Education


Over the course of the past 23 years we’ve work hard to develop Vermont Valley Community Farm into a thriving certified organic vegetable farm and CSA. We have learned and grown and changed and consequently have a lot to share. We had the opportunity Wednesday to share our knowledge and experiences with a group of international farmers, representing six countries. Their areas of specialty were diverse and they had many interests and questions in common. We talked about business practices, community building, connecting with CSA members, nutrition, marketing, sustainability, family business, efficiency practices, equipment, financial sustainability, and much more. It was a little over an hour, but could have been a day. This was such a vibrant group of interesting and interested farmers. It was fun and rewarding to pull myself out of my daily grind and share what I do and what I know with this like-minded global community of farmers.

Barb

The Nuffield Scholars from Australia, Ireland, UK, Brazil, New Zealand, Netherlands

Garlic scape harvest. A scape gets snapped off of each garlic plant. This helps the plant put more energy into the bulb and gives us another edible part from the plant.

Kohlrabi harvest. The plant is pulled, the root snipped, the leaves removed. Then we take them to the packing shed to wash.

Salad mix, fennel and kohlrabi. Everything is so lush and beautiful with all of the rain we have had.

We have been growing vegetables exclusively for our CSA program for over two decades. With the exception of our seed potato business, our connection with the Willy Street Co-op production kitchen and a few other local businesses, you will not find Vermont Valley produce on restaurant menus, at farmers markets or in stores. We choose to deliver all of our produce to our CSA members, putting all of our time and effort into being the best CSA possible. When we have less than perfect produce or more volume than can be worked into our CSA, we make our produce available to those who need it most.

We bring in thousands of pounds of produce in from the field each week of our growing season. After the vegetables have been washed and sorted, we end up with hundreds of pounds of imperfect produce. We have formed relationships with organizations that will gladly accept our less than perfect vegetables.

This is our 8th year working with the Goodman Community Center. Our produce is channeled through several different programs within the center, and this partnership has been the highlight of our donation activity for the past few years. Through our connection with the center, over 12,000 lbs of our produce has been served and distributed this year to date. Vermont Valley vegetables are incorporated into program meals each week through the Kid’s Cafe Program which connects Madison community centers and local farms, funded by Group Health Cooperative. Jon Lica, Goodman Community Center Fritz Food Pantry Coordinator/Corporate & Events Associate acknowledges our important relationship, Vermont Valley Community Farm has greatly improved our food programs at the Goodman Community Center over the past few years. Youth program participants now receive locally sourced, organic vegetables in their meals during the summer and after school. Even though our Food Pantry is small, it’s very popular because of the terrific assortment or fresh produce clients have to choose from each week. We’re also able to preserve over 3,000 pounds of fresh produce each summer that eventually gets distributed through the food pantry in the winter months. We’re so grateful for this partnership that enables us to provide healthy food options for thousands of children and families in our community.”

Food Procurement Manager, Amy Mach, and her team have processed thousands of pounds of our produce in Goodman’s certified preservation kitchen. We have been known to give the center less than 24 hours to make a plan to prepare, process, and distribute large quantities of vegetables. The staff is incredibly agile and creative with the variety and volume of produce we deliver.

The Goodman Community Center’s Seed to Table Program will be visiting the farm next week to harvest vegetables to bring back to the center. Youth in this program earn high school credit while learning valuable job skills. Over the past 8 years, our partnership with the center has proven to be an amazing outlet for our produce and a source of on-farm experience for Goodman Community Center program participants.

This year our produce also made its way to other events and organizations such as Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin, FairShare CSA Coalition Bike the Barns, and AIDS Network AIDS Ride. 19 schools and organizations featured donated Vermont Valley CSA shares in their fundraising silent auction and raffle events.

In addition to in kind donations, we also make arrangements for CSA shares to be used to the fullest. When CSA members cannot pick up their share for the week, we deliver the excess produce to low income families or place it with local childcare centers. This effort ensures that no shares are wasted while passing along the extra vegetables to families and children.

Part of our community mission is to place as much excess produce into the local food system as possible. So far this year we have put over 24,000 lbs of produce into the greater Madison community. 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 this food.

Thanks to all our CSA members who make our efforts possible.

Jonnah

Seed to Table students preparing peppers to make salsa at Goodman Community Center

Seed to Table students preparing peppers to make salsa at Goodman Community Center.

The Second Harvest Food Bank truck getting loaded up with potatoes. So far this year we have donated 12,300 pounds of potatoes to Second Harvest!

The Second Harvest Food Bank truck getting loaded up with potatoes. So far this year we have donated 12,300 pounds of potatoes to Second Harvest!

Stack of vegetable donations ready to be loaded on the delivery truck.

Stack of vegetable donations ready to be loaded on the delivery truck.

End of season gleaning. Jonnah (Vermont Valley Donations Coordinator), Amy Mach (Goodman Food Procurement/Processing Manager), and Keith Pollack (Goodman TEEN Works Manager) out in the field on a trip to the farm to harvest vegetables.

End of season gleaning. Jonnah (Vermont Valley Donations Coordinator), Amy Mach (Goodman Food Procurement/Processing Manager), and Keith Pollack (Goodman TEEN Works Manager) out in the field on a trip to the farm to harvest vegetables.

Sunday’s corn boil was a fun time for all who attended. Harvesting sweet corn is an adventure, especially if you have never done it before. David encourages tasting an ear raw in the field, always a pleasant surprise. Perfect weather, ordered up just for the day. Thank you to everyone who brought such a delicious dish to pass. The food was amazing! The day was a spectacular mix of friends, families, children, grandparents, people arriving on bikes, long time members, first time members, exchange students, babies (the youngest being 13 days old). Thanks everyone for making the 22nd Corn Boil really special.

Barb

Harvesting sweet corn for the very first time!

Harvesting sweet corn for the very first time!

Yum. Eating great food, enjoying a great view, relaxing with family and friends.

Yum. Eating great food, enjoying a great view, relaxing with family and friends.

Barb and David welcoming everyone.

Barb and David welcoming everyone.

David talking with members and answering questions about the corn and the farm.

David talking with members and answering questions about the corn and the farm.

Third generation Vermont Valley farmers. Felix, Paavo and Mischa; Barb and David’s grand kids.

Third generation Vermont Valley farmers. Felix, Paavo and Mischa; Barb and David’s grand kids.

Every summer a group of Central American students come to the farm for a tour. They are part of a UW program and accompanied by a professor. This year the students are from Costa Rica. I spent a year in Costa Rica as an exchange student so I am able to give the tour in Spanish. Coming from a very different climate and ecosystem they are very interested in the farm and always have many questions about how we farm organically.

Eric

Costa Ricans

 

Here are the tomato varieties you can expect to see in your share box from now until the frost. This should help you identify your tomatoes. Many of our tomatoes are Heirloom varieties. An Heirloom is an open pollinated variety that has been passed down for generations.

L-R Top Row: Pink Beauty, Japanese Trifele Black, Pink Boar, Marbonne L-R Bottom Row: Red Zebra, Orange Banana, Garden Peach

Top Row: Pink Beauty, Japanese Trifele Black, Pink Boar, red hoophouse tomato,
Bottom Row: Red Zebra, Orange Banana, Garden Peach

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.

Pink Boar: Wine-colored fruits with metallic green striping. Sweet and juicy.

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

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

Estiva, Arbason, Geronimo, Marbonne (grown in the hoophouse) and Pink Beauty: Red slicing tomatoes with amazing flavor and texture.

Japanese Trifele Black: A tomato that looks like a beautiful mahogany-colored Bartlett pear with greenish shoulders. A rich and complex flavor. Let it sit on your counter and get dark colored and soft before eating it.

Cherry Tomatoes:  Yellow Mini, Sakura (red), Solid Gold, Black Cherry, Cherry Bomb and one un-named gold variety which we are trialing for Johnny’s Selected Seeds. 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:  Granadero, Plum Regal. Roma VF Paste, Viva Italia, San Marzano, Monica, Speckled Roman, Amish Paste, Federle, Opalka, Oxheart, Gilbertie.  We invite you to come out to the farm to harvest your own Romas – U Pick details on our web site.

Note: 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.

Our Peruvian guests in the machine shed

Our Peruvian guests in the machine shed

Twenty Edgewood College students, ten of them from Arequipa, Peru, visited the farm Monday afternoon to learn about our farm’s way of farming. We discussed a wide range of topics including local economy, local food, local involvement, organic growing practices, food distribution.  The class was called “Sustainability: Local-Global Connections.” The students had thoughtful questions and will be bringing creative concepts back to Peru with them. A fun diversion to my Monday afternoon routine.

Barb