Small Family Farm CSA

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Small Family Farm
Below are current issues of The Weekly Dig Newsletter, from Jillian Varney, owner of the Small Family Farm. Stay up to date on what's happening on the farm!

June Nineteenth

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I often wish I could get Farmer Adam to write a Newsletter for us. His perspective, especially as the lead farmer these days, would be fascinating to hear. He’s a man of few words that works mostly quietly and keeps to himself most of the time. Yet, he has a steadiness and an easiness about him that still makes him very approachable and human. I have always loved the way he stays so calm and collected in what feels like the hardest times for me to remain calm and casual. I hope I can do the same for him as his wife. Many times when he is worried or stressed about something, I am the one who is calm and casual. Maybe this is why we make a good team?!?!  We have different realms to worry over and then all the bases are covered. As a tribute to him over this past Father’s Day weekend, I thought of turning the spotlight onto Farmer Adam.

Farmer Adam is not a prideful or boastful person, so you would have to work at him a bit to get him to share his knowledge. He’s more than he seems. He really is the one who studies the farm and keeps the closest eyes on the crops. He can frequently be seen just talking walks along the rows or riding the golf cart around the farm to check on the crops. He always picks the first radish or melon or strawberry or carrot and brings it to the kitchen table for us to find like a cat leaving a mouse at the doorstep. He also brings in things like leaf samples and rotting or unhealthy looking plants or fruits and leaves them next to the computer where he does his research. I often have to close out a few windows of University studies on plant pathogens or some other research project he’s looking into before I can get to the desktop. He thinks hard when things don’t go well and wants to do everything in his power to understand how to fix it. He rubs his beard, crosses his legs and stares out the window when something is perplexing him.  I know to let him think when get gets like this.  

These last couple weeks Farmer Adam has been ruminating over the deer pressure. We’re seeing a lot of damage in the Sweet Pea patch and Beets this year. Deer pressure has increased heavily in the last few years and we’re finally starting to look into ways to keep them at bay. They have discovered our farm and they know there are good eats here!  As someone who loves Farmer Adam dearly, I struggle with watching him become so consumed by a dilemma like this. It is absolutely part of what makes him so good at his work, but it also means that he is the one suffering.

I feel thankful to be Adam’s partner in this operation. I have struggled somewhat as my roll of being a mother has demanded more and more and still somehow even more of my time. I have struggled with resigning many of the primary decision making responsibilities of running this farm over to him. And lucky for us all, farmer Adam has scooped up every ball that I have ever dropped as the veil of motherhood is pulled over me. He is not only a good farmer, as I have already mentioned, he is a fantastic husband who helps to breath life into this dream that we share. Farmer Adam is also a good father. He is loyal, committed and devout. He provides for our little family in the best way he knows how. He “brings home the bacon”, or shall we say “broccoli”. Thank you Farmer Adam for being all that you are!  Thank you for worrying over everything and wearing it so well.  

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Soooo....What's in the Box????

Kohlrabi-  1 Purple Kohlrabi per member.  A few people may have received a while kohlrabi.  Many people don't know that kohlrabi is a member of the cabbage family. Its name being derived from the German "kohl" for cabbage and "rube" for turnip. It's sometimes mistaken for a root vegetable, but the bulbous part of the plant grows above soil, with a thin tap root below ground.  If you're new to it, don't be scared!  It is so versatile!  It has the crunchiness and crispyness and mildness of an apple.  It's not as sweet as an apple, but can be eaten raw, cooked, spiralized, shaved, matchsticked, or prepared in almost any way you could dream up!  My dad use you love to to just slice them up and eat them raw with a veggie dip.  (Peel off the outer, tougher skin).  ALSO, don't forget that Kohlrabi leaves are perfectly edible!  Use them like you woudl Kale!

Cherry Bell Radish-  This is the final week of Spring Radishes.  Radishes love the cool, Spring weather.  As soon as we get these long, warm days, radishes get tough and hot fast!  Shave them onto salad, sprinkle them with salt, ferment them or find a way to enjoy the last of the Spring Radishes however you like!

Hakurai Salad Turnips-  Hakurais are not your average turnip!  These are a smooth, subtle, crunchy, sweet and absolutely wonderful Spring Treat!  If you thought you didn't like turnips, just give these a try and I bet we can make you a believer!  They're better eaten raw like a radish than they are cooked.  But you are welcome to add the to your stir fry if that's what you fancy!  

Broccoli-  We were able to give broccoli this week, but Spring heads are always smaller and not quite as perfect as the heads we grow in the Fall.  Stick with us and we'll show you what we can really do!  Spring Broccoli gets a little stressed out from all the crazy spring weather with very cold then warm then wet, more wet and then hot and never performs as well.  But ta daaaa!  We do have broccli in the boxes this week!

Curly Green Kale-  Generous bunches of curly green kale for everyone this week.  The leaves are so tender in the early Summer!  I know that Kale is a strange new vegetable for some people, but a trusted old friend for others.  Kale is maybe the worlds healthiest food, so find your favorite recipe and enjoy!  

Cilantro-  I survive each midwestern winter with the promise of fresh Cilantro in the Spring.  I LOVE cilantro.  With all the lettuce this week, make Taco Salads!  If you don't love the flavor raw, chop it up and cook it in with your taco meat/beans and much of the intensity of cilantro vanishes.  I have a Cilanro Lime Salad dressing that love to make!  

2 Heads Lettuce-  Such tender, unique heads of Spring Lettuce!  You may have received a green oakleaf, a buttercrunch and/or a red oakleaf lettuce.  

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Recipes-

Cilantro Lime Salad Dressing

Kale with Red Beans, Cilantro and Feta Cheese

Spicy Kohrabi Noodles

Sweet Kale Salad with Poppyseed Dressing

Glazed Hakurai Salad Turnips with Greens

June Tenth, 2019

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(Brassic Fields Forever)

I like to use an early newsletter to introduce ourselves. It’s a bit of repeat for the returning CSA members, but fun for our new members who really don’t know the faces behind the food. I also find that I retell the story differently each year as the story of us evolves and changes. My perspective changes as well as our life stage and farm age change.

Knowing the story behind where your food comes from feels like CSA 101. Community Supported Agriculture is cultivation of food and community together. Adam and I are the orchestrators of this symphony, but without all of you, our worker shares and employees, to believe in and support us, there would be no music. So you are now part of a living story that I tell and retell each year.

The Small Family Farm started in the Spring of 2006 with 23 CSA members. From the beginning, we knew that CSA would be our primary focus. We knew we wanted to farm, but farming was really only appealing if we knew we were doing it for CSA members and not wholesale markets. The idea of community support and involvement was appealing on a visceral level. We loved the diversification of CSA farms, the security and the way a CSA membership felt like a team of people who were rooting for us, backing us and supporting us through the fate of the highly unpredictable growing season.

I have always loved the athleticism of farming. All in a days work I get my exercise, my fresh air, my sunshine, my social experience, and clean water and good food. Lucky for me, Adam had always dreamed of being a farmer since he was a small boy. I had the most farm experience when we bought the farm, but he certainly has brought his skills to the table and we work as an impressive team to make this ship sail.

My mother lives on 5 acres next to our farm and if it were not for her support in the early years, we may not exist. She made us dinner, washed our clothes, mopped our floors, delivered our vegetables and was our biggest cheerleader. Now she still makes us dinner, washes our clothes, mops our floors delivers our vegetables and is our biggest cheerleader. She ALSO watches our kids, mows the lawn and helps in ways that feel small to her but are huge to us.

Over the last 14 years, we have grown to cultivating 11.5 acres of vegetables primarily for our 310 member CSA program. Our little farm is on 21 acres of ridgetop land in La Farge, WI. We live in the heart of amish country with the rushing Kickapoo River at the bottom of the road. There is a huge, old, perfectly rounded maple tree at the highest point of this farm that stands alone right in the middle of our produce fields like a wise and knowing soul that knows a longer piece of history of this farm that I could never tell you. Adam and I and our three small children are the humble, short-lived current stewards. We plan to care for and nourish this piece of land to the best of our capabilities before someday, someday, passing it on to someone who will hopefully love it and care for it as much as we do.

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(Garlic looking great!)

Sooo....What's in the Box????

Asparagus-  1 pound bunches of Asparagus.  Asparagus is one of the only items that we actually purchase for CSA boxes all year.  It is such a wonderful, seasonal treat that we couldn't leave this Spring delicasy out.  We get it from a local, organicy asparagus producer who we feel does a fantastic job!  

Pac Choi-  Pac Choi is another very fun spring treat.  It is an Asian Spring brassica that we really only attempt to grow in the Spring when the weather is cool and the bug pressure is low.  Flea beetles love Asian greens and want to eat them as much as we do which is why there may be tiny holes in some of the leaves.  We cover them with a white floating row cover while they are growing to keep the bugs off.  We love Pac Choi is asian salads fresh or cooked in a stir fry.  How do you love to eat it?  

Cherry Bell Radish-  One generous bunch of radishes per member this week.  The radishes this Spring are crunchy and so fresh!  They have a tiny bit of bite to them, but not too much.  Remember that the greens on your radishes are edible and are a great addition to your salads or quiches.  Sautee them and add them to your eggs or mix them in with just about anything you're making for dinner to add more green to your life!

Shallots-  These are .41 lb bags of shallots that we harvested last summer, cleaned and stored all winter in our cooler.  They are an overwintered treat that we saved just for you!  Shallots can be used like an onion in just about any dish, but they really shine with added to a home-made salad dressing, marrinade or sauce.  Since they have been in cold storage all winter, they will want to sprout if left on your warm counter space.  Keep them in your fridge until you get to using them up!

Potatoes-  2lb bags of potatoes that were also overwintered from last years harvest.  Potatoes keep wonderfully well in coolers overwinter-best unwashed which is why these guys are a little dirty.  We left the cleaning up to you!  You may have received reds, golds, russets or purple viking.  They will also want to sprout if left on your counter.  Keep them in your fridge until you get to using them up!  

Red Buttercup Lettuce-  One large and beautiful head of red buttercup lettuce that was hoophouse grown!  They are so delicate and fragile they want to crumble with even the most minimal handeling.  Take advantage of this Spring delicasy while the tender Spring lettuce lasts.  As the weather warms, lettuce gets a little tougher to stand up to the heat.  For now, tenderness all the way!  

Spinach- .35 lb bags of spinach per member this week.  Possibly we would have had more if the deer had left the patch alone!  We're seeing more deer pressure this year than in previous years.  But these spinach leaves are so young and tender, you may just want to eat them raw in salads.  Spinach is also wonderful in pasta dishes, egg bakes and sandwiches!  

Herb Pack-  Each 4-pack of herbs has a mint, oregano, thyme and rosemary.  Some of the rosemary did not survive the transplant into the packs (Rosemary is a bit finnicky), so we may have subed a sage instead of rosemary in some of the four-packs.  Transplant your culinary herbs into pots to be set on your porch or windowsil.  If you have the garden space, transplant them out with plenty of water at transplant and send three kisses to the moon.  

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(Strawberry Blossoms! Hoping for strawberries in just a couple more weeks!)

Recipes

 Pac Choi Fried Rice

 Bacon Wrapped Asparagus

Asparagus in Creamy Mushroom Sauce

 Citrus Shallot Salad Dressing

June Fifth, 2019

IMG 0349A new season feels like a kind of rebirth. Or like a granted wish. A little like a second chance, a pardon or forgiveness. We start a new season with all of the experience and memories of the cumulative seasons past. We remember the good the bad and the ugly. With last season being one of the harder years in the history of our farm from the weather, we are exceptionally grateful for a new season! We’ve been through hard times and high times and here we are to roll the dice again.

Experience matters in farming. We know seed varieties and how they behave. We know which parts of which fields are notoriously rocky and hard on equipment. We know our equipment and feel comfortable operating it. We are increasingly more comfortable managing people and working with crews. We know where the water will flow in heavy rains and just where to run the irrigation lines when it doesn’t. We know the early signs of plants that are stressed from cold, heat, nutrients or disease. We farm with increased awareness of everything that could go wrong (and right!) when farming 11.5 acres of vegetables.

But even with all the experience in the world, we are still at the mercy of Mother Nature. Even the best farmers in the world are not immune from flooding, intense heat stress, frost, hail and high winds. The forces that we work in tandem with are both delicate and subtle while also immense and powerful. Perhaps it is this truth that makes farming so romantic and beautiful from afar. While under closer examination it can also look very dirty and rough.

But lucky for us all, CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farms exist! The gloriousness of CSA is that no matter what kind of season it pans out to be, we are in this thing together. Farmer Adam and I feel so thankful and grateful that there are folks like you all out there who still find value in fresh, local and seasonal food! We feel thankful for the backbone of our CSA membership and the audience that supports and applauds us for our very best efforts. And I assure you we are giving it our ALL!

After all said above, the farming season is truly off to a fantastic start! I wish I could give you a flying tour of the fields right now. Everything is planted and fresh and young and new. It all looks controlled and impressive at this stage. We are still planting sweet corn, herbs, and continuous successions of lettuce this week. The temperatures are still mild and the rain has let up for a bit. The Spring Lettuce, pac choi and spinach will make your mouth water just looking at them! The children are running barefoot through the fields, the birds are singing their nesting songs and all is promising and “Cheerio”!

If this is your first time as a CSA member with our farm, Welcome and Thank You! We wish for you to fall hopelessly in love with cooking and the slightly slower pace of life that allows us to cook meals at home. We hope for you wonderment and joyful discovery of new foods and vegetables that you had no idea you appreciated. We wish for you a deeper connection to the seasons and the foods that nourish us through them. We feel thankful to share this journey through the 2019 growing season with you! And for everyone else who is returning like the migrating birds and butterflies, Welcome Home! You are my sunshine!IMG 0341

Soooo.....What's in the Box?

Herb Packs-  A four pack of herbs for you to plant in your garden or in containers to enjoy fresh culinary herbs all summer long!  This week's herb packs include Thyme, Oregano, Basil and Sage.  Transplant your herbs into larger containers or in your garden.  Give them plenty of soil, sunshine, water and love and watch them grow!  

Potatoes-  These are potatoes that were overwintered in our cooler from last Fall.  Some people received red potatoes, some gold, some russets and some purple vikings.  It was a bit of a mix of what we had left from last year.  2 lb bags per box.  

Pac Choi-  One very nice and large head of pac choi per box.  Pac Choi is wonderful in asian salads, stir frys or any way that sounds delicious to you!  Check our recipe suggestions below!  

Shallots-  These are also overwintered gems that we cleaned and stored to share with you in our first CSA boxes of the season.  Shallots are in the onion family and they can be used like an onion in your cooking, but they really shine when used in home made salad dressings, marrinades and sauces.  They would be a great addition to your asian salad!  They should be refrigerated if you don't think you'll get to using them up right away!  

Asparagus-  1 pound bunches per member this week.  My All-time favorite way to eat asparagus is grilling it!  Toss it with a little olive oil, lemon juice, sald and lemon pepper and then grill it until it is at the desired firmness that you like to eat it at!  My kids like it cooked to where it's a bit crispy, but I like it more on the raw and firm side!  

Lettuce-  One very nice head of a red buttercup lettuce per member this week.  Many of them were very large.  I love how Spring Lettuce is so tender and succulent like no other time of year!  

Spinach-  About .40 lbs of spinach per member this week.  The leaves are very young and tender and can be used in a salad or egg bake or lasagna.  The possibilities are endless for Spring Spinach!  

Arugula-  One cute little bunch of Arugula per member.  Arugula is tricky to grow in late Spring when the days get to be warm.  The bugs want to eat it and it wants to bolt.  We harvest it very young like this when it is still very tender.  We love it on pizza or added to a salad.  Arugula is on the bitter end of greens, so cutting it with some nuts or feta cheese or a nice oil and vinegar dressing helps ease the bitterness.  Bitter greens are good for you, so get them in your body!  

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Recipes

Ricotta, Lemon and Arugula Quiche

Arugula-Prosciutto Pizza

Pac Choi Salad with Sesame Dressing

Pac Choi Stir Fry

Oven Roasted Asparagus