2016 Season

Hello Everybody!

week 3

It is almost unbelievable that we will soon be entering into the 2016 season! Many of you might think that since our main CSA season begins in June that we have a long time before we have to start thinking about it, but we are already hard at work.

Crop planning has begun for next year’s bounty and our first crops will be started in January. That means we have to order the seeds in about 2 weeks!

Along with seeds we are buying many of the supplies we will need to grow great food all year long including compost, organic fertilizer, potting mix, irrigation parts, fuel, tools, hardware, and row covers.

On top of these supplies we have to pay for our organic certification and are working on several large farm improvements that add significantly to our expenses. You may be sensing a trend.

The trend is that we are spending lots of money during the time of year when we have little income. We will always do what we can to even out our income and expenses, but still the peaks and valleys remain.

Simply put, the money all goes out at the beginning of the year and then comes back slowly throughout the year. So we have to make sure we have enough seed and supply money to kickstart the season as well as some dollars to live on until income picks up again.

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This is where you come in (our CSA member). By paying upfront early you carry us through the low income/high expense period at the beginning of the year.

We love growing produce for you and we love giving you a really good discount. We love producing high quality organic produce for a great community of veggie lovers.

But this relationship is both beautiful and practical. We do our job and you have to do yours (which is pay us as early as you possibly can).

This helps us offset some of the early expenses and ensures a more bountiful season for all.

We will begin accepting CSA sign-ups for our 2016 Season on January 1st!

Write that on your calendar or make it a part of your New Year’s resolution.  Our website will be updated and ready for you on New Year’s Day, so don’t hesitate to sign up early!

We greatly appreciate your support. Let’s make this the best CSA season yet!

With gratitude,

Jeremy and Ashli

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Project Season

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Dear Friends,

We hope that you are having a joyous holiday season, enjoying time spent with loved ones and plenty of delicious food! Jeremy and I actually got to take FIVE DAYS OFF (!!!!!!!!!!) over Thanksgiving. We had a delightful time in Portland with my family and are consequently all energized for what is shaping up to be an exciting winter.

It is now project season at Excelsior Farm. We have been looking forward to this time of year for quite awhile, and after months of harvesting, washing, packing, and selling produce we can now attend to some other farm business! Since the main growing season is over for us (we’re not focusing on winter production very much at all this year) we can sink our teeth into a number of projects that we’ve had lined up, such as this beautiful Propagation Station.

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Ashli’s little bit of heaven

You’ve seen hundreds of pounds of produce come out of our farm. Well, each vegetable started as a little seed, and a fair amount of our vegetable seeds are sown into flats to be transplanted. Considering that these transplants are the foundation of our farm (we are VEGGIE farmers, after all, and those veggies have to come from somewhere!), where and how we we start our plants is really, really important. At least, so we learned. After starting tens of thousands of trays in the barn on makeshift tables, always trying to work around other piled up projects and never having enough space, my great vision for the coming season was to have a dedicated propagation space. If not for the reasons mentioned above (that whole “foundation of the farm” thing), then for my own mental health. So Jeremy and I designed this lovely workspace, where everything has a place and a consistent work flow is possible. I’m smitten.

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Our earliest garlic variety is already popping up nicely

On the theme of propagation, Jeremy is also working to convert one of our small hoop houses into a dedicated Propagation House for keeping the trays of little plants all safe and cozy while they grow. We learned the hard way this year that we can’t skimp when it comes to starts; if we’re going to have vegetables to harvest and sell at all, then our seedlings need premium care.

If you haven’t noticed, our projects are generally on the theme of maximizing efficiency so that we can continue turning out quality vegetables with as little unnecessary work as possible. We’ll always work hard, but we also need to work smart. Our propagation systems have been big weak spots for us, and frustrating to boot, so we’re putting a lot of effort into smoothing them out now to save ourselves a lot of work and heartache later.

All of this, and so much more, happing on the farm right now! Stay tuned for even more fun projects as the winter progresses.

Pregnancy update: I’m already just three months away from my due date! We had a wonderful ultrasound last week, and we both are so grateful to have a healthy wee person in there, coming along just fine. What fun to get a sneak peek!

We continue to wish you well, whatever the weather (we’ve had quite the sampling of cold, warm, wet, and dry over the past couple of weeks!)

Best,

Ashli and Jeremy

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We went out with a bang at our final farmer’s market

 

A Poem

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A Resting Place

I did not know at first
How worn our names would become
Fitted to this place
Like a well-used, well-made leather boot
Through the seasons, weathered
To gain the authenticity
Of something that belongs
Because it has been here
And remains

I think of Halvor Coulter
And Eliza Charlotte Wheeler
Who farmed this land long before us
I have found evidence of them
While tilling the soil
A rusty horse shoe
A large post nail
A spring from a hay rake

Their names become mixed with the earth
As our own find their resting place.

-Farmer Jeremy

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

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