Season Lag

Well, I hate to break it to you…Labor Day’s in just one week. I think this time of year gives us all mixed feelings. We hate to let go of summer, yet are thankful for the slowdown that fall brings. Maybe we have that dreadful feeling we had as kids because going back to school was so painful. All I know is that as I sit here, I’m having mixed feelings about the transition+ from summer to fall.

20190723_185735I’m elated that the tomato season has just started in earnest, yet frustrated that melons are only now getting ripe. I’m looking forward to fall crops, but way too pressed with summer harvest to even deal with planting these crops. I think about getting some of these plantings in only at the end of the day when everything seems so unbelievably daunting. Every day counts this time of year as the days get shorter, so either I get those fall greens planted or forget about it.

However, if I set the worry aside, I’m simply grateful to let the season unfold however it will. Every season has its pace and my role is to surf along. We all want to feel like we’re masters of our destiny, molding the present and charting our future like some resolute ship captain. In reality, the forces of nature are so much greater than ourselves. I’ve learned that I can toil for hours, yet, if the season is against me, the efforts matters little. What to do? Plant nothing and lazily watch weeds grow? No. I can only give my best effort and then simply trust in the season:

I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and olive oil. I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied.” Deuteronomy 11:14-15

In the box:

  • Yellow ‘Sunshine’ Watermelon
  • Slicing Tomatoes
  • Roma Tomatoes
  • Red Onion
  • Leeks 
  • Yellow ‘Satina’ Potatoes
  • Eggplant: Appetizer idea in video below – basil and eggplant are a nice pairing.
  • Flat-leaf Italian Parsley
  • A few ears of Corn: The corn patch is coming to an end, but I think this is week 5 of sweet corn and  a person can only eat so much. Maybe adapt this chowder recipe: as a change up to corn on the cob.
  • Jalapeno Peppers
  • Basil

Authentically Authentic

Just yesterday at our farm stand… I had a great conversation about Canadian history with a family from Quebec, learned about a neighbor’s organic diet to assist his cancer treatment, talked tomato varieties many times over, and threw up about two dozen waves to customers who stopped by.

Me by farmstand signWhen we built the stand in 2010, I had intentions to sell our ‘overflow’ produce there – stuff we were long on and couldn’t move through a farmers market or the CSA. But in the past three seasons, we’ve witnessed a total explosion in popularity that has us running to keep up. I routinely see three and four cars at the end of our driveway nowadays and the stand attracts a true cross-section of America. Rich and poor. Professionals and rednecks. Guys with MAGA hats and ladies driving hybrids adorned with ‘coexist’ bumberstickers. No matter their walk of life, neighbors and passers-by alike always express how grateful they are for our work and the farm stand. Yesterday, I even had a guy shout “You the man!” at me while I was out harvesting in the tomatoes.

That last one got me thinking…why do people so love this little farm stand at end of our driveway?

Yes, the produce is fresh and certified organic. Sure. But I think something bigger is at play. Our farm stand acts as an authentic holdout in a world becoming more and more virtual and disconnected. Lonely big box stores and daily corporate grift. Endless political wrangling with strangers online. The Kardashians!? In this world gone nuts, this strange fever-pitch drama we now live online, our 30 square-foot farm stand screams out forgotten Midwestern values at their finest. An outpost in total opposition to the sleek and dishonest future into which we’re all being pulled. There’s nothing fake or contrived about it. We’re a single family working hard in fields but 50 yards from the storefront. We labor innumerable hours with our own hands to feed neighbors quality food, one tomato at a time.

I don’t know…maybe I’m just getting overly dramatic. I do know, however, that the role we have the privilege to play in people’s lives feels good and we’re happy to play it.

In the box:

  • Sweet Corn
  • Yellow ‘Satina’ Potatoes
  • Beets: Check out the instructional video below about roasting (my favorite way to have beets). Also, the combo of roasted beets with goat cheese or feta is great:
  • Green Peppers 
  • Sweet Onions
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Slicing Tomatoes:  Yah!
  • Italian Flat-leaf Parsley
  • Garlic
  • Cauliflower: Sorry this is the most inconsistent cauliflower ever – by the luck of the draw you may find a nice-sized one or a mini head.
  • Bunch of Kale

Bumber Crop or Impeding Backache?

As I sat down on my haunches and appeared beneigth the canopy of tomato vines, I got the first glimpse of a monster crop. I crept further down the row, now examining a new location on my back, “Man, that’s a lot of fruit.” Walking through the whole trellised area where the 3,000 plants grow, I surveyed nothing but really healthy leaves and a lot of green tomatoes. I’m pretty sure that we’re looking at the biggest tomato crop I’ve ever seen. In saying that, I feel like some old miner who came across a huge gold vein. Eureka!

Now, however, the question is whether this is a blessing or a curse. Only now are we starting to get just a touch of color on the tomatoes, a time we call ‘break’ as in ‘the tomatoes are starting to break.’ It would be best if we have some gentle weather…mild and with small swings in temperature. This will allow the fruit to ripen slowly and we can keep up on picking tomatoes as they go from green to orange to red. IF we find ourselves at 90 degrees during the day and 50 at night, these puppies are going to go fast and we’ll be running to keep up. Also, there are only so many tomatoes we can sell use each week in the CSA boxes or sell at the market or farm stands.

Let’s see what happens. One thing I know for sure is that tomatoes are in our future.

In the box:


Touring the Farm

We had a small but hearty group on Saturday for the Lida Farm tour. I think when it’s 90% humidity at 7 am, only the most motivated decide to walk around farm fields in the heat listening to me talk about organic agriculture. Thanks to all who made it out and thanks to OCIA (our certification agency) for sponsoring refreshments.

20190721_202155-1When doing the tour, one thought came to me which I’ve had many times before. Boy, every season is the same, but different in so many ways. I know that sounds like politician-speak, so let me explain.

THE SAME: When I look at ‘what’s in the box’ on our blog back to 2006, the vegetable season is pretty much the same thing over and over. Spinach is in the first box with some radishes and then spinach re-appears in the last couple boxes. Green onions go in early-season boxes and then I transition to regular onions (which we started last week). Same pattern over and over. This makes sense because there are only so many crops that grow in MN and everything has its season.

DIFFERENT: Even with the same pattern of production, the quality and yield of crops is different year to year. I’m staring down the biggest and best tomato crop I think I’ve ever grown in my life. Maybe I’m jinxing myself by writing it, but I’ve never seen so healthy a stand of tomatoes with so much fruit on the vine. When these things ripen, look out! Last year, in contrast, I had these sad little plants. Early heavy rains in June beat down the tomato vines and they were set back for the whole year.

The differences come with weather, certainly, but the differences also come with the workflow of the season. Juggling 30-some crops, some years I get celery weeded at a good time and other years it becomes the forgotten crop. As I told the tour this weekend, some plantings are abandoned each year – I’ve let go about four so far this year. It’s nothing personal, plants 🙂

In the box:

  • Cherry Tomato mix
  • ‘Trinity’ Bi-Color Sweet Corn
  • ‘Norland’ Potatoes
  • Bunch of Carrots
  • Sweet Onion
  • Red Torpedo Onion
  • Cucumber
  • Basil
  • Little Green Leaf Lettuce
  • ‘Ace’ Green Pepper
  • ‘Islander’ Purple Pepper
  • Zucchini