Small Family Farm CSA

We Dig Vegetables


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 Sixth

Each season I feel the need to re-introduce ourselves, even though many of you are returning CSA members (about 60% of you!) and many of you already have a season or a few under your belt and know a bit of our story, but I find that the way I tell it changes each year. And for the new folks out there, it’s fun to hear a bit about the who, what and why behind the farm.

The Small Family Farm and CSA was born in 2006 with 23 CSA members when I was farming on my brother-in-law’s land about 5 miles away from here and using his equipment and infrastructure to actualize a dream I had to one day run a CSA farm of my own. I had been working as a farm-hand on several other CSA farms across the country for 5 seasons prior to buying this farm. Adam and I met at his brother’s farm and decided to buy a farm of our own the following Spring in 2007. I was a whole 22 years old at that time-full of ambition, passion and excitement to finally be farming.DSC 0033

Amazed that people were even signing up for our CSA since we were so new and I was so young and our infrastructure and experience were limited, we were off and running a business just like that! The Farm Service Agency loaned us more money that I dreamed I would ever borrow to buy these buildings and a tractor and some equipment and a greenhouse. Thank goodness for the credit system, or we certainly would not be where we are today!

I like to call the days before we had children the “B.C. days”. It was a time when we were able to work impossible hours. My mother, who lived with us the first few years after we bought the farm, was like our ‘farm wife’. She fed us and washed our clothes and cleaned our house and even gave us lots of advice on how to run our budding business. I sometimes wonder if we could have been able to get started without her domestic and maternal support in those early years. She now lives in her own house on 5 acres next to us and still supports us with more grandma-like gifts such as watching our kids, making us dinner on occasion and countless invisible favors like errand-running and picking up groceries. She still likes to remind us to rinse our dishes before we put them in the dishwasher and to put our boots along the wall.DSC 0034

When our second child was born in 2014, Adam finally quit his off-farm job. The farm was steadily growing and the family was forcing us to get smart and work a little less in some ways, but also to work harder in others. If not for the children, the work may have eaten us alive because a farm will consume every sliver of energy you are willing to put into it. The work is endless on a farm, so I feel thankful in one hundred different ways for our now three beautiful and healthy children for implementing a balance that finally feels sustainable. Plus, we had to live up to our farm name-the Small Family Farm.

We are now in our 13th year of running our little farm with over 450 CSA members. The CSA part of our farm comprises 95% of our business and has been from the very beginning our passion. We are still fully and completely in love with the model. Community Supported Agriculture is everything it’s name suggests and more. It is this living community of people like you and I who invest in this colorful style of agriculture in the form of either money or time or time to keep a cute little farm sitting atop this breezy ridge alive and strong. Our story is not over and we are thankful to write you into the pages as we begin a new chapter in a new season.DSC 0022

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

Pac Choi-  This is the large, asian vegetable at the bottom of your box.  These are deliciously crunchy.  If you're new to this vegetable, give it a try in a scrumtious asian salad with toasted sesame oil!  The stems and the greens are edible.  Keeps best in a plastic bag in the fridge.  

Lettuce-  Red buttercrunch lettuce.  These are such a wonderful Spring treat.  Lettuce like this only grows in the cool weather of the Spring and Fall.  In the summer months you'll only be getting red and green leaf lettuce, but these butterheads sure are a treat!  Enjoy!

Cherry Bell Radish-  A beautiful radish harvest!  Generous bunches of 13 or more radishes per bunch!  More to come next week.  The greens on radishes are even edible!

Arugula-  This arugula is a little more mature than we wanted it to be, but still perfectly harvestable.  It can be difficult to manage the timing of every vegetable perfectly to come into season on the exact week we want it to.  Arugula is wonderful wilted on pizza with feta cheese!

Asparagus-  This is the one item that we do buy each season for our members.  It comes from a neighboring amish farm that produces organic asparagus.  Fresh picked this morning!  

Chives-  While some of these chives are flowering, we left the flowers in for the estetic effect.  Chives can be used like onions or scallions in many recipes.  They're a treat to mince up and eat sprinkled raw on almost any dish raw or cooked!  

Herb Packs-  We aimed to have each pack with sage, oregano, thyme and rosemary.  Some of the rosemary plants did not make it through transplant, so we had to substitute basil.  Plant these out in their own little pots or plant them directly in a space in your yard that you can keep weeded for fresh herbs to harvest this summer.  

Spinach and Pea Shoots-  A half pound of spinach per member this week.  We also added a few pea shoots to the top of each spinach bag.  The leaves and the tips of the pea shoots are edible and offer a light sweet pea flavor when torn into a salad.  The main stems of the shoots could be chewy, so just don't use that part!  

Shallots-  These guys were actually harvested last summer and were kept in storage all winter long in our cooler so that we could give them to you this week.  Shallots are wonderful in sauce, dressing and marrinade recipes.  But if you're short on time to make home-made dressings, you can also just use them like an onion.  Keep them in your fridge until you use them, they will sprout if left out on the counter.  We recommend using them sooner rather than later.  I encourage you to try making your own home-made salad dressings for all of the lettuce and salad vegetabels coming up!  


Oriental Salad Dressing

Pac Choi Salad with Sesame Dressing

Radish Dip

Ricotta Lemon and Arugula Quiche


Local Thyme Recipes by Patricia Mulvey


Asparagus Arugula Frittata with Gruyere

Lettuce Wraps with Ground Meat oTofu with Spring Veggies


Fig and Arugula Grilled Flatbread

Honey Orange Ginger Glazed Bok Choy and Radish


Here is a link to Pat's Blog:

March Twenty-Nineth

The farm comes alive again slowly, quietly, almost secretly. The hive hums when the sun shines.   The greenhouse doors fling open to release the excess heat. The chickens lay eggs again and the children think that since it is officially Spring, they can dare to walk outside without coats or hats. The seeds are germinating in the plastic hoop structure that smells of earth and wood smoke and feels moist and invigorating.

We are nearly one month in to the start of a new season. Plans to begin field work form and the machines are greased and ready to go. The farm help is lined up and the CSA memberships are steadily coming in. The winds blow strong and make the willow tree dance. We are longing for fresh, tender, green food again and the promise that it is not far away feels reassuring.

The farm wife, as I am calling myself these days, feels especially cooped up from keeping three small children warm, healthy and entertained. I do everything I can to care for needs of the people and the farm in the role I am currently playing. I look out the window and watch Adam go to work most days wishing I could follow. But I also feel grateful to get to work from home and get to spend so much time with my children. I remind myself that this is an era of our lives that will one day feel like it didn’t last long enough, but at present feels slow and binding on a late March day.

I raise a three month old and watch him try to kick himself over onto his tummy. I watch my 6 year old learn to count money and read books and add numbers. Our farm house feels a little like a kindergarten when you walk in, but smells like a restaurant. I watch my 3 year old copy everything her big sister does. I watch the robins return and the maple sap drip. I suggest and insist on projects that Adam and hired help can work on. My involvement with the farm feels like it is at a mosey-posey pace with a baby on my back and a toddler tagging along. I support Adam in every way possible to keep him well fed, rested and focused on farm work.

Again I need to remind myself that this is just a stage and one day our children will help seed in the greenhouse. They will one day help make dinner and fold laundry and shake rugs out and bring wood in. One day I will want nothing more than to have them fit cozily on my lap again and to read them a picture book. My body will ache from working on the farm and I’ll wish for a slower pace of life.

Meanwhile the earth tilts toward the sun and warms our landscape. The mornings on the farm are no longer quite. The sounds of those noisy birds are back and hungry animals hustle all around. The lawns looks almost green in places. We seed lettuce this week in the greenhouse which is just four weeks until transplant in the fields. The greenhouse tables are getting full and we are beginning to need to shuffle flats around to make room for all of the seedings coming up. I share the girlish excitement with our little ones for the dawning of a new season. I feel excited for the workers to come back and breathe community into our little farm. I feel optimistic and I whistle and sing as I walk around the farm with the children doing chores and keeping home. Spring time has a way of making you feel young again.

Farmer Adam came home with a brand spankin’ new disc today (a primary tillage piece of equipment) that will make our field prepping work smooth and even a little fun! We’re just a few short weeks away from seeding and transplanting out into the big wide open spaces. Birds fill the trees and the sonic spaces. Soon the sounds of diesel engines and people’s voices will fill our farm. And before long, as a result of this glorious community effort and will, there will be eclectic and bounteous boxes of vegetables harvested from the earth here. We look forward to sharing this season with you!

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How do you imagine your farmers in the wintertime? Do you imagine us with our heads stuck inside seed catalogs mulling over varieties? Do you imagine us walking our frozen fields with a cup of coffee? Do you imagine us curled up in bed, sleeping in and feeling a little guilty about it? Do you imagine us fixing tractors and sweeping the greenhouse floor again and again? All of the above is true, but there’s a lot more to kicking off a new season than simply waiting for it to roll around.

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(C'mon Sunshine!)

We have finished the seed orders, the soil mix has been delivered, and repairs and maintenance around the farm are continual. But there are some really grueling, tedious jobs that happen in the winter months that you might have never dreamed that we do. We have every bed of the farm laid out on a spreadsheet with the row-feet of each bed and field mapped out. We plan, bed by bed, what will get planted where and when-months in advance. We need to make sure we have enough bed space and row feet to grow enough fennel, for example, for 300 CSA boxes two weeks in a row. We even have some really juicy greenhouse excel spreadsheets that lay out our seeded crops as far as when we will seed them, how many trays we will seed on what day, and what size blocks to seed into. Oh, and taxes, don’t forget those! We just got our taxes done and that is one of the most exciting parts of our job!

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(This is our soil mix that we use to start the seedlings in just a couple short weeks!)

February is the final month of our ‘off season’ with the first of our greenhouse seeding beginning the first week of March. We are now doing some marketing work such as distributing fliers, scheduling Lunch and Learns, updating the website and trying to learn more about social media and marketing work in general. We’re better farmers and family folks than we are at selling stuff-but it’s part of the game we’re playin’. We are even beginning to line up some of our labor and employee help for the 2018 growing season, hoping that many of the terrific helpers we had last season will want to join us for another trip around the sun while playing in the dirt.

We entered the winter with 5-6000 lbs of carrots and 3000 lbs of parsnips. We also had extra celeriac root, rutabaga and a few onions, garlic and miscellaneous items that we have been selling to a handful of local food coops and restaurants. The very impressive Viroqua Food Coop in our tiny little town of Viroqua is our biggest and most consistent buyer with substantial weekly orders. If you’re ever passing through Viroqua, you’ll have to check out our very awesome Coop that is in the middle of a huge construction project where they are doubling in size!

I did find some time to bring a bin of apples up from the root cellar, cut them into rings and dehydrate them with the girls. Since most of the summer months means all work and no play, we’re finding more time for the kids. Ayla, 6, is learning to knit and cross-stitch and fold origami paper into beautiful shapes. Aliza, 3, loves playing with her dolls, building little structures for them, and copying almost everything her older sister does. And our two month-old, Arlo, is a dream baby, sleeping for 4-5 hour stretches at night, smiling and cooing when he’s awake and providing entertainment for us all and justification for staying indoors and spending more time as a family.

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