Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Happy First Day of Spring!

Snow Drop
Can you believe it?  We made it through another winter and the promises of new growth, green vegetables, warmth and the adventures of another CSA season are in our near future.  Yesterday Richard found the first spring flowers of the season.  We have some pretty little Snow Drops poking through on our hillside.  They are the earliest flowers to bloom each year, which means the daffodils, crocuses and tulips will follow very soon.  As I was preparing dinner last night, Richard passed through the kitchen and said, “Spring is Coming, Isn’t this exiting?!  I love growing things!”  While winter never seems long enough to make it through our long “To Do List,” we always welcome spring and the refreshing sense of newness that comes with it.

The overwintered spinach with new growth!

Look closely to see the new garlic sprout just above the label.
As our valley and farm start to wake up and we celebrate the First Day of Spring, we thought it fitting to let you know what’s been happening on the farm.  Richard has been roving through some of the fields already.  It’s a little too soon to assess how well the garlic survived the winter, although Richard did see the very beginning stages of new growth.  The overwintered spinach plants look good.  Last year’s growth has died, which actually makes the first glance of the field look pretty bad.  The important thing though is that the actual crown of the plant has life in it.  It's still a little too small to cut any, but we’re hoping we can start snitching a few of those first leaves for a little green salad very soon.  For those of you who don’t know the beauty of overwintered spinach, listen up.  Historically this is the best tasting spinach of the season. It’s sweet and rich in flavor.  The leaves are thick, yet tender.  You do not want to miss out on this spinach!

Transplanting onions in 2017
We also have some overwintered parsnips, sunchokes and horseradish that we need to harvest as soon as the fields dry out…and we have a crew to harvest them!  Our small winter crew has been doing an awesome job taking care of, well everything.  They’ve been washing vegetables still in storage to fill a few winter orders, they’ve worked on repair and cleaning projects, set up two greenhouses, harvested the willow, shoveled snow, helped open up frozen drains and a whole lot of other random tasks!  But we’re going to need more hands very soon.  Thankfully, our final approval for our H2A visa application came through at the end of last week and we were able to schedule the appointments for our field crew to go to the consulate in Mexico where they’ll, hopefully, get their visas and make the long journey north to Wisconsin.  We hope to see the first group of 19 people by the end of next week.  Once they are here, we’ll start laying plastic mulch so we can transplant onions, have fields to clean up and prepare for planting, rocks to pick, seed potatoes to cut, animal fencing to fix, a fleet of pickup trucks to service, wheel bearings to pack and a whole lot more!  Yes, we’re anxious to have them back and hope all goes well with their travels.  It’s always bittersweet to see them.  Good for us because we enjoy working with them and they are an important part of our farm, but when they’re here it means they aren’t with their families.  They seem to make the best of it and we are grateful to their wives, children and other family members that take care of business on the home front while they’re husbands, sons, brothers are here.
Onion plants showing signs of growth every day!

Soon this house will be full!
Our greenhouses are rocking and quickly turning multiple shades of green!  All of the onions, shallots and leeks are planted and growing very nicely.  We’ve had a lot of nice days with full sunshine which means the plants are really able to suck up the energy and have growth spurts literally overnight!  When I went into the greenhouse yesterday morning some of the onions had about an inch of new growth that was not there when I walked through the house the night before.  By the end of the week we’ll probably have to give them their first “hair cut” of the season so they don’t start falling over.  Last Friday and Saturday Gerardo, Simon and Sarah finished planting all the celeriac and moved on to fennel.  Moises finished the fennel planting on Monday and now we’ve moved on to the first plantings of parsley and dandelion with plans to plant the first crops of broccoli, cauliflower, spring cabbage, kale and kohlrabi before the end of the week. 

Silky Wild Rye (above) and Crew Planting Pollinator Packs in 2016
Does anyone remember when we did Pollinator Packs a few years ago?  Well, we didn’t do them last year and actually received quite a few inquiries from members interested in planting more pollinator plants.  So this year we decided to do them again.  The seeds have been planted and nearly everything is up and growing nicely.  Some of the plants in the mix are the same as the ones we did previously, but we also chose a few new things including more native grasses with fun interesting names such as silky wild rye and rattlesnake grass.  If you planted a pollinator garden with the packs we offered previously, this year will be your opportunity to diversify your space with some new plants! 

Seed Cooler is stocked up and ready for spring too!
Our seed cooler is full and we've received nearly all of the seeds we'll need for the season. We have a few new crops on the plan.  We found a new green called “Bau Sin.”  This is an Asian green that is supposed to have tender, sweet leaves and thrives best in the cool of the fall.  It’s supposed to form a head with broad leaves, so I imagine it to be kind of like a cross between cabbage and bok choi with a mild, sweet flavor.  We’re also growing a new bean called “Amethyst.”    As indicated by its name, this is a purple bean meant for fresh eating.  We haven’t grown purple beans before because once you cook them, they always turn green!  What’s the point?!  While green beans are typically cooked, they can also be eaten raw. These Amethyst beans are described as having very good flavor when eaten raw or cooked.  Yes, they still turn green if you cook them, but I think they could make a beautiful salad if used raw.  Perhaps a salad of thinly sliced purple beans tossed with some sweet onion slices, halved Sunorange tomatoes, some fresh basil and a light red wine vinaigrette…..I look forward to trying this.  While we’re on the topic of purple vegetables, I’ll mention our new Asian pepper called “Danjo Cheong Yang.”  If there is anyone in our membership that is familiar with this pepper or how to use it (or even how to correctly pronounce the name), please email me.  I’ve never seen this pepper before and am interested in learning more about how to use it.  It’s described as having the appearance and heat level of a serrano pepper.  They are a deep purple pepper that ripens to a deep, dark red when fully ripe.  Last fall we received some very positive feedback to our attempt at growing escarole and radicchio in our cold frame greenhouse for December delivery.  Unfortunately we didn’t have a planting big enough to cover all the boxes, but since it was well-received we’re encouraged to increase our planting sizes and plant some in the field as well.  This will hopefully give us some interesting greens for late November and December boxes.
Bau Sin (Osborne Seeds)
Amethyst Beans (Johnny's Seeds)

Danjo Cheong Yang Pepper (Osborne Seeds)

As far as the rest of our valley goes, we hear and see signs of spring all around us.  Richard’s ducks took a break from laying eggs over the winter, but resumed laying eggs a few weeks ago.  Richard is trying to encourage the hens to set so we can have new ducklings later this spring.  At night we can hear the owls hooting and the coyotes yipping in the distance, likely either defending their young or hunting for food to feed them.  We’ve seen some flocks of geese migrating through our area and are anxious for the return of the blue birds. 

We are planning to do some “Woods Walks with Farmer Richard” again this year, likely in May.  We’re still putting together the details, so watch for more information in our April emails so you can make your reservation.  Last year’s events were a lot of fun and we’re hoping to see more members take advantage of this experience again this year.  Our woods are an interesting and kind of magical place in the spring!

We are processing your CSA orders and getting ready to put together your Welcome Packets that will go out in April.  Until we get all the orders entered, it’s kind of hard to assess exactly where we are with number of shares sold this year in comparison to previous years.  From a dollars perspective, it looks like we are down 5.5% in vegetable shares and down 9.5% for fruit shares. We do still have plenty of shares available.  
If you haven’t signed up yet, please do so very soon so you don’t miss out on anything!  If you have a friend, co-worker, neighbor, etc that is interested in CSA, we’d appreciate it if you take a minute to share your first-hand CSA experience with them.  You can also offer them our “New Member Coupon” which will give them some money off their first order and you’ll also earn a referral coupon! Our CSA season starts in just 6 weeks and we are looking forward to growing for you this year!

----Farmers Richard & Andrea

In The Kitchen with Chef Andrea!

Are your produce stores dwindling? Are you down to the last few onions? Does your refrigerator resemble this picture? We’re likely all experiencing a bit of spring fever and longing for fresh greens from the field. We aren’t quite there yet, so if you do still have some winter vegetables remaining lets find some good uses for them before spring vegetables start rolling in.

Here are a few of our favorite recipe suggestions that we’ve featured in previous newsletters. Perhaps you’ll find a few suggestions that will help you come into the home stretch and use up whatever is left in your refrigerator or pantry!





See you next month!
Chef Andrea

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Connection…Does It Make A Difference?

By…Farmer Richard

I thought you might find it interesting to know that I started vegetable farming in Eagan, Minnesota with the help of students from one of the first Minneapolis Charter schools and a nearby group home for troubled youth.  At the time I also worked with autistic children at the University of Minnesota and later the St. Paul School system.  While working at the Dakota County Developmental Learning Center adjacent to my farm, I first became aware of the positive influence a farm environment could have on children.  A seven year old autistic boy who had never before spoken a word was feeding ears of corn to the horses when he yelled to me from across the barn, “MORE CORN!!”  Telling this story still brings tears to my eyes. 

Later I was a professional parent to 4-12 year old boys in “therapeutic foster care.”  They lived with me on my farm and helped care for the animals and raised vegetables which they sold on the roadside and at markets.  They earned their own money and learned to spend it wisely.  They were successful and self-confident.  They began to succeed in schoolwork, made friends and their teachers liked them!  They were a success for the first time in their lives.  One of my most dramatic experiences was with Ronnie.  He came to me from Fairview Hospital psych ward, heavily medicated with anti-psychotic drugs.  Once he was off the drugs, we realized he was very sensitive to food additives which were contributing to some of his behavioral problems.  He went on a strict diet of organic food with no preservatives, and he was a totally different boy!  Everybody liked this smart, happy, funny boy and he liked himself.  My lesson learned, food can make a huge difference!

Farmer Richard with his son Ari

The quality of food, connecting with the source, and being an active participant in the process of getting food to the table are all important elements of forming a healthy and holistic diet.  I was fortunate to have had some professional parenting training and valuable life experiences before raising my own son.  Really it’s about quite simple things, such as we all eat better when we are hungry!  If you are filling up on snacks, you won’t be hungry for a meal!  Either cut out the snacks or make it something healthy, like carrots.  We also had a few simple household rules.  Everybody ate a little bit of everything, but had the right to just take a small portion justified by the fact that they “were still learning to like it.”  Kids like to be involved in food procurement, preparation, picking up the CSA box and unpacking the contents.  Involving children in these acts helps to connect them to the process it takes to get it to the table.  As they are learning about new foods, it’s important for them to be able to touch, smell and taste.  A visit to the farm can be very formative for young children, even if it’s just one time.  As they walk (or run) through the fields they get to see what the plants look like, they figure out how to harvest the food and then get to eat it right in the field!  If you’ve ever eaten a warm strawberry right in the field, you know how memorable that can be.  My own son, now 29, grew up eating a wide variety of vegetables and is still a very good eater.  He still remembers eating daikon radish right out of the field and still counts radishes as one of his favorites. 

But it’s not just children!  Adult member lives have also been greatly impacted by participating in CSA and forming a connection with their farm.  We have great respect for the many adults who have learned how to eat through a box every week, were brave enough to try unfamiliar foods and have come to enjoy cooking.  They are committed to taking their healthy lunch to work and putting any extra in the freezer for winter.  Some have been generous enough to share their recipes with our Facebook group.  Adults are also impacted by a farm visit.  At the end of last season we received this email from a member:  “I also wanted to mention that I have hugely reduced my grocery store purchases of produce since switching to your CSA and signing up for the fruit share. I cut back to every other week, as my family has shrunk. I made the occasional trip to the local farmer's market to supplement as needed. I am a strong believer in what you are doing. We have been so impressed with your beautiful farm and the way you manage the land, as we have seen in our two visits for the strawberry picking. I also love your newsletters and recipes.

In our busy world, with so many choices and distractions, it can be a challenge to dive into eating out of a CSA box, but it is so worth it!  Over the 20 plus years we have been feeding CSA families, we have seen so many examples of what happens when families commit to CSA and healthy eating.  Yes, for families with children it takes some good parenting skills, but it results in beautiful, healthy, smart people who grow up and will change the world.  When parents make the choice to make organic food a priority, children have the opportunity to learn what real food tastes like and nutritious healthy food tastes good! 

Beyond the nutritional value of the food, CSA allows children and families to connect with the people and source of their food.  Eating can just be a passive act, but it becomes much more meaningful when you know where your food came from and can form a connection.  Whether it’s simply participating in the weekly ritual of picking up your CSA box and unpacking it, or it’s the experience of actually visiting the farm, these are memorable experiences that shape and mold a child’s view of food and where it comes from.  We wanted to share a few stories with you, and then we hope some of you will share your stories with us! 

We love it when members visit the farm and enjoy seeing children explore and experience new things.  It’s the little things such as holding a fuzzy, baby chick or feeling the goats nibble grain out of their hand for the first time.  Last year a mother contacted us to see if it would be possible to bring her daughter to the farm for her birthday.  The birthday present this girl was looking for was the experience of being able to touch and feed our farm animals.  She had a blast and it was really fun to see the joy on her face as she stood amongst our critters in the pasture. 

I love to see the excitement in a child’s face as they get to harvest their own vegetables and eat them in the field.  We’ve had parents nearly faint as they watch their children run up and down the rows of vegetables in the field.  Kids who fuss at the table because they don’t want to eat their vegetables, and here they are picking and eating them in the field!  There was one little boy who marched up to Andrea and asked her if she would like him to show her how to pick the best peas.  He confidently explained how to do so and then picked a few for them to eat so he could prove his techniques were solid.  This was one of those children who would not eat a vegetable, however his parents told us that after that visit to the farm he now willingly eats vegetables…if they were grown at “his” farm by Farmer Richard. 

Some kids find the harvesting experience to be quite rewarding and we’ve been surprised at some of the vegetables they’ve pulled from the ground.  One little guy pulled a huge scarlet turnip out of the ground on one farm visit.  Strength must run in the family, because we remember when his older brother (full of excitement) pulled an entire kohlrabi plant out of the field—roots and all!  If you aren’t familiar with kohlrabi, I’ll tell you that those plants are very firmly rooted.  He was so excited to show us what he had pulled and when his mother asked him what it was he replied “I DON’T KNOW!”  It didn’t really matter…he was having a great time.   

Last summer we received this email from a Twin Cities family:  “At dinner the other night, our two-year-old told my husband, ‘These veggies are from Farmer Richard. He grows our veggies and brings us our fruit. He's a part of our family.’ Thanks for letting us raise our boys eating delicious produce and knowing where it comes from!” 
And then there’s this recent story shared with us this past December 2017.  It’s the story of one of our “grown-up” CSA kids.  “My son came home tonight to  say Hi, saw the box and checked the contents, he was thrilled to see the celeriac and rest of the goodies and grabbed the box before anyone could tell him no.  He then asked if perhaps there was another celeriac he could have, maybe one from the swap box to take back home.  Alas no, but never in my life could I imagine a 21 year old man seeking out and excited about celeriac.  To have an incredible box in mid-December and a young man transfixed and transformed by HVF produce is a great kick-off to the holiday season.

These are just a few stories, but we know there are many more.  We would love to hear your stories and would encourage you to share them with us!  How has CSA impacted your family, your children, your health, your perspectives on food & agriculture?  If you are willing to share your stories, please send us an email, make a quick video, or just pick up the phone and call! 

When I was in my twenties, I set out to do meaningful work.  I may not have chosen the easiest career in the world, but it has definitely proven to be very meaningful work.  Just as every family has their “family doctor,” I hope more families will thoughtfully consider who they want their “family farmer(s)” to be.  If you choose Harmony Valley Farm, we hope you’ll take advantage of the opportunity you have to come and see your farm for yourself.  Even if it’s just one time, we promise you it will be a memorable experience….and it might even change your life. 

Welcome back to the Chef’s Corner!

I wanted to share this recipe for Butternut Squash & Caramelized Onion Galette.  This recipe looks lengthy, but don’t be deterred by that.  There are three main components to make before you assemble the galette, but none of the components are difficult or time consuming to prepare.  Your time investment is in the time it takes to roast the squash, caramelize the onions and bake the galette.  You can prep the three components in advance and keep them in the refrigerator.  This makes for a quick and easy dinner on the night of your choosing.  Just pull out the components and assemble the galette while the oven is preheating.  Pop it in the oven to bake it and dinner is done. 

The beauty of a galette is that it isn’t fussy and it’s very forgiving.  If you shy away from things that have a pie crust (eg quiche), you might find you’ll like a galette.  It’s kind of like a pie, but much more free form and forgiving—it’s not supposed to be perfect.  It’s versatile like a quiche, but you don’t have to mess with the custard filling.  If you have some left over, it reheats well for breakfast or lunch.

As always, we’d love to know what you’ve been cooking this winter and our Facebook Group is a great place to do that! If you aren’t already a member, click here to join.

See you next month!
Chef Andrea

Butternut Squash & Caramelized Onion Galette

Yield:  One hearty 12-inch galette or Two 9-inch galettes
For the Pastry:
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface (may include ½ cup whole wheat flour if you like)
½ tsp salt
12 Tbsp unsalted butter (1 ½ sticks)
½ cup sour cream
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
⅓ cup ice water

For the Filling:
2 ½ pounds butternut squash, peeled & diced (5-6 cups)
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 ½ tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp butter
5 medium red or yellow onions (1 ½ pounds), thinly sliced
¼ cup red wine
1 tsp maple syrup
⅛ tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried sage
2 cups (6 oz) grated fontina or gouda cheese
1 egg, beaten, for glazing the pastry (optional)

  1. First, make the pastry.  In a bowl, combine the flour and salt.  Cut the butter into chunks and add them to the bowl.  Using a pastry blender, break up the butter into bits until the texture of the flour and butter mixture is like cornmeal, with the biggest bits the size of pebbles. 
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, vinegar, and water.  Pour this over the butter-flour mixture.  Stir with a spoon or a rubber spatula just until a dough forms, kneading it once or twice on the counter if needed to bring it together.  Pat the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic, and chill it in the refrigerator for 1 hour or up to 2 days.
  3. Next, prepare the squash.  Preheat your oven to 400°F.  Peel the squash, then halve and scoop out the seeds.  Cut into ½ to ¾-inch chunks and put in a mixing bowl.  Drizzle with 2 Tbsp of the olive oil and season with ½ tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Toss to thoroughly coat all the pieces, then spread the squash on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the squash is tender and just starting to brown.  You may need to turn the squash once while it is roasting.  Once done, remove the squash from the oven and set it aside to cool slightly.  Leave the oven on.
  4. While the squash is roasting, caramelize the onions.  Melt 1 Tbsp butter and the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy skillet.  Add the onions and 1 tsp salt.  Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until soft and tender, about 25-35 minutes.  Don’t try to rush this process.  When the onions are very soft, add the wine, maple syrup, cayenne pepper, thyme and sage to the onions.  Continue to simmer over medium-low heat until nearly all the wine has been reduced.  Remove from heat and set aside.
  5. Now it’s time to assemble the galette.  On a floured work surface, roll the dough out into a 16-17 inch round (or two 11-12 inch rounds).  Transfer the pastry to a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet.  Spread the onions on the pastry, leaving a 2 to 2 ½ inch border.  Spread the roasted squash on top of the onion layer and then spread the grated cheese evenly over the galette filling.  Fold the border of pastry over the filling, pleating the edge to make it fit.  The center will be open.  Brush the outside crust with egg, if using.
  6. Bake until the pastry is golden brown, 30-40 minutes.  Remove the galette from the oven, let stand for 5 minutes, then slide it onto a serving plate.  Cut into wedges and serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

Recipe adapted from Deb Perelman’s book, Smitten Kitchen.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

So What Food System Will You Support?

By Farmer Richard

Towards the beginning of this CSA season, we were faced with the buyout of Whole Foods Market by Amazon.  Given we grow a significant amount of produce for Whole Foods Market, this buyout weighed heavy on our minds and left us wondering how this business decision may trickle down and directly impact our farm.  It also left us wondering what may happen to our food system in general as we as a society adapt to the changes in the market place.  We truly believe our future and the future of society is in the hands of the consumers.  Over the course of the season we have tried to report on a variety of  topics to impress upon our readers about how our food purchasing choices affect our health, our community, our downstream communities and more.  Our choices will sculpt our future food system and are based on and related to more than just the basic price of an item.  So what are the issues?

One of the most important issues that plays into the bigger picture view we are seeking is our health.  Choosing to eat more organic vegetables grown locally and in their season is one of the best ways to maximize the nutrition you get from your food as produce received directly from the farm typically is more fresh and thereby has retained more nutrients.  Vegetables grown in nutrient dense soils are especially high in antioxidants and other nutrients.  Just as you would seek out an experienced surgeon with lots of experience to perform a surgery, so it is with finding an experienced farmer to grow your vegetables!  For those who choose to include meat in their diets, choosing to eat only meat produced locally from pastured animals and grass-fed beef may be the healthiest choice.  Eating local and in season is also beneficial for community health.  When food is grown locally, there is an opportunity for any “extras” to go to a local food pantry, thereby opening up access to fresh, nutritious produce in communities that may otherwise have limited access or be unable to afford purchasing fresh food.  This year we donated over 30,000 pounds of fresh vegetables to our local food pantry that picks up weekly at our farm during the growing season. 

More and more people are choosing organic for health reasons including to minimize pesticide residues and to raise healthy children!  We applaud your choice.  But organic is available everywhere now.  Not just the co-ops and farmers markets, but almost every grocery chain including Wal-Mart.  Even convenience stores, ie in our area Kiwk Trip, now carry some organic products.  But is all organic the same?  Unfortunately, the answer is No!

Rooster keeping an eye on his hens!
Muscovy Duck with ducklings.
When I started as an organic farmer in 1973, there were very, very few organic customers.  Now something like 65% say they buy organic at least sometimes.  Organic now represents 10% of food purchases and some 10 billion dollars, enough of an impact on the market to attract the “big business” players.  That is good and yet a huge complicated “bad.”  Money, greed and politics all come into play in what once was our small scale arena of trust and integrity.  Now we have big business, “green washing,” “white wash and hog wash” politics and fraud infiltrating into the organic market place too!  Take eggs as an example.  We have a small flock of chickens in a mobile coop that are totally free range.  They scratch and forage in the pastures and are really healthy and happy birds.  Their eggs are fantastic!  Their yolks are not just yellow, but rich golden in color with the same rich flavor.  Our hens will raise new chicks in the spring to sustain our flock and continually be replacing birds that pass away from old age and the occasional bird that falls victim to predation.  Same with our flock of ducks.  They raise their own replacements, they live on the creek, they fly and only come home at dark to eat a little organic grain and then retire to their safe house that we secure them in for nighttime safety from predators.  We could expand our chicken flock to 400-500 birds housed in a mobile coop the size of a school bus and move them to new pasture every few days and produce those eggs with golden rich yolks, but we are not looking for a new business and with the labor involved, we would need to get $5-$6 per dozen for those wonderfully tasty and nutritious eggs.  How many of you would sign on to that?

So we went to our neighbors who raise organic eggs for a major co-op.  They have 2 chicken barns that hold 10,000 chickens in each and look very much like an industrial egg factory, but with some important distinctions.  They have no cages for laying hens and they give their birds 2.5 sq ft of space inside and provide a nice outdoor yard with shade and dirt to scratch.  Their egg yolks have a little color, but nothing like a totally free range bird.  They need to get $4.00/dozen eggs to survive.  They are lamenting that their co-op has lost market share because the new organic rules for pasture and outside access has again been delayed by large scale factory farm lobbyists who are also producing organic eggs.  While our neighbor is already in compliance with the new organic rules, the factory farm lobbyists want to stick with their 1.5 sq ft of space and little or no meaningful outdoor access.  Those eggs sell for $3.00/dozen at many, many supermarkets. 

So there is my example.  Beware of the sales promos that show young girls in a dress carrying fresh flowers with happy chickens or cows and a red barn in the background!  It is marketing PR, pure and simple and a certain amount of “hogwash.”  On the bright side, at least they are eating organic feed and not being fed antibiotics and/or hormones.  Organic is now “big business” and it is a difficult task for you the consumer to sort out the truth from the hogwash or chicken wash or green wash!

The same is true for vegetables, most of the big players now also do organic including Grimmway, the largest producer of vegetables in the world.  And frankly, they do have the resources to do a pretty good job!  We can’t forget about the home delivery meals and CSA style “look-a-likes” that claim to be helping support local farmers, but substitute cheaper conventional to help their bottom line with less than transparent disclosure.  Read the recent NY Times article about the local farmers left with crops in the field when the delivery service with their sophisticated software to offer “your choice” for “your box” suddenly goes into bankruptcy.  We experienced the same with Door to Door Organics, a home delivery company in Chicago that we grew for previously.

So what about the original, traditional CSA model where consumers, eaters, pledge/commit to support a farm and farmer for better or worse!?  That is the model that is suffering and experiencing decline across the nation.  Why is this? 

It requires a “two way street” and a little give and take between farmer and eater.  The farmer pledges to do their best job, given their experience or inexperience to provide a season of produce or meat, or eggs, etc for the supporting eater.  The CSA member agrees to learn to “eat out of the box” and eat seasonally.  The catch is that a real CSA commitment requires a very experienced farmer team who can grow a very wide variety of crops throughout the season in order to provide a balanced full box for a long season, 30 weeks in our case.  We refer to it as “graduate level” growing, not for beginners, and we are confident that we do the best job of any!  But the two way street?

Harvest Party at Harmony Valley Farm
We read and understand the requests to customize boxes, let us order just what we want.  We looked at the sophisticated software for individual boxes, the crew time to pack those boxes, and the chance of pickup mistakes that we are expected to remedy and those costs are huge!  We can do special orders to help you meet your needs, but for now we are pinning our hopes on our solid, members who have been able to make the transition to seasonal eating.  We hope these successful members will help us find those increasingly rare families that do cook and want to learn about new vegetables.  This is a necessary part of a successful CSA experience. In other words, rather than us transitioning to a personalized delivery service, we need to find those that will make the transition to seasonal eating.

I hesitate to say this, but here it is!  It is not just about “me,” “what I want now,” easy order, delivered to my door, now!  This may be the present climate and there are a world of companies preparing to meet that “me, now” mentality, but we are pinning our survival on a more traditional Community Supported Agriculture, where it is a two-way street of learning, new foods, etc.  Kids can come to the farm, even only once to experience picking all the strawberries they can eat or picking their own pumpkins.  We have seen, and many of you have experienced, the transformation that can come from that experience that changes lives forever.  That is our core, that is our wish.  In this day and age of “me first” please help us continue a historic connection to food and land, our land, your farm, we your farmers.
Farmer Richard and Chef Andrea