News


As we prepare to make our last deliveries, we reflect on the harvest and create ideas for the future. The last Vermont Valley Community Farm CSA harvest is near, as (hopefully) everyone knows. We keep so busy getting each week’s delivery accomplished, there seems to be little time and energy for contemplation. But an era for us is ending and it most worthy of reflection.

Every year has been a challenge in one way or another. Easily this year’s primary challenge has been the relentless rain.  Mud, mud and more mud! Week after week, day after day, putting on rubber boots and rain gear; harvesting with one slimy step at a time. We are committed to make every last delivery as bountiful as we can. That is reflective of how we have approached everything we do and have done on this farm. Whether it is the harvest or the member events; our goal for our CSA is to be the best. When we started 24 years ago, there was a common misconception that it was ok for organic vegetables to be “less good”. We rejected that immediately. Our vegetables were going to be better than the non-organic! Granted, this is farming, and things go wrong, but our goal has always been unshaken. We have communicated our trials and tribulations and your responses have been wonderfully supportive.

This fall the ground is so saturated we will likely not get our fall cover crops planted for the first time ever. Even though the vegetables are ending, we will continue to care for the land. Our commitment to organic farming, and by extension your commitment, has been key to our success. We do not use the system fungicides and insecticides that make conventional produce cheaper to produce; instead we have to be better farmers. We would not have even considered giving you vegetables loaded with pesticides; we preferred them to be loaded with flavor and nutrition. Organic agriculture is changing all of agriculture, but will only continue to do so with your support. Belonging to an organic CSA or shopping at the farmers market or buying organic products at the store are choices you can make. You make a huge impact by choosing organic!

Over 10,000 households have committed to Vermont Valley over the past 24 years; many of you for lots of years, and some for all 24 years. It has made literally all the difference; we did not exist without you.  Please give another farm the same chance. There are many good CSAs and organic farmers in the area.

Thank you for all of the comments we have received, please keep them coming. Your stories about the farm are precious to us. We are forever grateful to you for choosing us to be your farmers.

Your farmers,

David and Barb

I really can’t remember weather like this. Not only the rains, but the fog and humidity for such an extended period of time. Many of the vegetables are responding positively to so much water and others are not so happy. The fall crops like cabbage, kale, collards, lettuce heads, radishes, carrots are all happy enough with the water. Then there are the crops it has posed a challenge with. The beans were all knocked over and suffered in quality, although the taste is still great. The corn was knocked down and had to be harvested from the ground. The salad mix had a good many leaves effected with black spotting, we did our best to pick them all out of the mix. The tomatoes, which always get hit with multiple diseases, got an excessive dose of diseases that brought the outside tomato season to a halt several weeks sooner than usual. But, the hoophouse tomatoes are beautiful and will be harvested for many weeks to come. The peppers are happy and thriving, turning big and red.

We do our best with the weather we get. We haven’t had to irrigate for some time now, saving us a lot of time, but we have not put the irrigation equipment away, there are still seven weeks to go and believe it or not if it stops raining we may need to irrigate.

And then there’s the mud! As long as we wear rubber boots and keep the trucks on the gravel drives, all is OK.

But it’s sure good to see the sun today!

~Barb

Monday morning fog and pepper harvest.

Abby and Eric slogging through the mud as they harvest mix.

Then the crates of salad mix need to be carried to the truck.

I wonder how long Jesse’s green rain pants are going to survive. Last week they were duct taped together, now they are looking rather skirt like. Farm fashion is definitely like no other.

The crew spent a bit of time cutting the tips off of the corn to get rid of corn ear worm damage. Although the worm is perfectly safe (a family member said: it just eats corn, so probably tastes like corn), no one really wants one. But if you do find one, cut it off and enjoy the rest of your corn.

 

Unprecedented rains fell in northwest Dane County. Our neighbors in Black Earth, Mazomanie and Cross Plains were hit hard and many had to evacuate as flood waters came into their homes. The flooding in those areas was caused by the rising waters in the Black Earth Creek. This farm escaped the tremendous flooding! Yes, we did get many, many inches of rain, but no standing water in any of our fields. Water rushed through in areas, mainly in grassy waterways. The fields are very muddy, making access to them by foot or vehicle difficult. The driving rains did knock over a sweet corn field and shredded the red lettuce for our salad mix. But we do what we can and only harvested the green lettuce for the salad mix this week.

As many of you may know, we also have a large field in Arena where we grow most of our potatoes. That field goes under water frequently. As David and I drove to Arena Monday night to check out the field, we first drove into Mazomanie to witness the roads in the village flowing like a river. We got stopped at Hwy 14 because of water over the road and then wound around through high back roads to get to our field. Wow, no standing water. The potato field was spared!

Employees had a hard time figuring out how to get here on Tuesday morning, their routes disrupted by water over roads. Everyone eventually made it!

My heart goes out to all of you who were impacted by the flooding in Madison, Middleton and beyond. Mother Nature throws some pretty crazy stuff at us sometimes and then we pull together and do what we need to do to get through it.

There will be a bountiful array of food delivered this week!

Barb

Tuesday morning, 6:45. Jesse and Eric look at the peppers that were pushed over by the driving rains. Eric, Jesse and Barb were the only three in the fields. All other employees were struggling to get to the farm over flooded roads.

Sweet corn harvest Tuesday afternoon. We could get tractors into the fields.

The wagon carrying the corn was sinking as it was pulled along. At one point the tractor was almost stuck. Yikes!

Salad mix harvest in the mud Wednesday morning.

Jesse slogging through the mud and carrying full crates of salad mix to the truck

Going to get that salad mix to the truck!

This is the intersection of two roads that we came to as we were driving to our field in Arena.

2017 Farm Crew

Twenty-three years of Vermont Valley Community Farm.  For Barb and I, we find ourselves talking about “do you remember when”. But just like family picture albums, reminiscing is ok for a little bit. So briefly, we’ve been at it from the beginning of CSA in Wisconsin. There has been exciting growth in the CSA world; lots of new farms and farmers. Different twists for every farm, each being unique. Part of our purpose has been to grow the CSA movement. We have given countless workshops, seminars, one-on-one consultations and have helped lots of beginning CSA farmers. It has been very rewarding for us. Vermont Valley has been complimented by being mimicked time and again. We have grown, innovated, learned and most recently downsized; but, enough for the past.

I tend to always look forward, how to make it better; yes, how to change next year. “Same old thing” is definitely not my game. You all have had the opportunity to read about our new plans for 2018. We asked for feedback and received it (thanks).  A lot of thought went into this, so I want to share some of that.

The local food movement has exploded during our 23 CSA years; you now have lots of choices; farmers markets everywhere, organic in every store, more and more people trying to start a farm business. This is great in many ways.  However, for some of the choices out there now, local is nothing but a clever marketing ploy; buyer-beware. All the local choices (real and fake) have impacted CSAs. CSAs across the board are experiencing membership reductions, us included. People are making other “local” choices.  CSA has impacted the food market (yeh!), but that marketplace is evolving. This means CSA is here to stay, but it needs to adapt. There has been much discussion among CSA farmers about all this. So given what is happening in the CSA world, I unearthed my prior career “analyst hat”. I was looking for what we do best.

Your Comments: Some members have said “great idea”; we agree. Others are concerned or confused. What has been fun is the “eating with the seasons” lecture we have heard a few times from concerned members; which is great to hear; it’s what we preach. So what does “eating with the seasons” mean?  Some farms strive to deliver nearly 12 months a year; we never have. For us, CSA is about supporting your farm that feeds you. It is up to the farm to make that a great experience, whatever the mix of products, farm events or length of season. The CSA model is the weekly box from your farm. Our changes are meant to treat you to the best. We are honing in on the weeks we do it best at Vermont Valley Community Farm.

I can say with complete confidence that the 20 deliveries in our 2018 season will be the best we have ever done. Why, because they are the weeks when Wisconsin offers its best. If you are still not sure, I would ask you to defer to our farming expertise. I refer back to the reminiscing section above; we know what we’re doing out here.

Thanks, and we hope you have enjoyed eating well in 2017. We will be very pleased to feed you again in 2018.

David Perkins

We have visitors from around the world come to the Farm wanting to learn more about the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farming model. At these visits, we have as much fun learning about our visitor as they do about us. This week a local guy, Joe Parisi, our Dane County Executive, visited along with staff Scott and Claire. Joe is a member of Vermont Valley Community Farm and we learned a bit about his interest in good food related to his Italian ancestry; Joe is a big garlic fan. At the county level, several efforts exist to promote local food production, including extension staff dedicated to small scale vegetable growers. There are many vegetable farms that have benefited; meaning more great organic food options available to you. Setting priorities is what we do, whether it is government spending or our personal spending. The Farm is fortunate to be in a community that appreciates and supports local organic food; whether you are a bigwig politician or our neighbor down the road; thanks.

David

Joe Parisi and the farm crew

Barb tells Joe about our hot peppers and tomatoes

When we were asked by Madison Magazine to host a farm-to-table event on the farm we immediately responded with an enthusiastic YES! We work hard all week getting vegetables harvested, washed, packed, and delivered for the CSA, so when a super organized event planning production offers to throw a party on your farm and do all the work, we can’t just can’t say no. Madison Magazine teamed up with One Barrel Brewing Company, Liliana’s Restaurant, and several other sponsors, to put together a Beermosa Brunch, complete with beer pairings that complimented each coarse.

So after a long week at the end of July, all of the Vermont Valley farmers got to join nearly 200 guests to enjoy our food exquisitely prepared by Chef Dave Heide, listen to fabulous blues played by the Madtown Mannish Boys and taste several One Barrel beers under a big white tent in our yard. Other than cleaning up all of the sticks that fell out of the trees during the wild storms last week and leading a few farm tours, all we had to do was provide the vegetables.

Jonnah

Brunch in the orchard with a view of the valley

Touring the farm fields with Barb (you may not recognize her, she has on a black dress and isn’t wearing her farm cap)

A stacked list of sponsors were part of the Farm-to-Feast brunch!

Barb talking beer and farming with One Barrel owner, Peter Gentry, and his wife Jennifer.

 

 

Each week Mother Nature throws us a new curve ball and we’ve gotten pretty good at keeping our cool when things get wild on the farm. South Central Wisconsin has had it’s share of severe storms and large volumes of rain this summer but last night’s event set itself apart from the rest. At 9:30pm last night the power on the farm went out which was only a minor inconvenience as long as the vegetable coolers stayed shut, which we made sure they did. The grand challenge came when the crew arrived this morning at 6:30am to pack over 800 CSA shares and the box packing room and walk-in coolers were as dark as caves. Out came headlamps and flashlights and luckily the power flickered back on by 7:30 and do we were could now move through the morning at our electricity-supported pace. When the aftermath of the storm settled down we were all able share our stories of downed trees, flooded roads, flooded basements and our exciting nights at home without power. The only frustrating carryover from the eventful storm was the technology fallout. I spent the majority of my morning trying to restore service to our internet and email server. But that is all part of the monumental undertaking of running a business in a rural area. We didn’t become vegetable farmers to seek out a simple way of life, and we sure do take humor in making the most of the endless challenges that the farm life sends our way.

On a lighter note, we got off to a great start with the garlic harvest on Tuesday and Wednesday! Over the coming week we will fit in the rest of the job whenever we can, harvesting a total of about a half acre of garlic. The garlic will be cured and stored in the upstairs of the barn and we will deliver it throughout the rest of the delivery season, saving about 20% back to plant for next year.

~Jonnah

Garlic growing out of straw mulch. The garlic looks beautiful this year!

Jesse and Casey pull garlic out and shake off the dirt from the roots.

Ryna with her garlic. She has been one of the crew members who has spent a lot of time out in the hot sun harvesting!

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