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

Thursday, February 18, 2016

CSA Sign Up Season

Now that MPR started their winter member drive this week, it's about time for us to sign up new and returning members for our 2016 season.  All details are at the CSA info page on this website.

Is a CSA Right for Me?
All told, the magic of any CSA is eating and cooking with the season.  I have found that CSA does not work for everybody.  In my experience, these are the types of people for whom a CSA arrangement works: 
  1. You cook from scratch:  The number one reason people do not sign up for a second year in a CSA is because 'it's too much food.'  We are constantly thinking about the right portions for any veggie in the box.  For example, we will put in about a pound of beans (enough for a meal or two), but not some crazy amount just because we have a lot. If you aren't in the habit of cooking, look out because it just keeps coming.  A lot of folks on the fence will sign up for every-other-week deliveries, so that would be eight deliveries over four months.  
  2. You are a bit adventurous: We are always thinking about the right mix of crops to fill out the season.  We make sure everybody receives the staples you'd expect like sweet corn, tomatoes, and green beans.  These staples are 80% of the veggies we grow, but we do sprinkle in some items which you may not be familiar with like fresh fennel, herbs, and some greens.  Sure, you will receive standard green leaf head lettuce, but one week you may get a pretty red oakleaf lettuce or red butterhead.  I do want our members to 'live a little' and try some new things...this is part of the fun.  We supply a good mix and we will never send out a box with only 'weird stuff.'
  3. You are committed to making it work: Being a CSA member isn't like joining the army; it's not that much of a commitment.  However, a box is coming every week or every other week no matter what for four months and it needs somebody to take care of it.  We don't want to leave veggies on your doorstep to wilt in the sun for three days because you are out of town.  We simply ask that you pay attention and communicate so things work for everybody.  You will receive an email from us each week and invitations to some events over the season, including the 'rules of the road' about returning your box (keeps some stuff out of a landfill) and other logistical details.  We're pretty flexible and we simply ask that you make it work on you end.  
  4. You are willing to share in the risks:  The philosophy behind CSA is that both the farmer and the eater are sharing the risks of the season together.  We haven't missed a weekly box in over ten years of being CSA operators, but there is always the risk that a tornado will hit the farm and we're out of commission for the season.  This is a risk we take together.  Members are our insurance policy.  If the growing season is good, you receive greater abundance than if the growing season is bad.  We can't control mother nature.  

Sunday, October 04, 2015

End of the Line

It seems but a week ago that I was planting seeds in the greenhouse and now we've just delivered the last box.  Overall, this has been one great summer growing season and we appreciate all of you who have been along for the ride.  We had consistent rains through early August which helped establish  good crops and no crazy weather: no tornadoes, huge winds, or bad hail.  

This time of year, like many, we feel like eating high calorie foods and sleeping.  It's the fall where our bodies ready themselves for winter.  At least for us, after five months of vegetable growing every day, we're spent.    
Even Coffee Doesn't Help Sometimes
Don't worry, Lida Farm's never sleeps for long.  A vacation over MEA weekend, and we're looking towards some winter growing.  After a winter's rest, we get just as excited as ever for spring planting and we'll be be ready to roll for yet another season!

In the box: 
  • Long Pie Pumpkin: Oblong Orange Squash 
  • Regular Pie Pumpkin
  • Acorn or Red Kuri Winter Squash
  • Fresh Sage and Rosemary
  • Yellow Onion
  • A couple Sweet Peppers: These plants just won't die off...
  • Parsnips: No, not funky carrots...you need to cook these.
  • Swiss Chard 
  • Spinach
  • Rutabaga


 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Endless Summer

Typically we've had a light frost by mid-September.   Since I'm in the produce business, one would think that a frost would get me down, but quite the opposite.  A  frost in September marks a definitive transition from summer to fall crops.   Brussel sprouts and other cole crops sweeten up with a little frost, vines die and expose the winter squash, and all those hot-season crops die.  It's quite a relief.

At this point, we're stuck in a summer-fall limbo where I can't fully let go of summer stuff, which is just making me anxious.  Still, there are only two other weeks of the CSA after this week, and I just have to move into all those wonderful fall crops out in the field.  So, I'm trying to turn the corner into fall, frost or no frost.  Enjoy a week of cooking some hearty meals with these roots and squash we included.  

In the box:

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Start Squirreling

I know it's hot, but fall is in in sight.  All those summer crops have already-sadly-reached their peak and are on their way out.  The melon patch has been steadily taken over by yellowjackets, corn is turning brown in the field, and those tomatoes are starting to look a bit haggard.

Now is the time we should all start making like squirrels and start storing all that bounty of the year because, gulp, winter is coming.  Many a customer at the farmers market hems and haws whether the day is perfect to can tomatoes, but, like today, I've had to inform them that "it's now or never."  That's why we invite members to come out and pick tomatoes starting tomorrow (Sept 6) and Monday and runs through the week.

In the box:
Red Tomatoes
Golden Rave Yellow Romas
Melon Medley (Charatais, green/gray in color; Honey Orange, white; Sun Jewel, yellow)
Potatoes: Some received purple viking (best roasted or fried since boiling or mashing makes for a weird color), most others received yukon gold potatoes
Salad Mix
Fairy Tale Eggplant: these guys are little, but you work with them the same as any other eggplant
A Couple Onions
Celery: There have been problems with this celery having a bad core, but you should be able to still strip off the stalks
Green Pepper
Red Bell Pepper
Cucumber
Parsley


Saturday, August 29, 2015

Wheat Harvest by Hand

Sometime I feel like we live in the 19th century at Lida Farm.  Last summer we milked a cow by hand.  We harvest a lot of produce with big harvest knives.  And I feel like we're always out digging with shovels more often than we should to for some reason. I call it modern-day peasant culture; some may like to market it as 'artisan' while others label our lifestyle just a waste of time.

Either way, I really felt like a medieval serf this week when we harvested our little patch of wheat by hand.  To use a combine on a piece of ground 6 feet wide and 40 feet long would be ridiculous and it was too weedy anyway.  I used our salad mix knife to cut the wheat and we threw it on a big tarp.  Once it dries a bit more, we'll beat the stuff with a plastic baseball bat and begin to separate the wheat from the chaff in a high wind.  Lord knows if this will be worth the time, but it's been a cool process.    

Apprentice Kelsey as Ceres, Goddess of Wheat

In the CSA box:
Watermelon: You received either a Sunshine yellow melon or New Orchid orange variety
Canteloupe
Leek or Cippolini Onion: Most received a leek like last week, but I ran a bit short and a few received a Cippolini, a flat onion, which is my favorite and very flavorful.
Red slicing tomatoes: Most of these are a Celebrity or Defiant varieties, which have been been performing great this year in the field.
Yellow 'Golden Rave' Romas: These are best eaten fresh, instead of cooked as most romas.
Bunch of Carrots
Eggplant:  A lot of people are always asking me about preparing eggplant.  One simple way is grilling, try this recipe  http://www.domesticate-me.com/grilled-eggplant-with-fresh-mozzarella-tomatoes-and-basil-vinaigrette/
Green Onions: The onions with a band around them, not to be confused with the leeks
Yukon Gold Potatoes
Anaheim Pepper: This is the green pepper which is pretty straight and pointy.  This is a hot pepper, but with less heat than a jalepeno
Italia Pepper: Red and green like the Italian flag, this is a very sweet pepper, good for sauteing or eating fresh.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Spontaneous Farming

I love the world of sustainable agriculture.  It attracts a great cast of actors few other fields can claim.  Organic agriculture attracts serious foodies, left-wingers in search of utopia, Christian home-schoolers, reformed hippies, would-be hippies, people who like to wear plaid, feminist crusaders, and, well, people who just like to eat tomatoes that taste better than cardboard.  It's a wild mix of passionate people who feel that agriculture holds a key to unlock many of the challenges which currently challenge us, including community dissolution, climate change, and healthcare to name a few.  I believe organic ag holds an important place to improve our world as well, otherwise I wouldn't be spending long hours in a the blazing heat to make this work.

A great example of this attraction came last week when my friend Zach and I were getting ready to harvest our garlic crop on Sunday.  It was a nice surprise when I found that a few folks who were traveling cross country caught up with Zach and decided to lend a hand for the day.  I doubt the same crew would have helped on a plumbing job or cashiering at the local big box.  Instead of just three of us digging up garlic by hand we had six, which makes a huge difference when pulling in over 1,000 heads. 
Garlic Harvest 2015 with Zach, Ryan, Loren, and our cross-country roadtripping friends
In the CSA box: 
Sun Jewel Melon: Yellow oblong things with white stripes. This is a Korean white-fleshed melon.  It's ripe, but is made to be eaten when firm.  
Roma Tomatoes
A Red Slicing Tomato
1-2 Heirloom Tomatoes: Some got a variety called German Pink (huge tomaotes) while others got Cherokee Purple variety (dark purple and green in color).  These are not for cooking, but best eaten fresh.
Biscayne Pepper: A light green and long pepper.  This is a sweet pepper.  
Big King Arthur Pepper
Broccoli
Dozen Sweet Corn 
Westlander Kale
Bunch of Carrots
Merino Garlic: This is still officially fresh garlic since it hasn't cured.  You may find it a bit stronger than garlic which is completely dried down.