Friday, July 03, 2015

Our American Tradition of Agriculture

As we approach July 4th, all of us reflect on our nation and its history.  For many, our minds turn to our founding fathers, the Revolutionary War, and the Declaration of Independence.  My mind, of course, goes to farming.

At the time of independence, we were a country of farmers.  Part of the myth of our founding was that we were a nation of yeomen, freemen who farmed small plots of ground.  We all know that we were also a nation of plantations and slavery, but, mainly due to the writings of Thomas Jefferson, that's not the ideal we were handed down.  This Jeffersonian ideal of democracy built on the free association of hard-working free people remains an inspiration to many, myself included.  The yeoman farmers of yesterday were not serfs under the thumb of some Lord or Duke, but free and independent operators with a stake in their local governments and development.

Family from 80s farm crisis, Daily Globe
If small family farms were the bedrock on which our democracy was based, we have been in trouble for a long time.  For my entire life-I was born in 1977-family farms have been in retreat.  I clearly remember the farm crisis of the 1980s when Willie Nelson took the stage at Farm Aid and America's attention was turned to farm families' struggles.  Farm auctions and foreclosures blanketed the evening news.  Although the attention waned with time, the trend of family farm loss continued.  Instead of being a nation of independent yeoman farmers, it's hard not to feel like we've become a nation of farmers on contract to our overloads of Tyson, Smithfield, Cargill, and Monsanto.

Despite this doom and gloom, at least those of us in the sustainable agriculture communtiy still have hope.  There are many more farm operations like our own making a living today because people like you chose to buy your food directly from the farmer  It may sound Pollyanna-ish, but I firmly believe these simple choices are making a real difference in keeping that dream of family farm alive.

In the Box:

  • Garlic Scapes: These are the tops of garlic which can be  used in substitute for green onions or garlic. See recipe below for an idea.
  • French Breakfast Radishes
  • 'Farao' Green Cabbage 
  • Snap Peas: Don't shell these...just eat the whole thing
  • 'Lacinato' Kale: Dark green with a blue band 
  • A couple small heads of lettuce
  • Broccoli or Cauliflower: Most of you got cauliflower, but we had to substitute in broccoli in some boxes
  • Basil
Garlic Scape Carbonara from sarahcucinabella.com

INGREDIENTS
  • ½ lb campanella pasta, or shape of your choosing
  • 4 slices bacon (about 3¼ ounces), chopped
  • ¼ cup garlic scapes, cut into ¼ inch coins
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup freshly grated Romano cheese
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Set a pot of water to boiling on the stove and cook the campanella pasta (or desired shape).
  2. While it's cooking, cook the bacon over medium heat until browned. Remove the bacon pieces with a slotted spoon and add the garlic scapes. Cook until soft (2-3 minutes). Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon. (Drain both the bacon and the garlic scapes on a paper towel).
  3. Whisk together the eggs, salt and red pepper flakes.
  4. When the pasta is done, quickly remove it from the stove and set a different burner to low heat. Drain the pasta and add it back to the pot, on the burner set to low. Stir in the garlic scapes and bacon. Add the egg mixture and stir feverishly for 3-4 minutes until sauce is thick and creamy. Don't let it overcook or it will be gloppy. Sprinkle the Romano cheese in, a little at a time, and stir to combine. Don't add it all at once or it won't mix throughout the pasta as well (since it will clump).
  5. Serve immediately.


Friday, June 26, 2015

Tribute to Good Neighbors

There is a long tradition of neighborliness amongst farmers.  In many respects this is something we look back on in nostalgic terms as if it is something which our parents or grandparents enjoyed in the good ol'days, but none of us really know about today.  Today this phrase "good neighbor" means being friendly and helping out every once in a while, doing something like watching a dog or picking up somebody's mail.

In farm country this had a different, more significant meaning.  A good neighbor was somebody who had just as many things to do as you, but dropped all of them to lend a hand.  And I don't mean a small job, I'm talking about 8 -10 hours of labor to put up hundreds of bales of hay in blazing heat to beat a rain or helping to pull a calf at some crazy hour of the night in the cold of winter.  That kind of neighborliness was done because all of us depended on it. Those kinds of assitance paid off in the end because dedicating a day to your neighbor would get repaid when you were in need yourself.  The community of growers was richer, not in a strictly montery was, but because the strong bonds built through work side-by-side.

That kind of work exchange which was almost necessary for survival amongst the small diversified dairy farms which covered Otter Tail and Becker Counties is just as voluntary a 'nice thing to do' as amonst any towndweller.  After all, most farms today are as automated as most manufacturing plants.  Who needs their neighbor?

In spite of all this, we are blessed with farm neighbors who still carry on the best sense of the term.  This weekend I have a neighbor who volunteered to lay cement block for a couple days to repair a barn wall destroyed in a rainstorm last year.  This is time worth hundreds of dollars and all he wants for payment is a nice dinner and help moving block.  I've had neighbors borrow us equipment, mow ditch embankments, herd our animals when escaped, birth lambs, plow entire fields who have asked for nothing in return.  I owe them all and would do whatever I could whenever they need it.   I think that's the feeling we should all have to build a real neighborhood.  

In the Box:
  • Sugar Snap Peas (please don't shell these...just eat them)
  • Radishes
  • Head of Romaine Lettuce
  • Bunch of Westlander Kale
  • Italian Flat Leaf Parsley
  • A few Baby Bok Choy
  • Scallions aka Green Onions
  • Spinach

Friday, June 19, 2015

Solstice for Dads

This year Fathers Day and the summer solstice co-incide, but I don't put any kind of great significance behind it (after all, my favorite stat is that Father's Day was the #1 day for collect calls, back when we had collect calls).  But, as a grower, I always pay attention to the summer solstice since it holds some sway over the growing season.

It's kind of a love-hate relationship.  It's depressing to think that all days after this point get shorter and we're on the slow decline back into winter - terrible thought, I know.  However, I love getting on the other side of the solstice since plants become easier to deal  In the CSA box this week you'll find a lot of greens that have their birth in spring.  Pretty much all of them are light sensitive so they like to bolt as we approach the longest day of the year - a really difficulty for me as a grower!  You may have been perplexed when observing your own garden that something like a radish or lettuce or even a broccoli looked great one day and was trying to bolt and go to seed  the next.  That's the solstice for ya.  Few people believe me when I sing the praises of fall lettuces and cole crops because everybody thinks these are spring crops, but, due to the shorter days after the solstice, they mature much better from here on out, making me a little less anxious and farming just a bit easier.  

In the CSA box (Check out farmcast about the box): 
  • 'Rover' Radishes
  • Brasing Mix
  • 'Two Star' Green Head Lettuce
  • Arugula: Green with band in oak-leaf shape
  • Mizuna: Light green with jagged leaves
  • Swiss Chard: Stuff that looks like muli-colored rhubarb
  • Cilantro
  • Spinach: Loose, unbunched leaves

Simple Sauteed Braising Mix Recipe from Full Circle, a huge CSA on the west coast.

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Yield: Serves 2-4


INGREDIENTS
  • 2 Tbsp peanut oil
  • 1 medium white onion or shallot, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ pound Braising mix (or make your own)
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • ¼ cup stock or water
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • Salt and pepper
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. In a large, high-sided sauté pan, heat oil over medium high heat.
  2. When shimmering add onions and cook until translucent, about 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add garlic and sauté briefly, stirring quickly to avoid browning, about 30 seconds.
  4. Add in braising mix, tossing to mix.
  5. Sprinkle with paprika and add stock, covering and reducing heat to low. Cook until lightly wilted, about another 3-4 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat and sprinkle with lemon juice, season with salt and pepper and serve.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Tomatoes in the Ground!

Last week was way colder than anybody wanted, including our tomato plants.  Despite being covered by the greenhouse, we discovered black basil and frost-damaged tomato, eggplant, and pepper plants Tuesday morning.  Yikes!  Aside from the damaged leaves and a little more stress, I expect these plants to do fine.   

It was a great relief this Memorial Day weekend when we got these plants in the ground with no more frost in sight.  The planting crew (yes, the kids did help) dove in Saturday evening and all day Sunday to put in nearly 3,000 tomato plants and about 600 pepper plants.  Let the summer growing season begin - Game on. 

Lida Farm planting crew with Holland Transplanter (Sylvia, Willem, Argo, Maree, and Ryan)

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Sign up for CSA by March 15 and receive 2014 price

Now's the time of year when we all look toward spring.  We're putting winter behind us and dream of warmth, sunshine, and summer harvests.  I've found that this is also the time of year when people start thinking about signing up for CSA shares.

2015 will mark our 10th season operating a CSA and I think we have a long list of reasons why to choose Lida Farm for 2015: 
  • Certified Organic: Last year we certified to assure folks that we're "doing it right."  We invest in building soil to produce healthy crops without chemicals and GMOs, 
  • Clean Energy : We power our farm with carbon-free wind and solar power.  Our Ventera wind turbine provides a majority of the farm's electrical needs and we recently installed solar thermal panels to heat our winter greenhouse. 
  • Small-scale Family Farm:  We're pretty much the opposite of big ag.  All produce which you receive is grown, cultivated, washed, and packed by Ryan and Maree Pesch with some assistance from our friend and apprentice Kelsey Wulf.  Our three children make up the rest of the workforce, but their contributions are hit and miss. We're hoping for 50 shares in 2015.
  • Delivered Shares: One feature many of our members enjoy is that their CSA box simply shows up on their doorstep.  We deliver every Friday directly to home or businesses in Pelican Rapids, Detroit Lakes, Vergas, Cormorant, and many lakes in between.  We have limited shares delivered to a dropsite in Fergus Falls on Tuesdays.  
  • On-farm Experiences: The fall harvest party may be reason enough to join.  We also invite members to pick peas, beans, tomatoes, and a jack-o-lantern.  
We offer two kinds of CSA shares: a full/family share where you receive a 3/4 bushel box of what's in season every week for 16 weeks and an every-other-week share (8 deliveries over 16 weeks).  We also expect to do fall storage shares and some winter shares with details forthcoming. 

Full share (3/4 bushel box each week for 16 weeks):
  • Pick up at farm - $435 (receive 2014 price if sign up by March 15)
  • Delivered - $485 (receive 2014 price if sign up by March 15)
Every-other-week share (3/4 bushel box every other week): 
  • Pick up at farm - $235 (receive 2014 price if sign up by March 15)
  • Delivered - $265 (receive 2014 price if sign up by March 15)
*You will receive a 20% discount if using SNAP benefits to have your assistance go further.  

Sign up: Fill out this order form.  To confirm that you are in our delivery area or whether we have shares still available (especially if you're reading this in May or later), please contact Ryan or Maree at 218-342-2619 or lidafarmer@gmail.com.  

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Happy New Years from Lida Farm

I hope 2015 finds you and your family in good health and spirits.  At Lida Farm, we're both tired from 2014 and expectant for the year to come.

The big chore and accomplishment in 2014 was the construction of our deep winter greenhouse.  We are nearly 90% complete as of the New Years.  We just attached the two solar thermal panels on January 2, but still need to hook them up.  There is also a ceiling I need to install inside the greenhouse to put a barrier between the humid air in the greenhouse and the cold steel roof.  Right now terrible weather is holding us back, but we expect to get the solar panels running in the next couple of weeks.

We'll need to do some terracing on this steep hill and bury some tiling, but these tasks obviously wait til spring.










I also planted our first seeds in the greenhouse Christmas morning - unbelievable, Christmas morning!  Things are germinating well and the temperature is fluctuating between 32 and 80 degrees, even in the coldest weather.  Today we are zero degrees, with an overcast sky and 40 mph wind gusts; the temperature is sitting near 50 degrees and the propane heater is not kicking in at all.

We look forward to the first greens harvest toward the end of January and all the off-season growing we can muster between now and May.  I am especially excited to grow our own onion starts by seed this year and get those tomato and pepper plants started super early for high tunnel production, not to mention baby arugula in February (I'm getting tired of greens from California going bad in our fridge).

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Thank You for a Great Season

We delivered our last CSA box on October 10 and we'd like to thank all members for joining us for the season.  Like all seasons, there are ups and down, but, overall, I think it was a great year.  We hit a lot of milestones on the farm such as getting certified organic, becoming authorized to accept EBT, and building our deep winter greenhouse.  We also hit our largest number of CSA members ever in 2014, delivering 40 boxes week in and week out.  All told, I'm pretty tired with a number of fall chores yet to tackle.  I wish everybody a restful winter and hope to hear from you in the spring.