Friday, September 22, 2006

Vermont...Local Foods Mecca.

Awesome Farmstand in Vermont,

Well, you probably thought I had disappeared...I was "right on" getting an entry into the blog every week until recently. I blame it on my day job. I've had to travel quite a bit lately, including a trip to the American Mecca of local foods as evidenced by this picture I've posted...boy, I wish I had a place like this one day.

One trip I just made was to Burlington, Vermont for an Extension Tourism conference. If you are at all interested in local foods, organics, and dairy products, Vermont is your place! I ate at a couple of restaurants which feature local foods. One called Flatbread uses all local ingredients for all food as well as the beer produced on site. Wow. It was impressive.

Just think if our own region of Minnesota started to connect as well with local farms...our region benefits from both quality food and the support to local economies. And what's really holding us back from doing so? Not much...we just need to connect and meet each others needs. Consumers need to think twice about where their food is coming from and give local producers a chance...local producers need to really hear what customers are looking for and grow to meet their needs.

Menu for Saturday's Market:
Peppers (sweet, colored, hot)
Red and White Potatoes
Red and Sweet Onions
Winter Squash (delicata, acorn, butternut)
Turnips and Rutabagas
Greens (kale, collards, swiss chard)
Tongue of Fire shelling beans
Romanette green beans (flat pod)
A few cateloupe
Fresh herbs

Check it out folks...we dodged a bullet this past week, but I guarantee the frost will be here soon! All those peppers, tomatoes, etc. will be gone. This is your last chance.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Get into summer before it's too late

Transplanter and Cultivator
Saturday's Market Menu:
Canteloupe: new
Watermelon: both yellow and red
Turnips: new
Sweet corn: bi-color
Summer Squash
Tomatoes: heirloom, roma, and beefsteak
Cherry Tomatoes: Sungold and grape
Potatoes: Yukon Gold and Norland
Cut Flowers
Onions: red, sweet, and yellow

Summer is just flying by if you havn't been paying attention.
It seems like just last week I was selling lettuce and early brassicas like kale, but I can already see the end from where I stand. Frost seems to appear by the second week of September...for those of you counting, that's just three weeks away!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

New Pictures

Market menu for Saturday, August 19:
Watermelons: Sunshine (yellow variety) and Sugar Baby (regular)
Tomatoes: cherry tomatoes, romas, heirlooms, and regular beefsteak varieties
Potatoes: Yukon Gold and Norland Red
Corn: Bodacious bi-color variety
Onions: yellow, sweet, red
Some yellow beans...
Flower Bouquets

My Uncle Duane was visiting our farm back in July and he lives for taking pictures! He lives in California and so it was great he could spend a couple of days with us. Some of his shots are below.

Sunset over Greenhouse looking North

Barn with pasture and thistles

Moving drip irrigation dad helping, my grandmom supervising.

Setting up irrigation...a common sight in July

Thursday, August 03, 2006


A absolute nightmare heat descended on Minnesota last week. My father-in-law follows weather like a hawk online and he said Vergas had a temperature of 97 and a dewpoint of 83 last sunday for a heat index of 122 degrees!! Man, it was insane.

As you can imagine this is not good for any crop. Even vegetables like melons and tomatoes which really like heat just shut down and try to survive, especially with such little moisture in the soil. Luckily we got nearly an inch of rain last Friday night, so I think all the plants have made it "over the hump." So, pray for a solid 80-some degrees with a weekly rain from here until frost.

Saturday's menu:
Juliet paste or plum tomatoes (new)
Taxi yellow tomatoes (new)
Valley Girl tomatoes (new)
...all these small, early-variety tomatoes are just coming in, so supply won't be great.
Beets (new)
Mix of Cherry Tomatoes: Grape, Sungold orange variety, and Washington Cherry variety
Summer Squash and Zucchini
Sweet Onions
Red Onions
Garlic and a couple Garlic Braids
Bok Choy
Last of Broccoli
Red Cabbage
Cut Flower Bouquets
Norland Red Potatoes

I'm out of town until Friday night, so let's hope I have time and energy to pull off harvest!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

July is a Trying Time

Staked Tomatoes
Although a field of 900 tomatoes plants all staked and in neat little rows is a beatiful sight...

Mar and I Staking Tomatoes

I think staking tomatoes used to be a medieval torture treatment. Basically you need to string 4 lines of twine along side of every tomato. You do this by extending a line under the foliage of the plants and tighten the line around each stake. And you try to do this without knocking off any little tomatoes or blossoms!

Striped Cucumber Beetle - most hated insect ever!
Enemy number one: Striped Cucumber Beetle. This guy is really making my July tough.

I've been battling this bug since early June, but it has really exploded since early July and is really insult to injury in our dry conditions.

They like anything in the cucurbit family which includes all melons, squash, and cucumbers. Right now they are eating all blossoms and crewing on the fruit of the plants, especially the zucchini.

I have been treating the plants with a substance called PyGanic, which is an organically-approved (OMRI) insecticide made out of Pyrethrin, a natural insecticide made from a plant.

Still the battle is not as successful as hoped. I am now tossing out about 1/3 of all summer squash due to insect damage. So, if you see some little pock marks on a zucchini, sqush, or melon throughout the season, you now know the culprit. But don't worry, it's only cosmetic.

Saturday's Market Menu:
Red Potatoes (new)
Cherry Tomatoes
Red and Sweet Onions
More Zinnia Bouquets
Mini Bok Choy (new)
Summer Squash
A few Eggplants

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

History of Pesch Farm and Produce

It seems kind of strange to write about the history of Pesch Farm and Produce since there is so little of it, but I thought you'd like to know how we got here.

Cast of characters:
Me - Ryan
Mar - Maree, my wife
Sylvie - Sylvia, our daughter

We hightailed out of St. Paul and moved to our farm halfway between Pelican Rapids and Vergas two years ago. I'm originally from East Grand Forks and Mar's from Lake Elmo, so we lucked out in landing halfway between both our families.

So how did you get into vegetable farming?
Some 6 years ago I was a kid out of college living in St. Paul. After a stint in a law office shuffling papers and realizing just how boring the real world of employment actually is, I decided to make a sharp left turn and find an apprenticeship on one of the many local organic farms in the "vegetable belt" around the twin cities. I ended up working for Paul and Chris Burkhouse of Foxtail Farm for two seasons before Mar and I got married. At Foxtail I learned all there was to managing a produce farm and CSA (community supported agriculture).
In 2002 Mar and I did a "dry run" on our own. We were tenants on her uncle's land in Lake Elmo and sold at the Northeast Minneapolis Farmers Market. Also at the same time I worked at Mississippi Market Food Co-op in St. Paul as a greengrocer, a job I had until we moved up to Otter Tail County.
So, for us, being able to afford a small farm and actually start up our own place is a dream come turn. It's been a long road, but we're happy to be here.
OK, Ryan, thanks for the history, but I just want to know what you're bringing to market on Saturday...
Cucumbers (new)
Eggplant (new)
Pickling cucumbers
Summer squash: zucchini, crocked-neck, sunburst (new)
Green onions (last week for season)
Green beans
Sweet Onions
Maybe potatoes...

Friday, July 14, 2006

Local Foods on the March

I've decided that we have really turned a corner with how people view what they eat.

For a long time only a small group of folks were talking about the importance and pleasure of buying fresh and local food. Not only is a local head of lettuce about 100 times fresher than the three-week old head of Iceberg, but you encounter a huge variety of produce, support local farmers, and learn a lot about your local community in the process.

But two articles have changed my view. 1. Wednesday the Star Tribune ran a series of articles on the ethics of buying food 2. Today I read an article on Wal-Mart bringing organic foods to their stores When Wal-Mart joins in, you know all this talk about organic and local foods is no longer relegated to crunchy people who hang around health food stores! This is big.

In our own small way we've seen this at the little Lakes Area Farmers Market. The number of people shopping is up from last year as is the number of vendors selling. Sometimes we just think we're a backwater--a bit behind the times--but, on this, we are right in the mix. We're growing our own local food system right here.

Coming to Market:
Green Beans
Pickling Cucumbers
Summer Squash
Sweet onions
Green onions
Swiss Chard

Friday, July 07, 2006

Market Day 7-8-06

Well, already another market day is upon us. The week has just whizzed by and tomorrow is already Saturday.

Market menu:

Lettuce: red bibb, green bibb, red oakleaf, romaine, and green butterhead
Scallions (or green onions, if you prefer...the two names are confusing!)
Green garlic (just hasn't been dried or cured yet): it's just more flavorful and with a little kick.
Summer Squash: zucchini and yellow crocked neck

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The day of the leafy greens!

Well, the first of the year's produce is coming in. We went to the Lakes Area Farmers' Market for the first time last saturday (6/24) and people were out in full force scouring DL for fresh produce.

Mar and Sylvie holding down the fort
I think strawberries were the driving force. It's all the talk about this time of year as people search high and wide for good berries.

We sold a lot of berries, but the garlic scapes certainly got the most questions from people. FYI garlic scapes are the shoots a garlic plant produces in an attempt to reproduce.

We actually set up on the "lakeside" of the market this year...we were there for a few market days last fall and we liked it, so we decided to return.

Nice Lettuce!
I'm terribly proud of this red oakleaf lettuce. The only problem is that people aren't familiar with it and would rather have the green leaf.

Hey, come on, live a little. Red oakleaf tastes just as good as green leaf...I think it's a bit "nuttier" in flavor and certainly prettier. Actually oakleaf and greenleaf make a good mix.

Coming up for July 1:
More lettuce
Greens: collards, kale, chard
The start of the peas
Fresh herbs

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Saturday: First market day of the year!

Saturday is the first day we are going to the market in Detroit Lakes. I actually try putting off the first market day because you are "locked in" after that point. But things are growing well enough that we can't put it off any longer...

At the market on Saturday:
Greens (kale, swiss chard, collards)

Not a lot going on just yet...but it will grow.

Again, we are at City Park in Detroit Lakes near the Pavilion (by the lake) from 10-2.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Have you ever built a greenhouse?

Installing hoops for the main frame
Greenhouses are great for growing produce. They protect the plants, decrease disease, and increase yields. Really no market gardener should be without one.

Last year I built this mickey-mouse 10X10 greenhouse out of PVC pipe to start transplants. It swayed in the wind and basically collapsed by the end of the season--two nights last summer I was out with a roll of duct tape at 3 am just to hold it together.

So, I sunk everything I earned last year at the market into a solid greenhouse...actually a "high tunnel" with a double layer of plastic for extra insulation. Most use high tunnels with a single layer and plant directly into the ground. I have a hybred of sorts, first starting my transplants on tables and planting directly into the ground when I've finally moved them into the field.

Have you ever built a greenhouse? It's a nightmare. I had helped put plastic on other greenhouses in my apprentice days, so I was estimating a good afternoon to do the job, maybe 4-5 hours. Problem is, putting the plastic on is the easiest part of greenhouse construction...we were in for the duration.

Putting on sidewalls
My big learning about building greenhouses... it's all in the framing! Building requires many holes and screws, which takes a lot of time. It also takes a lot of balance when you are atop a ladder which is in a trailer in a 20 mile-an-hour wind!

All told, my 4-5 hour project took 18-20 hours and that's with the help of parents who invested their whole weekend. Who could ask for better parents?

We've certainly had our stops and starts getting the greenhouse working for the season--it was filled with propane one day when high winds made the sidewalls flap so much that the propane line was pulled out...I'm glad I don't smoke.

Now that it's done, it's not going anywhere in my lifetime. It's currently filled with Gourmet (orange) and Labrador (yellow) peppers, eggplant, basil, and a couple rows of cherry tomatoes.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Cute! Spring Lambs.

For those of you not familiar with our flock, we bought two ewe lambs in fall 2004 to start things up after my fence-building period. We ended up going with "cafe names." The mostly white ewe is named Latte, whereas the mostly brown ewe is named Mocha--when we had a black steer with a few white splotches, we named him Macchiato, but he is no longer with us. Although they got to know a ram in their ewe lamb days, no pregnancy took.

So, we were quite pleased when three lambs were born this spring after spending time with their "boyfriend" at our neighbor's farm. Latte gave birth to twin ewe lambs and Mocha gave us this weather lamb (left). We're a bit confused about his name right now. I call him blackie, my wife likes the Germanic Schwartz, although since he's destined for a short life, Lambchop makes sense.

For those of you not familiar with terminology, a weather is a castrated male sheep, whereas a non-castrated sheep is a ram. Blackie, here, is a lamb in process. He's been banded and will be offically a weather in a week or so.

Boo and Baa
Latte's two ewe lambs are named Boo and Baa, after the two lamb characters in a Norweigan boardbook of Sylvie's. The story is pretty stupid--these two lambs go boating together in the ocean--but we like the names, especially since they are a pair.

Boo and Baa came, oddly, at 4 in the afternoon in late April. From my experience (which is not great), most births come at night and early morning.

Paul and Chris Burkhouse of Foxtail Farm (Osceola, WI) have always kept of flock of 20-30 and showed me the ropes when I worked for them two seasons in 2000 and 2001. Because of this experience, I felt more familiar with sheep than other livestock, so it was only natural to start with sheep when we bought our farm. Also sheep are quite manageable and independant. Give them pasture and they'll do just fine.


This picture illustrates the life of a sheep quite well. The ewe's graze from dawn til dusk and the lambs abuse their mothers' udders and nurse between romping around the countryside.

We have only one fenced pasture and it sits behind our barn. The area was previouly mowed, but this didn't make sense to me. I figured we'd save the gas and time and let the sheep do the mowing.

The fence was the first project I did when we moved here in summer 2004. If you're in the produce business, you need livestock of some sort. Manure doesn't grow on trees (that's a strange saying, isn't it?) And places like the steep hill behind the barn should be pasture. You sure aren't going to till the ground!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Barn Again

We've only been residents of Lida Township for two years now, buying our farm from Kenny and Margaret Kratzke in June 2004.

But since that time I've been losing sleep everytime it rained, envisioning those holes in our old wood-shake roof getting larger and larger and the wood getting weaker and weaker until the whole barn becomes a pile of rotted lumber. Barns are too valuable to let go, especially if you have a use like we do: housing animals and equipment, storing Marvin's hay in the loft, possible future use as a packing shed for produce...

We always knew we needed a new roof when you saw light pouring into the loft. After the shakes were taken down, lots of light poured in as you see.

In process...

Almost there....

Eli and his crew are from Wadena County off to our east in central MN and have no fear of heights. Let me tell you, I could never work this high off terra firma. I guess that's why I would never consider roofing a hip-roof barn 40 to 60 feet high.

All told, it took a crew of 3-8 workmen to tear off the old wood shakes and put on new steel 3 full working days to complete.

And the finished product?

All told, I'm sleeping better this spring, although there are a few leaks Eli needs to repair and I've found new worries to fret about.

Next week...greenhouse construction. And you thought it would be easy?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Open for business

As part of my day job as an Extension Educator I teach eCommerce and recommend businesses pursue creative marketing such as a blog. I figured it is about time I "walk the walk" and actually follow my own recommendations for my own business, Pesch Farm and Produce. We are a small, diversified 20-acre farm in Otter Tail County between Pelican Rapids and Vergas, MN. More about that later...

For this blog, my idea is to post information about our farm and produce which would be of interest to our customers. At the very least I would like to make a weekly entry to let people know what produce we are bringing to market on Saturday. At best this blog will also be a place for you to find recipies featuring local produce, interesting pictures and stories about our farm, and information about our fellow vendors at the Lakes Area Farmers Market in Detroit Lakes. I hope you will find this site useful as a place to connect with local foods in our neck of the woods.