Fresh Earth Farms - CSA

Under Cover

Lots of Peppers

We’re still taking orders for the 2024 season. Spread the word! If someone you refer puts your name in the “Where did you hear about us?” box on the order form we will credit your account $25. Of course if you haven’t rejoined yet maybe now is the time! Feel free to order from our online store.

All the other shares are available to order as well. What shares am I talking about? Eggs, Coffee, Mushrooms, Storage, Flowers and Plants! Order them soon (especially the plants).

Anyone want to be a drop site? The requirements are minimal. If you pick-up at the farm and want to bring other shares home with you for your nearby members give me a shout and I can fill you in on the details.

For those who put down a deposit for their shares please remember to send in your final payment by the end of March! If you are unsure how much you owe please contact me and I will look it up. Also, if you want to spread out payments let me know. We can accommodate!

Farm News

One big farm activity I do to occupy me over winter time is figure out how to solve last season’s (or for that matter all the previous season’s) problems. One ongoing problem I’m working on is what to grow in the hoop house. The issue is we discovered two years ago that our hoop house is infected with verticillium. Verticillium is a disease that affects a large number of plants. It also is very persistent in the soil. The web research I’ve done indicates it is very difficult to eliminate so one needs to find ways to work around it. Finding something to plant in the hoop house — which is the most prized, valuable real estate we have — is a challenge to say the least.

Empty Hoop House

Of course the most obvious crop to plant in a verticillium-infected hoop house is a crop resistant to verticillium. This was the approach we used this past season by planting sweet potatoes in the hoop house. I thought that experiment was pretty successful with one drawback. We like to use the tractor to harvest sweet potatoes and trying to drive the tractor in the hoop house is problematic. We managed but we also damaged quite a few sweet potatoes in the process, not to mention the cursing involved in trying to get the tractor turned around in a relatively small space. But that is certainly a possibility again this season.

Another approach to managing verticillium infected soil is to plant crops that may be susceptible but grow fast enough or are not susceptible until later in their lifespan. An example of the latter is spinach. Apparently (I’m sure many of you already know this though I did not) spinach doesn’t succumb to verticillium wilt until it is in its reproductive phase. We typically harvest and eat spinach during its vegetative phase. So if we grow spinach we will harvest it before the wilt affects it. We haven’t planted spinach for many years since spinach is pH dependent and our soil tends to be too acidic. However, as I mentioned previously, we tested the soil in the hoop house and over the last 12 years the soil pH has skyrocketed from around 5.3 to 7.5! That may not sound that dramatic but remember pH is a logarithmic scale so 100 times more alkaline.

Lettuce Plants

An example of a plant that grow fast enough to reach maturity before the verticillium affects it is lettuce. We’ve grown lettuce in our hoop house successfully for many years despite the presence of verticillium. I suspect we can continue to grow it successfully and perhaps we will do so again this summer. But for us to be successful we need to figure out how to keep the ground squirrels from eating it. I suppose that could be a problem for the spinach as well.

Now lets for the sake of this newsletter say we decide to plant lettuce and spinach in the hoop house this season. Both are cool season crops — they don’t like hot weather. But the hoop house can be one of the hottest places on the farm! (Which brings up the question: If something is “hot” why do the “cool” kids like it?) So we don’t want to grow either all summer. What do we do with the rest of the season after we harvest the lettuce and the spinach? The factors in this decision include — but are not limited to — warm loving, resistant to verticillium, fairly short season, and does not require tractor to harvest. This limits us pretty severely. No nightshades (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, etc.) since they are highly susceptible to verticillium and have a long growing season. This is true of cucurbits (squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, etc.) as well. Onions are photoperiodic so they’re out (What the heck does that mean farmer Chris?) plus they have a long growing season. Daikon radishes are a possibility but it seems we have perfected the ability to grow way too many Daikon radishes out in the elements without the need for a covered space.

Sweet corn? Perfect in so many ways. It has a fairly short lifespan. It is resistant to verticillium. It loves hot weather. We harvest it by hand. Sounds perfect! But wait. Each planting of corn takes 2800 feet. To get that much corn in our hoop house we’d have to plant 30 rows 1 foot apart. That doesn’t give the corn enough room to grow so we’ll leave corn on the list but we’ll put it near the bottom. Brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, etc.) are cool season crops so they wouldn’t benefit from indoor space. Carrots are a possibility though they like cool weather better than warm; hot weather causes them to be more bitter and less sweet. Also we like to use the tractor to harvest them but the implement we use is fairly short so carrots may be a possibility but not a perfect answer.

Green beans fits the criteria. They love heat. They are resistant to verticillium, we harvest them by hand, and they are a fairly short season crop. It is certainly something to consider. Growing beans outside works quite well though as long as we can keep the deer off them. Is it worth it to use the hoop house for deer protection? We’ll have to think about it. Beets? They are susceptible to verticillium but are less symptomatic so they could be a possibility. The hoop house could provide the protection they need from the deer. But they also prefer cool weather. So again, not ideal but maybe.

Green Beans

So as you can see, finding solutions to previous years’ problems is not straightforward and simple. Each “solution” has it’s pros and cons. But I have another couple of months to figure out what to do. Which usually means I’ll make the decision in another couple of months.

In the mean time, feel free to send in questions, comments, suggestions for using the hoops house and of course share orders for 2024!

Recipe of the Week

I don’t typically have recipes in the newsletters during the winter months but we made this salad a couple weeks ago and liked it so much we made it again last night. I also wanted to record it so that when we get kale this season and people say, “What do I do with kale?” I can point them toward this recipe.

Kale Feta Cranberry Salad

A delicious way to use a bunch of kale.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Course Salad
Servings 6

Ingredients
  

  • 1 bunch kale chopped/shredded
  • 8 oz feta cheese crumbled
  • ½ c dried cranberries
  • ½ c sliced almonds
  • 1 medium apple sliced into bite-size pieces

Dressing

  • ½ c olive oil
  • ¼ c lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic minced or crushed
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp kosher salt

Instructions
 

  • Wash, stem and chop kale leaves into bite-sized pieces. Add to large bowl.
  • Add feta, cranberries, sliced almonds and apple slices to kale.
  • Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, mustard, salt and pepper.
  • Pour dressing over salad and toss to combine.
Keyword Kale

Joke of the Week

Why did the tomato turn red? Because it saw the salad dressing!

Again, if you want better jokes you have to send in better jokes. And feel free to send in anything else like share orders, add-on share orders, payments, etc.

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