Men, Community, and Farming

“Hand me that pipe wrench…you have to turn that really tight for it to hold…thinking about where the world’s heading, I really want you to go to school so you can work with your mind and not your hands…”  I received many lessons about life and talked about important things in our lives while working a jobsite with my dad.

Since then, the men I’ve connected with the most has been through work. And I mean real work-not the two of us looking at an Excel sheet together-but physically laboring together. The act of work alone brought us together, and time working together was also the opportunity when we talked about things that matter: death and love, fatherhood, community responsibilities.

I’ve had similar experiences with women in my life, certainly, but I bring this up in the context of men in large part because men have been in a funk lately. Men are all worked up about their identity and their role in today’s age…the path just isn’t as clear as past generations. This causes a whole host of issues as men shirk their ‘traditional’ responsibilities as fathers and husbands and engagement with neighbors.

Maybe it’s just my blue collar upbringing, but I imagine we’re in this funk because we’ve lost those work settings where we mentored young men and connected with each other. Since the beginning of civilation we’ve labored together side-by-side in this fashion and now we remotely play Playstation or watch ESPN together. In my view agriculture has and can still play this all-important role of bringing us together for real connection and giving us purpose. Instead of bemoaning the loss of farming as we often do, let’s do some fencing already! Invite over some friends, get some nails, and build and create. Chase some calves together through a pasture. I think men and the world will be better for it – at the very least women will enjoy getting them out of the house for awhile.

In the box:

  • Broccoli
  • Garlic scapes (see recipe below): Small bunch of green curley things with a rubber band. You can also check out this link if you’re confused about how to use them.
  • Swiss chard: Colorful green banded together
  • Greenleaf lettuce
  • Napa cabbage: This is the second week, so I hope I didn’t wear out my welcome on this one.
  • Radishes
  • Cilantro: Small bunch of banded green
  • Spinach; Loose green on top
  • Kohlrabi: Big bulbou
  • Snap peas: Edible pod
Green Surprise Dip
1 cup steamed kale, Swiss chard, or spinach
1 cup plain yogurt
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 cloves of garlic (or use a 2-3 garlic scapes)
1/2 onion
1 tablespoon lemon juice or to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
Puree in blender or food processor. use as a dip for veggies, crackers, or chips.

First Harvest of 2017 at Lida Farm

Life can throw people curveballs, and so can Minnesota weather. Weren’t we all just sweating in a dry heat about a week ago? This morning I put on a sweatshirt to pick radishes in a light rain because it’s 50 degrees out. 

Our wild weather ride provides me intersting growing challenges. So far I’ve really been striking out getting carrrots to germinate well. With the sun beating down day after day through May (when we typically seed carrots), the top of the ground just dries out too quickly and carrot seed is planted very shallow. On the other hand, hot and dry weather also keeps weed seeds from germinating, so we were able to get a fair amount of cultivating and hoeing done in May and early June. I suppose it balances itself out. 

Kohlrabi Harvest at Lida Farm

Yesterday, pulling kohrabi for the box, I hit a wonderful ‘harvest flow.’ Brand new harvest knife, LCD Soundsystem on my iPod and a beautiful evening…all was right with the world and harvesting was coming easy. This time of year I get excited about pulling veggies out of the ground and getting a new season rolling. There’s nothing finer than getting something in your hand which took months of work. Let’s just hope it’s not just a flash in the pan and I can keep the energy up for the whole season. 

In the box:

  • Napa Cabbage: Big item on bottom of box. See reciple below.
  • Green Onions aka Scallions
  • Westlander Kale
  • Small Bunch of Arugula: Oakleaf-shaped green with rubber band 
  • Kohlrabi 
  • Lettuce: This is a mix of types coming in, so people received green butterhead, greenleaf, or red butterhead. We doubled up small heads. 
  • Two Bunches of Radishes: Everybody received standard red radishes and some french breakfast radishes. 
  • Snap Peas
  • Fresh Mint

Napa Cabbage Salad from All Recipes


  • 1 head napa cabbage
  • 1 bunch minced green onions
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 (3 ounce) package ramen noodles, broken
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds

  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce


  1. Finely shred the head of cabbage; do not chop. Combine the green onions and cabbage in a large bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  3. Make the crunchies: Melt the butter in a pot. Mix the ramen noodles, sesame seeds and almonds into the pot with the melted butter. Spoon the mixture onto a baking sheet and bake the crunchies in the preheated 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) oven, turning often to make sure they do not burn. When they are browned remove them from the oven.
  4. Make the dressing: In a small saucepan, heat vinegar, oil, sugar, and soy sauce. Bring the mixture to a boil, let boil for 1 minute. Remove the pan from heat and let cool.
  5. Combine dressing, crunchies, and cabbage immediately before serving. Serve right away or the crunchies will get soggy.

Getting Ready for CSA Season

Late night produce washing (fall, 2016)

What does it take to get another CSA season off the ground? Energy, money, and the right frame of mind.

Let’s start with energy. Now that I’m 40 I’m pretty sure that I don’t have the same amount of energy as when I started our CSA at the ripe age of 27. And I certainly don’t have the grand sense of adventure of 24-year-old Ryan, who, as an apprentice at Foxtail Farm, looked forward to his second season like a new rock band firing up the van for their second world tour. Lately, all this heat and dry conditions have been testing my energy as we dash to keep ahead of weeds and weepy plants.

Next, money. Ah, yes, the dreaded thing we Midwesterners often shy away from. I think for folks from the outside, a produce farm looks pretty simple, you know, a bigger version of anybody’s home garden. In many respects, it’s highly complicated and certainly one the highest input or expensive farms per acre you can find, especially when certified organic.  So far this season I guesstimate that about $23,000 has gone out the door.  The big checks were for a new greenhouse (which I’ve yet to finish) at nearly $10,000 and a new tiller at $5,000, but a bunch of others are pretty common no matter the season:

  • $3,500: organic seeds – crazy when you think that we only plant 4 acres
  • $1,700: organic fertilizer
  • $770: organic certification fees
  • $600: propane 
  • $600: waxed CSA boxes
  • And the list goes on…you get the idea
Lastly, and probably the most important, is getting in the right frame of mind. I think anybody can relate, whether you’re running 5k or expecting 20 guests for a big holiday dinner, the ability to get your head in the game is critical to success. 
Only in the past week, over 3 months since we planted our first seeds for the summer season, have I been getting there. I almost need a little panic to give me the adrenaline I need to go ‘all in’  on the season. I received my warning shot this past week as pretty much every inch of ground has begun sprouting weeds and the plants are almost screaming for water in the hot, 20 mph wind. Game on, Ryan!