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CSA Newsletter ~ Week 25

Posted 10/5/2012 2:25pm by Chris.
Fall is fully upon us now. There have been several frosts, warm weather crops are done, and the carrot harvest has begun. We finally finished cooking all the tomatoes we harvested from the hoops and field--wound up with four full pallets of our whole roasted tomatoes that we plan to feature as a staple in our new winter share which will run from early January to mid-April. This week we'll switch to roasting all the winter
washing lettuce
Lettuce cools down in a bath
squash we left in the field due to weird splits or deformities in the fruit that go beyond cosmetic. Good food but a little harder to work with, so we'll do the cutting, roasting, and scooping, and give winter share customers an occasional 2-pound bag of frozen roasted squash. It's a great way for us to use our kitchen to capture produce that otherwise would be compost. 
Generally, we're trying to be creative and have fun with what we're doing. I look at the field like a big garden and try to take care of it with that level of, and attention to, detail. We like to think we're gardening for you, want to keep you as stocked in local food as we possibly can, and will keep you in the loop while we're doing it. Only a very small percent of food bought and sold is local; depending on what information you look at, it's only 2 to 5%. That number could easily be 10, 20 or 30%. An increase to only 10% of food being locally grown represents literally billions of dollars of jobs and money that can recirculate in our local economy. Our goal is to do everything we can to help create a better model for local food production that promotes understanding, better food, better relationships, and a stronger local economy. 

'Putting up' foods for the winter is one of the most important things a self-sufficient gardener can do, and there are lots of ways of doing it. I used to look at the farm's processing kitchen more for 'added value' products like salsas, soups, sauces, and preserves. In the end I realized that the kitchen added more shelf life than value, and that there are lots of extra costs associated with selling these prepared foods. Increasingly, prioritizing our CSA customers has led me to see and think that using the kitchen to put away basic foods which people can use to cook as they wish is the best way to go. We'll still make salsas and other prepared tomato products, but eventually, we'll phase out preserves (lots of sugar that's not local) and develop new products based more on CSA than farmers market customers. This year it's frozen winter squash. Many years we have extra ripe sweet peppers that we could cut up and freeze for winter use. In the future I see us planting lots of extra broccoli in fall and freezing a few thousand pounds of that for winter use too. Like I said, lots of possibilities, and so the future looks fun and exciting. 
The details of our first ever winter share are coming into focus and it looks like this. We'll deliver every otherweek, for 6 or 7 weeks, soon to be decided. The above mentioned whole roasted tomatoes, and our extra sweet winter spinach, will be the backbone of the winter share, providing about half to two thirds of the overall value of the boxes. The rest of the value will come from fall harvested root crops, the above mentioned frozen, roasted winter squash, and perhaps even frozen quart bags of strawberries and raspberries we put away over the last year. We'll formally unveil the specifics of the winter share soon, and offer you the chance to sign up.
So, no tomatoes in this week. It's all about Fall crops.Lettuce and chard from the hoops (our first Fall harvest from the hoops) and broccoli round out the greens. This week we're doing Jester, a new smallwinter squash similar to acorn squash. Beautiful and big carrots are the highlight of the week. We can't believe how big they got while still having excellent quality. The variety isn't normally huge, but fertility and conditions were just right. Thyme rounds out the box. If you don't need it now, let it completely dry out, and put it into a bag for future use. Getting it to the right moisture level and keeping it there is the key. Practicing and learning when things are too dry or too wet or just right is fun and can be done with any herbs that are used both ways. 

Chris Covelli
and the Tomato Mountain Farm Team 

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