Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Susan's Seven Second Tomato Glut Solution

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/

Week 12 Newsletter

As we are driving back from Canada I am making an effort to write on my laptop. We (Jody, Johannes, David, Linda, and I) all went to pick up Annemarie from her summer camp. Annemarie has spent the last four weeks on a canoe trip in the wilderness of Temagami, Ontario. This summer camp has become a family tradition; Johannes spent three summers there, also. Northwaters/Langskib is an opportunity for young people to discover their limits by going out in a canoe with not much more than some (freeze dried) food, a few sets of clothing, and a tent for four weeks. Think of “Survivor” without the competition. Young people learn things about themselves they never thought could be possible; carrying their supplies and canoe for miles over rough terrain to connect to another lake or river, and simply having to get along with another person while overcoming many physical obstacles. Annemarie had a partner that not only had real difficulty in getting the canoe and wanagan (a wooden box with supplies that is carried with a head band) over the cliffs and other obstacles but he hardly spoke English.
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

Week 11 Notes for Members

WORKDAY RE-SCHEDULED: The member potato harvest workday is now on Saturday, Aug. 23rd. The workday was rained out on Aug. 9th. We will meet at 10:00 am at the farm office on the South Farm. This is a great job for members of all ages. We usually break for a potluck lunch around 12:30 pm and then work again until people are tired. Come for the whole day, the morning, the potluck, and enjoy a walk around the farm, working with the farmers, and meeting your fellow members. Bring a potluck dish to share, place settings, water bottle, sunscreen, work gloves, and clothing that can get a bit dirty. Hope to see you in the potato field!

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

Week 11 Newsletter

I am an immigrant. I came to this country in 1986 from the Netherlands. I lived here “illegally” for almost two years until I was granted a green card. A green card is like a working permit. In 1999, I became a citizen of the US; I had to give up my Dutch citizenship as Holland does not recognize dual citizenship. But in many ways I still consider myself to be a Dutchman. Sunday, as Holland was playing the USA in the Olympic Games I admit I was rooting for the Dutch to win. (It was a tie after all as the US team played very well). I am proud of my Dutch heritage and I am proud to be American and this has never presented any conflicts. I understand the feeling of nationalism; the feeling of belonging to a country. Everybody has a primary need to belong to family, community and country. Our family, our community, and our country protect us and we need to feel that they are capable of doing so. The occupation by the Germans of Holland during the Second World War has had a devastating effect on the confidence Dutch people have in their country. The Dutch consider the US to be their big brother to provide the protection they themselves had lost confidence in. Their shadow of insecurity was transformed into some of the best social programs in the world. The Dutch government provides every citizen with full care from cradle to grave.
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

Friday, August 8, 2008


The member workday schedule for Saturday, Aug. 9 is postponed until Saturday, Aug. 23. Yesterday a thunderstorm hit the farm and we received an inch of rain making the field too wet for the potato harvest. We are expecting more rain today and tomorrow. Hopefully the weather will be dry and sunny on the 23rd for harvesting potatoes!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Potato harvest. First Jean-Paul digs up the potatoes with the root digger. Then the crew comes behind and puts the potatoes into buckets.
Jean-Paul is busy cutting the 2nd cutting of hay this week. In this photo he is tedding the hay to spread it out so that it can dry. After a day or so he will rake it into windrows and then bale it up.

Week 10 Newsletter

Reading back, our last two newsletters went from a drought to a flood. It has been a challenging season. The numbers are in and July is now the wettest month on record in Albany since NOAE started keeping track in 1829. We were actually spared some of the storms and we were still in a drought after surrounding areas had experienced quite a few storms. But the last 6 inches of the month fell on the farm. To top it all off, we even had a hail storm come through last Saturday night. The rain with the hail was simply more than the soil and the crops could bear.
This weather impacts a lot of farmers and you can see the result of it in your share. Normally, our fruit farmer supplies a number of customers with peaches, apricots, and plums – but not this year. His whole crop is going to Roxbury, as most of it is not marketable due to the hail. Before the hail he had already lost most of his pears to freezing temperatures. I told him that our members will be accepting of some cosmetic blemishes, as long as the fruit tastes good. I have no complaints about the flavor, and I am glad we are able to pay top dollar for fruit that would not stand a chance in the wholesale market. This is the second year in a row that his apples sustained too much damage to be marketed to their regular customer: Great Britain. Yes, you got that right; New Yorkers do not eat apples from the Hudson Valley, because wholesalers deem the fruit too small or whatever other complaints they have. Wholesalers and supermarkets would rather buy apples from Washington State. This has become a lot easier with the opening of a gigantic warehouse in Albany (thanks, George!) that receives fruits and vegetables directly off freight trains from the West. Is it a wonder we see more farmland going into development?
This has not been an easy season for farmers in the Hudson Valley, and not even a Community Supported Farm like ours is insulated from incurring hardships. I am not only talking about the weather. We look at our financials and there is little chance of staying within our planned budget. Who could have foreseen that all our suppliers would increase their prices this dramatically? You all know about the cost of fuel, but fuel is connected to almost every line item, including wages, as people need to heat their home and drive to work. So the question arises: Is Roxbury Farm too deeply embedded in our oil culture? The problem is that every time we compare the numbers, our model of agriculture wins at any price of oil as even the most sustainable farming method will go bust when oil prices hit the roof. It is an illusion that a commercial farm (I am not talking about a homestead) can emancipate itself from the world economy. We are a part of it and I believe that is a
good thing; it means we interact with the world around us. At issue is not the interaction but the responsibility of being part of a world community.
We are still an example of what is considered a low-input farm. For example, when we grow sweet corn, we use some organic fertilizer as a source of nitrogen, but it is only a quarter of what our conventional neighbors use if you compare nitrogen pound for pound. That means that we produce the rest of the corn's nitrogen needs on the farm. According to our extension agent, our sweet corn has similar yield to the neighbors', and he can only find a 4% infestation of harmful bugs. He can’t get over the beneficial insects he finds, from lacewings to praying mantises. But even such accomplishments are a drop on the economical plate as our other costs to raise sweet corn are so much higher than our neighbors'; our labor input alone is twice as much and, somewhere, wages are still connected to fuel as the prices of food, transportation, and other living expenses are affected by the price of oil. Unless we find a solution to emancipate our workers, suppliers and products from their energy dependence, we will always depend on oil. Still, that doesn't take away our excitement about building a new packing barn that's carbon neutral. Jody is looking into grants that are given specifically for new buildings with a lower carbon footprint. Simultaneously, our answer to overcoming any future crisis will not be in just becoming less oil dependent (actually a new energy-efficient barn will increase our costs); we will try to find it in becoming more dependent on each other. Our financing of the new delivery truck last year was a great example of how you, the members and the farm, found another way to underline our interdependence.
I have never had the misunderstanding that either the CSA model or our farming methods would save the world. Building a carbon-neutral barn won’t either. But they provide good examples of what is possible. Our accomplishments with low-input crops will help our conventional neighbors revise their methods (we hope). We are credible because they know that we are faced with many of the same problems they encounter on a daily basis. Change begins when that first little ripple forms in the pond after you throw in a small pebble. That first ripple happens when someone performs something extraordinary – something that people did not believe was possible. In our information age we have learned to filter out almost everything except exceptional things. Our farm, as small as it is, is known nationwide; that proves my point.
About a month ago, Jody received a delegation from the commissioner of agriculture (including the commissioner himself) when they came through to inspect the hail damage in Columbia County. They looked at the damage and asked her how we dealt with it. Without realizing it at the time, Jody made one comment that created a ripple. Jody told them that she had written a letter explaining why we were coming up short and delivering blemished produce and that the responses from the membership were incredibly supportive. “Our members understand that their food is connected to the weather and the earth,” she said. Apparently, the delegation is still talking about that incident, as they instantly realized what is wrong in their worlds. If all farmers were connected to community, we wouldn’t be in the mess we are in today. ~Jean-Paul