Sunday, April 25, 2021

CSA Newsletter for April 2021

 

Farm Update


Our spring mix is protected from the severe
cold under plastic low tunnels.  Drip irrigation
waters the lettuce in between the rows so it 
gets just the right amount of water.
Hi everyone!  It’s that time of year when the farm season is really starting to get into full swing!  The days are becoming longer and brighter, and although the change comes in fits and starts, the days are also becoming warmer.  That’s fortunate, because we’ve been spending a lot of hours outside this month!  We’ve been doing a lot of planting and seeding in both the field and greenhouses, lots of weeding, plenty of turning cover crop under into the field, and unusually for spring, quite a lot of irrigation setup.  Fred says this is the driest spring he has ever experienced, so we’ve been moving our irrigation lines around a lot to make sure all of the veggies get enough water.  The dry weather this spring has actually made our lives a little easier on a number of fronts.  Most years, we have to time our field work around when it will actually be dry enough to plant, and before we can plant, each bed requires a certain amount of preparation that also can’t be done when it’s too muddy.  So we’ve had a lot more flexibility to our planting schedule, which has made the allocation of time and labor resources a lot less like a really advanced game of Tetris.  Another way in which the dry spring is beneficial is that it actually helps keep weed pressure down.  When the water for our plants comes not from the sky but from our drip line irrigation, it means that only the plants we want get watered, and the weeds don’t, and we don’t have to spend nearly as much time weeding.  It also makes the process of washing and packing all of the vegetables easier, because everything isn’t spattered with mud when we harvest it, which saves us time in the barn later. 

We are fully into our first round of plantings; Fred and our crew spent a significant amount of time planting in the fields and in the hoophouses, and we were able to get several long beds of seed potatoes into the ground. It’s fascinating to watch the fields go from bare beds and cover crop to completely planted over the course of a few weeks.  Fortunately, all of our recently planted veggies seem to have survived all of the hard freezes we had the last few nights, and it appears that we will be in the clear for a while in terms of freezing temperatures.  The extreme temperatures aren’t good for tender young plants, but we were able to prepare for the cold nights by covering everything with a layer of clear plastic to protect it from the cold winds.  And now that the most severe temps have passed, we are turning over some of our hoophouse production from our overwintered greens and getting them ready for warm season crops like tomatoes, peppers, and zucchini.   

Although people typically think of fall as harvest time, we’ve been harvesting plenty of our early spinach, spring mix, radishes, arugula, and microgreens.  We’ve also been gathering wild ramps, which have a very short season (about three weeks), and they’re so robust and garlicky and delicious that we eat them as often as we can during the short time they’re available.  Alas, we went through the last of our amazing overwintered carrots a few weeks ago, so the next round of newly planted carrots will be ready in June, right around the start of the CSA.  We’ve started delivering to some of the stores we work with, so if you’re wondering where you can get our spring mix, spinach, micros, radishes, or ramps, you can find them at GreenTree Cooperative Grocery in Mt. Pleasant and Argus Farm Stop in Ann Arbor.

And of course, all of this is made possible by our awesome crew!  Carolyn, Katie, Camera, and Alec have been so great to work with this season!  We’ll likely bring on a few more farm workers on a part-time basis for June, July, and August, but for right now, we’re really just amazed at what we can get done with a few really good people!

And summer is fast approaching!  If you wanted to sign up for the CSA and haven’t done it yet, there is still time!  We’re getting pretty close to full, so you’ll want to get signed up in the next few weeks so we can reserve a spot for you.  The cost for a full share is $600 and a half share is $325 at any of our regular drop-offs, and if you’re interested in a quote for home or workplace delivery, just send me an email with the delivery address and I’ll let you know!  I’ve created a form to simplify the sign-up process this year, so if you want to join the CSA this year, just fill out this form!  Just let me know if you have any questions, because we can’t wait to see all of you again in June! 

I've also learned that our blog platform will no longer be emailing the newsletters to subscribers starting in July.  So if you're signed up for the CSA, then I already have your email address on my list, and I'll make sure you continue to get the newsletter once this change occurs.  But if you're not on the 2021 CSA list and you'd still like to get our newsletter updates, or if you'd like to be reminded each spring to sign up for the next CSA season, just fill out this form with your email address!  Thanks so much! 


Recipes


Spring is here, and it’s time to celebrate spinach!  Spinach is one of the early season rock stars each year, and for good reason.  It’s one of the first fresh local veggies available here in Michigan, it’s healthy and nutrient-dense, and it’s delicious!  You can eat it fresh in a salad, or you can sauté it for an easy side dish.  Check out this recipe from Ina Garten for Garlic Sautéed Spinach!  (PS:  If you happen to have ramps available, which are also in season right now, you can substitute them for the garlic.  Just separate the greens from the bulb, and throw the greens into the pan at the same time as the spinach.) Enjoy!

Thursday, January 28, 2021

CSA Newsletter for January: What's New for 2021?

 

Farm Update


These little baby spinach plants are overwintering
 in the hoophouses!  They have two protective 
layers of clear plastic sheltering them from the wind
and capturing the heat from what little sun we 
have, so they can get a head start for spring!
Hi everyone! Well, here we are in 2021!  When I sat down to write this newsletter, I realized that this month is the tenth anniversary of when we first started Monroe Family Organics.  Back in January 2011, we had just moved back to Fred's hometown of Alma after living in Ohio for several years.  We had bought our house in December of 2010, and we were busy fixing things that needed repair, taking down the previous owner's wallpaper, and putting a fresh coat of paint on all of the walls.  We only had one kid back then, a sweet little 3-month old daughter.  And we were hitting the ground running lining up the cheapest farm equipment we could find, filling out all of the paperwork necessary to do business in the state of Michigan, and deciding how to structure the CSA we planned to launch for the 2011 season.

That was ten years ago, and when I think about how much has changed, I'm amazed at all of the ways we've grown since then. We started out on land we were renting from a family friend, with a capricious borrowed tractor that worked only part of the time, without a barn, electricity, or even running water at the farm.  (Seriously.  For the first several months of that season, we had to drive everything we harvested a half mile up the road and wash it in our friend's barn before the CSA drop-offs.  Our farm labor consisted of Fred and our friend Malcolm, with me helping out at CSA drop-offs and doing all of the farm's communications.

Now as we enter 2021, we're on the same land, but we own it now.  We have three tractors (two old Farmall Cubs and our beloved green tractor that does whatever we need it to do and works all the time, rain, shine, or snow.)  We now have our own beautiful barn with a large, functional wash-pack area.  (It's still not super fancy, but it sure beats the old arrangement!)  We also have seven hoophouses, a heated greenhouse, a deer fence, a driveway we're not always getting stuck in whenever it rains, and a delivery vehicle that we can pack a LOT of veggies into!

Everything continues to grow.  That tiny baby we had when we first started the farm is now 10, and she and her 8- and 5- year old siblings are no strangers to the farm.  They're not really that useful yet for farm work, but they like running around picking wildflowers and playing with the barn cats.  Sometimes I can get them to pull a few weeds.

And this year we also solved a perpetual pain point at the farm, that of getting enough good farm workers each season!  Exactly ten years after we bought the house we still live in, we purchased another house, this time for farm employees and interns for the season.  Our old friend Malcolm who helped us out so much that first season is now a realtor, so we worked with him to buy a cool old house that's just a block from the main downtown area in Alma.  We had found that the fact that we couldn't provide housing was limiting our pool of potential workers to just local folks.  While there have been years where we had a really stellar team of local people, more often than not, it has been really hard to find enough people in our area who want to do our type of work, can do it well, and want to stay all season.  We knew that if we could offer housing, we would be able to hire people from anywhere who would come here specifically to learn how to farm.  And we've actually already hired two people for the season, Katie and Carolyn, who seem like they're going to be a great fit!  So, in a repeat of what I was doing a decade ago at this time, I've spent much of last week scraping the old, dingy wallpaper from the kitchen walls of the new house and repainting, making minor repairs, and generally getting things ready for our summer farm crew.

While most of my farm-related work is indoors now (getting the new house ready, filing all of our year-end business forms, and signing people up for the CSA), Fred is still doing some outdoor farm work.  He has been repairing and modifying farm equipment and building new implements.  He recently spent a few days reinforcing our old potato digger, which is an extremely useful old-school implement that was meant for a much smaller operation than ours, and wasn't designed to be used as extensively as we have over the last few years.  We're also still harvesting a very small amount.  When the weather permits, Fred harvests some of our overwintered carrots, which have been so delicious and sweet!  We currently have four of our hoophouses (also called coldframes) planted with overwintered spinach, lettuce, and green garlic, which we expect to start harvesting the first week of March.  The other three hoophouses will be planted in the next few weeks, and those seeds will eventually become the produce that we harvest in the late spring and for the first weeks of the CSA.

And even though it seems far away now, June will be here before we know it!  If you're interested in signing up for the CSA next year, just fill out this form, and I'll get you all signed up!  If you've never been part of the CSA before, you can check out all the details and learn how it works at our website.  The price will be $600 for a full share and $325 for a half share at our regular drop-offs, and if you're interested in home or workplace delivery, just let me know, and I'll send you a quote!  We'd love to have you in the CSA this year!!!




What's New for 2021?


Every year, Fred eagerly awaits the arrival of his seed catalogs.  Each December, he loves nothing more than to sit by the fire poring over publications from half a dozen seed companies, developing the perfect roster of fruit and vegetable varieties for the coming year.  This year, he actually moved his traditional coffee/fireplace/seed researching process up several weeks, because last year, many of the seed companies kept running out of stock, and we wanted to make sure we could get all of the varieties he wanted to try.  So over the course of November and December, we put in several orders, and our seeds have already started arriving! We especially wanted to make sure we could get the million (yes, million!) seeds we wanted of our favorite carrot variety, so we knew we needed to get started early!

Aside from our ambitious carrot plans, we're also trying a few other new varieties this year!  We've got a few new types of winter squash planned, including the Autumn Frost variety (which is kind of like a Butternut but with a ribbed texture and a dusky orange color, and a really sweet flavor), and Black Futsu (which is pumpkin shaped, and has a sweet, nutty flavor).  We're also going to give some cauliflower a try!  The variety is called Song TJS-65 (I've always wondered how they choose those names), and it is supposed to be a unique type of sprouting cauliflower with great flavor.  We're also bringing back a few crops that we have grown in the past but taken a few years off from, such as pie pumpkins, parsley, and Patty Pan summer squash.  

Another big change is that we will be doing our own onion starts this year!  We've traditionally bought pre-started organic onion plants from a grower in Texas, but we experienced some quality issues the last two years, so we were considering doing it ourselves.  This particular grower has some organic production and some conventional production, and this year he wrote to tell us that his organic field accidentally got sprayed with synthetic chemicals, so the onion plants wouldn't be able to be certified organic.  Because our organic certifier requires us to use organic plant starts, we wouldn't be able to get onions from him this year.  So we're going to do it ourselves!  We're expanding our greenhouse production to accommodate upwards of 30,000 onion plants, and they should be ready to plant in April or May, which is when we usually plant our onions anyway.

This year, we're going to try to get even earlier crops of summer squash, red potatoes, and carrots from the hoophouses, so we can get a meaningful amount of those veggies into the first and second CSA shares.  Hoophouse production gives the plants just enough of a jump on growth so that we can have them a few weeks earlier.  That will allow us to bring an even wider variety of items to you guys for the first few weeks of the CSA!

This time of year, the upcoming season always feels like a big adventure.  We make our plans, get as many ducks in a row as possible, and set the course for the season ahead.  And of course, it doesn't always work out the way we planned.  Last year at this time, the world had only the faintest hint of what was coming, and we couldn't have planned for what 2020 would bring us.  But each year is a chance to start anew, to keep running with the things are are working great, and to make tweaks and try new solutions for the things that aren't.  So here's to 2021!  I, for one, am excited to see what type of adventure this year will be, and I am hopeful that when we all look back next January, we will see how much has changed for the better and how far we've come.


Sunday, November 22, 2020

CSA Newsletter for November 2020

 

Farm Update


Under these layers of plastic in 
the coldframe, spinach has been
seeded for overwintering.  It will
get a head start for spring, sheltered
from the wind and extreme
temperatures of the winter by the
protective layers of plastic.
Hi everyone! It's been three weeks since we wrapped up the CSA for this year, and we are settling into a somewhat slower pace of life.  Fred is still working at the farm every day, but instead of harvesting and getting things ready for the CSA drop-offs, he's prepping the fields for next year's planting, doing some harvesting for our wholesale accounts, and making deliveries to a few stores (Greentree Co-Op in Mt. Pleasant and Argus Farm Stop in Ann Arbor).  I haven't been at the farm very much since the CSA ended, and the number of hours I spend on farm work drastically decreases from November through May.  So lately I've been working a lot more for my other off-farm job (which I get to do from home these days!), spending time with Fred and the kids, training for another half marathon, and generally getting our house back under control after letting some things slide during the CSA season.  After a busy season, it feels really restful to be at home washing dishes, running, attending zoom meetings, getting the farm's financial books in order, and reading to my kids.  But everything has its season and its time, and I know that by spring, I'll be itching to get back out to the fields and plant some onions and do some weeding in the coldframes.  Thus is the cyclical nature of the farm life.  Each season comes back around again, and it feels both exciting and familiar at the same time.

And even though it seems far away now, June will be here before we know it!  If you're interested in signing up for the CSA next year, just fill out this form, and I'll get you all signed up!  The price will be $600 for a full share and $325 for a half share at our regular drop-offs, but anyone who signs up and puts down a partial payment by December 31 will get the early bird special, which is $580 for a full share or $315 for a half share.  And if you're interested in home or workplace delivery, just let me know, and I'll send you a quote.

Thank you all so much for being a part of what we do!  We hope you all stay healthy and safe and have an awesome Thanksgiving, no matter how you'll be celebrating this year! :-)


The Shoulder Seasons

by Fred


Our CSA goes for 19 weeks of the season, encompassing the main parts of the spring, summer, and fall growing seasons. However, we are actually growing and harvesting veggies for usually all but about 6-8 weeks of the year and for our family pretty much year-round. These weeks that are on either end of the main 19-week CSA season are commonly referred to as shoulder seasons.

We are currently in a shoulder season, so what is the farm up to right now? As you might guess we are eating some outstanding food with an abundance of fall veggies in storage, still at some of their highest quality and tastiness. Little is left to harvest, especially this year, when high demand means we had to harvest most crops sooner than usual. However, especially for our family, we still have some spring mix, spinach, brussels sprouts, and kale still in the field and unheated tunnels. I love greens and these shoulder season greens are really some of the best of the season. They are mild, hardy, and very nutrient-dense. This is because they have divested their leaves of as much water as possible as they try to withstand the cold and freezing temps. These shoulder season greens are usually more challenging to harvest. Cold hands and picking around some damage are common obstacles, but it is well worth it in the flavor department, and the greens we harvest in the shoulder seasons are almost always very nutrient dense. I took a Brix reading today, which is a measure of the nutrient density of produce. The brix number of our kale was 16, which is absolutely excellent for kale. These Brix readings are some the easiest and best ways to assess the nutrient quality of produce.

This spinach in the field will be
covered by the plastic low tunnel
to protect it from the cold and wind
throughout the winter.
Right now we are harvesting the most cold hardy of greens, but what remains of even these will soon succumb to the cold. However, lately we have been seeding new plantings that will overwinter in low tunnels and unheated greenhouses. The low tunnels are comprised of thin clear plastic that forms low and long temporary growing space held up by spring wire that pops back up after the snow melts. All the while this short tunnel provides just enough protection to get the little spinach plants to survive and have a nice crop in April and May when we take these temporary covers off completely. The unheated greenhouses are what we refer to as hoophouses, and we are also planting these with spinach, spring mix, and garlic (for early green garlic). The hoophouses keep things much warmer and protected than the low tunnels and we will be harvesting some of these plantings even as early as late February.

Last year for the first time we overwintered carrots and had some great fresh carrots in March and April. Having these tasty carrots on our table after a long winter was amazing, so we planted carrots for overwintering again and they are well on their way. These carrot plantings are seeded much earlier (mostly in late August) and we have one in a hoophouse and another planting in what will be a caterpillar tunnel, which is a hybrid approach between the hoophouse and low tunnels. If you are more curious about this newer tunnel there are some good YouTube videos that can show what they are about.

These shoulder seasons are typically more challenging as we fight the ever present and sometimes severe cold using clear plastic covers and tunnels to protect crops. Also challenging is fending off deer, rabbits, and mice who also are especially hungry for our produce during these shoulder seasons. But even though the shoulder seasons tend to be more of a struggle, they also yield some of the best produce and keep this family supplied with awesome food throughout the year.

Recipes

Thanksgiving will likely look different for many of us this year than it does most years.  Almost every year since I can remember, I've gathered with my whole extended family on my dad's side to celebrate.  The gathering has grown over the decades as children have grown up, brought spouses and significant others, and had kids of their own, and now the group numbers around 6o people.  So needless to say, that won't be happening this year, and most of us will be doing Thanksgiving in our own homes with our own nuclear families, or getting together with a sibling to keep it small.  So if that's you this year, you probably don't need the gigantic bowl of mashed potatoes that usually graces the table.  Why not switch it up and try one of these 40 Thanksgiving Potato Recipes from Bon Appetit?  Who knows, maybe you'll discover your new favorite way to make potatoes for Thanksgiving!

Saturday, October 24, 2020

CSA Newsletter for Week 19- Final CSA Week!

 

Farm Update


Hi everyone!  Well, here we are in the last week of the CSA!  It's been quite the year for all of humanity, and certainly for us at the farm as well.  As the weather gets cold and the days grow shorter, we are glad to be getting the farm ready for its long winter's nap.  Each season has its own combination of struggles and successes, joys and frustrations, and as the year winds down, I look back over the CSA season and breathe a deep sigh of relief.  Relief that we made it through the rains, the dry periods, the bugs, the weeds, the labor shortages, the exhaustion, the aches and pains, the extreme heat and the bone-chilling cold.  We're about to steer the proverbial train into the station again after another long season, and take a break.  

And yet when I look back on the season, I'm grateful too.  I'm grateful to be so integrated into the community.  I'm grateful that while most of the world was in isolation, I got to see and interact with all of you each week, and life felt surprisingly normal.  I'm grateful that we got to spend our summer working outside in the sun, getting good exercise, and doing simple, rewarding, and measurable work.  And I'm grateful that our community came out so strongly to support our farm and other local businesses in this crazy year.  Thank you all for coming with us on this crazy journey we call the 2020 CSA season, and for making our whole farm possible!

And in case you missed it the last few weeks, you can sign up for the 2021 season by filling out this Google form!  The cost for a full share next year will be $600, but anyone who signs up and puts down at least a half payment by December 31 will get the early bird special of $580.  A half share will be $325 next year, but early birds get their share for $315.  If you have any questions, just let me know!  And if you're wondering where you can get our produce after the CSA ends, we'll have veggies available at Greentree Cooperative Grocery in Mt. Pleasant and at Argus Farm Stop in Ann Arbor until about mid-December, so look for us there!  Thank you all so much for another great CSA season, and we hope to see you again in 2021!

What to Expect in Your Share


If you are going through the line 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! 

Spinach, lettuce, or sweet potatoes
Large squash (Butternut or Tetsukabuto)
Carrots or beets
Brussels sprouts or potatoes
Kale, a bag of small onions, or leeks
Cabbage or a small squash (Acorn or Delicata)
Cilantro, onion, or shallot


If you have a prepacked share, 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 fill out this Google form by lunchtime the day before your drop-off to let me know which share you want for this week!  If it comes in after that, I might still be able to get you the share you wanted, but I can't guarantee it. And if I don't hear from you, I'll just choose for you. :-)

Share A:  Spinach, large squash, carrots, potatoes, leeks, cabbage, and onion.

Share B:  Lettuce, large squash, carrots, Brussels sprouts, bag of small onions, small squash, and cilantro.

Share C:  Sweet potato, large squash, beets, potatoes, kale, small squash, and onion.


Recipes


Oh, winter squash!  So delicious, and so versatile.  We love to slice them in half, bake them, and sprinkle them with butter and brown sugar.  We also love to make them into wonderful creamy soups, or dice them up, sauté them in butter, and top them with maple syrup or brown sugar.  Another hearty and delicious way to prepare them is to make Stuffed Winter Squash.  Check out this mouthwatering recipe and give it a try!

Saturday, October 17, 2020

CSA Newsletter for Week 18

 

Farm Update


Our old root washer cleans sweet
potatoes by spraying them with
water while they travel through a
series of rollers that gently scrub the
dirt off of them.  Then they fall into
the crates at the end, where we
separate them by size for the shares.
Hi everyone!  We've wrapped up another week of the CSA, and there are two more CSA weeks left until the end of the season!  So the final drop-offs will be during the last week of October in case you were wondering.  And things definitely feel like they're winding down at the farm.  The weather is getting colder, and we've had a number of hard freezes overnight.  We cover our more vulnerable crops with a layer of plastic to protect them from the cold and wind, but each time we get a hard frost, we know that some of them might not make it through.  The frost last night actually killed off our last planting of green beans, which we knew might happen.  We know that anything we plant after the first half of September is a gamble, and this year the weather was not in our favor.  But fortunately, the radishes and romaine (which are also among our more vulnerable crops right now) came through last night's frost just fine, so they'll be in the shares this week!

While there aren't as many types of farm work that need to occur now as there were in the early summer, the main one that remains (harvesting) takes a lot more time than it used to.  It is a lot harder to harvest when the weather gets cold and nasty, and takes a lot longer.  We also don't have nearly as many workers as we did in June and July, so basically, it's slow going.  It makes us really appreciate when we get to come indoors for mealtime, and we've been making some really great fall meals in our kitchen!  We've been enjoying lots of warm soups, and plenty of squash, sweet potatoes, beets, kale, and all the other great things that get their chance to shine in autumn!

If you're interested in signing up for next season, sign-up is open for the 2021 season!  The price will be going up next year to $600 for a full share or $325 for a half share, but we do have an early bird special!  Anyone who signs up and pays for at least half of their share before the end of the calendar year will get their half share for $315 or their full share for $580!  So if you have any questions, just send me an email, and if you're interested in signing up for the CSA next year, fill out this google for for the Monroe Family Organics 2021 CSA season


What to Expect in Your Share


If you are going through the line 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! 

Onion, cilantro, or dill
Carrots
Brussels sprouts or leeks
Squash or sweet potatoes
Lettuce or potatoes
Kale or radish
Acorn squash, delicata squash, or a bag of small onions


If you have a prepacked share, 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 fill out this Google form by lunchtime the day before your drop-off to let me know which share you want for this week!  If it comes in after that, I might still be able to get you the share you wanted, but I can't guarantee it. And if I don't hear from you, I'll just choose for you. :-)

Share A:  Carrots, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, lettuce, acorn squash, and onion.

Share B:  Carrots, Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, lettuce, kale, bag of small onions, and cilantro.

Share C:  Carrots, leeks, butternut squash, potatoes, kale, acorn squash, and onion.


Recipes


Everyone knows that radishes are great sliced really thin on top of a salad.  But did you know that there are a lot more great ways to use radishes in your meals?  Check out these 10 Best Radish Recipes from the Kitchn for some great ideas for this lovely cool-weather veggie!

Saturday, October 10, 2020

CSA Newsletter for Week 17 and 2021 CSA Sign-Up Info!

 

Farm Update


Hi everyone!  What gorgeous weather we had last week!  It was just a joy to be working outside!  Sometimes in the fall, when the weather gets rainy and cold and the harvesting conditions are miserable, it's the opposite of joyful.  But last week was the type of weather that makes me love being at the farm!  And I've been at the farm a lot more as of late, because as the season winds down, our few remaining employees have extremely limited availability.  It's definitely been a balancing act between the needs of the farm, the needs of my other off-farm job (which fortunately is extremely flexible), our three young kids, and all of the various home and life-maintenance tasks that keep things humming along.  It's definitely life on all cylinders in the month of October, and it's fortunate that the weather was so great this week, because we were really rushing every day this week to get everything harvested, washed, packed, and on the truck in time to leave for the drop-offs.  It's like constantly laying track for a train we can see coming, and the train can't slow down, so we just have to keep laying track as fast as we can.  But the end is in sight.  Just three more weeks until we get the metaphorical train safely into the station, and wrap up another successful CSA season!

And looking around the farm, things still look really nice!  We've had a few more frosts, but our greens are looking great, and we've got our massive harvests of potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, and onions in the barn where freezing temperatures can't hurt them.  So I'm feeling optimistic about having several weeks of really great CSA shares ahead of us.  And we have Brussels sprouts this week!  Like many people, I thought I didn't like Brussels sprouts when I was a kid, but now they are one of my favorite vegetables.  We had the first Brussels sprouts of the year in our own kitchen yesterday, and they were just amazing, so I'm so excited to be able to bring them to you guys this week! 

If you're interested in signing up for the CSA next year, sign-up for our 2021 season is officially open!  The cost will be going up a little bit next year to account for the annual cost of living increase, and also because our labor costs are going up a lot, and that trend is only going to continue into the future.  For the last few years, it's been harder and harder to find good employees, for a number of reasons.  Because we operate seasonally and can't offer year-round employment, it makes it really hard to keep good people.  Most adults need employment all year, so each year we have to start from scratch and train new people, and they're often very young and inexperienced.  This year the work miraculously got done by a crew of teens, several family members and friends who made themselves available when they didn't have to be at their "real" jobs, and Fred just gunning it nonstop all season.  But living like that has been stressful and exhausting, and we can't keep doing it this way.  We considered downsizing and getting rid of one of our CSA drop-offs so the workload would more manageable within our existing structure, but we didn't want to do that.  We want to make high-quality, affordable, organic produce available to all of you, and every time we discussed which drop-off to cut, we just felt awful about all of the options.  So that is obviously not the answer.  What we need to be able to do is offer a good wage so it's worth it for qualified college-age or older people to work with us for the season.  As wages continue to rise, it makes working hard in the dirt and heat seem a lot less attractive when someone can make the same amount of money doing much easier work.  So we need to be able to raise our wages so we can get good people and pay them what they deserve.

So that's a really long way of saying that we are going to be raising our CSA prices this year.  In the past, we've raised the price by $5 every other year or so, but this year, they're going to be going up from $305 to $325 for a half share, and from $560 to $600 for a full share at our regular drop-offs.  After looking around at the prices of other local CSA farms around mid-Michigan, I was glad to see that ours is still less expensive than any of the other farms I checked out, because it's extremely important to us to make good food available to everyone, not just people with deep pockets.  And as always, we have an early bird special!  Anyone who signs up and pays for at least half of their share before the end of the calendar year will get their half share for $315 or their full share for $580!  So if you have any questions, just send me an email, and if you're interested in signing up for the CSA next year, fill out this google for for the Monroe Family Organics 2021 CSA season


What to Expect in Your Share


If you are going through the line 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! 

Lettuce or potatoes
Carrots
Brussels sprouts or cherry tomatoes
Sweet potatoes or butternut squash
Dill, microgreens, small cabbage, or acorn squash
Radishes, beets, or kale
Onion, shallot, or a fennel bulb


If you have a prepacked share, 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 fill out this Google form by lunchtime the day before your drop-off to let me know which share you want for this week!  If it comes in after that, I might still be able to get you the share you wanted, but I can't guarantee it. And if I don't hear from you, I'll just choose for you. :-)

Share A:  Potatoes, carrots, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, acorn squash, beets, and onion.

Share B:  Spring mix, carrots, Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, microgreens, kale, onion.

Share C:  Spring mix, carrots, cherry tomatoes, sweet potatoes, small cabbage, radishes, shallot.


Recipes


Pretty much every fall, one of our favorite things to make is roasted root vegetables!  It's so versatile, because you can use whatever potatoes, carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, etc. that you have on hand, and it is warm and earthy and filling.  Perfect for when the weather starts to get a little chilly!  So check out this recipe for Oven Roasted Root Vegetables!

Saturday, October 3, 2020

CSA Newsletter for Week 16

 

Farm Update


Our trailer was loaded down with squash
after the big harvest on Friday!
Hi everyone!  It was another busy week at the farm, and I am glad to announce that we now have all of our storage crops out of the field!  We traditionally think of fall as harvest season, because that's when farms do a huge, all-hands-on-deck harvest of potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, onions, and other crops that will get them through the long, cold winter.  We don't have very many people working for us this time of year (just Fred and three part-time people who each come in a couple days a week), but we were able to round up a great crew on Friday to bring in the squash.  We had Fred, his sister Mary, our employee Lindy, her boyfriend Blake, and his friend Josh, and the five of them brought in all the remaining squash from the field.  So now that the massive harvest push is done, our day-to-day harvest for the CSA will be a lot more manageable.  We'll still be harvesting things like kale, lettuce, leeks, carrots, beets, and tomatoes, and peppers daily.  The warm season crops (tomatoes, peppers, and the like) will start to peter out as the season goes on, to be replaced by more root vegetables and leafy greens.  We did have some frost this week, but it wasn't nearly as bad as the forecast predicted, so the summer veggies aren't quite dead yet!  We'll still have cherry tomatoes in the shares this week, and while the larger tomatoes aren't going to be listed in the shares, it's likely that we'll still have some on the trade table, or interspersed on the tables throughout the week.  And there are still four more weeks of great veggies!  So we'll see you at the drop-off for week 16 of the CSA!


What to Expect in Your Share


If you are going through the line 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! 

Lettuce
Sweet potatoes or potatoes
Squash or cherry tomatoes
Carrots or beets
Kale, cabbage, or fennel
Onion or garlic
Leeks, microgreens, radish

If you have a prepacked share, 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 fill out this Google form by lunchtime 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:  Lettuce, sweet potatoes, cherry tomatoes, carrots, kale, onion, and leek.

Share B:  Lettuce, potatoes, squash, carrots, fennel, onion, and leek.

Share C:  Lettuce, sweet potatoes, squash, beets, cabbage, garlic, and radishes.


Recipes



With more of a chill in the air, doesn't it just seem like the perfect time to make Potato Leek Soup?  This recipe calls for Yukon Gold potatoes, and those are not the potatoes we have in the shares.  But really, the author just wants to make sure that you're using a potato with great flavor, and our Red Norlands will certainly make a delicious soup!  So check out this Potato Leek Soup from Once Upon a Chef!