Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Farm Report

Farm News . . .

The view from the tractor seat in the hayfield is not much different that the one from the driveway - brown fields, brownish-orangey trees, small clouds of driveway dust or field dirt left in the wake of a vehicle moving through. The patches of green on the farm are the rows of vegetables in the crop fields, the weeds that take advantage of a drought situation, or the patch of Johnson grass at the end of the field where the irrigation pipe connects to the water drip line that stretches out the length of the row. We still watch the weather forecast hopeful that some rain will come, but continue our work with the assumption that the dryness will continue.
John operates the irrigation systems regularly. So far, the Elkhorn Creek that runs along the southern border of the farm seems to offer plenty of water. This probably has to do with some rains that occurred upstream a couple of weeks ago and helped to recharge its flow. Ironically, we were rained on twice at CSA basket distribution at the farmers market when several strong rains came through Lexington. Unfortunately at the farm we received only one-tenth of one inch – hardly a measurable amount. That same system brought 3.5 inches to a friend’s farm located several miles to the southeast of Elmwood – he jokes that his farm is an oasis compared to those around here. The key is that just one good rainfall can make a huge difference to so many things.
We continue to plant for fall harvest and plant crops that are started in fall but not harvested until next spring. Each seed gets watered at planting, of course, and several crops have been replanted since cool weather veggies are difficult to germinate when air temperatures continue to be in the 90’s. Some crops are direct seeded in the field and some are started in tray cells for transplanting later. We have started onions and leeks for next spring and transplanted strawberries into the high tunnel. More work for ’08 crops is yet to come.
Agriculture leaders around the state are as concerned as farmers about the poor condition of soils, lack of water, livestock health, and the future of Kentucky with the drought situation. Those that monitor such things point out we are in the midst of one of the top ten years in drought conditions and one of the top ten years in high temperatures – but this is the first to have both extremes occurring at the same time resulting in a serious situation. State government officials, university deans, and farm group representatives are getting together in emergency meetings to assess the problems and research solutions.
There is a huge lack of hay in the entire region, not just the state of Kentucky. Lack of rainfall throughout the year has resulted in maybe 1 cutting of mixed grass rather than 2 with only 50% yield in that one harvest – overall only 25% production of a normal year. Legumes like alfalfa are yielding only 50% or less of normal amounts with less cuttings overall. For those farmers that can find someone willing to sell hay, current prices are up to 300% higher than a normal season. This shortage in hay to feed livestock through the winter means that farmers are forced to sell their cattle, hogs, sheep, and goats. Farmers sold off most lower quality livestock earlier in the summer when they did not have grasses in the pastures to graze. Several farms have been feeding their winter hay supply over the last month or more, as the pastures are parched, dry, and offer no nutritional value to the animals. Since rain has not come, now farms are being forced with the decision to sell their highest quality cattle too – the best breeding stock cows that they have been selecting over the years to create a top-notch herd.

In Your Basket . . .

Red Beets –organic – new for everyone!
Beets contain lots of natural sugars and sweeten up to taste yummy when roasted. Try baking 350 for an hour or more until easily pierced with a fork. Rub off skins and serve sliced. Another option is to slice into bite sized pieces, cover with olive oil, and oven roast at 400 degrees for 15-30 minutes until tender. Serve with garlic powder or salt and pepper to taste.
The beet tops are edible and can be mixed with your Swiss chard. Beets should be refrigerated and use the tops within a few days – the beet roots can be stored for weeks.

Sweet Bell Pepper – organic

Green Cabbage – organic
These are small heads, but densely tight. Keep in the refrigerator in a cool spot and cabbage stays fresh for weeks.

Sweet Basil - organic


Swiss Chard - organic

Sweet Corn
This is the last harvest of the year is a bicolor variety. Some ears have a little worm damage and some do not but we trimmed them all for you just in case. Enjoy this last bit of summer!

Your Choice Basket:
Hot Peppers

Larger Baskets Only:
Easter Egg Radishes - organic
Romaine Lettuce - organic

Recipes to Enjoy . . .

Fried Beets and Carrots
From Asparagus to Zucchini

2 T olive oil
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 medium beets, quartered, slice ¼ inch thick
2 medium carrots, sliced ¼ inch thick
tamari sauce
(optional) beet tops, fresh spinach or Swiss chard

Heat olive oil in skillet. Add cumin; cook about 1 minute. Add beets and carrots; fry until tender. Remove from heat, sprinkle on a little tamari and serve. Optional: When beets and carrots are tender, add chopped greens, cover and cook until soft. Toss mixture, sprinkle with tamari, and serve. Makes 2-4 servings.

Salad Mix with Beets and Feta
from Rock Spring Farm

2 tsp red wine vinegar
3 Tbs. olive or nut oil
1 lb baked red beets
3 cups salad mix
1/4 lb feta cheese, crumbled
Whisk together the vinegar and oil to make a
Vinaigrette. Add salt to taste. Slice the beets thinly and toss with a little bit of the vinaigrette. Combine the greens with the vinaigrette, and arrange over the beet slices. Crumble feta on top.

Blanched, Buttered Cabbage
from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook by Marion Cunningham – she writes that cabbage results in a beautiful color, mild taste, and this is a marvelous method for those who are dubious about cabbage.

2 pounds cabbage, cored
4 slice bacon, optional
4 T butter, melted
salt to taste
½ tsp freshly ground pepper

Bring a big pot of water to boil. Tear the cabbage leaves into large pieces. If you use the bacon, fry it until crisp; drain, crumble, and set aside. Plunge cabbage into the boiling water for only 30 seconds; drain immediately. Return to the pot and toss with the melted butter, salt and pepper. Serve hot.