Week of August 29, Distribution #13

The News from Windflower Farm

What’s in your share?

  • Kale
  • Green oakleaf lettuce
  • Radishes
  • Red potatoes
  • Rosemary
  • Tomatoes
  • Basil
  • Garlic
  • Sweet peppers
  • Sweet corn
  • Squash 

Your fruit share will be peaches from Yonder Farm.

We began harvesting delicata and acorn squashes this week. We’ll set them in our shade house for a week or two to cure and then we’ll begin sending them to you. Next week, we’ll send the pie pumpkins we harvested two weeks ago. Next week’s shares will also include Ed’s Red shallots (see Nate’s latest Instagram posting for images).

What’s new on the farm?

It is just before 8:00 pm on Sunday, nearly too dark to discern colors. I’m coming in from the field after scouting for the harvest. A lone coyote is howling nearby. Nate has closed the chicken coop for the night and shut the farm gates against intrusion by deer. And now, as I sit at my laptop, the aroma of Rosemary fills my senses. I had harvested a few sample bunches. It will be part of this week’s share. It is the herb that for me transforms virtually any potato, but especially a good roasting variety, into something magical. Oil the pan, toss in long-sliced potato pieces, sprinkle with salt and pepper, add Rosemary and you’ve got the better part of a perfect meal.

Although many farmers in the Hudson Valley and New England are still in a severe drought, we have had enough rain in the last couple of weeks to take the edge off. Summer rains are often highly localized like this. Earlier in the season, we would watch as the rain fell to the north or south of us, and now, finally, it has been falling here. The lawn has become green again and lettuces and arugula and kale are coming back to life. Still, vestiges of the drought can be found here and there. The absence of sweet corn from shares is one example – it was one of the crops we chose not to irrigate. It was inevitable that something popular would be on that list. But not all the corn was lost. Last Thursday’s CSA shares included corn from our own farm. There would have been more if it wasn’t for the racoons. This week’s corn will come from Hand Farm, where I’m told they never have racoon problems. It is not organically grown – they use “integrated pest management” or IPM to guide their spray decisions. They spray, but only when the IPM protocol deems it necessary. Next week’s corn will again come from our farm and will have been grown organically. And that will be the last of our corn. After that, if we opt to send more Hand Farm corn to you, it will only be because I’ve received feedback from you telling me that you approve of the idea.

The inspection related to our organic certification took place yesterday. Brenda, our inspector, brought Rick, a trainee, along. As a result, the process, although always professional, was more formal than usual. They arrived ahead of schedule, before I had a chance to have lunch, so by the time they left at 5:00 in the evening, my blood sugar was at a serious ebb, and my answers to their questions had become more and more dubious. “How do you manage soil health on your farm?” asked Rick. I had no idea. Nevertheless, I believe we passed. Together, we identified one infraction, however, and I should make you aware of it before you read about it in the papers. The cabbage you’ve received this year came from ground that won’t achieve formal organic status for another month. It had only undergone 34 of the required 36 months of transition. I mistakenly planted our summer cabbage where our fall cabbage was supposed to go. My apologies to you. You should know that the field they came from had not had synthetic fertilizers or a pesticide of any kind for more than twenty years. I know I’ll hear from our certifier about this.

Have a great week, Ted

Week of August 22, Distribution #12

The News from Windflower Farm

What’s in your share?Kale mix

  • Kale mix
  • Chard
  • Onions
  • Red Gold potatoes
  • Basil
  • Tomatoes
  • Garlic
  • Sweet peppers
  • Green beans from Markristo Farm

Your fruit share will be peaches from Yonder Farm.

The authorities have told us it is no longer permissible to reuse pint and quart containers. We request that you recycle your berry boxes at home.

This week’s delivery marks the halfway point in the farm season. Let us know how we’ve done so far.

What’s new on the farm?

How my fellow vegetable farmers manage to make a living by working the land has always interested me. Early on, I wondered if one could still actually farm full-time for a living or whether an outside income was necessary. The first farmer I worked for, it turned out, earned most of his living selling pot. What other crops are profitable, I wondered? Here is the story of a man who has inspired me and one of the most entrepreneurial farmers I know.  

A friend of mine, Guy Jones, from Blooming Hill Farm, one of the founding farmers at the Union Square Greenmarket, had for a time made most of his income by growing and selling gourmet salad mixes, or mesclun, as it was called then, each leaf hand-picked and triple rinsed. He was among the first to add nasturtiums and chervil and a host of other herbs to his beautiful and aromatic mixes. But as everyone got into the business, prices came down and he had to find new opportunities.

He found them in cut flowers. First, it was avant-garde arrangements featuring juniper branches and other unlikely wild cuttings. But then he found something special. I was reminded of Guy on a recent bike ride along a stretch of nearby swamp. There they were: cattails, Boneset, Joe Pieweed, and the invasive Purple Loosestrife, all in their prime. Guy and his team handled them just right, they made cuts on the diagonal, transferred them to clean water and buckets back at the farm so that they’d last, placed them in floral sleeves and kept them cool until market day. And he sold them by the hundreds, and quite possibly the thousands, a bit of the countryside brought to the city. I think he built his farm on that wildflower bouquet. And the beauty of it was that he didn’t have to sow a seed or pull a weed – he’d just load his team and a heap of buckets into his van and head to the nearest swamp. And they could be harvested sustainably, so long as they were not overharvested, and for as long as swampland continued to be regarded by developers as wasteland.

I was with Guy and another friend in the audience when Wendell Berry, after giving a talk about the joys of farming in his beloved Kentucky, asked the farming audience for their greatest sources of joy or hardship. “Farming is hard!” said someone. Guy stood up with his large round face, long blond ponytail, the elder amongst us, and shouted out, “Making payroll!” which is something he’d been doing for 25 years by that time. I still don’t know which it was for him – joy or hardship.

I farmed near Guy for a few years when I worked with a dozen homeless men in a recovery program, and he gave me a great deal of advice in those early days. Most valuable might have been this: “Ted, farming, like most things, is mostly about showing up. Get up early, bring your best ideas, and get to work.” As Guy has stepped back from the farm, his three sons have stepped in to take the farm through its next iteration: a farm-to-table restaurant, CSA and wedding venue. The entrepreneurial spirit has clearly passed to the next generation.

Have a great week, Ted

Week of August 15, Distribution #11

The News from Windflower Farm

What’s in your share?

  • Red Gold potatoes
  • Basil
  • Tomatoes
  • Chiles
  • Cilantro
  • Garlic
  • Kale
  • Squash
  • Yellow onions
  • Sweet peppers

Your fruit share will be melons.

I’m imagining the salsas, tacos, quiches and stir fries that will be made from this week’s shares. The harvest team has just brought in the last of our shallots and will begin on the red and yellow onions in our one remaining onion field later this week. We grow so many onions because so much food preparation begins by sauteing onions in a pan. And you might recall that we made a bargain with a neighboring farmer – our onions for his carrots – and it’s time for us to deliver. The potato harvest is also underway. We opted to start with the variety Red Gold, which will be in this week’s share, and not the Red Norland, because weeds were going to make that harvest too slow for the time being.

What’s new on the farm?

I have the feeling that many of the impacts of climate change – including many of the small ones that will matter to our everyday occupations – have not yet been anticipated or have yet to be fully appreciated. Here is a small example: our winter squashes are ready for harvest a month or more ahead of schedule. We grow pie pumpkins, delicata squashes, acorns and butternuts, and all but the butternuts are ready now, in this first week of August. This is not all bad news. We have a nice crop after all, if a little small, and we could harvest them right away and send them to you throughout the next month. The problem for us is that these are intended for a little later in the year, after our summer crops have run their course, and if we harvest them now, we’d need a climate-controlled storage facility to keep them – they’d spoil in the heat. Moreover, we’d like to have some of these squashes last into the holiday season when these vegetables are traditionally more popular, and I fear that many will be lost in storage.

Easy remedies are hard to come by. Would a delay in planting prove reliable? That seems likely only if climate change resulted in a linear warming of the planet. But forecasts are for a greater occurrence of weather extremes. Perhaps we’ll have to spend money on better storage. Or simply give you ideas for stockpiling them yourselves. Do you have a spare closet?

It’s inevitable, as you know, that we’re going to have to adapt. In this case, we can start with something easy – a cold pumpkin bisque on a warm August evening.

As another example, our tomatoes peaked early, and they may go down early, too. That’s not for sure, but it would be no fun. In the meantime, weeds appear to appreciate everything about climate change. In fact, a changing environment is what they have evolved to take advantage of. They are the survivors of droughts and floods, extreme heat and the cold. The disturbed environment is their favored habitat. As Elisa, one of our employees from Mexico, motors past in the golf cart she uses to get to and from the field, a basketful of purslane on the seat next to her, and a big smile on her face, I am reminded to be grateful that so many weeds are good to eat. Lambsquarters anyone?

Best wishes, Ted

Week of August 8, Distribution #10

The News from Windflower Farm

What’s in your share?

  • Arugula
  • Yellow wax beans (from our farm) or green beans (from Markristo Farm)
  • Dill
  • Basil
  • Assorted tomatoes
  • Zephyr yellow squash 
  • Cucumbers
  • Assorted peppers
  • Eggplant

Your fruit share will be red plums from Yonder Farm.

The harvest team has just brought in the “Spanish” onions – the large, mild types. The variety you’ll get next week – one of three – is called Elyse, and it’s from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. We’ll start harvesting potatoes this week, and the variety Dark Red Norland should come to you next week, too.

What’s new on the farm?

Shallots are a favorite crop of ours, but that wasn’t always the case. The crops we would produce were often tiny, poor yielding, torpedo-shaped bulbs, and unsatisfying to grow. But then long-time employee Daren Carroll introduced us to a Fedco Seeds variety called Ed’s Red, a large open-pollinated shallot produced by Idaho farmer Beth Rasgorshek, and we’ve been hooked ever since.

It wasn’t long ago that all shallots were grown from sets, or small starter bulbs, that would typically be planted in the fall. Seeds were unheard of until recently. We harvested the last of our shallot seeds about two weeks ago, and they are now dry and ready for processing. Many of the seeds we buy come from small scale seed savers, but seed saving is a new activity for us. We were inspired to save our own seeds because the variety that performed so well on our farm was open pollinated, giving us the opportunity to do so, and we wanted an opportunity to adapt it to the conditions we find here on our farm. Moreover, seeds have become very expensive, with inflation in that category running from 15 to 20% for years, and we thought seed saving might save us some money.

We selected about 100 mature shallot bulbs from our 2021 crop with the characteristics we liked best: still firm and blemish-free after months in the cooler, beautifully colored and large. We set the bulbs into large, compost filled peat pots in March and then did little more than water them until July. Shallots produce a lovely umbel-shaped white blossom, consisting of about 150 individual flowers. Because each flower produces six seeds, the yield is about 900 seeds per bulb, giving us far more seeds than we can use. Perhaps we’ll go to Seed Savers Exchange and swap some for another promising variety.

Last year, we also added a new wrinkle to how we plant shallots in the field. We’d been planting red and yellow onions in the fall for several years with generally good results, so we thought we’d try growing shallots in the same way. The representative for Bejo Seeds, a Dutch company, is an old college friend of mine, so I asked him what he thought about the fall planting of shallots. He thought it was a ridiculous idea, which I found discouraging. But then I remembered that he was an entomology major, and I tried it anyway. It’s important to think for oneself, admonished Wendell Berry, who asked who was using the farmers’ head. Is it the agrichemical industry? Seed companies? The chain that buys your crop? Or is it you thinking for yourself, perhaps with some input from fellow farmers and university researchers?

We seeded the shallots in August, grew them in our greenhouse for sixty days or so, and then planted them out in the early fall. The first-year result is promising. Despite the snowless winter and droughty spring, bulb size, color and quality were all good, and they were ready to harvest a month ahead of the spring-planted crop. We’ll continue to spring-sow a portion of our crop, but we’re pleased to add this new technique to our repertoire. These are the small things that continue to excite this farmer about his craft. Besides, it was fun to prove my old college mate wrong.

All the best, Ted

Week of August 1, Distribution #9

The News from Windflower Farm

What’s in your share?

  • Genovese basil
  • Fennel
  • Eggplant
  • Assorted tomatoes
  • Red leaf lettuce
  • Swiss chard
  • Yellow onions
  • Sweet peppers 
  • Sweet corn

Your fruit share will be blueberries.

Rain on both Monday and Thursday of last week was very helpful, and water levels in both irrigation ponds rose appreciably. Nevertheless, after next week, we’ll be entering a lean stretch at least where greens are concerned. It is a legacy of the extremely dry June and July but bolting because of the heat and flea beetles have also taken their toll. Next week, you’ll get arugula and possibly red leaf lettuce. After that there will be a period of a couple of weeks without any greens save for cabbage. Plantings of spinach, kale, Swiss chard, lettuce and arugula are coming along, but there will be a gap.

While I am sharing sad news: We’ve decided that we aren’t going to host an open house on the farm this year. The drought and on-going pandemic have left us a little worn out. It takes a team to put together the kind of event we’ve held in the past, and not everyone on the team is up for it. If, however, you are in the neighborhood and would like to stop in for a brief visit, we would love to see you.

What’s new on the farm?

The Medinas have just wrapped up today’s tomato harvest, and the consensus is that we are at peak tomato. You can see them at work on our Instagram page. Nate and Jan and Kordehlia are now at work sorting and bagging. Five new large-fruited varieties stand out for us. The large yellow tomato with the starburst of orange on the blossom end is Ginfizz. It has turned out to be a prodigious producer. The tallest vines are 7-8’ high and they are loaded with fruits in every stage of maturation.

The pink tomato varieties, Enroza and Abigail, are also producers. Abigail, the larger of the two, was bred at Johnny’s Selected Seeds by Emily Rose Haga, and occupies a new category in tomato breeding, with a primary emphasis on flavor. Abigail is an F1 hybrid, but it has heirloom parentage. It’s also early, high yielding and resistant to late blight, qualities that I value as a farmer and that aren’t normally associated with heirlooms.

Cherokee Purple, a true heirloom, has been our go-to “purple” variety for years, but this year it has received reinforcements from Marnoaur, a deeply lobed variety, and Cuba Libre, which is somewhat heart shaped. High Mowing Seeds calls these “hylooms,” for the heirloom qualities they are trying to achieve in F1 hybrids. I’m curious to know if you agree that these five are keepers.

I’ll point out three other varieties, not because they are new, but because they appear frequently in your shares: Lucky Tiger is the small green torpedo shaped tomato said to be the best tasting variety from Johnny’s “Artisanal” series. Clementine (orange) and Mountain Magic (red) are a pair of “cocktail” tomatoes – both are round and about the size of ping pong balls, almost too large to pop whole into your mouth, but not if you are a true tomato lover.

This week, you’ll get another big bag of tomatoes – I hope you enjoy them.

Best wishes, Ted

PS. If you are looking to supplement your share with meat, dairy, pantry staples, and other regional food items, our neighbors at Lewis Waite Farm have a lot to offer. You can find more information about them below.

Lewis Waite Farm is both a working grass fed beef and pork farm and an area food hub for over 60 small farmers and food makers. You can keep your food dollars supporting small farms while finding wonderful items to complement the delicious vegetables in your Windflower shares. From meats to cheeses to pantry staples like fruit vinegars or flour, their wide ranging offerings all support NY and VT small farms and food makers. Pick up orders right at CSA distribution on a pre-set schedule, or have food shipped UPS whenever you want. Watch your emails from the Lewis Waite Farmer Network for your ordering window and upcoming deliveries. For more information please see Lewis Waite Farmer Network (localfoodmarketplace.com). Thank you!