Heirloom Meals: Savoring Yesterday's Traditions Today

Thursday November 04, 2010

Heirloom Breeds & Seeds:
Laura Meister Sums Up the Season

Hello  Farm Girl Farmers!

It really is hard to believe this is the season’s closing newsletter.  Each season has its own highlights and its own challenges, but this one was on the whole so much sunnier and yield-I-er than 2009, that I can’t help but feel a little sad to see it ending.  Of course, with each season, I learn more about how to do things better next time, and we have many ideas, intentions and plans for next season already brewing.  But, and this is where you come in, we want your feedback, too.

I will email out and also have copies at the table of our end-of-season questionnaire that is designed to help us understand your experience as a CSA member of FGF.  How did you use your veggies, how many people are you feeding, what did you get sick of (if anything!), what did you long for more of.  If we see a pattern and there is something we can do to change our field plan to accommodate a change, we’ll do it.  For example, 4 and 5 years ago the message was clear: MORE ONIONS, PLEASE! So, we grew more onions.  On our very limited land, more of something inevitably means less of something else, so we want to know if you felt overloaded with something.  This year, for example, we clearly had too much land in watermelons—so we’ll cut back on that crop a bit next year and reallocate that space to grow more of the things we never had enough of (in my opinion beets and carrots).  So please fill out your questionnaires!

If you loved your farmshare and farmers so much this year that you can’t wait to sign up again for next year, then sign up before December 31 and get this year’s share price.  After the January 1, the price will go up incrementally to reflect rising production costs.  The advantage to FGF to have some early bird sign-ups is huge—your early infusion of cash helps us manage our year-round overhead--although we are not producing vegetables in the winter months, many of our expenses continue around the calendar.

We put the farm to bed between now and Thanksgiving or the first week of December.  We’ll have a few things to harvest for the pre-Thanksgiving Holiday Farmers Market on November 20.  After that I enter the headscratching months:  I spend December through February catching up on all paperwork, opening (if not reading) my mail from April thru November, bookkeeping, taxes, etc, which give me a basis to evaluate the season and  write a new business plan for 2011. From there I begin to sign on new CSA members, make a new field plan, revise the seeding calendar and order seeds—that last one is a monumental task that reminds me of writing my masters’ thesis.  

In addition, I am very excited to report that I was accepted into a class called Whole Farm Planning for Women in Agriculture, a 10-class workshop sponsored by Pioneer Valley’s Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA).  There will be 15 of us from all over the state, whose businesses are at least a few seasons established but who have less than 10 years experience in farming, meeting on Saturdays and Sundays throughout the winter and spring, to determine, under the guidance of several mentor (established!  successful!) women farmers, next directions for our own operations.  I hope to emerge from this work with more clarity about medium- and long-term goals, and a sense of the priorities—tractor first or new greenhouse?  More land now or later?  

And as if that won’t be enough time in the classroom, Vivian and I together will participate 5-day workshop on soil and plant health called Nutrient Dense Crop Production, held by the Real Food Campaign (our sessions will be held at Hawthorne Valley Farm).
Don’t forget that Berkshire Grown is hosting two Holiday Farmers’ Markets this fall:  Saturdays, November 20 and December 18.  The markets on both dates will be held simultaneously in North and South Berkshire County—the North County market will be at the Williams College Field House from 10 am til 2 pm and the South County market will be at the old Railroad Station, where the summer market is held, from 9 am til 1 pm.  Last year the Thanksgiving market was a huge hit, so many vendors, so many customers—there was a wonderful charge in the air.

And, on November 8th Berkshire Grown and Mezze Bistro in Williamstown will be hosting a reception—Getting to Know Berkshire Grown, Celebrate NoCo-- w/ nine central and north Berkshire County chefs preparing food f.rom 10 area farms to show the abundance of products that north county has to offer.  The event is from 5:30 to 7:30 at Mezze, 777 Cold Spring Road (Rt 7) Williamstown, $25 for Berkshire Grown Members.  See berkshiregrown.org or call the office for more info:  528-0041.

It has been my privilege to grow your vegetables this year.  Best wishes for a happy healthy winter, and hope to see you all at the distribution table next June.

Enjoy the veggies!

--Laura Meister, Farm Girl Farmer