It was a bit of an anxious pre-dawn this morning. I stepped outside at 5AM and the thermometer read 28 degrees which was even colder that the weather forecasters had warned me. As I set off on a walk around the farm, I saw that my ever vigilant father had already turned on the overhead irrigation on our one patch of strawberries that was not under a cover. As it was still dark, it was hard to see whether the plants were frozen or not, but touching the crispy leaves of chard, and ice encrusted strawberries confirmed that it was indeed cold. Needless to say, we were very happy to see that warming sun emerge over the crest of the hill. It is difficult to know for sure at this point whether the covers and irrigation were able to protect everything entirely, but it does look like most plants will make it, even if they have some frost damage on the top leaves. This morning was a reminder that farming is truly risky business, but the rewards of observing first hand day in and day out the wonders of the natural world make it perhaps the most satisfying business for me.
This distribution is the last distribution for our Winter/Spring Season. Thanks to all of you for supporting us, and sharing in the risk and satisfaction of growing and eating from our own back yard (so to speak). We look forward to having many of you in our Summer CSA or hope to see many of you again in the fall.
With gratitude, Deb
IN THE BOX:
Red Russian Kale, Collards, Asparagus, Tatsoi, Rhubarb, Kohlrabi, Carrots, Herbs (Cilantro, Thyme, Parsley)
1st Saturday Breakfast June 1st: 8-11AM: Come by the first Saturday of every month from May through November for Delicious Breakfast/Brunch featuring farm produced food. While you’re here spend some time walking around the farm too!
Winter Share Survey!- We’d love more feedback on our Winter CSA. To complete the survey visit this link: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dDVzNDhjeXExMTRQZEhrTjI2LXRXcUE6MA
Savory Rhubarb Lentil Curry with Spinach and Red Peppers Recipe (vegan)
serves 2 as an entree or 4 as a side
1 large sweet potato
1 cup French lentils
3 cups of water
1 bay leaf
1 stalk (or 2) of rhubarb (diced into small pieces)
1/2 of 1 red bell pepper (diced into small pieces)
2 cups frozen spinach or 2 cups cooked spinach, chopped finely
1 TB olive oil
1/2 TB of mustard seeds
pinch of red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp fennel seeds
1 TB minced ginger
1 TB cumin powder
1 TB brown sugar
salt to taste
Pour 3 cups of water in a saucepan. Add lentils and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 30 minutes or until lentils are soft, but not falling apart. Drain excess water.
Cook sweet potato. My favorite method is baking: Wrap sweet potato in foil and bake at 425 for about 20 minutes or until the skin pulls away from the flesh and the potato is soft. Baking caramelizes the sugar and brings a nice deep flavor to the potato. You can also just peel and cube the sweet potato and steam it.
While lentils are simmering, cut your vegetables.
In a large sauté pan, heat oil and then stir in mustard seeds. Once they start popping, add red pepper flakes and fennel. Add ginger (careful here, this may lead to a minor explosion. Have a lid handy just in case or you will have mustard seeds all over your floor.) Add cumin.
Add red peppers and rhubarb to the pan. Sauté for a few minutes. Add spinach and sautée until fully cooked. Add cooked lentils, cooked sweet potato and brown sugar and stir. Add salt to taste.
Serve alone or with a grain like rice or quinoa.
It’s a hectic morning this morning. We just got word that our box truck won’t be repaired by this afternoon as scheduled so we are quickly putting the cover on the pickup and rigging up a trailer in addition to doing last minute harvesting, packing shares, arranging chickens in coolers, and trying to make sure all other details are in line. Days like this don’t allow for much creativity in the newsletter and for that I apologize. Instead of lots of words, I will once again direct you to a recently posted album of photos of the farm landscape. I am so grateful for a wonderful crew who is working diligently to stay in step with all there is to do this time of year. The greenhouses are looking in great shape, the onions and early tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant are already out and growing in the fields, and we have been busy mulching as many areas as possible to save ourselves for battling as many weeds later this summer. All this said- we are off to a good start and feeling optimistic about the season!
IN THE BOX:
Red Russian Kale, Collards, Romaine Lettuce, Spinach, Potatoes*, Rhubarb, Red Beets, Spring Radishes, Herbs (Cilantro, Oregano, Thyme, Chives, and Basil!)
*not certified but no spray/synthetic fertilizers
Recipe: Rhubarb Chutney
Bon Appétit | April 2003
Yield: Makes about 4 cups
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 1/2 cinnamon sticks
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange peel
1/2 teaspoon (scant) ground cardamom
4 1/2 cups coarsely chopped rhubarb (from 1 3/4 pounds rhubarb)
3/4 cup dried currants
4 green onions, chopped
Stir first 6 ingredients in heavy large saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves and mixture boils. Add rhubarb, currants, and green onions; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until rhubarb is tender but not falling apart, about 4 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Discard cinnamon. Cover and refrigerate chutney until cold, at least 1 hour. (Can be made up to 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.) Bring to room temperature before serving.
1st Saturday Breakfast Resume May 4th (this Saturday)- 8-11AM: Come by the first Saturday of every month from May through November for Delicious Breakfast/Brunch featuring farm produced food. While you’re here spend some time walking around the farm too!
Winter Share Survey Coming Soon!- Today is the second to last winter distribution. We are in the process of putting together our end of season survey and will be emailing it out shortly. Your feedback is appreciated as we hope to continue to improve our CSA.
The excitement of spring is coursing through the farm. There is a battle over the greenhouse vent controls between the lettuces, spinach, and other cool loving plants and the recently planted tomatoes and cucumbers. We farmers have been trying as best as possible to keep them all coexisting as long as possible. When temperature reached the upper 70’s outside last week and greenhouse temperatures were in the 90’s, we accepted that the greens had to go. Hence, we have a very green box for you this week. We still have some head lettuce in the greenhouse which we hope to harvest for next distribution and we are eagerly watching the soil surface for the first emerging asparagus of the season (normally arriving around the 20th of April here). We are working tirelessly to get carrots, beets, potatoes, herbs, lettuces, and other greens planted on a regular schedule to ensure good supply over the course of the spring and summer. We also have our first batches of broilers moving across our pastures and will be restocked with chicken to sell (beyond our chicken shares) by next distribution! We hope you all are enjoying the change of season as well. If you ever get the urge for an afternoon drive, come visit us! It’s a beautiful time of year on the farm! ~Deb
IN THE BOX:
Lettuce Mix, Spinach, Potatoes*, Carrots, Kale, Bok Choi, Spring Radishes, Chives, and Thyme
*not certied but grown according to organic practices.
1st Saturday Breakfasts Resume May 4th- 8-11AM: Come by the first Saturday of every month from May through November for Delicious Breakfast/Brunch featuring farm produced food. While you’re here spend some time walking around the farm too!
Village Acres Farm and FoodShed in the News: Village Acres Farm’s succession process was featured in Philadelphia’s GRID magazines Farmbook edition this spring. Just visit http://www.gridphilly.com/magazine/ for the whole article. Cover is page 25.
Roasted Radishes with Brown Butter, Lemon, and Radish Tops
Bon Appétit | April 2011
Brief high-heat roasting mellows a radish's peppery flavor and turns it into a whole new root vegetable. Using the green radish tops adds color and amps up the radish flavor. Be sure to rinse the green tops thoroughly before using them. This would be a great side dish for roasted pork loin or leg of lamb.
Yield: Makes 2 side-dish servings
Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
1 bunches medium radishes (such as red, pink, and purple; about 10)
¾-1 tablespoon olive oil
Coarse kosher salt
1 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Preheat oven to 450°F. Brush large heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet with olive oil. Cut off all but 1/2 inch of green radish tops; reserve trimmed tops and rinse them well, checking for grit. Coarsely chop radish tops and set aside. Cut radishes lengthwise in half and place in medium bowl. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil and toss thoroughly to coat. Place radishes, cut side down, on prepared baking sheet; sprinkle lightly with coarse salt. Roast until radishes are crisp-tender, stirring occasionally, about 18 minutes. Season to taste with more coarse kosher salt, if desired.
medium-high heat. Add pinch of coarse kosher salt to skillet and cook until butter browns, swirling skillet frequently to keep butter solids from burning, about 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and stir in fresh lemon juice.
Transfer roasted radishes to warmed shallow serving bowl and drizzle brown butter over. Sprinkle with chopped radish tops and serve
While operating a year round CSA does not allow the typical winter recess for us as farmers, the slower growth rates, and bi-weekly distributions do allow for us to squeeze in moments of thinking of things other than what need to be planted/weeded/harvested. Over the past months, I have used these moments to step off the farm and into rooms of other farmers either gathering to learn new growing techniques or developments on policies on the state and federal level that have effect on our farms and communities. I thought for this newsletter, I would also take a step away from the daily happening of the farm (and weekly weather report) to fill you in on policy that is certain to effect farms and food in this country.
Last month I attended the annual convention of the Pennsylvania Farmer’s Union, a member organization that works to provide a voice for small family farms. Part of the day was devoted to learning about the recent FDA’s Proposed Food Safety Rules that were released in January and are currently open for comment. These rules are a response to the Food Safety Modernization Act that Congress and President Obama passed as a result to the increasing numbers of food related illness outbreaks over the recent years. These serious cases warranted evaluation of our food handling practices and regulations surrounding them, but as a small farmer the potential of more regulation and costly inspections were anxiety causing. What would be expected of us if some blanket rule was made for all food producers? Could we afford to stay in business if we had more inspection costs? Fortunately, as a small farm, we had folks speaking for us at the rule making table (Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture and The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition to name a few). The proposed rule rejects a “one size fits all” approach to food safety regulation and ensures that scale-appropriate regulations include the option for small, mid, and direct-market agricultural operations to comply with equivalent state regulations or modified, scale-appropriate federal regulation. Of course these allowances are very comforting to us here at Village Acres. If adopted as proposed, these rules will not require us to have more inspections or practices beyond our current practices to ensure that the food we deliver to your tables in not only safe, but also healthy and our farming practices contribute to the health of the environment as well.
Of course, the reason I’m writing about this in the newsletter is that we are not guaranteed that these rules will be implemented as written. There will most definitely be folks from the agribusiness community that oppose the protections for small and medium sized operations and the power of these groups is intimidating. So I’m asking all of you to add your voice to the discussion and work alongside our farm and farms like ours to work for rules that both protect the safety of our consumers as well as the viability of many of our nation’s small and medium sized farms and processors. For more information on the evolution of the Food Safety Modernization Act, and the proposed rule, please visit and follow Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture’s (PASA) executive director’s Write to Farm blog.
This week’s Share: Lettuce Mix, Spinach, Potatoes, Carrots, Turnips, Celeriac, Onions, and Thyme
White Root Vegetable Soup with Thyme Butter (Serves 4)
Bon Apetit, Dec 2001
1/3 stick butter, room temperature
1 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
2 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only), sliced
1 garlic cloves, minced
3 1/2 cups (or more) canned low-salt chicken broth
2/3 pounds celery root (celeriac), peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pounds turnips, peeled, each cut into 8 wedges
1 pound parsnips, peeled, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup whipping cream
Mix 6 tablespoons butter and thyme in small bowl to blend well. Season thyme butter to taste with salt and pepper.
Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add leeks and garlic and sauté until leeks are tender but not brown, about 10 minutes. Add 10 cups broth, celery root, turnips, and parsnips; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 50 minutes. Cool slightly. Working in batches, puree soup in blender until smooth. Return soup to pot. Stir in cream. Season with salt and pepper. (Thyme butter and soup can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap butter in plastic wrap. Cool soup slightly. Refrigerate uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Rewarm soup over medium heat, adding more broth, if desired, to thin.)
Ladle soup into 12 bowls. Top each with small piece of thyme butter; swirl into soup and serve
Well we have been rather suddenly reminded that we in the middle of mercurial month of March this week. After a couple of weeks of feeling like spring was taking off, the numb hands syndrome returned yesterday as we harvested spinach. We have a good blanket of snow this morning. The one person who seems to be enjoying the snow this morning is my father, who is happily riding around on the tractor clearing all the neighborhood driveways-perhaps he knows it will be the last of the season. While my dad is on his joy ride, my mother, newly retired from her nursing career, has shown up to work in the packing to help pack CSA shares today. It’s a new age here at Village Acres, and I’m very happy to be working alongside my mother again on a daily basis on this farm. It brings back vivid memories of transplanting tomatoes with her in the basement of our house (before the time of our propagation greenhouse.) I’m looking forward to creating many more memories and am grateful to have her back on the farm full time as she has a way of making this farm a more beautiful place- through her stunning flower beds and her ever gracious spirit ~Deb
This week’s box reflects a transition week. You will likely notice that there is no mesclun mix for the first time this winter. Up until last distribution we have been harvesting from plants seeded before the winter solstice, and with the lengthening day, these plants have now decided it is time to set seed (bolt) so they are no longer of harvestable quality. We do have a new planting that will be ready in a few weeks. Also next distribution will include the first lettuce mix which will add some variety to your salads.
This week in your box, you will have the final harvest of our winter chard/beet plantings and also Kohlrabi which was also planted last November into the greenhouse. For those of you not familiar with Kohlrabi (cabbage turnip), it is a beautiful vegetable that is in the same family as broccoli and cabbage. The bulb can be sliced and eaten raw, or chopped and cooked. It tastes very similar to the stem of broccoli, and can be used similarly. The leaves can also be used like other greens. Unfortunately the voles (small rodents) seem to love the sweet stem of the kohlrabi and ate about half our planting as a winter snack, so each share will only get a small sampling of this crop.
With these crops now out of the greenhouse, we are busily adding compost to beds, and planning the best design of the greenhouse to inter crop one more spring planting of lettuce heads, other greens, or summer herbs, with our early tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and eggplant. It’s exciting and makes for an exciting patchwork design in the greenhouses. I will try to keep you updated with photos.
Don’t forget to sign up for our Summer/Fall CSA-
Asparagus, Rhubarb, and Strawberries are just around the corner!
In the Box this week…
*from neighbor farmer- no spray/but non-certified
The sun is shining, the spinach growth rate has doubled, and the mesclun mix planted in December has decided that it is time to bolt. Eggplant, pepper, basil, and tomatoes are sprouting in the greenhouse, and our mouths are watering as we talk about tomato, basil, and mozzarella sandwiches. I’ve been doing a lot of math lately as I try to hone in on the proper amount of cucumbers to seed to ensure that I have at least 3-4 cucumber per summer share member from the end of June through September. It’s a complicated formula, full of multiple variables which in the end makes the formula really a definition of the artistic process of farming rather than the cut and dry scientific tool that we would maybe like it to be. Either way, it gets applied to every crop and at least provides a starting point for the season. We are strategizing how to get one more planting of short season lettuce mix, radishes, and greens in and out of the greenhouse without postponing planting tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. All of it is an exciting puzzle; one we hope will come together for the creation of some beautifully delicious spring boxes! We hope you all have a wonderful couple of weeks and enjoy both the snow and 50 degree days expected in the next week.
Signups for our Summer CSA are picking up- We hope many of you will consider joining us for the coming season. Visit our website, the extra’s table (staffed distributions), or email CSA@villageacresfarm.com to get more information and sign up! Also word of mouth is our strongest marketing method- please help us spread the word!
Today in your box you have the last of our sweet potatoes and Napa cabbage for the year. As we start clearing out the last of our fall storage crops, the boxes will start to be filled with more greenery. Savor that caramelly sweetness of those potatoes- I know I will be!
These past few days, we’ve been lurching into the spring season in much the same way as our little Farmall tractor starts out each season- some strong spurts followed by some sputtering! Yesterday, spirits were high among the farm crew as we harvested greens in the very sunny greenhouses, slowly shedding one layer after the other until eventually we were in t-shirts. After we were finished cutting the mesclun in the morning, we returned to tear out the plant stubs and roots so as to squeeze in one last planting of greens before the space is needed for our early tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers. The greens stubs we rip out of the greenhouse are tossed over the fence to the chickens which come running our direction when they see one of us carrying a bin of this winter salad. Our propagation greenhouse is filling quickly and overwintering tatsoi and mustards are beginning to bolt upward, often with a fine display of yellow flowers (a winter salad delicacy at our table). Even on the farm margins, the skunk cabbage is pushing through and the multiflora rose buds are beginning to swell.
This morning we are sputtering a little as the snow is falling and we are reminded that we are not clear of winter just yet. We will try to be patient and do our best to make certain that we do everything in our power to be greased, primed, and ready to shift into high gear when the time is right.
Signups for our Summer CSA are open. We hope many of you will consider joining us for the coming season. Visit our website, the extra’s table (staffed distributions), or email CSA@villageacresfarm.com to get more information and sign up!
In the box this week: Spinach, Mesclun Mix, Carrots, Potatoes, Red Beets, Butternut Squash, and Onions.
I’m not sure about you, but I have been religiously checking the 10-day weather forecast looking for the picture of a sun and the numbers 32 and higher for what feels like a very long time. The extended cold and gray has taken a toll on our greens the past couple of weeks - some beds have needed to be renovated and reseeded, but without the sunshine, our next succession is not rebounding as quickly as we would hope. We are crossing our fingers for a couple of sunny weeks to help us kick back into high gear.
In addition to renovating greenhouse beds, we have been working on an infrastructure project- running an underground waterline and electricity to our newest greenhouse. After a fall of stringing out 400 feet of water hoses every time we needed to water, having a water line inside this greenhouse will feel like a real luxury.
While the cold weather is lingering, we are able to observe that at least the chickens are responding to the subtle churn of the seasons. There are a few more eggs every day, and this week the Khaki Campbell ducks we bought off of Craigslist started to lay eggs. We are excited to use our new incubator to hatch out some ducklings to add to our poultry menagerie.
There’s all this and, yet, the biggest news of all doesn’t have to do with plants or animals! After 20 years of working off-farm (in addition to raising a family and doing farm work), my mom (Hope Brubaker) is finally retiring from her nursing job! In about 5 weeks, we can start assigning all sorts of things to her to-do list! No, seriously, we are so proud of everything she has done to make our life here possible and couldn’t be more excited to witness another 30 years of well-deserved retirement. We have not committed her to a flower share this summer, but those of you who were really looking forward to flowers should talk to us as we may offer them on a limited basis.
We have also opened our signups for our Summer CSA. We hope many of you will consider joining us for the coming season. Visit our website, the extra’s table (staffed distributions), or email CSA@villageacresfarm.com to get more information and sign up!
Eager for sun,
Upcoming Events at the FoodShed:
Live Music,Saturday March 2nd: Chicken Tractor!
Cafe opens at 6 PM, Music at 7:00PM
Perhaps you’ve hear this band at the Elk Creek, or at the Art’s Festival before. If so you will know why we are excited to have them perform in our space in a few weeks. We welcome you all to come on out and enjoy their great energy and musical talent! Chicken Tractor is an old time Country and Americana band based in the Penns Valley area. For more information about the band visit their website.
Special thanks to the Juniata County Cultural Arts Committee for making this event possible!
In the Box this week…
*from neighbor farmer- no spray/ but non-certified
This week we are being reminded of the sharp edge winter can have. As the forecasters predicted temperatures that would not exceed freezing for the early part of this week, we started to scramble on Sunday afternoon to ensure that we had a large enough window of time to harvest greens from the greenhouse before they froze again. Luckily we finished late afternoon yesterday just as the temperatures started to plummet. While the cold temperatures create some anxiety for me, as I worry whether the greenhouses will be warm enough to allow for enough growth to supply our next harvest, I am grateful for some truly cold temperatures, as they provide helpful control of insect pest populations for the coming season. So thank you, winter… and thank you, wood stove!
Despite the fact that we are experiencing the coldest temperatures of the year, our summer season is fully in motion. We have nearly 20,000 onion plants emerging in our heated propagation greenhouse and will soon be starting scallions, lettuces, peppers, and tomatoes in the next several weeks.
We have also opened our signups for our Summer CSA. We hope many of you will consider sticking with us for the coming season. Visit our website, the extra’s table (staffed distributions), or email CSA@villageacresfarm.com to get more information and sign up!
This week we decided to give you a break on the Butternut Squash. For those of you who can’t get enough, don’t worry they will be back. We were fortunate to have a good crop last fall, and they seem to be keeping well.
Spinach/Kale Choice: The Spinach harvests and Kale harvests were both on the shy side, so in an effort to give a decent portion size, we are offering these items as a choice.
Red Beets with tops: For those of you at a staffed distribution site, these will be outside the box for you to pick up is you enjoy beets. These beets were an experiment in our new large greenhouse, and unfortunately they have been very slow at “sizing up”, and now we need to the space for staying on track with lettuce mix planting. While the roots are small, the tops provide a nice edible portion as well. They can be used in place of chard or any other cooking green.
In the Box: Sweet potatoes, Potatoes, Celeriac, Green Cabbage, Bok Choy, Mesclun Mix, Spinach/Kale, Onions, Garlic, Rutabaga, and Carrots.
As a farmer, I have opportunities every day to be completely amazed by the wonders of the living world. Over the past weeks, this has been particularly the case as I watch mesclun greens transform from limp and frozen to crisp and upright as the sun emerges on a 15 degree morning. And the animals, turkeys choosing to roost under the moon on a fence row rather than in the cozy shelter of the barn which is available for them. Or the mother hen who takes meal worms from my partner’s hand and holds them in her beak until her chicks, one my one, take and eat them. It is good for me as a farmer to take the time to observe this resilience, toughness, and natural instinct of the living world, for it helps me to my role in perspective. These living things what to survive and flourish, and my job is to try to facilitate them to do so by careful observation of their natural preferences and working to create a system that supports these. As we plan for the coming season, I’m trying to keep this in mind.
In the Box… Butternut Squash, *Potatoes, Carrots, Mesclun mix, Sweet Potatoes, Garlic, Napa Cabbage, Hakerui Turnips, Spinach
Note: Summer Sign-ups will be coming soon... We hope to have details of our Summer Season Signup completed by next distribution. Stay tuned.
Upcoming events at the Farm:
Saturday, Jan 12th 2013 at 10am to Sunday, Jan 13th 2013 at 3pm, Village Acres FoodShed: Squash Hunger! With The Greenhouse : A delicious & heartwarming volunteer opportunity!
You are invited to Squash Hunger! Farmers from around Pennsylvania are setting aside their excess produce to be transformed into a delicious and nutritious soup for those in need. Please join us in sorting, preparing and freezing a bounty of squash soup. The soup will be donated to the St. Francis of Assisi Parish Soup Kitchen for distribution directly to those in need in the Allison Hill neighborhood of Harrisburg. For links to more information visit our Upcoming Events page on our website!