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A hopeful conversation

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A hopeful conversation
This Week's Vegetable Harvest:
  • Baby Bok Choy
  • Carrots
  • Colorful Bell Peppers
  • Rainbow Swiss Chard
  • Salad Mix
  • Chives
  • Radishes
  • Tomatoes - neighborhood sites will receive this week
  • Leeks
This Week's Fruit Harvest:
  • Honeycrisp Apples
  • Jonagold Apples
  • Bartlett Pears
  • Apple Cider
Farm Journal
We have a quote tacked up our kitchen pegboard that reads, "Farming is a profession of hope." We don't work with blind faith alone, however we often remind ourselves to pull back and look at the bigger picture. 

Last week, we heard from a few members that our broccoli wasn't storing as well as usual. This was disappointing to us, as we take numerous measures necessary to provide members with consistently high quality food. So you may wonder, why do we consider this feedback hopeful? 
We feel hopeful because you, our members, care enough to share your feedback. This provides us with a chance to explain and make a positive change for you. Community supported agriculture is based on this relationship. We value your trust and our dialogue about food. We want to provide you with transparency so we thought we'd share a window into this year's broccoli production.
Our soils are known for being a place where broccoli thrives. Broccoli loves soils with high levels of organic matter, and given our work to build soil health, this makes our farm a wonderful environment for broccoli. In fact, when we were Sandhill Family Farms, Jeff was solely in charge of broccoli production because he and this farmland were so fantastic at growing broccoli!
Broccoli is best grown with a consistently cool temperatures in the spring and fall, and moderate levels of rainfall. But this year was different.

Even with excellent soils, we experienced weather that is not conducive to great broccoli growing (along with many other crops). We saw late snow, significant temperature fluctuations and extreme rainfall events both in the spring and fall. We experienced record-setting moisture levels (both in dew and rainy days), and thusly all six of our broccoli successions were hit with varying levels of disease. 
The main culprit is called black rot. Black rot is a disease that spreads with moisture (e.g., rain bouncing from leaf to leaf, when someone brushes against a wet leaf with their pants and moves the moisture and disease with it to the next leaf, droplets hiding within broccoli florets, etc.). The combination (especially over the last month) of rain and consistent heavy dew meant that our plants have spent much of their time wet allowing the disease a much greater opportunity to spread.

If you compare the picture of the broccoli field above (just last week) to the one at the top (taken at a similar time last year), you can see the yellowing bottom leaves and the overall pale color in the lower picture. That is all a result of black rot. The disease starts at the lower leaves eventually causing them to drop. This leave the plant under more stress, with less energy to produce a nice head of broccoli. As organic farmers we have very few ways to control this other than to hope that after all of our early soil preparations, the weather will be conducive to growing broccoli.
Midwestern vegetable growers will gather this February in Madison to learn from plant pathologists about black rot and discuss with each other about how to best manage its spread within broccoli plantings. Managing moisture-transferred diseases is becoming increasingly important as we manage increasing levels of moisture in the midwest.
For our last two broccoli harvests, Jeff individually selected the most promising broccoli heads to ensure we had the most experienced eyes in the field. The team followed closely cutting the selected heads. The harvested broccoli looked and tasted great in the field, however, the disease disease was hidden within the tight heads. Since our broccoli is harvested and distributed within a day, this means didn't have a chance to catch the spread of the disease.
The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) grant we received focused our research efforts on collecting data on a few select crops, including broccoli.  This season, we trialed several new varieties of broccoli to watch how they responded to different circumstances. Going into this winter, we have plenty of broccoli aerial imagery, weather station data, variety data and harvest data to analyze. We hope these data sets will help us to determine the best ways to improve broccoli growth in the future. We look forward to sharing this information with other farmers in our region.
We also remain hopeful that we will grow broccoli as big as Gavin's head again next season! In the meantime, we hope that you've enjoyed the many of the other flavors of late summer.

Thank you for your trust and please keep the feedback coming! We appreciate our community.

Your farmers,
Jeff, Jen and our farm crew
Notes from the Farm Kitchen
Cooler temperatures mark a return to the crops that thrive in chilly nights, including baby bok choy. Based on the positive feedback from our members, we continue to grow a baby variety called Mei Qing Choi in our hoophouse. This variety is known for tender leaves, easy-to-use size and its greens have a wonderful, olive green color. We've found its delicious eaten raw within a salad, or gently sautéed or steamed. 
Swiss chard is flavorful yet mild, and can be used in the same ways as spinach in many dishes including quiches, lasagna, pasta sauce, smoothies, etc. Chard is high in vitamins A, E and C and the minerals calcium and iron. You can use all of its beautiful color by chopping the entire leaf as well as the tender stem.  We enjoy it sautéed with mushrooms and garlic, then and used as an omelet filled with aged cheddar, added to pasta with Parmesan on top or as a colorful addition to a mixed greens salad.
This week's fruit shares again includes one half gallon of Mick Klug's apple cider. If you have remaining cider from last week, it freezes extremely well! Just remember to empty a bit to ensure it doesn't overflow when freezing.

This year's cider is a unique blend of sweet and tart apples, starting with Honeycrisp, for the perfect, not-too-sweet, can-drink-by-the-gallon sip. Nothing but apples, and UV treated for safety, this cider can be enjoyed fresh, heated, mulled, spritzed or spiked as you like! We plan to share this cider again with members next week to ensure all members can enjoy.

This week's apples include honeycrisp and jonagold, which is a large variety of apple which is a cross between a golden delicious and jonathan apple. Both varieties are great for just about any use!
Recipes Ideas from the Farm Kitchen

Tuscan Chickpea Soup with Swiss Chard
6 cups drained and rinsed canned chickpeas (three 19-ounce cans)
3 cups canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock, more if needed
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 carrot, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried rosemary, or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf Pinch dried red-pepper flakes
1 cup canned tomatoes in thick puree, chopped
1/2 cup tubetti or other small macaroni
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound Swiss chard, tough stems removed, leaves cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Puree half of the chickpeas with 1 1/2 cups of the broth in a blender or food processor. In a large pot, heat the oil over moderately low heat. Add the carrot, onion, celery, garlic, and rosemary and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables start to soften, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the remaining 1 1/2 cups broth, the pureed chickpeas, whole chickpeas, bay leaf, red-pepper flakes, tomatoes, tubetti, and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 10 minutes.
Add the Swiss chard to the pot. Simmer until the chard is tender and the pasta is done, 5 to 10 minutes longer. Remove the bay leaf. Stir in the black pepper. If the soup thickens too much on standing, stir in more broth or water.

Chive Scrambled Eggs - Enjoy as a simple lunch or dinner when served with a bowl of steamed baby bok choy and rice.
4 eggs
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 cup chopped chives (1-inch lengths)

Beat the eggs, sugar, soy sauce and salt together in a small bowl until uniform in color. Heat a nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat, until hot. Add the oil and then the chives, sautéing until they're bright green and wilted. Pour the eggs into the pan and turn down the heat. Let this cook until you see the bottom of the egg go from translucent to opaque. Give it a gentle stir, scraping the cooked egg up off the bottom of the pan, with a spatula and allowing the raw egg to run underneath. Let this cook until the bottom layer turns opaque and stir again. Repeat until the egg has reached your desired doneness. Keep in mind that the egg will continue to cook a little after you take it off the heat.

Next Week's Harvest (our best guess)... winter squash, fennel, beets, parsley, lettuce, bok choy and more!

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