The frost that never came (CSA week 14)

When I start harvesting winter squash I know for sure it’s fall, whether I like it or not. Typically I harvest winter squash right after the first light frost, usually in mid-september. It has happened here every year for the last 6 years, so I figured this year would be the same, but I guess not. This is both a blessing and curse.

It’s a blessing because we didn’t really have a summer and this ended summer actually gets some of those crops across the finish line–I would have been really upset if half the tomatoes never turned red.
It’s a curse because the frost forces me to let go of the summer crops. There’s only so much you can cover a few thousand plants and so the frost typically brings all tomatoes, peppers, beans, corn, and eggplant to an abrupt end. I get really worked up about this, dashing around the night before trying to pull in everything I can. But the day after the frost, I experience a huge sense of relief…I can relax because all those tomatoes coming in at one time really causes some stress. It’s all about picking and hopefully selling them in a really short window.
So, the summer continues and so do we. Peppers are actually turning color and that last set of corn actually ripened. By the way, I must apologize if you did hit some corn which tasted a lot more like field corn than sweet corn–an issue brought to my attention by some people I sold to at the market. The problem is that I planted sweet corn too close to the indian corn and they cross pollinated, making your silver queen take on the flavor of its neighbor…again, my apologies (I still have some more good corn at the farm if you’d like me to set you up to redeem myself).
As mentioned before, our harvest party will be saturday, October 3, starting at 5:30 with dinner at 6 pm. Please let us know if you are coming. We supply the main dish, drinks, and you supply yourself and a side. We look forward to hosting everybody….and we think the saturday evening will work better than sunday afternoon as we’ve done the last couple years.
Order extras at our Local Dirt site here
In the box:
Acorn Squash: dark, acorn shape. This has not been cured, so it will improve it’s taste if you leave in a dry sunny spot in your house (we typically leave in the greenhouse to cure).
Delicata Squash: some call a sweet potato squash…very stringless and tastes sweet potatoy. Again, cure as you would acorn.
Russet potatoes: Small, I know.
Cherry Tomato mix
A couple regular red tomatoes
A few Green Zebra tomatoes: yes, they are ripe at this stage. They are naturally zippy in taste.
Roma tomatoes: a good amount for saucing
Edamame: You don’t eat the stalk…just pull the pods off and boil a bit in salted water. Rinse in cold water and eat.
Colored pepper mix
Cherry Bomb hot peppers: These are supposed to be hotter than jalapenos, but I don’t buy it. They have a sweet flavor for a hot pepper I really like.
Red cabbage

Chickens, Chickens, Chickens

We got our first set of fryers in from my friend and fellow grower, Karen Terry of Fergus Falls. About 3 lbs in size, they are young and tender birds raised entirely on pasture with all organic feed. $6 each, click here to order at the local dirt site.

We’ll have these available for delivery or pick-up at the farm until they are gone (I have only 24, so we’re not talking a lot of birds here).
Karen will also be supplying us a set of larger birds in a couple weeks…more of a roaster size. While on the local dirt site, you can also arrange for other food for delivery or pick-up like cheese, butter, or extra produce like canning tomatoes or peppers. Frost has to be around the corner, so don’t wait too long.

The Logistics of Local Food (CSA week 13)

Local foods and buying directly from the farmer has been something I’ve seen grow and grow every year I’ve been in this kind of work. But one big issue that has continued to plague local foods is the logistics. What I mean by this is that it still isn’t convenient for you as an eater to access all the things you would like to get locally…instead, you have to go to 5 or 6 individual farmers to get your stuff. Get a CSA membership for your veggies, contact somebody in the fall to buy a quarter of beef or half a hog, go across town to get that good local bread. I hear this from people too from members and farmers market patrons.
Coordination amongst us small growers to supply people more variety only makes sense to me. It doesn’t add up to have a bunch of growers all driving around with small amounts of food and make the eaters work harder at finding us. This is why we’ve been working on adding other things to the mix of things we deliver. You’ve seen me write about having Organic Valley butters and cheeses available to be delivered with your produce. Also, we partnered with Kendra to offer a flower share and some members took me up on that, getting flowers delivered with their produce for the last 12 weeks. Talking to members and others, I also got a sense of what others are looking for and I have arranged with a grower friend of mine by Fergus Falls to raise some broiler chickens for you. She is raising the chickens to two sizes: some up to “fryer size” (3.5-4 lbs) and others up to “roaster size” (5-6 lbs.) . Fryers will be available starting next week.

We’re finally figuring out some of the logistics of all this and have an ordering system set up at a site called local dirt, where you can easily order up what you’d like on a weekly basis. We will deliver with the CSA box until the end of the season and plan on keeping some things available through the winter as well: This is a nice tool which makes all this ordering stuff really easy for us as growers and easy for you as eaters. You find what you’ll like and just add into your shopping cart like at or something….we’ll keep updating with new things like produce “extras”.
This is not something just for CSA members…if you know somebody who would like to get “on the route” just have them contact me…we’ll deliver for no charge in the area from Pelican to Detroit Lakes or people can certainly arrange to pickup at the farm. We’re really looking for people to see if we can make a go of this…
Put it on your calendars! We’re having our 3rd annual harvest party here at the farm. The date will be Saturday October 3rd, starting at 5:30. Plan on eating dinner at 6:00. We’ll supply the main dish and beverages, you supply yourself and a side dish for a potluck meal. This is a great way for you to meet other members, see the farm, and pick out your jack-o-lantern. Please let us know if you plan on attending.
Every year I put together a box I’m really proud of….this is that box for the year. Lots of variety and things I’m excited to see, especially that celery! I’ve never been able to grow it well before, so I was just beaming this morning harvesting the stuff.
In the box:
Italia pepper: red and green long pepper…really sweet
Colored pepper: some aren’t fully colored, but I wanted something in the box
Poblanos: A really mild hot pepper which look just beautiful. See cornbread recipe below.
Dozen sweet corn
A slug of tomatoes: they are in in a big way, so you get a good half dozen
A small bunch of fresh oregono
One oversized turnip with greens
Carrot bunch mix: there are two varieties here, atomic red and satin (white one). I especially like the satin, which have a good distinct flavor.
Snap Peas: a variety called Sugar Ann, which is edible pod, so don’t shell.
Yellow Cippolini Onions: A nearly forgot this onion out there, but it’s an Italian variety people really like for roasting or kebobs. Good intense flavor, but still mild.
Athena Canteloupe

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Skillet Corn Bread with Roasted Poblano and Oregano

Bon Appétit | July 2004

This moist bread is best fresh from the oven, but it can also be made ahead and reheated.

Yield: Makes 8 servings


1 medium poblano chile* (about 3 1/2 ounces)
2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter


Char poblano chile over open flame or in broiler until blackened on all sides. Enclose in paper bag 15 minutes. Peel, seed, and finely chop chile.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Whisk cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and black pepper in large bowl to blend. Whisk eggs, milk, and sour cream in medium bowl to blend. Mix in poblano chile and oregano. Add egg mixture to dry ingredients and fold in with rubber spatula; do not overmix.

Melt butter in 10-inch-diameter ovenproof skillet with 2-inch-high sides over medium heat, swirling to coat bottom and sides of skillet. Remove from heat. Spread batter evenly in skillet. Bake until corn bread is golden brown around edges and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool bread 15 minutes in skillet. (Can be made 6 hours ahead. Cool completely in skillet. Rewarm in 350°F oven 15 minutes.) Cut bread into wedges and serve warm from skillet

The State Fair (CSA Week 12)

It’s been a short week because of Labor Day. We actually took the weekend off to go to the State Fair on Monday. For us, it was pretty special because we were part of an exhibit on local foods at the Eco-Experience. Basically an organization called Renewing the Countryside did a series of profiles of local growers which they turned into an exhibit for the fair. You can check out our profile and pictures at The kids really got excited seeing a picture of us there.

When sauntering around the fair, I started to imagine what it looked like 50 years ago. One thing for sure is that “Machinery Hill” actually had machinery on it instead of pickup trucks and riding lawn mowers. When looking around all I saw were deals on campers, 4-wheelers, and various “toys” for grown-ups and collectors. Call me a grump, but I get the impression that we’re just trying to amuse ourselves to death. It’s no wonder my grandparents’ generation just gets so disgusted with the way things are…there’s an ethic about work and usefulness we seem to have lost. Although I get as sick of work as the next person, there’s a real pride that comes with doing some tangible work like growing produce for yourself instead of just idling away my time.
In the box:
Green stuffing peppers: the really big ones are King Arthur. Most are paired with a smaller one since there just weren’t that many really big ones around. See recipe below.
Italia Pepper: This is a frying pepper which is typically used in recipes where you sautee at a high heat. Really a nice sweet pepper
Couple Jalepenos
1 Canary Melon (yellow)
1 Sunshine Watermelon: This is a yellow watermelon. I’m a big fan.
1 Canteloupe: Your standard variety called Athena
A few Red Tomatoes
A couple Heirloom Tomatoes: The really wrinkly one is an Italian Heirloom called Piraform and the dark green/purple one is called Cherokee Purple. You may have one or another or both. they are ugly, but tasty.
Sweet Corn: Again, a yellow variety called Bodacious
A Couple White Onions
Purple Beans: A bit deceiving since they turn green when you boil.
Mexican Stuffed Peppers
From Simply in Season
4 green, yellow, orange, or red sweet peppers
Cut top off pepper and discard seeds. Steam whole peppers in 1 inch boiling water until tender, about 5-8 minutes. Remove peppers from water and set aside.
1/3 cup onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
In a large frypan saute in 1 T. oil.
2 cups tomatoes, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
2 T. fresh parsley, chopped
1 T. fresh oregano, chopped; or 1 t. dried
1 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. salt
1 bay leaf
Add and cook 5 minutes.
2 cups corn
1 1/2 cups cooked black beans
Add and simmer 10 minutes. Place peppers in oven-proof dish so that they stand upright. Stuff peppers with vegetable mixture. Any extra filling can be placed in dish next to peppers.
1/4 cup cheese, grated
Sprinkle on top. Bake at 350F to heat through, 20 minutes.

CSA week 11

If you noticed I missed last week’s newsletter. This is the first time in the four years doing a CSA. Sometimes in the season, about this time, you “hit the wall” in much the same way a marathon runner “hits the wall.” When thinking about this, in many respects we CSA growers are like long-distance runners–we need to be consistent and steady to produce a good box each week for 16 weeks.

The lack of heat is still the weather story around here. This is the second week for melons. We’re glad to have them, but they are late. Some things you may not even notice, like the okra that never comes to market because the plants just sit there doing nothing. I’ll complain about it, but my sympathies are with other farmers out there like the one I talked to last week: 600 acres of soybeans and he doesn’t see them making a harvest. Boy, that makes my 2 acres where some things are good and some bad not too bad a problem really. This is why sustainable ag types highly appreciate diversity in crops…if one thing “crashes and burns”, there may be another which does well. In many respects, we’re trying to bring back a tradition on farms where many things were produced from a couple hogs and a steer to garden produce, grains, hay. Even if the growing season went to pot, at least you could feed yourself.

In the box:
Leeks: keep refridgerated and cut lengthwise to clean out before using…dirt gets into the leaves.
A couple tomatoes
Dill: This is for using the frawns, not the seed head like in pickling. See recipe below.
Cherry Tomato mix
Corn: mostly a white variety called Silver Queen. It’s pretty mellow and I love the name. Last week’s yellow variety is called Bodacious, which is another cool name.
A red onion
White Potatoes
A couple peppers: The small slender one is an Anaheim (slightly hot, really mild) and the other is a Cubanella (sweet, not hot).
Cantaloupe: most of you got a variety called Athena, others got an “eastern type” called Halona, which has prominent ribs
A couple cukes

Cucumber, Mustard, And Dill Salad
From Gourmet | October 2004

2 teaspoons white-wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon mild olive oil
1 large seedless cucumber (usually plastic-wrapped; 1 lb), peeled
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

Whisk together vinegar, mustard, salt, and sugar in a bowl, then add oil in a slow stream, whisking.
Halve cucumber lengthwise and remove seeds with a small spoon, then cut halves crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick slices.
Add cucumber and dill to vinaigrette, tossing to coat.