Monthly Archives: May 2017

Veggie Tips

Green Cabbage: Our website has a wonderful archive of recipes for green cabbage.

Kohlrabi: The bulb, once you peel off the skin, is good both raw (crisp mild and pleasing) and cooked (like a broccoli stem).  The greens can be steamed or fried.  Use raw kohlrabi grated into a slaw, or sliced up and tossed into a salad.  We know people who shred it with egg and a bit of flour to make it into fritters (or potato-kohlrabi fritters!)

Fennel: We recently got the following letter from one of our members…  “I am a fennel-lover, but have picked up enough leftovers from others at our spot to know that other members are less enthused. We enjoy the taste, and I use fennel anywhere I might use celery – salads, soups, stews, stir fries… But last week I happened on a delicious use for the whole plant.  I chopped an entire bunch of fennel, several onions, and cooked them in olive oil with garlic until softened and slightly golden. Then added chopped tomatoes (mine were canned) and simmered on the lowest possible heat for several hours. I tossed in some thyme and this week would add basil. After several hours, I let it cool a bit, and then used my immersion blender to blend it into sauce. I made 6 quarts and used up all the fennel in the last couple weeks times two (as I always pick up at least one extra.) It’s thick (all that fennel) and tasty. Also vegan, which will be useful whenever vegan friends are coming to dinner.”

Garlic:  Our 2017 crop!  It is still a bit young and moist, not fully dry.  It will be fine on your counter top if you aren’t going to need it right away.

New Potatoes: These are freshly dug “new” potatoes, so be sure to store them in the refrigerator, preferably in a paper bag. They don’t do well with light and should be kept in the dark until you use them. If the skins are scuffed up, don’t worry.  That’s because the potatoes haven’t fully cured — the skins are very thin and tender. 

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News From the Farm | May 29, 2017

I spent the last week in New York state’s capital, Albany, at a conference of practitioners dedicated to strengthening regional food systems — farm businesses, food processing capacity for local farm products, distribution hubs and independent grocery stores.  These are the businesses that provide food to local communities and can serve as a locally controlled economic development powerhouse.

The people at the conference provide services to small-scale farmers.  They help them gain access to new markets; figure out how they can get loans if needed; provide legal services; run farmers markets and food hubs; and teach about new food safety and immigration rules.  Organizations that train new farmers as well as immigrant and refugee farmers were also there. Plenty of discussion ensued about business planning and financial record-keeping, all to promote viable farms that are economically profitable, with secure access to land and markets, using environmentally sound production practices.

Good and innovative policy is always part of the effort to make big changes, and New York recently announced a granting program to help farmers with infrastructure needs, and also will be investing millions in a regional food hub warehouse in the Bronx. Their state program, New York Grown and Certified, comes on top of the success of a set of laws supporting on-farm brewers, vintners and distillers. These laws resulted in a renaissance of craft producers in NY, with hundreds of new startups and economic activity generated.  California’s Cottage Food Law has had similar results.  Maybe new rules on grain milling and meat processing for local farmers will open up new opportunities in California in future.

On the other hand, sometimes the uniform, impassive tool of policy can yield less positive results.  One example was discussed by folks working in the Lake Champlain Basin, which is 48% of the land area of Vermont.  This huge watershed drains into Lake Champlain and unfortunately for decades has suffered from pollution running-off from farms and roads in the watershed.  Various agencies have worked with the farms for years, trying to encourage adoption of various management practices, which even with various financial assists, proved to be too much for 600 or so of the smaller famers and dairies.  Now, suddenly, those practices are required, and farms with fairly small net worth have to fence their streams, create vegetative strips along waterways, construct manure pits and build various other expensive infrastructure. The result is an impasse, not unlike California’s ongoing environment versus agriculture standoff around water quality.

My presentation was part of a panel on farmers gaining access to wholesale markets — in case they were feeling that “direct” sales through farmers markets and CSAs was not sufficient.  The concern has always been that the wholesale market can be cutthroat, hardball and even unfair to smaller scale farms.  Is that trend towards concentration in food businesses going to continue?  Someone asked me to look into my crystal ball.  “I think we all know the answer,” I said.  “We know that it could go either towards strong, regional, family-farm community based food systems, or not.  And we know that the outcome is up to us and our commitment to build the future that we want.”

— Judith Redmond

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Veggie Tips

Basil: First of the season and a sign that summer is coming! Basil is such a yummy addition to Italian dishes – pasta, pizza, bruschetta, and Caprese salad. Basil should be stored outside of the refrigerator – it will turn brown if you store it in the fridge. Your best bet is to trim the stems and put it in a mason jar with a bit of water (like a bouquet of flowers!). If you leave it on the counter like this for long enough, it may even sprout roots! 

Fennel: Your fennel makes a great addition to any salad, but I have grown to love it roasted as well. Cut the tops off (they can be a little fibrous) and just use the bulb. Quarter the bulb, drizzle with olive oil, and roast at 400° until you can stick a fork in it. So delish! 

Potatoes: These are freshly dug “new” potatoes, so be sure to store them in the refrigerator, preferably in a paper bag. They don’t do well with light and should be kept in the dark until you use them. They can be boiled, roasted, pan fried – they are so dang tasty that they don’t need much gussying up to make them a real treat!

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News From the Farm | May 22, 2017

Spring 2017 has created a tempo on the farm where the beat is compressed, the pace faster, steps quicker and details twirl and thump – making the dance that you all might think a waltz seem more like a frenetic, sweaty flamenco. We have been stepping pretty lively; trying to recover from the months of rain that pushed back spring with wet cold soils and then dropped a month of summer-like weather upon us. 

We have been transplanting tomatoes, melons and peppers. Sweet corn, beans, cucumbers, squash, direct seeded melons and watermelons are in and growing. Now comes the hoeing, watering, cultivation, staking and tying tomatoes along with prepping soil for the successions of each of these crops. We do four to five plantings of tomatoes for a harvest that will go from the middle of June until November. Melons are planted every 10 days starting with transplants and going to direct seeding of some 10 different varieties. Upcoming is the fifth planting, with three more to come. 

All summer crops require multiple plantings with the spacing determined by spring temperatures and the projections forward – 90 days – to try to have a continual harvest. An old farm principle is to never grow more that we think that we can sell for a fair price. This requires building on the experience of many seasons, controlling the urge to plant too much, a crew that is preparing fields for upcoming plantings, and some luck with the markets when the crops hit the market.

I would be remiss (and in big trouble) if I didn’t mention all of the flowers that are gracing the farm, the end of winter blooms are making way for the statice, sunflowers, calendula, zinnias, millet, broomcorn, cockscomb – and so many more. The flowers are now one of the most important crops on the farm. Besides being beautiful, they attract pollinators, feed myriads of beneficial insects and soothe the soul of all who visit the farm – as well as those of us who work here. Now if it only weren’t so stressful to have them be so perfect!

Hannah with a beautiful bouquet!

We have a crew here on the farm who operate like a team – there are nearly 90 of us working each day. Our crew is experienced, skilled and wonderful. We are very fortunate that they have chosen to work with us. Many have been working here for more than 15 years, some more than 25 years. The tasks of the farm in a compressed springtime are made easier by the skilled crew who know the many tasks making the succession of crops near seamless.

This past week the Full Belly Kitchen was fully booked. Saturday a wedding for 200; Friday a farm tour and lunch for an East Bay gardening club. Mothers day weekend had “Pizza Friday” for locals (and visitors!), a great farm dinner on Saturday and a Sunday Mothers Day Garden tour that raised funds for local community gardens. For the past month we have had two or more third-grade classes visiting the farm. They fill their days milking the cow, collecting eggs and holding chickens, filling CSA boxes, picking for their dinner and carousing the farm – bringing laughter and enthusiasm to all of the fields. 

We have designed a pretty complex organism here and we aren’t entirely sure of who is in charge, the demands of the farm or us as designers. It becomes clear that we are pretty unique – where the simple diversity of the farm reveals the beauty of life’s myriad of expressions – when the diversity is not there, so much is missed by never being seen – so much is forgotten because the memory of a buzzing life isn’t rekindled. Awareness isn’t simply only an act of the perceiver, awareness is enabled by fostering a design where dimensions that might not be considered or remembered are given a chance to thrive.

We are reminded daily that it is easier to tear something down than build. Agriculturists can make fields sterile and never remember the potential to foster so much more than just a crop. In the same way, a society can watch years of efforts to make institutions that reflect civil society be forgotten by language that bludgeons – by ill conceived Tweets or by the scarcity of experience, where life is valued because time was taken to make a place for diversity. Wendell Berry has said it rather succinctly: “We don’t know what we are doing – because we don’t know what we are undoing.” Sorry I made a leap there, but careful construction needs respect and good design requires solving for a multitude of greater patterns. 

We continue our work here with the respect that a complex nature deserves and the results are often delightful.

— Paul Muller

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Veggie Tips

Garlic — This garlic has started to bulb and cure, but it still moist so you should probably refrigerate it.  If the garlic in your box still has a long stem, you will notice that the stem has started to dry down.  We are clipping the stems off of most of the garlic as we prepare to stop irrigating, dry it down and cure it.

Lettuce – We’re packing the lettuce heads in paper because we have found that it travels better that way in our CSA boxes.  When you put it in your refrigerator, you might want to transfer it to a plastic bag if you don’t expect to use it all in a couple of days.

New Potatoes – These are fresh potatoes harvested before the skin has cured, so the skin can easily be scuffed up, which doesn’t affect the flavor one bit.  The skin is very thin, so you don’t even need to think about peeling these creamy treats.  Please keep these potatoes in the refrigerator and away from light.

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