The beginning of the harvest season has arrived and everything feels 'normal'. That's because I've been farming 20 years now and 'average' weather feels weird, while highly variable weather is normal. In the Midwest, average weather is achieved via temperatures that are often 20 degrees above or below average. The way people use the term 'normal' makes little sense in our part of the country. It's more accurate in places like California where 'average' and 'normal' are much closer more often.
That said, our year has been upside down with a downright hot March, and a cool to average April. With temperatures 30 to 40 degrees above average and records being broken left and right, things got off to a ridiculously fast start. If you didn't see it, please take
a look at the sneak peek we sent out last Saturday. To summarize, we had to work so hard to keep things cool, rather than keep them warm as is normally the case in March, that crops are actually slightly behind what they were last year, which was quite a bit cooler. When it's consistently cool, as March usually is, we can deploy a few methods that keep things nice and consistently warm. When the temperatures are frequently warm, and even hot, we're forced to try to keep things cool, and this is a little counter-productive in early spring, when it will eventually get cool and slow things down too much.
The bottom line is that our attempts to maintain crop quality of cool loving crops with our record breaking spring heat resulted in a delay of about a week for a couple crops we expected to have in the first box. Because lettuce, turnips/turnip greens, and kale are much better tasting and longer lasting when grown in cooler conditions, we chose to err on the side of quality and flavor, and that meant slowing and cooling things down as much as possible. You'll be seein
g all these crops next week instead of this week as we had expected. In this case patience is a virtue. Don't worry; over the course of the 12 week spring season, we'll more than make up the value that this first delivery is lacking.
This week's box features three Asian greens andspinach. Two of the Asian greens are probably new to all of you, and we've never grown them! They are, however, quite similar to tatsoi, and other greens we've grown before, and that you may be familiar with. Tokyo
re appropriate it is for a stir fry/cooking, and thinner and more delicate it is, the more appropriate it is for salads. To be sure, some people cook thin-leafed spinach, and I love to eat cabbage raw, but, generally, thicker is for cooking and thinner is for salads.
The jar of jam in this week's box is a token of our appreciation for buying into our farm and CSA. We are not counting its value in the box (you're not paying for it) though it is true that we're including it now because the first box of the season has slightly less variety and volume than we'd like. The jam is there for fun. We use half the sugar compared most jams, even organic ones. Most jam eaters love it, and if you're not one of them, just give it away and make someone else happy. Next week's box will be much more interesting with nearly twice the variety, and it will be over the value you paid. For now, have a nice stir fry, or a salad with the more tender items. Thank you very much for being our customer.
Chris Covelli and
The Tomato Mountain Team
|As we cross the finish line there's not much winter in sight. All the forecasts call for more of the same through the end of the year. We've been very lucky as it's a lot easier to move things around the farm this way. We're not really set up yet to deal with what winter can, and has, thrown at us the last few years. This is easily the mildest and tamest December we've had in quite a few years.
It's funny how I've always thought of farming as a sporting event--mostly I suppose because of the relentless physical aspects of most things we do. The more we grow and the bigger we get as a farm, the more we need to focus also on organization and record keeping. Our greatest challenge over winter is to establish the digital and electronic representation of the farm, from QuickBooks to spreadsheets to taxes and everything else. We need to be able to express all farm information on the computer. The transition from a small to a medium-sized business is probably one of the most painful and difficult to negotiate, but we're ready for the challenge.
Well, in case you can't tell yet, I can't think of a damn thing to say about produce. Probably sick of it. I'm actually in Boise, Idaho right now visiting a friend. Spent a few hours splitting wood yesterday at his place in the mountains and loved it. Good mindless work, and I didn't have to make any decisions. It's warm and dry here too. I talked just the other day out here to a farming couple in their 30's. It was so nice to hear them echo the same exhaustion and weariness with respect to farming and the lifestyle. When I told them of our 22 hoop houses and ability to deliver 36 weeks/year, and our plans to deliver through winter in a year or so, they could not quickly enough express their desire to never attempt such an endeavor. "We love our break, we need our break!" they said. No wonder I feel like I've been run over by a bus so often. But now that I'm starting to find some great people to surround myself with (Kurt, Christa, and Kai are holding down the fort while I'm gone) to make this transition to a medium-sized farm/business, things are feeling much, much, better, and I'm super grateful.
Oh, yeah, produce! You should recognize it all by now. There's sweet salad and storage turnips, beets for the smaller shares, leeks, potatoes, and spinach. We were able to get a nice harvest of cold sweetened kale as well. It's interesting, and we're curious about, the holes in the kale leaves. Not sure what bug was tough enough to hang out and eat the holes you see in the kale leaves. Don't worry, there should be no compromise in terms of shelf life, and we don't charge for the holes. Insects, as you can imagine, have surgical, knife-like mouths, and make very clean cuts, so try to think of it as decoration.
Thanks to everyone who signed up with us this year. We're already looking forward to next year, and feel confident that we'll do even better, especially with respect to variety and crop selection. We've had only positive comments about the jar of whole roasted tomatoes in the box last week, and love the idea of having more of these sorts of preserved/frozen products in the future, so again, please let us know how you felt about getting a jar of tomatoes in your box. In the future, we're thinking of roasting and freezing squash for an easy puree, freezing broccoli, and freezing peppers--both sweet and fire-roasted chiles--for use throughout the winter. A year from now we hope to keep delivering, even if only every other week, from January through the middle of April when regular CSA deliveries begin. We very much appreciate your business, comments, and ideas. Thanks again.