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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!

July Sixth

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  One of the foundational concepts of CSA farming is how farmers and community members share the risks and the bounty of farming with the community.  We share the bounty when the harvest is plentiful and the crops are abundant.  We also share the hardships when there is drought or flood or ‘just a bad year’ for certain crops.  Because we farm hand in hand with Mother Nature herself we are somewhat at the mercy of the cards we are dealt.  How lucky we are to share the risks and blessings of this livelihood with you all! 

This summer one of the hardships that we have all had to endure together are the strawberries.  It breaks my heart to have a poor strawberry season because we all love strawberries SO MUCH!  I want to assure you that your farmers have been doing everything in our power to ensure the success of the strawberry patches this year, but to no avail.  The blossoms were few and small.  The berries were small and bi-colored and the season was very, very short.  The bi-colored berries has a lot to do with the variety we chose which is always an experiment we have going on at our farm.  We are always trying new varieties to see what performs best on our farm. 

Our first year we grew strawberries we harvested 2000 quarts growing Darselect. It was a very encouraging experience.  We were overwhelmed, but decided it was worth the crazy harvest season.  The second year we grew Darselect we had a bad disease problem and all the berries were small.  We then planted a new variety called Honeyoe which produced a lot of very small berries.  We tried again the third year planting more Darselect which did not perform like the first year we grew them.  The fourth year we planted Cavendish which produced nice berries but they were white on one side.  Last year we planted Earliglow which produced very poorly.  The poor production could simply be the season.  We are hearing from other farms across Wisconsin that they are also having very poor Strawberry harvests this year.  This is probably our worst berry year ever and we are harvesting off of two strawberry patches. 

One take away is that fruit is difficult to grow.  Fruits are dependent on blossoms and blossoms are susceptible to frost, pollination, and fertility issues.  I would struggle to believe we had a fertility issue when we are so heavy on inputs and fertility management.  For strawberries will resort to the old farmer adage, “it was just a bad year” for whatever the reason. 

Next year we are excited to try a new variety of strawberries called Galletta.  Which is said to “produce large, bountiful, picture-perfect strawberries that are disease resistant, cold-hardy- and ripen in June“.  (I love the catalog descriptions that are SO alluring to a farmer in December dreaming of their upcoming season and hungry for fresh fruit!). 

We may not miss so terribly a poor year for celeriac root or zucchini, but a poor year for Strawberries is a little extra sad.  We want you to know that we're all feeling it together!  Thank you so much for sharing in the risks and the blessings through the fate of a the highly unpredictable growing season!  Fortunately, it's looking like it's shaping up to be an excellent broccoli and zucchini season, so we should be in good shape for green foods this year!  Cheers friends!

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(So Peas-ful picking peas in the morning!)

What's in the Box?

Green Cabbage-  This variety is called Quickstart.  It earns it's name well.  Quickstart early cabbages are a lighter, airier, fluffier head of cabbage.  They aren't as dense as the storage varieties, but they get us through just!  You can make egg rolls, coleslaw, cabbage rolls or sauerkraut.  Store in the fridge.

Kohlrabi-  We gave everyone a white kohlrabi or a purple kohlrabi this week.  All kohlrabi are delicious, no matter their skin color.  Just peel them and enjoy their crunchy, juicy insides.  Always rememer you can use your kohlrabi greens like you would use kale if you want more GREEN in your life!  Store in the fridge.

Zucchini and Summer Squash-  4 or 5 per member.   These two squashes can mostly be used interchangeably.  The color is the big difference between the two.  They do have subtle texture and obvious shape differences, but flavor is almost exactly the same.  Squash prefer storage temps around 50 degrees.  The fridge is almost too cool and the counter is too warm, so you might just have to pick your preferred storage location and go with that.  Squashes are SO versatile!  You can spiralize them into noodles, you can grill them, you can bake them, you can steam them, sautee them.  There are probably hundreds of different ways to prepare them and nature offers them in abundance this time of year, so have fun!  

Garlic Scapes-  These adorable scapes are actually the garlic plant's attempt at making a seed head.  The garlic plant sends up a little nodule that would grow and swell into a bulbous roud head with small garlic 'seeds' inside.  But we snap them off early to tell the garlic plant to put more of it's energy into making a larger garlic bulb below ground and not to bother putting energy into making a seed head.  It just so happens that they are delicious to eat!  We chop up the scape from the base of each stalk up to the tiny little nodule.  Everythig above the nodule is just a little tougher and chewier to eat, so not as ideal for cooking.  Use garlic scapes in your cooking like you would garlic in almost any dish! 

Broccoli-  This is about the last of the second succession of broccoli. We thought they did pretty well considering all of the stresses of the spring weather changes.  The next plantings are looking great and were hoping for a good supply of broccoli this year!  Store in a plastic bag in the fridge.

Cauliflower-  Yay!  The first cauliflower of the season.  It’s very simple and healthy to steam cauliflower and toss with a little butter for dinner!  Store in a plastic bag in the fridge.

Peas-   .8 lbs per member. A hearty giving of sugar snap peas this week! Picking peas takes up lots of time! But we feel that they’re worth every minute of it. Everyone loves to snack on peas. The entire pod is edible. They’re a wonderful addition to salads of all kinds!  Store in a plastic bag in the fridge.

Red Curly Kale-  Red kale bunches to keep you stocked in cooking greens.   Store in a plastic bag in the fridge.

Bunching Onions-  Bunching onions are a wonderful replacement for onions until we have them in a few weeks. Green onions, scallion or bunching onions, whatever you like to call them can be eaten from root to tip. Use up the white part and the green part! They make a nice addition to egg salads, potato salads or any kind of summer salad!  Store in the fridge.

Strawberry-  ½ pint for everyone.  Eat them up quick.  This is the last of our strawberry patches for the year.  Fingers crossed for next year!

Romaine Lettuce-  The lettuce this week is so tender and crunchy! We’re so happy to have such tender lettuce this far into summer! We’re also happy to be keeping the deer away from our lettuce patch finally this year as well!  Store in a plastic bag in the fridge.

Red Lettuce-  Sneak a small salad into every meal and stay feeling alive and hydrated!  Store in a plastic bag in the fridge.

Next Week’s best guess- Summer squash and zucchini, kohlrabi, fennel, collards, bunching onion, garlic scapes, broccoli/romanesco/cauliflower, green cabbage, lettuce.

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(Sweet Corn is just Knee High by the Forth of July!)


Broccoli Cranberry Salad with Walnuts and Bacon

Kale Chips

Zucchini and Summer Squash Risotto

June Twenty-Nineth

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This week I feel especially appreciative for our farm helpers.  We have had a difficult time finding helpers to help on the farm this year.  But this week we had an expanded crew of people from the community show up to help get the work done in tandem which relieved pressure on your farmers and allowed us to get more veggies harvested for your box this week. 

Farm work isn’t easy work either.  It’s physically challenging and takes endurance.  At times there is heavy lifting, repetitive motions, and it takes a little grit to get through the heat, rain, mud or tolerating some gnats and lots of socializing.  Interestingly there is a lot of diversity in our farm crew.  We have people ranging from 15 to 65.  We have a few local teenagers looking for summer jobs, retired professionals, current professionals doing the Worker-Share program, a handful of 20-somethings looking for meaningful work outside of large buildings and working intimately with the land and their bodies.  We have moms and dad looking to pick up a day or two for a little money and to satisfy a social urge.  While Adam and I pour our hearts and souls into keeping the farm productive and functioning. 

Somehow the farm offers something to everyone.  Clearly the farm benefits from all the helping hands, but it is also clear that they’re all here because the farm means something to them in their lives.  The farm is alive with a community of people who show up with smiling faces, able bodies and willing minds.  Without this highly diverse group of people, we would not be able to get the veggies harvested, washed, packed and delivered to you! 

There is a worker shortage just about everywhere, it seems and our little farm is no exception.  We pulled together a crew for the summer, but we will be loosing a good part of our crew come back-to-school time.  We will be back to advertising for helpers in August and will be hoping we can get help to finish out the farming season. I trust that helpers will come when we need them, but it’s always a little worrisome at that time.  We have always been able to pull together help when we have needed it in the past 17 years so I trust it will all work out.   We are, however thinking about and working on finding ways to get stable, reliable and consistent help all season long. 

For today I am simply grateful.  I am thankful for everyone who finds meaning, purpose and fulfillment helping on a community vegetable farm.  I am grateful for those who are interested in an intimate relationship with where their food comes from, be it in the form of a paid CSA membership or an active Worker Share.  I am thankful for a community of people to share the hardships and the bounty with alike.  There is no loneliness or lack of social stimulation on an organic vegetable CSA farm!  Thank you to you ALL for your support of our Small Family Farm!

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What’s in the Box?

Strawberry- Only about 2/3 of a pint for everybody this week.  Our strawberry production this year has started off very poor.  We have two patches that we are picking from and we are finding that the berries are smaller and fewer.  One variety only ripens on one side- so if you find berries that are half white, they are still delicious!  We were hoping for pints this week- but found that we had to break up what we had picked into pints to distribute them evenly.  We will continue to pick all that we have and share them with you!  We planted another fresh patch for 2013- and they are looking great so far!  As farmers, we roll the dice with every crop.  Eat the berries up quick!

Kohlrabi– Either a white or purple kohlrabi for everybody this week!  You'll need to peel off the tough outer layer of the kohlrabi to enjoy the crunchy inside.  The leaves of the kohlrabi can be eaten like kale, so don't throw them out!  Kohlrabi can be eaten raw or fried or baked or spiralized or really ANYTHING you can dream up.  They are very versatile!  Store in the fridge.

Turnips- This is our final giving of salad turnips for the year!  They are lovely shaved thinly, sliced or grated onto salads.  They have a sweetness to them that makes them great for snacking.  Store in the fridge.

Broccoli x 2- Wow!  Two heads of beautiful broccoli for everyone this week.  The first succession of broccoli turned out great this spring!  We plant about 9 successions of broccoli every year as it is a crowd pleaser, so we should have lots more to come.  Store in a plastic bag in the fridge.

Snap Peas- A little over a half pound per member!  The sugar snap peas are producing quite well so far!  The heat has been tough on them.  We should have a larger giving next week and we will see how they produce from there!  Store in a plastic bag in the fridge.

Garlic Scapes- These are the long, curly shoots with a little nodule towards the top. Garlic scapes are the garlic plant’s effort at making a seed head. We snap these off to tell the garlic plant to put more effort into making a larger garlic bulb rather than putting energy into making seeds. Lucky for us all, the scapes are edible and delicious. The edible part is the part from the blunt end up to the start of the nodule. The part above the nodule is of course edible, but it gets a little chewier, I usually toss that part out.  Store in the fridge.

Swiss Chard- Swiss Chard never looks as good as it does in the Spring/Early Summer like this!  I love how the leaves look so smooth and healthy and vibrant!  Swiss Chard is in the same family as beets and spinach.  Chard has some of the earthy flavor that beets have and all of the smoothness that spinach offers.  Swiss Chard is most often used as a cooking green either sauteed or baked in a dish.  Store in the fridge in a psatic bag.

Bunching Onions- Because life is so much better with onions and we're still waiting for onion bulbs to size up!  Store in the fridge.

Romaine Lettuce-  Beautiful heads of romaine lettuce.  Romaine is also a Spring treat.  We love to make home-made caesar salads with croutons and a caesar dressing.  Romaine leaves are also a fun gluten-free wrap alternative.  Fill the leaves with rice, hummus, meat, cheese or whatever you like!  Store in a plastic bag in the fridge.

Red Lettuce-  Sneak a small salad into every meal and stay feeling alive and hydrated!  Store in a plastic bag in the fridge.

Dill- Nice bunches of dill!  Dill is lovely in egg salad, with salmon, home made dill salad dressings, veggie dips, soups and so much more!  If you can't use all of this dill this week, you can un-bunch your dill and lay it out on a dehydrator tray and dry the dill.  It could also be dried on a sheet pan in your oven if you don't have a dehydrator.  Once dried, store in a mason jar with a tight lid!  

Next week’s best guess- Cabbage, kohlrabi, Peas, Lettuce, Garlic Scapes, Strawberry, Bunching Onion, Collard Greens or Red Kale, Broccoli, maybe cauliflower, maybe zucchini.

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Broccoli with Feta and Fried Almonds

Lemon Dill Dressing

Dill Dip

Spicy Chickpeas and Greens Fritatta with Swiss Chard

Week 4

June Twenty-Second

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This week on the farm has been hot!  A breezy hot so far.  A humid hot.  A hot that makes it feel like Summer.  As Summer is officially here now, she is making her presence known with the 90 degree temps!  As long as there is a breeze, we can usually make it through okay!  Frequent water breaks and splashy washing work to be done in the cool packing shed help the body stay feeling cool and strong.  With all of the heat this week we’re already hoping for the chances of rain later this week to materialize or we may have to start thinking about irrigating. 

For a crop update, we are noticing that many of our summer crops are a little behind this year.  Because of the long, cool, wet spring many of our crops went out a little later than usual or because we couldn’t get in the fields because it was too wet.  We also had an issue with our soil mix this Spring that we get from a soil mix company called Cowsmo that didn’t have as consistent of a product this year than what we have received in previous years.  Our transplants didn’t go out looking as healthy as in years past so took a little longer to snap out of their ‘transplant shock’ and recover from their stunted beginning. 

Many of our Spring crops have loved the cool temperatures and moist soil and have been made all the sweeter and crispier because of it.  The wetness has made cultivation and weeding difficult at times to get into the fields to weed when we have crews here to do the work.  But, some how we manage to stay on top of it all. 

If you could fly a drone over the farm right now, you would see that the crops are looking fantastic overall though! The rows are all recently cultivated, the plants are all young and healthy. 

We will start picking Strawberries on the farm this week.  Even our Strawberries are a little behind this year because of being mulched a little to heavy last Fall.  We cover Strawberry plants with mulch so that they overwinter okay and the roots survive the freeze and winter wind effects.  We like to be generous with the mulch because it adds organic matter to the soil, preserves soil moisture and helps suppress the weeds.  So they were a little late to bloom this year, but they come at a perfect time! 

We are also excited to start picking broccoli this week which is always a favorite.  Soon our summer squashes and zucchini plants will start producing as well.  Usually cucumbers aren’t too far behind at that point! 

We are excited to be sharing rhubarb this week.  Rhubarb is a plant we have tried to grow in the past, but haven’t had enough success in our rhubarb patch to have established enough plants that we could actually harvest off of them.  This year the Rhubarb looks amazing and we’re going for it!  We’re hoping for increased production in future seasons as the plants look very healthy and strong at this point.  


What’s in the Box?

Potatoes- 2.25lbs per member.  These are overwintered Potatoes from last season that kept wonderfully in our cooler.  They won’t keep long at room temperature.  Plan to store them in your fridge or use them up soon so they don’t sprout at room temp.  You may have received russet, gold or red potatoes. 

Hakurai Salad Turnips-  These are the delicious, white turnips in your box with green tops.  These turnips are different from storage turnips.  Hakurai salad turnips are meant to be used fresh on salads.  My children love to snack on these!  They’re wonderful sliced onto salads or just chopped up and sprinkled with a little salt for a snack. They can also be added to stir fry, eaten with a dip or put into spring rolls or whatever you can dream up! 

Lacinato Kale-  This is the dark green bunch of greens in your box.  Lacinato is the most popular variety of kale these days. It’s smooth texture, dark green color, and mild flavor make it a wonderful addition to any soup, egg dish or salad. 

Red Oakleaf Lettuce- We really love these red oakleaf varieties that can only be grown in the early Summer and Spring months.  Enjoy these funky varieties of lettuce before it gets too hot and they go out of season! 

Green Oakleaf Lettuce-  Another fun lettuce variety that can only be grown in the early summer and cooler season.  These are a rare find and so tender and smooth! 

Green Onions-  The green onions were still a little small this week, but we wanted to start sharing them with you

Kohlrabi- 1 kohlrabi per member.  You may have received either a purple or green kohlrabi. They are the same flavor and color on the inside.  Remember that your kohlrabi leaves can be used like kale. 

Cilantro-  A nice bunch of cilantro per member.

Rhubarb-  .4lbs  We were excited to share rhubarb.  This is our first year of having plants big enough that we could harvest off of.  We were careful not to take too much off of the plants so they continue to grow big and strong for future years. There are still lots of smaller plants out there that we didn’t harvest from.  We’re excited about nurturing our rhubarb patch to be big and healthy and strong!  Perennials are so much fun! 

Next Week’s Best Guess:  Broccoli, Lettuce, Kohlrabi, Sugar Snap Peas, Bunching Onion, Turnips?, Swiss Chard, Dill, Strawberries, Garlic Scapes?



Hakurai Turnip and Apple Salad

Kid Approved Classic Green Monster Smoothie with Kale

Layerd Lettuce Salad (This is really good with peas even though we don't have them yet!  Use whatever veggies you have!)  

Caldo Verde (Portuguese Kale-Potato-Sausage-Soup Caldo Verde (Portuguese Kale-Potato-Sausage-Soup 

June Thirteenth


I’m reading a book, or listening to a book while I work, right now by Robin Wall Kimmerer called Braiding Sweetgrass that seems to have come into my life at an appropriate time.  Robin is a Native American woman who is a biologist, writer, teacher and mother.  There are many profound lessons in her book that are still soaking into my reality, but at present I am contemplating something she and the Haudenosaunee people call the “Thanksgiving Address” that I feel compelled to share with you. 

I am attempting to raise my children to be aware of their consumption.  To think twice about their use of plastics, fossil fuels, waste and materials of utilization which are great.  While there is an acute awareness of what we are expending and the effects of our consumption, I wish also not to teach them to feel guilty or ashamed or sorry for their own existence.  Is there a way to exist on the planet and consume resources, but also a way to honor that which we are taking?  A way to kill a plant or an animal and show respect and reverence at the same time?  I have struggled with, and see others struggling with, their own carbon footprint and consumption and I have wondered if all humans really are all ‘bad’. I wish not to raise my children to think such things about themselves. 

What I like about the “Thanksgiving Address” is that if all death and consumption begins with awareness and deep gratitude for that which we are taking, rather than an attitude of entitlement and dis-contentment that stems out of unmet expectations, we are already behaving like honorable beings.  The Thanksgiving Address asks you to examine your own relationship to nature.  The Thanksgiving Address teaches mutual respect, conservation, love, generosity, and the responsibility to understand that what we have done to one part of the Web of Life, we have done to ourselves.  In expressing gratitude, we become spiritually tied to the forces that sustain us and invest in their care and protection. 

On a farm where there is death and life and rain and wind and plastic and human bodies all around us, this subject is relevant.  Every day we take so much.  Many days it feels like we take much more than we give back to the land. The challenge is to find ways to reciprocate.  While I do believe that gratitude is powerful and many times our gratitude is enough, I believe that we can do more. 

We can do more by protecting beneficial insect and wildlife habitats.  We can teach our friends and family about the importance of buying organic food and protecting our water.  We can use every morsel from our CSA boxes and buy less food from far-away places.  We can walk more.  We can purchase sustainably sourced foods, recycle building materials, and support nature conservancy and protection in our neighborhoods.  We can teach our children how to do these things.  We can teach them to express gratitude for that which they are consuming.  We can teach them to be spiritually connected to the life forces that produce all that they consume.  This is how healing and reciprocity happens. 

In a time of resource scarcity, when is there a better time to talk about this?  Let us remember our ancestors and the simple ways we can give back for all that we receive. 


What's in the Box?

2 lbs. Red Potato-  These are potatoes we kept in our cooler all winter long from harvest last fall.  When we bagged them they were dry with only a little dirt on them, but after we had them out of the cooler for a while they started to sweat and become muddy.  Please be careful with the potato bags when removing them from your box as the bags are weak and the potatoes a bit muddy.  We will plan to wash the potatoes for next week.  Store your potatoes in the fridge for them to keep longer!

Kohlrabi-  If you're not familiar with this vegetable, it is in the brassica (or cole) family-the same as cabbage, broccoli, radish, turnips and so many others!  Kohlrabi are also called the "ground apple".  They're crunchy with a texture similar to an apple, but with the smooth, mild flavor of cabbage or even radish.  You'll need to peel off the tough outer layer of the kohlrabi to enjoy the crunchy inside.  The leaves of the kohlrabi can be eaten like kale, so don't throw them out!  Kohlrabi can be eaten raw or fried or baked or spiralized or really ANYTHING you can dream up.  They are very versatile!  Store in the fridge.

Hakurai Salad Turnips-  These are the white globe shaped roots.  The smoothest textured turnip you'll find that is wonderful eaten raw like a radish.  They are lovely shaved thinly, sliced or grated onto salads.  They have a sweetness to them that makes them great for snacking.  The Pearls of the box this week!  Store in the fridge.

Spinach- A little more than a half pound of spinach for everyone this week!  Store in the fridge in a plastic bag.

Green and Red Oakleaf Lettuce- One head of each red and green oakleaf this week.  We hydro-cool our lettuce by dunking them in tanks of water after harvest.  This gets them pretty clean, however your lettuce should be washed again before eating.  Store in a plastic bag in the fridge.

Green Curly Kale- Gorgeous bunches of green curly kale this week.  The kale and collard field is looking nice this year.  Store in a plastic bag in the fridge.

Cilantro- We had a nice cilantro harvest this week.  The cilantro looks and tastes fabulous.  Store in the fridge.

Next week’s best guess:  Kale or swiss chard, kohlrabi, lettuce, salad turnip, potato, green onion, maybe broccoli, maybe snap peas, hopefully cilantro.



Kale with Red Beans, Cilantro and Feta Cheese

Hakurai Turnip and Apple Salad

Braised Turnip Greens with Apples

Cilantro Lime Salad Dressing