Friday, July 22, 2016

Beating the Heat in the Lakes

Man, it's been hot and stormy lately.  Every night I go to bed, I'm kind of anxious because it's become so common for about a 60 mph wind blow in yet another inch of rain or two or three.  What has the dewpoint been around here lately anyway?  80 degrees?
Thundercloud over Lake Lida
Our one saving grace lately has been the lake.  We're lucky to have a little public beach on Lake Crystal just  4 minutes from our house.  For the last two nights we did a few hours of farmwork just to get good and hot enough so the lake felt that much better.  It's an age-old tradition in farm life (at least around here), which, as I was talking to grain operator yesterday, is maybe becoming a rarity as most production is now done in an air-conditioned cab.  At least of few of us dirt farmer will carry on.
In the box:
Carrots
Norland Red Potatoes
Arugula: Oakleaf-shaped green with band
Red Torpedo Onion
Two Summer Squash
Two Peppers: Everybody got at least one purple pepper...some got one green and one purple.  The purples are a bit tricky since they taste like a green one.  I suggest using in a salad and not cooking as they loose their color when cooked.
Green Beans
Cauliflower


Bunch of arugula, washed, dried, and torn
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano

In a serving bowl, drizzle the arugula with the oil, squeeze in the lemon juice, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss until well mixed and taste for seasoning. Use a vegetable peeler to shave thin pieces of Parmigiano over the top.

Recipe courtesy of Tyler Florence
© 2016 Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Artisan?

ar·ti·san
ˈärdəzən/

noun
  1. a worker in a skilled trade, especially one that involves making things by hand.
    • (of food or drink) made in a traditional or non-mechanized way using high-quality ingredients.
      "local artisan cheeses"

This is now also one of the food industry's most abused marketing terms.  I read not too long ago about Tostitos introducing a line of "artisan" corn chips.  What?  Does Fritolay actually think there is any validity to this claim?  Do people buying them think so?  It all seems kind of silly. 

As one who actually fit the definition a lot of days, I sometimes wish I were a little less artisan.  I do walk out into a field with a broadfork in hand to dig carrots and wheel a Vermont Cart across a field to pull in cucumbers.  Sometimes my kids are by my side helping me...it's all very artisan.  Today, however, digging potatoes by hand, I really hated the whole experience.  With six inches of rain in the last week, this was a dreadful process, kind of like trying to fish heavy rocks out of wet cement.  

All told, however, I understand the desire to buy artisan in this very mass produced, plastic culture we live in.  Scale matters.  We actually do have some basic equipment such as a potato digger and undercutter we use (in much drier conditions) for harvest.  These are powerful implements which help us with the heaviest crops, but are also very small scale in comparison to typical farm equipment to suit our 6-foot wide beds.  

The power of small scale is all about quality.  A mechanized bean picker pulls in all beans of all sizes and snaps some in half in harvest.  It's 100 times faster, but when we pick by hand we can taste and sort out beans as we harvest into half-bushel baskets.  There is a difference in quality because of this attention to detail, so don't let some food conglomerate or big farm operation tell you otherwise and certainly don't let them pawn off their stuff as artisan.  

In the box: 
  • Artisan Norland Potatoes - yes, by hand today :)
  • Green Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Bunch of Beets: Check out recipe below
  • Alisa Craig Sweet Onion
  • Cucumber 
  • Summer Squash: Everybody should have one Zuccchini, but most also got a yellow straightneck summer squash (use the same as you would zucchini).
  • Green Leaf Lettuce or Red Butterhead Lettuce
  • Parsley
  • Fresh Mint
Borscht Salad 
From Mark Bittman's Kitchen Matix

Peel and grate 1/2 lb beets.  Make a vinaigrette with minced shallot or onion, 2 t Dijon mustard, 1/4 cup sour cream and some chopped or dry dill.  Add about 2 cups shredded cabbage and a chopped hard-boiled egg.  Toss with the beet, garnish with fresh parsley and season with salt and pepper as you see fit.  

Note: I really like this Bittman book for its veggie recipes.  This book is all about flexible cooking and changing up recipes to use the ingredients you have on hand.  Check it out.  

Friday, July 08, 2016

Rainbows and Peace

I had been moping around the farm for the past two weeks, kicking the dirt and complaining about the lack of rain.  As each day went by my blood pressure and stress went up just a little more.  Then, last night, a whole half inch fell from the sky.  I went and stuck my hand in the soil to find that it had soak inches into the ground, not just the surface.  I could hear a big sigh of relief from the plants as every bit was soaked into the hard, dry ground.  As incredible as the rain was, we were elated as my daughter ran in and told us to come outside and see the double rainbow.

All this happened about an hour before five police officers were killed in Dallas and a day after the fatal shooting in St. Paul.  Combine that with all the other turmoil we've been witnessing and I think we've all had heavy hearts as it feels like the world is on fire. I was taught long ago that the rainbow was God's promise to never flood the earth again, but it's also a symbol of peace and reconciliation.  In this time of growing tension, I think we need to remember that God cares for all his creation, both earth and people alike.  I want to see yesterday's rainbow as a sign of hope.  Just as he brought water to dry land he'll bring a hard rain down onto our troubles.  Our responsibility to remember that we're all brothers and sisters in this kingdom, not enemies.  Sorry for getting preachy...it's kind of on my mind. 

In the box: 
Napa Cabbage: Usually people aren't using a lot of Napa, so I put a recipe below.  It is also fine to use as a salad like a cole slaw or simply  
Broccoli
Frisee: Frilly small green.  This is good mixed into a salad with lettuce
Small Romaine: Some got green, some red
Beets 
'Hakurai' Salad Tunips: These look like white radishes, but they are much sweeter and tastier than any radish you'll find.  Slice and marinate as you would radishes to nibble alone or in a salad.  
Green Garlic: Use as you would dry garlic or let dry down on your kitchen counter. 
Fresh Thyme: Small bunch with red band 
Summer Squash: Use yellow summer squash or pattypan squash (flat ones) just as you would zuchhini.  Try zucchini fritter - grate together with some onion and eggs and cook in fry pan. 
Sweet Onion: Hey, it's about time I get an honest to goodness onion in the box. 

Stir-fried Pork and Peanuts
from Mark Bittman's Kitchen Matrix

Put 3 tablespoons neutral oil (like canola) in a large skillet over high heat.  Brown 8 oz ground pork in the oil before adding 1 tablespoon each minced garlic and fresh ginger.  Cook for 15 seconds.  Add about 1/4 - 1/2 of a napa cabbage (shredded).  Cook, stirring, until soft and slightly brown, 5 minutes.  Add a handful of peanuts and cook a few minutes more (until slightly toasted).  Turn off heat and stir in soy sauce to taste.  



Friday, July 01, 2016

Cultivation: Fighting Weeds one Pass of the Tractor at a Time

Lately I've talked to people about getting out to cultivate and they have this look like "I don't know what you're talking about."  Certainly before the popularity of chemical herbicides in agriculture, more people would know exactly what I'm talking because you could drive down many a county road and see a tractor moving slowly through a corn or soybean field tilling the soil between the plants.  In the organic world, cultivating is still our an important practice.

The timing of cultivating is really important.  The trick is to go out when the weeds are still in the white thread stage (just after germination but before popping through the soil) or while still very young.  If you wait too long (or a big rain keeps you out of the field), you will drag a bunch of big weeds through a field and not do a great job.  For us at Lida Farm, I always talk about the hierarchy of weed killing: cultivate, wheel hoe, hand hoe, hand weeding.  As you can imagine with four acres of veggies if we had to take out weeds exclusively by hand, we'd be sunk!

In the box:
'Farao' Cabbage
Kohlrabi: When in doubt, just peel, slice and serve with salt
Dino Kale: Big bunch with blue band.  See recipe from one of our members in Detroit Lakes that he likes to do with kale.  If you have a recipe you'd like to share, please send to lidafarmer@gmail.com...this makes my life easy and you're probably tired on my recipes :)
Green Leaf Lettuce
Garlic Scapes: Use where ever you use garlic...
Snap Peas: Edible pod so don't shell.  Last week, we just sauteed in butter with salt and pepper - great.
Cilantro bunch
Basil

Kale w/Roasted Peppers & Olives 

2 large bunches kale 
2 tablespoons olive oil 
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced 
2 teaspoons sugar 
1 teaspoon salt 
12 Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped 
1 4-ounce jar roasted red peppers 
2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar 

Cut the kale into bite-size pieces, removing any tough stems. Rinse and shake dry.
Warm the oil and garlic in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Remove the garlic as soon as it browns (don't let it burn). Add the kale and stir-fry 5 minutes. Add 1/4 cup water, cover, and cook 8 to 10 minutes or until tender. Uncover and add the sugar, salt, olives, and peppers. Cook over medium-high heat until the liquid has evaporated.
Spoon into a serving dish; scatter the garlic over the top. Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar. Serve warm or at room temperature.



Friday, June 24, 2016

Spring to Summer at Lida Farm

Officially we hit summer this week (the 20th on my calendar).  It's exciting to leave one season behind and start a new one, but, on a vegetable farm, this transition gets pretty wild.

The big challenge is that this section of time through June and a bit into July is when we have to simultaneously harvest and weed while squeezing in new plantings.  Weeds just explode this time of year as you all probably well know.  Think about battling weeds over four acres...crazy.  

At the same time we're really excited to see summer crops get growing.  I just saw blossoms on cucumber and zucchini plants a few days ago, so I know they are just around the corner.  cherry tomatoes are blossoming too.  I also get the feel that members also can't wait for these summer crops to appear.  Sure, a spring box full is greens is OK, but a summer box with some substantial heft is much appreciated.  

In the box: 
  • Green Onions
  • Parsley 
  • Basil 
  • Green Leaf Lettuce 
  • Red Lettuce
  • Radishes 
  • Bok Choy: See video below for recipe
  • Spinach: Definitely not as pretty as I'd like after last week's hail.
  • Garlic Scapes: Green curled things...these are the tops of the hardneck garlic.  Chop or mince and use where ever you'd use garlic.  It's a bit more mild than garlic cloves.
  • Westlander Kale: Big bunch with blue band.  This could also be used in a frittata
  • Snap Peas: Yes, you eat the pod. 
Lida Farm Frittata

Finished frittata - cut into slices and serve
Ingredients: 
  • 6 eggs 
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt/Pepper 
  • About 2 cups of Bok Choy, Swiss Chard, Garlic Scapes, Spinach 
Basic Directions: Preheat oven to 350.  Chop veggie or mix of veggies of your choice and saute in frying pan over medium heat until crisp-tender or wilted.  Beat 6 eggs together with Parmesan in bowl.  Add veggies to mix and add to another ovenproof frying pan over medium-low  heat.  Drop temperature to low and let cook undistubed for 5-10 minutes until bottom is firm.   Next, transfer frying pan to oven and bake until top is dry/not runny.  You can garnish with parsley or green onions.


Friday, June 17, 2016

In the Saddle Again

Another CSA season is starting, marking the beginning of our 11th season delivering produce to members' doorsteps.  The passage of time has compressed the interval between the end of the season and the beginning.  When I was a younger man, it seemed like the nine months jn the "off season" between October and June took a long time.  This past nine months since the last box in October, 2015 zoomed past me as quickly as Christmas break in high school.  Instead of lamenting time under the bridge, however, I absolutely celebrate a new beginning and a new season.  It often brings not just new growing experiences, but also a re-connection with CSA members and farmers market customers.  

The season so far is shaping up well.  We have planted crops in good time and cultivated a number of crops 2-3 times already.  We had a challenge with the soil being really dry through May which had us moving irrigation around (a first for us since I rarely irrigate and I've never had to do so in May).  A lot of crops are looking pretty good; I'm especially excited about the peas and potatoes so far.  

I'm sitting in the kitchen writing this blog right now because of the morning's rain.  We were hit with a little hail even which I'm sure put a few holes in the Romaine lettuce.  

In the CSA box: 
  1. Broccoli: A variety called Packman, this came in earlier than we wanted due to the cold temps in May which caused the plants to set a head prematurely, which makes for small heads.
  2. Swiss Chard: This is great with eggs in the morning (saute and include them), but, hey, chard is even better with bacon!  See recipe below. 
  3. Mizuna: A mild Asian green.  This can be eaten in a salad and used as a cooking green in such dishes as pho or many other Asian dishes. 
  4. Radishes
  5. Green Onions 
  6. Arugula: The green with a band with oakleaf-shaped leaves
  7. Romaine Lettuce 
  8. Red Leaf Lettuce
  9. Spinach: Loose greens in the box.  
  10. Parsley Bunch
Sauteed Swiss Shard with Bacon 

Ingredients
Olive oil, for pan
1 cup bacon, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 cloves garlic, smashed
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 bunch Swiss chard, stems removed and cut into 1/2-inch lengths, leaves cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock
Kosher salt

Directions
Coat a large saute pan lightly with olive oil and add the diced bacon, garlic, and crushed red pepper. Bring the pan to medium-high heat. When the garlic has turned a lovely golden brown, remove from the pan and discard. At this point the bacon should start to become brown and crispy. Add the Swiss chard stems and the stock and cook until the stock has mostly evaporated. Add the Swiss chard leaves and saute until they are wilted. Season with salt.
Recipe courtesy of Anne Burrell

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/anne-burrell/sauteed-swiss-chard-with-bacon-recipe.html?oc=linkback

Friday, May 20, 2016

Build the Local Food Economy: Join a Co-op!

We've been busy trying to get a new season started here at Lida Farm, so much so that I've not updated this blog since February.

We have cole crops, greens, potatoes, and other cool season crops planted.   The cold snap last week was a real scare, but we lost few plants, although twenty-some degrees does damage even cold hardy plants a bit so it takes time for them to recover.  I'm feeling really good about what's in the ground, but there's always a long list to get done to ready the place for a new year.

Besides the farm, I've also been busy with a new initiative to start a food co-op in Detroit Lakes.  As a local organic farmer, I believe a food co-op (owned by its members) would be a huge asset in growing the local food economy and good food movement in our community.  I've seen first-hand how co-ops have helped local farmers and businesses in the Twin Cities when working for Mississippi Market for three years.

As a member of the Manna Co-op board, we have a building identified and a lease on-hand ready to sign.  However, we need at least 300 members to make this a reality (our goal is 500).  As of yesterday we're at 101.  Please consider joining as a founding member at http://www.mannafood.coop/ or come to Lakes Area Farmers Market opening day (May 21) from 10-2 to sign up in person .  The cost is $150 and you will receive a number of benefits, including monthly member discounts.

Please contact me with any questions you may have at 218-770-4398 or lidafarmer@gmail.com