Friday, October 11, 2013

End of 2013 CSA Season

Well, today it's official.  We are delivering the last box and coming to the end of the CSA season.  In this last blog post of the season, I typically reflect of how the season's been.

The farm season started off pretty badly.  We managed to kill off a bunch of plants in the greenhouse when our heater went out, followed by late spring snows, cold weather, and about 3 months of daily rain (or so it seemed).  We planted in mud.  We watched weeds grow in the fields because it was too wet to cultivate.  It wasn't good at all.

The middle of the summer brought much better weather and we were able to tend to the crops and harvest some things only after pushing the start of CSA back a week.  We were feeling pretty good and getting into the groove of the season, but stress levels went up as the heat increased and rains stopped.  We typically don't have to irrigate much, but when it got that dry for that long, I did have to start lugging hose from field to field.  Drought conditions did effect the quality of some produce like mis-shaping pumpkins and decreased yield as plants got stressed.  Still, I think we weathered it as well as possible.

Rain started to fall in September and I'd say we're in good shape for next season. Even though I'm my typical worn out self this time of year, we have to look towards next season to begin a new.  Let me thank you for being with us for the season.

In the box:
Little Bok Choy
Celeriac: Yes, this is a crazy-looking veggie.  Peel and use in cooking where you would celery - it has the same flavor.
'Satina' Yellow Potatoes: People rave about Yukon Gold yellows, but I think these are much better.  Yukons have a terrible yield and there are a bit too starchy or dry for me.
Yellow Onion
Dino Kale
Yellow and Red Pepper
'Red Kuri' Squash: This is a great flavored squash - I always liken it to a chestnut.  Maree peeled and used in a veggie soup earlier this week.
Pie Pumpkins: I think a couple should be enough for a pie (Maree makes pie, not me, so I'm guessing).  You can use them for decoration, but don't forget they are food too.  You can always cook down like squash, put into a freezer bag and use later (way better than that stuff in a can).
Farmer-choice squash: Another acorn or delicata.  

Friday, October 04, 2013

Last Stretch to the Veggie Season

I was just thinking about how tired I am and wondering how I did all the things I had to do all summer.  This a natural thought this time of year and so is being tired.  In the middle of the summer I feel like I can move mountains.  Of course, the sun is shining, the days are long, and the growing season is on the upswing.  As we get into fall, you'll find just the opposite.  The days are shorter, there's more darkness than light, and everything's winding down.  It's not starting a project that's ever a problem, it's finishing it, right?  We'll a farm season is no different.

The end of season around Lida Farm is more than the last two CSA harvests or last couple of farmers markets (that's next Friday and Saturday respectively).  The bigger challenges are big jobs that I don't feel like getting to: planting garlic, pulling out the tomato trellis, taking plastic off the high tunnel, shoveling and spreading manure, goes on.  Well, the longer I wait, the greater chance I do any of these things in really cold weather.

CSA members are still welcome to come out and take tomatoes and peppers for preservation.  There are a lot of both and there's little chance of me selling them all.  Just come on out and pick what you need - they are in the field closest to the house.

In the box:
Russet Potatoes
Braising Mix: the bunched greens that are a mix of purple and green.  Prepare and use as you would kale.  This pretty much what I do with them too:  Once made up, you can keep in fridge and add to eggs in the morning.
A Sprinkling of Sage and Thyme
Salad mix
Delicata Squash: The green and yellow-striped ones.  We don't do these in a water bath like others since their shells are thinner
Butternut Squash
'Red Cardinal' Spinach
A Couple Little Red Onions
'French Breakfast' Radishes
Celery: This stuff always grows small and stringy for me, so will work fine for cooking - not eating all by itself.
Cherry Tomatoes

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Why work when we can get Robots?

I was just reading article in the AgWeek yesterday about robots being developed that will pick citrus crops.  The article framed the need for robots in terms of the immigration debate; since California has such a great need for immigrant labor, robots may be their saving grace.

Immigration besides, my main reaction was "Huh, what are WE here for anyway?"  Maybe I'm just a romantic, but we'll lose more than employment when robots can do all the labor on farm.  There's something really beautiful and refreshing about caring for the ground and creation with your own two hands.  Sure, it's tiring work some days, but a person sleeps really well and the work gives me, at least, a deep sense of satisfaction.

Harvest Party last week at Lida Farm
I'm game for appropriate technology (I use technology all the time - this blog a case in point), but we must also consider what's lost as well.  I think our culture will be poorer with fewer people working in agriculture with their hands.  One point to consider...if such huge fruit and vegetable operations can't make it in California without so much imported labor, maybe multiple families with less reliance on outside labor should replace them.  I'm guessing we'd all spend a bit more for summer stone fruit and winter citrus in this scenario, but having more families on the ground building businesses is a much better outcome than a single mega-farm with an army of robots.

In this week's CSA box:
A quart of tomatoes: Green Zebras (yes, they are ripe when green) and standard Celebrity toms.
A Couple Colored Peppers
Spaghetti Squash: It's best to store all winter squash in warm, dry locations.
A Buttercup Squash: Boy, this variety did not pull through well this year - terrible, since this is the top choice for many.
A Yellow Onion
French Breakfast Radishes
Green Onions
Salad Mix

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Ups and Downs of Farming

I should say that things always happen when I'm out of town.  So it shouldn't have come as a surprise when Maree called me when I was boarding a plane in Pittsburgh yesterday.

Sitting in the kitchen getting some stuff ready for Satuday's harvest party, Maree and my mom heard an outburst of yips from our neighborhood coyotes, seemingly just outside the patio window.  Knowing something was up, my parents and Maree quickly jumped into action, tramping all around a sheep pasture in the middle of the night without a flashlight to ward off the predators.  They were a bit confused that they couldn't find the whole flock, but what was one to do at midnight, especially when Mar had to drive into the train station at 2 am to pick me up after a botched MSP connection?  They figured they had scared the pack away with all their commotion and went off to bed.

Coyotes, after finding a good source of protein, are pretty persistent I guess as my survey of the pasture this morning uncovered 7 sheep (mainly lambs slated for sale this winter) strewn from the trees down to the pond.  With one unaccounted for, losing 8 sheep when you only start with 20 is pretty major.  Damn.  It always seems that when we feel like all of the balls we're juggling are doing fine, one has to drop.  I think this is why country songs are so tragic and sad.

In the box:
Edamame: Edible soybeans - the big messy bunch stuffed into the box.  Your job is to take all the pods of the stem and boil them in salted water for a few minutes.  All the other stem and leaves can be composted.
A Couple Peppers
A Quart of Tomatoes
Turnips: There are two kinds of turnips in the box, the traditional white and purple ones and these all red ones you may mistake for beets.
Rutabaga: These roots should bigger than the turnips with yellow flesh, although it would be east to confuse the two.  Typically turnips are rounder and rutabagas are elongated with a bigger top.
A Couple Yellow Onions
Fresh Rosemary: With all these roots in the box, this would go great with these roasted in the oven.
Pontiac Red Potatoes
Sunshine Kabooca Squash: These orange/red winter squash are a lot like everybody's favorite, buttercup, but better.
Blue Bonnet Hubbard Squash: Since traditional hubbards get to be the weight of a boat anchor, I do these mini hubbards

Friday, September 06, 2013

Little Cars of the World Unite!

Considering we cart large amount of produce around the countryside, you'd think we drove a diesel pickup or some other powerful machine.  But, instead, we like to drive little cars to get produce from point A to point B.  To get the CSA boxes delivered on Fridays, Maree drives towards Detroit Lakes and I drive towards Pelican Rapids.  All told, it is an investment of 2.5 hours for each of us and a round trip of 80-90 miles.  Since we do this trip every Friday for four months of the year, we really want to get the best fuel economy possible.

New Honda Fit with CSA Boxes
Our long-time car is a diesel Jetta wagon.  It gets 40-45 miles per gallon, I love the sound, and it's fun to have truckers ask you, "Are you sure you don't want to use unleaded in that thing?" when at the pump.  But with over 230k miles, we were not
surprised when our mechanic informed us of the transmission going out.  Our other vehicle is the farm workhorse, an old GMC Safari van, but, with about 15 miles/gallon fuel economy, we knew we really had to make the switch to something else.  So just last week we purchased a new Honda Fit, which fits our bill of having good fuel economy (about 35 on the highway) and being able to transport a fair amount of cargo.  Today was it's first trip on the CSA delivery route and I was almost giddy that this little car can fit 14 CSA boxes in the back plus one kid.

After droning on about your car situation, Ryan, what's the significance?  Well, we are like all other businesses and households working to find whatever ways possible to save energy and money in this age of $3.50 gasoline.  Doubling our fuel economy on one delivery vehicle definitely does this.  The added benefit to you, our members, is that it also cuts carbon footprint for the food you eat each week.  The greater significance, however is that I don't think we're alone in this trend.  I would expect the commercial fleet (delivery trucks, couriers, etc) of this country to get smaller and smaller in size as I imagine many businesses small and large will be making this switch towards fuel efficiency.

In the CSA box:
A Mix of Peppers: Everybody got one red pepper, an 'Italia' (long red/green one - it's sweet, not hot), a Pablano (a fairly mild hot pepper), and a Jalapeno

A Melon: I tried getting everybody a melon other than a cantaloupe, but I just didn't have that many.  Some received a white-flesh Ananas melon called 'San Juan' and others received a crisp and white fleshed-Korean melon called 'Sun Jewel' (it's the one which is oblong and yellow with white stripes).

A Half-dozen Sweet Corn: I suspect the last of the season.

A Couple Summer Squash

Beets: All are a mix of traditional red beets and a gold beet variety.


A Couple Leeks


Roma Tomatoes

A Cherry Tomato Mix

Friday, August 30, 2013

Summer Labors

Has anybody noticed that it's hot outside?  I don't know about you but it's tough to get things done outside in this kind of weather.  This is a real challenge on a vegetable farm at this time of year because lots of heavy crops are coming due.  I find myself on any given day of the week lugging 50 lb crates in 90+ degree heat.  It's tough work, but it's also rewarding.  I get the pleasure of creating a tangible product, which is often not the case today.  Many of us have jobs with titles like "project manager" or "process engineer" where our work consists of moving pixels on a computer screen, attending meetings, and talking to people on a phone.  My dayjob is like that, and, although it's good and rewarding in it's own way, there's no end product you can see, feel, or taste.  

So, as we approach Labor Day, I typically reflect on labor history since I was raised in a Union family and I work in a traditional industry with lots of heritage and labor issues.  Being part of the farmer class and being at the state fair last weekend, I feel real kinsmanship with my fellow growers.  Although there are different camps (dairy people, commodity production, organic, veggie growers), we are all in the same boat in my mind since we all care for the land and generally have the same hard-working lifestyle.  Still, we're not the ones who are really deserving of attention on this labor day - this isn't our day.  As one who toils in heat and cold spring rains, I know what it takes to bring in a crop, but I also reap any rewards which come from that crop.  Those who are the overlooked people in our food system are agricultural workers and they deserve more than they get.  Workers in the tomato fields of Florida  ( receive about 2 cents a pound for the tomatoes you and I eat on a Taco Bell burrito.  But they are not the only ones...there are millions who work along the food supply chain in this country who receive low wages, few benefits, and the threat of deportation in return for their long hours of hard labor.  Some would argue that this is the American way and people will work their way up in time.  Maybe I'm sympathetic since my grandfather worked three jobs as an agricultural worker his whole life, but I think folks need a better shake through unionization just like past immigrants did to find dignity in their own work lives.   

So, as we approach Labor Day, let us at least put a face to the workers behind our food.  And, if you're so inspired, take a step to help make change for a group of people in this country who need some.  

In the box:
'Sarah's Choice' Canteloupe
A Dozen Corn 
A Big Onion
A Couple Cucumbers
A Couple Yellow Zucchini
A Bunch of Beets 
A Little Basil 
A Big Slicing Tomato 
Some Yellow 'Taxi' Variety 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Corn's Size Determined Early in Life

Don't we all look back in life and see how we became the person we are today after making certain decisions when we were young?  Maybe it was taking that English class instead of Organic Chemistry or that time you caved to peer pressure, made a bad decision, and got onto a bad track.  It's certainly not as emotional or complex as us humans, but corn is like that too.

The potential size of any cob of corn is determined early in its life.  If it was planted in a soil with low fertility or negative soil conditions like bad tilth or saturated ground, it will never reach the potential you would have hoped for no matter how much you babysit it later in its lifecycle.  This is why you'll see these good-tasting, but scrunty ears in the box.  We're still being haunted by the monsoon season we had in May and June when it rained every 3 hours.  When we planted corn with the tractor we literally sank about a foot and a half into the ground, leaving these huge ruts which I'm sure will be there still next year.  Still, after waiting til mid-June, we knew we had to just get things into the ground or they would never get planted.  When planting anything into goop like that, plants get stressed because their roots have no oxygen (they are basically drowning in water).  All told, however, the season has turned around like it always does and now we're moving irrigation like crazy!  

Sorry I didn't write an entry last week.  A couple things which may have confused people was the frilly bunch of greens, which was mizuna, a Asian green commonly used in stir-frys or mixed into a salad mix.  The other things which looked like red beets were actually turnips.  

In the box: 
'Sarah's Choice' Canteloupe
A dozen ears of corn: A real mix of types....the big white variety is called 'Silver King.'  
A couple green peppers
A couple red onions
A mix of Carrots: White ones are called 'Satin,' the yellow ones are 'Yellow Sun," and the others are 'Scarlet Nantes' an orange standard.  
Tomatoes: A number of the slicers are still Early Girls, but there are a number of 'Black Cherry' mixed in. 
Turnips: Everyone receive some standard 'Purple Top' with a couple 'Scarlet Queen' mixed in.  I pasted in a few ideas to get you going with the turnips - see below.  

4 Quick Turnip Recipes from

Rooting around for an in-season vegetable with inspiring possibilities? Turn to the turnip.

by Sue Li
Levi Brown
Sautéed Turnips and Greens
Cook peeled and cut-up turnips and sliced garlic in olive oil in a large skillet until tender. Add the turnip greens and cook until just wilted. Season with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Roasted Turnips With Ginger
Peel and cut turnips into wedges. Toss with sliced fresh ginger, canola oil, salt, and pepper on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with honey and roast at 400° F until tender.

Mashed Turnips With Crispy Bacon
Simmer peeled and cut-up turnips in boiling salted water until tender. Drain and mash with butter, salt, and pepper. Fold in crumbled cooked bacon and chopped chives; top with shaved Parmesan.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Snakes in the Garden!

Let me start by saying I am deathly afraid of snakes!  I don't care if they are gardner snakes or king cobras - I kind of lose it when I see one.   So I have mixed feelings about a gardener snake that took up residence in the peppers near our driveway.

On the bad side, I did my usual jumping and yelling fit when I first ran into the snake.  Also, I'm just waiting for the day when I'm out picking peppers close to sundown and reach down only to feel something scaly - nightmare.  My son, like any 6 year old boy, suggested we go out and kill it.  When I told him no, he asked the typical "why?"  That made me push aside my fears and think about the good side of the snake.  First and foremost for an organic grower, any signs of reptiles or amphibians on the farm are good.  Since creatures like snakes and frogs have permeable skin, toxins in the environment will soak right into their bodies.  So when we see them around the farm we know the environment we helped create is healthy.  Also, getting a little mystical here, snakes are lucky.  As an undergraduate I was a Classics major (you know, Greek, Latin...that kind of stuff). Going all the way back to Ancient Greece, snakes were revered as a holy animal and were a associated with Asclepius, the God of Healing.  This is where we got that snake wrapped around a staff which represents the medical profession.  It's interesting that in an environmental way the snake again is filling the same role as symbol of health and healing.

The weather has been frustrating as of late.  Many of those summer crops like corn, tomatoes, and melons are just not ripening in such cold weather....pray for heat!

Some of the chickens will be processed this Sunday...please see email for details.

In the box:
Shunkyo radishes: The bright-red and long radishes with greens on top.  These are traditionally grown in Korea, but you eat and prepare as you would any other radish.
A mix of tomatoes
A couple sweet onions
A couple cucumbers: Yes, we finally got cukes in the box...I've been waiting a while.
Mint: The little green bunch that smells like mint.  It seems like we use it most in mojitos...lime, sugar, rum, and this mint and you're in business.
A good sized basil bunch: This should be enough to make some pesto.  We're cheap, so we skip the pine nuts and use walnuts instead (
Arugula: The darker green bunch of leaves shaped like a long oak leaves
A couple little heads of lettuce (romaine, green leaf, or red leaf): It's tough to get a big head of lettuce in the middle of summer, so I cut small...they are cute.
Sweet corn?  I was hunting as best as I could to find ripe sweet corn this morning, but only found a couple dozen.  Our cool temps are keeping ears from maturing.  I'm staking my reputation on getting corn in the box and on the farm stand next week!

Turkish-Style Cucumber Salad

I used to teach English in Trabzon, Turkey and this is their most common salad, pretty much using things right out of the box.  

A couple cucumbers, peeled and diced
A couple tomatoes, diced
Half a sweet onion, diced 
Fresh mint from one sprig, minced 
2 T olive oil 
1 T vinegar 

Mix ingredients in a bowl, let sit a bit to marinate, then serve. 

Friday, August 02, 2013

Digging Potatoes by Tractor

Today was the first day we used our new potato digger - an implement which connects to the 3-point behind the tractor with a furrower that digs into the ground just below the spuds  This may not sound like a big deal, but I assure you this is like reaching the 21st century for us.  Until this point digging potatoes was a medieval endeavor where I jumped as high as I could on a 5-tine potato fork and then throw my back into popping potato plants out of hard August ground.  As I wrenched on the potato fork (2 years ago I broke 4 of them), Mar burrowed through the dirt behind me like a badger.  This was always the job that we never really wanted to do.  On a harvest day, we typically only tackled the job after having a few cups of coffee and it typically took us about 2 hours to get a bin by hand.

Today was quite a difference.  We still had to burrow through the ground searching for potatoes, but digging with the tractor took a grand total of about 10 minutes.

In the Box:
Cherry Tomatoes: It's luck of the draw if you got 'Sakura' Grape tomatoes, 'Sungold' cherry tomatoes, or 'black cherry' tomatoes. 
Red Cabbage: See recipe below. 
Green Onions
Summer Squash: Everyone has a zucchini plus either a straightneck summer squash or yellow zucchini - you can use straightneck the same as zucchini.  Try as a fritter (grated squash with a couple eggs - fry in a pan).
Purple Kohlrabi
Greens: Most people got swiss chard, but some got collards 
Italian Parsley 
Yellow 'Elfy' Potatoes: I'm impressed with these potatoes as the first time growing them...we simply boiled them and found them to be really creamy.  
'Provider' Green Beans  

Spicy Mexican Slaw with Lime and Cilantro from

(Makes about 4 servings, recipe can be easily doubled. Recipe adapted slightly from Fine Cooking Annual 2008.)

4 cups thinly sliced green cabbage
2 cups thinly sliced red cabbage
(You can use all green or all red cabbage.)
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro (or more)
4 T mayo
3 T fresh lime juice (more or less to taste)
hot sauce to taste (I used about 1/2 tsp. green Tabasco sauce)
salt to taste (I used Vege-Sal)

Thinly slice cabbage, using a mandoline or food processor if desired. Slice green onions, and wash, dry and chop cilantro. (I use a Mini salad spinner to wash herbs and spin them dry.) Combine cabbage, green onions and cilantro in large salad bowl.

In small bowl, whisk together, mayo, lime juice, and hot sauce. (You may want to start with less than the full amount of lime juice and hot sauce and keep adding until you have the desired blend of sour/hot flavor.)

Use a wooden spoon to mix dressing into cabbage mixture. Season to taste with salt and serve immediately, or chill for a few hours.

This salad will keep well overnight in the refrigerator, but the lime juice will cause the red cabbage to bleed color and turn the salad slightly pink. If you're making extra you might want to use all green cabbage, although I didn't mind the pink color at all when I ate the leftovers!

Friday, July 26, 2013

A Change of Weather

It a wonder what a change in the weather brings.  The difference between this week and last week is remarkable. Last week we had 100+ heat index and a couple days ago I swear I woke up in October!  Canada sending us some cool temps is a nice change, but I'm surprised on how much it effects the growth of produce.

The beans are one example.  Last week I was looking at our second planting and saying to myself, "That planting will be readily easily by next week" as flowers were turning to small beans.  But when Maree and I went out last night to pick beans for the box, the crop was just not there since their growth slowed in the cool temps, so we ended up scouring our first planting of beans for this week.  On the other hand, the slowdown was really nice for cool-loving crops.  We have a third variety of broccoli called Imperial which has been putting on heads and this weather allows them to mature more slowly so you get a better formed head with nice tight kernals.  This is unlike our second variety of broccoli which went form little buds to loose heads in about 2 days of really hot humid weather.

This change in the weather is just a small example of how vegetable farming and CSA is particular is tough beast to plan for.  We have a lot of well-laid plans in the spring, but generally you have to roll with the punches.  Our trick is to raise a crazy variety of things, which, in the end, save us from bringing you a mostly-empty box one week.  Something is bound to come in well no matter the weather.

In the box:
Radishes: Most got French Breakfast variety (look like long fishing bobbers).  Not unlike the French, Mar and I like these things cooked.  Check out this recipe:
Norland Potatoes
Fennel: I always feel like I'm challenging people on this one.  I can just see people say, "What do I do with that?"  Well, below we have a recipe which is really good.  Still, you'll also see fresh fennel listed in salads and soups.
Fresh Thyme
Green Beans
A mix of tomatoes: Hey, first of the season, so there aren't a lot of any single variety.  So there's a smattering of different kinds.
Sweet onions

Greek Fennel Skillet
from Simply in Season
Serve plain as a side dish or over pasta.  Can also be served over Italian bread that has been brushed with olive oil and toasted.
2 cloves garlic (minced)
In a medium frypan saute in 2 T. olive oil for a minute.

2 fennel bulbs (sliced thin)
1 large onion (sliced)
Add and saute until tender, 5-10 minutes.

1 T. lemon juice
3 medium tomatoes (chopped)
Add and cook over medium heat until part of the liquid evaporates, 10 minutes.  Salt and pepper to taste.

1 1/2 cups feta cheese or mozzarella cheese (shredded)
1/2 cup black olives (optional)
Stir in.

Peas Came and Went

I'm glad some members were able to make it out last week to pick some of the many peas still on the vine.  That field is now being prepared for fall carrots.
Pea Field - yes, there are actually peas growing in there!
15 minutes with a flail mower and the field is transformed

Friday, July 19, 2013

Growing on Plastic

Example of Melons on Plastic Mulch
A very popular way of growing vegetables commercially today is in a plastic mulch.  Sometimes called IRT for InfraRed Transmitting, it is a thin plastic which allows light through and it wide enough to to spread over a standard 6-foot bed.  Maybe you've seen this.  

In our climate plastic mulches are used not only because you don't have to worry about weeds, but, more importantly in my mind, they warm up the soil, and, hence, speed up the growth of plants.  In an area with a really short growing season, this is pretty important, especially with heat-loving crops like melons.  For me, however, I always "had it in" for plastic mulches because there is no way currently of recycling or re-using it; the plastic always ends up being a messy pile of muddy slop each fall which just needs to be thrown away.  That's why I haven't use the stuff for the past 5 years.  But this year I ended up planting some melon seeds really late and decided to use some plastic mulch because I was afraid they would never mature.  Compared to the plants that went in the ground three weeks earlier, it's no contest.  The ones in the plastic mulch have about 5-foot vines which are now flowering and they others are sitting there only about twice as big as the day I planted them.  A lot of this is still a symptom of the cool and wet spring, but I may just have to change my mind and accept the plastic in my life as a necessary evil to do melons and get them in the box that much earlier.  

In the box: 
Snap Peas: Edible pods, so don't shell them. 
Grenoble Green Beans
Green Cabbage: See recipe below.
Spring Onions: Hard to believe I'm using the term 'spring' in middle July. 
A Kohlrabi: If you haven't dealt with before, the most common thing is simply to peel, slice and eat as a little appetizer before supper - that's how we do kohlrabi. Also the greens can be used in stir fry.
A Sprig of Fresh Basil 
Small bag of Salad Mix

We often make roasted cabbage in the oven at a high temp when it is cool in the fall. For summer, if you're already firing up the grill, why not throw the cabbage on too?
Grilled Cabbage 
Taken from The St. Paul Farmers Market Produce Cookbook
1 small head green cabbage
2-4 T. butter
seasoned salt
Aluminum foil, heavy duty

Preheat grill.  Cut cabbage into 8 wedges.  Place a cabbage wedge on a 12 in. square piece of foil.  Dot with butter and sprinkle with seasoned salt.  Fold in edges of foil to seal.  Repeat with remaining wedges. Cook for 20-30 minutes, turning severeal times, until tender.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Seasonal Transition Stress

Mar and I relaxed last fall after the craziness of summer
This time of year on the farm really gets to be a blur where Maree and I head towards total exhaustion.  Harvesting produce has started, so we are harvesting Tuesday night, Wednesday morning, Thursday night, all day Friday, plus Saturday morning.  Between the harvesting times we both spend about 3 hours delivering boxes on Fridays and invest about 5 hours every Saturday in the Lakes Area Farmers Market in
Detroit Lakes.  As you can see simply harvesting and driving around produce takes a fair amount of time, but, over and above all this, we have this time-crunch where we still need to weed, trellis tomatoes, feed and tend animals, and also plant for the fall.  How do we keep track of all this, especially since I have a full-time job on top of all this?  I have no idea.  Thinking about it, I'm kind of surprised we make it though each year, although I don't reflect when doing the work.

Speaking of's hard to believe, but we did start planting seeds for fall this week.  I planted all our our fall brassicas like cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower.  At lot of times people only think of these crops as products of spring, but, in actuality, brassicas and other cool-season crops like spinach and lettuce do much better in the fall where the days get shorter and we have consistently cool temps.  Since it's the summer, one trick we employ is laying burlap and row covers over the planted ground to get plants started in this hot and dry conditions.  I just checked under the burlap this morning, and those fall brassicas are popping up out of the ground like crazy.  It's a long way to October it seems, but the plants are off to a great start.

In the box:
A bit more Broccoli
Green Cabbage
Kale: A majority received Lacinato (Dino) Kale which is dark green and bumpy in texture.  Others received Red Russian Kale which is kind of frilly but red-green in color with purple stems.  You use either type the same way (See recipe below).
Green Garlic: This is fresh garlic before it has been dried down or cured.  You can use the garlic fresh or simply leave in a dry location like your kitchen counter to dry and use later. Green garlic is a bit stronger in flavor than cured garlic and you'll have to peel a bit more to find the clove.
Snap Peas: Snap peas are an edible-pod variety, so please don't shell would be quite a waste.  Just eat them.
A couple Zucchini
A Sprig of Basil
Romaine Lettuce: I know people are probably tired of lettuce...I promise to lay off as we move into summer crops.

I know kale chips seem to be all the rage lately, but Maree and I just got into them last fall and they really area great!

by Barbara Scott-Goodman & Liz Trovato

1 bunch kale, stemmed, rinsed and thoroughly dried
2 to 3 T. olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Preheat oven to 250°F.
2. Tear the kale into 3 inch pieces and put them in a large bowl.  Toss with the olive oil and salt and pepper to taste, making sure the leaves are well coated with the oil.  Arrange the leaves in a single layer on 2 baking sheets.
3. Bake until crisp, tossing once or twice, for 30 to 35 minutes.  Serve at once.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Getting Fields Under Control

Keeping weeds under control is priority number one at Lida Farm this time of year.  Now that the heat has finally come, all those weed seeds sitting in the wet ground have germinated, and, voila, a weed explosion hit the farm.  Foxtail, lambsquarters, red root pigweed, wild buckwheat are popping up all over, so we've been throwing everything we have to keep the little barbarians from taking over.  First we cultivate by tractor, then wheel hoe, then hand hoe, then, finally, weed by hand.  If you've ever feel like you can't keep your garden free of weeds, imagine trying to do that over two and half acres where an acre is about 3/4 the size of a football field.

Still, the battle against weeds isn't constant drudgery; there are little things to celebrate along the way.  One such milestone each year is the hilling of potatoes.  Typically this is done in June before the plants think about flowering, but, this year being what it was, I only got the job done yesterday; the field was too wet and the plants were too small all June.  For organic potatoes, we cultivate the crop twice by tractor and hoe so that the field is pretty clean of weeds before hilling.  Since a lot of farming is a real mind game, it's that image that matters most and why I just love hilling potatoes.  When done, it just doesn't feel like a little victory, but it's a real beautiful sight.  

In the box: 
Napa Cabbage:
Greenleaf Lettuce 
Salad Mix 
A Little Broccoli: This is just coming in, so some of these heads are not what I want them to be, but, hey. 
Green Onions

We have been eating a lot of spinach the past few weeks, both raw and cooked.  Here is a recipe I found online that uses ground lamb and spinach in stew form.  All three kids ate everything in their bowls! No lamb?  I'm sure beef would work just fine too:

Friday, June 28, 2013

Crazy Weather and Vegetable Production

Well, this is week one of the CSA season.  I'm excited to get going and start pulling some harvest out of the fields we've been tending.  Or trying to tend is a little more like it this year.  I think our volatile weather has everybody a bit worked up but I thought I would explain just how this extended cool wet spring weather and  frequent storms have effected our vegetable operation in particular.

Our first major issue is planting.  Although we plant all seeds with a hand-pushed Earthway Seeder, we put most of our crops in the ground with a Holland Transplanter which is pulled behind a tractor - me driving and Maree on the transplanter feeding the plants into the machine which are placed in the ground.  With saturated soils like we've had, there have been very few opportunities to till the ground (with a big heavy tractor) and afterwards plant (with a big heavy tractor).  We still have 6 flats of tomatoes and a couple flats of squash just sitting by the greenhouse ready to be planted - nobody knows when.  Pushing our luck a bit when we planted in pretty wet soils a couple weeks ago, we left some seriously deep ruts out in the field.  These ruts retain water like little ponds, making it impossible to cultivate and will probably leave this part of the field compacted for a couple years to come.

Which brings us to the second major issue - weeds!  We cultivate our crops with a tractor where we pull an implement which cuts off weeds below the soil and disturbs germinating weed seeds to keep them from setting root.  Normally we would have cultivated crops 3 times by the Forth of July, whereas this year we've cultivated once.  Not only that, but anytime I starting looking at a hoe to go kills some weeds, the sky opens up and dumps a few more inches of rain.  Regardless to say, sitting on the sidelines just watching weeds take over a field without even a chance to get into the fight is pretty frustrating.  On a normal year I get physically exhausted this time of year combating weeds by hoe and by hand, but I would much rather be tired than have what I'm calling "weeding anxiety" like I have.  Lying in bed at night, I keep running through my list of things to do but no ability to get them done.

The last major issue with this season is more related to the cold temperatures than the rain and that's slow growth.  Even if planted on time with low weed pressure, many plants are just sitting there doing nothing.  I have eggplant and pepper plants that are maybe an inch taller than when I planted them 3-4 weeks ago.  Heat-loving plants have an especially hard time, although everything could have done with warmer soil temps a month ago.  Take a potato, for instance.  When we planted them in mid-May we might as well have put them into a refrigerator and expected them to sprout; the soil was just so cold, plants emerged after 2-3 weeks, whereas, last year ,they just shot out of the ground in a week.

Any which way, the CSA season is starting and we're in it for the duration.  I'm hoping after this slow start things will start to turn around and we'll kind of get back to normal.  Something is bound to grow well.

In the box:
  • Salad Mix
  • Green Onions 
  • 'Red Sails' Lettuce
  • 'Cherry Belle' Radishes
  • Bok Choy 
  • 'Emu' Spinach - you can really see the hail we got last week on these big leaves, but, I assure you, they will taste the same :) 
Bok Choy Salad Recipe (from
This recipe was suggested by our friend Amy who is now a huge fan of this underappreciated Asian staple; she made a special trip out here last weekend in her hunt for more bok choy.  


    • 1/2 cup butter
    • 2 tablespoons sugar
    • 1/2 cup sesame seeds
    • 2 (3 ounce) packages ramen noodles ( uncooked, broken up, & do not use seasoning packs)
    • 1 (3 ounce) packages sliced almonds
    • 1 (2 lb) bok choy
    • 4 stalks green onions with tops
    • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
    • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 2 tablespoons soy sauce


  1. In large pan melt butter and add sesame seeds, sugar, broken ramen noodles, almonds.
  2. Brown and set aside to cool. After cooled, break up and set aside in small bowl.
  3. Wash and chop bok choy (smaller is better) and green onions in large salad bowl.
  4. Dressing
  5. Mix vegetable oil, red wine vinegar, sugar, and soy sauce.
  6. Just prior to serving the salad, (plan for this salad to be the last thing you pull together for the event), mix bok choy and ramen noodles mixture. Drizzle dressing over salad or pass dressing around in small bowl.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Miraculous - 4 days without rain!

We typically shoot to put frost-sensitive crops in the ground around June 1.  This year, as is plain to see, was not going to cooperate with our plans.  We planted our pumpkin plants and some other squash Thursday night (June 13), only about two weeks too late.  It's been a real struggle to not only get plants in the ground, but also do all the other necessary things to get them to produce: cultivate, hoe, and fertilize.  Instead, plants just sit there looking short and weak, unable to grow in cold rainy weather where saturated ground chokes plants of necessary oxygen.

So, you can imagine my surprise yesterday when I woke up and it hadn't rained!  REALLY?  Ever since the snow melted, whenever there has been even a 40% chance of rain, we got rain.  Since there was a 60% change of rain on Friday, I thought for sure I'd be spending another Saturday looking at weeds growing in the fields and thinking about how far behind I've gotten.  There would have been nothing new in that; I've had a number of days worrying about work I have to get done without being able to do anything about it.

Instead, we finally started to make some headway yesterday.  I was able to hoe and fertilize a number of crops like onions, brassicas (cabbages, broccoli), and garlic.  We also got the pea trellis up, which is always a nice image.  Some jobs on the farm are hard to see, but putting up trellis makes me feel like I've really accomplished something since it's so visible.

Pea Trellis on Lida Farm

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Winter weather does not stop Lida Farm

No matter the weather, we are determined to get things planted this spring.  I'm not used to working in a coat when in the greenhouse, but I keep it a bit cooler than normal to keep propane use somewhat reasonable.   

The only consolation is that the wind turbine is making power today :)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Looking for Local Produce Delivery?

If you're looking for fresh local produce delivered to your home or business in the Detroit Lakes, Pelican Rapids, Vergas, or Cormorant areas, check out Lida Farm CSA.

2013 will be our 8th year as a CSA operation where we deliver only the freshest produce in season each week.  Forget traveling across town to the farmers market before it closes on Saturday morning or making sure you get to the CSA dropsite in time, we deliver right to your doorstep on Friday afternoons.  

To see what our boxes looked like last year, see our Facebook photostream at 

Check out our 2013 CSA information page for details.  Fill out the order form to sign up but confirm that we still have space with Ryan or Maree at 218-342-2619 or

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Coming out of Hibernation

If you follow this blog, you'll see a big gap between my last post at the end of September and today.  Maree and I typically collapse at the end of the produce season and fall into a hibernation state, I like to say.  I don't think about farming through the winter months at all, which is tough since my home gardener friends like to talk about planting as soon as they receive their first seed catalog and I'd rather talk about just about anything else - it's a defense mechanism to keep myself sane since produce takes over my life the rest of the year.

Still, just this past week, my mind has begun to turn and I've come out of hibernation.  Not only am I actively assembling seed orders, but, when this happens, I get this burst of energy to make some things happen like shoveling the winter's manure pack out of the barn.

One of the surest signs of spring and a favorite spring ritual is shearing day.  I finally got smart a couple years back and starting hiring this done instead of myself torturing the poor animals with sheep shearing "amateur hour."  We have a small flock of North Country Cheviot Sheep, a hardy breed you might know from their appearance in the movie "Babe"-you know, the talking pig?  The whole operation from start to finish takes just 90 minutes.

Curious Sheep - "Before Shearing"

In the Act 

Cheviot Sheep Ready for Spring - "After Shearing"