomato vines are starting to get old and worn out, and once that happens, the tomatoes begin to dwindle until they eventually die back for the year.  But even as one crop begins to wind down, others are just starting their lives.  Our fall radishes and spinach have germinated, and they've just poked out of the soil and emerged into the light of day.  It won't be too long until they're fully mature and ready to harvest and eat.  Each farm season is a series of beginnings and endings, and fortunately, we still have seven weeks of veggies left before the season winds down for good.




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.

Cherry tomatoes or slicing tomatoes
Carrots
Potatoes
Onion or garlic
Cooking greens mix
Surprise veggie (choices from a whole bunch of odds and ends coming from the field)
Lettuce, green beans, or Brussels sprouts

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:
Cherry tomatoes                  Slicing tomatoes
Carrots                                 Carrots
Potatoes                               Potatoes
Onion                                  Garlic
Cooking greens mix            Cooking greens mix
Surprise veggie                   Surprise veggie
Lettuce                                Brussels sprouts


Veggie Spotlight:  The Humble Carrot


When harvesting carrots, we use the undercutter attachment for
our tractor to loosen up the ground underneath the carrots, which
makes harvesting them by hand a lot easier.
The carrot is extremely common in the American diet.  Orange carrots are found in every grocery store across the country, and virtually every small child knows what they look like (even if they’re a little shaky on identifying many other vegetables). But what do you really know about this ubiquitous food that you’ve probably been eating your whole life?  Welcome to the life and times of the humble carrot.

This popular vegetable originated somewhere in modern-day Iran or Afghanistan, but was extremely different from the orange carrot we now have at our tables. Thousands of years of traditional breeding have turned the original carrots from a tough, thin, bitter purple root into the typically orange sweet root we have today. The first carrots were mostly used for the aromatic foliage and for the seeds, much like we now use dill, which is a close relative of the carrot. Through medieval times it is referenced many times for medicinal purposes. When it first came to Europe is widely disputed, and there are a lot of historical unknowns due to its confusion in ancient writings with the closely related parsnip. However, its movement to the Americas is a little more certain, as it showed up very soon after Columbus came to the Americas is 1492. Back in the 1600s, more definite descriptions of carrots appear, and orange is mentioned along with many other colors of carrots that were present. The real push in the US and Great Britain came during the first and second world wars, when other foods were highly rationed but carrots could be grown at home and stored well. During World War II, Great Britain didn’t want the Germans to know how effective their radar was, so they famously spread the rumor that their fighter pilots could see so well at night because of their high carrot intake.

The carrot has great nutritional benefits, the most well-known of which is the high beta carotene levels found in the orange carrots.   This beta carotene, once ingested, either converts to vitamin A (which the body can use in a variety of ways), or becomes an antioxidant to help mitigate the harmful effects of free radicals in the body.  Our mix of carrots is yellow, purple, and orange, and you can see that each has a slightly different flavor than the others.  The sweetest is the orange, where there have been more breeding efforts. We expect in future years there will be greater improvements in the yellow and purple carrots that will increase the sweetness and ease of growing.

Our carrots start their lives out by being seeded directly into the ground during the first planting of the season. They are also one of the last seedings of the year due to the extremely frost-hardy nature of this plant. After being seeded, they come up and are cultivated with our basket cultivator, and then they are hand weeded two or three times before becoming mature. During most of the summer, they are irrigated heavily with our drip tape, mostly to germinate the seeds, but also through dry periods to prevent the bitterness that sometimes occurs when the plant is stressed by lack of water.  They are then harvested by hand and cleaned through a combination of soaking in our wash sinks and being sprayed by a high-pressure hose. Carrots can be harvest very late into the year; it is typical to harvest them through December, although care has to be taken to harvest when the ground is still thawed. They can also be covered and harvested anytime that the ground thaws throughout the winter. 


We really love cooking with carrots, and have many favorite preparations when it comes to this surprisingly sweet root.  We hope you enjoy them this season as much as we have been! J

Recipes



Okay, I can't be the only one who got a little bit geeked when I saw this gorgeous carrot cake from Martha Stewart!  This is just one of her many fantastic carrot recipes, just in case you're looking for something new to do with an old favorite.  And if you're new to the concept of cooking greens (which everyone will be getting in the shares this week), here is what we do with them:  Normally we cut up some bacon into little pieces and cook it down until it's not quite done, and we add some coarsely chopped cooking greens to the pan.  Cook them until the greens are slightly wilted, and then add a little salt and brown sugar to balance the flavor.  Apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinaigrette are also great.  Enjoy!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

CSA Newsletter for September 10

Farm Update





Jewel shows off her solution for the nest of hornets that have
taken up residence in a section of metal piping in our packing
area, occasionally stinging people and generally making
themselves annoying.  She simply made a plug out of a
potato and put it in really fast before the hornets could get mad.
Because sometimes you just have to work with what
you have on hand. :-)
Hi everyone!  Well, it certainly got chilly pretty quickly! We had our first frost last weekend, which fortunately was a light, patchy frost that didn’t end up being too serious.  The frost last night seems to have been deeper, but we’ll be able to see more clearly later what effects it’s had at the farm.  We’ve also been irrigating a lot lately, which seems counterintuitive considering the cold moisture in the air lately.  But since all the rains we’ve gotten have been pretty light and pretty sporadic, the plants have needed some more consistent watering.  We’re putting in some of the last fall plantings for the year as well!  We recently planted spinach, cilantro, and the last field plantings of lettuce, so any subsequent lettuce plantings this year will be in the greenhouse.  We’ll also do a few more plantings of spinach this year, because it actually overwinters in the field under layers of insulating plastic, and then it gets growing again early in the spring.  We’ve also started planting in the greenhouses again; we just planted some bok choy in the heated greenhouse, and we’ll be putting spinach and lettuce in the coldframes pretty shortly.  Over the next week and a half, we’ll have our last major round of hand weeding!  Around this time of year, the weeds really slow down and they become a lot easier to manage, and we definitely look forward to getting past the heavy weeding time of year.  Although it still seems too early, it’s beginning to look like fall, and I’m starting to be drawn to root vegetables and sweaters.  But even though it feels like the end of summer, we still have plenty of weeks of veggies left!  Just in case you’re wondering, our final CSA dates are October 30th-November 2nd.  Also, thanks so much to everyone who filled out Carson’s research survey!  He is still needs several more people to fill it out in order for him to achieve his desired number of participants, so if you haven’t filled it out, we’d really appreciate it if you would!  You can find the survey link below.  Thanks so much, and we’ll see you this week! Carson's Survey:  Hunting, Fishing, and Food Values Study

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.

Carrots
Potatoes
Lettuce or beets
Kale, chard, fennel, or basil
Onion or kohlrabi
Tomatoes or cherry tomatoes

Cucumber, parsley, or heirloom tomato


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:
Carrots                                  Carrots
Potatoes                                Potatoes
Lettuce                                  Beets
Kale                                      Swiss Chard
Onion                                    Kohlrabi
Tomatoes                              Cherry tomatoes
Cucumber                             Heirloom tomato

Recipes



When the weather gets colder, my thoughts turn to beets.  Although available throughout the season, for me beets are the quintessential fall food.  Probably because long after the tomatoes, cucumbers, and blueberries are but a memory of a warmer time, beets remain.  As a kid, the only beets I ever had were the sad canned ones from the store on Thanksgiving, so I had no idea what I was missing!  Now, a saute of root vegetables including potatoes, carrots, beets is one of the most common dishes on our table throughout the fall.  Another very popular (and delicious) way to prepare beets is to roast them.  Or, you can check out these 45 Beet Recipes for Roasting, Frying, and More from Bon Appetit!




Saturday, September 2, 2017

Finding the Truth About Food

Farm Update


These red lettuces are looking really nice now that the weather
is getting a little cooler, and since we've been irrigating
a lot lately.
Hi everyone!  We are squarely into the second half of the season, and we’ve noted the subtle shift in weather that generally accompanies this time of year.  In fact, we had the first frost last night, which is unusual.  Normally we don’t see any frost until mid-September, and we were really surprised to get hit with it so soon.  We assessed the frost damage this morning, and because it was a fairly light frost, most crops made it through just fine.  We did see some damage on some of the green beans, and it seems to have hit the winter squash fairly hard as well.  A few more days will tell if the squash are going to swing back, or if they’ll be consigned to oblivion.  Fortunately, we don’t have another chance of frost for at least a week.   Another change around the farm is that our crew is two people smaller than before!  Mary and Therese have gone back to college, and Emily is soon to follow in a few weeks.  Fortunately, the rest of our crew (Carson, Logan, Ben, and Jewel) will be able to work at least part time for the rest of the season, so we are going to be in great shape going into the fall!  Because once the weather gets cold and wet, it seems like just about everything takes longer than it used to, so we’ll really need all the hands we can get.  We are so glad to have such a great team this year!  In other news, we had our annual organic inspection today, which is the culmination of tons of careful record-keeping and saving everything.  Fred has been going through our files for the last few days, both physical and digital, compiling all of the information he’d need to show our inspector this morning to verify that all of our seeds and plants are from organic sources, that we haven’t applied anything synthetic to our fields, that none of the posts from our new deer fence were made of treated lumber (to protect against chemicals leaching into the soil), etc.  It was a huge job, but it’s done now, and we can breathe a sigh of relief.  And now we’re launching into week 12 of the CSA!  Just a reminder that this Monday is Labor Day, so if you’re unable to make it to the drop-off, let me know, and we can make arrangements for your share.  See you soon! 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.

Fennel or 4 tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes
Potatoes
Carrots
Onion, shallot, or 2 jalepenos
Kale or herbs
Lettuce, beets, or cabbage


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:
4 Tomatoes                           4 Tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes                   Cherry tomatoes
Carrots                                  Carrots
Potatoes                                Potatoes
Onion                                    2 Jalepenos
Herbs                                    Kale
Lettuce                                  Beets

Finding the Truth About Food

So as a farmer, former teacher, and accidental foodie, I have read a lot of literature about food.  And it turns out that food isn’t just food; there are so many aspects of a topic so fundamental to human life and culture.  There’s nutrition, which deals with the chemical breakdown of what we eat, and how it interacts in our bodies.  There’s cooking, whereby we take ingredients and turn them into meals (wonderful or otherwise).  There’s food culture, about how people groups interact with and build systems, and norms, and traditions around their food.  There’s food activism, where food and the production and procurement thereof becomes a jumping off point for positive social change.  There’s the relationship between food production and the environment in which it is grown, raised, produced, or created alchemically in a lab, as the case may be.  And since there are so many topics surrounding the concept of what we eat, and when, and why, there are plenty of well-intentioned and respectable authors who completely disagree with one another.  So how do we cut through the noise and get at the truth?  Quite simply, I don’t think we do.  It’s probably possible, but I am definitely not qualified to be the sage advisor when it comes to processing all of the entirety of human food knowledge.
But here is what I do know, or at least think I do:

·        Food should be savored and appreciated.  I think traditionally in the US, we’ve had a tendency to vilify food, because we were never quite sure whether what we were eating was “good” or “bad” for us.  It’s hard to be 100% certain when even the experts change their minds every decade or so.  I think some people are so paralyzed by food choices that they would opt out of eating altogether if they could.  Which is kind of sad, really.  Because enjoying food should be a pleasurable experience, without stressing about whether you’re getting the right mix of nutrients, or worrying that something you’re eating might be found to be deleterious to your health in a few decades.  The best way to stay sane is to be mindful about appreciating your food, rather than being anxious about it.

·        Natural whole foods are better than foods created in labs.  While food scientists have tried for decades to break foods down into their constituent parts and rebuild them better, they haven’t managed to get it right, because there is still so much we don’t know.  But what we do know is that traditional foods have been nourishing people for millennia.  A good rule of thumb is to stick with foods that can be seen growing, walking, or swimming in nature.

·        Food that is grown or raised closer to where it is consumed is better than food grown far away.  There are plenty of economic arguments for shipping in food from regions where it is more efficient to manufacture to places where it isn’t; in fact, I’m pretty sure Adam Smith would heartily disagree with me on this.  But I’m basing my decision to favor local food over distantly-produced food on a different set of criteria than the father of modern economics.  For me, eating local is a means to reduce the negative impact on our environment, as well as a way to support my local community and economy.  I love that I can use my food dollars to support people I know who grow and raise quality food, and that when I do, my money has a better chance of continuing to circulate around the local community to the benefit of my friends and neighbors.  I also know that the more industrially-produced or far-flung food I consume, the more resources are consumed in order to bring that food to me.  If I eat locally-produced food, I reduce the potential negative environmental impact of my food choices.  That said, there is no way I am ever giving up coffee.  (See the above section on enjoying food without stressing about it. J)


So I guess that’s my food manifesto, if you want to call it that.  I know that it is pretty simple, and perhaps overly simplistic (for instance, I ignored the whole debate about what constitutes a whole food).  But just in case you’ve been struggling to work your way through all the conflicting opinions, I hope this additional opinion is more beneficial than detrimental in your search for what works for you. 

Recipes


One thing I love about the CSA drop-offs is getting to talk to people and find out how they prepare different veggies!  I was talking to a lady at our Midland drop-off this week who was telling me what she does with kale, and I realized that I am in a kale rut, always preparing it the same way (sauteed in olive oil with a little garlic and onion, and sometimes some shiitake mushrooms).  So if you're like me and you have been making kale the same way every week, here are some ideas to shake it up!  Check out these 16 Quick and Easy Kale Recipes from Good Housekeeping!