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.

With the arrival of cool weather this week, there is a new energy on the farm. The crew heads out for harvest wearing a few more layers in the morning, which is an ebullient reminder that the growing season will be winding down in a few weeks. This time of year we are not only harvesting for the Main Season CSA shares, but we are also beginning to bring storage crops in from the fields. Our CSA members will see these late season vegetables in their shares throughout October and have the opportunity to keep their local, seasonal eating experience going strong through the winter months with the Storage Share.

The Storage Share is consists of two deliveries, November 10 and December 8. Most of the produce will store well into the winter months in a cool garage, basement, or cupboard. Storage vegetables are heavy and don’t take up much room. A few items will need space in your refrigerator. We provide detailed storage instructions, cooking ideas, and recipes for your late season bounty.

When the subject of seasonal eating comes up with my non-farmer friends, I am usually asked if I buy vegetables from the grocery store in the winter, and my answer is no. But don’t you ever just want to eat a salad? they ask. Well, we do eat salads – shredded celeriac, carrots, and winter radish with a vinaigrette is a refreshing way feed fresh produce to my family all winter long. Storage vegetables are just as versatile as summer favorites, it just takes a seasonal state of mind.

Jonnah

STORAGE SHARE Potatoes, carrot, onions, winter squash, garlic, cabbage, kale, leeks, daikon radish, beets, sweet potatoes, celeriac, rutabaga, turnips, Brussels sprouts, winter radish, pie pumpkin.

See our website for Storage Share details and purchasing options

Sophal showing off the his beautiful sweet potatoes.

Sophal showing off the his beautiful sweet potatoes.

Abigail and J-Mo (Eric) harvesting pie pumkins

Abigail and J-Mo (Eric) harvesting pie pumpkins

All three Perkins kids working together to harvest carrots: Eric, Becky, and Jesse.

All three Perkins siblings working together to harvest carrots: Eric, Becky, and Jesse.

This is the last potato harvest of the year!

This is the last potato harvest of the year!

Yes, it’s true. We know it’s coming, but why does it catch us by surprise every year? Summer vegetables are on their way out and fall crops have arrived. Gone are summer squash and cucumbers and soon tomatoes and peppers. Eggplant seems to be hanging in there longer than most years. Welcome winter squash, fall greens (collards and kale) and the return of lettuce heads, to name a few. The pumpkins are orange, the hills are getting ready to burst into color and the sun is rising later. Each fall we adjust our work hours so we can work in the daylight. A 6:00 start time would mean headlamps; starting a bit later seems easier. Our daily routine has changed a lot. Change is good. Gone is the Monday, Wednesday, Friday harvest schedule of tomatoes, zucchini, cucumber, repeat. We spent last Friday clipping delicate squash and pie pumpkins. The unique aspect of this fall is rain, rain, rain. As I wrote last week, we do what we need to do to get the jobs done. Never two days the same, never two seasons the same. That’s what keeps it fun.

Barb

The crew headed out after lunch to harvest broccoli. The rain had stopped and the storm was just north of us. The sky was black and thunder was rumbling. Really beautiful.

The crew headed out after lunch to harvest broccoli. The rain had stopped and the storm was just north of us. The sky was black and thunder was rumbling. Really beautiful.

Heading out to harvest the broccoli.

Heading out to harvest the broccoli.

Eggplant harvest. Yes, everyone is standing. This is some tall and healthy eggplant.

Eggplant harvest. Yes, everyone is standing. This is some tall and healthy eggplant.

Potato harvest. As eggplant was being harvested, another crew was harvesting the Australian Crescent fingerling potatoes.

Potato harvest. As eggplant was being harvested, another crew was harvesting the Australian Crescent fingerling potatoes.

Delicata squash harvest. These squash were clipped last Friday and picked up and placed into bulk bins on Tuesday. We then spent Tuesday afternoon running them through a brush washer to take off the dirt.

Delicata squash harvest. These squash were clipped last Friday and picked up and placed into bulk bins on Tuesday. We then spent Tuesday afternoon running them through a brush washer to take off the dirt.

It only takes a little rain this time of year to have a big impact. We can have 2-3 inches in the summer and watch it soak into the fields and still be able to drive our vehicles wherever we need to go. But not this week and not in the fall. We headed out to harvest leeks on Tuesday morning and it started to rain while we were harvesting. We all hung in there and harvested leeks for four hours in the rain. It wasn’t a cold rain, so we weren’t chilled to the bone, but wow did it get muddy! We had our trusty 16’ Isuzu box truck out with us to hold all of the leeks. She’s pretty good in wet conditions. But try as I may, I just couldn’t get her out of the field. We were at the far end and had to choose one of two routes out. Almost made it, but not quite. Jesse had to come to the rescue with a tractor.

We headed back out after lunch to harvest acorn squash, this time with a tractor and bulk bin.

Now comes Wednesday harvest. We need to get back into that field and absolutely can’t drive anything but a tractor. This put added complication into our day. As dawn is breaking, David goes and hooks up one of our box trailers to the tractor so we use that to harvest kale. We also use it to harvest broccoli. We couldn’t even drive our super duty, duel wheeled, 4 wheel drive pickup truck out into that field without getting stuck. And all of this with less than an inch of rain. It’s a fall phenomenon, our soils hold water so well and don’t want to give it up in fall.

Oh, and you should have seen us. We looked like mud creatures from another planet. And when Jesse had to come rescue the stuck box trailer, the crew walked on the road back to the farm. What a sight.

~Barb

Georgia and Abigail covered in mud after leek harvest.

Georgia and Abigail covered in mud after leek harvest.

Worker Share Becky and Crew Member Georgia walking back from the field covered in mud.

Worker Share Becky and Crew Member Georgia walking back from the field covered in mud.

Members Dawn and Eliza Clawson picking up their share

Members Dawn and Eliza picking up their share

I was fortunate enough to meet Dawn and Eliza while delivering shares in Middleton last week. It’s not often that I have interactions with our members and I very much enjoy knowing where the food is going. The sweet mother-daughter duet excitedly unloaded their vegetables as I unloaded my truck. Little Eliza took a bite out of one of the peppers I had helped harvest, only to turn to me and say, “I’m really enjoying this pepper!” She brightened my day with her questions and love for peppers.

Peppers come from one of the most diverse families in vegetables, Capsicum, derived from the Greek word meaning “to bite”. Take notice of little Eliza taking a bite, or rather large bite in her case, of the pepper in the picture above ☺. There are over 30 species of peppers currently known and only five have been cultivated. The modern peppers we enjoy – chipotle, jalapeño, bell, poblano, serrano, and ancho—to name a few are all from one species (Capsicum annuum). Peppers are constantly being maintained by seed growers in order to breed out bad qualities and increase pleasing flavors. The Carmen peppers little Eliza enjoyed so much is a very recent variety developed organically by Johnny’s Selected Seeds.

All peppers begin green in color. The Carmens shown here demonstrate different phases of ripening into a deep red.

All peppers begin green in color. The Carmens shown here demonstrate different phases of ripening into a deep red.

Throughout countless years of attempting to survive in a world seeking to eat them, peppers evolved a chemical alkaloid, capsaicin, to protect from herbivory. Capsaicin, the spicy component, resides in the inner membrane and seeds of the fruit. Think of it as a loving mother giving all of her warmth to her children to protect them on their journey. This spicy component efficiently deters pests, even silly little squirrels know not to nibble on the pepper  fruit! A word of wisdom to all of you spicy pepper lovers: capsaicin is fat (not water) soluble. So Dawn, if Eliza happens to bite into a spicy jalapeno by mistake, give her some milk to take calm down those heated taste buds.
Keep on loving those peppers, Eliza! We’ll keep growing them ☺

Abigail, crew leader on the farm

Abigail and Georgia having fun in the peppers!

Abigail and Georgia having fun in the peppers!

August, ask any vegetable farmer how they feel at the end of August and you will either get dead-pan silence or a long winded saga. A mix of long days, heavy harvests, and hot weather can make even the heartiest farmer long for the first frost. One of our favorite things about August is having our CSA members come out to the farm to get down and do some harvesting of their own. We invite members to come out on 4 weekends to pick Roma tomatoes, basil, hot peppers, and tomatillos. Most people can or freeze the bounty to extend the local eating experience into the winter. Even though the temperatures are still warm, autumn is hanging in the air which makes putting food up for winter feel like the instinctively right way to spend the weekend. We have one more U-Pick event coming up this weekend – time to gather up your tomatoes and celebrate the end of August and the transition into fall! More info.

~Jonnah

If you are a member of our CSA and have already come out to a U Pick event but would like more tomatoes, email us to let us know you will be coming again.

Tomatoes dripping from the vine.

Tomatoes dripping from the vine.

Harvesting Roma's for a big canning project

Harvesting Roma’s for a big canning project.

Judith has been a CSA member since 1995 - our second season! She comes out to as many farm events as she can. Here she is with basil she harvested for her marinara sauce.

Judith has been a CSA member since 1995 – our second season! She comes out to as many farm events as she can. Here she is with basil she harvested for her marinara sauce.

Thousands of bed feet of Roma's.

Thousands of bed feet of Roma’s.

Everyone helps to fill heaping bags of tomatos!

Everyone helps to fill heaping bags of tomatoes!

This time of year we are super busy in the fields, as you can imagine. We are out there rain or shine, and that has meant hours harvesting in the rain over the past week. Not a big deal, it’s actually more pleasant than working in that hot, humid weather. But harvest is only one piece of the puzzle. The packing shed is an incredibly busy place, the place where everything comes right after it is harvested. Each Monday, Wednesday and Friday we harvest tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and squash. Each Tuesday we harvest peppers and eggplant. We harvest everything else as it fits in best. We need to keep a really organized schedule in order to get it all done. Once in the packing shed, the vegetables get washed, cleaned, bagged, weighed, sorted. Tons of vegetables each week. The crew logs in many hours counting tomatoes, cucumbers and squash. The bagging table stays busy. I guess we all stay busy.

~Barb

Jody, Abby and Kim bagging carrots. They carrots get pushed into the holes on each corner and fall into a plastic bag. The weight can be read on each side. Abby is putting on the bags.

Jody, Abby and Kim bagging carrots. They carrots get pushed into the holes on each corner and fall into a plastic bag. The weight can be read on each side. Abby is putting on the bags.

Cleaning garlic. We clip off the stems and rub off the dirt. Chan Rey, Rhena and Sophal.

Cleaning garlic. We clip off the stems and rub off the dirt. Chan Rey, Rhena and Sophal.

Eric (J-Mo), Georgia, Becca and Abigail washing Japanese Trifele Black tomatoes. This group of workers logs in 8 – 10 hours a week at this table washing and counting. That’s a lot of counting!

Eric (J-Mo), Georgia, Becca and Abigail washing Japanese Trifele Black tomatoes. This group of workers logs in 8 – 10 hours a week at this table washing and counting. That’s a lot of counting!

Tonny, Becca and Becky washing potatoes. They roll through a tumbler and come out on this end where any bad ones are pulled out and then the potatoes roll into a waiting crate. The stacks of crated potatoes get weighed and then bagged.

Tonny, Becca and Becky washing potatoes. They roll through a tumbler and come out on this end where any bad ones are pulled out and then the potatoes roll into a waiting crate. The stacks of crated potatoes get weighed and then bagged.

The tomato assembly line. All of the tomato varieties are put on the table; then a calculated number of each one gets put into a bag. This is a regular Wednesday afternoon task. It can only happen after all of the tomatoes are harvested, washed and counted! Over 10,000 tomatoes harvested, washed and counted this week.

The tomato assembly line. All of the tomato varieties are put on the table; then a calculated number of each one gets put into a bag. This is a regular Wednesday afternoon task. It can only happen after all of the tomatoes are harvested, washed and counted! Over 10,000 tomatoes harvested, washed and counted this week.