The Final Week

Dear Members,

Here we are, at the end of our CSA season! Congratulations. You have eaten your way through hundreds of vegetables in 22 weeks. If you’re new to this, you probably ate healthier, cooked at home more, and did more creative meal planning. Even for our veteran members, this year had more vegetables and more variety. In some ways being a CSA member is convenient; in other ways, it’s a lot of work. We’re glad you’ve made the decision to seek health for yourself and for our community by getting produce from us. Every year gets a little better.

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We are very tired by now and the end of the CSA season is bittersweet (mostly sweet, I cannot tell a lie). It has been the hottest and driest season in recorded weather history and we have had to work extra hard, irrigate a lot more, and deal with a lot more pest and weed pressure. This brought on a fair bit of mental anguish and a fear of direct sunlight. But with only a handful more weeks of wholesale and farmers market left we are looking forward to hibernating and working on farm projects for the winter.

The Baby Bump

The Baby Bump

This winter we will be preparing for the birth of our first child, expected in March. By the time we start up our CSA again in June, we’ll have a three month old. So far I’ve had a healthy pregnancy, but it sure was rough braving the summer heat and pregnancy nausea at the same time! Staying active on the farm really helped me pull through it, though, and I’m thankful to be in my second trimester. I feel great, have been enjoying lots of food, and have been able to feel the baby moving around a lot more for the last few days. Now I’m looking forward to slowing down and stocking up on sleep before sleep becomes a thing of the past!

Baby Oakleaf Lettuce

Baby Oakleaf Lettuce

Our minds gravitate toward next year as we plant the first crop for 2016: garlic. We have been taking notes all year about what vegetable varieties did well, what our CSA members like to eat, how much we should grow of each crop and when it should be started or transplanted. Already our crop plan for next year is taking shape. The feedback we have received through our online CSA questionnaire has been very valuable. Among several changes for next season will be our new Fall/Winter CSA offering. Stay tuned for more details on that.

We will be taking CSA sign-ups for the 2016 Main Season starting in January. Mark you calendars!

For those of you who have vacation credit we will be mailing vouchers that you can use at our market stand, or toward a CSA share next season.

In your final boxes of the season: Pie Pumpkins, Carrots, Leeks, Cabbage, Broccoli, Escarole, Mini Lettuce Heads, Greens, and Red Onions.

Newly Planted Garlic Beds

Newly Planted Garlic Beds

Thanks so much for being with us this season. We couldn’t do this without your support.

Your Farmers,

Ashli and Jeremy

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Taking root

Salad mix components

Salad mix components

But farming takes root in you and crowds out other endeavors, makes them seem paltry. Your acres become a world. And maybe you realize that it is beyond those acres or in your distant past, back in the realm of TiVo and cubicles, of take-out food and central heat and air, in that country where discomfort has nearly disappeared, that you were deprived. Deprived of the pleasure of desire, of effort and difficulty and meaningful accomplishment. A farm asks, and if you don’t give enough, the primordial forces of death and wildness will overrun you. So naturally you give, and then you give some more, and then you give to the point of breaking, and then and only then it gives back, so bountifully it overfills not only your root cellar but also that parched and weedy little patch we call the soul. -Kristin Kimball, The Dirty Life

It was around this time three years ago that Jeremy came to manage Excelsior Farm. He got to work cleaning up the fields and planting garlic, and has not stopped giving of himself since, working ceaselessly to ensure that the farm stays afloat from year to year. Even with the farm experience that he already had, it was a steep learning curve. Imagine then my first summer on the farm, when I came fresh from the first year of my Master’s degree only to find that when it came to manual labor I might as well have been in kindergarten, if that. We struggled together for three months before I had to return to school in New York, leaving him again with the full burden of the farm’s demands.

Farming took root in me then, and although it did not (could not) crowd out the responsibilities of finishing my Master’s, nor did it trivialize that endeavor, I can honestly say that the taste I had of farm work that summer made it very difficult for me to relish academic work. While I loved and valued what I was doing and could appreciate it for what it was, it neither held the same appeal nor presented the same kind of challenge as farming did for me. The appeal and challenge of farming both revolve around (as the above excerpt describes) that giving of myself to an occupation so fully, with the result that not only might I accomplish the meaningful and rewarding task of producing great organic vegetables for people, but that I myself might be changed, in both soul and body, for the good as well.

At the end of our third season, we can both confidently say that farming has taken root in us, and changed us. We are dedicated to what we do and learning to do it better. For us this is real living, with opportunities to struggle and learn patience and joy.

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In your boxes this week: Winter Squash, Celeriac, Black Spanish Radish, Baby Fennel, Purple Top Turnips, Collard Greens, Salad Mix, and Red Peppers.

Your winter squash assortment this week: Butternut, Sweet Dumpling, Delicata, Pumpkin, or Red Kuri. We had low yields for our winter squash this year, so we’ve had to do a mix for some of the weeks. Hopefully next year we’ll have weeks full of Butternut squash for everyone!

We’ve included a spooky black radish for you, just in time for Halloween. This is a Spanish variety, and ended up having a very homely exterior, but the interior seems to be alright, kind of mild and almost like a water chestnut in texture. They don’t have the pleasing snap of fresh spring and summer radishes, but they are good eaten raw and can always be stir-fried (probably with success, actually, as they have that water chestnut texture). If it comes to it, you can always carve faces in them in the spirit of the season.

Delightful-looking fennel recipes: Fennel Recipes from the Huffington Post. Make a lovely pesto with the fronds, and braise the stalks or use them for broth.

This year we’ve had great success with our classic purple top turnips, an excellent root vegetable for mashing with bacon or glazing with butter and a little sugar or honey.

I’ve found recently that collard greens make delicious wraps; use this recipe or simply fill them like tortillas with your favorite sandwich fillings.

Have a wonderful week everyone! Remember, only one more week after this!

Take care,

Ashli and Jeremy

Transitioning

This year's winter squash lineup

This year’s winter squash lineup

Dearest Farm Partners,

Fall is such an intermediate season. On the one hand we find ourselves tearing out the waning summer eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes (finally!), tilling and reforming our raised beds, and sowing them with cover crop for the winter. On the other hand, while we wrap up the summer, we yearn towards winter, when the field work slows down and we can work on our crop plan and seed orders and dive into farm projects (and of course, SLEEP). We would love to just curl up by the wood stove and pore over seed catalogues, or fix up one of our hoop houses for use as a propagation house, but we have to stay the course for at least another month before switching over into winter mode. While we continue to harvest two or three days a week to fill up CSA boxes, wholesale deliveries, and our market stand, we’re definitely having fun getting our winter schedule set (and even indulging in a little project here and there). It’s been a very rich year for us, and we just can’t wait to take the time to reflect on and organize what we learned!

We’ve had some wonderfully encouraging comments from CSA members recently, for which Jeremy and I are deeply grateful. Thank you for taking part in our work in this valuable way! We find it extremely helpful when members give their perspective on the CSA program, so we’ll be sending out a survey this year to help us refine our system. Stay tuned!

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In your boxes this week: A Winter Squash, Tomatoes, Eggplant, Peppers, Onions, Kale, Butterhead Lettuce, and Lemon Verbena.

As I mentioned, we’re in the process of tearing out the summer things. So, though it be the middle of October, you still have tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers nestled against your winter squash and kale. Thankfully, these veggies transition well from grilling-and-salsa season to a season of toasty, cozy, heavy dishes, like these eggplant recipes from Food52.

We have assorted winter squash today, so you have either a Red Kuri Hubbard, a gorgeous blue-green-grey Kabocha, or my very favorite, an Acorn Squash. Kabocha squash tend to have drier flesh, and are wonderful for both savory and sweet dishes. All I can say for the sweet, mapley Acorn is halve it, roast it, put some butter and brown sugar in the cavity, and eat it right out of the shell. You will feel all the autumn feels by doing this simple and delicious thing.

Some of our squashes were on the small side, in which case you have two.

Also in your basket to assault your senses is an extremely fragrant bunch of lemon verbena. Cutting all those bunches yesterday was one of the most soothing things I’ve done recently! What a lovely scent. It is apparently very versatile (I haven’t used it much), it’s uses ranging from herbal tisanes and simple syrup (verbena gin and tonics, anyone?) to seasoning fish and chicken. You can also put them in a vase or jar and enjoy the scent. Good links:

9 Lemon Verbena Recipes from Bon Appétit

5 Wonderful Ways to Use Lemon Verbena from The Kitchn

35 Ways to Use Lemon Verbena from Chocolate and Zucchini (this link includes suggested pairings, infused vinegar, and uses with different types of meat)

Let me know if you find a use for lemon verbena that you love!

Wishing you a wonderful week,

Ashli and Jeremy

Black and white: Black Spanish radishes sit next to Hakurei Turnips at market

Black and white: Black Spanish radishes sit next to Hakurei Turnips at market

Daikon Radishes

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A serene praying mantis

Dear Farm Partners,

The days are definitely getting shorter, and soon we might see the last of these blazing fall afternoons as we go deeper into the season. We’re nearing our first frost (usually on or around October 15), although the forecast does not seem to indicate that it’s going to get that cold any time soon. This bodes well for the remainder of our crops, as the extended warm weather will hopefully enable our Brussels sprouts, cabbages, broccoli, and cauliflower to size up and find their way into your homes before the frost strikes. Still, the evenings are getting very chilly, so who knows what we’ll get this year (I feel like I’ve been saying this for the past six months!).

For the past week your farmers have been reading and enjoying The Lean Farm  (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2015) by Ben Hartman, who runs a very small-scale organic farm out in Indiana. By applying the principles of Lean Business Management to his own farm over the past several years, Hartman has been able to make his one-acre farm both productive and profitable while maintaining a reasonable work load for himself and his wife. The basic idea is to have a “lean system”, which means trimming down or “leaning” the systems and spaces on a farm (crop rotation, harvesting systems,  packing and washing area, etc.) down to their most essential and direct elements, so that no space, labor, product, or time is wasted. We love this approach because it’s systematic (heaven for two organization-lovers), reflective, and easily applied; we’ve already started “leaning down” simply through series of questions, like “Which cultivating tools do we use the most frequently?” and “That crop sells well, but it’s so time-intensive to harvest; should we keep crops like that in our rotation?” We’re loving this reflective process, and feel equipped to continue discovering the best ways to make OUR farm an organized, productive, and pleasant place, and to save ourselves from unnecessary running around.  We’re even excited to do some leaning to our kitchen this winter! I know, I know, you’re probably thinking, “This is what they do for fun?” Well, yes! Don’t worry–we watch movies sometimes, too.

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Daikon radish with frilly leaves

In your boxes this week: Daikon Radish, Celeriac, Japanese Turnips, Radicchio, Butterhead Lettuce, Collard Greens, Cayenne Chiles, and Scallions.

It is unintentionally a sort of Japanese-themed week inside of your boxes. Along with the familiar Japanese Turnips and Scallions (a variety call Nabechan) you can welcome the Daikon Radish, a first-time crop for us. (Incidentally, this whole lean management thing is Japanese in origin. And so, in fact, is the concept of CSA. Ha! Full circle). Daikon radishes are beautiful and tasty, and can range from mild to spicy. You can snack on them as you would any radish. They are often used in Korean kimchi, and can be fermented or pickled on their own or with carrots (a delicious addition to the addictive Vietnamese banh mi sandwich). Similarly, you can also make Pickled Cucumber, Carrot, and Daikon Salad. I think this Mushroom and Daikon Soup looks succulent. Saveur has a nice roundup of daikon recipes here, if you feel a little more adventurous. I would welcome any suggestions as to how to use these, as I have little experience preparing them myself!

I should mention, your little red peppers are indeed HOT chiles. Use with caution to spice up any recipes, from curries to taco meat to lentil soup.

We hope you’re having a wonderful October! Remember, we have THREE more CSA drop offs after today (our last day is October 28).

Best wishes,

Ashli and Jeremy