While farmer Val is making her way back down to Florida for the remainder of the summer and then to Sweden we are happy to introduce the newsletter from one of our favorite Berkshire CSAs, Farm Girl Farm, that is written by our next favorite farmer gal, Laura Meister. We hope you enjoy Laura's insights and delightful recipes that of course include in season ingredients!
Hello Farm Girl Farmers.
I may have mentioned before that I often read last year’s corresponding week’s newsletter before writing the current ones, and when I looked back at the one I wrote a year ago, it was all about the loss of our dear tomatoes. Thank the harvest gods that it has been a very different year. But the pathogens that cause Late Blight are around in small numbers this season, and we have been warned to take precautions. We are spraying an organically approved fungicidal copper on our tomato plants—we started yesterday and will work our way through all 40 beds throughout the week. Its not much fun—the stuff is supposed to be non-toxic in such small doses but still, it feels kind of yucky to work with, and it is incredibly time consuming—I estimate it will take 20 person hours to spray all of our plants. And if it should rain or if the warnings continue, we’ll have to do it AGAIN in another week. Hard to conceive of how we’ll find the time. But given the spectre of another total crop loss, I’m spraying. You should know that we will wait the recommended 24 hours before harvesting any tomato that has been sprayed but I do recommend that you rinse your tomatoes when you get them home, just to be extra safe.
For more information about Late Blight and the copper funcigide (we’re using Nu Cop), please see http://www.umassvegetable.org and click on Late Blight Alert. This is a very informative website with links to other relevant sources.
In other news from the field, I’m excited to begin to welcome the real summer veggies into our lives—we’ve got peppers beginning, as you see in your share, and eggplant trickling in, and we have seen one or two ripe tomatoes out there as we’ve been making our rounds. . Its such an exciting and colorful time of the season! All of these crops are grown in our field across Pumpkin Hollow Road, which you can see from Rt. 71 if you’re heading west and remember to look down and to the right. Meanwhile, we’re turning over the “home field,” the one you see when you pick-up your veggies. We’re pulling all of the garlic, we’ll cure it in the greenhouse, sort the best and the brightest out for seed, and store and distribute the remainder for the rest of the season. We’re mowing down the crops that are finished for now, and we’ll rent a burly rototiller for a day or so and turn over all the vegetable residue and prepare the beds for the fall plantings. We’ll do more beets, carrots, turnips, radishes, bok choy. And we’ll also try a few things we didn’t do in the spring—broccoli raab did well last fall so we’re going to do more of it this fall. We’re trying again with the broccoli, too—this spring it got so hot so fast we lost a lot of it to the heat (it bolted) and the weeds.
Speaking of weeds, we are definitely in need of helping hands—we have some beds of kale which are rather engulfed but which are otherwise healthy and harvestable throughout the season. We’d like to keep these crops going and haven’t been able to keep up with all of it ourselves—give us a call if you’ve got a few hours and would like to get your hands dirty!
Enjoy the veggies this week.
--Laura Meister, Farm Girl Farm Farmer
VEGGIE NOTES JULY 27, 2010.
Original recipe by Judith Janowski
2 cups shredded zucchini (8oz.)
2 cups granular sugar
1 cup cooking oil
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup chocolate chips
1 recipe Peanut Butter Frosting
Preheat oven to 325 F. Line muffin cups with paper bake cups or lightly coat with nonstick cooking spray.
In a large bowl stir together zucchini, eggs, granulated sugar, oil, and vanilla. Add flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, baking powder, and chocolate chips; stir until combined. Spoon batter into prepared cups, filling about half full. Bake about 25 minutes (about 15 minutes for mini-cupcakes) or until a wooden toothpick inserted near centers comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks for 5 minutes. Remove from cups. Cool completely. Frost with Peanut Butter Frosting.
Peanut Butter Frosting:
Beat 1 cup peanut butter, 1/3 cup softened butter, 1 tablespoon milk, and 1teaspoon vanilla with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Gradually add 1 ½ cups powdered sugar, beating until combined. If necessary, stir in 1 to 2 teaspoons additional milk until desired consistency.
Dill-icious(!) cucumber salad-
From the kitchen of Ruth Ballenzweig, Farm Girl Farm Girl emeritus
juice of 1/4-1/2 of a lemon approx. 1 cup plain yogurt
small bunch of dill
salt and pepper to taste
Rinse and peel 2-3 cucumbers (I like to leave on some of the skin)
Thinly slice cucumbers into a bowl
Remove thick stems and loosely chop dill
Add yogurt, lemon, juice, and salt and pepper to taste
Stir and enjoy!
This a light, cooling summer salad. Double or triple quantities for a great potluck dish!
I'm moving on from interning at a CSA/restaraunt farm to concentrate on Boulderwood- the three cute couples: Jim and Carole, SO and I, and Burt and Uni; the horses, and the beautiful land. From now on I will be posting about my adventures with those guys and our exploration of the Berkshires and any farm-related things that I do, along with thoughts I have about agriculture, sustainability, and life.
Today, for example, SO and I will be scraping paint from shutters in the company of the adorable Burt and Uni. Then we will walk around Great Barrington, finally becoming acquainted with the city near which we live. Yesterday, we saw Kripalu and ate some of the best healthiest food I have ever seen together in one room. You should know where you live.
Have land you know you can farm for as long as you're planning on being in business: you have more of an incentive to take care of it. Begin by taking the results of your soil test(s) to heart and start cover cropping and improving your soil with organic amendments for at least a season. Understand the challenges and limitations of your soil before you start growing crops on it. In Florida, we have so low organic matter, that getting nutrients to stay in the soil is the biggest soil-related struggle, with nematodes(1) close behind. In Massachusetts, however, soil particle size is small and organic matter is high so pretty much everything that goes on, stays on; but you here in Mass have lots and lots of rocks that are difficult to till and otherwise bothersome to farmers.
You should start only with the land you can take care of with the equipment and hands you have. Know how you're going to sell your produce and to whom. Know what they want and how to grow it and how to get it to them the way they want it. Then start.
There's no use in overextending yourself or your staff in trying to do otherwise for any reason.
Also, your farm needs to have a draw: you should have available both the 'bread and butter' (maybe kale, potatoes, and green beans) and the impulse buy (honey, nuts, and sugar snap peas). Grow what sells and market it in the way that it will sell. Farming is definitely about quantity (low margins, yes) but if you have lax quality standards then it doesn't matter how much you have.
(1) related to flatworms and heartworms that afflict your domestic animals, also love to destroy the roots of plants in sandy soil
Does farming have to be overwhelming? This question has plagued me since I started interning in Massachusetts. Are you always just catching up with everything that needs to be done? Are projects never finished? There must be a way to be both busy and on top of things. I think that you could stay at a farm four twenty four hours a day and still find things to do that are fairly important. But you should be able to complete the important things. I think that the measure of success of a farm should not only be whether the farm is financially viable but whether those important things get accomplished when they need to.
A measure of a farmworker's value is not how many beets or potatoes they can coax from the neglected beds, but what they contribute to the organization and stability (monetary or otherwise) of said farm, beyond the simple day to day. If you haven't ever been on a farm or don't feel involved in your CSA or haven't experienced a farm in awhile, it would do you well to take a tour if you are interested in understand what goes on behind your veggies. These weekly blog posts only let you see a little behind the camera. -- thou mayest...timshel
Have you ever dug potatoes? You exert so much effort for the reward of smooth, dirty, lumpy, delicious new potatoes ready to be popped in the oven, covered in butter and rosemary, and savored.
Another crop that requires more work than it would seem are tomatoes. Planting is enough of a chore: hours on one's knees, bent over, shuffling every two feet to spade more rocky soil, but that is only where the work begins. Tomatoes must be staked (have you ever pounded stakes?), trellised, and pruned.
Time and sleep are precious commodities to those who work on farms. At least food is never a problem... Farmers always seem to know somebody who knows somebody who has what you would like to eat. Get to know a farmer. -- thou mayest...timshel
A farm is inspiration. A farm is faith. A farm is tedium, excitement, and waiting all bound into the simplest of ideas with the most complex follow through: you'll grow food for people to eat, but who is going to buy it, and when? When and where will you plant it, water it, and harvest it? Where will you store it until they buy it? How will they get it: a farmer's market, a CSA, a grocery store, a restaurant, a hotel?
Melons, squash, kale, turnips, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, corn, or okra don't require you to believe that they will grow to maturity in order to be pollinated and bear fruit. The threads that bind a farmer to sanity are strengthened by it. To put sweat and money and gas and water into an idea takes a certain kind of person with a high level of stability.
Farmers buy retail, sell wholesale, and pay shipping both ways. It's hard to see their point of view. To see beyond the $4 bunch of kale or the $6 half pound of baby greens, but try to see it like a farm girl. This is our life and our work. Come to the farmer's market to buy what's grown now. Cook it and eat it and be happy. That's the simple idea we put our backs into.