CSA Newsletter #3

Tomatoes are STAKED!  This week, we rallied over 8 future farmers to participate in the great staking of our 1500 tomato plants.  Lots of pounding and tying – but the heirloom tomatoes that we grow are worth all the hard work!

This week we’ve made a push to  stay ahead of the numerous projects on the farm.  We had a great turn out of volunteers and were able to stake tomatoes, weed, pick rocks and generally keep the farm in good working order.

The zucchinis are now ready to be uncovered  and exposed to the bees (and other insects) for pollination.  We lost another radish crop to heat (they all sent up flowers), and half of our cukes didn’t make it through the transplanting stress.  We’ve got more successions on the way – so there’s still hope!  One week last year we gave out 11 cukes to each member.  With a CSA you’ve got to roll with the seasons and try to appease mother nature.  The greens have been fabulous this year and we’re happy!

ON THE MENU

This week you can expect to find in your share:
Bok Choy, Swiss Chard, lettuce heads, kale, scallions and garlic scapes.

The “On the Menu” list isn’t set in stone, we just put it out there to give you an idea of what may come.  As with all CSAs, it’s good to be flexible and adventurous in your eating!

GROWING THE FARM

We’ve MADE our goal of raising $10,000 to build a website at http://www.heritageseeds.org that will allow seed-savers to collaborate, share seeds, ideas and wisdom!  Special thanks to all of you who helped by ‘kicking a buck’ to the project.  In all, 260 people from all over the world made it possible!  Thanks everyone!

This season, Blackberry Meadows is going to continue “Crowd Sourcing” the funds to grow our farm!  With an increasing number of volunteers and supporters, we are joining the cadre of farms who provide investment opportunities for our members.

When we bought the farm in 2007, we were shocked that 7 of the (then 77) CSA members – about 10% – privately contacted us to offer cash to support the down payment, and purchase of the property.  We were astounded by the generosity and the deep feeling of community that we were buying into.  It was both inspiring and motivational.

We have a multitude of projects on the horizon, from a milking cow, to small grains, to increased fruit – to name a few.   To get them all done, we will be in need of both time and money.  For some, every opportunity will be an adventure in learning and sharing the community wealth.

Stay tuned to the “Current Project” section below for updates on how you can get involved and play a critical role in the growth of our farm.

CURRENT PROJECTS

Local food from our farm year round? How is this possible?

We are now completing a grant to write a business plan to install a commercial kitchen on our farm!  While this sounds like we’re moving into the restaurant business – it really means we’re moving into the Value-Added Product business.  Mmmmm Cherokee Purple Pasta sauce…

From frozen Kale to crusty breads and ready-to-eat soups, our farm has the capacity to produce shelf stable portions and meals from our excess crops.  While you – our supporters – receive the bulk of what we grow – there are some items which do not visually pass muster for us.

Remember the bits of flea beetle damage on your Bok Choy?  or the wind tattered Chard?  We estimate that as high as 30% of our crops go undistributed due to these cosmetic problems.  While these foods are still packed with nutrition, they simply aren’t visually appealing enough to be distributed fresh – and are left in the field or composted.
For us (and many other “direct market” farmers) it is heart-breaking to watch our plants grow and thrive, only to be hit by hail or have their stems broken or get nibbled by a curious critter.  30% lost enjoyment by you, 30% wasted labor…

In 2008, we received a grant to study the nuances to build a replicable Farm Kitchen to make shelf-stable foods from these “seconds”.  Replicable because we want to share these plans with other farmers to help them achieve higher profits in this BOOMING local food movement!

As we develop our philosophy of including you in our farm operations – we will present several details of our kitchen plan over the next weeks and offer strategies for you to help us create this landmark facility.

FUTURE FARMERS: Fiona and Jenny

Last week, Blackberry Meadows Farm opened its arms, pantry, and spare room to a couple of raggedy, first-time WWOOFers (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms). Having experience in nothing but suburban retail and telemarketing, we had no idea what to expect when we arrived on the farm for our first day of volunteering. Jen showed us where to drop our bags and said with a smile, “You guys ready to do some weeding?”
In January, the two of us decided to try farming as an alternative to our usual summer employment. With the encouragement of a friend who had previously WWOOFed, we decided to explore the country while volunteering on farms in Pennsylvania and Nebraska. Blackberry Meadows is our first stop and after week one, we’ve already gained tans, new perspectives, and an extensive knowledge of weeding. As the dirt under our nails has increased, so has our appreciation for the way food moves from field to table.
When people ask what got us into organic farming, we’re tempted to say, “We’re still getting into it!” Before arriving, we knew very little about what actually keeps a farm running. Our  understanding was limited to this: organic is good, but we’re not exactly sure why. In the past week, we’ve come to realize just how much effort it takes to maintain a farm naturally. Never again will we grumble at the price of an organic vegetable! Although it’s labor-intensive, volunteering at Blackberry Meadows has been the most satisfying work experience we’ve had, and it certainly won’t be our last time on a farm.

ANIMALS ON THE FARM: THE STATE OF OUR EGGS

Many of you have requested eggs – only to be told that we’re sold out. We have a flock of 49 older hens and unfortunately, they’re not laying many eggs right now. Not to worry though, there are more on the way!

In February, we got a new batch of 200 hens. We kept them warm over the winter and moved them outside into our ‘eggmobiles’ as soon as it was warm enough this Spring. We have 2 mixed flocks of several different heritage breeds including Barred Rocks, Black Australorps, Rhode Island Reds, Cuckoo Marans and Araucanas. They’re beautiful hens and make nice looking flocks, but even more beautiful will be their eggs.

These girls will soon provide us with eggs of many colors ranging from shades of brown, white, green and blue. We’ve begun finding a few small pullet eggs which means that some have just started to lay! Once they all start laying, it takes about a month for the eggs to go from small to regular size. So, the good news is that in just a few weeks, we’ll have beautiful, organic, pasture-raised eggs for sale.

ANNOUNCEMENTS

Attention Summerset CSA members:   We are excited to be accepting MORE SUBSCRIBERS from your community!  We reserved 20 shares this season and have only received 9 new members.  We understand the busy holidays and the hectic summer soccer schedules.  Please encourage your neighbors to send in those forms so we can continue bringing you great food every week!

Need more local products? If you belong to the Boyd, Phipps or Summerset drop offs and would like any of the additional items (see the “Who Else?” section in the right hand column) we sell, please send us a note and we’ll make sure we bring it to you.  That said, we have a limited supply of eggs at the moment (until July/August), and they are sold on a first come first served basis.  Particularly, if you’re interested in purchasing chicken – please let us know.
__________________
The barn is open on Wednesdays from 11 am – 7 pm.  If you think you might be running late – just give us a call (724 226 3939).  The Phipps Market/CSA runs on Wednesdays from 2:30 pm – 6:30 pm, on Saturdays from 9 am – 11 am we’ll be at the Boyd Center, and at the Summerset at the Frick Community Center from 2pm – 4 pm.

Be sure to bring your own bags.

For the folks who have signed up for a 1/2 share – we have sent you postcard indicating whether you will start on the first week (odd) or the second week (even) of the CSA distribution.  Email jen@blackberrymeadows.com if you don’t know which week you’ll pick up.

Please remember to check in when you show up to pick up your share.  If you’re new to our CSA, we’ll gladly give you the run-down on the operation and answer any questions you may have.

Eggs on the way! Until our youngest batch of hens is laying at full production, we’ll supplement our egg supplies with eggs from Jarosinski farms.  Their hens are raised on pasture with conventional, antibiotic free feed.

Frankferd Farm orders should by placed by July 14th.  Click on the link above to view their on-line catalog.  Mention that the orders are to be picked up by Blackberry Meadows Farm.  We’ll have those items available for pickup on the week of July 17th.  Email jen@blackberrymeadows.com and let her know if you’ve placed an order for July.  We will bring orders to Phipps, Boyd and Summerset!

Who Else?
Frankferd Farms – a natural foods distributor.  Place an order with them once a month and we’ll have it on hand at your CSA pick-up
Wild Purveyors – join their Cheese/mushroom CSA and get speciality PA Cheeses and mushrooms on a monthly basis.
Natrona Bottling Co. – Brewed fresh here in Natrona, this beverage is made from early 1900‘s recipes – before High Fructose Corn Syrup!
Uppity Women Soaps – locally handmade soaps and creams.
Allegro Hearth Bakery- Fresh bread available at the farm pickup only.
Jarosinski Farm – we’re excited to be working with Kevin, a young fellow in Buffalo Township who is tending high quality pasture raised chickens for eggs and meat.
Building New Hope- a great fair-trade coffee with a great cause and always out there to support the local farms.
Kopar Honey Farm – talk about local!  The Kopars keep bees on our farm, as well as many other locations in SW PA.
Clarion River Organics – we purchase potatoes, winter squash and other items from them that we may not be growing this year.

RECIPE OF THE WEEK

Kale Chips
Many of you might have tried this recipe already – but it’s a winner and we want everyone  to give kale chips a try!

1 bunch of kale
1 Tbs Olive Oil
1 tsp salt

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line a non insulated cookie sheet with parchment paper.
With a knife or kitchen shears carefully remove the leaves from the thick stems and tear into bite size pieces. Wash and thoroughly dry kale with a salad spinner. Drizzle kale with olive oil and sprinkle with seasoning salt.
Bake until the edges brown but are not burnt, 10 to 15 minutes.

from www. allrecipes.com

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