News and Blog
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.
I had to replace Beth's phone last week. It had been dropped so many times that it finally stopped working. I also got her a new heavy duty case to protect it! I ordered one online that came with "Certified Hassle Free Packaging." If you have ever had to navigate that disgusting plastic packaging then you know how appealing hassle free would be. I was also intrigued by the term "certified." I didn't know there was a certifying agency for packaging.
Labels can be be confusing. We are a Certified Organic farm. Why don't we just say Organic? Why qualify it with Certified. I was asked this question last week at the market and it gave me the opportunity to to explain that to be to be able to use the term Organic, we must follow the guidelines of the National Organic Program as administered by the United States Department of Agriculture.
The guidelines establish the approved practices that one must follow in order to be certified. Of course it means no pesticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizer but it also means we must keep meticulous records of every thing we do. Every day. And it means that every year we must be inspected by a trained inspector who will examine all our records and inspect all our fields. They may take soil for testing and plants that would be analyzed for traces of prohibited substances. And, they may do a surprise visit anytime they wish. The inspectors report is submitted to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture who then either approves it and continues our certification or requests clarification on certain points. You are not allowed to market your farm as Organic until you have gone through these steps.
Why do we put ourselves through this? We do it for you. This is one label that you don't have to worry about. It provides transparency and peace of mind. And a guarantee.
So, when you come this morning to the market to pick up some Lettuce or Kale or Swiss chard or Zephyr Squash, or spring Onions you are guaranteed that this produce is truly Organic.
The phone case did end up being hassle free. It was a risk I took that paid off. Next time -- maybe not.
With us, it pays off every time. Guaranteed.
Been a long hard week. It's great to get some actual measurable rain. It's late tonight and my creative well is dry. The alarm goes off at 3:30 tomorrow morning and I'm not looking forward to it.
But, I do hope you will come to the market tomorrow. Come early before the heat and humidity kick in. We will have Snow Peas, Swiss Chard, Kale, three varieties of Lettuce, Beets, Squash and Nappa lettuce.
Beth will also have a few bouquets, herbs, some new birdhouses her father has made and herb boxes.
The grass-fed beef has really been moving. The demand is great but we still have some cuts left plus plenty of ground beef.
I appreciate all the kind, supportive words I receive each week about this weekly email. Hopefully next week I'll be back in the saddle.
It's been a good week here on the farm. The weather has cooperated and enabled us to get a lot of work done. We can easily work sunrise to sunset and often do. It can take a toll on you and sometimes you have to just grab a moment to savor the life the land gives. It happened this week when we came in for lunch. Beth had been picking snow peas all morning and it seemed to me that we should use them somehow for our noon meal. Snow peas are great in stir fry but you need something else to go with them. I rummaged through the freezer and found some frozen vegetables and rice and we had some leftover steak from the night before. It only took fifteen minutes and we had a feast for lunch. However, the star of the dish was the snow peas. They were bright green with a good crunch and sweet. We actually took time to enjoy our meal rather than swallowing a sandwich and heading back to the fields.
Sometimes it only takes one thing to take everything else up a notch, to take the ordinary to extraordinary. Something that takes "pretty good" to WOW!
We will have these snow peas at the market tomorrow. You really don't want to miss out on them.
We we also have some sugar snap peas; not many of these but a few pints if you get there early enough. I also hope that you will be able to take advantage of the marvelous Romaine and Starfighter Lettuce we will have. Several people have passed our booth and sighed that they wish they had come to our booth first. I'm trying not to boast, but I can't help but be proud of this years lettuce. Please don't miss out on it this week.
Kale and Swiss chard will also be available. The Swiss chard is big and beautiful and of course Kale is Kale. Nothing else needs to be said about Kale. It is still at the top of the superfood chart.
And, finally we will have a few pints (9) of certified organic strawberries. They have been really slow this year. The epic, unexpected freeze a month ago really stunted their growth. And that's after we stayed up into the early morning covering them with row cover! But, we now have some and they are amazing. I love strawberries and will buy the organic varieties available in the groceries but they are nothing like local, organic strawberries. I wish we had more to share with you but those who come early will get a treat for sure.
Beth will have a few bouquets this week as well as herbs and herb boxes and heirloom tomato transplants.
Don't forget dear old Dad as Father's Day is approaching quickly. A handcrafted Bird House made by my 88 year old father-in-law would be the perfect gift for any father or grandfather.
The weather will be very nice tomorrow morning. The market is now allowing families to come together to the market. I would love to see you and/or your children munching on some snow peas or strawberries as you wander off from our booth to explore the other offerings of the market.
And, hopefully you will find something that will transform the ordinary into the extraordinary.
Sometimes all it takes is a few snow peas .
Thank you for supporting our local organic farm. Beth and Nathan and I really appreciate you.
They say it takes about sixty days to establish a new habit. Over thirty years ago we began the habit of recycling rather than throwing stuff away. That's a long timeline to establish a habit. And it became second nature; just like getting up and putting your clothes on in the morning. When our children would have friends over for a meal it was always interesting to see how the guests dealt with their trash and food scraps. Most everything went in the garbage can. This would bring a kind reprimand from the boys that you don't do that. They also taught them about how to compost certain food scraps.
During the pandemic our recycling center here in Shelbyville shut down. The waste facility gave a price break on garbage so that we could throw things away that we were used to recycling. It's really hard to break a thirty year habit and it was very awkward and uncomfortable. We really didn't know what to do. It was painful to throw away things into the landfill.
I hope that coming to the farmers market will become a habit. And that when you can't come you will have an awkward, uncomfortable and lost feeling. If you come see us this week we will have Romaine and Stargazer lettuce, Swiss Chard, some Asparagus, a little bit of Kale and some Apple Mint.
Also we will have our 100% grass-fed/finished beef.
Maybe you will develop an interest in composting that will also turn into a habit. It's a miraculous process that turns something that looks useless into an incredibly rich amendment for our soil. We compost everything we can but it is still not enough to meet our farm needs. We are fortunate that there is a composing facility in Lexington that is approved for organic use that enables us to purchase large quantities for use here on the farm.Yesterday we had thirty yards (about 18-20 tons) of compost delivered. It looks like a huge mountain right in front of one of our fields. We will be applying it to areas that need it and it will help our soil develop the nutrients needed to feed our plants. This is a really good habit to establish.
So I encourage you to take on a sixty day challenge. Establish the habit of depending on local farmers for most of your food. And start composting vegetable scraps. It will take about a year for the compost to form (using the static cold composting method) or you can speed it up by turning the pile weekly. If you want any tips, just see me at the market and I'll be glad to help.
See ya tomorrow.
Let's make it a habit.
Seventeen days of rain. Straight. No break. It ends tonight and we will have maybe five or six days of dry weather. As I told you last week, I decided to wait on the ground being ready before preparing any beds. It did happen, and even though I couldn't make our preferred raised beds, we did go ahead and put down compost and drip tape and covered some ground with ground cloth to make an "acceptable" bed to plant in. No soil was disturbed and today we were able to get nine varieties of tomatoes planted. We are behind schedule according to the textbooks and charts but we are right on schedule according to doing the right thing. And we will always err on the side of doing the right thing.
Last Sunday afternoon I was searching for for a pair of work pants in my closet and I came across a properly folded American flag. It was the flag that draped my fathers casket nineteen years ago as we said goodbye to him. It had not been touched since the soldier they sent out to the graveside remove it and folded it and handed it to my mother. I thought it poignant since we were in the middle of "Memorial Day Weekend" -- a time when we remember all those who gave their lives for defending our freedom. I had a quiet moment of reflection and then laid it aside and continued my quest for those elusive work pants.
On Tuesday Beth and I went up to Lexington to pick up some paper mulch we use for planting. It is a special type of mulch that is approved for certified organic production and we have ordered it for years from their headquarters in Colorado. However, we recently discovered that it is actually made in a facility they own in Lexington! So we called and ordered and they allowed us to pick it up there.
The plant is on Athens Boonesboro Rd just east of Lexington, very near the land where I got the soil under my fingernails and could never get it out. It just sticks with you. It's like a dread disease --you can never get rid of even though I tried for several years. The paper plant is also less than a mile from where my parents are buried. And my grandparents. And great grandparents. And aunts, uncles, cousins and countless people I grew up with who helped shape who I am today.
For many of these people they gave great personal sacrifice to do the right thing and sometimes I feel guilty that I didn't get the opportunity to do the same. I guess I'm trying to make it up now by doing the best I can. I really want to do farming and agriculture the right way. It's not war. Maybe not even life or death, but it is important and we are finding out now that our food supply and how we grow our food is indeed a part of our national security. Our president has even called this pandemic a war against an invisible enemy.
So, in a way we are involved in warfare now. We are fighting to feed and nourish our people. We are learning how important it is to take care of each other. To make the sacrifice of wearing masks in public, even at Farmers Markets, even if we think they violate the very rights our forefathers fought for because it's a sacrifice we can make to protect others. I had a person last week at the market tell me she would never come back because of the restrictions imposed on her. That made me sad.
I hope you will come to the market tomorrow. Even if it is inconvenient. Even if it makes you uncomfortable. I hope we have something that will help sustain you and your family. I hope our produce and beef will enable you to keep your family fed and secure. I hope that you might want to start a garden and let us help you in deciding on what to grow and where to find it. Even if we don't have it for sale in our booth.
Come be a part of the solution. It doesn't call for the kind of sacrifice that those we honored last weekend gave. But, it is really important to continue their example of putting the needs of others before our own needs.
Thank you for supporting local organic agriculture.
As you are planning your meals for next week be sure to find a recipe that includes Swiss Chard.
In case you aren't familiar with this colorful and tasty vegetable, you are in for a pleasant surprise. Swiss Chard is in the same family as beets and spinach. In fact, beets and Swiss Chard have almost identical seeds and I have been known to plant what I thought was beets (or vice versa) to only later discover I was wrong.
Swiss Chard has an incredible nutritional profile and like many other fresh organic vegetables can benefit your health in multiple ways.
It is also very versatile in the kitchen. It can be added to salad mixes, sautéed in a little olive oil, added to stews and soups, baked into chips (similar to Kale chips) substituted for basil or other herbs for making pesto, added as a pizza topping, stuffed with goat cheese in chicken breasts, etc, etc, etc. As you can tell, its use is limited only by your culinary imagination. Most uses involve removing the leaf from the stem and only using the leaf part but I have heard some chefs say they like to pickle the stems. [I just paused and did a quick online search for how to use Swiss chard stems and I am overwhelmed by all the uses. Sautés, roasting, stuffing, baking -- you name it.] Try something new and adventurous and we will share your creation with all our CSA partners.
This will be the last week for the Red Bok Choy (sometimes this is also called Pak Choi) as the warm weather has caused it to bolt. It does not like the fluctuations between cool and hot weather we have been having and it has been tricked to go to seed (what the term bolt refers to) as it is now interested in preserving itself for the future. But do enjoy this wonderful Asian green for one more time until perhaps we see it again in the fall.
Kale, Asparagus and Apple Mint will also be in your bag this week as well as a couple heads of lettuce.
The strawberries are still struggling to get out of the starting gate. They are coming on but more like the "Old Gray Mare" than Secretariat. We were only able to get enough picked this week to share with those who pick up here at the farm. Next week we will have some for market pick up and may need to do this alternating plan until they are more consistent in production. Everyone will get their equal share. It may just be spread out over a few weeks.
We are hoping to get some tomatoes in the ground today. The weather has not been cooperative but it dried out enough for us to get some beds prepped for planting. It looks like today may be the last rainy day for awhile and we hope to get a lot done in the fields over the next several days.
For those who are picking up today at the farm, please text or call Beth at 502-640-0043 and she (or me) will bring it out to your car. Our best chance of rain today is 5-7 and hopefully this will make it more convenient for you.
Also, if you ever want to do drive through pick up at the market, please let us know and we can talk you through how that is done. It is very easy and convenient in case you don't need to do other shopping at the market.
Again, thank you for your support of our local organic CSA. We do look forward to that time that we can actually stand close enough to talk and get to know you better and to actually be able to see that smile now obscured by your mask.
Everything is growing so well right now that I'm afraid I may conjure the Devil just by mentioning it!
We have had a decent spring except for the unexpected freeze a couple weeks ago. It slowed down some of our stuff but that just means that you may profit from greater happiness as a result of delaying gratification.
Our biggest challenge right now is that the amount of rain combined cooler temperatures have kept us from getting some of the summer crops in the field.
This evening I was tempted to use an implement called a bed shaper to make some raised beds. I think there are many advantages to growing in raised beds and we tend to grow everything this way. I took a shovel out and dug into the soil to check out its structure to see if it was suitable for the physical manipulation required to make the raised bed. It was still very muddy but I probably could have forced it but it would have been detrimental to the soil structure and the microbial life beneath it.
Do I compromise soil health for economic gain? Or do I patiently wait for the soil to properly dry out knowing that it may put me a week or more behind schedule? How will I compete at the market? How will I keep our CSA happy? And then it struck me. This is the dilemma we have all been dealing with during COVID19. The economy is tanking. Do we put people at risk just to keep the economy going? Well, the decision is much easier for me because I am not balancing human life and existence with the chance to make money.
But, the soil is what feeds us. It's what sustains our very being. And we have learned during the pandemic that we can do without sports and entertainment and even haircuts (sidebar-- Beth did cut mine. Never had cut hair before. It was little sketchy but I thought it came out great!) but we can't do without food. Or farmers. Or especially local farmers. And in particular -- local organic farmers.
So I guess that means I have to make the soil a priority over product even if it means losing a sale or a customer. Tough call. Glad I'm not a governor or other official having to deal with the scale of our current dilemma.
But I am glad to be a part of the solution and grow some wonderful local organic food for you.
Hope you will come out this week and see what we have. May be rainy again but it shouldn't be cold. We will have lettuce (three varieties) and asparagus this week. And please take a chance on some Apple Mint. I found several recipes online today with just a few minutes of research. Apple Mint is very adaptable to a variety of uses. Pick some up tomorrow. Take a chance. Try something new. No one else carries this variety of mint.
We will also have grassfed/finished ground beef, steaks and roasts. Just had this steer processed a couple of weeks ago and it is really good meat. Steaks are well marbled and if cooked correctly will compete with anything from a high end steak house.
Bok Choi, a green used primarily in Asian cooking, will also be available as will several of Beth's beautiful flower bouquets.
Now is the time to set out a few tomato plants. No matter how many tomatoes you buy from us later on when they are producing, you will not regret having you own to pick from each week.
And, if you really like to cook, try some of our organic herbs. Potted up just for you to take home and use in all your creative culinary creations. Or, if you are really adventurous, take an entire herb garden home with one of Beth's herb boxes. Made from repurposed wood from the farm these also make a great gift for someone wishing to take their cooking to the next level.
Hope to see you tomorrow between 9-12 noon at the St. Matthew's Farmers Market. Don't bring any cloth bags, we will provide clean, sanitized bags for your use. Don't forget your mask and gloves. We will have ours on. Just as we want to protect our soil, we want to protect you.
We need our soil and we need each other. That's a compromise no one can make.
We will be at the St. Matthew's Farmers Market tomorrow, Saturday, May 16, 2020 from 9-12 noon. There are a lot of new rules for the Market during this time of COVID19 but they are there to protect all of us. I do think that shopping in an open air market is much safer than the confines of brick and mortar. We will be practicing social distancing and all the other protocols such as masks, gloves and sanitation of surfaces. We will be taking credit cards but we will be limited in offering change. Everything will be priced in whole numbers with no fractions.
If you are able to come, you will find our incredible, and much in demand, certified organic lettuce and asparagus. There will be limited quantities so I hope you can be there early.
Also you will be able to prepare for growing your own food with organic transplants that Beth has nurtured with the finest organic practices to give them a big boost when you plant them in your home soil.
Heirloom varieties of tomatoes include: Cherokee Purple, Brandywine and Mr. Stripey.
Many of you have been buying from us for over a decade and you know Beth's passion for herbs. We will have a large variety of culinary herbs as well as the herb boxes that we make from repurposed wood on the farm and fill with herbs for you to use when preparing those incredible dinners you are now doing. Because of the restrictions of the pandemic, people are rediscovering or even learning anew the joy of home meal preparation.
We will also have our grass fed/finished beef. This steer was processed a couple weeks ago and I just picked it up this week. We will bring ground beef, steaks and roasts this Saturday and can take orders for future needs if you wish. The demand for local grass-fed/finished beef is incredibly high. I wanted to get a date for processing another steer but nothing is available till after January 2021! That's correct, nine months from now. Think about that!
COVID19 has raised awareness of how vital local agriculture is for food security. All of you understand the importance of establishing a relationship with a local farmer. The national industrial food system is broken. Now is the time for change. Not only are the grocery store shelves empty, but you cannot even purchase a freezer for long term storage of food. I have diligently searched for another freezer for our use but they are saying it will be June or July until any are available. Wow.
People are hoarding food and freezers because they are scared they will not be able to feed their families. This is food insecurity.
Many of the seed companies we do business with have quit taking orders for seeds. At first we were able to get seed since we have a commercial account but now many seed companies are shutting down for a few weeks. The seed we are able to get take longer to get here which of course means we have to wait longer to plant. We are ordering more live transplants from an organic greenhouse in North Carolina to help us get by but it is very expensive. No one, even farmers, saw this coming a couple months ago.
I don't like to think of silver linings to disasters. Death, illness, and economic doom are horrible and for me it is sometimes hard to see beyond the grief, pain and suffering. But, as our Governor Andy reminds us daily; "We will get through this, we will get through this together." I believe this and cling to the hope that not only we will get through it, but we will emerge even stronger and better. And I have hope that our agriculture and food system will respond with deep awareness of the problems with the "old way" and the promise and bright future of a new way.
I want to be a part of this and I'm pretty sure you do to.
Thank you for being a part of our loving and caring farming community.