News and Blog
What an incredible day to be out on the farm. And tomorrow is going to be even nicer. With only two Saturdays left for the market it looks like we might end up like we began -- unseasonably cool weather. On the night before the first market (March 9) we had an unprecedented freeze. In fact, we didn't make the first market because we were up all night covering our strawberries. It didn't work. Because of that freeze we had very little production from our strawberry patch.
Although we love the weather we've had this week, the cooler temps have surely put a dent in the tomato production. Yield is down but we will still have plenty for the market. On the other hand, the lettuce has loved it. We will have some beautiful Romaine Lettuce for you tomorrow. Also, don't miss out on the Fairy Tale Eggplant, Okra, Peppers, Potatoes and Hot Peppers.
We are officially out of our grass-fed/grass-finished beef. I will let you know when we have more. You will be able to order and we will find a way to get it to you.
Please come see us tomorrow. Only two more opportunities.
Here's your weekly countdown. Three more Saturdays left to shop the St. Matthew's Farmers Market. Wow. Can't believe how fast it has gone.
This week we will have heirloom and cherry tomatoes, potatoes, sweet peppers (Including those purple peppers that many of you have discovered for the first time), mixed hot peppers including jalapeño. cayenne, habanero and golden ghost. Will also have fairy tale eggplant and red okra. All certified organic and lovingly cared for by our hands from our field to your table.
Beth will have flower bouquets, but probably not as many as the last couple of weeks. Please come early, they go quickly.
Also, please don't forget the wood products sourced from the farm and transformed by the gifted hands of Beth's father, Bill Newman. In addition to the folk art and birdhouses, he also has started making some toys. I will admit that I did not think they would be very popular with kids. There are no batteries or screens, they don't talk to you or move on their own. They are powered only by your hands and imagination.
A very nice woman has purchased two this summer and she told Beth that they are the only two toys that her son will play with by himself. I can picture him sitting on the floor with his hands running over the same wood that has been fashioned by the hands of an eighty eight year old man. His imagination joining with imagination of the eighty eight year old man who maybe is traveling back through his memories and reliving what it was like for him to be an eight year old boy eighty years ago. Imagination can do that. It can spark the creator and also spark the recipient of the creation. The young bringing the old to life and the old bringing the young to life. Hands joined. Imaginations joined.
Only three more opportunities for you to see where your hands and imagination may go. It may be a wooden toy or herb garden. Or it may be a bite into an heirloom tomato whose seeds have been passed down for a century. A tomato you can't find in your local supermarket. Or it may be a flower bouquet loving put together by the daughter of the eighty eight year old man. The daughter who learned to love flowers growing up on a farm tending her mother's flower garden.
Hands and imagination.
The countdown continues. Four more Saturday mornings to enjoy great, local organic produce.
It's 9:20 on Friday night and we just finished our supper. We feasted on our grass fed/finished rump toast (in crock pot), our green beans in the Instant Pot and our fingerling potatoes roasted in our small Breville toaster oven. This oven is one of our best investments ever. Small and efficient, it does a great job on any culinary task you throw at it. Same for the crock pot. And the Instant Pot. Only device not used tonight was Sous Vide. It is normally used at least twice a week.
Food should be nutrient dense, healthy and flavorful. It should not need a lot of spices or sauces to make it taste good. It should have inherent taste and goodness. Thats why we raise our beef on our organic pastures and our vegetables only by certified organic standards. It makes a huge difference. Not only in terms of your health but also in terms of your palate. And your conscience. And your values. And your love for this planet and you neighbor. Isn't it amazing that you can have biologically naturally flavored food that also makes our world a better place?
I like hot and spicy food. Probably developed this desire in the ten years we spent in Texas. We eat/make Mexican food at least five times a week. Breakfast, lunch or supper. Sometimes all three meals. Bring me the heat. This year we have jalapeños, cayennes and Golden Ghost peppers. And they are hot in a good way. They don't overpower you, even the Ghost Peppers have a depth of flavor (kind of fruity) that doesn't just burn but brings a deep satisfying sensual experience. We will have some tomorrow, take a chance, live life to the fullest.
An advantage I had tonight in roasting our Fingerling Potatoes was the access to fresh herbs. Fresh herbs take your cooking to a different universe. Maybe you should check out Beth's herb boxes tomorrow. They scratch that itch that you didn't even know you had. That itch to take it up a notch.
We will have a lot of life enhancing produce for you tomorrow. Not only will it fill your belly but also your soul. So, come experience a something that will make a difference in your life and others.
Come change the world. Sometimes it only takes a small step to get the ball rolling.
Spent some time on the tractor today mowing the overgrown "crop" of Johnson Grass that has emerged in the border of our main growing field. It had achieved heights that exceeded six feet over my head. And my head is almost six and half feet off the ground. When you allow unwanted growth to get away from you also are given a glimpse into the balance of nature you wouldn't see otherwise.
As soon as you have mown a round or two you notice that you have attracted a few bird friends. They are flying in an excited frenzy above your head. You also notice that in addition to lot of chaff bouncing into your lap you are also attracting a few bugs. I watched in awe as a beautiful Praying Mantis would jump from stalk to stalk as the front end of the tractor gently pushed down his perch as we moved steadily forward. The Praying Mantis is the farmers friend. They eat hundreds of harmful insects each week. The birds are also excited about the bugs and pick out their treats too.
As I progress ahead I see rabbits and mice scurry out of the way. Now the hawks have been invited to the party and they too are eying where their next meal might come from. They are not bold enough to dive into this pool of sustenance but patiently perch on tree limbs or fence posts until it is their turn. As I gently turn toward the north I see a lot of the tall grass trampled down. Here, had I been able to sneak upon them, I would have found deer, probably a mother and her fawn bedding down, protected by the cover of the tall grass.
All of this activity was taking place in an area comprising about two acres. The John Deere tractor powering the seven foot beast following it was no discriminator in its mission to demolish all in its path. Some had been merely disturbed and inconvenienced. Others, not so lucky. Some had sacrificed so that others would live. For some, the inevitable had merely been delayed.
This is the balance of nature.
Harmony Fields Farm is a Certified Organic farm. Our slogan is "In Tune with Nature'. We believe that mowing is much better than applying herbicides that harm human life. We believe that birds and praying mantis and other beneficial insects are a better way to deal with destructive insects than spraying poisonous pesticides.
So, when you come to the market tomorrow to check out our heirloom tomatoes or cherry tomatoes, know that they too are living in balance. As are those beautiful flower bouquets and squash, and eggplant, and green beans and cucumbers. All in tune with nature.
This the balance of nature.
Sometimes though, we might need to offer a helping hand.
If you aren't yet following us on Instagram , check us out at harmonyfieldsfarmky for some great pictures that Beth posts each week. Today she did a short video of the flowers she and Nathan (our son who works here on the farm) harvested today. Beth LOVES flowers more than anything. Nothing makes her happier than seeing the joy that illuminates the face of one who discovers her arrangements for the first time.
When we got married she loved having flowers in the yard. I would have preferred a cow or a hog but she wanted flowers. We have lived in Kentucky, Texas and Illinois and the narrative never changed.
Even though both of us grew up rooted deep in the soul of agriculture, that was not the career path we chose to follow. We were both musicians and that was the path we followed. And still do. But, as my friend the southern writer Will Campbell (now deceased) told me, "Once you get that soil under your fingernails, you can't get it out." Finally, twenty three years ago, we caved in and got back to that soil. And Will was right. That soil was always a part of our soul.
On Sunday, August 16, we will celebrate our 45th wedding anniversary. When we made that commitment at Hite's Run Baptist church August 16, 1975, we had no idea that 45 years later we would still be professional musicians and farmers. Our music careers have taken us over many miles and three states but finally in 1990 we decided to come home to Kentucky. And we decided it was time to find some land so we could complete the circle. It took seven years for us to find the right job combination and the land that would enable us to get that soil back under our fingernails.
And so, here we are today. Not only did we rediscover the soil but we also discovered you. A community of people of common conviction. And love.
This whole journey began with love on August 16, 1975. And love is still the driving force that keeps the journey moving forward. Every tomato, flower stem, cucumber, kale stalk, pepper, etc. is grown and picked as if your life depended on it. Nurtured with love. As if we want to know that 45 years from now, even though we won't be here, the love will continue. And the circle will continue. And that you will occasionally rum the tips of your fingers against your palm and say, "What is that?" And then remember, it must be the soil. Passed down since August 16, 1975.
Come see us tomorrow. We have a lot of fruits of the soil to share with you. But, more importantly, we have a lot of love to share with you. And maybe a little dirt too.
Should be a nice morning tomorrow. Come early and beat the heat. Come early before everything is gone!
Last week I talked about the Boothyby's Blonde Cucumbers we had and I have continued to be fixated on them this week. They are that good. We made pickles out of them and they exceeded my wildest expectations. I ate them whole, no slices, with a little salt and they were so satisfying that I swore off any other cucumbers for the foreseeable future. Sorry big green cucumbers-- I've found a new love interest.
The Boothby Blonde is an heirloom variety. What does that mean? I thought an heirloom was that old dresser that belonged to your great-great grandmother and has been handed down for decades (maybe centuries) through your family. It has value based on its history and emotional connection to your family.
Heirloom vegetables are like that too. They have been handed down for a long time. They are not new or the product of modern technology. Most of the vegetables you find today are hybrids. That's not a bad thing but they aren't heirlooms. Heirlooms are pure genetics. Haven't been messed with. Haven't been crossed with another variety to "improve" them.
For instance, we now have seedless watermelons. They are hybrids developed so that people don't have to spit out seeds.
How boring. I grew up experiencing intense seed spitting contests with my cousins. If an heirloom was seedless that would be the end of the line. No more heirloom. So, now all we want to do is have the experience of eating a seedless watermelon -- the culinary equivalent of a bowling shoe.
I'm often asked if the heirloom Boothby Blonde has seeds. Duh. Of course. People don't seem to like seeds in their cucumbers either. I did an experiment this week. I extracted some seeds from the Boothby and tasted them separate from the flesh of the cucumber. Guess what? They were tender and sweet, almost melted in my mouth and only added to the taste of the Boothby. You can't find that in the grocery. Technology can't provide that experience.
Seeds are important. You want to pass on your "seeds" to your children. You want them to have some heirloom qualities even though they have hybrid characteristics. Mom and Dad both contribute. You need that winning smile from your Dad and that strong backbone from your Mom. Both seeds are needed. But if we only selected for those characteristics we liked then our children would be as boring as seedless watermelon. But maybe easier to control or predict. Clones. Science tells us that asexual reproduction (clones) is the most efficient way of perpetuating our species. Just think about that.
I'll take my chance with the Boothby's. I'll take the risk that comes with continuing flavor and interesting textures. You can have the seedless clones. I choose adventure.
I choose life.
They promise no rain tomorrow morning. Promise it's going to come in hard late tomorrow afternoon. They promise a lot but deliver on little. As I was once told; "Everybody complains about the weather but nobody does anything about it." Yet we all have our favorite meteorologist and continue to put our faith in them even though we know they are lucky to accurately forecast the weather fifty percent of the time.
Famers are weather nerds. We all have a rain gauge. Maybe several. We all have outdoor thermometers. Maybe several. Some even have sophisticated weather stations that resemble a middle schooler's science fair project . And of course we all have weather websites and apps on our phone. A good friend of mine has one of those fancy apps. He was showing it to me out in the pond field field one day. After staring at it for a few seconds he turned to me and said, "It's raining here right now. See that radar image?" I asked him, "Does is say when it might actually hit the ground." We got no rain that day.
We have been dry for a couple weeks here. We received .25 of an inch last week and 2.5 inches yesterday. Very thankful for the rain, and yes, it was actually in the forecast. It gave a boost to several things which means we will have lots of cucumbers (both the traditional long green ones, and an incredible heirloom variety that is short and stubby with yellow skin called Boothby Blond) and some purple peppers that are sweet and tasty. Also will have lots of Eggplant. We love the the Japanese varieties like Fairy Tale and have learned that you do too. It goes quickly.
Told most people last week we wouldn't have anyone squash. Well, the squash made a meteorologist out of me. I was wrong. Look for those beautiful Zephyr Yellow Squash. They will be front and center. Also will have Napa Cabbage and Kale. And of course, the magnificent and sensual green onion.
I like and respect meteorologists.. They are kind of like farmers. They take a lot of data from the past and try to predict what will happen in the future. You would be overwhelmed at all the information we have about agriculture. Yet, in spite of all that knowledge, we still haven't mastered agriculture. The soil is still largely a mystery. School children know more about distant planets above their heads than the ground under their feet.
But, like the weatherwoman/man, we soldier on. We don't give up when we miss and we don't gloat too much when we hit it on the head. We are just grateful for the opportunity to keep trying. I'm sure Meteorologists get great satisfaction when their forecasts line up with your life's plans -- e.g., a sunny dry weekend. And farmers get great satisfaction when our forecasts (like "non-traditional eggplant and peppers and cucumbers") line up with your plans.
Well, maybe you will have to tweak you plans to try that Boothby Blonde Cucumber. But you won't be sorry.
I love the smell of onions. Raw or cooking. I especially love their smell when I first pull them out of the ground. The combination of the sweet and pungent layers of the onion in concert with the the minerals of the soil is a heavenly breath of how the earth sustains us.
I got the chance yesterday to pull a couple hundred onions and prep them for today's market. Usually Beth or Nathan do this but yesterday I got the opportunity for this most wonderful experience. The buoyant green stalks standing tall and proud after the previous day's inch of rain give way to a bright white bulb, almost pearl like, that still has its life sustaining roots attached. It takes a long time to clean and prepare 200 of these for market sales. At $2 a bunch I often feel that it's a lot of work for not much money. The big farms have machinery that can harvest thousands a day. An assembly line of washing stations finish the process and then you can pick them up at Kroger a couple weeks later.
Machines can't smell and assembly lines have no time to ponder the magnificence of the lowly green onion. Have you ever picked up a bunch of green onions at the grocery and smelled them? Not much there. Just an onion. Just something to add to the soup or salad or a sandwich. Like buying a box of staples for the office. Needed -- but where is the joy.
Our onions bring me joy because they reconnect me to the soil. And that connection is passed on to you. You become connected to the soil too and you also become connected to the one who brought them forth out of the soil. A true farmer to eater conncection.
Our relationship is not limited only to onions but also the other vegetables we will have today and the beautiful bouquets Beth has provided. They too are fruits of the soil.
Come today and enjoy the opportunity to connect with a community that is drawn to the wonder of the soil and what it provides for us.
Come and taste, not only with you senses, but also with your soul.
We are looking forward to another great experience at the St. Matthew's Farmers Market tomorrow, July 18, 2020 from 8:00-12:00.
We will have Kale, Swiss Chard, Spring Onions, Squash, Nappa Cabbage, and several Flower bouquets. We still have a few grass-fed/grass finished beef roasts and several pounds of ground beef.
If you are ready to stretch your culinary chops then I suggest you check out our herb boxes. They are already planted and ready to go.
If you want to help support our natural environment you might want to look over one of our birdhouses. We have several new ones this week that would look great in your backyard and provide shelter for our fine feathered friends.
This past Tuesday I had a chance to be interviewed for WDRB's morning show. Thanks to a couple of our market's leaders, Stephen Yates and Penny Peavler, they were able to line up four vendors from the market to be featured on the show. One per hour, 6-9. It was great exposure for our market and a lot of fun. I took one of our herb boxes to demonstrate how you can use it in your kitchen to add that sensory dimension to take your plate to worlds never before explored. As I often tell people, you are only limited by your imagination.
The herb boxes have been very popular this year. Check out our instagram (harmonyfieldsfarmky) to see a picture of two of them being put to use on a customers back porch
The herb boxes were born of necessity. One spring about ten years ago we had a late spring killing frost/freeze. It pretty much wiped out most of our stuff and we were not going to have anything to sell for the first market in May. I don't know where the inspiration came from but I thought we could repurpose wood from the farm to make boxes with plastic liners planted with organic herbs. I found a certified organic nursery in Maryland that would ship us trays of organic herbs for our boxes.
It worked, and as they say -- the rest is history. We were thrown an unexpected curve ball but responded with what I thought was a one time temporary solution.
Right now we are all facing an unexpected curve ball from COVID19. I hate all of this right now. Especially the pain and death experienced by so many. Especially the economic challenges from losing our incomes. Especially the disruption of a way of life that we could predict and count on (most of the time). Especially for all the mental toll of those working the front lines. Especially for children and all students whose educational expectations have been radically shifted. There is nothing good about any of this. I'm not looking for a silver lining.
But, I am hoping and praying that like our herb boxes, we can learn how to creatively adapt and be surprised by the outcome.
I was pleasantly surprised.
I'm looking forward to more pleasant surprises down the road.
Hope you are too.
Hope you were able to find us last week. We have moved back near our old spot in the parking lot at Beargrass. Please remember to wear your mask nd let us pick up anything you need to see. This weeks vendor email from the market managers stressed that customers are not allowed to touch the produce or anything else we are selling. I know this isn't what we are used to doing when shopping. Just think of the grocery stores and all the people that are picking through the produce. Very unsafe in our current environment. On the other hand, our farmers market may be one of the safest places to shop. It is outdoors. Masks and social distancing are required. Wash stations are provided.
So, come out tomorrow between 8-noon and enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing you are shopping in one of the safest environments available. Even if you don't need anything we have, stop by and say hey!
We can still have community even if we have to be six feet apart. Better to be six feet apart than six feet under.