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.   

Friday, August 08, 2014

Deep Winter Greenhouse Production

Site for greenhouse and cabin we recently moved for future interns
We at Lida Farm are currently in our 10th year of vegetable production here in Otter Tail County.  Like any organization which reaches such a milestone, we began to ask ourselves what's next.  And, like many others who have been part of the local foods movement in the Upper Midwest, we've decided to extend our season to the extreme by building a deep winter greenhouse.  The idea is to build a structure which will allow us to grow some greens and crops which could do well not only is the cooler temperatures of winter, but the low light intensity as well.

Right now we have a really big hole in our backyard which is making us a bit nervous because it looks like a bigger project than we expected.  However, as soon as tomorrow we'll start framing a structure which will hold 10-inches of insulation in the walls and sit 5-feet below grade to take advantage of the constant moderate temperatures of the earth at that depth.  In the five feet below the soil, we'll have a network of tiling in rock and radiant floor tubing to keep the greenhouse above freezing, even through winters as nasty as the one we left behind in April.  Since we're digging a big hole in the hillside near our house, we also decided to incorporate a small root cellar as well - why not, right?  Our major plans are to offer a limited number of winter and fall CSA shares to provide members greens and storage root crops during the time of year we really crave some good produce.  

In this week's CSA box:
Sweet Corn: Hey, we made it!  It's a mix of varieties, including Bodacious (Yellow) and Luscious (a bi-color variety from organic seed)
A mix of tomatoes:  These are just starting to turn as well, but boy are we happy they are starting up.
Japanese Eggplant: These guys taste just like a standard Italian one and you prepare the same way.
Basil
Sweet Onion
Pepper: Most received a purple variety called Islander which tastes like a green one.  Others got a light-green variety called Biscayne
Summer Squash: Most received green zucchini, but some received a yellow type.

Recipe: Our suggestion is to simply grill everything.  Easy.  Delicious.  You can't go wrong.

Friday, August 01, 2014

The Week in-between the Seasons

I think of this week and the week in-between.  As I go out and scout the fields, I see a lot of tomatoes, but very few changing color.  I see many little eggplants, ears of corn not yet ripe or filled out, and peppers close, but not yet mature.  It always makes me both excited and anxious.  Excited for what's close to mature, and anxious because I really want to fill the CSA box with all these wonderful crops.  Typically the week in-between comes earlier, but, here we are, still waiting for these high-season crops at a the beginning of August.  When we look at the forecast, it sure looks like we're going to have some good growing weather with hot sunny days and nights in the 60's.


In the box:
Green Onions
Bunch of Beets
Mini-head of Romaine
Parsley
Kohlrabi
A couple Cukes
Salad Turnip
A little tomato or a pepper (I found a whopping 10 ripe tomatoes out there today, so I thought you would appreciate a sample anyway - everybody else received a Biscayne or Islander pepper)
Red Torpedo Onion
Sweet Onion


Friday, July 25, 2014

Beating Back the Weeds

Last night, like many a night before, we continued with our battle against really big weeds.  This time of year, in good soil, weeds like redroot pigweed and lamb's quarters turn into small trees with roots 6
Our Tine Weeder
inches in the ground.  When I should be looking over our onion field with row after row of beautifully-spaced and maturing white bulbs, I instead see a forest of green going to seed.  We got to this place this year from a wet spring which continued into early summer.  Oftentimes people think the major issue with lots of rain is that it sets back planting, but, on an organic farm like ours, the biggest challenge with a long, wet season is the inability to control weeds.  We use mechanical cultivation to take out weeds when they are just emerging.  Our cultivation equipment consists of an old Farmall H with shovels attached and a tine weeder which drags over the bed.  When not even able to walk on the totally saturated soils in June, we sure were not able to drive a tractor out there, and, once a full flush of weeds germinated at got to a good size, tractor cultivation doesn't do a great job of killing them.  So, it's come down to us, a lot of time, and our hands.  After a few weeks, I feel we are starting to win this war of attrition as we reclaim territory row by row.  It certainly is a great sight when I get to the end of a bed and can look back over the uncovered plants - ah, relief!  Recently rescued crops include the second planting of beans and a pretty bed of carrots.  

It was nice to see some members last week who came out picking peas.   But I know a lot of members still haven't been out.  Please know you are welcome and I'd be happy to show you the sights.  Got kids, maybe they'd like to see the pigs or give Peanut, the milk cow, a leaf of hay?  If you are in the neighborhood, stop on by.  Sunday's are typically good as we are almost always around.  

I hope you've been enjoying the "early season" veggies (hard to believe I'm saying that at the end of July).  I saw some cherry tomatoes turning in the high tunnel a couple days ago and melons starting to swell on the vine.  Over the next couple of week, expect to start making a transition to high season as corn, tomatoes, and peppers begin to ripen.

In the box: 
Cilantro 
Dill 
Red or Green Leaf Lettuce
Dino Kale 
Cucumbers 
Green Beans: Most of these are a variety called Grenoble I really like because of their dark color and waxy texture.
Pattypan or Staightneck Summer Sqaush
Sweet Onion: A variety called Ailsa Craig

Simple Cucumber Salad
Simply in Season (page 100)

So many of us (myself included) always reach for vinegar and salt when preparing cucumbers for the table, but, with so many now coming in, here's a creamy version which will use a few things from the box

3 cups cucumbers, thinly sliced 
1/2 cup sweet onion, thinly sliced 
3/4 cup plain yogurt
1-2 tablespoons fresh dill weed (chopped)

Place cucumbers and onion in a large bowl and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt.  Let stand one hour.  Drain.  Add yogurt and dill and serve. 




Friday, July 18, 2014

A 4-H Family Tradition

Sylvia's champion produce arrangement
When our daughter, Sylvia, was asking about what to bring to the fair, our obvious answer was "vegetables."  Being that this is the first year she could show and place (she graduated from Cloverbuds), it took us a bit to figure out exactly how to present the veggies for the fair.  We read through this publication Extension put together back in the 70's - an oldie, but goodie, I guess.  Then, Tuesday morning, we trounced out to the garden to pull in a assortment consisting of a cabbage, peas, cucumbers, beets, swiss chard, and summer squash.  Maree and Sylvia must have a good eye because she was awarded champion at the West Otter Tail County Fair.

One neat thing about the kids now getting into 4-H and the fair is that they are picking up on a long family tradition started with Maree's great-grandfather, Charles Goetschel.  Settling in Lake Elmo in the 1840's, Maree's family operated a diversified dairy operation up until early 2000's; I always say Maree grew up at the last remaining dairy farm in Lake Elmo, although I really don't know if that's true.  Apparently these guys were fierce competition at both the Washington County Fair and the State Fair, especially in field crops.  Maree's mom passed on this little clipping from the 30's about her grandpa Wally in his last year of 4-H.  

In the CSA box: 
Napa Cabbage
Bok Choi
Green Beans 
Summer Squash: Yellow and zucchini
Cucumbers
Swiss Chard: Colorful green with a blue band
'Imperial' broccoli
Bunch of Cilantro: One with a red band around it.  
Fennel: This one seems to freak people out, but there's a recipe below

Green Bean and Fennel Salad with Shaved Parmesan 

  1. 1 pound green beans
  2. 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  3. 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  4. Salt and freshly ground pepper
  5. 2 small fennel bulbs (about 1 pound)
  6. 2/3 cup shaved Parmesan cheese (about 3 ounces)
  1. Cook the beans in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until nearly tender, about 6 minutes. Drain them in a colander and refresh under cold running water. Drain well.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the olive oil and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Thinly slice the fennel lengthwise, add it to the bowl and toss, then transfer the fennel to a platter. Add the beans to the bowl and toss with the remaining dressing, then transfer them to the platter. Garnish with the Parmesan shavings and serve.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Lida Farm now accepting SNAP benefits

In order to local foods more accessible to more people, there has been a lot of effort over the last few years for farmers markets to accept SNAP benefits (formerly known as food stamps) through EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer...folks get a card like a credit card).  Our own farmers market in Detroit Lakes got authorized to accept SNAP  about 4 years ago.  It was not a great success.  We tried again last year, but the vendors chose not to pursue it again for this year.  Many felt we were not reaching enough people for all the logistics and effort involved - dealing with credit card companies and the wireless terminal technology does take some effort, much less communicating the program to all vendors at a time of year when everybody's under the stress of the farm season.  

I've always felt that good local food should be accessible to everybody.  Too often the only people at farmers markets or signing up for a CSA have graduate degrees and drive a Subaru or Volkswagen (things which also characterize myself).  So, recently we authorized Lida Farm itself to accept SNAP benefits and got enrolled in a program called Marketlink, funded through the USDA.  Since we were the only vendor authorized at our farmers market, we qualified and now have a iPhone with a card reader and even a wireless printer for receipts - pretty slick.  We will be able to start accepting SNAP at the Lakes Area Farmers Market in DL on Saturdays and also accept SNAP for CSA payments.

For CSA members we'll be open Sunday for a Pea Pick.  If you would like to pick some more peas, please come on out to the farm anytime from 9 am to dusk.

In the CSA box:

  • Green Cabbage
  • Kohlrabi
  • Snap Peas 
  • Radishes 
  • Salad Mix
  • Beets
  • Summer Squash: Most got a yellow summer squash and a zucchini.  You'd use the yellow the same as the green 
  • Cucumbers
Summer Squash Fritters

I'm really into these for breakfast.   They are good topped with some sauteed greens and green onions if you still have some around from a previous box.  

2 eggs 
2-3 summer squash 
Salt and pepper
T oil

Grate the summer squash like hashbrowns into a bowl.  Crack in a couple eggs, mix with a fork. Season with salt and pepper.  Heat up the oil in a skillet at medium-low heat.  Pour in the fritter mix and fry til firm and browned a bit underneath.  Flip and brown the other side.  Top with salsa, sour cream, whatever you like.