Mid-July update

Well, it’s been quite a challenge to keep things updated on the site during the season. Facebook tends to be a much better outlet for that – including frequent pictures from the farm. However, it is worth taking a moment to update here and provide a couple of quick reflections!

The summer share is off to a really great start. For all of the uncertainties that go along with any new venture, starting a CSA has got to be among the things with the most uncertainty. Weather, finding customers, weather, pests, delivery timing, crop timeliness, and did I mention weather? It has been a truly fun, challenging, exhausting, and enjoyable experience – especially when people rave about how great things taste and how good they look.

I’ve just put information on the website for a fall share. This will extend our season into October and November. Given the weirdness of the weather, this will surely be an interesting adventure, and one that we’d love to have you along for!

Here are few recent photos. First, the field as it looks in early July. I’ve tilled up the first spinach crop, and have seeded some turnips there. Beets and kale are doing well to the right. Eggplants, peppers, tomatoes are toward the left, with potatoes behind them and sweet corn in the background.

IMG_2189

 

Here’s a picture of last week’s share (week 5 of the summer). On the right side you see a mix of carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, peas, and a garlic scape… the next picture was sent in by one of our members showing it cooked.

 

IMG_2192

 

The stir-fry mix ready to eat:

 

stirfryfromthefarm

 

And finally – a picture of a special “produce bowl” that was put together as a 4th of July gift (note the red, white and blue (purple) potatoes).

IMG_2168

Radishes

There is so much information “out there” about so many different things.

Today, I came across “radishes”. Radishes are something that I’m not extremely familiar with. I know they come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors and with varying tastes. I found this guide to be helpful in learning more about them: http://www.field-goods.com/food/132-radishes.html

From that site:

Nutritional Value: Radishes are a great source of Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Calcium, Magnesium, Copper and Manganese, Dietary Fiber, Vitamin C, Folate and Potassium. One cup of radishes contains just 19 calories!

Storage: Cut off the greens and store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Scrub radishes right before eating.

Tips: Radishes can be roasted, boiled or steamed!

To roast: Preheat oven to 425º F. Toss sliced radishes with olive oil, spread onto baking sheet and roast for 30-45 minutes until tender and brown.

  • To boil: Bring water to a boil, drop in whole or sliced radishes, and simmer until tender. Simmer for 10-30 minutes depending on desired tenderness.
  • To steam: Steam whole radishes in steamer for 5 to 15 minutes, depending on desired tenderness.

News from the Farm, May 14

Last time I started out saying something about “It’s becoming a trend: each time we get precipitation, I write a newsletter.” So maybe you were expecting to receive some news a couple days ago? We did get a nice 1.2″ of rain, and now I’m getting out another newsletter.

At this point, the only part of the field still covered with the cover crop is the part of the field too wet to till. I’m ready for it to be dry, because I’d like to get that part of the field tilled under and ready for sweet potato planting!

The (regular) potatoes started popping through the ground this week – that is a nice sign! We have had some pest problems – mostly a rabbit. He seems to really enjoy young cauliflower and broccoli plants. I’ve been trying some different things – today it was a spray that I made up from our eggs, some milk, and cayenne pepper. The smell is supposed to deter the rabbits – so I’ll be watching closely to see if it works!

Soil temperatures were up to the upper 50′s last week. That meant we could plant a few rows of sweet corn. Now we hope that it does not come up yet – tomorrow night’s expected low of 34 (!!!!) degrees might be pretty cold for it.

Here are some kohlrabi! These were started in the greenhouse about four weeks ago, and they should be ready for our first deliver in the middle of June.
We are still a few members short of our goal for the summer CSA! If you want to partake in a share of the produce that’s going in the ground now, be sure to sign up!

Here is that rascally rabbit – captured by an infrared camera at 3 in the morning. Maybe we should start feeding him carrots outside the fence, so that he doesn’t feel obligated to find a way to share in the vegetables we are trying to grow.

It’s time to start thinking about our first delivery! The current plan is to start as scheduled – the week of June 16th. If you’ve signed up for the CSA, I’ll be in touch during the first week of June regarding delivery details.

For the first delivery, you can look forward to peas, lettuce, arugula, radishes, kohlrabi… and possibly spinach, turnips, greens, green onions, and maybe a few other surprises. The weather has been cool, which means things are taking longer than expected to get going. A few good, warm weeks and we’ll be in good shape!

Thanks for your support – at all levels! Just reading our newsletter is nice – there is so much work going on here, and we’re glad that people care (about us, and about where your food comes from). We would appreciate you passing on this newsletter or information about New Family Farm to anyone who might be interested in joining our CSA.

Always growing-
Tony

Potato Fritters

Ingredients:
2 lbs potatoes
3 onions
2 shallots
Parsley
4-6 eggs
2 tablespoons flour
Salt
Pepper
Oil for frying

Preparation:Wash, peel and coarsely grate the potatoes. Put them in a cloth and press them. Chop the parsley, shallots, and onions, and mix them in. Add the beaten eggs. Salt and pepper to taste. Prepare with the flour. Heat the oil in a pan until very hot. Form flat cakes out of the potato mixture and fry them in the oil until golden brown on both sides. Special tip: eat them with applesauce!

News from the Farm, April 11th

Most of the field is still covered in rye. This is the winter cover crop – it helps protect soil, hold nutrients and moisture, and comes up green early. Some of the field has been tilled. Of the parts that are tilled, some has been seeded already with peas, carrots, spinach, and beets. And the onion sets are in! Some extra space is tilled already for two reasons: first, in case the field is too wet to work for a while, to kill off some of the cover crop so that it would be ready to plant. Second, one of the weed control methods is to allow the weeds to germinate before planting vegetables. By tilling, it brings the weed seeds to the surface, and allows them to start growing. A couple of days after the weeds start growing, we’ll lightly till or harrow to kill the weeds, and that way when the vegetable seeds are planted there will not be so many weeds to compete with them.

Here’s the field: much still covered in winter rye, with some strips tilled. There are multiple strips – each strip is for 1-2 different crop families. One of the pest control methods is good crop rotation. That means the onions will not be planted in the same place again for at least 3 years.

IMG_1811

Here are the onions! Nearly all of the onions were ordered as “sets”. We ordered 120 bunches, and each bunch contains at least 60 plants. It turns out they average more than 80 plants in each bunch, because with 3,000 row-feet with onions spaced every 3-4 inches… we have about 10,000 onions in the ground!

IMG_1812

 

 

Getting a little help from nephew Ty to put onions in the ground!

It’s exciting to talk about what’s going on in the field, but much of the work right now is going on in the germination house. This is where we start many of the plants that are not direct seeded in the field. It’s also a nice place to work on rainy days!

IMG_1807

So far, things are going well in our first year! Plants are growing, irrigation lines have arrived (just in case!), and equipment is working often enough to get jobs done. Lots of hands have been helping out! We would appreciate you passing on information about New Family Farm to anyone who might be interested in joining our CSA. You can also arrange for a time for me to come talk to a group that would be interested in learning more about us and what we do!

Please be in touch if you have questions or ideas, and I’ll do the same.

Where has March gone?

“March madness” is in full swing. I used to think that only meant basketball. Now I understand that it means both basketball and other things: like starting plants, building greenhouses, waiting for frost to leave the soil so that fence can be built, getting ready to plant potatoes, intended-for-winter tractor repairs that were put off a little too long… and probably quite a few other things. But with March going out like a lamb – despite Iowa State’s loss yesterday – and providing us with some wonderful weather, it’s easy to feel good about getting the season started.

When good weather happens and people work together, lots can be accomplished! We had nearly the whole crew working at various times to help put up a “small” greenhouse. I have to be careful with “small” because we’ve got one that’s 5′ x 6′ — really small! Today we added 10′ x 20′ — still on the small side for what we’re doing, but should be sufficient to get us through this year.

greenhouseconstI have to admit… it was a bit of a surprise that it went up today. Well, it wasn’t because I glued the PVC components together yesterday. But still – that it’s up and looks more or less like I’d thought it would look – well, it feels good. Another surprise today – there’s 100 baby chicks in the back room of the house. We’d been talking about getting more chickens around here for the last several weeks, but never really made plans for how many. Half of them are layers – which means we’ll definitely be able to offer eggs to CSA members as an add-on option for their share. More on that later, because I forgot to even take a picture…

 

Carrot Ginger Soup

This carrot ginger soup was tasty, though the texture did not appeal to everyone. The blended carrots had a very fibery texture. We will have to do some experimenting to see if it’s possible to get a smoother texture – maybe it’s because these carrots were frozen? Maybe they were not cooked through enough when I blended them? Either way, I liked the soup and found this to be a great use of carrots from last season… yet there is always room for improvement!

8 tablespoons · Butter
1 · Onion — peeled and chopped
2 · Garlic cloves
2 tablespoon · Chopped ginger
1 teaspoon · Mustard seed
1 teaspoon · Ground cumin
1 teaspoon · Cinnamon
1 teaspoon · black pepper
20-30 · Carrots (I used frozen)
4 cups · Water
2 cups · Yogurt
4 tablespoons · Honey

I melted the butter in a large frying pan and sauted the onions and garlic. Then I add the spices and cooked several minutes while stirring frequently. In between stirs, I sliced the carrots into discs. Then I added the carrots to the pan and cooked a few minutes longer. Then I added 2 cups water, covered tightly and let simmer for 30 minutes.

 

carrots

 

I scooped the mix into the blender (I did three batches), pureed the cooked carrots and mixed in some of the remaining water to make it puree better. Then I poured the mix out of the blender into a crockpot and whisked in the yogurt and honey. I let the soup heat up for another 30 minutes, being careful not to let it boil (since I’d added the yoghurt).

 

carrot soup

Is CSA right for me?

As I’ve been talking more and more with people about New Family Farm and what we hope to do this year — and for many more years to come — one of the things I notice is that some people just are not right for the CSA model. So I’ve been doing some thinking about who IS right for the CSA model – what kinds of people will be great partners for us in this farming endeavor. Here are some of those thoughts.

  • You like to cook OR want to cook more. The real treat of having fresh, organic food is the flavor, color, texture and freshness. Taking the time to prepare and eat it (or save it for winter) – especially with family and friends – is important to you.
  • You are open to seasonal and local eating. Spring is different than summer is different than fall, and every year is different. We’re in the middle of Iowa – which is different than California. This has big implications for what can be grown (reasonably) in our locale. As the season progresses, one crop comes into being, while another fades away. Some crops just do better (or worse) depending on temperatures, rainfall, and natural insect and disease populations. Each year is different. The important thing to keep in mind is your willingness to eat what naturally does well according to the environment and time of the year.
  • You are open to new foods. You will undoubtedly receive vegetables that are unfamiliar to you. If you are open to this, to take the opportunity to ask other members how they prepare unfamiliar foods or discover new recipes, you will do fine.
  • You want more than food for your money. Although you may save 10-30% on average buying food through the CSA when compared to ‘similar food’ available at retail prices, our members receive additional value. Part of the share cost goes toward maintaining and improving biological diversity (prairie reconstruction, tree and shrub planting, building bird and bat houses, and so on). We expect you to expect us to leave this farm in better shape than we found it.
  • You want to be a part of and support a different kind of food system. The dominant food system today provides cheap calories, concentrates wealth in the hands of corporations, depends heavily on food traveling many food-miles, and emphasizes low-cost and high profits over environmental and social well-being. We want to to be part of changing that, and by supporting us, you show that you want to change it, too. We’re tiny in the big scheme of things, but we believe that many small actions repeated by many people can lead to big change: healthier, happy families and communities.
  • Local is important to you. While population demographics are shifting in Iowa, small town values are not changing, and you want to support local businesses and the relationships that come from knowing the people around you. This extends to doing business with people you know and trust – your banker, insurance agent, grocer, doctor, vet, heating and cooling repairman, and farmer.

Thanks to Small Potatoes Farm for inspiring many items on this list!

 

Reasons to be a member of New Family Farm

Sometimes I get so focused on the financial reasons to be a member of our farm that I forgot to talk about some of the many other reasons. To me – the financial reasons alone are enough: receiving a great product at below market rates while supporting local business.

  • The freshest, best produce you can get. We aim to harvest within 24 hours of delivery so that items are at peak maturity for flavor and quality. Unless you have a home garden, you can’t get it any fresher than this!
  • A diverse, healthy diet based on in-season produce. We raise over 40 different varieties of vegetables.
  • Our farm’s commitment to sustainable agriculture and community. I have a Ph.D. in sustainability, and want to use the farm to help “connect people with food” while helping people see the broader implications for the choices we make in our lives. I could go on and on – please ask me if you’d like to talk more about this.
  •  Iowa’s growing local food system. Iowa continues to grow its capacity to connect food grown by agricultural entrepreneurs with people who care about the food they eat and the community those systems support. Connecting people with food – through farm memberships, farmers markets, and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), are among the leading models of Iowa’s local food system.

Check out our member options for 2014!