Friday, September 28, 2012

Farms and Community

Last Saturday night we had about 70 CSA members and friends at the farm for our harvest dinner - a great turn out!  We spent a couple days clearing out our hayloft to set up tables for the event to squeeze everybody in.  I have to say it looked pretty cool.

I do wish all our CSA members were able to attend since the harvest party was just one small way to thank you for being members for the season.  Like I told those in attendance, we honestly would not be able to do what we do without CSA members.  Your making a decision to get your veggies in a way other than at your local grocery makes our farm viable.  With only a roadside stand or a stall at the farmers market, market gardening is a volatile, and, frankly, brutal business.  However, CSA members across the nation take the risk when writing a check in the spring that a tornado not destroy the crop and trust a local grower to provide an ample harvest.  This makes not only our farm a reality, but also hundreds of other small farms just like our own.  When a couple farms in upstate New York began the first CSAs in the early 1980's, this was time when the family farm seemed doomed, especially here in the Midwest.  Operations were foreclosing left and right in the farm crisis.  Today, however, small family farms are making a comeback, albeit in a different form.  Many of us may not operate traditional 40-head dairies or 160-acre row crop farms, but our heart is in the land just the same.  So, if you are a CSA member, take pride in knowing that you are not just "part" of a movement, you ARE the movement.

In the Box:
  • Brussel Sprouts on the Stalk: Simply pull the brussel sprouts off the stalk and put to work.  I don't know what to do with the stalk afterwards...croquet mallet? 
  • Parsnips: Look like white carrots.  
  • Napa Cabbage
  • Acorn Squash
  • Butternut Squash: These turned out really well this year.  Good color, good size.  
  • Red Kuri Squash: Cook as you would any other winter squash (buttercup, etc).  We made a coconut squash soup last night with Red Kuri and it was excellent.  We thought a good description for the squash was nutty, almost chestnut like.  
  • Russet Potatoes 
  • Swiss Chard
  • HaralRed Apples: These are pretty good for fresh eating (a bit sweeter than a Haralson), but, like a Haralson, are great for baking and sauce.  

Friday, September 21, 2012

When it doesn't rain that much

There is an old saying that goes something like "When it rains, it pours."  Well, not lately.  When it rains, it sputters is probably a more accurate statement.  As you can imagine, I'm always checking into the NOAA weather website.  When I see anything above a 40% chance of rain, I get all giddy; visions of a tropical downpour fill my mind...I get all excited because I'm getting tired of moving irrigation around.  So, when it comes, it's one big disappointment.  I really am thankful for anything at this point, but my mind builds up every possible rain event to be something it isn't.

I know a couple years time is far from a trend, but I'm terribly worried that the weather pattern of the last two years is our new normal.  Sometime in July the spigot gets turned off followed by weeks of dry heat.  Tomatoes ripen up nice in this, which is a plus, but, if this year tracks last year, the big issue is not having enough moisture in the ground before freeze up.  Typically ground moisture works the ground through freezing, but last year the same big dirt chunk in the fall was just as hard in the spring.

In the box:
Pontiac Potatoes
Napa Cabbage: The big green cabbage.  You can use much the same as you would a traditional green cabbage in a slaw or something, but it's ideal in a stirfry.
Rutabaga: Yes, I know you may have gotten one of these big monsters last week too, but I assure you this will last in your crisper til January.
A mix of Peppers: if you still have a bunch sitting around from previous weeks, you can easily preserve peppers by cutting into strips and freezing in a freezer bag (no need to blanch or anything).
Tomatoes: The end of the line on these guys.
Small Beet Bunch
Butternut Squash: The big tan one.  You can bake as you would any winter squash like buttercup: cut in half, scoop out the guts, and bake flesh-side up on a cookie sheet with a little water in the pan. Store all winter squash in a dry, sunny place.  Butternut keeps under these conditions for months, so no hurry (the flavor actually improves with time).  You may try this recipe below for a glazed/caramelized squash recipe.
Delicata Squash: The little stripy ones.  These are also called "sweet potato squash."  The shell is thinner than a lot of winter squash, so you shouldn't put in a water bath like butternut, but bake dry instead.

Caramelized Butternut Squash from 


    • 2 medium butternut squash ( 4 to 5 pounds total)
    • 6 -8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
    • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
    • 1/2-1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Cut off the ends of each butternut squash and discard.
  3. Peel the squash and cut in half lengthwise.
  4. Using a spoon, remove the seeds.
  5. Cut the squash into 1 1/4" to 1 1/2" cubes (large and uniform is best), and place them on a baking sheet.
  6. Add the melted butter, brown sugar, salt and pepper.
  7. With clean hands, toss all of the ingredients together and spread out in a single layer on the baking sheet.
  8. Roast for 45 minutes to 55 minutes, until the squash is tender and the glaze begins to caramelize.
  9. Turn the squash while roasting a few times with a spatula to be sure it browns evenly.
  10. Adjust seasonings if needed.
  11. Serve hot.
  12. Enjoy!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Covering Winter Squash for Frost Protection

This has been a annual night-time ritual for me - covering winter squash and pumpkins in the field to save the crop from frost.  While you were getting ready for bed last night, I was outside laying a row cover fabric over big piles of squash in the field.  My only light to work by was two headlights from a van pointed in my direction and the only sound that whiny whirl of a van with too many miles on it.  I don't know why and it seem strange to say, but it's such a peaceful and magical ritual for me.  As I'm outside tramping around these dried up and crunchy squash vines and the temperature dropping minute by minute, I feel the presence of those who worked the fields before me; they look over my shoulder, trying to get close to the fall harvest they miss being a part of.

Covering squash also seems like some kind of strange early Halloween ritual.  If you drove by our place in the evening, all would appear normal, only to find a field of white ghosts the next morning.  Almost like I was out playing a trick on passer-bys.

After all that work, however, it looks as if the yesterday's frost bell was a false alarm.  Maybe there was some frost in really low-lying areas, but everything looks just fine.  I think yesterday's heat and sun really helped warm the ground which protected us with some extra night-time degrees.  Still, next week looks quite cold, so the rush to continue pulling in produce will continue through the weekend.

I invite all CSA member out this Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon and evening to glean tomatoes and peppers.  There are a lot out there and I want to give them a home instead of rotting on the vine.  At the end of the season, these aren't the prettiest, but this is a good opportunity to get a good amount of peppers for freezing or tomatoes for canning.  No charge - it's a perk for being a CSA member!

A reminder to CSA members to RSVP for the harvest dinner on the 22nd.  I do thank those of you who offered to make something, but this is not a potluck, so I do not expect people to bring something to pass; we're making arrangements.  We'll be working to transform our hayloft into a dining room, so let's see if we can pull it off!

In the box:
  • Acorn Squash 
  • A Buttercup Squash 
  • Rutebega: The thing the size of a bowling ball.  Don't worry though, rutebegas, unlike other veggies like turnips, can get really big without getting woody.  They will also keep in your fridge for 6 mos.  
  • Bunch of Carrots 
  • Summer Squash: You could see green zucchini, yellow zucchini, or pattypan squash.  However you prepare zucchini, you prepare other summer squash the same way.  
  • One White onion and One Red Onion
  • Tomatoes 
  • A mix of Peppers 
  • Fresh Rosemary 
  • Celery or Celeriac: Most people got celery, but some got celeriac, which looks like an ugly hairy root with a little stalk on top.  You use celeriac the same as you would celery (tastes the same). 

Friday, September 07, 2012

School Year and Farm Season

On Tuesday Willem had his first day of kindergarten and Sylvia her first day of second grade.  Each year this always brings a new vibe to the weekly harvest schedule.  Typically I get up early, down some coffee, and trounce out the door before 7 to harvest produce for the box.  But now, I get up early to first argue with some kids about getting dressed and driven into town before getting down to work.

Sure, this slows me down a bit, but the change of pace seems to fit the season.  I think we all feel this change this time of year, whether you have kids in school or not.  Mornings are cool, leaves take on a certain crunch, and, at least on the farm, the work schedule slows a bit.  We still have a lot of work to do, but get more relaxed about it.  Summer, especially late July through Labor Day, is total madness on a produce farm, a constant fever-pitched fight day in and day out, dragging in crazy amounts of veggies in uncomfortable heat while trying to plant, battle weeds, irrigate, and juggle animals, special orders, pick ups, a farm stand, farmers get the picture.  I go on about summer work not to say I hate high season.  On the other hand, I relish it.  I love the "let's-roll-up-our-sleeves" attitude necessary and adrenaline-powered feeling I get jumping into the whole craziness of it all, knowing all well that it's a 6-8 week push which has an end.

Here at the end of high season is the time to take on canning tomatoes or freezing peppers in bulk if you're going to preserve.  In about a week, frost is very much possible and it's game over.  So don't call me in a week, it's best to make arrangements now.  We sell full bushels of tomatoes for $35 (about 50 lbs).  We also have peppers which are seconds which we'll sell for a discount.  Let us know by contacting us at or 218-342-2619.

Announcement: All members should have received a flyer in the mail about our upcoming Harvest Dinner at the farm on September 22.  Please feel free to bring family members, spouses, or a guest along to the dinner.  Simply RSVP by September 15th so we know how many to prepare for.

In the Box:
  • Sweet Corn: The last hurrah from this little patch I planted late.  
  • Slicing Tomatoes: Standard Celebrity tomatoes 
  • Green Zebra Tomatoes: We typically mix reds and zebras together for salsa. 
  • Sweet Peppers: A whole mix yellow, red, green, and Italia-type since we have so many coming on the plants. If you are unable to use them and want peppers deep in the winter, simply slice, put into a freezer bag, and throw in the freezer.  Peppers are the easiest of veggies to preserve and blanching is not necessary.  
  • Cippolini Onions: You ever see those long braids of onions at an Italian restaurant?  Typically those are Cippolinis, a nice-flavored onion you cook with.    
  • Salad mix
  • Cucumbers
  • Cilantro
  • Thyme
  • Snap Peas: Edible pod, so don't shell them. 
  • Bunch of Carrots
  • Bok Choy: See video below on how to prepare.  Generally this is a basic stir fry recipe, so feel free to adopt to include the veggies you like (those peas would good well with this). 

Monday, September 03, 2012

Video of us Laboring for Labor Day

Trying to squeeze in some fall crops, Maree, Graham, and I were out a couple weeks ago transplanting cole crops or brassicas.  Here you'll see me adding fish emulsion (ground up fish parts we mix with water for an organic starter fertilizer):

Friday, August 31, 2012

Minnesota Labor Day

I've always been interested in Minnesota history in large part because this state has been not only my home my whole life, but also the home of my parents, grandparents, and, on my dad's side of the family, ancestors back to the Minnesota Territory and before.  My dad's family is Meti or of French-Native American descent more well known in Canada than the US - my relative Cuthbert Grant organized the Meti to fight the British in 1840's and Antoine Gingras helped keep St. Paul our capitol while serving in the territorial legislature.  

I remember reading a biography of Bob Dylan some years back and one picture which struck me was an old black and white photo of a labor day parade in Bob's hometown of Hibbing.  The streets were packed with hundreds of people carrying the tools of their trade; miners with headlamps with pickaxes in tow.  That picture still sticks in my mind not only because of the pride people must have had in their work to take to the streets but also because its an image for me of Minnesota's rich history of common people working together to make great things happen.  And those prizes were hard won.  Even though I know it's unfashionable to talk about unions, organizing labor in places like the Iron Range was a violent decades-long struggle.  In a similar way, farmers and communities worked hard organizing cooperatives to get electricity, better milk prices, or a good food supply.  We've seen this cooperative spirit more recently in such organizations as the NFO (National Farm Organization) which organized the dairy strikes in the 1980s where farmers dumped their milk in fields instead of taking a loss.  These were not easy times and many of those challenges stick with us still.

I like to think our current local foods movement fits into this progressive history.  Really members and farmers are part of a cooperative venture through a CSA.  Some things you may not see behind he scenes, however, are fellow growers cooperating to build new farmers markets, food hubs, and networks or organizing through organizations like Land Stewardship Project or Sustainable Farming Association for the betterment of growers and eaters alike.   

So, on this Labor Day, appreciating the struggles of those farmers who came before me, I'll consider how I can better cooperate with my peers to help get them a fair shake and their work respected.  I hope you'd do the same.  

In the Box:

  • All Blue Potato: treat as you would any potato...they are best baked or boiled.
  • Edamame: The soybean plants loose in the box.  I know, why am I throwing in whole soybean plants?  You eat the pods, not the leaves.  Take off all the pods, boil in saltwater for a few minutes and eat with some beer - you're good.  Visual instructions here.
  • A Couple Yellow Onions
  • Arugula 
  • Cilantro 
  • Some San Marzano Roma Tomatoes: Don't worry if there are some black spots on them...these are only skin deep and gone with a little peeling.  Great for saucing. 
  • Some Celebrity Slicing Tomatoes
  • Red and Yellow Pepper 
  • Hungarian Hot Wax Pepper: Typically these don't have too much heat, but not this year.  
  • Contender Green Beans: Hey, back to standard green beans after wondering through the desert of yellow, Roma, and Purple beans.  
  • Mixed Cherry Tomatoes 

Friday, August 24, 2012

State Fair Bound

Each year we go down to check out the state fair.  What I've found is that the more I farm, the more I appreciate the place.  I never really cared much for hogs until we raised a few last year, then I was wondering all over the swine barn; I also have a much keener eye for what makes a good-looking ewe or sheep.  When you can a lot like we do, you really appreciate the home economics building too.  I could go on and on.

Gopher from State Fair 
I'm making this point about us at the fair not so I can brag about all the things we're into, but because I feel that this local food movement that I'm a part of and you're a part of (you are reading this blog) is moving us to rediscover agriculture and food.  I remember being at the fair over ten years ago and thinking "How much longer is this thing going to keep going?  Sooner or later it's only going to be a Midway and fried food as all the number of farm families keep dwindling away."  I was also getting a bit weary at the time when I only met people who "grew up" on a farm, not people who actually farmed.  These folks were always really proud of their farming heritage and supportive of agriculture, but it really made me worried that farming was just becoming all nostalgia, no reality.

Buy since that time I've met so many who have gone into agriculture in one way or another and people who took the plunge into this whole local food movement and discovered whole foods at the food cooperative or through a CSA like us.  Now everywhere I turn I hear people talking about the tomatoes they are going to can this weekend instead of talking about how their grandma used to can.  Folks are putting some chicken layers in their backyard instead of just hunting big box stores for the cheapest eggs they can find.  I'm really heartened by what I'm observing, and, to my original point, I think this rediscovery of food and agriculture is real.  I hope that in some small way your own connection with our farm has brought you some greater appreciation for all those 4-H exhibits as well.

In the Box:
A White Onion
A Couple Cukes
A Couple Summer Squash - Everybody got one Yellow Pattypan Squash (you prepare the same way as zucchini or other summer squash) and a Green Zucchini.
Bunch of Carrots
A Couple Daikon Radishes - The big long white things.  You can prepare the same way you prepare a regular red radish, but this is great as an Asian slaw grated with sugar, soy sauce, and a little rice vinegar.
Roma Tomatoes - Romas are best as a sauce
A Couple Heirloom Tomatoes - most are a variety called "Cherokee Purple."  These are best eaten fresh, not cooked.
Lacinato Kale
Yukon Gold Potatoes
A Couple Italia Peppers - Yes, they are long and shaped like the Anaheim peppers last week, but these are a sweet pepper with great flavor.
Fresh Sage
A sprig of Red Basil
Melon - Again, a mix of melons in the boxes. Most will find traditional canteloupe, but some will find these little Chanterais melons (small with a greenish color).  These are my favorite melons ever with a real distinct flavor.

This looks like a simple grilled eggplant recipe which uses fresh sage:

Maree also made this recipe using eggplant last week and we were both big fans:

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Next Crop of Growers

For the last 4 years we've raised chickens (broilers) in addition to produce.  Up until this year we always loaded up chickens into a stock trailer around midnight in order to wake up at 5 am and truck down to Ashby, where there's a federally-inspected plant.  After unloading, I'd get home in time to get harvesting for the CSA box.  Sound like fun, eh?   Not really.  

Anyway, this year we processed our birds on farm which really took down the stress of the birds and myself.    I was able to do this because we rented equipment from former students of mine at the Sustainable Food Production program at M-State, Andy Hayner and Noelle Hardin.  They rent out equipment and help us do the processing right on site, which is a great value and we knew we were getting our birds done right.  Since there isn't a federal inspector on site, you have to pick up your birds from the farm instead of my being able to deliver them.  

When out processing the birds, my thoughts besides plucking feathers was about how great it is to have new energy and people getting into local food production in the area - it's been pretty lonely sometimes being an organic vegetable grower in Otter Tail County.  In the farm marketing and management course I teach as part of the Sustainable Food Production program, I've now seen almost 30 student go through the 2-semester diploma program and I'm thinking about half have started businesses and all are doing something in food production if only for themselves.  It's a great thing to see and certainly something we need more of.  

If you know of somebody interested in small farms, local foods, and learning the ropes of farming, please get them in touch with me.  I'd be happy to give them more details about the program.  There's still time to start this fall!

In the Box: 
  • Tomatoes 
  • A couple Stuffing Peppers (big ones)
  • An Italia Pepper - the green/red one which is sweet, not hot.  This is considered a frying pepper and has a great flavor.  
  • A couple Anaheim Peppers - the brighter green skinny peppers which have a mild heat.  This is the pepper behind chile rellenos. 
  • Silver King Sweet Corn - an all-white variety with a good mellow corn flavor
  • A couple Yellow Summer Squash 
  • A Yellow Onion 
  • A Red Onion
  • A Bulb of Garlic
  • Bunch of Carrots - Sorry these are a bit small and should have grown a bit more, but I was determined to get some more carrots in the box since I haven't had them in for quite a while.  The yellow carrots are a variety called Yellow Sun and the orange ones are Scarlet Nantes
  • A Melon - I had to scrimp to get the right number of ripe melons, so it's a real mixed bag.  It's not fair, I know, but some of you may find a little Asian melon called Sun Jewel, others will find standard canteloupe, and one lucky duck will get this nice sized watermelon.  
  • Purple Queen Purple Beans - these are tricky in that when you cook them, they loose their color.  Otherwise treat as you would any other bean.  
  • Parsley

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Farm Stand Now Open

Although it gets exhausting to fill every day with picking, packing, and delivering produce every day of the week, I always feel good about opening the farm stand at the end of the driveway, which is did just this morning.  We already have CSA deliveries on Friday and the Farmers Market in Detroit Lakes on Saturday.

Farm Stand with Willem on Bike, 2011
I always like the farm stand because it brings so many people right to our farm and it feels good that we're feeding our neighbors, which is the majority of people who stop.  I think part of the allure of the farm stand for customers (and it is open to everybody, not only CSA members as some people have thought) is that you're looking right at the fields where the produce came from.  There's no wondering "I these guys putting me on...did they really grow all this stuff or are they shipping in some stuff from down the road? (This is something we never do by the way)"  There's also ample evidence that we don't use herbicides since you'll see some weeds taller than me.

Anyway, if you know anybody who isn't interested into the commitment of a CSA membership, but into picking up some good local produce every so often, please let them know about the farm stand.  It's open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from today until October.  The stand is self-serve, so simply stop, pick out what you want, and leave payment in the box on the right side of the stand.

In the CSA box for the week:

  • Norvalley White Potatoes
  • A couple Mini Heads of Lettuce 
  • A dozen ears of Sweet Corn - the variety is either Ambrosia or Paydirt
  • Mix of Cherry Tomatoes - If they are a color other than red, they are supposed to be that color:  Sungold (orange), Sweet 100 (red), Black Cherry (purple), White Cherry (white).  
  • A couple Japanese Eggplant 
  • A couple Leeks 
  • Basil - a mix of red and green just to give you some variety.  To give you a little advice on storing basil, do not put in the refrigerator.  Instead, trim the bottoms and leave in a vase with a little water like you would cut flowers or store at room temperature in an open zip lock with a couple damp paper towels.  
  • Scarlet Queen Turnips - The pink/red root vegetable with the long greens. Use as you would any turnip.  
  • Yellow Wax Beans - These came in really heavy this week, so I put in quite a bunch.  
  • A Couple Cukes

Friday, July 27, 2012

Missing the Sweet Corn Craze

There's probably no other occasion in the Midwest produce season quite like the beginning of the sweet corn crop.  So you can understand my frustration, when, everywhere I turn, I see some guy (or usually kid) at the side of the road selling sweet corn, and I find my own to be a few days short of ripe.  People have been asking me about sweet corn easily for the last 4 weeks even though it would take some kind of magic corn to be ripe at the beginning of July.  I keep thinking these "fake roadside stands" that simply truck in corn from Iowa and Nebraska really early are messing with people's sense of season and sense of what we can actually grow in Minnesota, especially when they put sweet corn next to some peaches next to cherries in mid-July.  Still, when actual local growers are at the side of the road, I have no excuse.
Sweet Corn on Lida Farm

Raising produce commercially is often a huge juggle where each year one crop or another under or over-performs.  I'm always out in the fields telling myself "That should have gotten in the ground 10 days earlier" or "Man, I should have weeded that patch earlier."  Throw in some interesting weather-a little hail here and there-and I really should be amazed that any crops come at all.  The trick in what we do is to keep as many of those balls in the air as possible and keep all of them moving forward and growing.  I commonly work through 5-7 different tasks a day in June and July (maybe starting with cultivating on the tractor, hand weeding a few crops, then moving to wheel hoe a couple other beds, etc). If I get stuck too long on any one crop or job, I can easily miss the window to take care of another crop, and, yes, sometimes a crop just gets written off.  So, in the context of all this juggling of 60+ different crops, sweet corn appearing a bit late shouldn't be the end of the world, but I still feel a bit like a professional musician who missed hitting a C chord on stage.

In the box:
Norland Red Potatoes
Bunch of Carrots
Green Beans
Fresh Oregano: Tiny fragrant bunch of greens with a red band
Fennel: The frawns (greens) has a pretty strong anise flavor, but the bulb itself is more mild (see recipe below)
Peppers: One Islander (purple) and a couple green

Fennel goes especially well with chicken and fish.  Here's a simple recipe using chicken:

Friday, July 20, 2012

Coming into High Season

As you'll see from the delivery this week, we're starting to get into high season.  Green beans have come into season and we were able to get a couple peppers for everybody this week too.  No tomatoes or sweet corn yet, but they are just around the corner.  

Reminder: We're having our open house at Lida Farm this Sunday, July 22 from 2-4 pm.  Come on out, have a little drink and a snack, and check out how the crops are growing.  This is open for member and non-members alike, so feel free to bring a friend.

In the box:
  • Savoy Cabbage: I promise not to give you any more cabbage for some time...I think it's been 4 weeks now. But cabbage keeps forever in a refrigerator and this stuff was just so beautiful I just had to put it in the box. 
  • French Breakfast Radishes
  • Braising Mix: These are the frilly, purple and green bunch of greens. These are cooking greens. 
  • Fresh Thyme: The little tiny bunch of fragrant herbs.  If you've never cooked with fresh herbs, this is your chance.  I'm sure you'll taste a difference. 
  • Bunch of Beets: These are a mix of Chiogga and Red Ace. The Red Ace are your standard beet and Chiogga are a brighter red and striped red/white on inside.  You prepare as you would any beet. 
  • Contender Green Beans 
  • A couple Sweet Onions: There's a red torpedo onion and an Alisa Craig.  Th big Alisa Craig is more mile if preparing things with fresh onion.  
  • A couple Cucumbers
  • A couple Summer Squash: We had a mix of yellow straightneck, zucchini, and yellow zucchini
  • A Purple Islander Pepper and an Ace Green Pepper
  • A Japanese Eggplant: These guys have just started to come into season along with peppers, so some a pretty small.   Here's Bobby Flay giving you some ideas on how to grill these guys: 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Two Season Crops

We'll the spring brassicas (cabbage, kohlrabi, broccoli) are working their way past the finish line; I have the flail mower on the tractor and ready to mow them down.  This allows us to clean up the field as well as make room for a new crop.  But even while I eye the spring brassicas, I took an hour yesterday and planted the fall brassicas, including broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower.  The nice think about fall brassicas is that they typically do better than their spring brethren since they have a long cool fall to mature.  I've given up trying to raise cauliflower in the spring which simply gets purple and ugly due to stress in the summer heat.

This two season cropping is also common with other veggies on the farm.  We also have a spring and fall crop of spinach, cool-season greens, and head lettuce makes a comeback as well.  So, if you're a cool-season veggie-eater yourself, don't despair; just wait a couple months.

In the box:
Green Cabbage
Red Ace Beets
Summer Squash - we mostly had zucchini but there are some yellow zucchini and yellow staightneck squash too.
Red Basil
Fresh or "green" garlic - this is uncured garlic which is a bit stronger tasting than cured.  You can simply leave on your kitchen counter for a week and I'll dry down if you'd like to cure yourself.
Purple Kohlrabi - I know, you're sick of kohlrabi, but at least this one's a different color!
Dino Kale - the dark green which is all crinkly (see recipe below)
Frisee - the frilly green also called curly endive.  This is in the endive family, so has a nutty flavor.  It's typically mixed in a lot of salad mixes you would buy.
Green onions

Note - check out our facebook page where we've been posting a picture of the box each week with each veggie labeled.

Ryan's Never Fail Greens Recipe 
1 bunch greens (collards, kale, chard)
2-3 slices of bacon
1 small onion

Dice onions, bacon, and greens.  Fry bacon in skillet together with the onion or garlic.  When the onion gets translucent, throw in greens until wilted and season with some salt.  Done.  If you like heat, add red pepper flakes.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Dealing with Bad Weather on the Farm

I swear I spend half of my time complaining about weather on this website, but this week I have good reason. 

Monday night we got some serious hail.  Typically we experience 30-45 seconds of hail when the weather front first comes through, but this time it just kept coming down for a good ten minutes.  You’ll see evidence of this on the produce like white blotches on the peas where they took a hailstone or greens with healed over holes. 

Some of the best advice I got from my mentor on whose farm I apprenticed was “if you get hail, don’t even look at the plants for a couple days.”  Even though hail inflicts a lot of damage, it’s amazing how quickly the plants recover. 

Now, today, I’m sitting in our kitchen writing this because our power’s out after a major streak of lightening tried hitting our house while a rain poured on my head out picking peas.  I can’t even fill the tanks to harvest and wash produce.  But desperate times call for desperate measures, so I fired up the PTO generator just to make some coffee. 

In the box:
  • Snap peas: fatter peas, which are edible pod, so don’t try shelling.  You'll see these white marks where hail hit, but I've been eating a bunch in the field and I think they are fine.
  • Snow peas: the flat ones
  • Kohlrabi: see recipe below
  • Red Sails red leaf lettuce: the leafy red green
  • Radicchio: the small round red green.  It is often mixed into a mix of other greens in a salad.  It's got a pretty strong nutty, bitter flavor, so it's not for everybody.  
  • Small Romaine lettuce
  • Broccoli
  • Green cabbage
  • Basil
  • Cilantro
  • A couple sweet onions (Alisa Craig variety)
  • First cucumber of the year

Honey-Mustard Kohlrabi from St. Paul Farmers Market Cookbook
2 cups kohlrabi, peeled and sliced
2 T olive oil
2 T honey
1-2 T Dijon mustard
Steam kohlrabi until tender, about 10 minutes.  In a bowl, mix together oil, honey, and mustard.  Taste and adjust for flavor.  Toss with cooked kohlrabi.  Makes 4 servings. 

Friday, June 29, 2012

Minerals on the Farm

This week as I was harvesting broccoli for the box, I was looking across the brassica field where we have the kohlrabi, cabbage, broccoli and brussel sprouts and thought just how good the field looked this year.  The good timings I've had with cultivating helps, but one thing which I'd like to highlight is the mineral fertilizer I've incorporated this year.
Ryan harvesting Napa Cabbage

Plants in the brassica family like broccoli are pretty heavy "feeders" of micronutrients (macro-nutrients are nitrogen, potash, and potassium) like calcium, boron, and manganese.  To better feed the plant, this year we sourced a mineral blend from Midwestern Bio-Ag which the brassicas really responded to.  We've never had such healthy-looking cabbages.  People always wonder what we do about insects when raising vegetables without pesticides, but this is part of the secret.  If you have healthy plants with proper nutrition, the bug pressure is always less - kind of like those healthy people you know who never get sick.

In the box:
  • Cilantro
  • Kohlrabi 
  • Napa Cabbage: It seems like not a lot of people cook with Napa, but I absolutely love the stuff!  Follow this recipe below from the Epicurious website for an idea on how to use it.  
  • Radishes 
  • Strawberries
  • Snap Peas: These are edible pod peas, so please don't try to shell; just eat them.  
  • Spinach 
  • Broccoli 
  • Red lettuce: Most people got a red oakleaf variety called Cocarde, but some did Red Sails red leaf. 
  • Salad Mix  
Spicey Napa Cabbage Slaw with Cilantro Dressing from Epicurious

  • 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.
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    Friday, June 22, 2012

    My Farm Philosophy (CSA week 1)

    We'll this is week number one for our 8th CSA season as Lida Farm!   I'm feeling good about where we're heading and I think it'll be a great season.  

    I think individual farms have their own "take" on agriculture and how their farm fits in the world; this is probably even more important for CSA operations where people choose an operation to make "their farm" for the season.  My own farm philosophy is geared towards three things: soil, people, and community.

    We are committed to growing our produce without the use of any synthetic chemicals EVER (we haven't use a chemical on the place for the 8 years we've lived here).  We also do the best we can to build the soil as much as possible each year, incorporating livestock into our operation and interplanting cover crops to fix nitrogen and add organic matter.

    People are the core of our operation.  We do our utmost to make sure our members and farmers market customers get clean, quality food.  I love the feeling of knowing we are helping to feed families and giving them a direct connection to farming.  I love getting to know people who eat our food and learning about what their interested in.  We're going to have a few events over the season this year to make connecting a bit easier, including an open house and fall feast so stay tuned.  We want our farm to be your farm, so please make a point to attend some events or simply come out and visit!

    Lastly, community is big for us.  Not only our local communities of Pelican Rapids and Vergas, but also our fellow local farmers.  Just as local residents support us in becoming CSA members and customers, we in turn support our local businesses.  Building up a stronger local economy in our little rural part of the state is a core part of our mission and I feel so much more can be accomplished if we all cooperate together.  We also take on a role of educating the community on sustainable agriculture.  For the last 3 years we've hosted Pelican Rapids early childhood classes in the fall and the local 4-H club was out just last week.

    In the Box: 

    • Bok Choy 
    • Garlic Scapes - the curly green bunch.  Think of scapes and use them as garlic-y green onions.  You can also use them in place of garlic cloves; they'll be a bit more mild than garlic cloves.  
    • Arugula - the bunch of greens which look like elongated oak leaves.  This can be eaten fresh or steamed or in a pasta; a traditional Italian green.  I prefer as a simple side salad with parmesan, oil, pepper, and some balsamic vinegar. 
    • Radishes - some got cherry belle (red variety) and others got French breakfast variety (look like long pink/white bobbers).  
    • Red Russian Kale - big bunch of purple greens.  These need to be cooked.  I typically do kale with sauteed bacon and onions and then simmer down the cropped greens for 10 minutes or so.  
    • Green Onions
    • Salad Mix (in the bag) or Romaine Lettuce  
    • Spinach - loose greens with the pink roots 

    Stir-Fired Bok Choy from the Food Network


    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
    • 8 cups chopped fresh bok choy
    • 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
    • Salt and ground black pepper


    Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger and cook 1 minute. Add bok choy and soy sauce cook 3 to 5 minutes, until greens are wilted and stalks are crisp-tender. Season, to taste, with salt and black pepper. 
    I suggest you use the garlic scapes in this recipe in place of the garlic cloves - it'll work fine.  

    Wednesday, June 13, 2012

    Why Raise Livestock on a Produce Farm?

    We mainly raise vegetables, but we have been expanding livestock on the farm.  For the past four years, we have raised broilers (chickens for eating, not laying) along with laying hens and a flock of sheep; last year we even tried our hand at a few pigs.

    Why?  Meat is tasty and allows us something else to offer CSA members and other customers, but one really big reason is manure.  Veggies need a lot of fertility, and, when raising produce organically without high-powered manufactured fertilizers, you almost have to have livestock manure.

    We keep experimenting with ways to create good compost out of manure.  One thing we have been trying is doing a slow composting method where we let the manure pack break down under a roof and out of the rain for 6 months + which keeps more nitrogen in the compost instead of leaching out in the elements.  

    Tools of the trade - a manure fork and a grain shovel
    Last week I shoveled out the chicken shed in preparation for this year's batch of 200 broilers.  We let last year's chicken litter break down since last August and we'll spread in a windrow in a shady spot on our hill to break down some more for fall spreading on the fields.    

    Filling up the manure spreader
    The finished product - half-complete compost
    Shed ready for new birds!

    Saturday, June 02, 2012

    A few CSA shares available for 2012 season

    Our first CSA delivery of fresh in-season produce will be coming up in a few weeks.  We're a small operation which is totally family run.  Maree and I both the owner/operators and the entire workforce of Lida Farm (plus three kids under the age of 7, but they are not great contributors yet).  Last year I harvested for and assembled about 30 shares each Friday.  We currently stand at about 27 shares, so it's not too late to sign up.

    Our season runs for 16 weeks (Mid-June through Mid-October) and we also do every-other-week shares for couples or families which just want to try out a CSA.  The cost is $450 for a full share delivered directly to your home or $250 for every other week.  We also give a $50 discount if you pick up at the farm yourself (at $400/season, this is $25/week).  Besides the produce we will also be hosting a few events on-farm for the 2012 season for our members.  Check out details under "Join our CSA" on this website or get a hold of us at or 218-342-2619.

    early season CSA veggies, lida farm CSA, pelican rapids CSA
    CSA box from June, 2011

    Saturday, April 21, 2012

    How much comes in a share?

    Signing up for the season must feel like a leap of faith for people new to CSA.  What will I get each week?  Is it a bunch of crazy stuff I don't eat?  Is it too much?  Too little?  

    At Lida Farm we deliver a bushel box of produce each week to both with full shares and every-other-week shares.  A full share should supply a family of 4 veggies for the season   

    The picture below is an example from early July last year and the mix of things changes throughout the season.  In early July we were still delivering early season stuff last year with salad mix, greens like chard, kohlrabi, radishes, braising mix, spinach, garlic scapes, and strawberries.  
    CSA box, early July 2011
    We focus on growing all the staples, but also make sure there is a little surprise each week too.  Many of our members tell me they like the CSA experience because they end up trying new things.  That being said, I know people don't want a box of only weird stuff, so the majority of what we grow are staples like lettuce, sweet corn, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and radishes.

    More details about the 2012 CSA season are found on the "Join our CSA" webpage.

    Sunday, April 15, 2012

    Lida Farm on TV

    I spent a good portion of today getting pretty wet and cold.  I was bedding down young chickens in a leaky coop in the pasture, securing a greenhouse in some high winds, and seeding in our greenhouse kept cool so as not to burn too much propane in a spring storm.  To warm everybody up a bit, I thought I'd share this video Lakes Country Living TV program did on us last summer.  It was hot out and produce was peak season.  Try not to pay too close attention to that sea of foxtail in the onion patch!

    Monday, February 27, 2012

    Hanging out with other Foodies at the MOSES Conference

    Maree, Graham, and I finally made our way down to the mecca of organic growers in the US, the Midwest Organic Conference (  About 3,200 organic growers, wanna-be farmers, and organic foodie types descended on LaCrosse, WI last Thursday-Saturday to take in workshops about soils and raising livestock as well as a poetry slam and a lot of organic foods and snacks.

    I presented a poster as Ryan Pesch, Extension Educator, about a food survey I did in Renville County-it was not  the headliner of the event-but the ideas we got for our own farm were the highlights.  Since we raised three hogs last year, we appreciated the session on raising hogs on pasture and also the session on integrating CSA with other enterprises like farmers market and livestock.  The presenters were doing some cool things around farm to table like making pizzas made with all-farm ingredients for on-farm dinners, but we didn't think it was something we'd pull off for this year.  Still, at the very least, we're much more fired up about the farm season.  Inspiration is great fuel!

    Friday, February 10, 2012

    Looking for a Few Good CSA Members

    Well, even though I try to hibernate as much of winter as possible, the stirrings of spring have begun to pull my mind towards the 2012 CSA season.  For those of you who were members of Lida Farm CSA last year, you should have received a brochure and order form to join for this year by mail.  For those of you just perusing the web for a CSA, we serve the lakes district between Pelican Rapids and Detroit Lakes and would welcome your membership in the 2012 season.  Please check out our 2012 CSA Brochure for details.

    If you know of others who may be interested in joining a CSA in the area, please feel free to forward the link and materials to them.  We will be adding a few more shares this year, so are looking for new recruits.