Twenty weeks of harvest come to a close this week; our 19th season nearly complete and our 20th on the horizon. Typical for Wisconsin, the year began as no other, with winter lasting until the first of May in our valley. It was a slow start but the season followed with the best weather we’ve ever had. The vegetables responded by providing a great bounty. One overall measure we use each week is the weight of the share box, partly to gauge the harvest and partly to give the delivery crew fair warning on how their backs will feel at the end of the day. The box weighed over 20 pounds per box week after week. We were pleased with the harvest of 2013 and hope you were as well.
There was one disappointment this year, garlic was missing. Garlic failures were a multi-state phenomena, one which we hope doesn’t get repeated again. But, as the snowflakes were falling Wednesday afternoon, we were planting back all of our surviving bulbs, for next year’s harvest. Garlic marks the last planting of the year as well as the first crop to emerge in the spring. Fortunate for us, winter comes between fall and spring, giving us time to plan for the coming year, catch up on repairs and that project list, and yes, take a break.
As now seasoned CSA veterans, you will have all this time on your hands without that weekly box of produce to cook; what to do you ask? Well, you can continue to eat locally for a few more months by getting a Storage Share and you can start up early in the spring with a Spring Share. Another thing you can do is tell your family, friends and co-workers about the Farm. We count on you to bring us new members; so, please lend Vermont Valley Community Farm a hand and talk about your CSA whenever the opportunity arises. A pleasant conversation with a friend about the Farm makes a huge difference for us.
The Bigger Picture
Many of you may not be aware of the coalition of CSA farms that we have been active with for over twenty years. FairShare CSA Coalition brought the concept of CSA to southern Wisconsin and has been instrumental in developing programs to facilitate the growth of new farms, creating access to CSA shares for low income people, providing training opportunities for current farms, and creating resources like the A to Z Foodbook and Farm, Fresh, and Fast to help you make great use of your CSA vegetables. Fairshare is known internationally and has made Wisconsin the epicenter of CSA in the US! FairShare is a non-profit organization that is always looking for interested people to participate in its work. Like all non-profits, it also needs financial support. We ask you to consider a contribution to FairShare as way to spread the bounty beyond your share box. We consider our involvement with FairShare critical to our Farm’s success. Click here to learn about making a contribution.
Thank you for supporting a family farm. You, along with every other household in the Madison area who chooses to eat locally, are making a huge difference.
See you next season!
The Perkins family
David, Barb, Jesse, Eric, Becky, Jonnah, Brian, Paavo and Felix
David, the boss, and Jesse, his sidekick, in the workshop.
Each Monday Barb takes time away from managing the CSA to watch of her two grandsons, Paavo and Felix. Paavo, 22 months, is Jesse and Jonnah’s son and Felix, six months, is Becky and Brian’s son.
Jesse, large implement manager, greasing the potato harvester.
Jonnah, office manager, multitasking in her office – the old milkhouse of the barn.
Eric, packing shed manager, weighing carrots.
Becky, farm cook, using fresh vegetables to make our lunch.
Elisabeth, harvest manager, running the show in the daikon radishes.
Chris, our resident jack of all trades, checking out one of the box trucks.
Brian getting excited to put 6243 lbs of carrots through the root tumbler.
Clara having fun in the beets.
The farm dogs taking a break from chasing deer out of the fields. From left: Nasta, Obi, and Shanna. Nasta is Jesse and Jonnah’s dog, Obi is Becky and Brian’s dog, and Shanna lives on the farm with Barb and David.
To learn more about your Vermont Valley community Farm farmers see the About Us page on our website
Each week we tend to write about the vegetables we harvest and how we fill our days and weeks with getting the food into your shares. Some of the tasks are fun, some are interesting and some just plain boring. But no matter what the task, things do happen that make us laugh. Without humor around here we would all probably go crazy. Last Monday began rather humorously: there were 21 people in the packing shed prepared to clean cabbage; the bins of cabbage were stacked to the ceiling in one of the coolers, the forklift was dead and Chris (who can fix everything) wasn’t here. So we got the tall, tall ladder and tossed cabbage down for hours. Beauty abounds when we are in the field; there’s the beauty of discovering a nest with bird eggs, seeing sandhill cranes flying overhead and watching turkeys run across the valley; just pausing and looking at the hills is beautiful. And then there are days when we do the same darn thing for hours, like wash squash or bag one vegetable after another for nine hours or stare at the computer in the packing shed figuring out how to distribute the week’s bounty. The work can be exhausting but in the end satisfying, maybe even fun.
It’s been a great season. We have a dedicated full time crew. They work well together and get the jobs done with positive attitudes. Working with the Cambodian crew brings its own fun. They are hardworking and happy people; everyone loves working with them. And if you can work at their pace, you’re working! We talk to them in English, they respond in their language (a few of them do speak English) and we all seem to know what’s going on. Well, sometimes things do get lost in translation, and then we just have to laugh.
Growing food is what this farm does, but that’s not all it does. This farm brings people together. And that what makes it such a special place.
The fork lift broke so Geoff climbed up and tossed cabbages down for a couple of hours.
Pretty serious chioggia beet harvest! Chris looking a bit dazed with the whole experience.
Jonnah, our very pregnant office manager, focusing on being our connection to the outside world.
Brian and Elizabeth washing squash for hours. That bin is almost empty Brian, but there may be another one.
Eric, our packing shed manager, working hard to keep it all organized.
It clearly was a particularly exhausting day. We ate our lunch and then all crashed. The cook took the picture, she was laughing pretty hard.
We held the Pumpkin Pick last Sunday and are harvesting all of the fall crops: beets, leeks, celeriac, kale, collards, squash, pie pumpkins, winter radishes AND tomatoes! We shake our heads as we go to the hoophouses and marvel at the tomato plants as they continue to produce ripe tomatoes. Not too many, for sure, but 2000 this week. The warm weather has made harvest pleasant. It is typical at this time of year to have all of our vegetable crops covered in frost in the mornings and have to wait until the sun melts the frost away before we can harvest, but not so far this year. After some of the extreme weather we have had to work with and in, it is nice to have Mother Nature’s kindness shining on us.
The Pumpkin Pick. Last Sunday was a beautiful fall day and a perfect day to come out to the farm to pick pumpkins. Thanks to all of you who came, we love to see our members having so much fun.
Bales of hay lined up near the pumpkin patch (to be used as much next season) became lots of fun at the Pumpkin Pick.
The Friday morning crew and worker shares bring in pie pumpkins.
Then we bring the pumpkins to the packing shed, back the truck right in and unload them into the brush washer. Looks as if the crew could go through the washer too.
Leek harvest. We pull, we trim, we cut, we clean, we wash.
Cabbage cleaning in the packing shed.
Swiss Chard cooling in a tub of water.
Vermont Valley Community Farm vegetables and fruits are produced almost exclusively for our CSA operation. You will not find our produce on restaurant menus, at farmers markets or in stores, with the exception of our relationship with Willy Street Coop production kitchen and a few other local businesses. When we have less than perfect produce or more volume than can be worked into our CSA system, we feel it is our responsibility to make our produce available to those who need it most.
For the 20 weeks of our CSA delivery season the Vermont Valley crew brings thousands of pounds of produce in from the fields. After the produce has been sorted and washed we are left with hundreds of pounds of vegetables that have imperfections. We have developed relationships with organizations in the Madison area who gladly accept produce donations.
The Goodman Community Center incorporates our produce into its meals each week through the Kid’s Cafe Program, a partnering of Madison community centers and local farms, funded by Group Health Cooperative. This year, the Goodman Community Center has served over 2000 pounds of Vermont Valley produce to the kids during summer day camps and after school programs.
Students from the Seed to Table program prepping beets for lunch to be served onsite to other program kids. Seed to Table provides Madison Metropolitan School District students the opportunity to earn both school credit and money while gaining valuable experience.
Jars of canned tomatoes that were processed by students at Goodman Community Center.
Vermont Valley will be contributing 1000+ lbs of potatoes, winter squash, kale and collard greens to the Goodman Community Center Thanksgiving Baskets Project. The greens are harvested from our field by Goodman Community Center staff and kids. Baskets filled with Thanksgiving meal supplies are distributed to families in need. Goodman Community Center also brings children to visit the farm to pick pumpkins in October. Over the past 4 years, our partnership with this center has proven to be an amazing outlet for our produce and a source of on-farm experience for Goodman Community Center program participants.
Goodman Community Center kids picking pumpkins last season.
This is our third season working with the Mt. Horeb Area School District. This year they have received over 2300 pounds of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, sweet corn, summer squash, and melon from Vermont Valley Community Farm. Food service director, Michelle Denk, organizes a group of local volunteers to help her process the produce to be served throughout the school year. We are proud that our vegetables are on local school lunch menus!
Mt Horeb van picking up a weekly donation.
Trays of vegetables waiting to bagged and frozen for winter meals.
When CSA members cannot pick up their share for the week, we deliver the excess produce to low income families or place it in local childcare centers. This effort ensures that no shares are wasted while passing along the extra vegetables to families and children.
“Last night you sent us those beautiful edamame pods. This morning for morning snack time I boiled some up in salty water and the preschoolers had fun popping out the beans and gobbling them up! This is Nolan (on left) and Gavin (right) eating the second batch of pods I made because they ate the first batch so fast! Seriously, look at how many empty pods are on Nolan’s plate! These are some appreciative bellies! I never tire of hearing the preschoolers say, “Lindsay we ate them all. Can you make another batch?” or at lunch time I hear, “May I have more salad please?”
It amazes me that some people say kids don’t eat their vegetables. ” – Lindsay Brocket – Belleville Preschool and Childcare
During June, July and August we coordinate a weekly donation of produce to Badger Camp, a camp in Prairie du Chien serving those with developmental disabilities. Badger Camp served over 1500 pounds of Vermont Valley Community Farm produce to its campers this summer.
Badger Camp staff and campers with Vermont Valley produce.
Badger Camp staff chopping carrots and cucumber for camp meal.
Our produce also makes its way to other events and organizations such as Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin, FairShare CSA Coalition Bike the Barns, AIDS Network AIDS Ride, First United Methodist Church Food Pantry, and Middleton Outreach Ministry.
Second Harvest truck backing up to packing shed to load up with produce.
Loading cantaloupe, tomatoes, cucumbers, summer squash, lettuce heads and eggplant for Second Harvest.
Riders at the FairSare CSA Coation Bike The Barns event. Lovely Ember Photography
The 2013 growing season has been a bountiful one. The gross weight of produce distributed into the community between May and September has more than doubled since 2012! Our relationships with community centers, schools and food pantries continue to strengthen, stretching the reach of Vermont Valley produce further. We are fortunate to have developed partnerships with organizations that share our dedication to improving the local food system by making locally grown, organic produce available to those who otherwise may not have access to high quality food.