CSA week 12!!!!!

Welcome to Week 12! Goodbye August, Hello September!! I know I am greeting the fall with much gusto. As I have mentioned, Genica and I have been listening to the Farmer to Farmer podcast and we recently came across an interesting interview with Dan Kaplan of Brookfield Farm, who introduced us to a deeper meaning of “shared risk” as part of the CSA model. As you know the CSA model on our farm is that you sign up and “invest” without exact prior knowledge about what you will get as a return. I can plan out the entire season - what will be in each bag each week - but inevitably things come up and those plans will change. The CSA model involves a strong commitment on the part of the member, as well as a great deal of faith: faith in the grower, in optimal weather, in the health of the crops, etc. As you also know living in the state of Vermont, weather patterns are often unpredictable and can shape the success of a season or a specific time period of a season. At the outset of this Spring, I was very nervous. It rained and rained and was very cold. Even now looking back at what was available in June or monitoring early growth of long season crops against previous years, it was certainly nerve racking. But now entering into September, we have the problem of not having enough markets for the produce that is available. The plentitude and quality of the produce here through August and into the fall is something I have never experienced in my short career raising vegetables. I am impressed by the resiliency of plants and confident in the ability and potential of this piece of earth we are tending. In earnest, I have never felt more capable, driven, and hopeful as a grower, which in my opinion is one of the greatest successes of the year - as Wendell Berry said, “the real products of any year’s work are the farmer’s mind and the cropland itself.”

That said, with all the successes this year, there have been some instances of failure as well. As we move into late fall, we will not see some of the quintessential Vermont autumn crops. For instance, the pumpkins and winter squash we planted into virgin soil on the other side of the road will be missing. The soil there is somewhat nutrient deprived yet has a beautiful structure and we will need to build it over the coming years. There were several other factors that led to a large percentage of winter squash and pumpkin failure. We were not able to turn the soil over in preparation for planting on schedule because of water saturation. This led to a decline in plant health due to late planting and as a result, they succumbed to insect infestation and struggled with a lack of irrigation since that side of the farm is still in development. Also, due to the cool, wet spring, we experienced some soil-borne pathogens that affected various crops around the farm. The most tragic loss in my opinion was the garlic. We lost 95% of our garlic crop due to a soil-borne issue and I have been forced to salvage what is left for seed in hopes of propagating these varieties next year. What makes this so sad is that garlic is the only crop I grow in a sort of perennial manner. I plant it at the end of one season to begin a new season and I have been growing the same varieties since I started down this path of vegetable production. The clove seed becomes garlic bulbs which become food and seed again - it is a unique crop on our farm. Now unfortunately, I will have to start that process over with new seed and new varieties. I equate it to a long term relationship that has to come to an end. I have been connected to this garlic for 7 years and now we must part ways and search for something new - a little dramatic maybe but you get the idea. And melons - where are the melons?? They suffered the same fate as the winter squash since they were planted during the same time and in the same location.

Back to this idea of “shared risk.” When a CSA member makes the decision to support a farm and write that check, they are essentially rolling the dice. A catastrophic storm could wipe out all the field crops, or a blight could come in a destroy all the tomatoes but there is still a debt that is owed to the stakeholders of some portion of the season’s vegetables. Although I have been very happy with the shares this season, there is still that nagging of winter squash or melons for example that I wanted to provide but cannot. There is the thought of supporting another local, organic farm who didn’t experience the same fate by purchasing melons from them and providing them for you but as this farmer, Dan Kaplan, mentioned, that would present an illusion of the real struggles of regional agriculture. The truth is that growing vegetables is hard and nature doesn’t always cooperate. There are many things we can control, like the carrots being overtaken by weeds, my bad - but 40 degree nights in early June with inches of rain, there is nothing that can be done about that except to wait and hope. I believe the person who signs up to support a farm through the CSA model not only has the capacity to understand this reality, but they are happy to be a part of the struggle and strife as equally as the successes and triumphs. And so if there is anything that I have learned or gained from working with you all its is an understanding of connection and community. That my stresses aren’t often reciprocated by you and so only exist within my world. Or that people are most often positive and supportive of each other and simply want to feel happy about what they are doing in their life (and with their dollars). The CSA model is about way more than just vegetables and flowers and I am eternally grateful for you all supporting our farm and ultimately our life by being a part of it. I’m hoping that you won’t mind that there aren’t going to be melons until next year if you decide to sign up again. But I do promise you this: they are going to be delicious.

So, lets talk about what is rather than what isn’t because this share is a good one!!!

This week we have:

  • a bag of arugula for your raw eating needs. This is a tad spicy so if you are not into spice then you can wilt it on the stove in some oil or with a stir fry to remove most of the spice.

  • two Summer squash - going strong still. This recipe peaked my interest: https://www.fivehearthome.com/baked-parmesan-yelllow-squash-rounds-recipe/

  • a beefsteak tomato, an orange tomato, and a few smaller tomatoes. Running out of ideas for tomatoes?? Genica and I have been making a “fresh sauce” in which we cut up tomatoes and simply reduce them. Then add a can of tomato paste to thicken a bit. This weekend we ate it over cheese filled raviolis. Yum.

  • A pound of shishito peppers - these are sweet roasting peppers but can be eaten raw. Bumper crop this year.

  • a bunch of bok choi - here is a good recipe. Quick and easy. You’ll just have to get the garlic elsewhere :( https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/robin-miller/stir-fried-bok-choy-with-ginger-and-garlic-recipe-1944956

  • a bunch of carrots

  • two mini heads of cabbage. Great for stir fries but here is a very easy recipe for sauerkraut: https://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-homemade-sauerkraut-in-a-mason-jar-193124 It won’t make a ton but we have some nice fall green cabbage coming on so if you are interested in more let me know.

  • a bunch of purple top white globe turnip - I would suggest eating them raw. Sliced maybe? I love the subtle, soft flavor and aroma of turnips.

  • two sweet onions

  • and lastly, a beautiful bouquet of flowers from my amazing, hard working, great attention to detail, lovely wife and farm partner Genica. I hope you enjoy the beauty in your home.

weird light. Nice Veg.

weird light. Nice Veg.

That’s a wrap on the week. Thank you all so much and I hope you enjoy the produce. Below is a view from harvest day. See you soon!

Ryan Z. DemarestComment