Tribute to Good Neighbors

There is a long tradition of neighborliness amongst farmers.  In many respects this is something we look back on in nostalgic terms as if it is something which our parents or grandparents enjoyed in the good ol’days, but none of us really know about today.  Today this phrase “good neighbor” means being friendly and helping out every once in a while, doing something like watching a dog or picking up somebody’s mail.

In farm country this had a different, more significant meaning.  A good neighbor was somebody who had just as many things to do as you, but dropped all of them to lend a hand.  And I don’t mean a small job, I’m talking about 8 -10 hours of labor to put up hundreds of bales of hay in blazing heat to beat a rain or helping to pull a calf at some crazy hour of the night in the cold of winter.  That kind of neighborliness was done because all of us depended on it. Those kinds of assitance paid off in the end because dedicating a day to your neighbor would get repaid when you were in need yourself.  The community of growers was richer, not in a strictly montery was, but because the strong bonds built through work side-by-side.

That kind of work exchange which was almost necessary for survival amongst the small diversified dairy farms which covered Otter Tail and Becker Counties is just as voluntary a ‘nice thing to do’ as amonst any towndweller.  After all, most farms today are as automated as most manufacturing plants.  Who needs their neighbor?

In spite of all this, we are blessed with farm neighbors who still carry on the best sense of the term.  This weekend I have a neighbor who volunteered to lay cement block for a couple days to repair a barn wall destroyed in a rainstorm last year.  This is time worth hundreds of dollars and all he wants for payment is a nice dinner and help moving block.  I’ve had neighbors borrow us equipment, mow ditch embankments, herd our animals when escaped, birth lambs, plow entire fields who have asked for nothing in return.  I owe them all and would do whatever I could whenever they need it.   I think that’s the feeling we should all have to build a real neighborhood.  

In the Box:

  • Sugar Snap Peas (please don’t shell these…just eat them)
  • Radishes
  • Head of Romaine Lettuce
  • Bunch of Westlander Kale
  • Italian Flat Leaf Parsley
  • A few Baby Bok Choy
  • Scallions aka Green Onions
  • Spinach

Solstice for Dads

This year Fathers Day and the summer solstice co-incide, but I don’t put any kind of great significance behind it (after all, my favorite stat is that Father’s Day was the #1 day for collect calls, back when we had collect calls).  But, as a grower, I always pay attention to the summer solstice since it holds some sway over the growing season.

It’s kind of a love-hate relationship.  It’s depressing to think that all days after this point get shorter and we’re on the slow decline back into winter – terrible thought, I know.  However, I love getting on the other side of the solstice since plants become easier to deal  In the CSA box this week you’ll find a lot of greens that have their birth in spring.  Pretty much all of them are light sensitive so they like to bolt as we approach the longest day of the year – a really difficulty for me as a grower!  You may have been perplexed when observing your own garden that something like a radish or lettuce or even a broccoli looked great one day and was trying to bolt and go to seed  the next.  That’s the solstice for ya.  Few people believe me when I sing the praises of fall lettuces and cole crops because everybody thinks these are spring crops, but, due to the shorter days after the solstice, they mature much better from here on out, making me a little less anxious and farming just a bit easier.  
In the CSA box (Check out farmcast about the box): 
  • ‘Rover’ Radishes
  • Brasing Mix
  • ‘Two Star’ Green Head Lettuce
  • Arugula: Green with band in oak-leaf shape
  • Mizuna: Light green with jagged leaves
  • Swiss Chard: Stuff that looks like muli-colored rhubarb
  • Cilantro
  • Spinach: Loose, unbunched leaves

Simple Sauteed Braising Mix Recipe from Full Circle, a huge CSA on the west coast.

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Yield: Serves 2-4

  • 2 Tbsp peanut oil
  • 1 medium white onion or shallot, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ pound Braising mix (or make your own)
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • ¼ cup stock or water
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • Salt and pepper
  1. In a large, high-sided sauté pan, heat oil over medium high heat.
  2. When shimmering add onions and cook until translucent, about 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add garlic and sauté briefly, stirring quickly to avoid browning, about 30 seconds.
  4. Add in braising mix, tossing to mix.
  5. Sprinkle with paprika and add stock, covering and reducing heat to low. Cook until lightly wilted, about another 3-4 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat and sprinkle with lemon juice, season with salt and pepper and serve.