CSA 2011 – Week 4: More than Just Farming

When you think about farms and farming, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? For me six years ago, it was fields of plenty, chickens, cows – you know the picturesque version of Old McDonald. Since I began working on farms four years ago, my vision is a little different. Don’t get me wrong, I still love it; I love getting up at the crack of dawn to go pick lettuce, or getting to feel the warmth of the morning sun while washing potatoes. However, farmers, small and large, have to deal with regulations, certifications and logistics constantly, probably just as much as any other business if not more.

One of these logistics is our basic organic certification. Oregon Tilth visits us every year in order for us to hold our organic standing. We have to list everything we grow and everything we use in growing our vegetables. We are also in the process of being certified by the AJP (Agricultural Justice Project). AJP is mostly all about treating employees fairly, similar to a fair trade certification. We completed the process for AJP, and we expect to be certified soon. OGC (Organically Grown Company) is going to be requiring all of their produce providers to have the AJP certification by 2012. This is a must for us, since we sell them quite a bit of overflow produce throughout the year. The ODA (Oregon Department of Agriculture) also pays us a visit just about every year, but mainly to inspect our on-site kitchen.

Last week, we had a surprise visit from an OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) inspector. OSHA mainly ensures worker safety, and this inspection went pretty well, but it reminded us that being safe in a work place, especially a place with a lot of equipment, is key. This is just one of many hurdles that any organic farm that wants to function as a business must deal with. On top of worrying about seeding, transplanting, prepping ground, composting, harvesting , weeding, washing, and conducting all eight weekly markets, we have these certifications and inspections annually.

Overall, these certifications are positive because they are made to ensure proper treating of the land and workers, a type of check and balance. However, it makes one realize that in order to make a business out of farming, there are a lot of little details to work out and make note of. At the end of the day, it all seems worth it when you get to settle into a lovely bowl of salad greens, cucumber salad and grilled zucchinis. I will be dreaming of August heat and melons and forget all about the acronyms until they come knocking next year.

Lisa Hargest
CSA coordinator

What’s in the Box?

1.5 lb Colorado Rose Potatoes – These are best steamed or fried
Carrots, bunched – They are great raw, on salad, slaw or even stir fried.
1 bunch Baby Onions – Chop the onions and eat raw on salads or soups. The top green part goes well with eggs, cheese, stir fries or pasta.
1 Cabbage – Make slaw! I like my slaw with a oil and vinegar dressing
1 pint Snow Peas – Eat them raw or do a quick sauté with butter or olive oil and salt.
1 bunch of Basil – Make pesto, add to pasta dishes, salads, or even sandwiches. See recipe.
Assorted Summer Squash (1lb) – Try them sautéed, grilled, grated raw, soup or stir fried.
Romaine Lettuce – Great for salads or on sandwiches, Romaine is the traditional Caesar salad lettuce. See recipe.

 

Recipes:

  • Basic Basil Pesto
    1 bunch of basil, leaves removed
    3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
    3 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
    2 Tablespoons chopped nuts (almonds or pine nuts work best)
    2 Tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
    Juice of 1 lemon
    Pinch of salt
  • Combine olive oil and garlic in a blender or food processor, blend for 1 minute, or until garlic is fine.
  • Add basil leaves and nuts, pulse until the basil is as fine as you would like it. Add lemon juice and cheese and pulse a but more.
  • Salt to taste.

You can do this by hand if you don’t have a blender or food processor, by hand chopping everything and mixing. Note, you don’t have to use the lemon juice if you don’t wish to, but it does keep the pesto from turning brown on top.
Use Basil Pesto as a topping for roasted or steamed potatoes, or a dip for carrots, cucumbers or peas.

  • Dan the Man’s cucumber salad
    3 thinly sliced cucumbers
    1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
    2 Tablespoons sesame oil
    2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    1 teaspoon maple syrup/ or honey
    Pinch of salt
  • Combine all the ingredients and let marinate for 30 minutes before eating.

    Variations:
    Add chopped baby onions or onion tops.
    Add snow peas, chopped cabbage or shredded carrots to make a more slaw-like dish.

Caesar Salad Dressing:
2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, chopped
Pinch of black pepper to taste

Use this dressing on Chopped Romaine lettuce for a lovely Caesar salad. Add parmesan cheese or home-made croutons out of leftover bread on top.

Grilled Caesar Variation:  Try cutting the head of romaine into quarters and brushing with olive oil and grill about 1-2 minutes on either side. Take off the grill, chop or keep whole and dress the salad, serve warm right away.

CSA 2010 – Week 6: Tomato Rising

The plants will be more than double overhead by this time next week, and it will require someone taller than our compact innovator Rodrigo Garcia to continue the highly laborious process of pruning and training the tomatoes as they continue on their upward journey. The knowledge and labor that holds these plants up isn’t outwardly apparent, but what is obvious is the feeling that you get when you first walk into one of our tomato houses. The space here is being completely utilized, heat radiates between the rows of tomatoes that stretch from wall to wall, and from floor to ceiling of the hoop house. If you’ve ever seen a tomato plant before then, your second thought is that these burly plants do not look the same as your run of the mill backyard tomatoes, and they’re not. Oh no, these are super tomatoes. Before working with them, I’d never given much consideration to the fact that there is more than one way to grow an organic tomato. Isn’t it all just cultivate soil, transplant, stake, prune, and harvest? Wrong again. It turns out that in order to grow super tomatoes, you have to provide some super attention.

Back in early January, seeds went in for heirloom varieties with names like Pink Beauties, Black Cherokee, Brandywine, and Japanese Black Trifle. Heirloom seeds mean that they come from open pollinated varieties,  and that the seeds are saved for generations because the fruit had traits that the grower deemed valuable. Unfortunately many of the heirloom plants themselves are fragile, and vulnerable to diseases, meaning that often they under produce or die off before they have a chance. To combat this, in the last few years, Jolene, Paula, and Sara  (our dedicated greenhouse women) have taken on the challenge of grafting tomato plants. That means taking the bottom half (the rootstalk) of a hearty strong tomato, and more or less fusing it with the top cutting of an heirloom plant. After considerable healing, and seriously special care, by  early April the new bionic version is ready to move outside.  These ultra- exotic varieties are even more beautiful than their names, but for now most of our heirlooms are still hanging green on their sinuous skyward twisting vines. So why exactly is there a gain in all this work, why train tomatoes how to climb, and just how do you do it?

Last Thursday I worked with Rodrigo and some of the crew in one of our tomato houses doing some hands on learning about the process that will produce some of the most plentiful and best tomatoes that we’ve ever grown at the farm. By the time that they reach the tomato houses these plants have already been seeded, weeded, watered, grafted, and transplanted with the utmost care. Over the last 10 years we’ve been moving away from growing our tomatoes in the  conventional manner, but during the 17 years that he has worked on the farm Rodrigo has amassed considerable knowledge regarding how to maximize tomato production. As we made our way down the first row he took great care to show me the difference between the thick main tomato stalk (which is what we train to grow ever higher), and so called “sucker” offshoots that grow out of the joints in the plant. These suckers are aptly named; every bit of new plant growth takes energy, and these suckers will just continue to draw fuel until they grow to be just as large as the main stalk. The problem is not that they grow and grow, but that they don’t produce much fruit, and in the process they take massive amounts of energy away from more productive growth such as fruit ripening.  You also have your fruit producing branches, which will unfurl and open into blossoms, and if all goes well mature into fully grown tomatoes. And finally there are leaf branches, which are just what they sound like, these are necessary to shade and protect the tomatoes as they ripen.

Once you get the hang of identifying the difference between all the different types of branches, it’s still an enormous amount of work to keep these plants pruned. Once the weather gets warm, and they really start to grow, it is necessary to go through and cut back the suckers on each plant once a week, every week for a span of about four months. Not only do they need constant pruning as they flourish, but it is also necessary to routinely wrap a guide rope that hangs from the ceiling around the main stem to help it grow straight and tall. If you’re like me, you may be beginning to wonder how all this work can be possibly be worth it… Luckily it is also the part that Rodrigo is rightfully the most proud of; Where one plant grown under different circumstances would produce about 20 pounds of fruit. One of Rodrigo’s specially grown tomatoes plants yields closer to 100 pounds of fruit per plant. I imagined how many acres we would have to plant with tomatoes to get the same yield if we didn’t grow them like we do…..and then I realized once again, that thankfully there is always more than one way of making something work.

Devon Sanders, CSA Coordinator

What’s in the box?

  • Siletz Tomato – Your first of the season,  and the inspiration for this weeks newsletter, woo-hoo!
  • 1.5 lbs Yellow Potatos
  • 2 Cucumber – see recipe
  • Carrots
  • Lettuce – Red leaf
  • 2 lbs Fava beans – did you eat your first ones? A reprint on how to cook these is included.
  • Baby Onions – great for grilling, or shish kabobs
  • Broccoli
  • 2 Zucchini
  • Summer Squash – you should have one of either the cocozella (a long striped green variety), magda (pale green, and eggplant shaped), yellow crook neck, yellow patty pan (resembles a space ship), or zapallito (a round green variety)
  • Rainbow Chard
  • Garlic
  • Fennel – slice thinly and enjoy raw,  add to soups, or  bake whole in the oven. The greens can be eaten also, they make a great flavor or color addition to pastas, salads, potatoes or eggs

Tzatziki Sauce

This tzatziki sauce is an easy take on the classic Greek sauce, you can use real Greek yogurt if you like, but I always just make it with the ever present Nancy’s plain yogurt that I have in my fridge. This sauce is great pared with curry, falafel, or rolled into pita style bread with a salad of cubed tomato, cucumber, and onion. I have estimated amounts, but mostly I just taste as I go until texture, and flavor suit me, I suggest you do the same.

2-3 cups of plain yogurt
2-3 tablespoons  of lemon juice
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 cucumber, also finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Put yogurt, and lemon juice in a bowl and mix together. Wash and finely chop cucumber and cloves of garlic and add to yogurt. Add salt and pepper to taste.

If you don’t use this all at once it will keep well for several days if you cover it in the fridge.

Baby Onion & Summer Squash Kabobs

It’s finally sunny, which means time to roll out the BBQ again! Over the weekend I made some delicious kabobs for a fourth of July party. If you eat meat , you can add steak, chicken, or fish, the marinade works for all three.

Remember when making kabobs to pre-soak your wooden sticks in water, this will prevent them from burning when you put them on the grill.

Marinade:

1-2 cups water
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup Soy sauce
1/2 cup Lemon juice
3 crushed garlic cloves
1 tablespoon of crushed ginger
A handful or so of chopped onion tops

Mix together thoroughly your marinade ingredients in a long shallow pan. Your container needs to be long enough and deep enough to partially submerge your kabob skewers in.

Slice summer squash into 1 inch size pieces, and cut the tops off of your baby onions. Skewer pieces (adding meat if you like), and let marinate for at least an hour before grilling. Once on the hot grill, they should only take 6 minutes or so on either side. Enjoy!

Fava Beans

Fava beans have a delicious buttery texture and lovely nutty taste. Although they require a bit more work to prepare, take the time to try this old world favorite.

When preparing fava beans you need to first remove the beans from the pod. After you have shucked your beans, dispose of the pods and start a pan of water boiling so that you can  boil the beans to make removal of the outer shell easier. Most people choose to remove the outer shell of the Fava bean before they eat them. So after 5 minutes or so of boiling, let your beans cool, or run them under cold water so you can remove the shell. Fava beans have what looks like a little seam on one side of the bean. Make a slit with your fingernail in the seam at one end of the bean and then squeeze the bean out. It should pop right out of the skin.  The boiled  beans should be bright green and are now ready to use in any recipe.

Suggestions: A cold pasta salad, with fava beans, parmesan, lemon juice, diced garlic, parsley, oil, salt and pepper.

Polyculture: Strength in Diversity

If you’ve had a chance to get out and visit our farm, when you walk through the restaurant, farm stand, the barn, the fields, you’ll notice one of many things.

Everywhere you look different looking people are doing different things. Women, men, old and young, white, Latino, some dressed in dirty work clothes, others dressed to present themselves to the public. Some of us plant seeds, some harvest food, some of us wash and pack, some sell, and some cook. What we all have in common is that regardless of what our individual job is, we are never really alone in our work. We belong to a greater system where we are just a piece of a bigger picture.  In agriculture this is called polyculture, a style that works to imitate the diversity of natural ecosystems, because nature has a way of making everything a little different in order to better its chances of survival. The basic principle being that diversity is strength, and when you think about it, you can apply this logic to almost anything

One tour through our fields and you can see this ideal reflected; we have tomatoes, peppers, and tomatillos plants growing side by side, and while we may have many rows of lettuce, or squash, they are different varieties. This mixture among our plants makes them more resistant against pests and disease, even though the various pieces may seem separate and different, really everything is interdependent. Nature very rarely is stagnant, when one plant dies; a different one grows up in its stead. We try to keep with the same principle, when one crop finishes, we replant with something different to replenish the soil so that we can keep farming. Just a week or so ago John cut down all oats that had been growing as a cover crop in one of our fields to make room for the corn that is going in now. The oats cut back on harmful weed growth, prevent erosion, and will help to revitalize the soil for the corn. A general observation is that if a plant grows well somewhere, there must be something in the soil that it likes or needs, however if you constantly push that plant to grow in the same soil again and again, without the natural rotation of other plants, over time the soil will lose what it had to give in the first place.

The opposite of poly (many or multiple) is mono (one or single). You’ve probably heard the term monoculture thrown around, what it really means is that diversity is eliminated in favor of large scale identical production. Planting monocultures is less labor intensive because you can use machines to systematically work your fields, but it destroys the natural biodiversity, depletes soils, and requires heavy treatment with pesticides so that plants aren’t wiped out by a single threat. That being said, there is definite danger in monotony. When variety is eliminated from anything, it becomes much easier to figure out where weaknesses lie because they are more apparent.

I’d like to draw the analogy that a well planted field with a good variety of plants is not unlike a town, or even a society. The differences that set us apart are also what make us strong. The next generation of plants will carry the knowledge and resilience that helped their parents to survive, so how different is that from people? The variety of plants in a field is just another type of community. Every community needs certain dimensions; its farmers, teachers, leaders, musicians, bakers, and brewers in order to continue to grow and prosper. Natural selection has designed us to be different, because a multitude of differences bring a wider set of skills, and a greater chance of survival. Those different human faces, and abilities, or different plant varieties and traits, are what ensures that the life that we love can continue to be possible.

Devon Sanders, CSA Coordinator

What’s in the box?

Pink Fingerling Potatoes— 4.50$

Cilantro—2.00$, to keep your cilantro fresh, cut the bottom of the stems off, and put them in a glass of water and keep them on your counter, looks and smells nice, lasts a long time!

Arugula—2.50$- you can store Arugula like cilantro, it will last longer. The spicy flavor is great when set off by lemon juice  or oranges in a simple salad with olive oil, a dash of vinegar, and salt and pepper.

Cabbage—1.00$ a pound

2 Cucumber—3.00$

Carrots—3.00$

Lettuce—2.00$

Summer Squash—2.75$ a pound,  everyone should have a long striped squash called Cocozelle, and another variety, either a light green Italian round squash called Magda, or little yellow crook necks.

Walla Walla Onion—1.50$

Zucchini—2.25 a pound

Strawberries—3.00$

If you were shopping at market this box would cost you between 27.50 and 30.00$

Recipe Suggestions

Grilled Summer Squash

Summer squash is going to start coming out your ears soon, and for me one of the easiest and most delicious ways to eat it is simply to marinate and toss it on the barbeque. You can use whatever kind of squash you have, in whatever quantity you like.

Summer Squash-(for zucchini shaped squash slice length wise into quarter inch thick pieces)
Extra Virgin Olive oil– enough to coat both sides of the squash
Balsamic vinegar– about 2/3 as much vinegar as olive oil
Salt & Pepper to taste
A sprinkle of herbs like rosemary or thyme (optional)

– Slice your squash first and set it into a large bowl.

– Pour olive oil and vinegar over the squash and gently turn and stir your squash slices until they are fully coated.

– Sprinkle salt, pepper, and herbs over your coated squash and make sure that there is enough oil and vinegar in the bottom of the bowl to allow the squash to marinate a bit while you get your barbeque going.

– Light up your grill, and wait until you have good coals, or until it is hot.

– The squash are thin and will cook very quickly once they are on the grill, have a plate ready at your side for cooked squash, and a set of tongs for pulling them off.

– It shouldn’t take more than 3-5 minutes on each side.  A little black is a good thing.

These make a great side dish for any meal, or filler for a sandwich, but my favorite thing to do is to serve them alongside toasted French bread, fresh tomato bruschetta, and cheese for the perfect light summer meal.

Strawberry Skillet Jam

2 cups of Strawberries, tops removed
1/4 cup of sugar
A teaspoon of lemon juice
A splash of vanilla extract (optional)

– In a bowl, roughly mash your strawberries with a potato masher (you may need to lean into it at first, to get them going) or squeeze them with your fingers.

– Put them into a large skillet (cast iron is perfect!) with the sugar and lemon juice and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often and breaking up large chunks of berry with your spoon, until it thickens and your spoon leaves a trail across the bottom of the pan. (It should take about 10 minutes.) If you like, stir in the vanilla.

– Let cool, and store in  clean glass jar in the refrigerator

This will keep well for about two weeks, it’s great as a jam, poured over vanilla ice cream, served with scones, whatever you like really. But the best part is that it’s quick, and unlike many jams doesn’t require a huge commitment of time, fruit, and energy. Enjoy!

Cool Cucumber and Onion Salad

This salad is great because you can make up a dish of it and eat it for a couple of days. Just prepare in a plate with a slight rim around the edge, and store covered in your fridge.

2 cucumbers, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
Walla walla onion, thinly sliced
White wine vinegar
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

– On the plate arrange a layer of cucumber rounds, and then on top a thin layer of onions.

– Repeat  alternating layers of cucumbers and onions until you are out

– Lightly drizzle vinegar and even less oil over the plate, sprinkle with pepper and just a pinch of salt

– This refreshing salad is best slightly chilled, so cover and set in the fridge until you are ready to eat