July 20th 2015 Newsletter

The Weekly Menu

What you can roughly expect to receive each week:

Here’s where we list what is going to be in the weekly shares.  What we think we will harvest when writing the newsletter – may not necessarily be what’s actually ready on harvest day.  We’ll do our best to get it right!

This week: Carrots, beans, cucumbers, garlic, scallions, cabbage? , purslane, maybe more, but. . . . it’s getting tough out there with all the rain in June/July!  

Confirmed: It’s hot out!

I think there’s times that I get so wrapped up in the current drama of the farm (too much rain), that I forget how quickly things can change.  We’ve had 3 days of hot muggy weather and I’m already thinking about irrigation….  That said, if we can squeeze by with a few more days of dry weather, Greg is going to have marathon tractor work.  There’s so much that needs to be mowed (brush hogged), roto-tilled, mulched and planted.  We have one field (about 1/2 acre) of kale and another of cabbage and broccoli to be planted for the fall.  I’ve got to get back onto my succession planting of beans (can be seeded up until mid-august), carrots and beets.  It’s also time to get leeks into the ground and dig garlic up.  Just one week of dry weather would be great!  We’ll take hot and muggy if we have to!

IMPORTANT – Blueberries!

Hunter Farms, in Erie, has started picking Blueberries!  These are the best around, although comparatively, a little pricy.  It’s definatly worth it – as these are the sweetest, biggest blueberries you’ll ever have.

For next week, you can order a flat of 12 pints for $65 or buy individual pints for $5.50.  (They freeze super well!)  We sell them at the farmers market for $6 and they fly off the table!

Just email jen@blackberrymeadows.com and place your order, along with your pick up date (especially if you’re a 1/2 share).  Blueberry season just began up in Erie, so we should be taking orders for  couple of weeks.

Here’s Evelyn, hocking blueberries in 2014!

CSA Potluck July 18th -Stay tuned for the next one!

We had a nice turn out for this past potluck – and we really lucked out with the rain.  Everyone had a chance to make their own pizza, which was lots of fun!  Please stay tuned for the next date!

Market District as our CSA member?

An amazing thing happened this year.  Giant Eagle Market District in Waterworks subscribed to our CSA.  This pilot is a bold statement about our hometown grocer making an investment in our farm.  Our economic risk and stress levels go down as the number of shares we sell increases.  Ideally, the CSA subscriptions would pay for our cost of operations for the whole year, allowing us to make profits on farmers markets and supplying Penns Corner which are critical to expanding the farm operations and acquiring new tools and training.  That said, when we have lean years, the markets don’t get priority, our CSA members do!

As a large and efficient food retailer, Giant Eagle is making this risky investment along side all of our subscribers!  With all the rain we have been getting, it’s uncertain what kinds of crops are going to make it through till fall… yet Giant Eagle is taking on some of the risk with all of us.  It makes us feel proud to be from Pittsburgh, where our locally owned grocery store won’t settle for simply purchasing wholesale from the local farmers. Wholesale, while the dominant method for selling produce for most farmers, simply doesn’t provide the ‘risk management’ because the farmers don’t get paid if the crop fails.

CSA on the other hand is a commitment to pay for the service of producing food… and this preseason payment ensures that the farm will continue to operate year after year.  It is a risk management plan that a farmer can rely on because the subscriptions are paid regardless of the harvest.  Our responsibility as farmers is to ensure that everyone gets an abundance of crops, all on an equal level. We also strive tp provide the food in a way that inspires community interaction, in the barn, in the fields, around the table.

At the grocery level, this type of investment is extremely unique.  Marty’s Market in the Strip District was the first grocer to pilot this model for one year with us in 2013. With one store front, and a small and flexible staff, they were able to make it work.  Giant Eagle is a bit of a different phenomenon.  The accounting departments in large companies are known, encouraged, and even required to knit-pick every transaction, ensuring that money isn’t spent frivolously and that a known quantity of inventory is received and “accounted” for in the ledgers.

A subscription to sellable inventory simply isn’t done.  We cannot predict what will be harvested, when it will ripen or how many weeks we will have it… a situation that would ordinarily drive accountants crazy!  However, because we strive to provide a weekly share value of the distributions which exceeds the average weekly subscription cost, our produce goes to our subscribers typically below wholesale value.  

The theory we are testing is whether Giant Eagle can make profits on the produce being sold out of the shares we are delivering. We have our fingers crossed that all goes well with this pilot.  If it does, our regional produce sections could wind up containing an abundance of local farm products from regional farms within the next few years.

Play Date at the Farm!

Starting on the first friday in August (the 7th), we’ll be hosting a playdate here at the farm.  We’ll try doing morning sessions: 9:30 – 12:30, and just for the month of August.  More details to come – but in general, we’d like to invite you and you’re kids (2 1/2 – 8 years old?) to come out to the farm for a play date.  If you’re a CSA member and would like your kids to get more “farm time” getting dirty, visiting animals and playing on the farm for a couple of hours, you’re invited.  We’ll see how this goes and then decide what kind of structure and time frame works best for us all.  Check in with me if you think you and your kids will attend!

Here’s a couple interesting links to articles about farm exposure and allergies:

Hay Fever

New York Times Article

Local Goods:

Frankferd Farms – These guys are great!  What a treasure to have here in Western PA – A distributer of natural and organic goods!!  Place an order with them at the end of the month and we’ll have it on hand at your next CSA pick-up.  Give Jen a heads up that you placed an order.

Natrona Bottling Co. – Brewed fresh here in Natrona, this beverage is High Fructose Corn Syrup Free and Local!  If you’re gonna eat junk food – it might as well be local junk food!

Allegro Hearth Bakery Fresh bread and sweets available at the farm pickup only.  Made fresh every Tuesday night – amazing stuff!

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.

Kopar Honey Farm – talk about local!  The Kopars keep bees on our farm, as well as other locations in southwestern, PA.

Clarion River Organics – we purchase potatoes, watermelon, winter squash and other items from them that we may not be growing this year.

Brenkel’s Organic Farm – in Zelienople, supplies us with a few veggies too. 

Conneautee Creamery – Artisan cheeses made from grass fed cows.

Harmony Hill Farm – supplies us with pasture raised, grass fed beef.  We’ll have ground beef on hand at $7/lb.

Northwoods Ranch – located in Gibsonia area, this farm specialies in all pasture raised, Non-GMO and soy free beef and pork.  They raise heritage breeds of pigs and Highland Cattle for beef.  Currently, we only have ground beef from these guys.

Hunter Farms –  keeps us supplied with the best Certified Organic Blueberries  around.  They usually start up in July.  

Una Biological – creams, salves, and balms.  All made in small batches, with organic and some locally sourced ingredients.

Value added from the Farm

We dabble in a few hand crafted items.  We’ll purchase fair trade, organic, green coffee beans and roast them in our wood oven.   

We just made some fantastic Garlic Salt this spring.  Mixed with high quality Himalayan Salt – it’s great for a seasoning on most meals and as an addition to popcorn!

Try our Dulce De Leche!  Look in the frozen section for $3.50  1/2 lb packages of homemade sweetness.  Made with milk from our lovely cows and organic sugar and lots of time.

Culinary Tips and Tricks:

Cooking and Preserving ideas – among other culinary hints for produce from the farm:

I think we’ll be hitting you again with Purslane.  Here’s another recipe for a turkish dish – yogurt and purslane.  I bet it may taste similar to a cucumber Raita.

I’m sure you’ll have no problem cooking up fresh beans.  They are the best!  But here’s an old standby recipe for a great bean salad: 

Summer Green Bean Salad

Prepare:

¼  cup pine nuts (roasted on a dry skillet)

1 lb green beans (boiled, then rinsed with cold water)

Combine in a large bowl:

3 Tbs olive oil

1 small onion, diced

3 Tbs white wine vinegar

½  tsp Dijon mustard

2 medium scallions, chopped

2 Tbs fresh dill, chopped

1 Tbs lemon zest

Salt & Pepper

Add green beans and top with roasted pine nuts. Chill.

Thanks for choosing our CSA.  We strive to grow nutrient dense, wholesome foods for you.  We think what we do is hard work – but important for our family, friends, and community.  There’s a few things that we find important: growing good food, participating in the local economy, being good stewards to the environment, providing our community with access to a farm, farm animals and the outdoors, and teaching new and beginning farmers what we know.  By being a CSA member and supporting our endeavors, you’re helping us to achieve our goals.  Thanks!!



Sincerely,



Your Farmers,

Greg, Jen, Evelyn, Matt, Sam, Dawn and Haven

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