August 2014


Each week we work with a deadline, we must deliver the produce to you by 4:00 on Thursday. Friday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are devoted to harvest, washing and bagging. On Thursday your boxes are both packed and delivered. We start packing the boxes at 7 am, and begin setting up for the pack at 6:30. Each week we pack nearly 1100 boxes of produce. We then load the shares onto four different trucks, along with over 200 fruit shares and DreamFarm’s goat cheese. When the packing line is running smoothly we pack and load about 400 shares per hour. The last few weeks the shares have been 25 lbs – that means around 10,000 pounds of produce being packed very carefully per hour. Ten to fifteen people are putting vegetables into share boxes and loading trucks. Chris keeps the items stocked on the line, meaning continual trips to coolers with the hand truck. If someone’s item is getting low you will hear, “Chris, more broccoli!”

After the trucks have been loaded it’s time to deliver the vegetables. The four trucks go to 34 different pick up sites throughout Madison and the surrounding communities. The delivery trucks begin leaving at 10 am in order to complete all of the deliveries by 4 pm. The pick-up sites range in size from less than ten to 100 vegetable shares. At each site we deliver the freshly packed shares and pick up the empty containers from the previous week. The drivers have to carefully set up each site with check off sheets, fruit, cheese and produce. There is a lot of counting to make sure the correct number of shares are left at each site. Each truck has a sheet with the total number of each type of shares at each site, which should match the check off sheets. Most weeks run smoothly, occasionally there is a miscount and some scrambling to figure it out. And then there is Madison construction to navigate. When the delivery is finished the drivers return to the farm and unload all of the boxes that they picked up during their route.

Jesse

All produce is washed, weighed and bagged by Wednesday before we leave for the night.

All produce is washed, weighed, counted, bagged or banded by Wednesday before we leave for the night.

Elisabeth bringing stacks of produce out of cooler on Thursday morning.

Elisabeth bringing stacks of produce out of cooler on Thursday morning.

Vermont Valley Packing Line

Crates of produce are set up along a belt of rollers. Workers put one or two items into the CSA delivery containers then push the box to the next person. This process takes 2-3 hours.

The space where we pack CSA shares is in the lower level of our dairy barn. 50 years ago this was the home of milking cows and now it’s a clean, vegetable packing room.

Jesse rolling a pallet of full CSA shares onto one of the trucks.

Jesse rolling a pallet of full CSA shares onto one of the trucks.

All of the shares need to be neatly counted and packed on the truck so vegetables don't tumble out when we make a sharp turn!

All of the shares need to be neatly counted and packed on the truck so vegetables don’t tumble out when we make a sharp turn!

The shares are loaded of the truck 8 at a time. Each site takes 15 - 30 minutes to set up. Each truck makes 5 - 8 stops.

The shares are loaded off the truck 8 at a time. Each site takes 15 – 30 minutes to set up. Each truck makes 5 – 8 stops.

Saturday morning started out foggy and overcast, perfect weather for picking tomatoes. Seventy families gathered by the packing shed and together we all walked out to the tomato gardens. Ripe Roma tomatoes hung heavy on the vines. Within forty five minutes over 2000 pounds had been picked by tomato u-pickers. The sun began to burn through the clouds and the humidity and temperature rose. By this time bags and buckets of tomatoes were leaving the farm, destined for sauce and salsa.

Tomato U-Pick last Saturday morning.

Tomato U-Pick last Saturday morning.

20th Annual Corn Boil

Sunday afternoon was a lovely time to enjoy fresh picked sweet corn and a most fantastic pot luck while sitting on the lawn, taking in the beauty of the farm.

CSA members harvesting sweet corn.

CSA members harvesting sweet corn.

Grandpa David teaching Paavo how to harvest corn.

Grandpa David teaching Paavo how to harvest corn.

Paavo knows that the best way to eat Vermont Valley sweet corn is raw!

Paavo knows that the best way to eat Vermont Valley sweet corn is raw!

Slathering butter on that fresh sweet corn. Delicious!

Slathering butter on that fresh sweet corn. Delicious!

A good time was had by all at the Corn Boil.

A good time was had by all at the Corn Boil.

Yum. Each year everyone makes such fantastic dishes to pass, using lots of their fresh farm produce.

Yum. Each year everyone makes such fantastic dishes to pass, using lots of their fresh farm produce.

Sweet corn happiness with a back drop that can’t be beat.

Sweet corn happiness with a back drop that can’t be beat.

Thank you Tom; for boiling the corn and for being such an asset to the crew this summer. Have a good year at college and see you next summer. And thanks to Hilary, wonderful part-time employee, and her friend for helping.

Thank you Tom; for boiling the corn and for being such an asset to the crew this summer. Have a good year at college and see you next summer. And thanks to Hilary, wonderful part-time employee, and her friend for helping.

Barb

Introducing the Vermont Valley Tomato Family 

We are now harvesting from every tomato patch on the farm. Here is what you can expect to see in your share box over the next couple of months. Hopefully this will help you identify it when you see it in your share. Most of our tomatoes are Heirloom varieties. An Heirloom is an open pollinated variety that has been passed down for generations.

Garden Peach: These 2oz yellow fruits blush pink when ripe and have fuzzy skins somewhat like peaches. Soft skinned, juicy and very sweet. Light fruity taste is not what you would expect in a tomato.

Orange Banana: Long, orange paste-type tomato. Sweet and flavorful.

Red Zebra: A small red tomato overlaid with golden yellow stripes.

Ruth’s, Estiva, Arbason, Geronimo, Pink Beauty: Red slicing tomatoes with amazing flavor and texture.

Indigo Rose: A stunningly jet black, 2 oz. tomato that turns from green to a rosy red as it ripens. When sliced it looks just like a plum with its deep red flesh.

Ukrainian Purple: Mahogany-colored, plum shaped fruit. Sweet and meaty.

Japanese Trifele Black: A tomato that looks like a beautiful mahogany-colored Bartlett pear with greenish shoulders. A rich and complex flavor.

Cherry Tomatoes: Sun Gold, Yellow Mini, Sakura (red), Solid Gold and Black Cherry. We mix them up for you.

Roma/Paste/Plum/Processing Tomatoes: These tomatoes are drier than most slicing tomatoes, making them perfect for cooking, drying, sauce and salsa making. We grow a mix of traditional red paste tomatoes and others with fascinating shape, size and color. Here are their names: Plum Regal, Granadero, San Marzano, Monica, Viva Italia, Tiren, Speckled Roman, Amish Paste, Federle, Sheboygan, Opalka, Oxheart.  We invite you to come out to the farm to harvest your own Romas – U Pick details.

We aim to harvest our tomatoes just before they are vine-ripe. We do this so you don’t receive an over ripe tomato. But it also means that you may receive a tomato that needs to sit on your counter for a day or two before it is perfect to eat, heavy and quite soft. And when you do receive a very ripe tomato, eat it up.

Back row (left to right): Ukrainian Purple, Ruth’s, Japanese Trifele Black, Pink Beauty, Garden Peach. Front row: Orange Banana, Indigo Rose, Red Zebra.

Back row (left to right): Ukrainian Purple, Ruth’s, Japanese Trifele Black, Pink Beauty, Garden Peach. Front row: Orange Banana, Indigo Rose, Red Zebra.

Onion Harvest

The onions are the first seeds we plant into the greenhouse in early March. They get planted into the fields in late April. For the past few years we have been planting them directly into plastic mulch. Then we mulch between the plastic beds of onions with straw mulch. The mulch serves several purposes. It keeps the weed pressure way down. There will always be some weeding, especially along the edge where the straw meets the plastic and in the holes where the onion plants are growing. But a huge benefit of the plastic mulch is moisture retention. We lay drip irrigation tape under the plastic so we can water the onions. Onions need significantly more water than most other crops in order to form a bulb. This season in particular there has been a rain shortage and we have been irrigating very frequently. Without the plastic mulch and irrigation tape the onions would be pretty sad. This year’s crop is absolutely beautiful. The crew spent nearly 3 days harvesting and laying out the onions to cure. We lay them in the greenhouse to dry. If you are out here for the Corn Boil, do go take a peek. In about three weeks the tops will be dried down and we will clip off the dried tops and put them all into crates for storage. These onions will be delivered for the rest of the season. If kept cool and dry they will store until June. You can look forward to beautiful onions in your share soon.

Onion harvest. We are nearly finished with the harvest in this picture. You can see the plastic beds where the onions grew. They grow nicely under the plastic where they receive water on a regular basis.

Onion harvest. We are nearly finished with the harvest in this picture. You can see the plastic beds where the onions grew. They grow nicely under the plastic where they receive water on a regular basis.

The onions are laid out in the greenhouse to dry.

The onions are laid out in the greenhouse to dry.

Celery Harvest

Celery is another crop that is planted in the greenhouse in March and grows in the fields for many months before we harvest it. Celery is one of the other crops that needs lots of water to size up. They receive overhead irrigation.

Celery is another crop that is planted in the greenhouse in March and grows in the fields for many months before we harvest it. Celery is one of the other crops that needs lots of water to size up. They receive overhead irrigation.

Members from last season sadly experienced our first garlic-less season. The fickle winter/spring of 2013 played an evil cat and mouse game with garlic in the Midwest. Several cycles of unusual early warmth followed by extreme cold weakened and eventually killed 90% of our garlic crop. Garlic has always been sort of the automatic success for us, until last year. Garlic is planted in the fall and is the first plant out of the ground in the spring, so it can handle frost, but we learned only so much of it.  We always save garlic to plant in the fall for next year’s crop. It takes about 20% of the crop to maintain the prior year’s acreage. Note the math above, and you can see that we did not harvest enough in 2013 to even maintain our acreage (harvested 10%, but needed 20%). That makes 2014 a “building” year for the garlic crop.

The harvest happened last week and was a success once again. You are getting your first bulb this week and will receive garlic several more times this year as in prior years.  Garlic is one crop we have sold outside of the CSA in past years, you may have seen our garlic at Willy Street Coop. However the CSA boxes get priority on our farm, so we will have limited outside sales.

We have been trialing some new garlic varieties. Different varieties offer subtle differences in flavor, clove size, clove color and growing characteristics. In our first 20 years, we have been growing the varieties German, Music, and an unknown variety we have named Rose. Our trial varieties include Italian Red, White Russian, Leah, Red Grain, Belarus and Carpathian. We purchased these varieties from other farms in Wisconsin to test out on our land. Some of the varieties have been culled but the varieties that grow well for us will make to your share in future years.

A few of the kinds of garlic now in America came in with Polish, German and Italian immigrants over the centuries, but most of them came in all at once in 1989. The USDA had been asking the Soviets for permission to go to the Caucasus region to collect garlics but permission had always been refused because there were many missile bases in the area and this was where their spaceport was and is.

Finally, as the Soviet Union was disintegrating in 1989, they suddenly invited the Americans in to collect the garlics. They were under continuous armed guard and were allowed to travel only at night so they wouldn’t see anything of military importance. They went from village to village along the old Silk Road buying garlic from local markets and naming the cultivars after the town or village where they were purchased.

The USDA then contracted out the growing to a few private growers on a share-the-garlic basis. After the crop was harvested and the USDA got their share, these growers began to trade with each other and to sell some to friends and other garlic growers. That is how hundreds of garlic varieties became available over the last 15 or 20 years. Enjoy your garlic.

David

Planting garlic in the fall. One clove makes one garlic plant.

Planting garlic in the fall. One clove makes one garlic plant.

David undercutting the garlic. The tractor drags a blade beneath the soil free up the garlic. This makes it possible to easily pull the garlic from the dirt.

Before harvesting, David undercuts the garlic. The tractor drags a blade beneath the soil free up the garlic. This makes it possible to easily pull the garlic from the dirt.

The garlic harvest crew pulling garlic, twisting off dirt clumps from the root and putting it into crates.

The garlic harvest crew pulling garlic, twisting off dirt clumps from the root and putting it into crates.

A crate of freshly harvest garlic.

A crate of freshly harvest garlic.

Eric loads full crates of garlic onto the truck.

Eric loads full crates of garlic onto the truck.

We stack crates of garlic in the upper level of our dairy barn - the space that was originally used for stored hay. We put fans on the garlic to help it dry; this facilitates the curing process.

We stack crates of garlic in the upper level of our dairy barn – the space that was originally used for storing hay. We put fans on the garlic to help it dry; this facilitates the curing process.

Vermont Valley Becky Perkins

Swiss chard, Summer Squash and Brown Rice Casserole with Ground Beef and Cheddar

I got the idea for this recipe from The Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen. My recipe is similar to Katzen’s Spinach Rice Casserole recipe but includes ground beef and some different vegetables. I used The Moosewood Cookbook a lot when I cooked primarily vegetarian meals. I now like to include sustainably raised meat in most of my main dishes for the nutritional value and protein content. With that being said, if you are vegetarian this recipe would certainly taste good without the ground beef!

Prep time: 40 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings: 8

Ingredients:
2 cups brown rice plus 3 cups water
1 pound ground beef
1 large onion
1 summer squash
1 bunch Swiss chard
oil for sautéing
2 eggs, beaten
1 ½ cups grated (packed) cheddar, about 6 oz.
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cayenne
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon paprika

Prepare brown rice. Place rice and water in a medium sized pot and cover. Heat on high until just boiling, then turn flame to low until all the water is absorbed and rice is tender, about 40 minutes total. Prepare ground beef in a medium skillet as you would for tacos (minus the spices).

Meanwhile, chop onion, summer squash and chard stems into small, uniform pieces. Sauté in 1 T. oil over medium heat until squash is slightly tender. Roughly chop chard. If dirty, submerge in cold water to clean. Add Swiss chard to sautéing vegetables and stir. Cover until chard is wilted, about 5 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl combine rice, cooked ground beef, sautéed vegetables, eggs, cheddar, nutmeg, cayenne and salt. Mix well until evenly combined. Fill a 9×13 baking dish and sprinkle paprika on top. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve hot.
Farm Cook, Becky Perkins is a Certified Health Coach, visit her blog at www.therealfoodmama.com