WEEK TWO . . . CSA Up & Running!

According to a report released May 14, 2020 by the Organic Produce Network and Category Partners, supermarket organic produce sales in April increased by 20.5% in volume. Conventional produce volume was up 15.4%. The top four categories for the organic movement were packaged salads, carrots, apples and bananas. These four categories were responsible for more than half (52%) of the total organic retail volume.

You will not find apples and bananas in our CSA Boxes. Unfortunately, our carrots will  not be as big nor as pretty as the ones available in the retail stores. We keep trying, but do find it next to impossible to produce carrots like those. And our salads will not be “packaged” in a plastic clam shell.  Our greens shall require a triple wash on the part of our CSA Members. However, when it comes to salads, we shall claim the prize!

20200523_192050

I recommend washing and chopping everything in your first CSA Boxes for some of the best salads you have ever tasted! Get creative and add the toppings of your choice. You might find some ideas under the Recipes “F – L” for greens and lettuces. The chois, endive, and tastoi are all hardy enough to stand up to the addition of protein such as grilled chicken tenders if there are meat eaters in the family. If a sweet tooth is more your style, try adding Craisins or even a light drizzle of honey to mix in with your dressing of choice. On the other hand, if you prefer to cook your greens, we have some suggestions for that method of preparation as well. To each his own–simply ENJOY!

As said before, I suggest reading prior Blogs as the contents of the CSA Boxes will be similar for the couple of boxes. Different greens will be added as they mature, but “spring time” is “greens time” in WNC. Included in this week’s veggies will be Ching Chang (spoon-shaped stems), Black Summer (spoon-shaped stems with darker leaves), Joi Choi (whitest stems), Tatsoi (darkest leaves–it looks like spinach), spring onions, and green kale–maybe some red kale. Wash, chop, and mix all together for a culinary delight!

20200523_193657

The wildflowers are blooming and all of our CSA Members have now received their Start Date for the Cane Creek Asparagus & Company CSA 2020 Harvest Season. The soil seems to have accepted the five inches of rather gentle rain we have gotten over the past days. We really DO NOT need or want anymore, however. Robert was diligent about ditching to remove water which certainly helped. It is a muddy job. I could do a CSA Farmer TIDE commercial.

 

 

WEEK ONE . . . Farm To Table Fresh!

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, food costs increased Month to Month, March 2019 vs. March 2020. It may make you feel better to consider that in the USA we have some of the least expensive food (% of income) in the world even if supply chains can be complicated.
20200517_151938
Fortunately, if you are the member of a local CSA, you have a very short supply chain–farm to table! This means you get the freshest vegetables possible and the most nutrition for your family. When in a CSA, you will probably get some vegetables you have never eaten before. Or perhaps you have eaten them in an Asian stirfry at a restaurant, but just never purchased and prepared them in your own kitchen. A culinary adventure awaits!
20200517_153727

Everything we put into the CSA Box is edible. You can see after chopping off the stems, I have only about one cup of refuse. If you will wash the ends under running water as you remove them, you will rinse off the majority of the soil before putting the greens into the first rinse water. If you want your water colder, toss in a few ice cubes. Greens looking a bit limp will perk right up!

20200517_154945 (2)
The veggies are smaller this first week, but they are rapidly growing in size and we have decided it is time to begin. Our first CSA Boxes are going out this week! Included will be Ching Chang (spoon-shaped stems), Black Summer (spoon-shaped stems with darker leaves), Joi Choi (whitest stems),  Tatsoi (darkest leaves–it looks like spinach), spring onions, and green kale–maybe some red kale. Wash, chop, and mix all together for the best Spring Salads EVER!
Keep an eye on your email so you don’t miss your CSA Start Up Date. You will be asked to RSVP to the email so that I know you know when your first veggies are being harvested. If you do not get an email this week, you will get one next week. Remember it takes two weeks to get our entire CSA up and operating–so do not think you have been forgotten!

Consolidated Ag vs. Independent Farmers

At the risk of sounding flippant, let me say perhaps the Coronavirus is a blessing in disguise as it reveals a major vulnerability in our nation’s food supply chain. The consolidation of growers and producers has created bottlenecks which can lead to food shortages, euthanization of farm animals, and food insecurity. Without getting into “the weeds” of economics, supply and demand, and safety regulations, let me attempt to explain why this is occurring.

20200517_152252

Mass production of our food has become centralized into a handful of companies. Enter COVID-19 and the economy grinding to a halt. Stay-at-home orders are issued and food processing businesses across the country close their doors due to infections among some of their approximately 880,000 workers. The thing is fruits, vegetables, and farm animals do not stop growing just because the world is under quarantine. One might ask, “Well, why can’t the food just stay on the farms a bit longer?”

If you have ever grown a garden, you know that when the crop is ready to be harvested, it is ready! There is no waiting around. The crops needs to be harvested and eaten or processed for later usage. When growing is consolidated into the hands of large companies and their workers are not available to perform the harvest or the processing plants are not operational, the fruits and vegetables will likely rot in the fields.

Meat producers have their own problems with delays. Their processing industry (slaughter houses) have become centralized in a handful of companies and those companies have standardized their processes. For example, they require a certain weight of an animal  for the machinery to operate efficiently. If the animals are not taken to market in a timely fashion, because of say an epidemic, this creates a bottleneck in the supply chain. As the producers wait for the packing houses to come back online, the animals they are currently raising will become too large for the machinery.  Thus, the packing houses will not accept them. Add to the situation, these handful of large processing companies have forced smaller local processors out of the business due to inefficiencies of operation precisely because they are smaller.

In the United States, roughly 75% of all pork is processed by four companies. And roughly 60% of all carrots are grown by one company. Fortunately, here in Appalachia  de-centralized and more local farm-to-table independent operations are encouraged and supported by groups like Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, Buncombe Country Farmland Preservation Program, and Mountain Valleys Resource Conservation and Development.

We have a great deal for which to be thankful. However, local independent farmers cannot feed the entire community. There simply are not enough people who have the knowledge and energy and can afford to do so. The entire food supply business model needs to be re-envisioned with less consolidation which, of course, means all of our food will cost more. Our priorities need to be reassessed. Food supplies should be local to the area across the entire world. Just my thoughts of the day . . .

And yes, we have “weeds” in the orchard and “weeds” in the blueberries! Mowing them down is simply not a priority at this time of the year!

20200517_152247

 

 

Potatoes Planted

We do not think our gardens were hurt by the recent cold temps. This is a very good thing! Potatoes were planted Monday: two and one-half rows of red potatoes, two rows of Russet potatoes, and one row of Yukon Gold potatoes. Yes, it is later than we would have preferred, but the seed was late in arriving. Apparently, more people are ordering seeds of all types this year. One would think a customer of over twenty years would be given priority, but I suppose “the virus” has lots of people in a tizzy and operating on a different routine. Next job is to lay down the black fabric between the potato rows. This will help keep the weeds down and make harvest a bit cleaner for the Farmer!

20200512_164029

Look at the difference 2 or 3 weeks can make. The onions practically grow before ones eyes! I will say once again, we no longer grow any asparagus! I talk about this more on the website. Also, one more time . . . our family farm is not certified organic or transitioning to organic. We use organic inputs and we have NEVER used the chemicals on our land that some farmers have used and, thus, they need to “transition away from.”

20200512_163306

May 15 to May 18 is considered the last frost date in WNC. We are almost there and we shall rest easier after that date has passed. The gardens are growing nicely. Do not worry, if you have received a Welcome email from me, you will get a direct email from me whenever we do start up the CSA Boxes–bags, actually. Remember CSA Members are no longer taking the CSA Box home–just the bags of veggies. I have some attachment to those boxes. More than once I have been walking down a street carrying one of the boxes only to have someone shout at me from across the street, “I have eaten veggies from that box!” Our vegetables get shared. And people seem to remember eating them!

Keep an eye on your email.  Perhaps next week some of you will get your Startup Date.  If not then, perhaps the last week of May.

 

Frost Warning & Veggie Payments

Families are starting to ask me when we will be starting the CSA.  We are looking at perhaps two more weeks or it might be three depending on where you fall in the every-other-week cycle. Please remember it always takes two full weeks to get our CSA up and running once we start harvesting vegetables. Each and every CSA Member will get a direct email from me when their first box is harvested. AND YOU WILL BE ASKED TO REPLY TO THAT EMAIL so that I know you know your first veggies are on their way!

Our production and harvest is all in Mother Nature’s hands at this point. We trust we will have our expectations and your expectations met; but if they are not, we trust we shall get what we “need.”  You have probably heard there is a Frost Warning for this weekend. There is always plenty of uncertainty in our world of farming. However, we believe our early crops can handle a short, quick hit of freezing temps.

20200504_180904

As stated on the CaneCreekCSA.com website, we no longer grow asparagus–but, we have no intention of going to the trouble to change our Fairview family farm name. We ask you understand the “& Company” covers the many other varieties of produce which we have always grown!

Cane Creek Asparagus & Company has always been extremely flexible when it comes to accepting payment for our CSA Veggies. We do request checks be written for at least the entire month–payable on the first pickup of the month.

For those CSA Members who intend to use a bank draft to pay for their CSA Veggies, please get those started in mid-May.  With our every-other-week system there are usually two pickups/deliveries each month. There will be one month with three boxes. We don’t know how many boxes you will get in May–one maybe two. If you start now with the bank drafts, it will probably work out that we are getting payment in a timely fashion. It always takes the banks some time to get the checks started.  You can always settle up at the end of the season if there is a deficit due to the three box month. Then again, if there is only one box in May, that will take care of itself. Email me if you have any questions.

20200503_195405

So far things are looking good in the gardens. Still many plants to go into the soil and many direct seeded crops waiting to be seeded as well. This is a busy, busy time on our family farm with plants in all stages of  growth. You will see some produce at farmer’s markets now. We do not grow or sell  “single crops.” We attempt to provide a large variety of vegetables in each CSA Box/Bag–thus, the wait!

Unprecedented Consumer Behavior

According to the 2020 Q1 Organic Produce Performance Report released by the Organic Produce Network and Category Partners, total organic fresh produce sales in retail stores are up 22%. A rise like this in consumer purchasing behavior has never been experienced in the modern era of grocery retailing, according to QPN. Just FYI.

20200424_185223

No, we did not need the rain which arrived Wednesday afternoon and evening–in case anyone is wondering. This was my view from the greenhouse before the rains. Recall that neat circle of strawberries I planted two years ago? Now they have taken over all available space! The wildlife gets most of them, unfortunately. I wonder how commercial growers deal with these pests in their strawberries?

20200426_174457

This photo is an indication of Robert’s recent ‘greenhouse to the garden’ transplanting efforts. Each tray holds 500 plants. Things have been extremely busy around here. Meanwhile, additional new seedbeds are being continuously started in the greenhouse and my transplanting continues there. All willing hands on deck in planting season!

20200426_121428

The narrow black tube running down the middle of the row of plants is part of our underground drip irrigation system. Vegetables love limited amounts of rain from the heavens. When the rain stops, however, we are prepared to water them while being conscious of our water usage. The plants look small in this photo, but rest assured they grow rapidly when removed from their tiny cells and placed into the great wide open space of the garden.

20200426_123757

I suggest reading previous Blog entries to get information regarding farm happenings and suggestions for CSA Members. We do not send out a weekly newsletter. Information is posted on this Blog for those interested in it to find and read. Members do get a Welcome Email and each CSA Member will get a Start-Up Email with a “Reply Requested” once we begin preparing the CSA Boxes in late-May.

Pantry Preparation & Crisis Invention

No one is going to the grocery store as much as we once did. For that reason, I suggest you look over some of the recipes on our website or in your own cookbooks and see if there are items you might want to go ahead and purchase for your panty in preparation of receiving CSA Veggies in late May.

We like to recommend everyone to have a thermometer in their refrigerator to monitor the proper food safety temperature. Very often it seems some one CSA Member has a refrigerator which fails to maintain the proper temperature. Thermometers can be purchased at ACE Hardware or perhaps the grocery store in the gadgets section.

Hefty Bags 20170512_185538

We like these bags for storing greens and other vegetables. They are large enough to handle anything we will send your way. I prefer to wash my greens when they first arrive and store them in the jumbo bags clean and ready to prepare for a meal. If you are in a hurry, you can store them unwashed. We do rinse the worst of the soil off the greens, but you will find it necessary to do a triple wash before consuming. When you perform this step is your choice.

If you find the removal the remaining Fairview soil tedious and boring, I have two suggestions. The first is to approach this task with a mindfully contemplative or meditative state of mind. During the washing process, consider the weeks and months of various steps it took to get this healthy, nutritious food from tiny seeds to edible produce in your family’s kitchen. My second recommendation would be to put on your favorite music and jam away! Usually it takes three rinses to satisfy me, but to each his own.

20190515_202624

While in the “bag aisle” of the grocery, I would suggest picking up some pint and quart freezer bags, too. Leftovers are wonderful to have, but another option is to freeze excess prepared food to consume at a later time. If you do this, however, use appropriate packaging to preserve the quality of the food. Check out my recipes under “F” for “Freezing” for more of my thoughts on the subject.

20180606_124241 (2)_LI

Due to Covid-19 we will be practicing Physical Distancing at all pick up locations. Also as a “Crisis Invention, ” CSA Members will no longer be taking these “famous” cardboard CSA Boxes home. Instead, we ask that you pull the plastic bag straight up and out of the box. You might find it helpful to “plant” a foot on either side of the box to steady it while removing the bag. I will still use the boxes when packing the vegetables and transporting them to the drop off sites. However, CSA Members will no longer need to remember to return their empty boxes!

The sad thing is the veggies arrived neatly packed and looked so pretty when in the boxes. Members say it is like opening a gift! Once the bag is pulled out of the box, however, they will fall in all directions . . . oh well, the price we shall pay. I am sorry for this presentation disruption, but consider all of the “box handling time” we shall all be saving!

It did rain here yesterday, again, and more is predicted. KCCO . . .