Distribution #20, Week of October 19, 2020

The News from Windflower Farm

Hello from Windflower Farm (where winter CSA shares are now available!) 

This week’s share

  • Spinach
  • Arugula
  • Bok Choy or kale
  • ‘Covington’ sweet potatoes
  • Red and yellow onions
  • ‘Rainbow’ carrots
  • Cilantro
  • Chiles (small, HOT, not sweet!)
  • Potatoes
  • Eggplants (or sweet peppers)
  • Ginger

Your fruit share will be a mix of early ‘Fuji’ and ‘Empire’ apples from Yonder Farm. The ‘Fujis’ are the lighter colored apples.

Please use care in handling the chiles in your share, particularly around children – they can be painfully hot. The small, blocky orange-yellow ones are habaneros and are very hot. They will be the last of the season. You might find a way to combine these with the cilantro in your share.

Some shares will contain eggplants, others will have sweet peppers. This week’s eggplants, also the last of the season, may not be the prettiest, and I’m sorry about that, but I hope you’ll still enjoy these last flavors of summer. Try to ignore the spots – a good deal of the waste in our food system can be attributed to shopping too much with our eyes. Breaded and fried, they make great additions to any pizza, especially with dollops of Ricotta and pesto. They are also an excellent addition to any vegetable lasagna.   

You’ll be getting some of Nate’s ginger this week, and very likely again next week (the pieces won’t be large). He ordinarily gets his planting stock from a guy called “Biker Dude” in Hawaii, but he had a crop failure last winter and referred Nate to a Peruvian supplier. Have fun with it. One of my favorite ways to enjoy this tropical crop is in the form of a gingersnap cookie. 

Winter share news

To learn more about our winter share, please click here: https://windflowerfarm.wufoo.com/forms/m1xr27rk05nzoa8/

What’s new on the farm?

I took a road trip on a rainy Friday last week to a farm in northern vermont. Earlier in the year, I mentioned that I might more frequently include the produce of other organic farms in your summer shares beginning next year. (The idea, by the way, received overwhelming support.) Among the best candidates for that are beans and carrots. Beans because a friend and experienced organic farmer – Martin Stosiek – has a bean harvester. Carrots because we do not have a soil suitable for growing carrots, at least not on a commercial scale. Ours is too stoney to grow straight carrots or to cultivate a carrot crop using tractor mounted tools. 

My trip north took me to Jericho Settlers Farm, just east of Burlington, VT, near Mount Mansfield’s backside. The farm sits on 90 acres of Winooski River bottom soils, level, stone-free and well suited to the production of carrots, parsnips and beets. The winter share’s carrots will come from them this year. My hope is to barter onions, which grow better here, for their carrots.  

There is a third crop I’ll mention – potatoes. We have never had to buy potatoes before, and I don’t intend to include them among the crops we’ll source in the future, but I have just purchased some to help finish out this year and to have them for the winter share. Our own potatoes were planted in a back field that our irrigation system could not reach and yields were miserable. Sometimes things don’t work out. The potatoes I have purchased came from Williams Farm and are certified organic. You’ll get more next week.

Have a great week, Ted

Distribution #19, Week of October 12, 2020

The News from Windflower Farm

This week’s share

  • ‘Covington’ sweet potatoes
  • Red and yellow onions
  • ‘Romance’ carrots
  • ‘Bouquet’ dill
  • Sweet peppers, mostly ‘Carmen’ 
  • Butterhead lettuce
  • ‘Kalebration’ mixed kale
  • Arugula
  • ‘Fordhook’ Swiss chard

Your fruit share will be ‘Fortune’ apples (‘Empire’ crossed with ‘Northern Spy’) and ‘Bosc’ pears from Yonder Farm.

I’m imagining tacos de camotes – thickly sliced slabs (or cubes) of roasted sweet potatoes, black beans, avocados, and onions placed in a hard corn taco, with my favorite Mexican sauce drizzled over everything and topped with fresh greens. You’ll find a dozen recipes online. 

What’s new on the farm?

Sweet potatoes are not difficult to prepare. Roast at 400 degrees in a pan with parchment paper until they begin to ooze their caramelized sugars and take on a bronzing around the edges, then serve. If cured properly, they won’t need anything. (Jan, who looks for any excuse to pull out the maple syrup, will tell you that a spoonful never hurts.) For fans of butternut squash soup, sweet potato soup is an excellent alternative. For the more adventurous, sweet potato lasagna is out of this world. 

This week’s batch of sweet potatoes is the first to come out of our makeshift curing room. When harvested, sweet potatoes are all starch. But a week to ten days at 80 degrees turns those starches to sugar. It’s not unlike what a week in the Carribean might do for any of us after a long winter. Connor, who is new on the farm this year, came to us after his Peace Corps work in Ghana was interrupted by the pandemic. His aunt MaryJane owns some of the land that we use to grow your crops. He tells me that the weather in Ghana permits in-ground curing of the roots. In our case, we cordon off a corner of a greenhouse with a heater, turn the temperature up, flood the floor so as to achieve a humidity of nearly 100%, and wait for ten days. That’s usually all there is to it. You can ensure that curing is complete by letting them sit on your counter for another week.   

Our sweet potatoes started their lives in North Carolina. Farmers there plant full size sweet potatoes in the field in early spring and then harvest “slips” – the little sprouts that emerge from the roots – and either plant them or sell them to other farmers for planting. My friend Tim, who grew 24 acres this year, drives his box truck all the way to North Carolina every spring to get the best slips, and he brings ours, too. His farm is called Laughing Child Farm, named for his four happy daughters, and on it he produces nothing but sweet potatoes. I admire the simplicity of his business, but I don’t envy it. Nate and I washed and sorted 80 bushels of sweet potatoes today (the yield from three 375’ beds), which I think will be enough for this week’s CSA deliveries, and I would have been done in by the tedium if it wasn’t for the excellent Sunday lineup on our public radio station (Le Show, Splendid Table, Afropop Worldwide and Freakonomics Radio). I prefer the challenge of the wide variety of crops we grow for the CSA.

Winter share information and a signup form should be available next week.  

Have a great week, Ted

Distribution #18, Week of October 5, 2020

The News from Windflower Farm

This week’s share

  • Probably your last tomatoes 
  • Sweet peppers
  • Leeks
  • Potatoes (or beets)
  • Acorn squashes (or butternuts)
  • Parsley
  • Lettuce
  • Bok Choy
  • Kale
  • Possibly other salad greens

Your fruit share will be apples from Yonder Farm and cider from Borden Farm. Next week, you’ll get carrots, arugula, red onions and sweet potatoes, among other goodies. More potatoes to come.

What’s new on the farm?

Fall colors are at their peak now, a week ahead of normal, perhaps because of the unusual heat and drought of summer or those early frosts – who really knows? – and they are stunning. We are living for this briefest of moments in a picture postcard. We know that these red and orange leaves will blow away in the next big wind, and that we’ll be in a monochromatic landscape for the next seven months – seven months! – but it’s all pretty terrific for now.

Winter greens planting is underway this week. Tomatoes are being yanked out and tossed in the compost pile, and winter hardy greens are being planted one by one into freshly composted, newly tilled and highly fragrant earth, in straight, nearly perfect rows (Salvador and Candelaria lead such a fantastic team!). Soon, we’ll place hoops and floating row covers over the greens. And soon after that we’ll begin lowering the sides on the greenhouses to keep the greens warm enough so that they continue growing, but not so warm as to prevent them from becoming hardened enough to withstand the cold of winter. These greenhouses are unheated, and a tender plant won’t survive.  

Next week, we’ll begin planting next year’s garlic and covering next year’s strawberry plants to protect them against the extremes of winter. Squirrels are burying nuts and we, too, are making preparations for winter. 

Have a great week, Ted

Distribution #17, Week of September 28, 2020

The News from Windflower Farm

This week’s share

  • Assorted tomatoes
  • Winter squash
  • Eggplant
  • Shallots
  • Chiles
  • Cilantro
  • Leeks
  • Lettuce
  • Koji
  • Kale

This week’s fruit share will be Gala apples and Bosc pears from Yonder Farm

Next week, you’ll get butternut squash, sweet potatoes, garlic, sweet peppers, onions, a variety of greens and the last tomatoes of the season, and your fruit share will be more apples and a half gallon of the Borden’s cider.

What’s new on the farm?

It has been very dry throughout September, but it’s raining as I write this and, because we sowed several acres of cover crops this past week, we are pleased. Soon, winter rye, hairy vetch, oats and pea seedlings will emerge in fields that grew this year’s vegetables. The cover crops will protect the soil from erosion during the winter, and they will capture nitrogen and carbon, enhancing soil organic matter. The rain means that our fall greens and new strawberries will also have a little more of what they need. There are still five weeks to go in the CSA distribution season, and the greens need regular watering.

Next week, we will remove all of the tomato plants from our tunnels so that we can transplant winter greens into them. This is something that we’ve done for the past fifteen years or so. It’s always a little sad to see summer tomatoes disappear from the share, but the shorter and cooler days mean that tomato flavor has begun to deteriorate anyway. And October 10th is the last day to plant greens before we run the risk that they won’t have developed before the cold stops them altogether. And so, after a last harvest, we will yank the tomato vines out one by one, throwing them in a heap on the compost pile. Then we’ll add fresh compost to the beds, work them with our smallest tractor, a Kubota 3700, and plant the greens, four rows to a bed, nine inches apart. With any luck, they will be fully grown six weeks later.

Have a great week, Ted

Distribution #16, Week of September 21, 2020

The News from Windflower Farm

Happy fall from all of us at Windflower Farm, where one of our hottest and driest summers ever has given way to the cold temperatures of fall and warnings of early frost. By Thursday of last week, we had harvested all of our winter squashes. This week, you’ll get Delicatas. Acorns will be in your shares next, followed by butternuts. It’s become cold enough here to move back into the kitchen, and roasted squashes, squash soup and squash muffins are all on the menu. Yesterday, Nate made pumpkin muffins (with dried cranberries and chocolate chips) from a recipe he found at lovelylittlekitchen.com.

This week’s share

  • Assorted tomatoes
  • Colorful sweet peppers
  • Carrots
  • Dill
  • Delicata squash
  • Red and yellow onions
  • Greenleaf lettuce
  • Tatsoi
  • Swiss chard
  • German Red garlic        

Your fruit share will be a bagful of Pete’s Macintosh apples and Bartlett pears.

What’s new on the farm?

Killdeer have begun their flocking, and their numbers appear healthy to me. I like to think that they have found a safe haven here, but how can I know? I noticed them last week while working a field in preparation for cover cropping. Soon, they’ll head to Mexico, and they are looking to bulk up for the flight. The disc brings soil dwelling insects and worms to the surface and the flock swarms down to scoop them up. In the spring of the year, Killdeer would dread the coming of the tractor. They make nests on the ground after we’ve plowed but generally before we’ve planted. Because of their broken wing ploy, we can usually find and flag their nests so that we can avoid them as we pull the transplanter across the field. For a few days, their hatchlings are little flightless puffballs and a year or two back Jan could not resist the temptation to catch one in her hands (she is similarly hands on with snakes and baby rabbits). She may have frightened the little thing for a moment, but it was soon off doing what its siblings were doing, eating seeds or bugs. And now I imagine it as part of this flock making plans for Mexico.     

A week ago, the trees in our hedgerows were deep green. Today reds and oranges are peeking through, and in a week or two they’ll be in full color. We expect our first frost tonight. And so, a little too soon, summer is over. The Hudson River, which lies five miles west of here, at the end of our road, sits at an elevation of about 90’. Our farm lies some 800’ above the river, and that is what gives us some protection against the first frosts, which tend to snake along valley floors. I visited a friend whose farm is a mile east and perhaps 100 or 150’ above the level of the river. He told me that his first frost occurred two days ago and it caught him by surprise, spoiling a large portion of his winter squash crop. We had a little more time to prepare. Nate and I spent half a day on Wednesday dropping sandbags in all of the places where we intended to put row covers, and then a full day on Thursday rolling out covers, spreading them over the top of the cold sensitive crops and then repositioning the sandbags along their edges. The farm team helped with the last pieces – draping covers over the peppers and eggplants that now stand up to my shoulders. Had we not taken these steps, we’d be hard pressed to fill our truck during the final weeks of the season. Often, if our crops survive the first frosts, they will continue to grow for another three or four weeks, or as long as the Indian Summer lasts. In the meantime, it’s time to sharpen your skis!

Have a great week, Ted

Distribution #15, Week of September 14, 2020

The News from Windflower Farm

Every other week, I throw eight five-gallon diesel cans in the back of my pickup truck and head into town for a refill. By my back-of-the-envelope calculation, this translates into less than half a gallon per share per year, which has not changed much over the years. Our bigger use of fuel has to do with trucking from the farm to sites in the city, and that has likewise remained steady at about four gallons per share per year. As I drove to the filling station today, I thought about this week’s tasks. We will try to finish strawberry planting and continue seeding greens for the winter as we have been doing for the past couple of weeks. The greenhouse is full again with benches of spinach, Swiss chard, kale and other very cold hardy greens. It takes about an hour each day to do the watering. We’ll plant them out in our unheated greenhouses in early October, hoop and cover them with row covers and irrigate them twice a week. They’ll be ready for the first winter share delivery on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. More information about the winter share will be coming soon.  

This week’s share

  • Assorted tomatoes
  • Colorful sweet peppers
  • Assorted potatoes
  • Rosemary
  • German White garlic
  • Yellow or green beans
  • Dill
  • Squashes or cucumbers
  • A mix of red lettuces
  • Spinach
  • Kale

Delicata squashes will be in some shares this week, and in every share next week. Eat right away – they do not keep very well. Simply wash, cut in half lengthwise, and bake face down for 45 minutes at 375 or until fork soft. Add a little butter and a pinch of salt or cinnamon. The skin is edible. Your fruit share will be Pete’s last peaches on Tuesday and his last plums on Thursday.

What’s new on the farm?

Two crops were particularly hard for us this year: carrots and potatoes. Hot and dry weather was the chief culprit in both cases, but several growers have pointed to the poor quality of seeds as another possible cause in the case of carrots. You’ll get the first of our potatoes this week. We’ll send our own carrots for a second time next week, and again the following week, and then we’ll be out until our late fall harvest (which was timed for winter shares).

We have purchased crops from neighboring farmers in the past. We set aside some money for the purpose. We don’t have success with every crop we grow, and we don’t want you to have a bad CSA experience. If our radicchio or celeriac or kohlrabi don’t work out, we are not going to go to the market looking to replace them, but if an important staple like carrots or onions or potatoes failed, we would go searching to fill the gap. We have only done this a few times in all of our years as CSA farmers, and we limit our purchases to local growers.

I’ve been trying to buy organic carrots with which to fill out your fall shares, but it turns out that we were not alone in having had challenges. And the local crop is lean. My friend Brian, who farms with his wife Justine, believes they will have some carrots for us, and Jody and Carrie, sisters who farm in Columbia County, expect to also have some. They are excellent farmers and farm on good soils, making them good candidates, with some prior planning, to help with the carrots in our 2021 shares, too. I’ll keep you apprised as to the source of carrots (and any other non-Windflower crops) as they show up in your shares.      

Have a great week, Ted

Distribution 14, September 8 and 10, 2020

The News from Windflower Farm

Happy Labor Day from all of us at Windflower Farm. Summer isn’t over yet, but we can sense it winding down here at the farm. It’s a time of transition in our fields and among our school-age staff. This week, you’ll be getting tomatoes, peppers, onions, chiles, cilantro and edamame – all warm weather vegetables. But fall crops are coming. Next week, you’ll get the potatoes and Rosemary we had hoped to send this week, along with Delicata squash and garlic. Greens have responded well to the cooler and wetter weather of recent weeks. This week, the greens category will be filled out with lettuce, choy and cabbage. Next week, you’ll get a different lettuce, plus kale and spinach. And you’ll still be getting tomatoes, peppers, and the occasional summer squashes and eggplants as long as the weather holds. 

What’s in your share this week?

  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Onions
  • Chiles
  • Cilantro
  • Edamame
  • Lettuce
  • Mei Qing Choi
  • Cabbage
  • Beets

If you are new to edamame, follow these simple steps: Steam for three to four minutes, sprinkle with salt and then eat, with a cold beer or without. To eat, place the pod in your mouth without letting go, then bite down gently, pulling the pod through your teeth, leaving the tasty little beans behind. Your fruit share will consist of Yonder Farm’s peaches. If they are a little hard, just let them sit for a couple of days.

What’s new on the farm?

We have a number of things to do during the next four or five weeks, giving some real focus to our early fall. Tomorrow, we’ll begin preparing the ground so that we can plant next year’s strawberries by the end of the week. We’ll also plant the last field greens of the season – spinach, arugula, a new red colored kale, Tatsoi, and a purple choy. And we’ll work on getting potatoes out of the ground. Next week, in the greenhouse, we’ll sow a variety of greens for the winter share and, in the field, we’ll plant red and yellow onion plants for harvest next spring. We’ll also sow cover crop seeds where we can and finish harvesting acorn and Delicata squashes and cabbages. 

During the following week, we’ll prepare greenhouses for winter greens by removing the non-performing tomato vines and old cut flowers, adding compost and tilling the soil. We’ll also be harvesting butternut squashes, leeks, sweet potatoes, and the remaining potatoes and carrots in anticipation of our first frost. 

The week after that, we’ll plant all of the winter greens in the greenhouses and prepare field beds for garlic and onion sets. This will entail more compost applications and bed forming and a session of garlic bulb busting (it’s the individual cloves that we plant and will become next year’s bulbs). And the last several weeks of the season will be spent planting garlic, which we’d like wrapped up by October 15th, and onion sets, which should be completed by election day. I’m sure it will unfold just like clockwork. 

Have a great week, Ted

Ted Blomgren
Windflower Farm

Distribution 13, September 1 and 3, 2020

The News from Windflower Farm

Hello from Windflower Farm, where the weather has turned pleasantly cool and wet.  

What’s in your share?

  • Carrots
  • Lettuce
  • Kale
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Onions
  • Beans
  • Dill
  • and something from our mystery tote

Your fruit share will include our watermelons or Pete’s peaches. Rosemary and potatoes will be coming next week, if our harvesting machinery works properly, along with edamame, cilantro and chiles.   

What’s new on the farm?

On Saturday, a tornado passed just a few miles south of here, leaving downed trees and power lines, and dropping over 3 inches of rain across the area. I believe one person was hurt and some roofs were damaged. A photo taken in nearby Schaghticoke, with a friend’s house in the foreground and the funnel cloud behind it, reminds me of my childhood, when we would watch tornados from my grandmother’s front porch in Illinois. It took a path nearly identical to the one it took 23 years ago, following first the Mohawk River Valley and then jumping the Hudson to the Hoosic River, giving some credence to the curious notion that storms follow water. Several of us were texting back and forth, aware that our greenhouses can become giant spinnakers if the storm gets hold of them. In an ordinary year, this would have been an open house weekend at the farm. We might all have been huddled in our cellar, tents blowing in the wind.

This time of year, we do most of our planting and weeding on Thursdays and Fridays. The remainder of the week is spent harvesting and packing. We had an all day rain here on Thursday and, although there was much to do in the field, we retreated to the indoors for seeding, garlic trimming and machinery repair. The Medina family, clustered together in our new barn, spent much of the day listening to Mariachi music, the accordion and brass instruments blazing in their upbeat way, even when the lyrics are often sad. They also played recordings of several Mexican comedians, whose Spanish was way too fast for me to understand, but who had them in stitches. Their laughter and their apparent enjoyment of one another is a joy to watch. Before the need to take precautions against the pandemic, we all ate together in a big kitchen in the barn, where Wednesdays were potluck. So far this summer, we have not shared a single meal, and I think we all feel diminished for it. Food transcends language and brings us together, and I think we all miss that part of our working lives here. I imagine that you miss that in your lives, too. I find it good to keep in mind that it will not always be this way. 

Have a great week, Ted

Distribution #12, Week of August 24, 2020

The News from Windflower Farm

Greetings from Windflower Farm. This week’s CSA distribution marks the first of the second half of the season. What’s to come? You’ll receive another six or seven weeks of summer vegetables – tomatoes, corn, squashes, beans – and then, with the change in weather, you’ll get several weeks of fall vegetables, including winter squashes, leeks, carrots, potatoes and sweet potatoes. Keep in mind that the season is 22 weeks long. This year, it will come to an end during election week. Your fruit shares will include the peaches, plums and melons of summer for some time to come, then, when summer is over and the growing season winds down, we’ll wrap up the fruit share with pears, apples and cider. The fruit share lasts 20 weeks.     

This week’s share

  • Tomatoes
  • Basil
  • Sweet corn
  • Peppers
  • Eggplant on Tuesday, onions on Thursday
  • Squashes or cucumbers
  • Green beans
  • Lettuce – Romaine on Tuesday, Redleaf on Thursday
  • Cabbage

Your fruit share will be either our watermelons or Pete’s plums. Carrots will be coming very soon, I promise, as will potatoes and Rosemary and the return of salad greens. 

The changes that we’ve made in our packing shed in response to Covid-19 have caused us to make some errors. All of this packing is new for us. I am sorry if you’ve missed out on some items. We’ll do our best to make them up to you. And we are working hard to get our systems up to speed so as to avoid shortages in the future.

What’s new at Windflower Farm?

In the past, onion topping had consumed much of our time this time of year. But this year, things will be different, at least that’s the hope. Farmers, forever attracted to machinery that reduces physical labor, long ago developed cutting tables that removed onion tops and roots from bulbs, but we have never owned one. Imagine a pair of 48 inch rolling pins working side by side and turning in opposite directions. Now imagine that each of them is made of heavy steel and has a cutting blade spiraling along its length. The roller pairs are set on the table so that their front or top ends are higher than their bottom ends, causing a bulb to move along the length of the rollers. As it travels, the bulb remains on top of the rollers but its roots and leaves occasionally get pulled down between them and are cut off by the spiraling blades. As you can imagine, it is a machine that requires safety guards. 

An onion topper came up for sale on my local farmer list-serve. It was sold within nine minutes. A Vermont farmer offered to put one in a container he was having brought in from the Netherlands, but I declined. In the Northeast, with the rare exception of small farms like ours, onions are produced on muck soils, and those are found in just a few pockets in New York, Ontario and Quebec, which is where I concentrated my search for a topper of our own. On Thursday of last week, I travelled to onion country in Quebec to pick up an onion topper I found through an equipment dealership. The border crossing was not exactly smooth. There was a committee of three looking me over closely. “Were you not aware that the border has been closed for weeks?” “Why didn’t you buy one in the states?” “What does it do?” “Why didn’t you have it shipped?” And so on. To which I responded: “Yes, but agriculture is an exempt industry, they are unavailable in the states, they remove onion leaves, and shipping would have cost a fortune.” They must have concluded that it was an unlikely pretext for doing anything nefarious because they let me across.

My topper was at Fermes Farnham, a huge onion and carrot operation in the small village of Sainte-Sabine. If you are a fan of Louise Penny novels, you’ll be familiar with the landscape I passed through. French speaking, largely Catholic, agricultural, flat as a pancake with the exception of little lakes and hummocks here and there. Four men who claimed to speak no english at all, which may have been true, helped me load the topper onto my truck. We were all concerned when it appeared my tires might all blow out from the weight of the thing, but eventually decided it would be fine. Before I left, they allowed me to climb around on their new harvester – bright red and a story and a half tall – so that I could see how a topper is set up to work. I crossed back into the states at Rouses Point, where the border agent quizzed me about growing his favorite vegetables – Brussels sprouts and parsnips – which we don’t grow. I was unsure if I would be let back in. Back home, I’ve begun to assemble the parts that should enable me to get the onion topper up and running in the next couple of weeks. I’ll be curious to know if you can see the difference – I know we will.

Have a great week, Ted

Distribution #11 – Week of August 17, 2020

The News from Windflower Farm

Greetings from Windflower Farm. Shorter days and cooler nights signal the start of the school year. Our farm staff is smaller by one this week. Mallory, who started here when she was 14, is off to begin her freshman year in college. Two other student workers will leave soon, but their schedules remain hazy. We’ll miss them when they go.

What’s in your share?

  • Sweet corn
  • Tomatoes
  • Basil
  • Peppers
  • Cucumbers (or squash)
  • Cabbage (or eggplant)
  • Lacinato kale (or lettuce)
  • Onions
  • Garlic

What’s new on the farm?

Your basil was greenhouse grown because we were afraid that downy mildew would have killed it in the field. There is more to come. One goal will be to learn how to scale it up so that there is enough in the share for a batch of pesto. Your fruit share will be our own melons.

We have always farmed organically. Passersby know this because our fields are a little weedier than those absolutely weed-free corn fields in our neighborhood. That those fields are made weed-free by applications of a pre-emergent herbicide represent one of the differences between organic and conventional agriculture. We have a number of good tools in our weed management toolbox, but none are as effective as the herbicides used by my neighbors, and I find myself at times to be a little envious. In the past, we had worked with a group called Certified Naturally Grown for our organic certification. This year, we switched teams so that we would be certified under the national rule, which is more widely accepted, and we received our new certificate in the mail this week.

One of the key differences under this new rulebook is that so-called biodegradable plastic mulches are not allowed. It is suspected that they contain petroleum additives that are not good for soil health despite their use in Canadian and European organics. Only truly plastic mulches can be used in the states, and we’ll have to send any plastic mulches we do use to a landfill when we’re finished with them. This will certainly motivate us to try to eliminate those products altogether. Another key difference is that the paper trail required to enable a bonafide third party audit of an organic farm is substantial, and participation in the process has required us to make some changes to our record keeping system. Both of these changes – reducing the use of plastics and keeping better records – will make us a better farm business.

This week, we’ll wrap up our yellow onion harvest and begin on reds and shallots, vegetables that I enjoy growing and that our farm seems well suited to. Which brings me to a subject we are thinking out loud about. We have begun talking with other CSA farmers in the region about taking a more collaborative approach to producing what goes into your weekly shares. For the twenty years we have been a CSA, we have grown almost everything that we have sent. But we have come to believe that your shares (and our work lives) might be enhanced with a little selective vegetable crop swapping.  

To that end, we are considering working with a small handful of experienced (and certified) organic farmers who would provide us with the kinds of vegetables that they grow particularly well, and we, in turn, would grow more of the kinds of crops that we do well and send those to their CSA members. We might grow more onions or tomatoes or squashes, for example, and trade them for early carrots or cucumbers or summer lettuce. In this way, we might more reliably offer to our CSA membership more of those vegetables that are difficult for us to grow. The benefit for us is that we’d eliminate a few challenging crops, enabling us to grow more of those vegetables we grow well. I share this because I’m curious to know what you think about this idea. Please feel free to drop me a line.

Have a great week, Ted