October 2015


Vermont Valley crew 2015

A common question I get this time of year. Most notably in 2015, we had particularly pleasant weather to work in, mild temperatures, sunny days, breezes; with only a few hot and nasty days, and seldom working in the rain. The fall has been unbelievable, with summer-like weather continuing right into our last week and no frost until just last week. After 21 CSA years, we have experienced it all; droughts, floods, extreme continuous heat, working in mud, working in the cold… The work we do for you involves a tremendous amount of hand labor, in the fields and in the packing shed. Our worker-share members get a taste of it, but it is hard to imagine what it means in the abstract; bending, stooping, and lifting 9 to 10 hours a day. Although we usually talk about the weather in terms of the plants, it’s the people that take the brunt of the bad; the plants seem to have their way to cope without complaining. So please wish us 2015 weather for 2016.

For the most part, the vegetables felt the same way about the weather and responded with excellent harvests. They needed a little extra water now and then because we did have periods of droughty weather; we irrigate regularly to keep the plants healthy. Most vegetables are very water sensitive and responsive to adequate moisture, affecting both the quality and quantity of produce you receive. The number one field management issue we deal with is moisture. Because of the mild temperatures, the dry periods were easy to adjust for because there was no extreme heat to further exacerbate the lack of moisture; so a smaller quantity or irrigation water did the job. The dryer weather also made preparing the fields easier because the tractor work needed to be done when the soil isn’t too wet. We put a lot of organic mulch on our fields which we grow and harvest from our marginal ground. The mulch is harvested and made into large round bales and you need to make hay while the sun shines (the hay needs to be dry to bale it). With the great weather, we had a good mulch harvest for use on the fields in 2016. Lots of reasons we liked the season’s weather.

We are very pleased with the 2015 harvests and can hope for a similar harvest next year. Some of the highlights (from our perspective) were plentiful red peppers, lots of broccoli, great corn, an abundance of tomatoes, a steady supply of cucumbers and summer squash, and beautiful winter squash. Eggplant was the big disappointment. We planted beautiful plants into the fields, covered the plants with row cover to keep out the insects and within a week they had developed lesions midway up their stem and were dying. I spent hours at the UW plant diagnostic lab looking under a microscope and multiple tests were run. Nothing conclusive. Hmm. Our melon crop was also perplexing. The two varieties we have grown to love performed totally different this year. We did not get the harvest we had hoped for. Each season is different with its ups and downs; but we certainly had more ups than downs. The survey you receive is your chance to tell us what you think, so please do.

We hope you’ve enjoyed being part of the Farm this season; and we hope you rejoin us for 2016! Please spread the word about your farm; it is very helpful to us. You are the reason we are able to keep farming, so thanks much.

David and Barb

This time of year is bittersweet. We’ve all been going full tilt since March, doing whatever it takes to meet our Thursday deadline of having it all ready to pack into share boxes for you. At times we were hot, sweaty, tired, exhausted, cold, wet. None of that matters, we have a job to get done. We all work together, taking turns doing some of those jobs that make the body ache the most. Farming is physical. We all do it because we love it. But that doesn’t mean we don’t look forward to the end of October when we can start our day a bit later and end a bit earlier. The jobs change, the crews are smaller and yes, we may get a bit chillier. As we reflect back on the season we say, “that sure went by quickly.” All of us here have a special place in our hearts for you, our members. It is for you that we do what we do. You will hear us saying, “would the members want this?”,”the produce needs to be clean for the members”,”do members want beet greens or do we leave them in the field?” and so on. You, our members are part of every conversation as it pertains to quantity, variety and quality of food, pick up sites, communication, events and festivals. You see, the decisions we make and the work we do around here has one purpose, to deliver the best product and give you the best experience. I sure hope we have.

Barb

Thursday morning packing line. Left side: Tom (seasonal crew, driver), Barb (CSA manager), Ken (worker share),  Jesse (share distribution, farm manager) Collett (worker share), Chad (pack organization, driver, crew leader),Becca (crew leader); right side: Eric (packing shed manager, driver),Georgia (crew member), Lisa (worker share).

Thursday morning packing line. Left side: Tom (seasonal crew, driver), Barb (CSA manager), Ken (worker share), Jesse (share distribution, farm manager) Collett (worker share), Chad (pack organization, driver, crew leader),Becca (crew leader); right side: Eric (packing shed manager, driver),Georgia (crew member), Lisa (worker share).

J-Mo (crew leader and driver) loading his truck this morning.

J-Mo (crew leader and driver) loading his truck this morning.

Jonnah (office manager/distribution) in front of her office - the old milk house of the dairy barn.

Jonnah (office manager/distribution) in front of her office – the old milk house of the dairy barn.

Alisha and Rosalyn from DreamFarm delivering their goat cheese.

Alisha and Rosalyn from DreamFarm delivering their goat cheese.

Sophal showing off his favorite carrots. His sense of humor keeps us all laughing.

Sophal showing off his favorite carrots. His sense of humor keeps us all laughing.

Getting those pumpkins all cleaned up for you. Becca, Rachel. J-Mo, Barb, Georgia.

Getting those pumpkins all cleaned up for you. Becca, Rachel. J-Mo, Barb, Georgia.

 

This is the most beautiful fall I can remember. We haven’t had a frost yet, which is quite unusual. We typically see our first frost around September 25th in our cold valley. This fall we head right into the fields at 7:30 in the morning to begin harvest; most years we have to wait for the vegetables to thaw (literally). The vegetables we are delivering speak of fall, warm soups and hearty dishes. Fall crops are patient. We harvest them when it fits our schedule. Summer crops demand daily harvests or they over ripen. Fall crops wait in and on the ground. Squashes, beets, radishes, celeriac, kale, carrots, even lettuce. We gather all of our workers together for these large harvests. During the summer we usually have several harvest crews out at once, finishing one harvest and on to the next. This time of year we use large bins to carry the vegetables. They get stacked high in a large cooler and wait for us to come clean them. David and Jesse are busy tilling the ground and planting cover crops on gardens that only a few weeks ago were bursting with food. We are thankful for the great weather and plentiful crops we had this season. The frost will eventually come, it always does; but this warm weather is certainly out of character.

Barb

Last Sunday’s Pumpkin Pick was enjoyed by many. Thanks for coming out!

Last Sunday’s Pumpkin Pick was enjoyed by many. Thanks for coming out!

A teen group from Goodman Community Center came out on Monday to gather pumpkins. They will make lots of low income kids happy!

A teen group from Goodman Community Center came out on Monday to gather pumpkins. They will make lots of low income kids happy!

Harvesting Carnival squash last Friday. We clip the stems, put them into crates, carry the crates to the bulk bin and count them into the bin.

Harvesting Carnival squash last Friday. We clip the stems, put them into crates, carry the crates to the bulk bin and count them into the bin.

Red lettuce harvest. Eric J-Mo and Becca cut the lettuce heads while everyone else removes any bad leaves and carefully puts 6 in each crate.

Red lettuce harvest. Eric J-Mo and Becca cut the lettuce heads while everyone else removes any bad leaves and carefully puts 6 in each crate.

A lush crop of kale.

A lush crop of kale.

Our Farm has been helping the Mt Horeb Area School District serve fresh, local, organic food to its students since 2010. It began with spinach in the spring of that year. Michelle, the food service director, was highlighting spinach on the menu that May and wanted to source it from a local farm. We were able to help. This began the relationship and conversations with Michelle about what other food we could supply. Their budget was tight so we got creative. We bring in a lot of food that, after washing, is not the quality or size we want to deliver to our CSA. Still perfectly good food, just not scoring high in beauty. Mt Horeb schools were excited to be the recipients of that food. For the next several summers we supplied them with tomatoes, summer squash, eggplant and peppers on a regular basis. We would get them other vegetables when they could use them. Michelle pulled together a group of volunteers and students to work with the kitchen staff to process and freeze the vegetables so they could be served to the students during the school year. What a great community effort. Once school began, we also supplied produce for their fresh salad bar.

Two of the students who helped chop hundreds of pounds of vegetables to be frozen for school lunches.

Two of the students who helped chop hundreds of pounds of vegetables to be frozen for school lunches.

Stacks of tomatoes, peppers, and summer squash for Mt Horeb Area School District.

Stacks of tomatoes, peppers, and summer squash for Mt Horeb Area School District.

This summer Michelle and Barb were interviewed as part of the Chop! Chop! Culinary Skills Videos which are designed to help Wisconsin schools incorporate more Wisconsin-grown vegetables in school meal programs. We realized what we are doing is unique. It’s such a win-win. We have a great outlet for surplus, the kids eat better and they learn where their food comes from. Hopefully this relationship can be an inspiration for other school districts and farms.