February 8, 2010

8 Feb

Come visit the new Farm Stand!

Fresh air, blue skies, and warm sunshine welcomed me to the farm this Monday morning. It is a joy to work on this farm and I am treasuring each day here at Fairview Gardens. I asked Toby, the Farm Manager, to write you update about our farm from his perspective. He walks the fields each week, observing the soil our crops, and leading our crew to grow the high-quality produce you enjoy.  I appreciate his transparency and hope you do as well. Please email me with any questions or concerns.          – jen

Here is a note from Toby:

Dear Friends,

We have received a lot of rain so far and it looks like we still have more storms coming in the not so distant future. The ground is soaked and our heavy clay soils will retain much of these rains for months to come. Expect really sweet tomatoes this summer, even sweeter than last. We should be able to semi-dry farm our tomatoes which means that their roots will sink deep into the soil and will not require much supplemental watering. Having spent almost my entire life along the Central Coast, drought has always been the norm; this year’s rain is quenching for our thirsty land. I am definitely not complaining about all the water we are receiving, but I want to explain to you the challenges of our weather for me as the Farm Manager.

The balance of managing biological systems, finances, customer relations and staff management is a constant learning experience for me as I am young in my career. When we have a day of heavy rain, I know that the ground will be soaked and too wet to work for the entire next week. The main people who are affected by this are our Farm Crew. On the last two pay periods, the Farm Crew only received about 20 hours of work and that we all know makes raising families challenging. The periodic rains we continue to receive means that the pay checks are going to continue to be very small and I worry for the health of the many families that rely on this farm for their well-being. I find it quite ironic that when the organic farmers are without work that the other family members employed by Taco Bell down the street are most likely the ones getting the family through these slow times.

Last week as I walked our fields I worried; we are experiencing shortage of food ready to harvest and I have not seen our production this off since I arrived here over two years ago. A number of factors have stacked up leaving us with another three to four weeks of struggle at Fairview. Three months ago, mice did a significant amount of damage in our greenhouse and ate two different successions of plants: broccoli, fennel, lettuce, romanesco and kohlrabi. Each item was planned to be harvested now for the CSA. Then a couple of weeks ago birds mowed down a bed of radishes and arugula. The following week, we missed a planting due to soil that was too rain soaked to be planted in. We will keep you updated on how the weather is affecting the farm this winter. We ask that you hang in there with us as we navigate this time of plentiful rain and low crop production and trust that we will be back on track with more of our produce soon. In the mean time, please enjoy the produce we use to supplement the CSA share from other local farms that, like us, care about providing great organic produce for our community.

Sincerely,

Toby McPartland, Farm Manager

Sneak Peek: Winter greens (chard/kale/collards), red cabbage, green garlic, avocados, cauliflower (large share only), oranges, fennel, and green leaf lettuce

Recipes:

Homemade Vegetable Broth (from CSA member Paige Chase. Please click on the link for helpful photos that go along with the recipe http://veganyumyum.com/2008/10/homemade-vegetable-broth/)

Makes about 10 Cups of Broth

Minimalist Broth
2-3 Tbs Olive Oil
1-2 Large Onions, chopped
1 lb Celery, Chopped
1 lb Carrots, washed but unpeeled, chopped
3 Whole Cloves Garlic
1 Bay Leaf
10 Whole Black Peppercorns
2 tsp Salt
1/4 Cup Low Sodium Tamari
1 Gallon Water

I also added, because I could
2 Parsnips, chopped
2-3 Tbs Tomato Paste (or one or two tomatoes)
A few Sprigs Rosemary (parsley is more traditional, use a lot!)
1 Head Broccoli (a strange but decent choice)
1 Sweet Potato (another odd choice, whatever)

You might also have or want to use
Any fresh veggie scraps from other meals, leeks, mushrooms, celery root, potatoes, peppers, turnips, any greens, zucchini, fennel

You see what I mean?  If it’s clean and fits in the pot, it can go in.  Minimal chopping, no peeling, just in the pot it goes!

Heat a large stock pot with some olive oil in the bottom.  I chop my way through the vegetable list as I’m cooking–so once the onion is chopped, add it to the pot, then do the celery, the carrots, etc, adding each thing once it’s chopped up a bit.  When you’re out of stuff to add, pour in the water, turn up the heat and cover.  It should only take you about 20 minutes to chop everything and get it in the pot.  From then on out it’s easy street.

Cook for 1 hour, turning the heat down a bit once the whole thing starts boiling. I finish my broth by adding salt/tamari/soy sauce to taste and letting it simmer uncovered for another 20-30 minutes to concentrate the flavors. Strain the veggies out into a large pot. I further strained it through cheesecloth into a pitcher. The pitcher makes it easy to pour some of the broth into ice cube trays for easy storage. Ice cubed size chunks of broth make for easy defrosting and easy recipe additions. The broth will keep about a week in your refrigerator, and two good months in your freezer. 

Fennel: has three parts, bulb, stalk, and leaves. The bulb is most popularly used, but you can use the stalks for adding to your veggie stock/soup and the leaves add a nice zip to a salad. A few ideas for using fennel: sauté with garlic and onion, thinly slice and add to a salad with your avocados and oranges, mix with mint and Greek yogurt as a Mediterranean dip, or cook with fish.

Baked Fennel (If you don’t like the strong flavor of fennel, try this recipe based on one I found at http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Baked-Fennel-with-Parmesan/Detail.aspx)

Ingredients:

1 fennel bulb sliced about ¼ inch thick
1-2 potatoes sliced about ¼ inch thick
1 leek sliced about ¼ inch thick
2 cloves garlic thinly sliced or crushed
1 tablespoon butter
1- 1½ cup crème fraiche, sour cream, or Greek yogurt
A handful of roughly chopped parsley
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
¼ cup grated Parmesan Cheese
¼ cup bread crumbs

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400° F. Melt butter in a large skillet and sauté fennel, potatoes, leeks, and garlic about 5-7 minutes. Stir in crème fraiche and parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste. Transfer into a shallow baking dish. Top with bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. Bake for 30 minutes or until the top has browned. The fennel and potatoes should be tender to a fork.

Green Garlic is young garlic that is harvested before a bulb begins to form. It smells and tastes wonderful and can be used instead of garlic or green onions in any dish. Try in stir-fry’s, on pizza, in pasta with parmesan, and as a pesto.

Green Garlic Chutney (from http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/382285)

Take green garlic, chop coarsely, and throw it in the food processor with a big bunch of cilantro (approximate ratio two to one cilantro to green garlic), about a quarter cup dry-roasted unsalted peanuts, squeeze in the juice of a lime, add a chopped and seeded jalapeno or two, a tsp. of sugar, 1/2 tsp. of salt, and a tsp of ground cumin. Grind it all together until it forms a coarse paste, and taste. Adjust seasonings as needed. Try it with roasted chicken or as a dip for lavash bread.

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