Views Around the Farm Stand + Lunch Menu for June 26-29

ham, cheddar, and blue cheese croissant

GTF salad with beets, blue cheese, toasted walnuts and balsamic vinaigrette

The Lunch Menu (subject to change based on availability)

andipasti

country pâté served with cornichon and mustard
pork rillettes with grilled baguette and pickled carrots
mixed greens with balsamic vinaigrette
GTF salad with beets, blue cheese, toasted walnuts and balsamic vinaigrette
delicata squash soup with artisan bread
vegetable soup with artisan bread

 

pizze ($9-$9.5)

garlic/basil/tomato/mozzarella
fennel/bacon/tomato/mozzarella
spinach/mushroom/tomato/mozzarella
ham/scallion/zucchini/tomato/mozzarella

 

secondi ($9.5-$10.5)

tagliatelle with prawns, favas, and fennel
semolina gnocchi with braised pork shoulder
tomato bread pudding over kale and zucchini
polenta with farm’s bounty and poached egg
lamb spiedini with wheat berries, tomato, and capers
brodetto of Pacific snapper and prawns

 

delicata squash soup with artisan bread

Aaron tends the pizza oven. 

tagliatelle with prawns, favas, and fennel

semolina gnocchi with braised pork shoulder

tomato bread pudding over kale and zucchini

brodetto of Pacific snapper and prawns

June Wine Dinner with Lumos Wine Company

On Saturday, June 23, we hosted our second-of-the-season wine dinner featuring Lumos Wine Company. The night was a great success, and our guests left very full and very happy.

Our next wine dinner is scheduled for August 25 featuring Spindrift Cellars. We won’t begin taking reservations until August 1, but please be aware that reservations fill up very quickly (in two days or less).

PK McCoy and Dai Crisp own and operate Lumos Wine Company, and they were on hand to pour their own libations at the wine dinner.

Before dinner, farm co-owner, John Eveland, led a truck tour around the fields.

John’s favorite part of the tour (perhaps his favorite part of the farm) is the compost program.

The Dinner Menu

carrot soup with porcini foam, tarragon goat cheese, and toasted wheat berries
–paired with Lumos Rudolfo Pinot Gris, 2011

 

pâté in brioche with marinated beet salad
–paired with Lumos Chiquita Rosé, 2011

 

beet pappardelle with scallops, bacon, favas, and pumpkin seeds
–paired with Lumos Temperance Hill Julia Pinot Gris, 2011

 

strawberry sorbet

 

lamb over white bean and carrot purées with paprika oil and parsley caper sauce
–paired with Lumos Temperance Hill Pinot Noir, 2008

 

crisp meringue with lemon cream and strawberries
 

carrot soup with porcini foam, tarragon goat cheese, and toasted wheat berries

pâté in brioche

pâté in brioche with marinated beet salad

beet pappardelle

beet pappardelle with scallops, bacon, favas, and pumpkin seeds

Tracy, Alison, and Tamara were the servers for the evening.

strawberry sorbet

lamb over white bean and carrot purées with paprika oil and parsley caper sauce

crisp meringue with lemon cream and strawberries

 Dinner was planned, cooked, and assembled by chef JC, pastry chef Ana, and kitchen crew Paula and Ricky.

Thanks to everyone who joined us for this magical evening.

 

Views Around the Farm Stand + Lunch Menu for June 19-22

We just got a new batch of Gathering Together Farm T-shirts in many different colors and sizes. They’re available at the farmstand for $18 each.

patate al forno with smoked paprika and romesco

The Lunch Menu (subject to change based on availability)

antipasti

country pâté served with cronichon and mustard
patate al forno with smoked paprika and romesco
smoked paprika coppa with balsamic and tomato mousse
 
mixed greens with balsamic vinaigrette
GTF salad with strawberries, almonds, goat cheese, and tarragon vinaigrette
 
creamy polenta and dill soup with artisan bread
vegetable soup with artisan bread

 

pizze ($9-$9.5)

roasted garlic/basil/tomato/mozzarella
duck/goat cheese/kale/tomato/mozzarella
mushroom/spinach/tomato/mozzarella
ham/caper/zucchini/tomato/mozzarella

 

secondi ($9.5-$10.5)

ricotta capellaci with roasted carrots, dandelion greens, and garlic scapes
orecchiette with braised pork shoulder
polenta with farm’s bounty and poached egg
grilled zip steak with carrot pureé, kale, and pesto
cacciucco with rockfish and prawns in a pepper broth

 

country pâté served with cronichon and mustard
GTF salad with strawberries, almonds, goat cheese, and tarragon vinaigrette

ricotta capellaci with roasted carrots, dandelion greens, and garlic scapes
orecchiette with braised pork shoulder
polenta with farm’s bounty and poached egg
grilled zip steak with carrot pureé, kale, and pesto
cacciucco with rockfish and prawns in a pepper broth
rhubarb compote in the works

Organic Compost Program

Healthy soil is at the heart of any organic farming operation. Because the use of chemical fertilizers are specifically prohibited on certified organic ground, organic farmers must maintain soil fertility by adding nutrients in the form of compost and other soil amendments. Though it may not be the easiest or even cheapest option, Gathering Together Farm has a large, involved program that makes enough compost on-farm for the vast majority of our fertility needs.

The bulk of our farm-made compost is composed of animal manure (horse, cow, alpaca, rabbit, pig, chicken), hay, straw, vegetative farm waste/green chop, and leaves. John Eveland (GTF co-owner) uses his long-standing relations with other local farmers to procure as much feedstock (material to be composted) as possible. Much of the animal manure originates literally across the street from GTF, and even the most remote feedstock sources are within a 10-mile radius of the farm’s home base.

Many of the feedstocks are free or cheap (though they must be loaded up and trucked back to the farm). Some compostable materials, particularly chicken manure, are quite expensive. Ten years ago, John could buy a truckload of chicken manure for $25, but today he pays over $350 per load. The price has risen so dramatically because some farmers who traditionally used chemical fertilizers have turned to manure as a source of nutrients as the price of conventional forms of nitrogen have fluctuated. Chicken manure, as a commodity, is in high demand.

The vast majority of feedstocks used in our compost program do not come from certified organic operations because we simply could not obtain enough compostable material for our needs. That said, soil tests on our farm have consistently shown no or very low levels of chemical compounds, putting us well within the standards for organic production and actually with lower background levels of chemicals than most organic farms.  Fortunately, the land that we farm was never a target for heavy pesticide or chemical fertilizer use in the past because it was mainly used for pasture or hay before we started growing vegetables. Unfortunately, that ground was fairly nutrient poor when we started to work it intensively, so it has easily absorbed large amounts of organic compost, and we’re still working on making the land more productive by adding more nutrients.

As we intensively farm in this area, we export large amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium off the farm in the form of fruits and vegetables. Even though we employ many organic practices aimed at maintaining soil fertility (cover cropping, appropriate irrigation to reduce leaching, crop rotation, etc.), we need to consistently replace the nutrients lost by adding compost to the soil.

We produce three different grades of compost for three different purposes. Our standard mix includes animal manures, hay or straw, and other vegetative materials. We apply this product every time we prep a field for planting, and it’s a general all-purpose nutrient booster. The main component in our greenhouse potting soil mix (recipe here) is a blend of composted rabbit manure and leaves (obtained from the city street leaf pickup program). Lastly, we lightly compost chicken manure (meeting but not exceeding organic compost standards) for a high-nitrogen soil additive that is applied during field prep to crops that need extra nitrogen like melons, cucumbers, sweet corn, onions, peppers, and tomatoes. Sometimes we top dress crops with more of this chicken-manure based compost as the plants are growing.

Chicken manure is the most nitrogen rich of the feedstocks we use in our compost, and it has the most stored potential energy to heat up compost piles. Chicken manure is added to composting feedstocks after all the other materials are starting to break down and warm up, and the compost tender mixes in just enough to bring the piles up to temperatures that meet organic composting standards.

John has been personally responsible for the majority of the compost program from the farm’s inception until recently. He has always enjoyed his hands-on efforts in the composting yard, but being the owner of the farm pulls him in many different directions and finding time to devote to regular compost turning has proven harder and harder. This year, Dan (above) has taken over most of the day to day compost duties. Dan has some composting experience from previous jobs, and he brings a new passion and focus to the task. (I caught up with Dan to take these photos around 7:00 PM after he had already driven a truck up to Portland, worked the Saturday market booth, packed up, driven home, and unloaded the truck.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gathering Together Farm, John in particular, is notorious for purchasing used (sometimes antiquated) equipment that needs a fair bit of tinkering to stay in service. About 10 years ago, however, John special ordered the compost turner and had it shipped from a factory in Austria because there was no decent equivalent available in the United States. The Sanberger 5000 has a rotating drum fitted with specially designed, hardened paddles and a 5,000-pound block of concrete in the back to keep it stable.

Obviously, there is a health and safety concern when dealing with animal manure in proximity to food crops. In 2002, NRCS, EPA, and USDA finalized organic composting standards to ensure that pathogens are eliminated before the end product comes into contact with food. Compost must be turned at least 5 times in 15 days, and it must maintain a temperature of 130-170° during that time. While these standards were developed with food safety as a primary concern, the same methods will also sterilize weed seeds and cook out the vast majority of residual chemicals in the feed stocks such as antibiotics, pesticides, and fertilizers. Raising the compost temperatures too high, however, will kill off the beneficial bacteria needed to break down the organic materials, so the compost tenders pay careful attention to air/water/nutrient balance to maintain temperatures within the ideal range.

Dan will turn compost every other day for three or four weeks straight until the piles reach (or surpass) the mandated temperature and time standards. After that, he’ll turn the windrows about once a week to keep them active. After the composting process is complete, the final product will be piled up until it’s needed. We are currently using up what’s left of the compost produced in 2011, and the piles we’re working on now will probably not be spread on fields until next spring.

Dan drives the tractor at a snail’s pace alongside the linear piles of compost while the paddles of the compost turner aerate the material and re-mound it into nice, neat windrows.

Adding air and mixing compost activates the decomposition-inducing bacteria, releasing energy in the form of heat. As John says, “You could fry an egg in there.”

Water is also an important element in the composting process. As the piles heat up, they get seriously steamy. The piles that Dan is working on now are quite moist after winter and spring rains, so there’s been no need to add extra water.

In a couple months, we’ll gather a new batch of feed stocks and begin the composting process again. Those materials will be quite dry at the end of the summer, so Dan will need to add water to activate decomposition. The compost turner is designed to be fitted with a large water tank that can spray water directly into the windrows as the piles are turned.

At the end of each windrow (and when he’s moving the compost turner around the field), Dan raises the drum of the compost turner for unencumbered mobility.

Turning compost is a slow and somewhat monotonous job, but the compost tender must be actively paying attention to the task at hand, making sure that the rows stay straight, and the turner isn’t getting plugged up.

Though it’s not always pretty to think about where the nutrients that produce organic fruits and vegetables come from, the reality of farming is that we’re part of a complex ecosystem, part natural and part human constructed. Compost is the reason we’re able to keep producing such good stuff.