Monday, December 29, 2008
If you are not already member our enrollment forms will be on our website at www.roxburyfarm.com on Feb. 1. Download the form, fill it out, and send it in.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Last week we took advantage of the mild weather to harvest the celeriac, rutabaga, and cabbages. They were the last of the storage crops to bring in from the fields. All of the root crops are now stored in 20-bushel bins in the barn and the cooler. The bins are stacked six high to the ceiling in the barn and are quite imposing to look at. We will have plenty of root vegetables and winter squash to deliver for the last two weeks. In the field we can still harvest the curly “Winterboer” kale and Brussels sprouts. Unfortunately, the Brussels sprouts are diseased due to the wet summer weather, so we won’t find enough for all of you. If the cold this weekend doesn’t damage the broccoli and cauliflower, we may still be able to harvest those, too.
The crew is busy in the barn packing and washing root crops. It is a lengthy process to clean and pack thousands of pounds of root and storage crops. It does provide us with work that is under cover and out of the cold wind, but we get a little antsy for some outdoor work. We have two washers for root crops so that we can deliver them clean and sorted. We bag some of the washed produce, such as the carrots and parsnips, so that they will stay crisp and flavorful. We don’t wash other crops, like the sweet potatoes and potatoes, so that they will store better in your cupboards. The sweet potatoes are cured in the greenhouse right after harvesting. We keep them at 85 degrees for a week. The curing process makes the sweet potatoes sweet and heals over any cuts that the roots received during harvesting. Once the sweet potatoes are cured, we have to handle them like eggs because any new cuts or damage to the skin will cause the roots to rot quickly. The sweet potato crop is storing much better this year because we harvested them before the weather turned cold.
All of the cover crops are planted and some have grown quite a bit for a thick winter cover.
The later-planted rye is up about 6 inches, just enough to protect the soil over the winter, and will begin to grow again in the early spring. By June the rye will be about five feet tall and ready to cut for straw mulch. John spent a couple of weeks spreading compost in early September so that we won’t have to in the spring. Then he seeded oats in the fields for our early crops like lettuce, potatoes, parsnips, and the plasti-culture crops. The oats will die over the winter. In late March and early April we can lightly till the soil and it will be ready for planting. The rye fields will be ready for the fall crops in July and August. Other fields are in clover and grass to build soil fertility and for hay. But, for now the fields are done with growing things and are at rest for the winter.
In the animal realm of the farm, the ram is in with the ewes and the boar is in with the sows. As the day length shortens, the ewes go into estrus. We want the ewes to lamb in late March and early April, so we put the ram in the ewe pasture on November 1st. Right now, we have 45 ewes, one ram, and one whether (the ram’s sidekick when he isn’t in with the ewes, so he won’t get lonely). That means we should have about 60 to 70 lambs in the spring. We have two sows in with our Tamworth boar. We should have about 20 to 25 piglets in early March. We purchased a Tamworth boar as they are traditionally a pasture-raised breed and are able to get some nutrients from grazing. The boar made this very clear as he found ways to constantly escape the greenhouse barn last spring to get on the sheep pasture to graze. We had no idea that a pig could jump four feet high! The sheep and pigs have access to the greenhouse barn and pasture all winter. This keeps them healthier and the barn cleaner.
The 2009 seed catalogs are beginning to arrive in the mail. Over the next couple of weeks we will talk with the crew about what crops did well, what varieties we really liked, and what varieties we would like to change. We will read up on new varieties and take recommendations from other farmers and our Cornell Cooperative Extension Agent, Chuck Bornt. We will then choose our varieties for the 2009 season and place our seed orders before the new year begins. As this season draws to a close we are planning and looking forward to another. We hope you will join us as we journey through a new growing season. ~ Jody
FALL DELIVERY SCHEDULE:
Capital District: Nov. 18 & Dec. 2
Westchester: Nov. 19 & Dec. 3
NYC: Nov. 20 & Dec. 4
Columbia County: Nov. 21 & Dec. 5
There will be the optional storage box delivery on your regular pick-up day the week of Dec. 15th. Check the sign-in sheet at your pickup site to see if you purchased a storage vegetable box. It is the last column on the sign-in sheet. (If you ordered a box recently, your name is not on the list yet.)
2009 ENROLLMENT FORMS: Make sure to find your enrollment form at your pickup site. Please return the form and your deposit by January 6, 2009, to reserve your share. If you send it in after January 6 we can not guarantee we will still have shares available. We have a long list of people on the waiting, so make sure you don’t miss out.
HERBED RUTABAGA COUSCOUS SALAD
1 medium rutabaga1
½ c. freshly grated parmesan or asagio cheese
¼ c. white wine vinegar
1 ½ t. honey
1 t. dried thyme
1 t. dried oregano
1 t. dried dill
½ t. cayenne pepper
1 t. coarse salt
½ t. freshly ground black peper
¾ c. extra virgin olive oil
Peel and dice the rutabaga into ½ inch cubes. Place the cubed rutabaga into a medium pot and fill with enough cool water to cover by about an inch. Add a pinch of salt and place the pot over medium high heat to bring it to a gentle boil. Cook rutabaga just until tender enough to be pieced easily by a fork, about 10-15 minutes. Dump into a strainer and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking process. Place in a large bowl.
Cook coucous according to package directions. Rinse with cool water to stop the cooking process and remove excess starch so couscous doesn’t stick together. Put on top of cooked rutabaga in the large bowl.
To make the herb vinaigrette, place all of the ingredients in a jar or a blender. Give them a good long shake or a whirl and then taste to adjust seasonings. It should be somewhat salty. Pour vinaigrette over bowl of rutabaga and couscous and then toss gentle to coat evenly.
Just before serving, add the grated cheese. Taste and adjust salt as desired. Serve warm or cold. Makes a great leftover lunch.
Herb-Mixed Carrots and Rutabagas
2 large carrots, peeled
1 large rutabaga, peeled
2 T. butter
1 T. chopped parsley
1 t. chopped thyme
1 t. chopped rosemary
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1 large garlic clove, minced
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 c. fresh panko or bread crumbs, browned in a teaspoon of butter
Quarter carrots and rutabaga. Cook carrots and rutabaga separately in salted boiling water until they are al dente; approximately 10 minutes for carrots and 15 for rutabaga. Drain.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat and melt butter. Add the turnip and rutabaga; cook over medium-high heat until golden brown. Add herbs, garlic, salt and pepper. Toss to coat and remove from stove. Serve immediately topped with breadcrumbs.
From Straight from the Farm http://straightfromthefarm.wordpress.com
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Chlorophyll gives leaves their bright green color and is very dominant. Once the green fades, the other colors in the leaf become visible to us. With oak trees all we get is a plain brown, while the sugar maples can turn a magnificent red which is due from the sugars that get trapped behind the abscission layer. The glucose turns red from the presence of anthocyanin, an anti-oxidant that we find in all red and purple fruits and vegetables like berries, tomatoes, beets, apples and grapes. The orange in the leaves comes from carotenes and the yellow from xanthophyll, which we find plentiful in carrots, squash, and sweet potatoes. Apparently the cool nights and abundant sunshine we experienced during October of this year made for a better than average fall color show.
Fall is a time of transformation and a very similar process takes place with our annual, biannual, or perennial crops. The annuals include salad greens, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, and also the many garden weeds. Annuals survive the winter by completing the cycle of reproduction in one year with the production of an abundant seed supply. Pigweed, a common garden-weed, produces hundreds of thousands of seeds per plant. Every weed left in the field represents another generation of future weeds. Seeds can be tough and many survive the stomachs of our farm animals, wet soil conditions, and freezing temperatures. We use many annuals in the garden and their flexibility and vigor is an important trait as each year we can improve their qualities as new varieties become available.
The biennials have a different way to survive the winter. Some of the biennials are frost hardy greens like kale and collards. They have their own way to survive the cold temperatures. Due to the frost, their leaves turn sweet and lose some of their bitterness and the increased
glucose acts like antifreeze. Whenever someone tells me they don’t like Brussels sprouts I wonder if it is because they have never tasted a good one. Most of the cole crops available in the store come from the balmy West Coast. Cole crops and other greens harvested in October or November in the Northeast not only have superior taste and flavor, they are an important source of vitamin K, anti-oxidants, folate, magnesium, and even omega 3 fatty acids. So, eat those vegetables if you plan to be around for a while as these are compounds that keep us young!
With other biennials the leaves die back, allowing the underground parts and/or thick stems to remain alive. Carrots, sweet potatoes, parsnips, potatoes, beets, rutabaga, onions, and even cabbage and broccoli are all biennials that create an abundance of food to survive the winter and store it in their tubers, roots or stems. Instead of leaving them in the field we bring them inside our barn, and store them under optimum conditions.
There is another way we store the summer into the winter; the grasses and clovers of the pasture became beef and lamb. Even the butcher hogs and turkeys consumed high amounts of green plants and other culled vegetables from the packing barn. Animals raised on green plants, ripe fruits, and other colored vegetables are superior in health to animals raised on a grain only diet. If vegetables are good for us, we shouldn’t deprive the animals from it. What would your health be like if you would live on a diet of rice and beans only? Studies have shown that meat from pastured animals contains more anti-oxidants than meat from grain fed animals and a diet of grass prevents lipid oxidation (a major cause of deterioration of meat affecting flavor, color, texture, and nutritive value). But, besides that, to us it is simply intuitive that there is something fundamentally wrong with putting an animal in a barn deprived of sunlight, green plants, and colorful fruits. So we don’t keep as many animals over the winter as in the summer which is the reason we only provide you with meat in the fall.
So while it is getting colder, summer is not really over. Summer lives on in the crops that have been brought in to the barn like potatoes, winter-squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, onions, and beets. The summer lives on in the many hay bales stored in the barn that will slowly be fed to the animals. Summer lives on in the field in the frost-hardy greens and lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and in the root crops like the celeriac and rutabaga that will soon be harvested. And summer lives on in the meat from our animals.
With the exception of cool weather loving crops like spinach, cauliflower and broccoli, most crops have stopped growing. These days the fields are like a giant walk in cooler. In the morning we put on an extra layer, wear neoprene gloves to keep our hands from freezing and harvest what is left. Let the warmth of the summer’s sun, preserved in our food, shine in our bellies.
“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower”. ~Albert Camus
Capital District: Oct. 28, Nov. 4 & 18, Dec. 2
Westchester: Oct. 29, Nov. 5 & 19, Dec. 3
NYC: Oct. 30, Nov. 6 & 20, Dec. 4
Columbia County: Oct. 31, Nov. 7, 14, & 21, Dec. 5
There will be the optional storage box delivery on your regular pickup day the week of Dec. 15th.
2009 ENROLLMENT FORMS:
Look for your 2009 enrollment form at your pickup site this week. YOU HAVE UNTIL JANUARY 6 TO RESERVE YOUR MEMBERSHIP. We have a long waiting list so please send your form in on time so that your share is reserved for the 2009 season. Please post-date your deposit check for January 1, 2009.
We will have more pork available in a couple of weeks. The lamb will be available in two weeks. We still have some beef cuts available: chuck roast (boneless), rib steak, porterhouse steak, t-bone steak, short ribs, and soup bones.
1 – 1-1/2 pounds fresh greens, washed, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic
Salt & pepper
1/2 cup sour cream
Steam the greens about 5-10 minutes or until nearly cooked but still bright-colored. Meanwhile, melt butter in large skillet on MEDIUM HIGH. Add onion and garlic, sauté until soft, stirring occasionally. Stir in the greens. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the sour cream, let warm briefly. Serve immediately.
2 tablespoons butter
4 medium beets, peeled, grated (about 4 cups)
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 small red cabbage, shredded (about 3 cups)
2 carrots, peeled, grated (about 1 cup)
1 bay leaf
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon sugar
8 cups meat or vegetable broth
1/4 pound spicy sausage (such as andouille), optional
4 tablespoons sour cream, optional
Heat butter in four-quart kettle. Add beets. Cook until soft and almost brown. Add salt, flour and vinegar. Add cabbage, carrots, bay leaf, garlic, sugar and broth. Simmer at least 2 hours. Add water if too much liquid evaporates. Close to serving time, cook sausage in boiling water until fully cooked. Drain and slice. Place soup in bowls and top with sausage and sour cream.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
In thinking about what type of livestock would fit well on the farm we took a careful look at what type of environment the animal would require. In other words, what makes a pig a pig and what makes a sheep a sheep. Wild boars live in the woods where they can root with their thick snouts for insects, grubs, and roots and where they can stay out of the sun. Our pigs live in two separate wooded pastures with plenty of space so that they don’t damage the woodland. We feed them thousands of pounds of culled vegetables from the fields and a grain mix milled by a local farmer. The grain is a mix of corn and soybeans. They also eat the spent barley from a local brewery. Pigs are omnivores and require the protein found in the grain in order to be healthy and plump animals.
Our sheep and Black Angus steers are raised solely on grass. Our pastures are a mix of grasses, native plants, and clovers. These animals aren’t physiologically meant to eat grain. Their multiple stomachs turn grass and clover into bone and muscle. It is quite amazing to watch them grow over the summer months as they graze over the farm. In some people’s experience, grass-fed meat products are tough and unpleasant to eat. Traditionally grain-fed cattle and sheep have marbled and tender meat. Unfortunately, these animals are also almost always sick from eating too much grain. Our steaks are tender and marbled because we carefully manage our pastures to include a rich mix of clover. The clover is high in protein in a form the animals can digest.
This year we also raised a few turkeys on pasture. We feed them organic grain from a feed company in Vermont. They also enjoy clover and pecking through the pasture for insects. They have equated humans with food and are quite tame. The whole flock follows us around the pasture when we refill their feeders. We have two breeds, the standard Large White, which is – you won't believe it – large and white, and the Broad-Breasted Bronze, which is a brown turkey with iridescent feathers and a huge breast. Broad Breasted Bronze toms (male turkeys) puff out their feathers and show off their tails just like the classic Thanksgiving motif. We only have 50 birds, so we can’t supply too many of you for your holiday meals. We are going to harvest them soon. If you are interested in a turkey we will ask you to pick it up at the farm on the day of the harvest and freeze it on your own. We don’t have enough freezer space for 50 birds at this point.
We enjoy raising animals and they are an important part of the farm. Their manure returns nutrients to the soil, their grazing improves the pasture and hay fields, and they inhabit parts of the farm that otherwise become overgrown with sumac and rose bushes. They add life to the farm in ways vegetables just aren’t able to. They also give us the opportunity to provide you with meat products that are raised sustainably and with respect. It isn’t easy to harvest our animals, but I don’t think it should be. Not all of you eat meat – in fact I don’t myself. But it is important to me that we provide an alternative to the meat products found in the grocery store. By making the choice to eat meat raised on a small farm where a pig can be a pig, you say “no” to the confinement operations and large meat-packing plants where the quality of life for the animals and workers is not considered. This choice returns the raising and harvesting of meat into the hands of farmers and butchers who are careful and considerate in their work.
Look for pork and beef order forms at your pickup site and on our website http://www.roxburyfarm.com/. The meat will be delivered frozen. Lamb order forms will be at your site and online next week.
TURKEYS: We will be harvesting the 45 to 50 turkeys on November 3rd. If you are interested in a turkey you will need to pick it up at the farm on Tuesday, November 4th. You can pay for the turkey when you pick it up. They will be $4.50/lb and weigh between 12.5 to 30 lbs. The turkeys will be fresh and you will have to freeze them. Email the farm at email@example.com if you are interested. We will call you to let you know at what time to pick up your turkey.
FALL DELIVERY SCHEDULE:
Capital District: Oct. 21 & 28, Nov. 4 & 18, Dec. 2
Westchester: Oct. 22 & 29, Nov. 5 & 19, Dec. 3
NYC: Oct. 23 & 30, Nov. 6 & 20, Dec.4
Columbia County: Oct. 24 & 31, Nov. 7, 14, & 21, Dec. 5
There will be the optional storage box delivery on your regular pick-up day the week of Dec. 15th.
TWICE BAKED SWEET POTATOES
2 medium sweet potatoes
8 oz. chopped broccoli1
1/2 cup cottage cheese
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 cup shredded cheddar or jack cheese
Bake sweet potatoes in 350 oven until done. Scoop out the potato halves, leaving a 1/4-inch thick border so you don't pierce the skin. In a bowl, mash the potatoes. Combine potatoes with broccoli, and cottage cheese. Scoop the potato mixture into the shells. Top each shell with 1/4 cup shredded cheese. Bake for 15 minutes or broil for 5 minutes, or until the cheese melts and browns on top. Top with chopped parsley and serve. (Serves 2 as an entrée.)
From Chief Family Officer at: http://www.chieffamilyofficer.com/
SWEET POTATO QUESADILLAS
2 medium sweet potatoes
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp oregano
1 tbsp basil
1 tsp cumin
chile powder to taste
olive oil for sauté
Cut sweet potatoes into chunks, cook in steamer basket or microwave until soft, then mash. Chop and sauté garlic and onion in a large skillet. Add spices and sweet potato, mix well, adding a little water if it’s too sticky. Turn burner very low to keep warm without burning.
4 flour tortillas
4 oz. Brie or other medium soft cheese
2-3 leaves Kale (or other greens)
Preheat oven to 400. Oil a large baking sheet, spread tortillas on it to lightly oil one side, then spread filling on half of each. Top with slices of Brie and shredded chard, then fold tortillas to close (oiled side out). Bake until browned and crisp (about 15 min.), cut into wedges for serving.
From Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver at http://www.animalvegetablemiracle.com/
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Last Monday night we experienced our first frost. The peppers and eggplant that you received a week ago were the last of this season. Unfortunately, the tomatoes are gone as well for the year. Before the first frost we usually harvest three to four 20-bushel bins of green tomatoes that we ripen in the greenhouse. We can usually deliver tomatoes into November. This year the last planting of tomatoes was so diseased that there weren’t any green tomatoes to harvest. In total, you received 11 weeks of tomatoes, nine weeks of eggplant, and 10 weeks of peppers this season.
We finished harvesting the sweet potatoes on Friday. In the past we used to wait until the first frost to harvest the sweet potatoes because the frost killed the thick sweet potato vines. The vines clog up our potato digger and cause many breakdowns of the equipment. We noticed that over the last few years that the sweet potatoes weren’t storing very well. Jean-Paul had a long discussion with our sweet potato plant farmer this winter about how to increase the storage length of the sweet potatoes. The farmer instructed us to harvest the sweet potatoes earlier, before the soil temperature fell below 55° F. He said most farmers mow the vines so that they don’t clog up the root digger. We were able to harvest the first half of the sweet potatoes when the soil temperature was above 55° F. Then, it rained and rained and the soil temperature fell. We covered the last half of the crop with floating row cover in an attempt to keep the soil warmer. The weather provided us with an experiment: We can now compare sweet potatoes harvested when the soil was warm with sweet potatoes harvested after the soil temperature fell.
Earlier in the season, the farm was bursting with crops in all of our many small vegetable fields. Now, as the growing season comes to a close, we are harvesting most of the items in the shares from one field. This is the first year we grew vegetables in this field. Three years ago it was a hay field. We worked up the field in July 2006 and applied chicken manure and gypsum to bring the soil chemistry into line with what we need to grow healthy vegetables. We harrowed the field for a few weeks to help control the weeds. Then we seeded rye and vetch. In 2007, we harvested the rye and vetch for straw mulch for our summer crops. Then we seeded buckwheat. Buckwheat is one of the few cover crops that will grow in the heat of the summer. It also grows very thickly and smothers any weeds that come up. The buckwheat was killed by the first frost and the thick layer of dead plant matter protected the field over the winter. This spring we planted oats and bell beans. The bell beans fix high levels of nitrogen so that we can grow healthy fall broccoli, cauliflower, and other greens. In June, we plowed under the bell beans and oats, and finally began planting vegetables. Whenever we look at any of our fields, we are imagining what it will be in two or three years and reflecting on what was planted in it during the last three or four seasons.
We will have parsnips this season. We know that you have been disappointed during the last few years when the parsnips failed to germinate. They are among the first crops we seed in the spring and they are slow to germinate. By the time we can see if the parsnips are coming up well or not, it is too late to seed another crop. This year we paid close attention to the careful preparation of the beds for the parsnips. We cultivated the beds three times to destroy the weeds that would crowd out the slow-growing parsnips. We also irrigated the field before we seeded the parsnips, so that the seeds would have moisture from the moment the soil closed in around them. We irrigated again a few days after we seeded the crop. Then we crossed our fingers and watched the rows every day for evidence of parsnip germination. It was a success! Now we'll wait for a few more nights of frost that will make the parsnips sweet and delicious before we begin to harvest them.
As the weather continues to turn colder, the vegetables in the share reflect our desire for warm, hearty dishes. The shares from now until December will include: sweet potatoes, potatoes, beets, carrots, parsnips, celeriac, rutabaga, salad mix (we hope), braising greens, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and winter squash. ~Jody
Look for pork orders at your pick-up site this week or you can download the form from our website at www.roxburyfarm.com. Beef order forms will be available at your pick-up site and on the website next week. Lamb and turkey order forms will follow in the coming weeks.
THANK YOU! Thank you to the members who joined us for a wonderful day of garlic splitting, garlic planting, and moving sheep to new pasture. We enjoyed your company and are grateful for your help. NYC: Rick, Gloria & Russel Mills-Williams and Judith & William Norman CAPITAL DISTRICT: Dick & Eileen Shirey, Laura Sommers, and Richard Verruto COLUMBIA COUNTY: Chris Grimes, Heather Grimes, Paul Poux, Dianne Klinger, and Susan & Faruk Ortabas
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Without any value judgment of his statements, I already see some evidence of this on a small scale around us. While I know of one commodity farmer who can’t pay his monthly bills anymore, others are lining up to pick up his real estate – they know that this is a buyer's market. Land prices have fallen to levels of about six years ago; they have adjusted, as we all knew that these prices could not hold up. At one point, the farmer was offered over $3 million for his property. We will be happy for him if he gets half of that today, which would be enough to pay off his mortgage.
I talked with other farmers who have direct relationships with their customers. I don’t see any fear. I see optimism that finally our products will be met with more appreciation. The days of lavish dinners at fancy restaurants might be over, and eaters think that the local, high-quality vegetables, milk, and meat we produce are the next best thing to offer a better quality of life.
We will be presenting you with a new share price soon. We know we will have to go up in price and we will try our best to minimize any share price increases, but we can’t work harder for less money. It will be extremely difficult in a time like this to make any projections on whether our expenses will go up or down. We have heard from many of you that your support of the farm comes from a deeper commitment than solely purchasing produce. But at the same time we feel bad that we need to ask you for more support, especially when some of our produce this year did not meet our standards. While we had some great crops, the lettuce and tomatoes took a hard hit in both quantity and quality from the severe weather we endured. There will be a slight share price increase, but we also assure you that we will cut any unnecessary expenses. The trouble will be to find any, as we pride ourselves on running a pretty lean and efficient enterprise already.
One place where we are going to attempt to save on unnecessary expenses may at first glance seem upside down. We are looking for a new tractor to replace our largest Case tractor that does most of our primary tillage. This year alone we spent over $6,000 on repairs on this tractor alone. A year ago we shopped around for a new tractor and I was surprised by the unwillingness of the dealers to negotiate the asking price. They were telling us that as soon as the tractors were rolling off the assembly line they were shipped directly to a farm. Corn and soybean farmers were rolling in cash due to the ethanol and biodiesel bubble. That bubble has burst too; the expansion of ethanol plants is capped and corn prices are down. Suddenly farmers became fearful and stopped ordering equipment and new tractors. While this winter was not a good time to purchase a new tractor, these days excess inventory has caused prices to tumble and they are accompanied by offers of zero percent financing. I am reminded of Warren Buffet's words: Is it time for us to be greedy and make the move to trade in our 20-year-old Case IH 5140?
When Warren Buffet bought GE stock he said: “I did not spend any money; I invested it.” When we buy equipment, we think similarly; a reliable tractor allows us to get the work done at the right moment and does not unexpectedly impact our budget by presenting us with large repair bills. Equipment acquisitions are not truly part of the share price; we set a portion of the total share price aside for capital improvements that allow the farm to increase efficiency and to better control its long-term future. With the erratic weather pattern, it is becoming more important to have reliable equipment. Some of the down time of the Case tractor this year delayed planting, which resulted in missed succession plantings, causing smaller shares. So, if you do see a brand-new, shiny tractor on the farm next year, remember we will not (as Warren Buffet said) have spent any money; rather, we will have invested in our future. It is one of those demonstrations that we are in this for the long haul. Yeah, maybe it is that simple.
We are in the middle of harvesting the fall root crops. Here is the crew harvesting the beets for this week's share. We had our first frost of the season on Monday night which causes the root crops and leafy greens to be much sweeter in taste than the ones harvested before the frost.
The garlic planting workday will be this Saturday, Oct. 11. We hope the weather will cooperate with us this time! Meet us at 10:00 am at the North Farm location at the CSA barn. You can find directions to the North Farm by going on our website www.roxburyfarm.com and clicking on Directions and then click on To the CSA Barn on the bar on the photo. Bring your water bottle, sunscreen, warm clothes, place settings, and a potluck dish to share.
WORDS OF WISDOM:
Here is some advice from Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: “If every U.S. citizen ate just one meal a week (any meal) composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country’s oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week…. Small changes in buying habits can make big differences. Becoming a less energy-dependent nation just may need to start with a good breakfast.”
BEET PANCAKE WITH ROSEMARY
1 to 1 1/2 pounds beets
1 t. chopped fresh rosemary
1 t. salt
1/4 cup flour
2 T. butter
1. Trim the beets and peel them as your would potatoes; grate them in a food processor or by hand. Begin preheating a medium to large non-stick skillet over medium heat.
2. Toss the grated beets in a bowl with the rosemary and salt, then add about half the flour; toss well, add the rest of the flour, then toss again.
3. Place the butter in the skillet and heat until it begins to turn nut-brown. Scrape the beet mixture into the skillet, shape it into a nice circle, and press it down with a spatula. Turn the heat to medium-high and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until the bottom of the beet cake is nicely crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Slide the cake out onto a plate, top with another plate, invert the two plates, and slide the cake back into the pan. Continue to cook, adjusting the heat if necessary, until the second side is browned. Cut into wedges and serve immediately.
SWEET PEPPER PASTA TOSS WITH KALE
1 (8oz.) package uncooked farfalle (bow tie) pasta
1 T. olive oil
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
1 medium yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 cup roughly chopped kale
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pinch dried basil
1 pinch ground cayenne pepper
Salt and black pepper to taste
8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes; drain.
2. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in red pepper, yellow pepper, kale and garlic. Season with basil, cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper. Cook until vegetables are tender.
3. In a large bowl, toss cooked pasta with skillet mixture. Sprinkle with feta cheese to serve.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
There have always been individuals around who provided us with a different perspective on the world. Back in the 19th century, as the world entered the industrial revolution, people like Emerson, Hawthorne, and Thoreau offered us a different road map. Their perspective was viewed as naïve and transcendentalism was looked down on as a quack philosophy. Even if some of the aspects were a bit flaky, imagine if mankind had adopted their world view of nature as a partner and humanity as a unique individual of free choice; where would we be today? Instead we have fully embraced the benefits and conveniences of the industrial revolution, and we have given up our true individual freedom. Only slowly, because there is little left, do we see some reversal of the 19th-century perspective on nature as a savage wilderness, an impediment to mankind, and the opposite of true civilization. But just as individualism is currently expressed in our clothing, our return to nature is still somewhat sentimental. From the perspective of Thoreau, very little of our socio-economic life is based on our respect for nature and its laws.
Rudolf Steiner was one of those visionaries who drew lessons from the laws of nature. In the course of eight lectures he emphasized the farm as a living organism and viewed the farm as an individuality – closed system – (Agriculture June 7-16 1924). Steiner was also a vocal critic of connecting land to capital and credit (World Economy, lecture V, July 28, 1922). He warned that connecting land (real estate) with credit and capital is harmful to the economic process.
He argued that: “In a healthy economic process we must not and cannot give credit based on the security of land, even to a person working the land. He/she too should only receive personal credit – that is to say, credit which will enable him/her to turn the capital to good account through the land.” In light of the housing bailout, I was reminded of Steiner’s words. As it is with most of Steiner’s work, his advice is always highly sensible, but I am reminded that this kind of practicality never gets a foot on the ground, as it is always opposed by personal greed.
Okay here we go, more bad news: “Modern day agriculture contaminates our water supply with the use of mineral fertilizer and pesticides. Researchers say this year's dead zone may be the largest ever recorded due to increased fertilizer use in the Midwest and flooding along the Mississippi River dumping even more water than usual into the Gulf of Mexico.” Over time, agriculture (through excessive tillage) and forestry (through clear cutting) is responsible for the release of trillions of tons of carbon; on top of this, methane out of manure in feedlots and nitrogen oxide out of fertilizer adds even greater to the greenhouse effect.
So, if an enlightened perspective can’t get us out of this other impending crash, can we do it out of self interest? For the simple reason of survival, regenerative agriculture will need to become part of any solution. Adopting these practices will not only help retain nutrients in the soil and keep them out of our water supply, oceans, and atmosphere, we will even be able to sequester carbon. According to Timothy LaSalle of the Rodale Institute, 20% of all carbon emitted in the U.S. can be sequestered if farmers switch to regenerative farming methods. If his figures are correct, this would amount to about 300 million metric tons of carbon a year. So, while I would like to appeal to your highest and noblest intentions – yeah, the Thoreau in you – I remind you that the furthering and adoption of regenerative agriculture will be good for your future pocketbook as well. Organic farming is not only about food safety, it is about global safety. After this crash, we learned that we can’t count on our leaders to take care of this – at least so long as Monsanto and Cargill have their ear. ~Jean-Paul
The garlic planting workday will be Saturday, Oct. 11. We hope the weather will cooperate with us this time! Meet us at 10:00 am at the North Farm location at the CSA barn. Bring your water bottle, sunscreen, warm clothes, place settings, and a potluck dish to share.
CALLING FOR QUESTIONS:
What would you like to hear about in the upcoming farm newsletters? Send us your questions or comments, we would love to hear from you. email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
¾ lb of Asian Braising Greens
2 TBS Pumpkin Seed Oil
Pinch of ginger
Pinch of anise
1 tsp Tamari
Sliver of soft goat cheese
Rinse and dry the greens. Stack them on top of each other and roll (you may need more than one stack) and cut them into thin strips. In a good skillet or wok, on medium heat, add the pumpkin seed oil. When it has heated add the greens. After a minute add the tamari, ginger, and anise. Cook for a few more minutes. Add the goat cheese in small pieces until it melts. Take off the heat and serve. from Gluten Free Girl at www.glutenfreegirl.blogspot.com
Garlicky Greens or Beans
Asian Braising Greens, Bok Choi, or Green Beans
1 tsp fresh ginger root (minced)
1 garlic clove (minced)
2 TBS water
1 TBS soy sauce or tamari
1 tsp cornstarch
½ tsp brown sugar
½ tsp sesame oil
¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
Vegetable oil for cooking
Heat oil in a wok or skillet. Saute garlic and ginger for 1-2 minutes then add your vegetable (if using green beans lightly steam first) and sauté for a few minutes. Combine the water, tamari, cornstarch, brown sugar, sesame oil, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl and stir until combined. Add to the skillet and stir fry with your vegetable for 30 seconds. Serve. from www.blogchef.net
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Please join us in October for planting garlic. Check the newsletters and the blog for the exact date. Hopefully the weather will be more cooperative then.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Roxbury Farm’s greatest strength is to be found in our direct relationship with you, the members. The members come first as they provide the farm with financial security. We also see strength in the choice of a long-term land tenure model that frees the farm up from heavy financial obligations. This tool also provides safekeeping to the members by guaranteeing the farm’s continuation beyond me and Jody. This land tenure model includes a resale restriction on the farm house, which is tied to the 99-year lease. This will allow the farm to remain affordable to any future farmer. A future transition (which we hope will not happen for at least another thirty years) can only be to another working farmer, as opposed to a developer or hobby farmer. Last, our strength-within-a-strength is the long list of prospective members who will replace any non-renewals.
Roxbury Farm’s weaknesses are the seasonality of operating a farm in the Northeast, which makes it difficult to attract a permanent staff and allows us to use equipment only for a short period of the year (with payments and depreciation for the full twelve months). But having to work with a different crew each season can also be a strength, as new people make for new friends and they sometimes offer us fresh and exciting insights. Another weakness is our reliance on oil. Here we can observe another paradox, as the members who live far away are also our greatest strength; you allow us to operate at a critical scale. Another “weakness” of the farm is that we cannot expand it to reduce costs. The farm as a living organism is not only limited by its acreage, but also by the number of people that make for a cohesive crew.
Our opportunities include a membership that is asking us for more than just vegetables. While we have maxed out our ability to produce “in season” vegetables, we have a real opportunity to expand our lamb, beef, and turkey operations. We have reached the optimum number of butcher hogs that we can keep, because an increase would do damage to the woods instead of improving them. If we were able to build better cold storage (which also means a greater reliance on energy), we could expand the delivery season with root crops, cabbage, and winter squash. This would also allow us to provide longer-term employment for the crew.
One threat is the short-term security we have left on our packing house and barns at the South Farm. We have seven years left on our lease before we need to rebuild. The price of energy, which impacts everything from gas to wages and supplies, is also a threat to the sustainability of the farm; to what extent can we pass on all these increases to our members without pricing the share out of reach for most of you? We get the impression that many people must have stopped shopping at Whole Foods, as that company has posted substantial losses in the past few months. Are CSAs affected by a tightening economy as well? The weakening of the economy in New York state in particular adds to this issue. The pain of the collapse of Wall Street will be felt most in our state.
Another threat is the tightening regulation on food safety. If the FDA decides to treat small farmers as food processors because we sell salad greens, we will have to spend an exorbitant amount of money to comply with their standards. FDA please get it: We do not process food, nor do we have feedlots contaminating our fields, and neither do we re-use and filter our rinsing water. Food safety is, in their minds, still an equipment issue; we know it is mostly a human issue, or rather the lack of real human interaction with the product. Every time something is produced on a very large scale, mistakes are only discovered when it is already too late.
Yet another threat to the farm is the changing of weather patterns. We have already had to bear the brunt of that this year. Based on more than just this year’s experience, we don’t think that drought will be a major threat to the Northeast – rather, it is excessive rainfall.
When I add all these considerations, I realize that we have already taken some action to avert some of these threats. We bought (yes, we took out an additional mortgage) another ten acres of flat, well-drained land that is highly suitable for a new washing and packing barn. This spring we built a farm road that connects this new piece of land to our other land. Unfortunately, it borders on some of the wettest pieces, so drainage tile will need to be installed to continue this new road to our existing farm road. Drainage tile looks more and more like a necessity as this year’s wet conditions caused too many losses in the field, from lettuce to tomatoes. A new packing barn is the answer to a lot of the possible threats, but also puts Roxbury Farm in a vulnerable position, as the price tag for this project would be near $500,000. As we are making attempts to lessen our threats, we add to our weaknesses. In this economy we will be hard pressed to take on such an obligation. We need financial advice and we have started to work with Hudson Columbia Partnership in identifying possible funding and sources for low-interest financing.
If New York state is in trouble, maybe the time has come for it to reach out to its many small businesses, especially the businesses that help prepare us to deal with a world beyond cheap oil. We are proud that we have never asked for government support, but the time has come to change our mind on this one. This mess has shaken all of us up, but if we all become shell-shocked, we will never get out of it. As stretched as it might sound, now is the time for action and strong government support for the greening of New York state. We will be able to strike two birds with one stone: weaning off of our oil dependence and basing the strength of our economy on small businesses that actually produce something, as derivatives have proven to be anything but productive. ~ Jean-Paul
Thank you to the many members who contributed to the fuel surcharge. We are grateful for your trust and support. The words of encouragement you sent along with the contributions are greatly appreciated and lifted our spirits.
USDA REQUESTS INFORMATION ON GENETICALLY ENGINEERED ANIMALS
Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has began seeking information from the public and industry about whether additional consideration is needed when genetically engineered (GE) animals are imported or moved across the country.
Consideration will be given to comments received on or before Nov. 18.
Send two copies of postal mail or commercial delivery comments to Docket
No. APHIS-2006-0188, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS,
Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238.
Comments also can be submitted on the Federal eRulemaking portal at
public comments USDA
SEPTEMBER WORKDAY THIS SATURDAY
Join us this Saturday, Sept. 27, and help us harvest sweet potatoes. We will meet at the south farm (south of the Martin Van Buren site) at 10:00 am. There will be a potluck lunch at 12:30 pm so bring a dish to share. Wear old clothes and bring water and sun screen.
1 fennel bulb
2 cups light vegetable stock
Cut the vegetables into pieces, put the on a baking tray with a little olive oil and sprinkle some salt over them. Roast for about 10-15 minutes or until soft and a little golden in a pre-heated oven (350°F). Put the vegetables in a pan and add the stock, leave it to simmer for 8-10 minutes and then blend it into a creamy soup. Add a little olive oil and salt if needed before serving.
From Lucullian Delights at http://lucullian.blogspot.com
COLLARD GREENS AND PEPPERS
1 lb collard greens
1/4 cup olive oil
1 red sweet pepper, cut in 2-inch strips, 1/4-inch wide
1/2 large onion, slivered
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
4 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Tabasco sauce, to taste
2 teaspoons honey
Slice off the stems from the collards right below the leaf, and discard the stems. Fill the sink with cold water and give the leaves a good soaking and washing to get rid or all the grit clinging to the folds of the leaves.
Drop the greens into a couple of inches of boiling salted water. Steam for 2-3 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water. Drain again and chop coarsely.
Pour the olive oil into a large skillet. Toss in the peppers and onions, seasoning them with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Once they're soft, toss in the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Dump in the greens and give them a stir. Add 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, the vinegar, tabasco, and honey. Stir one more time and serve.
From Recipe Zaar at http://www.recipezaar.com
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
As production became more efficient, the “dividend” was paid out in an increased amount of produce, which meant that at some point we halved the shares, because a full share was simply too much food for one family. This so-called half share became what we know today as a full share (the half share grew in size over the years). So, while the share price increased, so did its size. After 18 years of CSA we have always tried to maintain the cost of a share at about $1.00 per pound of vegetables. Some years we went over and some years we went under. The kinds of vegetables have changed, too, but overall we find that we provide the members with a better value than we did 18 years ago, as our quality has gone up and the prices of vegetables in the supermarket have increased substantially. This season we can no longer claim the $1-per-pound rate, as we have hit a ceiling of efficiency. We are running out of ways to save operating costs and costs are going up faster than our ability to produce better.
Yes – that brings us to this exceptional year. This year alone, our fuel costs have increased by about 100 percent compared to last year – from $21,000 to about (projected) $40,000. Our payroll will have gone from $137,000 to about (projected) $160,000 (this does not include Jody and me). As a result of the increased fuel cost, payroll, and utilities we will spend at least $43,000 more than last year. The base share price for 2008 increased by about three percent, which means we will have approximately $17,000 of extra income. Combining these three items, we are faced with about a $25,000 shortfall on our projected budget.
We expect extra income from hay and meat, but the expenses associated with these new enterprises barely cover their costs; we know it will take a few years before we are able to reach a level of efficiency similar to what we have attained with the vegetables. We also have had some unexpected expenses. For instance, in the last two weeks we had to hydro fracture the well for the packing barn (we came to the farm one Monday to find we didn’t have any water); the compressor of the walk-in cooler broke down; we installed a new fuse box that serves both the pump and the cooler; and one of our larger tractors needed to be split in half when one of its seals leaked fluid from the engine to the transmission. But then again, we always have something that needs to be fixed on this farm. Our total budget for the farm enterprise might break $600,000 this year; Jody and I hope to skim off eight percent of that in profit, which is also our wages. We always put at least 10 percent of our total revenue back into the farm: This year we invested heavily in on-farm housing, a new tractor, and a fence for the farm animals, while we took out equipment loans for a new baler and disc-bine. These equipment loans are financed at zero percent, so we figured we are better off stretching these expenses out over three years.
I hope that this information helps you in gaining some understanding of how we make this farm work financially. We hope that you do not have the impression that without your contribution we won't be able to survive; we are a stable farm, but could not foresee such dramatic changes in our economy. We have already received contributions from many members and are very grateful for your support and your trust. We all thank you very much. ~Jean-Paul
We should have included this address with last week’s letter.
PO Box 338
Kinderhook, NY 12106
ROXBURY FARM IN THE NEWS:
Brian Kimmel, an independent film producer filmed at Roxbury for Ingredients, a documentary examining the joy of cooking locally grown food.
Seeds of Change, a seed catalog is including Roxbury on their 2009 cover.
From Farm to Table, a WMHT cooking series, is including an interview and scenes from the farm.
A photographer for National Geographic, Green Guide, visited the farm for photos for their issue on local foods.
WORKDAY SEPTEMBER 27:
Please plan to join us for a workday on Saturday, September 27. We will start at 10:00 am and harvest sweet potatoes. There will be a potluck lunch at 12:30 pm and then work again until people are tired. We will meet at the office at the south farm which is located south of the Martin Van Buren Historical Site.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Author Michael Pollan summarizes his most recent book ‘In Defense of Food’ in seven words: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
Here’s our attempt to describe Roxbury Farm in seven words: “Roxbury grows food, promotes wellness, teaches connections.”
Let’s take a look at the three key words: food, wellness and connections.
Food. When Pollan and we refer to food, we are talking about real food that comes from fertile farms, not so-called food from industrial agriculture or from processing plants.
Wellness. Everyone has an individual approach to wellness, but paying attention to the source and quality of one’s food can pay important dividends to one’s wellness.
Connections. Our food is connected to many other facets of human activity and the natural world, namely, energy, water, chemicals, location, labor, farming methods, and weather. You can read about these connections to food, but you can appreciate them and understand them better as Jean-Paul and Jody teach us weekly about them in terms of the bounty or scarcity of the harvest at Roxbury.
As you have been reading in the Farm Letters this season, you know that the connections between food and energy; between food and labor; and between food and weather are threatening the solvency of Roxbury. We are members of Roxbury for seventeen seasons, and we have followed closely the feasibility of the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) concept of growing food. We are convinced that CSA at Roxbury is not only practical but also so appreciated by members that they will respond to support Roxbury’s survival.
Therefore, we hope that each member will join us in sending a $25 surcharge to Roxbury to cover the deficits caused by unforeseen increases in energy and labor costs.
As we were preparing this letter to you, we recalled an anecdote from Michael Pollan’s book ‘Omnivore’s Dilemma.’ The driver of a BMW stopped at the farm stand of an organic farmer who also raises free-range chickens and wholesome eggs. The driver asked impertinently why the eggs cost more than those in his supermarket. The farmer pointed to driver’s expensive car and said to him, “You clearly appreciate quality in automobiles and are willing to pay for it. Well, eggs are no different; you can have my high quality eggs, but only if you are willing to pay for them.”
As consumers we have been conditioned by advertising to pay for quality products that confer status on us, but when it comes to food we have been conditioned to look for the lowest price. As long-time members of Roxbury, we have noticed that we have the best of both worlds. We have quality and nutritious produce, and often we pay no more than we would in a supermarket. We want this beneficial enterprise to continue.
Thus, we are more than willing to send a voluntary surcharge to Jean-Paul, Jody and all the workers at Roxbury in appreciation for their efforts in these difficult times. Please unite with us in compensating Roxbury for their unforeseen costs growing the nourishing food we so appreciate.
~Dick Shirey and Frank Scheib
Founding members of Roxbury CSA in the Capital District
Please plan to join us for a workday on Saturday, September 27. We will start at 10:00 am and harvest sweet potatoes. There will be a potluck lunch at 12:30 pm and then work again until people are tired. We will meet at the office at the south farm which is located south of the Martin Van Buren Historical Site. Bring water and sunscreen also.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
We wish Wouter van Nuil good luck as his time on the farm comes to an end. Wouter has spent the last 5 ½ months working on the farm as part of his agricultural training. He attends a 4-year school for Biodynamic Agriculture in Holland. He will start his 2nd year of school in a couple of weeks. We will miss having him as part of the farm crew. His hard work and knowledge have been great assets to the farm this season. We are sure we will see great things from him in the future.
Please plan to join us for a workday on Saturday, September 27. We will start at 10:00 am and harvest sweet potatoes. There will be a potluck lunch at 12:30 pm and then work again until people are tired.
1 small eggplant (about 1 pound)
2 sweet peppers (red or green) 2 tomatoes
1 small onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced 2 teaspoons
chopped fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 tablespoon butter
Trim eggplant; cut crosswise into 1/4-inch thick slices. Core and seed peppers; cut into rings. Slice tomatoes thinly. Set vegetables aside. In bowl, toss together onion, garlic and thyme. Arrange half of the eggplant, overlapping slightly, in lightly greased 8-inch square baking dish. Sprinkle with half each of the salt and pepper. Top with peppers and half each of the onion mixture, tomatoes, and cheese. Repeat layers once. Sprinkle with bread crumbs; dot with butter. Bake in 400ºF oven for 45 to 55 minutes or until golden and vegetables are softened. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. from www.aubergines.org
The winter squash harvest is completed (partly due to the great efforts of our member volunteers) and is stored in the barn. We set a record yield of 50,000 pounds. The onions, on the other hand, suffered from a bad infestation of thrips. The little bugs ate the leaves and reduced the yield dramatically. After giving out onions for a consecutive seven weeks, we only have about 3,000 pounds left. We gave out most of our onions because we do not have a good place to store them this year. In the past we have stored them with apples at a nearby orchard. Our neighbors don’t expect to turn their coolers on at all this year, as most apples will go directly from the field to the apple sauce factory.
The sweet corn has been very good this year. Some sections outyielded our conventional neighbors – who average about 300 bags per acre; now we are faced with a potentially heavy pressure from CEW (Corn Ear Worm). The CEW moth flies in with fall storms from the South. They do not overwinter in New York, although the line below which they can overwinter keeps moving north. Please inspect the tips of the ears in your share this week for a worm and remove it; fortunately they do not affect the rest of the ear like the ECB – European Corn Borer – (which is currently absent in our traps). We always scout for insects and we have seen a greatly reduced number of insects this fall. We wonder if the excessively wet conditions created poor conditions for reproduction. The birds and the raccoons have also been less active than any other year.
All our subtropical vegetables were delayed from the cooler than normal spring and summer conditions. All farmers in the Northeast experienced a much later than usual harvest of tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. Some later plantings are loaded with fruit that refuse to ripen. By the time the tomatoes turn color, many plants succumb to disease pressure from Alternaria to Septoria and bacterial Canker. On a good note: We have an abundant crop of eggplant and this is the first year we did not lose it to Verticillium wilt. Verticillium is one of the many diseases we inherited from the previous farmer and it survives in the soil. This new variety of eggplant has some resistance to the disease, and between our cultural practices of using compost and biodynamic preparations, we nurse the plants through the initial infestation. This year the plants simply outgrew the early signs of infestation. Also, the low levels of ECB allow us to harvest plenty of peppers. The moth lays its eggs on the top of the pepper and the larvae create a little hole that allows water to run into the pepper, which causes the pepper to rot from the inside out. The sweet potatoes look healthy but they could use another two months of dry and hot weather; as there will be little chance of that, we will be expecting a much lower yield than usual.
The fall crop of broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower looks promising although they were all planted later than usual. The wet weather delayed the planting time and this will affect harvest date and possibly total yield. The Brussels sprouts are affected by Alternaria leafspot and it is too early to tell if it will affect the quality of the sprouts. Don’t have high expectations for this crop, but we aim to have at least one or two stalks ready by Thanksgiving.
The parsnips, beets, and carrots look great; this took a valiant effort on the part of the crew, as they spend many hours weeding on their hands and knees. The weed pressure was very high this season – the wet soil conditions allowed every weed seed to germinate. We lost many plantings of greens and salad because we simply could not keep them free from weeds. As the ground dries up, we have a much greater control of the weeds and you can expect a regular supply of greens and salad to be part of your share again. The pigs have been very healthy this season, taking advantage of the space we have given them. The boys live segregated from the girls in different woods. None of the boys have been castrated this year. We are told that castration is a largely unnecessary procedure. We will find out if this procedure actually affects the flavor of the meat. We also separated the male and female sheep as those boys were not castrated either. The turkeys have been a success – though we were expecting large losses while they were young, we only lost a few birds. The only problem was that they could fly over our five-foot-tall fence, so we had to clip the feathers on one of their wings (this doesn’t hurt them, it is just like getting a haircut). The three steers are very happy and love the fertile pastures we provide them with.
Making hay was a challenge, but we only lost about 40 bales out of the 750 round bales we pressed this year. The remainder is of very high quality. We sold about 450 round bales at a reasonable return. One round bale weighs about 600 pounds, so we baled about 250 tons of hay and straw. We pressed about 60 rye straw bales, which were all used for mulch between the rows of eggplant, tomatoes, summer squash, peppers, and cucumbers. Some of our hay bales are also used for mulching between the crops. It is important that we only take the very early cutting of hay to prevent the mulch from containing any weed seed. Due to the use of hay over straw mulch – which depletes the soil of nitrogen – we find that the yield of our garlic was higher this year. This is greatly due to the increased fertility of the soil, as the hay acts both as mulch, soil conditioner, and fertilizer.
Many fields are, as usual, covered with a green manure crop. This year we are experimenting with Sudex, a plant closely related to Sorghum, as a means to combat the many soil-borne diseases on this farm. Some of the Sudex is more than six feet tall and will be worked under in the next few weeks. According to the Soil Health Team at Cornell, Sorghum may harbor greenbug (Schizaphis graminum), which in turn attracts lady beetles, lacewings, and other beneficial predatory insects. The green matter of the Sudex can also create a compound that kills off pathogens and harmful nematodes in the soil. At the least, we will be incorporating a massive amount of organic matter. After I succeed in mowing it down we will need the help of our neighbor’s chopper to hack the Sudex in little pieces so that we can work it into the soil. If we don’t chop it into tiny pieces, the eight-foot-tall stalks will quickly clog up our chisel plow that we use to plow the soil.As we review this year’s crops, our mind is starting to focus on next year’s as we are preparing the fields for next year’s production. Our next few weeks will be spent spreading compost, spraying the horn manure preparation, spreading lime, and seeding the fall cover crops on the many fields where the harvest has been completed.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
One 16-ounce carton sour cream or yogurt (or a combination)
Several vine-ripened tomatoes,
Your favorite basil pesto
Spoon the sour cream into a blender. Toss in as many halved or quartered tomatoes as you like, cutting away any questionable looking spots if you are dealing with overripe or imperfect bounty. The more tomatoes, the thinner the dressing--meaty, plum tomatoes will give you a thicker end result than regular "salad" or "slicing" tomatoes. Add a few large spoonfuls of pesto. Whirl it all up in the blender, then turn it off and take a little taste. Add more tomatoes and/or pesto if desired. Sprinkle in some salt if needed. Whirl once more and enjoy however you like. Use as a dressing on your salad, a dip for sliced raw vegetables, on pita bread, or chips.
from Farmgirl Fare at fttp://foodiefarmgirl.blogspot.com
Mediterranean Orzo Salad
16 ounces orzo or other small pasta
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cups Kalamata olives, chopped
1 pint Juliet Tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1 chopped red tomato
1 large red onion, finely chopped
1 cup chopped red pepper
1/2 cup lighlty packed fresh parsley leaves and/or fresh basil
freshly ground black pepper
1. Bring about 3 quarts of water to boil in the large pot. Add salt and the orzo and cook until al dente. Drain well in the mesh strainer, then pour hot orzo into the mixing bowl.
2. While the orzo cooks, stir together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon zest, and lemon juice in the small bowl. Pour the mixture over the hot orzo and toss. Allow it to sit for about 5 minutes.
3. Add the olives, tomatoes, onion, and parsley/basil, and stir well. Season with fresh ground pepper and a pinch of salt. Serve warm, cold, or at room temperature.
From Andrea’s Recipes at http://www.andreasrecipes.com/
As I was listening to the many stories the campers told us about what they had learned on their trips I was amazed at the support they gave each other and the complete absence of personal competition. Many kids realized that self reliance is only possible when you work together in community. I was thinking how their experiences resonated with our efforts at the farm. Last week I wrote to you about immigration reform. I was pleading for us to treat immigrants as people and not as objects we fear. I am sure that many of you did not see the connection between this issue and the farm. But our views on agriculture do not stop at the farm gate and for some reason these kids put it all together for me again. Please allow me to back up here for a moment as I will try to explain how this all relates to our farm methods and the CSA.
When we bought the farm it was all planted in corn or potatoes. We found that almost every inch of the land had been tilled and planted to maximize its production. There were ruts from tractor tires two to three feet deep in sections of fields that are too wet to grow crops in. The farm was treated like an object and the crops were seen as commodities. Today the farm is treated as something that is unique; there is only one Roxbury Farm and we will never be able to replicate it anywhere else in the world. By setting goals to not only protect the soil against erosion but to also increase its fertility, we have to constantly review its use. By allowing the farm to become a living individuality we care for it like a living organism. Any living organism is defined by a semi permeable boundary like a cell wall, or a skin; in our case it is the woods where our property ends and becomes the neighbors’. Any living organism is qualified by its integrity; when it is invaded, it existence is challenged. Not only do we have to find integrity in our relationship with our members we have to find this in our relationship to the land as well. This can often be a struggle because our need to produce vegetables can overpower our ability to listen to the land. There is a real tension between the needs of the people and the needs of the land and we farmers often feel like we stand in between like an acrobat on a tight rope.
Some people may look at our farm and think that we are not using it to its fullest potential because so much of it is in permanent grass (we could expand the CSA and make a lot more money). In our eyes the highest possible use of these sections is hay or pasture and not vegetables or other row crops. We find ourselves taking more and more land out of production which limits the growth of the CSA. But grass and woods offer a place for animals. Pigs by nature want to dig and they were destroying the pasture. Some people put a ring in their nose to keep them from digging but we didn’t feel right about that. We want the pigs to be able to be pigs. Looking at the farm we had two sections of woods that had become full of thorns and rose bushes. The woods seemed to be a good match for the pigs. They don’t like being in the full sun because they easily sunburn and the shade from the trees would keep them cool and out of the sun. We have to be careful to not overstock the two wooded pastures or they will quickly become degraded. The two groups of pigs we have in the woods now are very content. One section of the woods becomes a small pond when it rains. The large sows can completely submerge themselves in the water with just the tips of their ears and snouts sticking out. They look like hippos on hot summer afternoons. But since we only have limited number of acres in woods, we can only raise a limited number of hogs. We will never have enough pork to meet all the members’ needs.
As this letter is too short to go into more details I just described a few little aspects that describe how we make decisions. Jody and I sit down at the end of the season to talk about what worked well and what changes we need to make. The objective is to both serve you and to serve the land while respecting the farm as an individuality. This kind of individuation process is similar to our own Self development. I should note that it is actually quite the opposite of what we commonly refer to as self-realization as the former requires a willingness to develop empathy and listening (oh yes, I have a long way to go in my own development). In order to see things clearly we actually have to leave our comfort zone. Watching these children tell us how they had overcome some of the hardest obstacles in their lives by learning to fully trust each other reminded us how much better we can do as farmers listening to our land, animals, workers and customers. The children had clearly made a connection with something in themselves. The stillness of the Temagami wilderness and the harsh conditions allowed them to hear it and unveiled the uniqueness of each other, accepting it with all the inadequacies.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
ORGANIC RESEARCH: The Leopold Center of Sustainable Agriculture located in at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa has created a new website that posts the summaries of research published in scientific journals about organic agriculture. It includes research on organic vegetables and produce, grains, milk, poultry, meat, comparisons of organic versus conventional produce, animal health and welfare, and niche marketing. You can visit the website at http://www.leopold.iastate.edu/organic/index.html
While I have always been critical of the US foreign policies and of its treatment of minorities, I moved here because this feeling of visiting my big brother tempted my curiosity. I decided to stay and everything they said about the States proved to be true. While the US has a strong dark side it is also a country of hope and new beginnings. Despite the lack of good social programs there is something solid about it; it is home to some of the most beautiful wilderness areas and its vastness makes a deep impression. But I have also never visited a country where the contrast between its dark and light sides is so strongly pronounced. Here our shadow is our fear of competition. While many people believe in intelligent design on Sunday, they adopt the survival of the fittest during the rest of the week.
Since I moved here it has become increasingly difficult for someone outside the US to work here. We built a solid wall preventing people from crossing our borders. I listen to the rhetoric around immigration and I am horrified to even see left-leaning politicians take hardened positions against immigration reform. As most people are simply not that interested in politics or history anyway, the US has always based their public support for new policies on fear of the alternative.
People in the US are interested in issues that affect their personal life like taxes and who lives in their neighborhood. I remember being delighted with the interest most people took to hear I was from Holland. What has happened to that curiosity? As the immigration debate is heating up we need to remember that this discussion includes the fate of people who have lived here for thousands of years. It has only been a few hundred years since political leaders drew borders in the sand that were never there before. To ease the flow of capital between US, Canada, and Mexico we created NAFTA that was supposed to ease those sharp lines. But despite these free trade agreements -unlike the EU- the borders remained closed for the people.
A lot of the fear around immigration is really about the people from Mexico and Central America. But most of the people who come to work in the US from the countries south of our border are actually indigenous. These people were here long before England, Spain, and Holland claimed their turf in the new country. Ever since the arrival of Europeans, Native Americans have been seen as a threat. As a result many have perished as we simply could not foresee a possible harmonious co-existence. The largest group of Native Americans was the Mayans. At its peak, it was one of the most densely populated and culturally dynamic societies in the world. Today, most Mayans are predominantly Roman Catholic and many have integrated into our Western Culture. But one thing has never changed; they have always worked to create wealth for their white oppressors ever since Europeans set foot on this continent. I suggest the writings of B.Traven to gain greater insight into the suffering of many indigenous people in Mexico at the hands of their white oppressors. Suffering and slavery have been a constant in the history of the indigenous people of Central America.
The latest development of free trade has, to say it mildly, not been very helpful to the already poor and often landless Mayan population. Out of desperation whole communities have left their hometowns to work in the US, hoping for a better future for their children. While the US policies take away their feeling of protection by a country, they lean on the protection by their family and community. Here in Valatie most immigrants that originated from Mexico are all from the same community and are close-knit. They provide each other with a sense of safety that both Mexico and the US fail to provide them with.
I am bothered by the rhetoric on immigration from the media and politicians. It is almost as if we are not talking about people but objects. People come to the US for a variety of reasons and I am not suggesting we open up our borders for whoever wants to be here. But why can’t we consider exempting the indigenous people from our immigration policies and borders? The Europeans took their land, their culture, and their sense of belonging away from them. The policies of the US continue to do so. When people walk for three days through the desert to earn food for their children you can hardly consider this a choice; it is sheer desperation. Where is our humanity in all this? What are we so afraid of? Why can’t we transform our fear of competition into better social programs, just as the Dutch were able to do with their fear of vulnerability? ~Jean-Paul