Monday, May 25, 2015

CSA News & Farm Report, Week 4

Early Season Crop Report

Periodically throughout the season we like to give you a glimpse of how the crops are progressing and how the farm is fairing from the weather we are getting. The annuals are delayed by the excessively wet April and the perennials are a bit behind normal, whatever normal means. With a strong El Nino in the Pacific again this year, severe lingering cold winters may be the new normal. All in all, we are off to a great start, just a few weeks delayed in some crops getting underway.

Our new seeding room performed as designed with a special chamber for germination we constructed, and we see excellent germination yields with the delicate little seeds. The soil mix contains some of our homemade compost which can be a little tricky to get the blend just right, and this year the transplants are going to the field with great color and a strong stem and root ball. Uniformity in plant size helps us adjust the planting implements such that the plants go into the ground at the right depth and spacing within the row, appropriate to the species. Some of the early season crops, like spinach, beets, peas, and radish, do not transplant well and must be direct seeded. These, along with the lettuces, kales, cabbages, broccoli, and other such items all went into the ground during a handful of short window(s) of opportunity in mid-April and early May. The Mycorrhizae fungi in the soil are doing a good job helping the roots feed the plants and beneficial insects seem to be keeping most potential pests at bay. Faster maturing crops are coming ready for your shares now, and you should see something new each week as we progress into the summer.

Once we were caught up with the frost tolerant plantings it was immediately time to get the “summer stuff” out. We were scarily hot and dry earlier this month, but it did allow us to get the fields prepped for planting, and then setting out the first of several varieties of squash, tomato, pepper, melons, green beans, and the favorite sweet corn. There are no biological or natural enemies to control cucumber beetles for us Kentucky cucurbit farmers, so after planting we loosely stretch 50 foot wide thin mesh fabric across several rows to physically keep the adult beetles away from the tender young plants. (We don’t like to think about the highly toxic compounds most commercial farmers are “recommended” to use.) The row cover stays on until the crop begins to flower, then is removed to allow the bees to pollinate them. Squash have male and female flowers and are only open and viable for one day. The bees are the vehicle to put the pollen where it goes. If this does not happen, no squash, melons, or cucumbers! We are grateful to host one of Beekeeper Nick’s bee yards, and he says the bees like being here.

This condensed and busy planting season also includes sowing prior crop fields in legumes like alfalfa and clover for subsequent grazing, hay, or cropping. Organic corn for the chickens has to be planted somewhere. Some of the prime alfalfa fields are being baled right now for the first of several cuttings we hope to get this year. From here on out during hay season, we are checking the weather on our phones, dozens of times a day to monitor the possibility of rain, to decide when to cut the next field, and when it is dry enough to rake and bale.

The heritage turkey hatch is going great, the brooder room upgrade over the winter is performing as planned, and the pastures are lush and fantastic this time of year for grazing. For those with egg shares, know that the small pullet eggs are a true treat, the compact flavor of the firm texture is phenomenal. Don’t let the smaller size fool you, and as the hens mature the egg size increases.

We have a great crop of young people helping out in the packing shed, working at the markets, and delivering shares – most having their first experience on an organic farm. Just as UK Coach Calipari says, it is a lot of responsibility to bring dynamic young people together with high expectations of performance demanded of them, and help them grow and learn from experiences they never imagined they would have.

All-in-all, we are off to a good start albeit many things are a couple of weeks behind “normal”. Enjoy each crop when it is in its prime (asparagus and strawberries have been great the last couple of weeks!) as we are really just getting started.

In Your Share

Salad Mix
Sweet Potatoes
Purple Top White Turnips


Roasted Sweet Potato, Goat Cheese & Spinach Sandwiches Thanks to a CSA member for sharing this recipe she adapted from, and describes as “yummy with spinach!” Makes 4 sandwiches.
2 medium-sized sweet potatoes (3/4 - 1 pound total), scrubbed clean
1/4 packed C sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
3 oz goat cheese
8 slices hearty whole-grain bread
1-2 tsp honey
a few handfiuls spinach
Heat oven to 400°F. Brush a baking sheet with some of the oil from the tomatoes and set aside. Slice the sweet potatoes into rounds 1/4" to 1/2" thick. Lay them on the baking sheet in a single layer. Brush the tops with more oil, and sprinkle with salt. Bake until the rounds are browned, tender, and look toasted on the undersides, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Meanwhile, mince the tomatoes into small pieces, and then mash them into the goat cheese in a small bowl. Set aside. To assemble, spread two slices of bread with a tablespoon of the tomato-goat cheese mixture. Add a layer of sweet potato rounds to one of the slices, overlapping them slightly. Drizzle a little honey over the sweet potatoes. Top with a handful of spinach and the second slice of bread. Repeat as needed to make more sandwiches. Eat immediately or wrap the sandwiches and eat within 4 hours. Ingredients can be prepared ahead and kept in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Crustless Sweet Potato, Goat Cheese and Rosemary Quiche Thanks to a CSA member for sharing this quiche recipe from, makes 6 servings.
2 T extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes (about 1 pound)
3/4 tsp kosher salt, divided
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
4 large eggs
2/3 C milk
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
4 oz goat cheese, crumbled
1 T fresh rosemary, chopped
Wash and peel the sweet potatoes, then cut them into 1/4-inch cubes. Toss the pieces with 1½ T olive oil and ½ tsp kosher salt. Spread on a baking sheet in a single layer, then roast at 400°F until soft, about 20 minutes. Set aside. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F. In a large skillet, heat the remaining ½ T olive oil over medium. Add the sliced onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden, about 20 minutes. Set aside. Layer the sweet potatoes in the bottom of a greased pie plate, then sprinkle the caramelized onions, goat cheese, and rosemary over the top. Whisk together the eggs, milk, nutmeg, and remaining ¼ tsp kosher salt. Pour the egg mixture over the quiche, then carefully place the quiche on a large baking sheet. Bake at 375°F for 45 to 55 minutes, until the quiche puffs up and just barely jiggles. Remove from the oven and let sit 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Fresh Strawberry Cobbler Thanks to a CSA member for sharing this delicious recipe, her family now calls it her “signature dessert!”
2 ½ C fresh strawberries
1 c sugar
1 C all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 C milk
½ C butter, melted
Cream (whipped cream or ice cream, if desired)
Wash and hull fresh strawberries. Put aside in a bowl. Heat oven to 375°F. In large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and milk. Stir in melted butter until blended. Spread in ungreased 8-inch square pan. Spoon strawberries over batter. Bake 45 to 55 minutes or until golden. Serve warm with cream.

Simple Sweet Potato Salad, serves 6 (
2 C medium-diced sweet potatoes
½ C raisins
2/3 C finely diced red onions
1/3 C finely diced celery
2 tsp freshly grated ginger
½ C mayonnaise
1 T finely chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook potatoes in boiling water until they are fork tender. Drain and let cool completely. Meanwhile, soak the raisins in hot water for 15 minutes, then drain. Combine all ingredients by folding together thoroughly but gently. Allow salad to chill in refrigerator for 24 hours before serving.

Braised Turnips with Poppy-Seed Bread Crumbs, Serves 4 from Gourmet Magazine
3 T unsalted butter
2 lb. medium turnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch wedges
1 ½ C water
1 T fresh lemon juice
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 C fine fresh bread crumbs from a baguette
1 T poppy seeds
1 T chopped flat-leaf parsley
Melt butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, then add turnips, water, lemon juice, and ½ tsp salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, 30 minutes. Increase heat to medium and stir turnips, then briskly simmer, uncovered, until all of liquid has evaporated and turnips are glazed and just tender, 20 to 35 minutes. For breadcrumbs, heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat until it shimmers, then cook garlic, stirring, until pale golden, about 1 minute. Add bread crumbs and poppy seeds and cook, stirring frequently, until golden, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in parsley and salt to taste. Just before serving, sprinkle bread crumbs over turnips.

Asparagus and Strawberry Salad, (
¼ C sugar
2 T cider vinegar
1 T poppy seeds
1½ tsp sesame seeds
¾ tsp grated onion
¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp Worcestershire sauce
¼ C vegetable oil
1 lb fresh asparagus, trimmed
1 pint strawberries, hulled and sliced
¼ C crumbled blue cheese, feta, or goat cheese (optional)
In a jar with tight-fitting lid, combine the sugar, vinegar, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, onion, salt if desired, paprika and Worcestershire sauce; shake until sugar is dissolved. Add the oil; shake well. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour.
In a skillet, cook the asparagus in a small amount of water until crisp-tender, about 6-8 minutes; drain well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Arrange the asparagus and strawberries on a serving plate; sprinkle with cheese if desired. Pour the dressing over all.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Week 3, CSA News



Green labeling in the retail food sector has become something of a competitive sport these days. Where on the continuum does do the various marketing claims fit? Is it better to have Grass-Fed Certification, be Animal Welfare Approved , be Certified Naturally grown, have vegetarian fed hens, and isn’t Organic Certification the Gold Standard? Whose food is greener, better for the environment, better for the farmer? Qualifiers seem to be chopping up the conversation into sound bites, rather than an all-encompassing transparent dialogue about food production and processing. With hours of volunteer work put into developing regulations and educating both farmers and consumers, we have developed a good understanding of how valuable an organic system can be, and we’re pretty passionate about Certified Organic. We include the USDA Organic logo (see above) every week as a reminder!

The marketing programs behind the tag lines mentioned above, along with countless others, are, to their credit, nudging the agricultural sustainability needle in a positive direction. Be it less harsh chemical usage, improved animal welfare standards, or decreased dependency on the GMO laden industrial grain complex, these labels are helping convert acreage to a more sustainable system of food production.  But what do they mean?

Organic is owned by the USDA by federal law, who administers a strict set of regulations that are overseen by the 15 member National Organic Standards Board, carried out by an Accredited Certification Agency, with third party inspections for verification. This is a thorough and tedious process that involves verification of every input and an audit of that process. Only producers, stores or products that are certified organic can legally use the word as a descriptor. Organic Certification has the weight of Federal Law behind it with hefty fines for operations that fail to abide by the regulations. The regulations are openly debated by the Board with input from farmers, consumer advocacy groups, food processors, and retailers. These debates are ongoing since their inception in 1995. Transcripts are available on the USDA website where you can follow the conversation on how best to produce food without using toxic chemicals and maintaining the highest animal welfare standards, verification procedures for grass-fed claims, and many, many more topics.

Sustainably Grown- This means the farm or processor decides what they consider sustainable and make you think what they want you to: is it almost organic? Who knows? Use of GMO is considered a sustainable practice in some circles – again, who knows what sustainably grown means?

Natural USDA allows food products to use this term for meats when nothing was added to the product after it was harvested. There is no oversight about how produce is produced or how an animal is raised with regard to antibiotics, genetically modified grains, hormones, or animal welfare issues, fertilizers, pesticides, etc.

Certified Naturally Grown is a membership organization where growers self-declare their interest to follow the USDA organic regulations, without the force of law and enforcement. On farm verification is performed by other members of the organization.

Cage Free, Free Range, Free Roaming are terms for laying hens that are loose in a ‘house’ that often contains thousands if not tens of thousands of birds that share an egg laying box with other hens but never go outside nor have space to exhibit their “chickenness” as Joel Salatin would say. 

Vegetarian Fed Hens – laying hens that are not fed any animal, fish, or insect proteins. However, chickens are omnivores, not vegetarians.

Pastured Poultry- Layers, broilers, or turkeys that have access to pasture and consume plants, insects, and can scratch in the dirt for dusting or can exhibit their chickenness. Extra care must be given during extreme weather conditions.

Grass Fed - The American Grassfed Association has a great program to produce heart-healthy meats with no grain in the diet. The issue for cattle and sheep is when feeding grain, it changes the pH of the digestive system, therefore altering the fatty acids in the meat in a way that tends to be less healthy for humans to consume. The audits do not take into account fertilizers and pesticides to produce the hay and pasture or use of systemic parasite control compounds, typically used in commercial agriculture.

Locally Grown- For large grocery stores this generally means an eight-hour truck drive from the distribution center, not sure about the farm location. It could also mean grown in the US. We think locally grown means you have a relationship with a farmer, such as you might drive by and see their farm, or engage them in conversation at a market, or your local grocer gives you information and possibly a photo of the farm that grows the items you purchase.

Certified Angus Beef means the animal was all or mostly black and meets a certain meat quality standard. This gives a consistency in the marketplace, but says nothing about how the animals were raised.

The list goes on and on. Many of the label claims one sees are to appeal to certain customers as they make their food purchasing decisions. It seems that in some instances, retail perception of food is driving farm policy for many claims. A Certified Organic farmer is producing food in this way because the biology speaks for itself, and the verification is strictly enforced on behalf of that consumer. With so many attributes of Certified Organic that address synthetic chemical avoidance, non-GMO seed usage, animal welfare standards, truth-in-labeling, and so much more, Certified Organic is the gold standard labeling. There is just so, so much behind it. And we are proud to bring it to you weekly.

In Your Share

Green Garlic
Kale Greens
Salad Mix


Kale and Green Garlic Pizza, serves 6-8 (
1 recipe of pizza dough, rolled out
Chopped or sliced fresh tomatoes
Mozzarella cheese
1 bunch green garlic, thinly sliced
About 5 kale leaves, de-ribbed and chopped
A handful of fresh basil
Place dough on baking sheet and cook for 8-10 minutes at 450°F for 8-10 minutes. Add toppings and bake for another 8 minutes, or until crust is crispy and cheese is melted. Alternatively, this pizza can be cooked on the grill (grill one side of crust first until charred, then add toppings to charred side and grill until dough is cooked through).  

Strawberry Cake, makes two 9-inch loaves (
2 C fresh strawberries
3 1/8 C all-purpose flour
2 C white sugar
1 T ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 C vegetable oil
4 eggs, beaten 
1 1/4 C chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter and flour two 9 x 5-inch loaf pans. Slice strawberries and place in medium-sized bowl. Sprinkle lightly with sugar, and set aside while preparing batter. Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt and baking soda in large bowl; mix well. Blend oil and eggs into strawberries. Add strawberry mixture to flour mixture, blending until dry ingredients are just moistened. Stir in pecans. Divide batter into pans. Bake in preheated oven until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes (test each loaf separately). Let cool in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Turn loaves out of pans, and allow to cool before slicing.

Roasted Asparagus and Potatoes with Parmesan
1 lb asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 lb gold potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 T olive oil
1/3 C grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in upper third. Toss together asparagus, potatoes, oil and ½ tsp each of salt and pepper in a large shallow baking pan, spreading evenly. Roast, stirring once, 20 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese and roast until cheese is melted and golden in spots about 3 minutes more. Serve Immediately.

Barley Salad with Radishes and Green Garlic, ingredient amounts are flexible (
Green garlic
Lemon juice and zest
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
Pecorino cheese
Cook barley in water or stock and drain. Trim and quarter radishes; cut green garlic into thin slices on the diagonal. Sauté radishes and garlic in olive oil over high heat until the edges begin to brown. Toss with barley and season with lemon, salt, and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and serve with shavings of pecorino cheese.

Wilted Kale with Coconut, Ginger, and Lime, serves 4 (
½ C coconut milk, divided, plus 1 T
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1 tsp canola oil
1 seeded minced jalapeño
2 tsp minced ginger
8 C kale, destemmed and chopped
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1/4 C water
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1/2 tsp sugar
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Click to see savings2 tsp lime juice
1/8 tsp kosher salt
Heat a Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add 1 T coconut milk and the canola oil. Add jalapeño and ginger; cook 1 minute. Add kale; cook 2 minutes. Add 1/4 C coconut milk, water, and sugar; cover and cook 4 minutes. Stir in 1/4 C coconut milk, lime juice, and kosher salt.