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.

Friday, October 03, 2014

It got cold out!

Wow, what a difference a day makes.  We spent yesterday planting garlic and harvesting for the box in the 60's with full sun.  This morning, I had to plunge my hands into water at a temperature most commonly found off the shores of Antarctica.

Late Night Washing Vegetables
Every so often I was able to stop shuddering today, and, looking around, found some beautiful sights.  The colors on the trees right now are incredible and it's wonderful to see how even the weeds and grasses I curse all summer color with autumn hues.  The birds on the farm are taking turns bolting upwards in the strong winds, and, I also appreciate seeing our wind turbine spinning away - we're really making a lot of power today!


As we edge into fall, we're turning our attention ever more to finishing our winter greenhouse.  Right now we have a lot of rafter up, which is great because we feel like we're making real progress.  For a long time, the whole project was just a big pit in the ground with some rocks in the bottom, but it's starting to take shape.  Next we're shoveling in a one-foot layer of sand for the radiant floor tubing.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Monarchs in Minnesota



Much has been said and written about monarch butterflies as of late.  Like others, we have not seen many monarchs this year, however, today, Maree had a nice surprise to find a monarch chrysalis attached to a black cherry tomato when picking today.  It's tough to see in the picture, but, when up close, you can see the orange color of the monarch's wings.  

Friday, September 12, 2014

It's Official...Lida Farm is Certified Organic

One of our major undertakings this year besides building this deep winter greenhouse and root cellar has been going through organic certification.  This is a process where we lay out for a third-party certification agency (ours is OCIA) lots of details about how we farm and exactly what inputs and materials (fertilizers, seeds, etc) we use to produce crops for the last three years.  Certification is pretty much the only way to obtain the label and right to the term organic.  Together with this paperwork we get inspected by that agency to make sure we are doing what we say we are doing and make sure that our inputs fit organic standards.

This sound simple enough, but what I realized is that how we grow is very complex.  Staff at OCIA said that most people's paperwork comes in at about 25 pages, ours was 110 pages.  This is due to the large number of types of crops and how we handle each one.  For example, we grew 393 different seed varieties in the past three years and have nearly 75 vegetable beds, many of which we treat quite differently due to the different crops grown in each.  An organic row crop farm may have 4 or 5 seeds and treat an entire 40 acre field the same.

All told, however, I feel really good about finally coming around to certifying.  After thinking about certifying for many years, I realized this is still the best way to assure you and all others that we take organic production very seriously and grow with integrity.  No longer do I have to yammer for 5 minutes about each of our farm practices when asked if our stuff is organic at a farmers market.  It's the real deal.  Receiving this official certificate in the mail this week, I felt quite proud.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Pretty Stressful Week

Many think that organic farmers like us live an idyllic life, watching over sheep in fields at sunset and waxing poetic about whole grains and our stewardship of earth.  Although we have done these things, this week certainly didn't give us moments of ponder and relaxation.  Instead, I was thinking that this may have been one of the most stressful weeks of farming ever.

A few overlapping projects and circumstances came together to make this a week to remember.  The primary stress was the weather, as I'm sure you may have experienced yourself.  We received hail not once, but twice this week,, both Monday and Thursday. The biggest issue, however, was the 4 inches of rain which poured out of the sky in two hours.  Thursday morning I woke up at 3:30 to close up the high tunnel so it didn't blow away, spent an hour sopping up water in the basement with a sponge, pulled the battery on our van since it rained so much in the open windows that the horn was stuck in the "on" position, and saw that the north wall of the barn collapsed on my way out to my dayjob at seven.  Whoa!

The rain also bowed out the bottom of the greenhouse we're constructing and put a small lake in our front field, putting under water the carrots we planned on harvesting and once again drowned the potatoes which should have gone in the box this week.  This all happened under the backdrop of starting delivery to the new food hub in Fergus Falls on Wednesday, getting a new batch of chicks, all the usual harvesting and produce orders, and greenhouse construction in our spare time (which this week entailed a form a prison labor shoveling rock).

Man, I'm getting tired, but at least this espresso is kicking in and the sun is shining.  I know it's going to be alright and we'll press right on through these challenges, the farm season, and all our projects just fine.  

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Become a part of the movement to make local foods available year-round!

Lida Farm is now embarking on a project to build an efficient and low-energy solar greenhouse to take our CSA to into the depths of winter.  Over the next 30 days we're running a Kickstarter campaign to fund the project.  If you'd like to see clean energy and local foods come together to produce something great, please contribute: http://kck.st/1peQpEg

My semi-lame video tells the story:

Friday, August 22, 2014

High Season Extravaganza

A member favorite: cherry tomato mix
Walking around the garden this week, I stumbled upon a sight of high season I just adore: ripe melons!  They just kind of crept up on me.  I've been keeping an eye on them since July growing in the vines, but it seemed like it would still be a while.  I couldn't believe these guys were ready.  I immediately walked in my house and looked at the calendar: August 20!  Really? 

I tell this story not as evidence of my being out of touch, but to illustrate how I'm just as taken aback as anybody by how quickly summer comes and goes around here.  I'm just guessing that you feel the same.  I swear we were just setting plants in the ground a few weeks ago, but here we are with the end of the growing season in sight (we almost always have a frost in mid-Sept).

Even though time is flying by, this is still an exciting time on the farm - a time of the year when we are just running to keep up.  All of the high season crops are in: tomatoes, peppers, sweet corn, potatoes.  Each day we go out to the fields and spend hours simply harvesting, pulling in thousands of pounds of ripe produce.  It's a great feeling to see that abundance!  This is also the time of year when we start preparing for next year, mowing down fields which are way too overgrown with weeds.  Boy, that is probably the most satisfying feeling ever for me.  Things go from a terrible mess to a clean field in a matter of minutes.  

In the CSA box: 
Sweet Corn: most of it is a yellow variety called "Bodacious" but there is some "Silver King" white corn, and some bi-color "Luscious" variety mixed in. 
Mix of Cherry Tomatoes: I love the look and taste of these new "Artisan" variety you'll see mixed in with cherry types.  They are oblong and have tiger stripes.  They also really pretty up the pint. 
A Couple Red Slicing Tomatoes: This is a traditional "Celebrity" variety, my old stand by. 
"Cherokee Purple" Heirloom Tomato: This is a great tomato for fresh eating, just slice and eat with salt.  Certainly don't cook with this guy, it would be a shame. 
"Norland" Red Potatoes
Carrots 
"Red Wing" Red Onion
"Fastbreak" Canteloupe: We were a little short, so a select few of you got a variety called "Sun Jewel" which is a white-fleshed Asian variety - a real nice melon with good sweetness but really firm. 
"New Orchid" Watermelon: This is a orange flesh variety, really nice. 
"Bianca" Peppers: Yes, they are white, but have the taste and work like a green. 
Small "Stonehead" Cabbage

Cabbage Succotash
from the St. Paul Farmers Market Produce Cookbook
3 ears fresh sweet corn, peeled
3 cups green cabbage, chopped
2 cups lima beans, cooked (you can certainly substitute some other bean)
2 T butter
1 medium onion, chopped 
1 1/2 t balsamic vinegar
1 t salt 
1/4 t pepper

In a large pot, cook corn in boiling water until tender, about 7 to 10 minutes.  Cut kernels off the cobs with a sharp knife. 

Steam cabbage until tender, about 7 to 10 minutes.  In a large skillet, heat butter and saute onion until soft.  Add the cooked corn kernels, cabbage, balsamic vinegar, and mix well.  Salt and pepper to taste.