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Extra Produce. Read All About It.

One thing that I wanted to address this year before the season got going is how we at the farm make decisions about selling extra produce to our members. Last year I had a member ask how could something be ‘extra’ when we all paid for a share of the farm’s produce. It’s not an unreasonable question, but I didn’t have the time or mental space then to dedicate to answering it properly. I will attempt to do so now. First, a bit about our farm’s revenue sources: We are, and always have been, primarily a CSA farm. Currently about 90% of our revenue is from member share payments. The other 10% is made up of syrup and honey sales, sales of things we purchase (like blueberries) and some wholesale produce sales. Less than 1% is sales of our produce to our members as extras. The wholesale sales are to Angelica’s Garden in Elmwood, WI, who contracts with us to grow cabbage and beets for her sauerkraut, kimchee and pickled beets. You can find her products in most of the co-ops.
There are several reasons why we might offer something to our members for sale as extras:
  • We planted some extra specifically for this purpose because members have requested it; bulk carrots, garlic, canning tomatoes, etc.
  • We feel that we have more than we can reasonably put in the share; again carrots, squash
  • We have an odd amount; trial varieties where we may have small quantities, remnants of plantings we’ve already harvested
  • Odd sizes or #2 quality; large zucchini, funky carrots, things that don’t meet our quality standards
Those of you who have been members a while know that we don’t do very much of this. I wish we could do more, but logistically it is overly complicated to sell 12 giant zucchinis, it’s much easier to throw them on the compost pile or to the chickens. I’ll take a moment to elaborate on each of these reasons.

For several years we’ve been offering bulk carrots to our members because they’ve requested them. Consequently we have grown our fall carrot plantings to accommodate this demand. When I sit down and do my planning in the winter I plan for several weeks of carrots for the regular season shares and 20 pounds of carrots for each winter share. We don’t sell any extra carrots usually until late September when we’ve harvested the storage crops and can look at the numbers and decide what we have beyond what we need for the winter shares. Even if I wanted to put more than 5 pounds of carrots in each winter share box, I couldn’t, there just isn’t the room. Those of you who get the winter share know what I mean. If we have 100 winter shares, I want to make sure that I’ve got 2000 pounds of carrots in the cooler to fill the bags. Since I’ve been planting more, it’s more likely that I’ve got 3,000 pounds, and consequently some extra available for sale. We’ve also had members request tomatoes for canning and bulk quantities of garlic. Therefore we’ve increased these in our planting schedule so that we can offer this to those who want it, but even so, our first priority is to the share boxes. In 2014 we planted almost 200 tomato plants intended for canners, but since we had a poor tomato year, everything went straight to the share boxes.

Sometimes we have such an overabundance of something that I feel bad about putting any more of it in the boxes. Cucumbers or squash are good examples of this, although we don’t often even offer these for sale. There is simply a limit to how much people want of some things and over the years I have tried to be respectful of that. The difficulty comes with one person who loves something and another who doesn’t care for it, case in point: our household can easily get through ten cucumbers a week but I don’t think that’s the norm. The number one reason that people do not renew their share is that they received too much produce and it went to waste. Ideally when we have these situations we can find a wholesale or food shelf outlet for the produce, but again, logistically it can be difficult.

We’re always experimenting. With 45 different crops and multiple varieties of each there are always new things going on in the field which may or may not make the cut. We also always plan to have more than we need of most things. If I want to make sure that I’ve got 175 heads of red leaf lettuce for Week 1, we will seed two 128-cell trays, and end up transplanting almost 250 transplants. In the field we may lose a few to the cultivator, or a million other things. After harvesting our 175 we may have twenty left over. If they’re not too mature they may hold in the field fine for Week 2, but if it’s going to be 90° all week, it’s either use them or lose them. This, again, is not something we’ve been in the habit of selling. I don’t feel a burning desire to make sure that every edible morsel in the field gets to a human, we have to feed the soil biology too.

We are fairly fussy about quality on our farm, you don’t simply get some of everything we’ve got. Funky carrots or radishes, cracked or bruised tomatoes do not meet our standards. Consequently we leave a lot of these in the field to go back to the earth. In the case of carrots or tomatoes there can be so many of them that they can be used for a higher purpose, and we’ll then offer them to the members. It is an extra effort to clean, pack and deliver this less-than-perfect produce, so we do ask for compensation for it. This seems a reasonable approach to me, because, honestly, it would be just easier for us to leave it in the field.

The notion that every member receives their fraction of everything produced on our farm is a compelling one. The CSA movement has used this for years as shorthand to describe the CSA model, but the reality is more complicated. The crop planning and timing is sophisticated to maintain a high level of consistent quality and variety throughout the growing season, and oftentimes over planting is insurance that we’ll have what we need, when we need it. We strive to be open and honest with our members about how we make these decisions, and want our members to know that we take your trust in us and our abilities very seriously. We also are always open to input and discussion, drop me an email if you have a comment. -David

2012 Shares Sold Out

We sold our last share on March 19th, so we are full up for the season. Thanks to everyone for the support! If you’re looking for another CSA farm try the directory published by Land Stewardship Project.

2012 Shares Now Available

Visit our signup page to download the 2012 brochure and signup forms. As of today we have 17 spaces available for new members. When they’re gone they’re gone!

2012 Shares available in a week

We should have shares for the 2012 season available right around February 6th. If you add your email to the list on our homepage I’ll make sure you get an email when they’re available.

2011 Shares Sold Out

No April fooling folks, as of today we are sold out of shares for the 2011 season.

Just another farmer with an outdated blog

Hello folks, keeping up with too much media is a challenge around here so we’ve been slacking on the blog. We do have about 10 more shares available for the 2011 season,  check it out here for more info and signup form.

Green Beans

Hello folks, add your favorite green bean recipe or usage as a comment below. I’ll add a nice beany photo later. Thanks.

Kale-a-palooza

100_0876All right, here are kale recipes a-go-go. Please feel free to leave yours as a comment at the end of the list. Some folks sent formal recipes and some sent suggestions that are simple ways to prepare it that they enjoy. Recipes are below, and the suggestions I added as comments just quoting directly from their emails. Click on the Kale-a-palooza title to view the post in it’s own window with the comments.

This first recipe is the way which we eat 90% of our kale here on the farm. It’s not a super rigid recipe. Just because the kale is raw, don’t be afraid. The dressing wilts the kale so that it’s just like eating kale that you steamed or blanched. It is important to let the dressing tenderize the kale for 15-20 minutes before serving. We also usually top it with some roasted cashews.

Kale Quinoa Salad

For the dressing:

1 clove garlic

1 small shallot, sliced thin

3 tablespoons soy

1 tablespoon brown miso

2 tablespoon tahini

1/4 cup sherry, apple cider or rice vinegar

3/4 cup olive oil

For the salad:

4 cups shredded kale

1/2 cup sliced apple

1/4 cup raisins

1/2 cup cooked quinoa (cooled)

Saute the shallots together with the raisins until both

are tender. Set aside.

Combine all of the dressing ingredients in a

blender and purée. In a large bowl assemble the salad

ingredients and toss with the dressing. Let it stand for

at least 15 minutes for the kale to tenderize. Top with

the shallots and raisins and serve. Keeps well for the

next day as well.

Greens and Garbanzos

You can make this with any of the greens (kale, turnip, chard), but kale is one of the best for it.

One bunch kale, ribs removed and roughly chopped

one can garbanzo beans (about 1.5 to 2 cups cooked if you cook your own from dry)

Garlic – 1 to 3 cloves minced, depending on how much you like garlic

1 teaspoon ground cumin

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup water

Lemon juice to taste

olive oil

Saute the garlic in 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil (one good glug from the jug).  Add the kale (no need to dry it off after washing) and saute until wilted.  Stir in garbanzos and cumin, and pour the water over the greens.  Cover and simmer until tender – depending on the age of the greens this will be 2 to 5 or 6 minutes.  Sprinkle with a little lemon juice – maybe a teaspoon – salt and pepper to taste.

You don’t really have to measure anything – the amounts given are just to give you an idea of the range to be in.  Super simple and super delicious.  Serve over couscous or as a side on it’s own.

A little cayenne is a fun add.

Chorizo and kale

1lb chorizo, we use the bulk, uncured, at the Wedge or Seward coop.

2 bunches of kale

1/2 cup toasted almonds

Cut kale into strips or small pieces.

Sauté the chorizo, breaking it up in little pieces.

When done, about 8 minutes, add kale and cover for 3-4 min

Cook for about 5-8 more minutes stirring.

Sprinkle almonds on right before serving.

It’s a quick meal. We’ve also done it with hot Italian sausage. If there is zucchini we add that too…

Sautéed Kale with Garlic and Vinegar

1 bunch kale

1 Tbsp Olive Oil

Salt

2 cloves garlic

2 Tbsp red wine vinegar

Stem the kale and chop coarsely. Heat a large skillet, add oil and kale, and cook until wilted. Add salt and garlic, and cover the pan. When the greens are fully tender—from a few minutes to fifteen, depending on maturity—remove the lid and allow any excess liquid to cook away. Turn off the heat and add the vinegar.

Greens and Bulgur Gratin

Gourmet | September 1995

yield: Serves 4 as a main course or 6 as a side dish

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup coarse bulgur
  • 2 pounds assorted greens such as kale, collard, escarole, spinach, Swiss chard, and/or mustard greens
  • 6 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan (about 1 ounce)
  • 6 ounces chilled whole-milk or part-skim mozzarella, grated coarse

For topping

  • 1/2 cup fine fresh bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Preparation

In a heatproof bowl pour enough boiling water over bulgur to cover by 1 inch. Cover bowl with a plate to trap steam and let stand 20 minutes. Drain bulgur in a large fine sieve, pressing out excess liquid, and transfer to a bowl.

Keeping each variety of green separate, tear greens into bite-size pieces, discarding stems. Still keeping greens separate, wash thoroughly by dunking in a sinkful of water and transfer to a colander to drain.

Put coarser greens (kale or collard) in a 4 1/2- to 5-quart kettle and steam in water clinging to leaves, covered, over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 4 minutes. Add delicate greens (escarole, spinach, Swiss chard, and/or mustard) to coarse greens and steam, covered, stirring occasionally, until just wilted, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain greens in colander, pressing out excess liquid.

In a large heavy skillet cook garlic in oil over moderate heat, stirring, until softened but not golden. Stir in greens and bulgur and season generously with salt and pepper. Stir in Parmesan and remove skillet from heat.

Preheat oven to 400°F. and lightly oil a 1 1/2-quart gratin dish or other shallow baking dish.

Spread half of greens mixture in dish and sprinkle evenly with mozzarella. Spread remaining greens mixture over mozzarella and smooth top with a rubber spatula. Gratin may be prepared up to this point 8 hours ahead and chilled, covered.

Make topping:
In a small bowl with a fork stir together bread crumbs and oil until crumbs are evenly moistened.

Sprinkle topping over greens mixture and bake in middle of oven 30 minutes, or until bubbling and top is browned lightly.

Potato Kale Soup with Gruyere

– from Cooking Light magazine

2 tbsp butter

1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion

1 garlic clove, minced

7 cups fat-free, less sodium chicken broth (I use roughly 1/3 homemade broth, 1/3 store bought, and 1/3 water instead)

4 cups coarsely chopped peeled Yukon gold potato

1/4 tsp salt

1 bay leaf

6 cups chopped fresh kale

1 tsp dried basil

9 tbsp shredded Gruyere cheese

Melt butter in large saucepan over med heat. Add onion, cook 8 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently.  Add garlic, cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly.  Stir in broth, potato, salt and bay leaf.  Bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat, simmer 15 minutes or until potato is tender.

Stir in kale and basil.  Cover and simmer 10 minutes or until kale is tender.  Discard bay leaf.  Partially mash potatoes with a potato masher until thick and chunky.  Top with cheese.

Tequila-Braised Kale

Makes 4 servings

Vegan recipe

Many thanks to my cooking class culinary assistant and vegetarian friend Lisa Genis for introducing me to dinosaur kale, which is quite similar to the Tuscan variety, and for sharing this unusual recipe she created.  Robust kale, with its bitter edge, partners well with chickpeas.  It’s also a great mate for couscous (see Tips), which I prepare according to package instructions to use as a base for the braised kale.

1/2 cup dry-packed julienned sun-dried tomatoes

1 cup boiling water

1/3 cup tequila

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium sweet onion, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4”-thick slices (about 1 cup)

1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 bunch dinosaur, red, or black kale, stemmed (if necessary) and coarsely chopped (about 8 cups) (see Tips)

1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, or to taste

Combine the dried tomatoes and boiling water in a small bowl; soak the tomatoes for about 10 minutes or until softened.  Drain, reserving the liquid.

To make the braising liquid, combine the tequila, vinegar, and the tomato liquid in a small bowl.

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat.  Add the onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until it just begins to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add the cumin seeds and garlic; stir constantly for about 30 seconds.

Add the kale; stir until it is coated with the oil.  Add the braising liquid, tomatoes, and chickpeas; reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the kale is tender, about 10 to 15 minutes.  Stir in the lime juice, salt, and pepper.  Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Tips

Couscous, sometimes called Moroccan pasta, is a tiny, beadlike pasta made from semolina flour.  It is available both in white and whole-wheat varieties in most supermarkets.  It keeps almost indefinitely in a tightly closed container in a dark, dry place.

Kale, a loose-leafed member of the cabbage family, is at its best during fall, winter, and early spring; it doesn’t tolerate heat well and can become bitter if grown in the summer months.  Choose fresh, brightly colored bunches of kale with no sign of browning or insect damage.  Store in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 3 days; beyond that, the flavor becomes quite strong.  Clean the leaves well just before using by swishing the greens in a bowl of cold water; lift the greens from the water, leaving any dirt in the bottom of the bowl, and repeat if necessary.  Be sure to check both sides of the leaves because dirt can cling to the undersides.  If they are more than 1/8” thick, remove and discard the tough center stalks before using.

Fettucine with Sausage and Kale

Kale and Mushrooms with Creamy Polenta

Kale with Garlic and Bacon

Tuscan Kale Chips

Here is a link to Spring Hill Community Farm’s Kale recipe page

A few field photos

I meant to post a few field photos with last week’s post, but didn’t get around to it, so here they are now. 1st round of lettuce transplants in the field, freshly weeded and mulched garlic, and 10,000 little onion plants. Hoping for some real rain this weekend, last weekend only amounted to 0.3″ here at the farm.

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The (outdoor) planting begins

A warmer than usual March has led into a warm April so things around here are hopping. Looking at the trees and plants makes me think that we’re about 2 to 3 weeks ahead of schedule with the spring. We had our first meal of ramps last weekend and they were already plenty large, by this weekend they may be too big. Ramps are a wild leek which grows in the woods around this area, they are delicious. I even heard of someone finding a few morels already, which would be record early for them. The blossoms are just about to open on our fruit trees, and I picked our first meal of asparagus today.

Will all this warm weather translate into the first shares coming earlier than normal? It really depends. All the plantings for the shares are scheduled out so that they meet up with each other to fill the boxes with a nice variety of items, we can’t simply start planting it all earlier or things won’t sync up the way they’re supposed to and I’ll end up with one or two things that are ready to harvest in the field instead of 6 or 8. What it should do for sure is bring about more variety earlier in the season and limit some of the ‘lettuce every time, all the time’ early boxes.

Warm weather aside we could really use some nice gentle spring rains. Since I put the rain gauge back outside on March 10th we’ve only had 1.87 inches of rain. That probably puts us a good 4 or 5 inches below normal. So it was that today after seeding the first peas and spinach, I found myself having to turn on the irrigation for the first time this year. It’s pretty dry when I have to irrigate in April.

The dry weather has put us ahead of the game a bit for now. We got all the potatoes planted the last couple of days which is the earliest I’ve ever put them in. Today we got 2/3 of the onions in with the rest on deck for tomorrow. Getting the big jobs of the onions and potatoes out of the way is a wonderful start to the season. It’s tempting to put the first round of lettuce in this week as well. It and many things in the greenhouse are getting a little bit big for their britches.