Variety Selection and Seed Ordering

Gathering Together Farm will celebrate its 25th anniversary this summer, and over those years we’ve trialed just about every kind of vegetable that could possibly grow in this climate. Currently, we plant hundreds of varieties of dozens of crops. Each growing season, new varieties are sown at the farm while others are culled because of poor performance.

Last week, Joelene (seed, greenhouse, and irrigation manager) sat down with John and Sally (co-owners), Rodrigo (field crew manager) and Rose (human resources, customer service, and marketing manager) to go over the fruit and vegetable variety list from last year and reassess what worked and what didn’t. Each member of the annual planning meeting looked at the same vegetables from a unique perspective, bringing his or her own experience to the table.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joelene is concerned about seed availability and expense, germination rates, disease resistance, special infrastructure needs (drip irrigation, floating row cover, etc.), space management, and the timing of maturation.

Rodrigo focuses on ease of planting, weeding, trellising and harvesting. He also pays special attention to yield.

Sally, as manager of the packing shed, looks at ease of washing and packing, quality, shelf life, and storage properties.

John, as a farmers’ market vendor, judges appearance, taste, demand, and additive value to the diversity of a display.

Rose sees what is most sought after by restaurants and other wholesale accounts, when in the season crops go out for sale, and how much we are charging for each item, giving insight into what makes money for the farm.

It’s very rare than any single variety is top-rated in every category of judgment. A particular type of vegetable may:

…be gorgeous but not taste great.

…be loved by everyone but get discontinued by seed companies.

…look good but not keep long enough.

…have a high yield under ideal growing conditions but have heavy losses when things are too wet/cold.

…be attractive to customers in the dead of winter but passed by in August.

…have exceptional flavor but be prone to disease.

Often times, the selection process is less a decision about which varieties to grow or don’t grow and more about the proportions of each variety grown. As the farm expands, there is more ground and more need for a diversity of crop types, too.

Joelene has spent many hours recently calculating the farm’s seed needs, reviewing seed inventory, and placing orders. She’s already purchased the vast majority of seed needed to plant greenhouses with early summer tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, etc..  She tries to order just enough of this high value seed because it’s expensive to maintain an excess inventory, and some seed will go bad if stored for over a year.

Joelene will buy many pounds at a time of some types of seed that do store well and will be used in large quantities. For example, she ordered no less than 2,000,000 carrot seeds for the coming year.

Joelene’s major seed and plant material sources are:

Wild Garden Seed (Gathering Together Farm‘s seed-growing partner)

Johnny’s Selected Seed

Osborne Seed Company

Territorial Seed Company

Seeds of Change

High Mowing Organic Seeds

Totally Tomatoes

Seed Savers Exchange

Snow Seed Co.

Rocky Farms LLC (potatoes)

Lassen Canyon Nursery (strawberries)

The first few seeds of the 2012 growing season were sown last week, but soon the propagation greenhouse will be bustling with activity–seeding, grafting, thinning and watering. Joelene will direct seed the first of the early spring greens in greenhouses this week, too.

In the coming months, we’ll be sure to share photos and information on all the greenhouse prep and seedling tending as well as insight into our farming and marketing practices. We hope to see you at our 2012 winter farmer’s markets: Saturdays in Newport, Corvallis, and Portland and Sundays in Hillsdale.

 

CSA 2011 – Week 20: This Land is Your Land

As many of you know, we have added on small chunks of land here and there for the past few years now. One of our newest additions is right across the street from our main production greenhouse. This past spring, the owners of the property had the hybrid tulip poplars removed and we transplanted our fall brassicas into the field in July. Those brassicas are now thriving and that is where your past few week’s of kales and collards were planted.

This next year is going to be a whole new story for us. We are taking over the lease of a 70– acre plot of land formerly farmed by a transitional organic grain farmer. Much of this land is 3 years away from being certified organic, so we are coming up with what to do with it until then. For now, Dan and John are in the process of moving the whole compost operation and equipment over there right now. We may lease some of the land to livestock raising, or maybe grow some transitional organic sweet corn there.

The main goal and excitement behind this huge chunk of land is not to actually grow more vegetables, but to be able to give large parcels of land a rest. We could then grow cover crops for longer, while cutting disease pressure at the same time. This is still in the works, but there’s no doubt it leaves a lot of possibilities for the future at GTF.

Parsnip Puree
1 pound parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces.
2-3 medium baked potatoes
1/2 cup cream or sour cream
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger (optional)
Pinch nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook parsnips in boiling salted water about 20 minutes or until tender. Drain and puree in a food processor along with scooped out potato flesh. Add cream, butter and ginger and process until well blended. Season to taste. *Parsnips have a wonderful sweet flavor, and go great with carrots too. Try using them in soup, or roasted!

Squash Towels! Have any old large bath towels laying around the house that need a new home? Bring them down to GTF! We have been enjoying a wonderful squash washing season and are in need of old towel donations for drying them. We’ll gladly take them off your hands!

What’s in the Box?

1.5 lb Red Potatoes (Colorado rose or Rose gold) – Steam, roast, fry, mash, these are versatile.

Carrots, bulk (~1 lb) – Shred them on salad, sauté in butter with salt, or eat plain.

3 onions (2 yellow, 1 red)– Caramelize, eat raw sliced thin on sandwiches, or add to a slaw or potato salad.

1 bunch beets– Cut beets off greens. Boil, roast or fry beets. Try grating them raw. Use the greens too! Sautee with olive oil or butter, salt, and pepper.

1 ambercup squash– Cut in half, remove seeds, place on a sheet pan, flesh side down. You may oil the pan a bit so it does not stick. Add a couple cups of water too, so the squash steams slightly. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes-1 hour. You can use this squash in place of pumpkin in any recipe, or make a soup with it! Ambercup tends to be a bit on the dry side so it may need more moisture.

Bok Choy– Sauté in butter or olive oil and salt. It goes great with fish. Add chile flakes for a kick.

1 red Italian pepper, 1 red bell—Grill, roast, or just eat raw; they are sweet.

2 Leeks– Use in soups or sautés. Chop them, then rinse them a bit. Dirt gets inside leek layers easily.

Parsnip-Chop into small pieces and use in soups or roast with other vegetables.

1 tomato– Chop and put in soup or salad. Add to sandwiches or wraps.

Balsamic Carrot Salad
1 pound carrots, peeled and julienne small (thinly sliced pieces)
2-3 celery stalks, chopped fine
2 red peppers, seeded and cut into small slices
2 bunches green onions, chopped
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 1/2 cups balsamic dressing

For the dressing:
2 teaspoons Dijon-type mustard
1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Mix the mustard and vinegar. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while whisking or mixing the vinegar. Add salt and honey to taste.

For the salad, combine all the ingredients and serve. You may use grated kohlrabi in place of the celery. Try adding some finely chopped red onion, or grated beets!

Beet Soup
6 medium beets
4 tablespoons butter
1 quart filtered water
Sea salt or fish sauce and pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped green onions or parsley for garnish
crème fraiche or sour cream

Peel beets, chop coarsely and sauté very gently in butter for about 1/2 hour or until tender. Add water, bring to a boil and skim. Simmer about 15 minutes. Puree soup with a handheld blender, or food processor. Season to taste. Garnish with chopped green onions and sour cream or creme fraiche.

Ambercup Leek Soup
1 ambercup squash
2 leeks
2 tablespoons butter
6 cups water, or stock
1 cup milk or cream
Salt and pepper

Chop the leeks into small slices. Heat a large pot up with the butter. Once the butter is melted, add the leeks. Meanwhile, cut the rind off of the squash; either a knife or a peeler may work. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Cut the squash up into 1-inch size cubes. Once the leeks are soft and cooked, add the squash and continue cooking for another 15 minutes or so. Add the water/ stock and milk. Bring to a boil and then turn down to low and cover. Simmer for about 30 minutes or until the squash is cooked all the way. Puree with a handheld or standup blender. Season to taste and serve.

CSA 2011 – Week 12: Sugar Beet Case #3

Many of you know of Frank Morton, owner of Wild Garden Seed. Wild Garden Seed and GTF have been working together since 1994. Not all of you may be aware of the current court case going on between Frank Morton (represented along with others by the Center for Food Safety), the USDA, and the Sugar Beet Industry (Monsanto and other companies that financially benefit from the industry). The Center for Food Safety (CFS) originally filed a suit against the USDA when Frank and other growers of beet seeds realized that some growers in the Willamette Valley switched to GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) sugar beets. The USDA had allowed farmers close by to start growing these GMO sugar beets without any sort of testing. They sued the USDA simply because they did not want the sugar beets to contaminate their beets by cross pollinating.

Frank and the CFS wanted an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to be done in order to protect organic growers and farmers from contamination. The Judge ruled in favor of CFS and Morton. However, then the USDA changed the rules and issued special permits to allow the commercial sugar beet growers to continue despite the judge’s ruling. The CFS and those who they represent decided to sue again after they had won, when nothing was going to be enforced. The goal was to make the growers remove what they had illegally planted. In this second case the Judge ruled in favor of Morton and the CFS again. Although, once again the USDA had completed a preliminary environmental assessment and said that the GMO sugar beet growers did not have to pull up the stecklings (roots of transplanted beets) because of safe guards (from cross-contamination) implemented by the USDA. The judges ruling was considered to be moot, or not valid, because of the rules being rewritten once again.

Following the second ruling, Morton and the CFS were getting ready to try again. Before they had time to file again, the sugar beet industry decided to sue CFS and the USDA for making it too hard for their industry. This means that the sugar beet industry got to choose where the case would be heard, and they chose Washington D.C, as opposed to San Francisco, where the previous cases had been heard. The D.C location makes it a bit harder for CFS and Frank, but I think that was their intention.

Contamination of Frank’s seed by the sugar beets would be terrible. The sugar beets could not only cross and contaminate his beets, but also chard seeds since they are all in the Beta vulgaris family. This threat of contamination could scare off customers, and he believes it does. Sugar beet contamination could affect his seed stock and future plantings. The whole thing is a sticky situation as well because of the patents that Monsanto has on the genes in the GMO sugar beets.

Because of these patents, no one but Monsanto can actually do any safety testing on their crops and publicize it. This patent also poses a threat to Frank and other growers like him; what if his crop does get contaminated? Does Monsanto own the rights to those seeds, or just the contaminated ones, or what? It’s not very clear, but one thing is – the USDA is obviously making up rules to keep the sugar beet industry in business while leaving Frank and many other growers like him feeling unprotected and unheard by the government. Hopefully the third time will be a charm!

What’s in the box? 

  • 1.5 lb Potatoes (nicola) – Steam, roast, or mash. These are versatile.
  • Carrots, bunched – They are great raw, on salad, slaw or stir fried.
  • 3 onions(1 walla, 1 superstar, 1 red ) – Chop the onions and eat raw on salads or soups. They are very good caramelized.
  • Honey Orange Melon – Eat just like it is!
  • Charentais melon – Very flavorful French melon. Try salting it slightly before eating.
  • 1 colored pepper – Grill, roast, or just eat raw, they are very sweet.
  • 1 poblano pepper– Grill, roast, or add to a sauté for an extra kick. These can be slightly spicy and have a great flavor.
  • 2 Japanese cucumbers– Chop and add to a salad. Marinate and combine with tomatoes!  Try combining with melons and eat together.
  • 1 lb green beans– Blanch them and then sauté with olive oil, salt, garlic and herbs.
  • Squash (zucchini and cocozelle) – Grate and make fritters, or zucchini bread. Bake or sauté with onions, olive oil and salt.
  • Celery– Snack on raw, or use in soups!
  • Green Leaf lettuce– Make a salad, or add to sandwiches, make lettuce wraps!
  • Tomatoes (approximately 2 lbs)- Chop raw on salad, or sandwiches.
  • Corn– Grill in husk or steam. Add some butter and salt if you’d like.

Stuffed Onions
4 large onions
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups whole grain bread crumbs or brown rice
1/4 cup toasted nuts (almonds work well)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
2 teaspoons parsley, finely chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
Sea salt and pepper

Cut onions in half along the equator and remove the inner part of the onion, leaving a shell two or three layers thick. Make a small slice on the bottom of each onion shell so that it will stand upright. Place shells in a buttered glass oven dish.Chop the onion taken from the centers and sauté in olive oil until tender. Add rice or bread crumbs, nuts, oregano, cheese and parsley and mix well. Remove from heat, stir in the egg and season to taste. Fill the onion shells with the stuffing. Add a little water to the baking pan and bake at 300 degrees for 1 hour.

Stir Fry Green Beans with Cashews
1 pound string beans, each end cut off
1/2 cup crispy cashews, chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 cup filtered water, orange juice or chicken stock
1 tablespoon arrowroot mixed with 1 tablespoon filtered water
1 teaspoon raw honey
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary

Combine ginger, soy sauce, water or stock, honey, sesame oil, garlic and rosemary. Mix thoroughly with a wire whisk. Heat the oil in a skillet or wok. Stir fry the beans until just tender, about 5 minutes. Add cashews and the sauce mixture and bring to a boil. Add the arrowroot mixture and simmer until the sauce thickens and the beans are well coated.

CSA 2011 – Week 11: Melon and Tomato Tasting Recap

Well, the delayed heat finally set in last week to help ripen up our outdoor tomatoes and peppers along with our melons too! The melon and tomato tasting was a success as well. About five families showed up to try our offerings, and we took a tour of the farm in the big red truck!

I even learned some new information. For example, we have been having issues with spider mites in the summer for the past couple of years because they thrive and readily reproduce in hot, dry weather. John explained to us that they came up with a new solution this year: running a sprinkler periodically to keep the humidity up. And it works!

We also got a chance to look at the Wild Garden Seed lettuce field. It looks like they have started to harvest some plants out there that were laying down on some white cloth. This time of year the lettuce seed field is just beautiful. Most of the 4-5 foot tall plants are still glowing red, green, purple, or a combination of the three and a lot of them are displaying their white fluffy seed heads. It looks like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Just think, each of those plants will produce hundreds of little lettuce seeds that will then produce more and more lettuce or seed, and it will just continue on and on! We will be having a fall potluck and tour, date to be decided. We’ll keep you posted on that.
Lisa Hargest– CSA coordinator

Words from Sally:
I hope your weekly box is nourishing you and your family. It feels as if the GTF bounty has finally kicked into gear. I think I have “stressed” about this year’s box more than any other year. Again I want to thank you for accepting the challenge of eating with the season or whatever that particular season offers. Joelene, Dan, and I have started to pick the 2nd planting of watermelons as the 1st planting got eaten by our local crow mob. We have four plantings, so be looking for melons in your upcoming boxes. We would love to hear about some of your creative menus from your CSA box!

Enjoy your vegetables!
Sally

What’s in the Box?

1.5 lb Potatoes (nicola)– Steam, roast, or mash. These are versatile. (see recipe)

Carrots, bunched – They are great raw, on salad, slaw or stir fried.

2 onions (1 Big Alsea craig white onion, 1 superstar)– Chop the onions and eat raw on salads or soups. They are very good caramelized.

Honey Pearl Melon– Eat just like it is!

1 yellow or orange pepper—Grill, roast, or just eat raw, they are very sweet.

1 Anaheim pepper– Chop raw, and add to salsa, salad, or sauté with summer squash.

1 broccoli – Steam, roast, or grill with salt and olive oil.

2 cucumbers– Chop and add to a salad. Marinate and combine with tomatoes!

1 lb romano, wax, or green beans– Blanch them and then sauté with olive oil, salt, garlic and herbs.

1 globe eggplant– Roast, or pan fry. Try breading and frying for eggplant parmesan.

1 bunch cilantro – Use in salsa, try salsa verde with the tomatillos. It goes well with cucumbers too. (see recipes)

1 garlic – Add to salsa, sautés, or try roasting in skins.

1 jalapeño– Use in salsa, or anything that you would like to spice up!

1 lb tomatillos– Make salsa verde! It’s a wonderful topping for tacos.

Assorted lettuce (oak leaf, romaine, little gem, or crisp leaf) – Make a salad, or add to sandwiches, make lettuce wraps!

Tomatoes (approximately 2 lbs) – Chop raw on salad, or  sandwiches.


Recipes:

Salsa Verde
1 lb tomatillos
1 teaspoon (more or less) chopped jalapeño
1/2 c cilantro, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons lime juice
Pinch of salt

Peel the papery outer husks off of the tomatillos. Simmer them in boiling water for 8-10 minutes, and then peel the skins off. Add the cilantro and garlic and then puree in a food processor or blender. Heat the oil over low heat. Stir in the chopped onion, and jalapeño cooking slowly until slightly wilted. Add the tomatillo mixture, lime juice and the salt. Remove from heat right away, then refrigerate until chilled. Serve chilled. Salsa will keep up to a week in the refrigerator.


Broiled Eggplant Slices

1 globe eggplant
Pinch of sea salt
1/2 cup cilantro marinade

Peel eggplant and slice 3/8 inch thick. Sprinkle with salt and let stand 1 hour. Rinse and pat dry. Place on a well– oiled cookie sheet and brush half the marinate on top of the slices . Broil until golden, turn, brush other side with remaining marinade and broil again.


Cilantro Marinade

1 bunch of cilantro
Juice of 1 lemon
3 garlic cloves
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Mix all of the ingredients together. Refrigerate until needed.

Stuffed Potatoes
6 medium baking potatoes
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup crème fraiche or sour cream
1 onion, finely chopped                                                                                     1/2 cup parmesan or cheddar cheese
2-3 tablespoons basil, or parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper

Place whole potatoes in a clay pot, cover and set in a cold oven and turn on to 250 degrees. The potatoes will cook in 2-3 hours depending on their size. Cut butter into cubes and place in a large bowl. When the potatoes are done, cut lengthwise and scoop out soft potato flesh into the bowl with the butter. Mash with a potato masher, mix in cultured cream, cheese, herbs and onions. Season to taste. Spoon the potato mixture back into the shells and return them to a 150– degree oven to keep warm.

CSA 2011 – Week 8: Crop Rotation and Irrigation 101

Last week’s discussion with John was so interesting that I decided to follow Joelene Jebbia, our Irrigation manager, around for an hour to learn more about what she does. She began similarly to John, socket wrench in hand out to fix a spigot in the circle garden’s irrigation riser. I spent most of this time just watching what she was doing, and gazing at the amazing array of tools she has in her truck. Once she changed the spigot, we headed out to a greenhouse thatrecently had a fall crop of potatoes planted in it. Joelene was setting up the drip irrigation in it since the seedlings had started to pop out of the ground. As she was busy doing her thing, I got to pick her brain about how she decides what gets planted where and how intensive irrigating all 50 acres really is.

She explained to me that she keeps a record of everything that we plant each year, how much of it, and when it is planted. This aids her in the winter when she plans out where everything is going to go. For next season, for example, it is good to know where brassicas (kale, cabbage, broccoli, etc.) were planted so that we do not plant onions in those places because they seem to do poorly in an area where brassicas once were. It is also important to not plant the same crop into the same ground consecutively. For example, if you plant arugula in one area, and the last of the planting got flea beetles, as it often does, and then you plant more arugula into that same soil, then that new crop will not thrive because there are already existing flea beetles in the soil that will eat it before it gets a chance to thrive.

As Joelene pulled the drip lines down the rows of potatoes, she elaborated that she also takes into consideration the micro-climates of each field. For example, how much sun the field gets, and what time of day it gets sun, compared to how much sun the potential crop likes. Thinking about whether the field is on high or low ground, therefore if it will be wet or just moist early in the season, is another huge factor.

Joelene explained that every year her plans get thrown off a little just by the weather patterns. For example, this year she planned to plant our onion crop just west of the compost piles, but when it was time to plant, the ground was way too wet to plant into. So, she shifted the plan slightly and it will work out. When deciding where everything gets planted, she also thinks about ease of watering, her other main task at the farm. She has to make sure that she will be able to access all of the crops with either overhead or drip irrigation and make it logistically workable for her.

Irrigation takes up a lot of her time year round, and most intensively this time of year. We grow crops in 31 different hoop houses that need to be watered on top of our outdoor crops. For the outdoor crop irrigation, Joelene and Sarah will start laying pipes down in April and continue through June until all the fields are set. Of course, there are a lot of repairs on pumps, drip lines, and pipes that go along with this.

This time of year is the busiest for keeping up with all of the watering, and outdoor watering will usually continue well into October depending on the season. The variability of the weather patterns plays a huge role in all of this, and working with mother nature seems to be your best bet. The potato house was all set up for watering, 2 of 4 that would get done today. After she placed her tools back in their locations, she drove to the tractor where she would begin her next task.

What’s in the box?

1.5 lb Potatoes (Rose Gold) – Steam, roast, or mash. These are versatile.
Carrots, bunched – They are great raw, on salad, slaw or stir fried.
1 bunch Walla Walla onions – Chop the onions and eat raw on salads or soups. Try them grilled! The top green part goes well with eggs, cheese, stir fries or pasta.
1 bunch chard– steam, or sauté these greens, much like spinach but not quite as tender.
1 purple pepper– It is wonderful grilled, sautéed, roasted, or raw.
Assorted Summer squash – Try them sautéed, grilled, in a soup or stir fried. Try hollowing out and stuffing the round ones with a grain mixture, goes well with cheese, meat, mushrooms, then bake or grill them for 15-20 minutes.
1 cucumber – Eat raw, on salad, or marinate them.
1 radicchio– They are wonderful grilled and topped with balsamic vinegar.
1 bunch cilantro– Make salsa with the tomatoes! Eat with cucumbers or squash.
Romaine lettuce – Make a salad, or add to sandwiches.
2 tomatoes – Chop raw on salad, sandwiches, or make salsa with cilantro and onions.
1 pint blueberries – I would be surprised if these made it home!

Stuffed Squash
4-5 assorted summer squash
3-4 small-medium Walla Walla onions, chopped
3/4 cup nuts, (almonds work best) ground
1 cup cooked brown rice, quinoa, or bread crumbs
3/4 cup grated cheese, (your choice, Swiss, cheddar or parmesan work well)
2 eggs
2 cloves finely minced garlic
Salt and pepper

For Zucchini, cut ends off and cut them in half long ways and scoop out the inside and set aside. For the rounded squash (patty pans or 8-ball) cut the first inch top off and scoop the inside out. Sauté the onions in olive oil, chop the squash flesh and squeeze any water out. Add this to the onions and cook a little longer. Beat the eggs and add to the nuts, rice (or grain of some sort), cheese, garlic, pinch of salt If the mixture is too runny add more of the grain. Stuff the squash with the mixture and bake in a slightly oiled pan at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
Variation: add other spices if you would like, cilantro would go nicely, or even add some chopped tomato or chard.

Radicchio Salad
1 head of radicchio finely shredded
2 oranges, peeled and divided into sections
3 baby onions, thinly sliced
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Dressing:
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Pinch of salt
Touch of sugar or honey

Place onions on an oiled cookie sheet and brush with olive oil. Bake at 300 degrees for several hours, until onions are dried out and brown. Mix radicchio with dressing and top with orange wedges and onion slices.
Variations: Add cucumber, grated carrots or peppers to this salad. Also, chop your head of lettuce and mix it in with the radicchio for a larger size salad for more people.