News and Blog
We will have another bag of sweet potatoes for you this week. They have cured for a week -- the minimum I think for getting good flavor. The longer they cure, the sweeter they get. Curing is actually the process of allowing the water to evaporate and the skins to become less fragile. As the water evaporates, the sugars become more concentrated which gives a sweeter taste. We will be digging more over the next two weeks so there should be plenty.
Usually September is a relatively dry month. We average a little over two inches. So far this monty we have gotten close to five inches. We had hoped to dig more potatoes (the regular kind) this week but it has just been too wet. We will share a quart of Yukons with you but they were dug earlier in the season.
Everyone will get some Winter Squash. I wish we had more but the squash bugs were relentless this year. Hopefully the cover crop we plant this fall will help disturb their habitat.
The wet, cool weather has pretty much done in the summer crops (except the peppers?) but it has been great for the lettuce we planted in August. It is growing well and we hope that we will have it for you before the end of the season.
It is beginning to feel like fall and our thoughts will be turning to preparing for next year. Starting next week we will be removing crops that are no longer producing and if it dries out enough I will begin tilling them under. Then we will go in and plant a fall cover crop of Rye, Hairy Vetch, Clover and Austrian Peas. Next spring I will till in the cover crop and it will provide fertility and organic matter for next year's crops. However, we need some dry weather. I need to get the cover crops in by October 15. This year the costs for our cover crop seed are being funded by the Natural Resources Conservation Service through a program for organic farmers. Thank you Washington for finally doing something for organic farmers.
We look forward to seeing everyone this week. We have a GREAT group of people in our CSA. I wish we had the opportunity for everyone to get together and meet. You would like each other. Because of your convictions about local, organic food, we are inspired to continue to meet your needs and make the world a better place.
Hard to believe that it was 101 degrees a week ago. We set records for heat on three consecutive days in September followed by a week of record "low" highs. Your plants are really confused. As you know, weather is a huge challenge for farmers. The flooding up the east coast has been devastating for farmers. Entire crops have been wiped out. The drought and fires in Texas will have an effect on beef prices as ranchers are having to sell their entire herds. This will flood the market with cheap hamburger (most of these are old cows suitable only for ground meat) followed by higher prices in a couple of years as the calf crop will be much smaller -- no mommas left to have babies.
Locally, our weather this past week has slowed down production dramatically. Most of the things growing right now do not like these cool temperatures. Last week we harvested enough cherry tomatoes for thirty pints. Today we had four. We got one peck basket of larger heirloom tomatoes. Same story applies to everything else. The weather challenges we seem to be facing more and more are extreme shifts in temperature and precipitation. Before the rain of last week we were officially slipping into drought condiyions. However, our precipitation for the year is about fifteen inches above normal! Weird.
The bottom line for us is that yield is down considerably this week resulting in the smallest CSA distribution in five years and the smallest amount of produce to sell at the market. In fact, if it wasn't for delivering to you, I doubt we would even do the market tomorrow.
However, you will still be getting potatoes, peppers, okra and beans. And they will still be local and organic and delicious. And, for this week, this is "seasonal." I hope temperatures go up next week and that things will recover and bounce back to normal production. One good note -- the lettuce we planted two weeks ago (when the soil temperature was too warm for it to germinate) is now up, and hopefully by the end of the season we will have some lettuce for you.
Thank you supporting local organic food. Thank you for joining with us in this risky business. The reward is worth the risk.
It is hard to believe that we are now past the halfway mark for this year's season. I enjoy keeping you up to date on our farm activities but the last two weeks have been so challenging that I have run out of steam by the end of the week and haven't had the energy to write anything.
Our biggest challenge right now is labor. We have essentially lost all of our labor and it is down to just me and Beth. And Beth starts back to school next Friday. Over the past several years we have been very fortunate to have had some wonderful people work for us here at Harmony Fields. We thought we had a couple of young men who would join the ranks of enlightened farm alumni but it just didn't work out. Organic vegetable farming is more labor intensive than most any other kind of farming. Although many young people are excited about organic farming, when faced with the reality of hard physical labor in the oppressive heat and humidity of our Kentucky summers, that enthusiasm might find other venues for expression.
Last week Mary Berry Smith (Wendell Berry's daughter and owner of Smith-Berry Winery) and I spoke for about thirty minutes to the Louisville Food Policy Advisory Council about what it's like out on the farm. We were both appointed to this council by Mayor Fischer and it was becoming apparent that somehow those of us who actually provide food to the Louisville area were being ignored. Mary agreed with me that organic vegetable farming is the hardest of all. They no longer do any vegetable farming and some days I wonder why in the world we are doing this.
Last week we had a new customer at the market who bought several things. He enquired as to where the other organic farmers were. We have one other organic farmer at St. Matthew's and I believe that we may be the only two at any market in Louisville. This customer was shocked. He had just moved here from Madison, Wisconsin where there are hundreds of certified organic farms and he could not understand why there weren't more.
Well, that is one of the reasons we do this. Who else is going to do it? So, we will continue to struggle against the odds and somehow I will come up with a solution for our labor problem.
Finally we are beginning to get some of our small-medium size heirloom tomatoes. You will get a quart of these this week. Hopefully the larger ones will come on in the next few weeks. The weather has "done in" the beans. We feel fortunate that we were able to get as many beans as we did this year but again the weather has just turned too hot for them to continue producing. We also dug a row of Red Norlund potatoes this morning and they do look scrumptious. Thanks for putting up with several weeks of "green" potatoes.
This Monday night, August 8, we will again be the featured farm for the evening meal at The Mayan Cafe. We really appreciate the support they give local farms and feel honored to be one of the featured farms this summer.
Spread the word among your network of friends and associates. Yes, the word that we need help. You never know when our mission here at Harmony Fields may resonate with someone who would like the hands on experience of working on an organic farm. Fridays are the days when we need the most help. This is harvest day (so everything will be as fresh as possible) and the tasks are overwhelming for two people. With many at work, it actually can be fun. And definitely rewarding.
Squash, as I have shared with you before, is very hard to grow organically. It is also challenging to keep harvested as it seems to grow incredibly fast. This week we will be sharing some Patty Pan Squash with you that seemed to jump from small to large overnight. Most people prefer their squash to be like their car payment. As small as possible. But fear not, their are some culinary uses for the larger species. One way is to cut them into cubes and incorporate into a dish. Another way is to stuff them. I searched online for "cooking large patty pan squash" and found several enticing recipes. So, I encourage you to be adventurous and please be sure to let us know how your adventure turns out.
We are so happy to be able to share the first harvest of green beans with you. Last year's extreme temperatures burned most of the blossoms off which resulted in a pitiful yield. A 250 ft. row was giving us 5-10 pounds. Well, this year they are doing well. Each of you will get a bag of Provider Green Beans this week and we are hoping that the Royal Burgundy and Italian Wax Beans won't be far behind.
We were able to get a four pints of cherry tomatoes this week. Not enough for the CSA but it looks encouraging for yield to increase substantially over the next couple of weeks. We were later getting things planted this year than ever before. The wet weather in April and May prevented us from preparing the ground properly but now things are beginning to pick up. There used to be a TV ad that said you "can't fool Mother Nature," but you also can't rush Mother Nature. However, some of our growing techniques do seem to allow to push the envelope a little and so we are hopeful. Of course, we could really push the envelope if we used chemical fertilizers and poisonous pesticides and herbicides. But we don't and it just goes to show you that although it may take a little longer, organic is still the better way to go.
There continues to be a lot of discussion as to whether organic farming can feed the world. Not only do I think it can feed the world, but I also think it can save the world. Apparently there are others who think this also. Next week we will be hosting scholars and dignitaries from fourteen African countries who are here as guests of the U.S. State Department. They are people who are with Ministries of Agriculture and Offices of Sustainability in their respective countries. The World Affairs Council called and asked if they could come take a look at a small organic farm. I guess this is the advantage of being the only small organic vegetable farm in "these here parts." Of course Beth is worried that our place doesn't look like Martha Stewart's farm but I doubt that our guests are up on the latest Martha fad. They will see what reality is like for those of us who are real people trying to do the right thing while juggling life in all of its complexity. Last year we hosted a training session for international organic inspectors so I guess we are becoming the "go-to place."
I am always impressed with the fine people who have committed to being a part of our CSA. You are really neat folks. We enjoy visiting with you and sharing the bounty of our harvest with you. We have a long way yet to go in getting our message out, but, we have come a long way and every little step counts. Thank you for walking with us, even though the pace may seem slow and the footprints small.
Well, after taking some time off last week, today hit us really hard. Hard rain that is. It rained all day while we were harvesting, but the show goes on rain or shine.
We dug the last of the new potatoes in thick sticky mud and it took longer to wash them than it did to dig them. These are the potatoes that the Colorado Potato Beetles made a feast of and it amazes me how much yield we got from them. Unfortunately, about half the yield has some green showing. As I told you earlier, the heavy rains in the spring washed too much soil off of them and exposed them to the sun. However, all you have to do it cut off the green skin and they are fine. You will get a quart of "unblemished" Yukons this weekend but we are also going to let you pick from the green ones and take an additional quart.
Our large planting of potatoes is doing really well. They really enjoyed the two inches of rain we got this week. So far we have not any significant Potato Beetle damage. I think we have a symbiotic relationship with the Wild Turkey we have here on the farm. No, not the kind that comes in a bottle. Many times when I have gone out in the big field where the potatoes are growing I have come upon several turkeys quickly trotting away from the potato patch. I believe they are going over there to eat the beetles. Some people turn chickens out in their vegetable patch for them eat bugs but I guess we are doing it "In tune with nature" as our slogan says.
We are in a kind of a transition right now between spring and summer crops. Some of the spring things were effected by the rain and hot weather. The summer crops are a couple of weeks behind since we couldn't get them planted due to the wet ground. They are catching up though and it won't be long before they are in full production
We have lost quite a bit of our Crooked-Neck Squash and three fourths of our Zucchini to the dreaded Squash Bug. We had very little bug pressure on the squash last year so this came as quite a surprise to us. We have put in succession plantings of each of these and they will do better the next round as we know now what to expect and can deal with it before it gets out of hand.
Growing organically is very challenging. If you visit several Farmer's Markets in Louisville you will find that we are the only Certified Organic vegetable farm in this local area of Kentucky. There are many who say they grow "organically" or everything is "natural" but you have to take their word for it. Actually, a farmer is not allowed to use the word Organic unless they are certified. Why? To protect you -- the consumer. And in order to become certified your farm has to become totally transparent. Not only do we have all the record keeping and paper work that is so time consuming, but we also are inspected at least once a year. The inspection is very thorough and includes taking plant samples to test for chemical residue. Not everyone who says they grow "organically" can stand up to this type of scrutiny.
As they say, "If it was easy, everyone would do it." It is not easy and we are one of the few farms that have made the choice to do it the hard way. It would not be possible for us to do this if it wasn't for you and your commitment to the same ideals and principles that we believe in. Or, to put it more simply, a better way of living. Living better not only for ourselves, but for the world and our neighbors.
Thanks neighbor. We love you.
Hope that you enjoyed the cooler weather we had last week. I know we did. Sorry that I didn't get anything out to you the past two weeks. I don't write this until we have finished harvesting and preparing everything on Friday and sometimes it is just so late that I have run out of energy. Plus, two weeks ago I had pneumonia and was slowed down considerably.
The hot weather is back. Our lettuce has finally said "I surrender." It was a shorter lettuce season this year due to the unseasonably hot weather. Strawberries have also given up and the snow peas are longing for snow! We hope to get some snow and snap peas in later this summer for a fall harvest.
The Basil is producing well now and I hope that you will enjoy it. It makes wonderful Basil Pesto -- just ask Beth and she can tell you how to make it. We dug some potatoes today. These are usually called New Potatoes but some of them are pretty big. We weren't planning to dig them yet but the Colorado Potato Beetles have decimated several rows. There are literally no leaves left on them at all. When I pulled one of the plants I was shocked to see how well they had produced. A few of them have some green showing on the skin. Just peel this part off and they will be fine. The green is caused by exposure to sun. These potatoes were planting early and then we got all of that rain which washed the dirt off of them. We couldn't cover them back up with soil because all we had was mud. We did mulch them with organic hay we grow here on the farm, yet some rays of sunshine did manage to reach the exposed potatoes. Again, nothing wrong with a little green as long as your trim that part away.
Also you will get a bag of Napa Cabbage this week as well as Kale and Spring Onions. We now have everything planted (seeds or transplants) and will just sit back and let nature do her thing. I did have to replant sweet corn today. It had been planted three weeks ago but we had not gotten enough rain (none, to be exact) for it to germinate so I just tilled it up and started over. As soon as we finished, around 6:00 this evening, we got a nice storm that dumped about half an inch. We had gotten another half on Wednesday so now we have received the ideal amount of one inch per week.
We look forward to seeing everyone each week, either here on the farm or at St. Matthew's. We do appreciate your support and encouragement.
Sorry for the very late email. We have no internet connection at home and I have just now had time to drive up to the McDonald's in Shelbyville to get free internet access.
We have very long days on Fridays since we want all of your produce to be as fresh as possible. A crew of four young men started at 8:00 this morning and finished at 6:30. Beth and I finish up all the work that is left and usually get to bed around 1:00 a.m.. No, I'm not trying to play on your sympathy. This is a choice that we make because we believe so strongly in providing food that is as fresh as possible. If we didn't believe this, we would just encourage everyone to go the grocery and buy stuff shipped in from thousands of miles away that was picked two weeks ago (before it was ripe) and ripened on the journey.
Everything is doing remarkably well this week despite the additional 2 1/2 inches of rain we got. The cool temperatures today were wonderful. We won't have any asparagus this week as we want it to grow out so we will have more next year. It takes five years for asparagus to get to full production and we are only in year two. You only do a light harvest the second year and then more the third until you get up to full production. So, we sacrifice now for the future. This is applicable to other aspects of our living also. Nature teaches us a lot about how we should live if we will just be aware of the lessons to be learned.
I am sorry that I did not get to see everyone last week. I went back to the farm to get the crew started planting. We were able to get a lot in the ground but we still have a few thousand transplants sitting out waiting. Looks like we may have some dry weather this week and hopefully we can finish up. We will be a little behind but I think we should be OK.
I probably won't see you tomorrow either as I am going to explore the possibility of another market that we might want to participate in. I should be around some but Beth will be there to take care of all of you.
We are so grateful that you are a part of our farm. I hope that each of you will have the opportunity some time this summer to come out and see your food growing. Your commitment to us and our choice to try to make in difference in the world through organic farming is encouraging and appreciated.
We are excited about our first week of deliveries.
This has been an extremely challenging spring. The record breaking precipitation we have received has not been helpful. We were able to get some field work done last weekend but the non-stop rain of the past week has made the fields too muddy to work. We did get some tomatoes and sweet potatoes set as well as some seeds. We hope to be able to harvest lettuce and radishes tomorrow as well as some kale, mint and perhaps some strawberries. The strawberries are really slow this year and some are showing signs of distress. Last year at this time they were yielding very well so I know it is all weather related. The snow and sugar snap peas are not yet yielding. The rain has really stunted their growth. Let's hope for some extended dry weather so they can recover.
There are other CSA's who are delaying deliveries till the end of this month but we believe we will have enough for everyone this week.
If you are picking up at the farm, please come after 4:00 tomorrow (Friday) afternoon. Pick-up at the St. Matthew's Market will be from 8:00-12:00 on Saturday. If you were a CSA member last year, please bring the bags we provided for you. New members will be given bags when you pick up.
The CSA model has been very successful for many years for many farmers. We enjoy it because it allows us to have a relationship that is not possible through other distribution channels. It also allows you to understand the impact that things like weather have on the production of local food. When you buy produce at the grocery you have no idea of the challenges facing the farmers producing that food. And, most food in groceries come from farms thousands of miles from here or even other countries.
The food that you get from us is grown right here in Shelby County using Certified Organic methods. It is harvested on Friday so that it is as fresh as possible. You also share in the risks that come with buying local, organic food.
If you need to contact us, the home phone is 502-738-0510. My cell is 640-0042 and Beth's is 640-0043.
Thank you for your support of local, sustainable organic agriculture. It really does make a difference in our world.
I was a little worried today that we were going to get everything harvested. Some labor I was counting on did not materialize but somehow we got it all done. This week's bounty includes potatoes, (red and white), tomatoes, lots of peppers, three kinds of winter squash, eggplant and okra.
Beth and I are going to get up at 4:00 in the morning for last time for a long, long time! It will be so nice to sleep in till 6:00 next week. Fridays and Saturdays are killers for us and we will not miss these rhythms. However, we will miss you.
Last week a young lady stopped by and took a picture of our booth. She is new to Louisville and has blog where she is sharing her experience of being new to Louisville. She has a nice mention of us (with picture) and you might want to visit it and give her an encouraging word. Her name is Lauren Ione and the site is newaroundhere.wordpress.com. Leave her a nice comment to show her that Louisville is really a friendly supportive place.
Heard last week that Michael Pollan is going to be speaking at Bellarmine on Oct. 7 in the evening. Free. Don't know any other details but will let you know when I find out.
If I can figure out how to do it, I am going to email an evaluation form to you. This will help us know how we are doing and what we need to do to improve.
Please, please keep in touch. And again, thank you so much for being who you are, doing what you do, and showing that you can make a difference in the world.
Larry and Beth
On May 15th the St. Matthew's Farmer's Market opened their fourth season and tomorrow this year's season will come to an end. It has been a really good year for us. The support for local, organic food is growing tremendously. Our sales have been up almost 75% and we now have several restaurants that buy from us each week. This year's CSA was the most incredible group of people we have ever had. Thank you for helping to make a difference in our community.
If you are thinking about becoming a CSA partner for next year, please let us know as soon as possible. Based on the enthusiastic interest that so many have shown, we may need to expand the CSA next year. In order to do this we will have to start making plans now. Next week we will begin the process of cleaning up the fields and planting cover crops. It is the care and attention we give to the land in the fall and winter that enables us to grow successfully in the summer. So, we need to know how much land we are going to need to prepare.
There are many reasons to become a CSA partner. A concern for the environment is one of the primary reasons. Knowing that our land is being nurtured and cared for in a responsible manner gives you a sense of peace that you can't find with food grown in conventional, industrial agriculture. Health issues are also important. When you eat one of our potatoes there are no chemical fertilizer residues in the soil to contaminate it. No pesticides are used and our weeds are dealt with the old fashioned way. A hoe. Also, organic food is richer in the important vitamins and minerals that our bodies need.
Money is also another consideration. However, this should not be the main reason you want to join a CSA. If you are interested in cheap food, then the values that we espouse as organic farmers are probably not congruent with this way of thinking. If you were a CSA member this year, most of the weeks you received produce that had a retail value (based on what we sell for at the Market) that was double what you paid to join the CSA. This was a good year and we share the bounty that we are blessed with. There may be other years when this may not be true. That is why you need to believe that supporting local, organic farmers is the real reason to join a CSA.
We are very proud that we are Certified Organic by the USDA. There are not many in this area that can make that claim. We do this because it enables you to be sure of our growing practices. We are inspected yearly and have a lot of paperwork to keep up with. We think it is worth it because your trust is important to us. I know that there are lot of farmers who say they don't use any chemicals, and I hope they don't, but with us you can be guaranteed that we not only avoid chemicals, but also use production practices that improve the soil.
We are sad to see the growing season come to an end, but we are ready for a break. The winter gives us time to read, plan and attend conferences that will help us become better farmers. Each year we do get better. That is one of the joys of farming.
So, come see us tomorrow at the market for one last time. We have many people that visit our website and sign up for the mailing list that we don't know. Come meet us in person. And, if you are interested in our CSA, let us know soon.
Again, thank you for your interest in Harmony Fields Farm and keep working toward the goal of sustainable, local, organic food for all.
Larry D. Brandenburg