Newsletter #5

We always feel like it’s a monumental accomplishment and an indicator of summer when we harvest the garlic.  In 2010 we felt we ran a bit short on the harvest, so we set almost twice as many cloves aside for planting in the fall.  As a result, we’ve ended up with a bountiful garlic season this year and a barn full of curing garlic bulbs.  What a beautiful sight!  We’ll be setting the biggest bulbs aside to plant again in October.  We’ll need lots of help sticking more than 5000 cloves in the ground, come fall.  It’s a perfect time to come and volunteer on the farm; cool breezes, wooly sweaters and blue skies.
We’re still struggling with our cuke crop – as each time we transplant them, they end up cooking in the summer heat. It’s sad!
We’ve been planting a late season of winter squash and watermelons across the street.  We’re hoping to get a later fall frost and harvest some of those melons before the cold hits.  We’re aiming to have pumpkins for Halloween too!

GROWING THE FARM

We’ve received several questions from you all about the photograph in week 3’s newsletter. Nate, Greg and Maggie standing in a large, strange hole. This is the foundation for a “summer” kitchen on our farm! At the heart of this kitchen is a Wood-Fired oven which has a base that is 8 feet wide and 8 feet deep. The chimney will be 10-12 feet high, and it will be able to cook 2 pizzas at around 700 degrees!

The more we learn about how commercial kitchens operate, the more we appreciate the simplicity of the summer kitchen, made with stone and powered with wood. The heat kept far from the interior of the house, as gallon upon gallon of pasta sauce and pickles make their way from field to pantry.

We’ve been in communication with the Fawn Township Zoning Office, Allegheny County Health Department, the FDA and the USDA to learn just how far can we go to get our farm products onto shelves and into freezers for the winter. Food safety scares and increased pressure from industrial food producers for blanket regulations are effectively keeping small producers out of the game. We are hoping to change all that by helping to demystify the regulations and get more farmers canning again!

CURRENT PROJECTS

Our project for the month of August is to build a Wood-Fired oven and kick off the kitchen at Blackberry Meadows! We’re hoping the oven will be built for this year’s CSA picnic (mark your calendar, September 17th!)

To complete the project, we estimate that we will need $1,500 for concrete, mortar, steel beams and doors – and a miscellany of kitchen items from mixing bowls to rolling surfaces and pizza “peals”. It is our goal to invite you as CSA members to pitch in and help in various ways (like pre-purchasing bread, donating materials (like a stone saw), or helping to cut and shape stone blocks (anyone with stone masonry skills?) to create this cornerstone of our community.

What do you get in return? Besides the personal pride and notoriety of supporting this community initiative – you will get to share in the bread – of course! Our goal is to begin production of several breads which can be made available at our market tables and through the CSA.

Look for our pledge sheets at the barn this week and at our drop-off locations, we’re looking for members to pitch in increments of $20 to help build the oven. Once the oven is operational, that $20 will get you and your family 4 loaves of bread from the oven… it’s just another type of CSA share – only rather than pre-purchasing vegetables, you are buying your own sourdough bread!

FUTURE FARMER: AMANDA COLLINS

After attending high school in a rural area bursting with farms and a thriving FFA program, but not much else to do, I wanted to experience more. So when I began attending university in the fall of 2009, I had every intention of staying close to a city and getting as far away from rural life as possible.
Then, while taking an organic gardening class my first semester, my interest in food systems and agriculture began to rise above my other interests. I began searching for a farm to intern with for the summer, and found Blackberry Meadows Farm. Upon arriving, I quickly assimilated to farm life and was welcomed warmly into the farm “bubble.”
My days are spent doing a myriad of things, and though I get up early and often come in late, I would not have it any other way. There is never a dull moment, and I could not think of a better way to spend my days than being in the sun, surrounded by nature and good people. The amount that I have learned in my short time here surpasses all that I have learned in college (and I thoroughly enjoy the
realm of academia).
I know that whatever I end up doing, whether it be farming, writing, or even becoming a flying trapeze artist, I will incorporate the things that I have learned here at Blackberry Meadows in some way.

ANIMALS ON THE FARM: MORE ABOUT OUR PASTURE RAISED EGGS

Our hens live in ‘eggmobiles’ which are portable coops on wheels. The girls spend their days running around outside in the fresh air and sunshine, munching on green grass and foraging for tasty bugs. At night, they head inside the eggmobile and when darkness falls and they’re all tucked in, upon their roosts, we close the door behind them to keep them safe from predators.

We supplement their diet with a blend of local organic grains and minerals which we custom grind here on the farm. We don’t de-beak our hens or add hormones, antibiotics, or medications to our feed. Because of their grass consumption, the yolks are bright orange and stand tall, the whites aren’t runny, they’re high in Omega-3’s and are very low in cholesterol. In fact these eggs are rich in cancer-fighting CLA, an essential fatty acid, which can even help lower your cholesterol. These are not only the tastiest but also the healthiest eggs you can eat!

The cute little pullet eggs are rolling in at this very moment so we’ll start selling them in the barn on Wednesdays. They’ll be small but still as delicious and nutritious as those of our older girls. You’ll just need to eat more of them to equal a regular-sized egg! Don’t worry though, it wont be long before they’re much bigger.

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

BLUEBERRIES are in!  We buy the best blueberries around from Hunter Farms in Erie.  As far as we know, they are the only certified organic blueberries available in our area and they are BIG and Sweet!  They say that all the berries are coming in at once, so the season may not be very long – get them while you can.  $5.00/pint or $55 for a flat of 12 pints.  Please pre-order flats by Tuesday.  Email jen@blackberrymeadows.com with your order.
The CSA Potluck is going to be in the afternoon on September 17th.  Be sure to mark your calendars!  More info to come later.
New this week: Fresh, local, Certified Organic whole wheat flour from Morris Farm in Irwin PA.  We have a limited supply, but if all goes well, we’ll be sure to have more on hand.
Please keep in mind – If you miss your pick up on Wednesday or Saturday and, after the fact, ask to make up for your missed day by switching days – we then end up harvesting twice for you.  It’s important to make arrangements for the days that you won’t be able to pick up your share.  As stated in your Shareholder Agreement, we encourage you to send a family member or neighbor in your place.
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We now carry Riverview Dairy’s goat milk Chevre and Feta Cheeses.  The Sam and Susie Byler family milks 45 goats on their Certified Organic farm overlooking the Clarion River south of Emlenton. Their outstanding goat milk cheeses are sold at the Whole Foods Market grocery in Pittsburgh and are used by top chefs in the ‘best’ Pittsburgh restaurants.
We’ll also have raw milk cheeses made by Conneautee Creamery from raw milk from Showman Farms grass fed cows in Erie Co.
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Attention Summerset CSA members:   We are excited to be accepting MORE SUBSCRIBERS from your community!  We reserved 20 shares this season and have received 13 new members.   The pro-rated price for joining now would be $540 and spaces are available until August 1.  We understand the busy holidays and the hectic summer soccer schedules.  Please encourage your neighbors to contact us 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.
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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.

CORRECTION: Frankferd Farm orders should be placed by July 29th for delivery on the first week of August.  Click on the link above to view their on-line catalog.  We also have hard-copy catalogs available in the barn.  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 August 1.  Email jen@blackberrymeadows.com and let her know if you’ve placed an order for August.  We will bring orders to Phipps, Boyd and Summerset too!

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