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Genuine Faux News of the Farm

Vol 4 Issue 4 - April 2008

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Benefits Included

Garlic and brassica in the garden

 

Features

 

 

Monthly Cartoon

Wanted
Farm News

Reviews

CSA Report

Events

Buy Local Guide


Benefits Included

A college student asked me to tell her how much money could be made in raising organic produce with a farm our size. We've been doing this long enough that we can answer this question with more certainty than we could have a few years ago. But, the answer is similar to what it was then. If you want to earn a lot of money, there are other professions that are more lucrative.

However, unlike our answer to this question a few years ago, we are much quicker to point out the non-monitary benefits for what we do. Here are some that we often bring up in conversation:

- We've never eaten better

If you haven't had an 'on the farm' meal with us when the wide variety of crops are coming in, you may not quite appreciate this. One meal last August featured five different vegetables and chicken. Every item, except the butter, was from the farm - including the spices.

- Bleached hair is cool

If you enjoy the outdoors, this vocation is for you. It may get tiresome putting suntan lotion on, but you don't have to go into an air-conditioned cave on a beautiful June day.

- Your boss WILL listen to you

Look in the mirror and start talking. Works every time.

- Instant weight loss

Ok, not instant - but this job does tend to help a person get into better physical condition.

- The people you meet!

Everyone has to eat. You can meet a wide variety of people if you grow food.

- You get to learn about everything

The more you learn, the better you are at it. The more you grow produce, the more you learn. Even veterans who have grown produce for fifty years will tell you that you are wrong if you think you have it all figured out!

- You can make a difference in the community

If you want to have an impact on your part of the world, grow food the right way and distribute it locally. Local foods are part of a complex community web.


- Introverts are allowed to recharge

There are many activities and moments where the introvert in us can be served as we work in the garden.

- Visible/Tangible rewards

Let's see - prepare the ground, plant the seeds, tend the plants, harvest the fruit. Ya, that'll do it.

Return of Recipes

We are identifying recipes to feature in our newsletters for the coming season. But, even better:

NOW AVAILABLE:

From Asparagus to Zucchini: A Guide to Cooking Farm-Fresh Seasonal Produce (3d Edition) by the Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition. Highly recommended to everyone who wants to get more out of their shares!

Price is $15 (below the recommended retail of $19.95). Email us to order.

Important Dates

  • April 1 - Last day to hold CSA spot with Deposit
  • Apr 2 - NIFFP meeting in Cedar Falls
  • Apr 8 - FMNP Training - New Hampton
  • Apr 10 - Self Help International Fund Raiser Auction
  • Apr 12 - Barn Razing Event starting 1:00 pm (rain 4/13)
  • Apr 14 - Waverly Chamber of Commerce Advertising Mtg
  • Apr 18 - NIFFP Kickoff Event
  • Apr 18&19 - Sustainability Conference in Decorah
  • Apr 25 - Tom Sawyer Day I
  • April 25&26 - Food & Wellness at the W
  • May 1 - Payment in full CSA deadline
  • May 3 - 8:30-11:30 - first Waverly Farmers' Market
  • May 26 - Iris Fest
  • June 1 - Final opportunity to join 2008 CSA (if available)

Eliot Coleman - "[A]ny physical work is made easier by planning the job out beforehand, working at an efficient rhythm, and dividing the job up into attainable pieces." p 27 The New Organic Grower

Vol 4 Issue 4 - April 2008

Egg Prices

We saw this one coming and it is now time for us to respond to increased production prices. We just purchased a new batch of feed for our laying flock and will be forced to make an adjustment to our egg prices effective for all new contracts entered after March 24 of this year. Our previous price was $2/dozen for a pre-order of 5 dozen or more delivered over a period of weeks. Our "as available/wanted" price was $2.25. If you haven't checked recently, you will find that this price is actually well below non-organic, medium eggs at the grocery store.

Our new prices, at least until we we have order feed again, will be $3/dozen for the pre-order plan and $3.50 on demand.

Interested parties must also expect changing prices for our meat poultry in the coming year.

EBT Cards

Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards are becoming more prominent in Iowa farmers' markets this season. Sponsored by the Iowa Department of Human Services, this program allows food stamp clients to use their electronic transfer cards at farmers' markets with participating vendors. At the present time, DHS covers electronic transfer fees for approved vendors so that small, local farmers are not penalized by excessive charges.

We have applied for acceptance to this program for the 2008 season and anticipate that we will be accepted. Once we have the equipment (and the requisite training) we will be able to accept EBT cards as well as credit cards. So, if you are cash strapped, this could be an option for you if you are looking to purchase at market. However, we are not entirely familiar with all of the regulations and charges - so don't count on this option until we learn more.

Spring HAS Sprung

While it may not quite FEEL like Spring to all of us, the signs are there! March 24 was our first "Spring" wind day - with strong gusty winds coming from the south. The air has a particular smell and feel that tells us things are changing. We believe this even though we still see a drift of snow as tall as we are in the brush line by the silo.

Our first robin of spring was sited March ? and we heard our first killdeer on the farm on March ?. You know things are changing when you hear robins and red winged blackbirds singing when you go outside in the morning.

A less glamorous indicator has to be the fact that things in the chicken areas are getting a bit slippery again. Ok, you didn't really want to know about that one.

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No Potatoes on Good Friday

The ground is either frozen or sopping wet. There is still snow in parts of our fields. We haven't even received our seed potato order yet. So, no, we did not plant potatoes on Good Friday. But, we thought about it.

News Shorts

  • A GFF CSA share will be an item in the upcoming Self Help International benefit auction on April 10.
  • NIFFP is looking for a Program Coordinator. Email for information.
  • GFF is now listed in Market Maker.
  • Cooperative buy for buffalo on the horizon.
  • Current cooperative beef and pork buys completed.
  • NIFFP kickoff event planned for April 18 - watch email for details.
  • CSA to adopt "Borrow a Bag" concept in 2008.

Tom Sawyer Day I

Our first official Tom Sawyer Day is scheduled for April 25, from 2pm to 6pm. An email announcement will be sent out approximately a week and a half prior to the event. Those interested in participating are strongly encouraged to RSVP so we can plan. If you wish to attend for part or all of the event, you are welcome. If you cannot attend during this time period, please contact us and let us know what you might like to do (and when).

Barn Razing

The old building that came down and bit our truck last summer needs to be cleaned up before we get too far into the season. We need to uncover the irrigation line, salvage useful lumber and clean up the area. It is our hope that we will turn the cement slab into a useful part of our operation for this summer.

We would like to invite willing individuals who would like to participate in some controlled destruction to come out to the farm on April 12 from 1pm to ??. We absolutely NEED to know who is coming, so RSVP if you plan to join us.

Participants in the barn razing should bring gloves and wear appropriate clothing. If you have a favorite crow bar, hammer, etc. please feel free to bring it along. We will be burning the wood that cannot be salvaged and piling up glass and metal for recycling/reuse.

Vol 4 Issue 4 - April 2008


Articles of Interest

We have added a page to our website that will be a holding location for articles of interest that are brought to our attention that we feel have some information of interest to you.

The most recent addition is an article sent to us by Scott Fullwiler that outlines the frustrations of a vegetable farmer who is trying to rent crop land to grow produce. Current farm bill regulations make this nearly impossible. In fact, we can give our own story how base acres and commodity crops impact our local food systems.

Also, if you have not heard of the "Dead Zone" in the Gulf of Mexico, it is time for you to learn. Our agricultural techniques are causing an ever larger portion of the Gulf to become a lifeless waterway.

You can also read how our peers Jill Beebout and Sean Skeehan had to deal with chemical drift on their produce farm. This will continue to happen as long as we allow society to believe that farmers, such as ourselves, are not serious business people.

Read, think and learn.

Featured Recipe

Pasta with Broccoli and Pesto from This Organic Life by J.D. Gussow

Make 1 cup batch of pesto by pureeing the following:

  • 1.5 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tbs pine nuts

Then add to this pesto:

  • 2 tbs butter
  • 2tbs olive oil
  • Blend and then remove to a small bowl.
  • Stir in 1/4 cup mixture grated Parmesan and Pecorino Romano cheese
  • Set this mixture aside

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Core and cut into bite-sized wedges 1 large red ripe tomato

Cut 1 bunch broccoli into small flowerettes and trim broccoli stem into bite sized pieces. Steam until crisp and tender (3-5 minutes)

In a saucepan heat:

  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • add the following to olive oil:
  • 1 clove of finely chopped garlic
  • the prepared broccoli
  • 1/2 tsp hot red pepper flakes
  • Cook over medium heat, stirring gently to warm through. Hold.

Cook 1 pound rigatoni in boiling salted water. Drain, reserving some water to thin pesto.

To serve: Put cooked pasta in a bowl. Add 1-2 tbs hot pasta water to pesto and stir until thinned - then pour over pasta. Salt to taste. Add broccoli, tomato and toss to blend. Serve immediately.

Wanted

  • CSA signups for the 2008 season
  • cattle panels
  • fencing stakes
  • cloth bags for 'borrow a bag' program
  • leaves for mulch/composting
  • old towels (preferably white)

Why don't we? - Zone our towns and cities so that there is a public and/or commercial produce growing area? Include built-in farmers' market locations and shelters with appropriate parking and facilities - then suddenly, your local food system is an expected part of a community.

Vol 4 Issue 4 - April 2008


Subscription News

We have entered the time of year where we no longer reserve spots for the CSA with a deposit. Instead, you must either pay the entire balance or work out an approved payment plan with us.

For those of you who have reserved a spot with a deposit, you should expect to receive a bill in the mail as a reminder as to your remaining balance. If you are in need of a payment plan, please let us know.

If you are still riding the fence, time is running out! Visit the appropriate CSA web pages. You can also download the appropriate forms and mail in your application, deposit and/or payment for a share.

Reduced Price Share Program

The farm has collected $455 towards our Reduced Price Share Program in 2008. Thank you to everyone who has donated towards this program. We will continue to accept these donations until the subscription period closes. With this level of funding, we are able to offer either three small shares or two large shares at half prices (with a payment plan) to low-income subscribers.

If you, or someone you know, is interested, please go here to learn more. If we have no RPSP subscribers this season, we will contribute equivalent produce to the food shelf in Waterloo in addition to our planned donations.

Share a Share!

If you are going to be away for a good portion of the summer, or you are worried that your family cannot eat everything in a share, we'd like you to consider a different option. Why not combine with a neighbor or friends to share a small or large share of produce? The potential advantages are numerous:

  • You can arrange pickups around busy schedules
  • If someone is traveling, the other individual can pick up the produce
  • If you don't like beets, maybe THEY do!
  • Save a few dollars by splitting the price evenly

We only ask that you be responsible for splitting your share equitably and that you give us contact information so that all participants are made to feel that they are a part of the CSA. Contact us if you are looking for someone to share a share!

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CSA Tally Sheet

  Goal Actual
2008 Members 60 37

GFF Stories: Not so Marigolds

Our desire to grow our gardens without chemicals has become stronger over the years, but we held this conviction even with our first garden in Burke, Wisconsin.

Our landlords were kind and had a section of ground tilled up for our garden. We already knew that there were many rabbits in our area and we had nightmarish visions of our entire garden being mowed over by the 'evil' little critters. We didn't really have the money for fencing and we weren't anxious to spray a repellant or kill the bunnies. So, what to do?

Thus begins our first foray into companion planting. We had heard from somewhere (or someone) that marigolds were a good companion plant for vegetable crops. Why? We didn't know. But, when we also heard that rabbits did NOT like marigolds and would tend to avoid them, we formulated a plan.

It was a simple plan that would be the master stroke. It would solve all of our rodent problems! Let's go buy enough marigolds to circle our garden. Surely it would provide us with a natural fence that would keep the critters out, be a friend to our vegetables, AND look pretty as well!

In went the garden. Around it went the marigolds. Marigolds in flats are not all that big - now that you see them in the ground. They were only 2 inches tall - most with a single marigold flower. We spread them out evenly on the border and watered them in well. In one day, we had planted our first garden and we went inside, feeling quite pleased with ourselves.

Our first morning foray into the garden revealed our first gardening tragedy. The tiny peppers were fine. The little tomato plants were fine. The broccoli plants? Well, we lost a couple. The marigolds?

Every last marigold plant had been nipped just above ground level. And, the plants (with now wilted flowers) were neatly lying next to the stem. It was true. Rabbits do not like marigolds.

And they had just seen to their removal.

Vol 4 Issue 4 - April 2008 page 5

The New Organic Grower- Recommended Reading

The New Organic Grower by Eliot Coleman

This new, revised and expanded edition of Coleman's 1989 work is a wonderful find and may give our customers and CSA members a little more insight into our philosophy and how we work. Coleman has long been an advocate that small growers (5 acres) can be highly productive and successful without debilitating amounts of labor.

Oddly enough, I have only read one article by Coleman prior to this work. And, I have yet to finish this book myself. However, each section I read tends to confirm my own beliefs about organic growing and add some new ideas and approaches to my tool box.

Coleman is particularly clever with tool design, adapting many tool ideas he has gleaned from multiple cultures for his own use. Interestingly, many of these designs are appearing in Johnny's catalogue for purchase. You may find that we are using broadforks and a Planet Junior style wheel hoe for the first time this year - and you would find them in this book as well.

For other recommendations from GFF, visit this page.

How Do We Price Our Produce?

This is a question that we receive about ten times a year, typically at farmers' markets. And, usually by someone who believes that our prices are too high (and, they are entitled to their opinion!). We always try to do our best to give a fair answer without excessive detail. But, we thought it would be good to communicate our thought process for market prices here. It may give you some insight on our CSA prices as well.

First, and foremost, for any particular item, we can trace some direct costs to the product. Seed cost is one such item. Jade green beans cost us $18 and Mountain Sweet Yellow watermelon cost us $28. On the other hand, Italian Heirloom tomato seeds cost only $3, but we must also buy organic seed starting soil, seed starting trays, transplanting pots and pay for electricity/water for the seed starting process.

Another aspect has to do with the anticipated returns for each item. For example, watermelons only produce one long season crop. Last year, our 250 seed purchase returned 76 saleable fruit. For the tomatoes, we picked over 600 saleable fruit from 30 plants/seeds. So, even though the direct cost ended up being significantly higher, the cost was spread over more units sold. And, tomatoes can be harvested over a longer season, presenting less risk.

The amount of labor can be highly variable for each item we produce. Consider the fact that watermelons require hilling, planting, weeding (perhaps two well-timed sessions), irrigation in a dry year and picking. Overall, they present a fairly easy challenge in terms of labor - though their weight must be reckoned with in picking and moving them. Tomatoes, on the other hand, require seeding, weeks of watering in pots, two transplants, mulching, staking, pruning and potentially acrobatic picking. They present unique transportation issues and they also have a higher transportation loss than most vegetables. On the other hand, beans are not labor intensive until you consider the picking process. They have to be completely picked to continue harvest and they have to be picked often. It takes longer to pick beans than it does most other vegetables. Don't underestimate the labor until you've picked a few 60 foot rows.

There are, of course, overhead costs that must be distributed throughout the entire operation. Gasoline, electricity, water, insurance, labor, equipment, organic certification and building costs must all be distributed to the product price.

Then, we have to consider supply, demand and the prices being set by grocery stores and other vendors at market. Granted, some of our market prices are more carefully considered than others. But, we can honestly say that we carefully consider prices for items that we sell most consistently. On the other hand, we have less experience with okra (for example), so we have much less data to work out values.

And now you know.

K & K Gardens

In a former life, Tammy and I concentrated more of our efforts on perennial gardens, delighting in their foliage and flowers. Now, we concentrate much more on vegetables, but we still appreciate a well tended and planned bed of flowers, plants and bushes.

If you enjoy perennials and landscaping, then you should take the time to visit K & K Gardens in Hawkeye, Iowa. Keith and Kelli run the business out of their home and use the beautiful gardens in their yard to showcase their wares. We are amazed by the changes in their gardens and their business (we still remember Keith putting in the ponds).

Take the time to visit their show gardens this spring, summer and fall. Take a look at the plants and gift items they offer. You will find that they are friendly, knowledgeable and honest. In fact, we can point you to plants we have purchased from them and placed into our own landscaping (providing the weeds do not overtake them!).

9 Chickweed Lane cartoon