Monday, November 09, 2009

Neufchatal and Cream Cheese Special

We will be delivering again this Wednesday, November 11 throughout the area. I'm thinking we're the only organic dairy route in the nation, so join up to say you're on the cutting edge.

We have organic cream cheese and Neufchatal on special at $2.25 each and still have a good number of whole chickens for sale as well as some winter squash. Please order through our local dirt site to let us know what you'd like:

We will also be doing one other delivery before Thanksgiving and will have our own lamb available at the end of the month. You can also arrange to pick up if that works better.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Orders for Sunday

Here at the end of the produce season, this is your last chance to stock up on some things before we go on vacation. We're sitting on a mountain of winter squash we're selling for a real deal at $5 for 1/2 bushel as well as the last of the onions and peppers.

We also got in a set of small roaster chickens (4 - 4.5 lbs) and still have the range of Organic Valley cheeses and butters available. Order up at our Local Dirt site by Saturday evening and we'll deliver on Sunday afternoon. If you'd rather pick up on the farm on another date, that works too.

Friday, October 09, 2009

It's really cold in Minnesota (CSA Week 16)

Wow, didn't it get cold last night? It's a bad sign when there's already frost on everything before you go to bed and the sky is clear as a bell. We're guessing it was about 25 degrees, which really puts a final end to the season. Few things go through a freeze like that, even the beet greens where pasted to the ground. We have the white stuff forecasted for tomorrow, so selling at a farmers market in snow will be a first! Maree wishes our camera worked, because we'd like to have record of it.

End of season logistics: If you're in the neighborhood, please just drop off the last wax box...if not, don't worry about it. Also expect an end of season survey in the mail. We really do want to know how the CSA season worked for you. It's also an opportunity to let us know if you're interested in being a member next a current member, we give you first chance to re-join before opening up to others.

Thank you for being a member this season. Our door is always open. If you haven't gotten a jack-o-lantern pumpkin, please come on out and we'll set you up.

In the box:
Tongue of Fire Beans: this is an heirloom dried bean. Simply shell them and use as any dried bean. There are not many, so I'm thinking of them as something to add to a soup.
Hubbard Squash: this is the big blue-colored one.
Buttercup Squash
Spaghetti Squash: yellow and long in color
Haralson Apples: a good baking and cooking apple
A couple sweet onions
A couple white onions
Popcorn: this needs to be dried quite a bit before popping. Pull back the corn wrapper and hang like you would indian corn for at least a couple of weeks in a dry sunny place.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Yearly Veggie Report (CSA week 15)

Wow, today and yesterday have been the worst harvesting ever. I was going to pull in potatoes, but that's way too difficult in this stuff. It's cold, wet, and miserable out there...stay inside and drink some tea or something (which sounds pretty good). All told, I do like bringing in fall crops...I just naturally feel like bringing in the end of the season harvest. Kind of like gophers or bears getting ready for winter, I think people get a natural instinct this time of year to pull in what they can.

Every year I do an end of season re-cap: th winners and losers of the produce season. I figure today is a good day to do that as I reflect on how the season went as I'm out in the machine shed cleaning up indian corn and winter squash.

In the winner category are all the cool season crops, which just loved this cool summer with a fair amount of rain. This includes kohlrabi, cabbage, broccoli, fall peas, leeks, spring greens like lettuce and salad mix and I'd have to throw in onions and beets as well. The grand champion of the year in my mind is I know this may seem like an odd one to you, but this is the third year trying to grow the stuff and typically it turned into a stalk 6 inches tall with the consistency of dental I was really excited about how it turned out this year! These crops grew well mainly because of the cool season, but there are some which did well just because I "got my act together", which is evident in the long corn season this year--I think we got it in the box for 6 weeks, which is the most weeks in a season. This is because I got three plantings done in the spring, each 2 weeks apart, which allowed them to be spaced out. Another thing we did was cultivate onions well with the help of our new tine weeder, so we got good-sized onions because of little weed pressure.

In the loser category we have a list longer than I care to mention, some due to the weird season, but some due to me doing stupid things out in the field. The causualties of bad weather include some hot season crops. First and foremost is the didn't even get into the box! It needed heat in a big way, but it also was under serious attack by the potato bugs this far, the worst season ever with these guys. Our organic pyrethrin spray didn't seem to do anything to these bugs...I don't know if it's a tolerance issue or I simply had my timing off. Anyway, they also devastated bad crop number 2: potatoes. I even put in these fingerlings for this season, but they didn't get into the box either because they ended up being the size of small peanuts since the plants died back by the end of july, which is terrible. Still, the crop which just killed me this year was garlic. It was a comedy of errors on my part which destroyed this crop. I didn't get it planted in time last fall, so I had to treat as a spring transplant; then I pretty much killed it by running it over with our tine weeder cultivator when I never should have...I'm still kicking myself for it. Others I wasn't crazy about: strawberries, raspberries, spring peas, greens (swiss chard anyone?), edamame, and beans (although I loved the new variety we grew, Grenoble).

All told, it kind of evens out, although this isn't any consolation to those who love eggplant or garlic and just didn't get enough.

In the box:
Celeriac: some call celery root. You use whenever a recipe calls for keeps forever, just leave in crisper in fridge.
Rutebega: another standard root crop, some love it, others hate it. Try mixing in with potatoes and mash, about half and half proportions.
Cippolini onions: I had these for breakfast yesterday, sauteed with peppers and some tomato and put on eggs with some toast.
A sweet onion
Butternut squash: again, keep in a dry, sunny spot. The taste of winter squash actually improves with'll taste better in a couple weeks.
Buttercup squash: the dark green ugly one with a button on the bottom.
A couple pie pumpkins: can use for decoration or bake for use in pumpkin recipes like pie or anywhere you'd use that canned pumpkin stuff.
A small canteloupe: end of the line, I just throught I'd put in the last of them.
Sprig of Rosemary
A mix of peppers
A few heirlooms

Friday, September 25, 2009

The frost that never came (CSA week 14)

When I start harvesting winter squash I know for sure it's fall, whether I like it or not. Typically I harvest winter squash right after the first light frost, usually in mid-september. It has happened here every year for the last 6 years, so I figured this year would be the same, but I guess not. This is both a blessing and curse.

It's a blessing because we didn't really have a summer and this ended summer actually gets some of those crops across the finish line--I would have been really upset if half the tomatoes never turned red.

It's a curse because the frost forces me to let go of the summer crops. There's only so much you can cover a few thousand plants and so the frost typically brings all tomatoes, peppers, beans, corn, and eggplant to an abrupt end. I get really worked up about this, dashing around the night before trying to pull in everything I can. But the day after the frost, I experience a huge sense of relief...I can relax because all those tomatoes coming in at one time really causes some stress. It's all about picking and hopefully selling them in a really short window.

So, the summer continues and so do we. Peppers are actually turning color and that last set of corn actually ripened. By the way, I must apologize if you did hit some corn which tasted a lot more like field corn than sweet corn--an issue brought to my attention by some people I sold to at the market. The problem is that I planted sweet corn too close to the indian corn and they cross pollinated, making your silver queen take on the flavor of its neighbor...again, my apologies (I still have some more good corn at the farm if you'd like me to set you up to redeem myself).

As mentioned before, our harvest party will be saturday, October 3, starting at 5:30 with dinner at 6 pm. Please let us know if you are coming. We supply the main dish, drinks, and you supply yourself and a side. We look forward to hosting everybody....and we think the saturday evening will work better than sunday afternoon as we've done the last couple years.

Order extras at our Local Dirt site here

In the box:
Acorn Squash: dark, acorn shape. This has not been cured, so it will improve it's taste if you leave in a dry sunny spot in your house (we typically leave in the greenhouse to cure).
Delicata Squash: some call a sweet potato squash...very stringless and tastes sweet potatoy. Again, cure as you would acorn.
Russet potatoes: Small, I know.
Cherry Tomato mix
A couple regular red tomatoes
A few Green Zebra tomatoes: yes, they are ripe at this stage. They are naturally zippy in taste.
Roma tomatoes: a good amount for saucing
Edamame: You don't eat the stalk...just pull the pods off and boil a bit in salted water. Rinse in cold water and eat.
Colored pepper mix
Cherry Bomb hot peppers: These are supposed to be hotter than jalapenos, but I don't buy it. They have a sweet flavor for a hot pepper I really like.
Red cabbage

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Chickens, Chickens, Chickens

We got our first set of fryers in from my friend and fellow grower, Karen Terry of Fergus Falls. About 3 lbs in size, they are young and tender birds raised entirely on pasture with all organic feed. $6 each, click here to order at the local dirt site.

We'll have these available for delivery or pick-up at the farm until they are gone (I have only 24, so we're not talking a lot of birds here).

Karen will also be supplying us a set of larger birds in a couple weeks...more of a roaster size. While on the local dirt site, you can also arrange for other food for delivery or pick-up like cheese, butter, or extra produce like canning tomatoes or peppers. Frost has to be around the corner, so don't wait too long.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Logistics of Local Food (CSA week 13)

Local foods and buying directly from the farmer has been something I've seen grow and grow every year I've been in this kind of work. But one big issue that has continued to plague local foods is the logistics. What I mean by this is that it still isn't convenient for you as an eater to access all the things you would like to get locally...instead, you have to go to 5 or 6 individual farmers to get your stuff. Get a CSA membership for your veggies, contact somebody in the fall to buy a quarter of beef or half a hog, go across town to get that good local bread. I hear this from people too from members and farmers market patrons.

Coordination amongst us small growers to supply people more variety only makes sense to me. It doesn't add up to have a bunch of growers all driving around with small amounts of food and make the eaters work harder at finding us. This is why we've been working on adding other things to the mix of things we deliver. You've seen me write about having Organic Valley butters and cheeses available to be delivered with your produce. Also, we partnered with Kendra to offer a flower share and some members took me up on that, getting flowers delivered with their produce for the last 12 weeks. Talking to members and others, I also got a sense of what others are looking for and I have arranged with a grower friend of mine by Fergus Falls to raise some broiler chickens for you. She is raising the chickens to two sizes: some up to "fryer size" (3.5-4 lbs) and others up to "roaster size" (5-6 lbs.) . Fryers will be available starting next week.

We're finally figuring out some of the logistics of all this and have an ordering system set up at a site called local dirt, where you can easily order up what you'd like on a weekly basis. We will deliver with the CSA box until the end of the season and plan on keeping some things available through the winter as well: This is a nice tool which makes all this ordering stuff really easy for us as growers and easy for you as eaters. You find what you'll like and just add into your shopping cart like at or something....we'll keep updating with new things like produce "extras".

This is not something just for CSA members...if you know somebody who would like to get "on the route" just have them contact me...we'll deliver for no charge in the area from Pelican to Detroit Lakes or people can certainly arrange to pickup at the farm. We're really looking for people to see if we can make a go of this...

Put it on your calendars! We're having our 3rd annual harvest party here at the farm. The date will be Saturday October 3rd, starting at 5:30. Plan on eating dinner at 6:00. We'll supply the main dish and beverages, you supply yourself and a side dish for a potluck meal. This is a great way for you to meet other members, see the farm, and pick out your jack-o-lantern. Please let us know if you plan on attending.

Every year I put together a box I'm really proud of....this is that box for the year. Lots of variety and things I'm excited to see, especially that celery! I've never been able to grow it well before, so I was just beaming this morning harvesting the stuff.

In the box:
Italia pepper: red and green long pepper...really sweet
Colored pepper: some aren't fully colored, but I wanted something in the box
Poblanos: A really mild hot pepper which look just beautiful. See cornbread recipe below.
Dozen sweet corn
A slug of tomatoes: they are in in a big way, so you get a good half dozen
A small bunch of fresh oregono
One oversized turnip with greens
Carrot bunch mix: there are two varieties here, atomic red and satin (white one). I especially like the satin, which have a good distinct flavor.
Snap Peas: a variety called Sugar Ann, which is edible pod, so don't shell.
Yellow Cippolini Onions: A nearly forgot this onion out there, but it's an Italian variety people really like for roasting or kebobs. Good intense flavor, but still mild.
Athena Canteloupe

1 of 3

Skillet Corn Bread with Roasted Poblano and Oregano

Bon Appétit | July 2004

This moist bread is best fresh from the oven, but it can also be made ahead and reheated.

Yield: Makes 8 servings
1 medium poblano chile* (about 3 1/2 ounces)
2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

Char poblano chile over open flame or in broiler until blackened on all sides. Enclose in paper bag 15 minutes. Peel, seed, and finely chop chile.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Whisk cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and black pepper in large bowl to blend. Whisk eggs, milk, and sour cream in medium bowl to blend. Mix in poblano chile and oregano. Add egg mixture to dry ingredients and fold in with rubber spatula; do not overmix.

Melt butter in 10-inch-diameter ovenproof skillet with 2-inch-high sides over medium heat, swirling to coat bottom and sides of skillet. Remove from heat. Spread batter evenly in skillet. Bake until corn bread is golden brown around edges and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool bread 15 minutes in skillet. (Can be made 6 hours ahead. Cool completely in skillet. Rewarm in 350°F oven 15 minutes.) Cut bread into wedges and serve warm from skillet

Friday, September 11, 2009

The State Fair (CSA Week 12)

It's been a short week because of Labor Day. We actually took the weekend off to go to the State Fair on Monday. For us, it was pretty special because we were part of an exhibit on local foods at the Eco-Experience. Basically an organization called Renewing the Countryside did a series of profiles of local growers which they turned into an exhibit for the fair. You can check out our profile and pictures at The kids really got excited seeing a picture of us there.
When sauntering around the fair, I started to imagine what it looked like 50 years ago. One thing for sure is that "Machinery Hill" actually had machinery on it instead of pickup trucks and riding lawn mowers. When looking around all I saw were deals on campers, 4-wheelers, and various "toys" for grown-ups and collectors. Call me a grump, but I get the impression that we're just trying to amuse ourselves to death. It's no wonder my grandparents' generation just gets so disgusted with the way things are...there's an ethic about work and usefulness we seem to have lost. Although I get as sick of work as the next person, there's a real pride that comes with doing some tangible work like growing produce for yourself instead of just idling away my time.

In the box:
Green stuffing peppers: the really big ones are King Arthur. Most are paired with a smaller one since there just weren't that many really big ones around. See recipe below.
Italia Pepper: This is a frying pepper which is typically used in recipes where you sautee at a high heat. Really a nice sweet pepper
Couple Jalepenos
1 Canary Melon (yellow)
1 Sunshine Watermelon: This is a yellow watermelon. I'm a big fan.
1 Canteloupe: Your standard variety called Athena
A few Red Tomatoes
A couple Heirloom Tomatoes: The really wrinkly one is an Italian Heirloom called Piraform and the dark green/purple one is called Cherokee Purple. You may have one or another or both. they are ugly, but tasty.
Sweet Corn: Again, a yellow variety called Bodacious
A Couple White Onions
Purple Beans: A bit deceiving since they turn green when you boil.

Mexican Stuffed Peppers
From Simply in Season
4 green, yellow, orange, or red sweet peppers
Cut top off pepper and discard seeds. Steam whole peppers in 1 inch boiling water until tender, about 5-8 minutes. Remove peppers from water and set aside.

1/3 cup onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
In a large frypan saute in 1 T. oil.

2 cups tomatoes, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
2 T. fresh parsley, chopped
1 T. fresh oregano, chopped; or 1 t. dried
1 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. salt
1 bay leaf
Add and cook 5 minutes.

2 cups corn
1 1/2 cups cooked black beans
Add and simmer 10 minutes. Place peppers in oven-proof dish so that they stand upright. Stuff peppers with vegetable mixture. Any extra filling can be placed in dish next to peppers.

1/4 cup cheese, grated
Sprinkle on top. Bake at 350F to heat through, 20 minutes.

Friday, September 04, 2009

CSA week 11

If you noticed I missed last week's newsletter. This is the first time in the four years doing a CSA. Sometimes in the season, about this time, you "hit the wall" in much the same way a marathon runner "hits the wall." When thinking about this, in many respects we CSA growers are like long-distance runners--we need to be consistent and steady to produce a good box each week for 16 weeks.

The lack of heat is still the weather story around here. This is the second week for melons. We're glad to have them, but they are late. Some things you may not even notice, like the okra that never comes to market because the plants just sit there doing nothing. I'll complain about it, but my sympathies are with other farmers out there like the one I talked to last week: 600 acres of soybeans and he doesn't see them making a harvest. Boy, that makes my 2 acres where some things are good and some bad not too bad a problem really. This is why sustainable ag types highly appreciate diversity in crops...if one thing "crashes and burns", there may be another which does well. In many respects, we're trying to bring back a tradition on farms where many things were produced from a couple hogs and a steer to garden produce, grains, hay. Even if the growing season went to pot, at least you could feed yourself.

In the box:
Leeks: keep refridgerated and cut lengthwise to clean out before using...dirt gets into the leaves.
A couple tomatoes
Dill: This is for using the frawns, not the seed head like in pickling. See recipe below.
Cherry Tomato mix
Corn: mostly a white variety called Silver Queen. It's pretty mellow and I love the name. Last week's yellow variety is called Bodacious, which is another cool name.
A red onion
White Potatoes
A couple peppers: The small slender one is an Anaheim (slightly hot, really mild) and the other is a Cubanella (sweet, not hot).
Cantaloupe: most of you got a variety called Athena, others got an "eastern type" called Halona, which has prominent ribs
A couple cukes

Cucumber, Mustard, And Dill Salad
From Gourmet | October 2004

2 teaspoons white-wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon mild olive oil
1 large seedless cucumber (usually plastic-wrapped; 1 lb), peeled
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

Whisk together vinegar, mustard, salt, and sugar in a bowl, then add oil in a slow stream, whisking.
Halve cucumber lengthwise and remove seeds with a small spoon, then cut halves crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick slices.
Add cucumber and dill to vinaigrette, tossing to coat.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Scotland (CSA week 9)

Apparently a front from Scotland has settled over the area. It's been constantly cold and wet. Man, I just can't figure this summer out! Still, tomotoes have started to come in regardless, which you'll see in the box this week.

I'm still praying for heat and sunshine...we'll see if that ever pans out.
Keeping it short and sweet this week.

In the box:
Some sweet corn: Not the best stuff ever, but ears are really not interested in filling out this year.
Purple pepper: Pretty cool, eh? The variety is called Islander
A couple Jalapenos
Bunch of cilantro
Mix of cherry tomatoes: sungold (orange), sweet 100 (red in color), grape
Orange Blossom Tomato
A couple Celebrity tomatoes: your standard tomato
Bunch of carrots
A pesto-sized bunch of basil: See recipe below. If holding over, our member Tammie had a good way of keeping basil. She puts the basil in a shallow cup of water and cover the leaves with a sandwich bag at room temperature. A lot of people try putting basil in the fridge...that's a big no-no.
Bunch of kale: some got Red Russian Kale, some got Dino Kale.
A couple sweet onions
A couple summer squash: one yellow, one green zucchini.
Classic Basil Pesto
Makes 1 cup, enough for 1 pound dried pasta
2 cloves garlic, peeled
3 T. pine nuts (can use walnuts)
1/4 t. salt
3 ounces basil leaves (about 3 cups loosely packed)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Food Processor Method:
Process the garlic, pine nuts and salt until finely ground, about 15 seconds. Add the basil and proccess in spurts just until no whole leaves remain. With the machine running, pour the oil through the feed tube in a steady stream. The mixture should be ground to a pastelike consitency but a little bit of the leaves' texture should remain. Add the cheese and pulse until just incorporated.
Toss with cooked pasta using cooking water to thin, if desired.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Corn Harvest (CSA Week 8)

Things really get crazy for us this time of year. This is the time when I either get reinvigorated by all the great produce which is coming in or I "hit the wall." I don't know which way I'm going to go this year, but I appreciate all the things which are finally coming in. This is the first week of tomatoes-albeit only cherry tomatoes and small yellows-as well as good-sized carrots, peppers, and sweet corn. Man, that's exciting...sweet corn. I've only had people asking about sweet corn at the farmers market for about 6 weeks (people get impatient and I run out of excuses), so now it's finally here.

I have a real love-hate relationship with picking sweet corn. What I love about it is that it's the first thing I do when I go out to get ready for the CSA or market. This is that time of the morning when I'm all by myself and it's really peaceful out. Still, I like the action of grasping, pulling, and twisting off cobs in one motion...something really feels good about it. Unlike other crops, corn is really satisfying because you go from an empty crate to a full one in about 15 minutes instead of something like beans where you feel like you're filling up a mason jar one grain of sand at a time. This is why I have Maree pick all those things :) Like the yellow beans in the box this week and last you see from the picture Mar is trying her hand at pickling them this week. My patience is only so good.

On the other hand, picking corn first thing in the morning can be a cold, wet ordeal. If any of you had to do this, you know what I'm talking about. First thing in the morning, the dew is really heavy, and, instead of sitting in the comfort of home, drinking a cup of coffee and reading the paper, you're outside wresting 6-foot tall corn plants, getting your clothes soaked through, and getting these little cuts on your arms from the leaves.

All told, I like it more than dislike it. Even when I'm not in the mood, I still like to step back and admire the harvest in the packing shed over some coffee. It just feels good.

In the box:
Sweet corn: There is a mix of two early varieties. The bi-color (white and yellow) is called Native Gem and the all-yellow is called Spring Treat (far from spring, but Mid-August treat just doesn't sound as good).
Yellow Wax Beans
Flat Italian Beans
Red Onion
Carrots: A variety called Little Finger...a fresh eating variety which should not be too big.
A couple cucumbers
Tomato sampler: Some cherries (one variety called sungold is supposed to be orange), a grape if you're lucky, a couple yellow Taxi, and a few Julia roma tomatoes. Not many, but a start
Some peas: a mix of snow and snap peas, so the pods of each are don't try to shell.

Gourmet | August 2009

by Maggie Ruggiero

Sure, go ahead and cook your favorite sausages, but be sure to use every iota of their flavor: Reheat the skillet and work some pork-based magic on a seasonal array of onion, fennel, tomatoes, and corn.

Yield: Makes 4 servings
Active Time: 20 min
Total Time: 35 min
4 (5-to 6-ounces) fresh pork sausages
1/3 cup water
3/4 cup chopped sweet onion
1 medium fennel bulb, chopped
1 cup grape tomatoes (5 oz)
2 ears corn, kernels cut from cob
1/4 cup coarsely chopped dill

Prick sausages a few times. Simmer with water in a 12-inch heavy skillet, covered, over medium heat 7 minutes. Uncover and cook, turning occasionally, until water has evaporated and sausages are well browned and cooked through, 7 to 10 minutes more. (You may need to add 1 tablespoon oil to skillet, depending on sausages.) Transfer sausages to a plate and pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from skillet if necessary.

Cook onion, fennel, and tomatoes with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in skillet over medium heat, stirring and scraping up brown bits, until onion and fennel are crisp-tender and tomatoes are soft and beginning to burst, about 7 minutes. Add corn and dill and sauté 2 minutes.

Slice sausages and serve with vegetables.

I figured this would be good if you're still holding onto some fennel from last week.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Farm Stand Now Open

We're getting close enough to all those "high season" crops to open our farm stand today! We set up the self-serve stand at the end of our driveway last year to allow people near our farm to conveniently pick up a few things. It blew down in a snowstorm this spring, but we've resurrected it with the help of my father-in-law, Don Klatt, and my neighbor, Marvin Kratzke. It's looking good and solid as a rock.

We don't have a lot in this first week, but expect all the summer produce you crave to show up soon. Right now we have beans, cucumbers, summer squash, cabbage, onions....simply pick out what you want and drop cash or check or an IOU into the paybox.

Find us at:

View Larger Map

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Send Heat, Please (CSA week 7)

Well, another week gone by and another week of way-too-cold temperatures. I thought this summer would be "normal" after last summer, but it may just be weirder than last.

So, how big of an affect is this on the produce? Well, the biggest issue is getting those warm season crops to market and in the box. One example is that our earliest corn, a 58 day sweet corn (that is, 58 growing days from emergence to ripe corn) is still not ready and it was planted in mid May. I'm sure that's going to make it since all we need are the kernals to fill out, but what about the late season corn which is 78 days? What about that popcorn I'm trying this year at 90 days? Yikes! Warm season crops just grow so slow when we only hit 75 during the day and the plants completely shut down when we hit 50 degrees at night. Those nights when you can't sleep because it's too hot and muggy are what we need because then things are growing even then...we haven't had a single night like that.

I'm certain we'll get these warm-season crops to come in, but the season will be pretty short. We'll have an avalanche of stuff at the end of August til Mid-September, which is good, but I'd rather the stuff be in now until Mid-September.
In the box:
One Japanese Eggplant
One Garlic...fresh, so a bit different to peel.
Sweet Onion-a big variety called Alisa Craig
Torpedo Onion
Yellow Beans
Baby Red Potatoes
A Baby Bok Choi
More raspberries: we're making the rounds...definately need to plant more so we're not scrounging and can supply everybody for a couple weeks.

2 Cucumber Salads
3 cups cucumbers (thinly sliced)
1/2 cup onion (thinly sliced)
Salad 1:
Place cucumbers and onions in a large bowl and sprinkle with 1 tsp. salt. Let stand 1 hour; drain.
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup vinegar
1/2 tsp. celery seed
Mix together in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, cook and stir until sugar is dissolved. Pour over cucumbers. Cover and marinate in refrigerator for several hours or overnight. Keeps several days.
Salad 2:
1/4 cup vinegar or lemon juice
2 T. oil
1/2 t. salt
1 T. sugar (optional)
Mix together and add to the cucumbers and onions.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Balancing Family and Farmwork (CSA week 6)

It's a little too easy to get wrapped up in your work, no matter what you do. I used to think that farming was worse because you never escaped; I just have to look out the window to find work staring right back at me. Nowadays everybody seems to be taking their work home...those laptops are just too convenient, so you can work even though you're 30 miles from the office.

This time of year in high season, I find myself constantly trying to get the bottom of a bottomless to do's never ending. So at times like these especially, it's important to remind myself what's important. Tonight, even though I had cucumbers to wash, boxes to set up, dirty dishes in the sink, and a CSA box and newsletter to think through, I got into the house before nightfall just to be with our kids and put them to bed. We didn't do anything exciting, we just read a couple books, talked about a movie they like, and said goodnight.

I have to admit there are nights when Maree needs to yell out the back door way past sunset to get me in while I feverishly try to finish "one last thing." Well, I could find "one last thing" forever. This growing season more than ever, I've been mindful to carve out that time with family, friends, a good dinner like with a couple members at our workday last Sunday. And you know what? I'm no more "behind" than any year past, and, actually I'm feeling much better than years past too! There's a reason my traditional farming neighbors stubbornly take 5 meals a day because they realized long ago that you can't keep hammering away on work and think you're getting somewhere. A little rest, some conversation, and you'll save more time getting done what needs to be done.

In the box:
Green Beans
Cukes: the big long one is an English Cuke, the other your standard joe cuke
Scallions aka Green Onions
Green Cabbage
Dino Kale: also known as Lacinato Kale, an Italian favorite.
Radishes: a variety called French Breakfast
Sweet Onion
Raspberries-This is the start...not in your box this week? Expect them next week (or even the following week).

Grilled Fennel
From Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
Cut the stalks from a fennnel bulb. If the bulb is small, cut it in half lengthwise. If it is large, cut into 1/2 inch slices, making sure that each slice has a piece of the root attached. Steam for 10 minutes, then brush generously with olive oil and season with salt. Grill for 5 to 6 minutes on each side. Serve with garlic mayonnaise:
Garlic Mayonnaise
Coursely chop 4-6 garlic cloves. Put them in a mortar, add a pinch of salt, and pound until a smooth paste forms, which will happen quite quickly. (If you don't have a mortar, chop the garlic and salt together until smooth.) Stir it into mayonnaise, add lemon juice to taste, then thin with hot water or leave it thick, depending on intended use.

Note: This sauce also goes well with green beans, potatoes, asparagus, cooked carrots, and cauliflower. Use in a sandwich, or spoon into a soup or pasta.

Friday, July 24, 2009

High Season? (CSA week 5)

This time of year we enter what I call "high season", when those warm-season crops come in and we're at the peak of variety. We're certainly a bit off the mark for the year because of the cold start, but we're right on the cusp...I found about 5 mature cucumbers yesterday! This is far from enough for the whole membership, but a good sign. We also found about 4 quarts of beans ready to go, again, close but not close enough.

Still, even though it means more work for me, I really like high season. It's exciting to take in big quantities of beans, peppers, and tomatoes. I like pulling in bushels of corn early in the morning before most people are awake. It's exhilarating. The bad part of high season is that weeds like it's tough to keep up the fight when you spend a lot of time harvesting. Even though I thought some beds looked pretty good a couple of weeks ago, if I look at them today, I get a little panic-y..."boy, I have to get to that, and that, and that...yikes!" Anyway, things seem to work out and the lesson is that you should celebrate what's good and forget the bad part.

In the box:
New Norland Potatoes: Your standard red. I just hope the potato bugs leave some for us since they're really bad this year!r
Garlic: Not the best I've ever grown, but better than nothing.
2 Red Onions
Beets: Not much, but it's a start. Since you haven't had chard yet due to the deer, you can use these greens too.
Some Little Lettuce
Broccoli Raab: The bunched green with jagged edges. This is pretty standard in pasta recipes or as a side.
Cabbage: Half of you got a purple cabbage called Red Express and half got a crinkly savoy cabbage called Alcosa
2 Daikon Radishes: A white radish with a peppery taste, salt mellows it out.
Some Thai Basil: This likes to put on a lot of buds (probably wants more heat...I'm thinking it gets it in Thailand), but the leaves seem good. It is a bit different from your standard Italian Basil...check it out.

Daikon Salad
From Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special
2 lbs. Daikon
1 1/2 t. salt
1 carrot
1 T. sugar
1 T. white vinegar
dash of sesame oil
3 scallions
2 T. canola or other vegetable oil

Trim the ends of the Daikon, peel and coarsely grate it. In a colander set into a larger bowl, toss the grated Daikon with the salt. Set aside to drain for 20 to 30 minutes, until about a cup of liquid has collected in the bowl. (Squeezing some of the liquid out of the Daikon will speed up the process.)
Meanwhile, peel and coarsely grate the carrot and place it in a serving bowl. In a small bowl, mix together the sugar, vinegar and sesame oil and set aside. When the Daikon is well drained, stir it into the carrots. Add the vinegar mixture and toss well.
Slice the scallions thinly on the diagonal and mound them on top of the salad. Heat the vegetable oil until smoking and immediately pour it over the scallions. Toss well. Serve at room temperature or chilled. Serves 6-8.
Note: You will likely need to halve the recipe (or use more carrot) and could use the red onion from this box instead of scallions.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Workday and Newletter

I couple of notes for CSA members:

1. Newsletter. I know a number of members are not automatically receiving the newsletter by e-mail. I think the problem comes in with so many computer firewalls not accepting a bulk e-mail. I suggest you go to this website at and check each week. The same is on the web as in the e-mail and I typically post late thursday night or friday morning before deliveries.

You can try to subscribe again, but putting your e-mail in the "subscribe" textbox at the need to reply to the confirmation e-mail you receive to finalize the set up.

2. Workday. We'll be hosting a workday next Sunday, July 26 from 3-6 pm. This is a totally optional thing...but if you'd like to get your hands dirty and see the farm up close and personal, please come out. A workday is pretty common with CSAs. We'll be doing general weeding--what I call hand-to-hand combat this time of year, row-by-row. At 6 we'll be supply a light supper. Please e-mail or call to let me know if you plan on coming to plan for supper.

Directions to farm...we're halfway between Vergas and Pelican Rapids on Highway 4. 6 mi west of Vergas, turn right onto 275th ave. 8 miles east of Pelican, turn left onto 275th ave.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Organic Agriculture (CSA week 4)

Things have been a bit cool lately, but I was really thankful for the rain we got this week (almost an inch). We were getting worried about moisture levels out there, but it'll be no problem for a while. Acually, since we have such a heavy clay soil, we can get away withought rain or watering for 2-3 weeks.

I figured I'd write about organic ag this week and about certification in particular, simply because I feel like there are some real misconceptions out there and I'd like to explain where we sort out.

I think there's a lot of confusion simply because organic has gone through some changes in the last decade, the biggest being the National Organic Program (NOP), established by the federal government throught USDA. Today, when you say Organic, it means you grow according to the NOP standards and have been certified for doing so. Unless somebody sells less than $5,00o of food, you can't use the term could actually be fined for doing so.

Often, when I talk certification with people, they often say, "oh, doesn't that take three years of not spraying your land?" Yes, and a whole lot of other things. When a certification agency is auditing and inspecting your farm, they want to know about all your inputs (fertilizers, insecticides, mulches, potting soil, etc.) and practices (cover cropping, cultivation, conservation measures on the farm) and they want to see record and documentation of such. So it isn't just not spraying for three years that matters, it's following these standards across the board and presenting an audit trail to prove small matter. I've actully started an audit trail so we can become officially certified in a few years--even though we have only used certified inputs, I can't prove a thing and need the records.

So, I think often people have the impression that just because somebody grows organically, that they don't use any inputs on the farm but manure and hard work, although that is a lot of it. For insects, there are organic sprays (some think this is an oxymoron). The only insecticide we use is called Pyganic, the chief ingrediant of which is natural pyrethrum, an insecticide derived from chrysanthemums. We also use a small amount of an organic fertilizer called Renaissance. It's actually a mix of soybean meal, feather, and bone meal. We mainly use it to sidedress the sweet corn, which is a pretty heavy feeder. Both of these are OMRI-certified, which is the agency which certifies whether a product meets the national organic standards. Otherwise, we do use a fair amount of composted manure for fertility, both from our sheep and from a neighboring turkey farm.

In the box:
Basil: please don't refrigerate. I find it does best with a damp cloth in an opened plastic bag at room temperature
Packman Broccoli
Kohlrabi: mostly purple variety
Strawberries: kind of pathetic...getting pretty slim out there
Boston Fireball Lettuce: By far the prettiest lettuce I've grown...also called "bibb" or "butterhead" It's can be a bit bitter, almost like may want to mix with the greenleaf.
Greenleaf Lettuce: variety called Marin after the county in CA. This is the end of the lettuce, so put into a plastic bag and leave in the should keep up to three weeks.
"Spring" onions: one torpedo onion and one sweet.
Yellow Sebring Zucchini: see recipe below
A bit o' mint (see recipe below)

Zucchini and Fresh Herb Fritters
from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison
(This is a real classic cookbook I would recommend for anyone)
Salt and pepper
2lbs. green or golden zucchini, grated
2 eggs, beaten
1 bunch scallions or spring onions (thinly sliced)
1 cup dried bread crumbs
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 T chopped basil
1 t chopped mint
olive oil as needed

Lightly salt zucchini and set aside in a colander to drain for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, mix the remaining ingredients together except the oil and pepper. Quickly rinse the squash, sqeeze out the excess water, then stir into batter. Taste for salt and season with pepper.

Film two skillets with olive oil. When hot, drop in the batter-quarter cup makes a fritter about 3.5 inches across-and cook over medium heat until golden on bottom. Turn and cook other side. Serve hot...serves 4.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Packing Produce (CSA week 3)

Well, things are finally starting to grow. Since it's been so warm lately, I forget how cold it was earlier in the year, and I wonder why things aren't ready for harvest. But those days in May and early June make a real differencel on when things are ready. But I'm thankful for the allows us to watch those warm-season crops take off and finish off the cold season ones (like the spinich which made it in the box before it "bolted" or went to seed). I'm also thankful for the mild rain we had yesterday instead of the "monster storm" we were supposed to get. I feel that we've already had our hail for the year and don't want another round.

One new development for the year is our new packing shed where we bring in all the produce to be washed and packed in boxes. The shed isn't exactly new, but we converted our machine shed for the purpose. Up til now, we've used the greenhouse, which isn't optimal for a number of reasons. One being that it's just a dirt floor and after sloshing around water for a while, I always find myself in a big mud puddle....the heat of the greenhouse didn't help either!

The set up of the packing shed is pretty important. It's kind of like a little manufacturing plant...produce comes in, goes through a couple stations and finished CSA boxes go out. I have it set up with all the washing tubs on one side and the tables which hold the boxes on the other. We have a whole bank of tubs and sinks so that we can soak a different crop in each tub for a while, since it's really important to hydrocool produce for a good half-hour to take out the field heat. If we didn't do this, the produce would look good when you first get it and then mysteriously go bad in a couple days. In the back is our walk-in cooler--out of the way--where things can be held over for a while. I even just got a set of roollers (kind of like a conveyor belt with rollers) which we'll be settting up to lessen the time we spend shifting crates of produce around...when the boxes are done, we'll be able to just count them off and push them down the rollers to the van instead of take two at a time, walking back and forth from the van.

In the box:
Napa Cabbage (see recipe): the recipe is for a cold slaw, but napa is a traditional stir-fry stand by. I like cooked more myself.
Pint o'strawberries
Summer squash (some zucchini and some yellow pattypans)
Cilantro (wish I had some tomatoes to go with this!)
Braising Mix: this is a mix of young greens which can be sauteed on their own with some onions or garlic or added a stir fry at the very end. Just chop and fry.
Red Oaklead Lettuce: one of my's pretty and has a nice nutty flavor.
Romaine Lettuce
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar (not seasoned)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon grated peeled ginger
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 fresh serrano chile, finely chopped, with seeds
  • 1 small head Napa cabbage (1 1/2 pounds), cored and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1 bunch scallions, sliced
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro

Whisk together vinegar, sugar, ginger, oil, chile, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add remaining ingredients and toss well. Let stand, tossing occasionally, 10 minutes.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Art of Cultivation (CSA week 2)

If you grow organically, you have to learn to cultivate and there's a lot to it...hence the art. The term is used pretty generally nowadays to mean "grow" or "nurture" things as in "Target has been cultivating customers through their new marketing plan..." Stuff like that. But in farming cultivation means something quite specific: breaking up the ground with a cultivator to kill weeds. I cultivate in a couple of different ways. One is what's called "blind cultivation", where you drag a cultivator right over the top of the bed, including the plants. I do this with our new contraption of the year, a Williams Tool System, which is a kind of tine weeder. I always feel like I'm going to kill all the plants, but the tines are designed to put on enough pressure to take out the little weeds, but leave the rooted plants. It has done great work and things like the corn, onions, and potatoes havn't looked this weed-free before. The other way we cultivate is with a traditional two-row cultivator, which has these shovels and knives on either side of the row to take out anything between the plants.

This sounds pretty straightforward, but a grower needs to keep a fine eye to details to cultivate well, and, frankly, I'm not that great at it. The timing has to be right (best when a lot of weed seeds have germinated, but still just seedlings), the soil moisture good (too wet and you get clods to last the summer), the shanks and shovels have to be digging at the right depth (not too deep, not too shallow), and all the while you have to run the tractor as straight as the rows you planted in the spring or you take out half the row. So far, so good this year.

When I got to thinking about cultivating, it made me think about a conversation I had with my neighbor Marvin last year. Since he's farmed all his life, I asked him about how many farmers still cultivate and he figured about 5% since life with chemicals is so much easier...instead of cultivating 3-4 times, you can spray twice and kill off every single weed. I thought that was kind of low, but as I was driving around last year I saw only one person other than Marvin and myself cultivating a field! Keep you eye's may still see some out there.

Weather report....hail last saturday, but not terrible. You will probably see some holes in the lettuce, but I promise it will taste the same.

In the box:
Fresh Basil
Kohlrabi: simply peel, cut, and serve...some recipes call for the greens.
Arugula: can mix in with lettuce for salad or find pasta recipe
Red Sails Lettuce
Green Leaf Lettuce
Garlic Scapes: the tops a garlic plant will send a garlicy green onion. Chop fine, sautee a bit, and throw in mashed potatoes.
Quart o' Strawberries
Some radishes
Red Russian Kale

Kale Colcannon
St. Paul Farmers Market Produce Cookbook
5 med. potatoes, peeled and quartered 1/3 cup lowfat milk
4-6 cups kale, with stems removed, washed and chopped 1 t. salt, or to taste
2 T. butter or margarine 1/8 t. black pepper
1 small onion, chopped

Boil potatoes until tender. Steam kale separately until tender, about 10 minutes. While potatoes and kale are cooking, heat butter or margarine in a large pot. Saute onion until soft. Mash potatoes, add kale, onion, milk, salt, and pepper. Mix well. Reheat and adjust seasonings.
Makes 4-6 servings.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Welcome to Lida Farm...CSA week 1

Welcome to Season 4 of Lida Farm CSA! For some of you, this is something new while others are “old hands” at this point. We’ve been plugging away, working up to this first delivery. A lot like last year, I’ve been nervously looking at the fields, hoping something would grow enough to get into this first box. I can’t say that the last couple of springs have been good to us; the only variation from last year is that it was mostly cold and dry until recently, whereas last year was cold and extremely wet. Either way, a lot of plants have been just sitting there in a holding pattern of sorts.

Typically the Lida Farm Journal includes some news of the farm, a listing of this week’s produce, and a simple recipe which features a veggie or two. But, being that this is the first week of the season, I outline what to expect for the CSA season, so you all know what you’ve gotten yourself into.

1. Boxes: The box gets delivered every Friday, typically late morning to early afternoon. Each week we exchange your box. You set out last week’s empty and we give a new one filled with veggies. The boxes are waxed and get used for 2-3 seasons (this cuts down on all that excess packaging that gets thrown away). We don’t have a lot of extras, so please remember to empty and put out. Please also return green trays and flower vases for flower share.
2. E-mail Newsletter: Up till now we’ve always printed out a paper copy of our newsletter. But, both to cut down on paper and general ease of delivery, we’re moving to an electronic newsletter which will come to your e-mail. When I add something to our blog (, you’ll receive an e-mail automatically. Since all news is on our blog, you can also add comments for others to follow…maybe add a recipe of your own.
3. “I’m out of town”: If you are gone some delivery day and will not be around to receive your box, please make arrangements for somebody to pick up at your drop site and put the produce to use. Once we get a route, it’s tough to change it and we really prefer not to make a special drop-off. If not, just give us a call and we’ll work something out.
4. Cooperation: As the name CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) implies, you are buying a share of this year’s harvest as a member of our farm. We will always do our best to supply produce in good quality, quantity, and variety each week, but part of a CSA is that you share in the risk with us. Anything can happen between now and October which may affect supply from a hailstorm to a cucumber beetle infestation which can make the box can get a bit light. We’re all in this together. We share in both the risk and the bounty.
5. Communication: Please contact us with any issues or concerns you may have throughout the season. If you simply need help indentifying a weird green the box or have a concern about the quality of produce or time of delivery, give us a call. We want to make sure things are working for you and would much assume hear about problems sooner rather than later. Maree is typically home during the day and can be reached at 218-342-2619, whereas I’m around evenings and weekends. I’m also available by e-mail at
6. Season’s Schedule: We will run a 16 week season, so the last delivery will be October 9. If there is a change to our schedule, I will notify you through the newsletter.
7. Add-ons: This is something new this year we’re trying after hearing from members and non-members alike. As part of this, we will offering things in addition to the weekly box like cut flowers, organic cheese/butter, eggs, extra produce, and other local foods we can source from other growers. Every other week, you’ll get an e-mail of what’s available and order up what you want. We’ll deliver with your box on Friday. We’re calling it the “Marketbasket” program. Stay tuned for details.

Salad mix: This has been washed once (unlike the bagged mix which does a triple wash), so please soak in some water before spinning again, especially because we’ve had some heavy rains which gets soil on plants.
Collards: The standard southern green. To prepare, chop bacon and onions and brown together in a frying pan. Chop collards and add to pan. Once wilted, add some water and cover for a few minutes.
Deep Purple Green Onions: yes, they’re purple…a little change up from white.
Green Lance: An Asian green which is also known as Chinese kale…tastes much like other veggies in the cabbage family. It’s great added to a stir fry for the last minute or two or fry up until sautéed till wilted as a side.
Bok Choi: See recipe below.
Greenleaf Lettuce
A few Radishes
Eggs: Free-range fed on transitional organic feed.

Honey-Soy Grilled Pork Chops with Crunchy Bok Choy from Everyday Food

Vegetable oil, for grates
1 cup long-grain rice
2 T. rice vinegar
1/4 t. red pepper flakes
salt and ground pepper
2 T. honey
1 t. soy sauce
1 t. finely grated, peeled fresh ginger
4 bone-in pork rib chops (8 to 10 oz. each)
bok choy, halved lengthwise (2-4 heads)
1 T. toasted sesame oil

1. Heat grill to high; lightly oil grates. Cook rice according to package instructions. With a fork, stir in vinegar and red pepper flakes; season with salt. Cover and set aside.
2. Make glaze: Combine honey,soy sauce, and ginger in a small bowl; season with salt and pepper. Gill until opaque throughout, 5 to 7 minutes per side. Brush pork with glaze, and grill 30 seconds more per side. Transfer pork to a plate to rest.
3. In a bowl, drizzle bok choy with sesame oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Grill until lightly charred on both sides, 1 to 3 minutes. Transfer to plate with chops. Serve pork and bok choy with rice alongside.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Disaster Strikes!

I haven't been strong enough until now to write about this episode. A high wind blew the farm stand into our field on May 15, totally trashing the landmark I was once so proud of. As you can see, the kids and Cosmo were out assessing the damage.

I don't like surprises early in the morning but that's what I had when I stepped out, looked down the driveway, and didn't see anything. After all the high winds the night before, in a millisecond I knew exactly what happened. Picture me running across the field yelling "NOOOO!!!" as if rushing to the aid of a fallen comrade.

But fear not, the stand will rise again from the ashes. The original builders, myself and my father-in-law, Don, have already drawn up plans for a better, stronger farm stand which won't blow away. We still plan on opening in July, hopefully with no more surprises.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Planting Sweet Corn with Holland Transplanter

This video shows our transplater and how we get most of our planting in the ground in the spring. The transplanter makes really light work of many plants...could you imagine planting 1300 tomato plants by hand? With this Holland Transplater you can put all of them in an afternoon.

We got ours from a family by Viroqua Wisconsin where they used to grow a lot of tobacco before the quota buyout. Since tobacco has to be set in the ground as a plant as opposed to a seed and often the farms are small, you'll find a lot of transplanters in areas where tobacco is grown, but not many up in northern Minnesota. Typically people don't know what I'm talking about when I use the term transplanter, or, if they do, they often say something like "oh, you mean a tree planter!" I guess.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Now taking CSA memberships for 2009

With the 2009 season right around the corner, we are now taking sign-ups for members. Our first priority are previous members, but we will be taking on more members, increasing from 15 to 20 shares.

We deliver each week for 16 weeks, starting in Mid-June and ending in Mid-October. An important note is that we only deliver in the lakes district around and between Pelican Rapids and Detroit Lakes. We go as far west as the Cormorant area, up to Highway 10 on the north, highway 108 on the south and as far east as Detroit Lakes itself.

We're looking at some other options for marketing food directly to customers this season, so even if you're not in that area, I'd still like to hear from you. We may be able to work something out.

Contact me at or Ryan or Maree at 218-342-2619.