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Posted 9/14/2012 9:44pm by Larry Brandenburg.

Friends,

The days are getting shorter and the nights are getting cooler.  It's almost time to say goodbye to all the summer bounty.  As we are now just a couple weeks away from the end of the market and our CSA season, we are reminded that eating seasonally can be a challenge.  The taste of fresh heirloom tomatoes still lingers in our mouth.  Fresh beans and squash are now but a memory.  Wow, I'm getting depressed just writing this.  However, new opportunities arise and this week we will be sharing the first of the sweet potato harvest.  Can't have those in July!

We just dug these sweet potatoes today (about a quarter of one row--we have four rows) and they look rather good.  Even though we will begin distributing them this week, I suggest you hold on to them for at least a week or more.  Ideally, sweet potatoes should "cure" for at least a month before eating them.  They need time to shed moisture (evaporate) and dry out.  As they dry out the sugars are concentrated and intensified.  The longer you wait, the sweeter they will be.  Last year some of our CSA members kept them for six months before they ate them.

We don't have time to cure them before distributing them since they are harvested late and our market runs out before they can cure.  So, it's up to you.  We will start you out with a couple of pounds this week and then increase the amount over the final two weeks.

I enjoy the seasonal change to fall as it tempers the memory of the hot, humid summer.  Many farmers are trying to extend the season by growing in high tunnels. We hope to get one up some time this fall so we will be able to get an earlier start next year and then extend some things into the winter.  As is usual with us, time and labor will determine if we get this done.  Hopefully this year it will happen and it may have positive impact on our CSA offering next year.  Stay tuned for more.

See ya tomorrow!


Larry

Posted 8/24/2012 8:42pm by Larry Brandenburg.

Friends,

Even though today tipped into the 90's I can tell that fall is right around the corner.  The days are getting shorter and I sure am enjoying the lower humidity we have had this week.  I really appreciate the help we have here during the week.  Jeremy works as a chef at Jack Fry's in the late afternoon and evening yet still finds the energy and enthusiasm to show up by 8:00 at least three days a week.  We wouldn't make it without him.  Samantha comes every Friday and didn't leave till 8:30 tonight helping us get everything ready for the market.  The rest of the time it's me and Beth.  Mostly Beth.  She grew up on a farm in Breckinridge County and sure knows the meaning of hard work.  After teaching all day at Bowen Elementary in Louisville she jumps into her work clothes and doesn't stop till it is too dark to see.  She will probably be up past midnight tonight making the beautiful bouquets you see each week at our booth.

The bounty continues this week.  And, as I promised, the okra is starting to do it's thing.  Did you know that of all the vegetables grown in Kentucky, okra is the easiest.  It doesn't require a lot of fertility or water and is not attractive to many pests.  Ah, you say,  the bugs don't even like this hairy, slimy thing.  If you feel like this then I suggest you might want to seek treatment for your okraphobia.  Perhaps see an Okranologist for therapy or medication.  I actually googled "I Hate Okra" and found some very interesting things.  One person dries the entire pod and then paints it to look like a lizard.  Even uses some clay to make the head and feet.  Others have tried freezing, grilling, sauteeing and pickling.  It seems that the uses for this wonderful treat are limited only by your own imagination and sense of American ingenuity.  So, be a patriot and embrace the okra experience.


This past week we cut up some of the Garden Peach, Green Zebra and Illini Gold and put them on a plate as an accompaniment to supper and they looked so pretty that I almost didn't want to eat them.  I did, though, and they tasted even better than they looked.  Enjoy them while we have them.  Carry the memory of the look and taste throughout the coming winter and look forward with anticipation to having them again next year.  Known as eating seasonally.  Also known as eating local and organic.  Also known as eating something you won't find at a grocery store.

Thank you for letting us grow for you.  It is fun growing for you. It keeps us motivated when the days get shorter but the tasks get longer.  See ya soon!

Larry

Posted 8/10/2012 4:43pm by Larry Brandenburg.

Friends,

If you don't have patience, don't take up farming.  You can't rush or manipulate mother nature and sometimes you just have to adjust to her time schedule.  As I shared with you recently, our small (cherry) tomatoes and the large heirlooms are doing very well.  The medium sized tomatoes (green zebra, garden peach, Illini gold) just seemed to be sitting there.  Now they have decided to take off so we are happy to be able to share a mixed quart of these with you this week.  Green Zebras are a green tomato that stay green.  They don't taste like a typical "green" tomato as in fried green tomatoes, but taste like a fully ripe tomato that has green flesh.  Very tasty.  The Illini Gold are an orange paste tomato. Garden Peach is a mild, yellow tomato that is wonderful in salads.

Also new this week will be Dragon Langerie Beans.  Sometimes called Dragon Tongue, they are have a white pod with purple streaks. They are kinda flat like a Roma bean.  You can treat them just as you would a green bean, but, like the Royal Burgundy you had earlier, the purple streaks will go away when cooked.

Since we know that the cherry tomatoes don't usually make it back to your car, we thought we would give you three pints this week.  Maybe at least one pint will make it to your home this week.  Some of our farm pick-ups have them all eaten before they walk out of our house!

Going to have to a little more patience for the okra and eggplant.  Have enough to sell a little this week but not enough for equal distribution to the CSA.  Maybe the cooler temperatures this week will help.

The Organic Farming Research Foundation has just released a report on the benefits of organic farming.  This seventy six page report is available as a PDF download on their website.  I know that I am preaching to the choir, but this is a very important document as it presents some convincing scientific results about the health and environmental advantages of organic farming.  I encourage you to check it out.  It will make you feel good about what you are doing and maybe it will give you some info you can share with your friends.  We need to spread the word.  If we can get enough people demanding organic food we truly can have a significant impact on the world.

Thank you for being a part of the organic community.  Keep the faith.


Larry


 

Posted 8/3/2012 9:20pm by Larry Brandenburg.

Friends,

Spent all morning harvesting in the rain.  Didn't mind it one bit.  Felt good getting soaked by what has become a rare occurrence this summer.  We try to harvest as much as we can on Friday so that everything is as fresh as possible.  This means that we have to work no matter what the weather. We do suspend operations if we have lightning.  Of course there are some vegetables that have to be harvested daily or at least two or three times a week.  We wouldn't be able to do this without refrigeration as we have two walk-in coolers that run 24/7.  They are set to different temperatures since vegetables have different cooling requirements.

One of the things we have to harvest a couple times per week are tomatoes.  It is very easy for them to get over-ripe so we often pick them when they still have green shoulders.  Within a few days they have ripened up perfectly.  When you pick out the three large heirlooms you will get this week, if you see any green on the shoulders, don't be afraid.  Just let them sit on your kitchen counter for a few days and they will ripen up for you just like they do for us.  By the way, don't put tomatoes in the refrigerator.  They should not be stored below 55 degrees and we keep ours at 60 degrees just to be on the safe side.

The large heirlooms and the small cherry tomatoes are doing really well so far.  The medium sized ones are coming on much slower and we don't yet have enough to share with the CSA.  The few we do have (Garden Peach, Green Zebra and Illini Gold) will be available for sale at the market.  If you ever want to buy anything that's on the market table remember that we will give you a 20% discount.  This also includes Beth's flower arrangements.

It won't be long before the Okra will be ready.  Beth was able to get enough today for one pint!  Once it starts though, look out because it is very prolific.  People usually love or hate Okra.  So, I am giving you a heads up.  Just a warning 'cause it will be here in a couple of weeks and we need turn that hate to love.

For the third week in a row I read something in the Courier-Jounal (this was in the business section) that was relevant to what we are doing.  It was a short article on how the drought is effecting vegetable producers.  Most of the press has been about the commodity crops corn and soybeans.  This article was about a CSA farmer in Wisconsin.  So far this year he has only been able to give about 20% of what he had promised.  He hopes he can make it up later in the season but is worried about his CSA partners becoming discouraged.  I can guarantee you that their discouragement is nothing like the stress and discouragement that this farmer is feeling.  I hope that his CSA will step up and realize that the commitment they made includes risks.  

Beth and I are very thankful for the good year we are having so far. We also thankful for our CSA partners and your commitment to us.  Many of you have been with us for several years.  You have experienced the ups and downs.  Many are new this year and are benefitting from a first year of bountiful harvest.  It is important to our local food economy to continue to support our small local farms.  Without them your only choice will be industrial agriculture.  It is also important to support local organic food.  As you know, there are very few of us in this area.  In fact, we are the only certified organic farm in our area that grows a variety of produce.  Without your support, there would be no local organic produce available in Louisville or the surrounding counties. We need more organic farms.  I am in my third year as president of the Organic Association of Kentucky (OAK) and we have grown from fifty members to over two hundred in those three years.  However, we have a long way to go.

Thank you for keeping us going.

Larry


Posted 7/27/2012 8:44pm by Larry Brandenburg.

Friends,

Right now we are getting a torrential rainstorm but I'm not complaining.  We got 3/4 of an inch last night and it sounds like we are probably getting at least that much right now.  Be thankful.  

The heat has been oppressive again this week but we are very grateful for the good harvests that we continue to experience.  The first round of beans are done but we hope that the successive plantings will be bearing in a couple of weeks.  Squash and zucchini are also playing out but again we have high hopes for our succession plantings.

The biggest challenge we have had this year has been with our peppers.  They have not performed as well as we expected.  We are pleased that this week we will be able to share a couple of Sweet Diablos and one Nardello.  These are sweet peppers that are especially good when roasted.

Hope you have been enjoying the cherry tomatoes since we are going to give two pints this week.  The big tomatoes are starting to come on and you will get one large Brandywine this week.  There are a total of 14 different varieties of vegetables in you share this week. 

If you pick up the newest issue of Edible Louisville (available free at the Market if you go by the Beargrass Christian booth) there is a wonderful recipe for sauteed cherry tomatoes.  In addition to the tomatoes, it also uses basil and garlic. So, if you make this you would be using three ingredients from you CSA share.

As always, we enjoy visiting with you here at the farm and at the market.  Thank you for your continued support of local, organic farming.


Larry

Posted 7/20/2012 8:40pm by Larry Brandenburg.

Friends,

Again, the Courier-Journal food section has provided inspiration.  This week the topic was Basil.  This makes us happy since we think our Basil is incredible.  They offered several recipes for using this wonderful ingredient, including one for pesto.  This is one of our favorite ways to use this herb but Beth also uses it on pizzas and sandwiches.  The link, if you want to check out the article is www.courier-journal.com/food.  

This week will be sharing Yukon Gold Potatoes and Cherry Tomatoes in addition to onions, basil, squash, zucchini, Boothby Blonde cucumbers, Lemon cucumbers, Marketmore cucumbers, garlic, fingerling potatoes and Royal Burgundy Beans.  Quite a haul!  In fact, if you bought everything you are getting from us at the market, you would spend thirty eight dollars.  Sometimes the CSA model really works well for the  customer.  We are all in this together and when the harvest is bountiful, you get to share in it.  

The weather is dominating the news these days.  Worst drought since Beth and I were five months old!  (She is five days older than me and I always relish those five days between February 22 and 27.)  Most of the talk is about the commodity crops of corn and soybeans. But, vegetables are also taking a hit.  These temperatures just don't seem to let up much.  We are thankful for the  one and quarter inches we got this week, and for the moderation of temperature today but it looks like the upper nineties will be back early next week.  Water hasn't been as much of a challenge for us since we use drip irrigation.  However, when we get our water bill this month it will show how much the drought is costing us.  I talked to one farmer at the market last week who expects his monthly water bill to be three thousand dollars.  He may just let some crops go since there comes a point where it isn't worth it.  Farmers can't really raise their prices at the market to adjust for this so we all just roll with it.

I bring this up just to point out how fragile our local food economy can be and how important it is for all of us to support it.  There are no government support programs out there like the commodity farmers have.  This is a local economic issue.  I'm sure that most of the farmer's market shoppers aren't aware of how much more expensive it is to produce crops in a drought and I already feel that most of the produce at the market is relatively inexpensive.  I walked through the organic produce section at Kroger last week and was shocked to discover that their prices were higher than ours.  And we are talking about stuff that comes from Mexico!!

That is why I am so thankful for people like you all.  You understand what's at stake here and how important small, local organic farms are to our food security and local economic vitality.  So, we will see you tomorrow at the St. Matthew's "Local Economic Hub" (or we saw you today at the farm) and let's give a big boost to local farms, local economy and true community.


Larry

Posted 7/13/2012 2:32pm by Larry Brandenburg.

Friends,

This week the Courier-Journal had an article (Wednesday's food section) on organic food.  It compared organic to conventional and included the annual list of "dirty food" with recommendations on what you should buy.  The article had some very good information but it dealt only with organic as a way of avoiding pesticides.  Obviously this is a very important reason to eat organically but it is not the only reason.  

Right now we are experiencing heat and drought that is having a detrimental effect on our environment.  There is the promise of rain but so far we haven't gotten any.  When it does come, most of it will hit the hardened earth and run off, carrying with it any residues of chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides (including those used in town on lawns) into our rivers, creeks and other water sources.

Land that is farmed organically does not have any of those things to run off.  Since the main goal of organic farming is to build up the soil, it also tends to be better able to absorb water.  For us, the environmental advantages are just as important as these effect everyone.  It makes our world a healthier place.  

This week you will continue to support a healthier planet as one of our CSA partners.  In addition to what you got last week we will also add Royal Burgundy Beans (they are purple, but turn green when you cook them-Sorry) and Fingerling Potatoes.  Fingerlings are a culinary delicacy and wonderful when roasted.

It's nice to have a little break in the temperatures.  Last week at the Market was miserable and we are looking forward to better conditions tomorrow.  

Thank you for supporting us in our attempt to make our world a better, healthier place for all of us.

Larry

Posted 7/6/2012 9:21pm by Larry Brandenburg.

Friends,

It could be worse.  I was in Lexington for a few hours today and everything is brown.  No blue in the bluegrass.  When I got back to Shelby County our grass still has a lot of green but you starting to see the effects of our withering heat.  The most damaging part of this heat is the evening temperatures.  Plants can survive triple digits during the day as long as it drops by thirty-forty degrees at night.  We are only getting down to the upper 70's and lower 80's.  Our squash and zucchini yield is down by 80% this week.  Squash blossoms are just drying up and turning brown.  If we don't get relief soon many of our crops will be compromised.

The good news is that the beans were very bountiful this week so you will be getting a two lb. bag of green Provider beans.  Kale and Collards have been stunted this week but we still were able to harvest enough for you.  Won't have any to sell. Onions are still going strong and of course the Red Norlund Potatoes will still be in your bag.  Also, we will give you one more of the fresh garlic plants.  Next week we will start distributing the "cured" version.  In addition to the Boothby Blonde cucumbers we will add a couple of Marketmore (the "normal" green cucumbers) and one Lemon Cucumber.  

All in all I am very thankful for everything we have and must say that so far it has been a fantastic year given the challenges of the weather.  Lots of green tomatoes on the vines and if it will just cool off a bit they should be ready soon.

One of the joys of being in a minority of farmers (i.e., organic farmer) is that you get a lot of opportunities to share with others how to do it.  Since there aren't many of us doing this, everyone seems to want to know how and why we are doing this.  Last year we hosted a group of agriculture officials from several countries in Africa for a tour of our farm sponsored by the State Department of the U.S.A.  Next Monday, July 9th, we have been asked to host a group of six agricultural officials from Azerbaijan for a tour and discussion of organic farming.  We are the only real farm they will be visiting.  Most of their other experiences will be with government entities.  Of course, as with the other group from Africa, none of them speak English but they will have a couple of translators with them.  I look forward to sharing with them and also learn about farming in their country.

Looks like next week could bring cooler temperatures and maybe even some rain.  I sure hope so.  One of the main advantages of participating in a CSA is that you get to experience first hand the joys and challenges of farming.  We share with you in our triumphs and our failures.  Now when you watch the weather report on TV you know that what is happening is effecting your food.  You are no longer a detached observer.  You are living it along with us.

Nice to have you along for the ride.  We don't feel nearly as lonely.


Larry


Posted 6/29/2012 11:52am by Larry Brandenburg.

Friends,

Nice to be back in the saddle.  We started at 6:00 this morning when it was 65 degrees.  Now, at noon, it is 90 degrees.  It makes a huge difference to the quality of your produce if we can harvest before it gets too hot.  Thanks to the good help we have, (Zach, Jeremy and Anna) everything was in the cooler by 11:00. I encourage you to come early to the market tomorrow.  Going to be another scorcher and we don't have refrigeration to keep things cool.


This week will have something old and something new.  Nothing borrowed or blue.  Onions continue to do great and some of them are reaching the size we use for storage onions.  Your bunch will probably have a combination of sizes.  Will try to do a better job of getting the mint safely to market.  Mint ice cream or ice tea would be perfect with these temperatures.  Our efforts to rejuvenate the Kale and Collards has worked and so you will get another bunch of these. We call it a braising bunch as that is what our chef/worker Jeremy says that's how he would use them.  Zach is sitting in the cool of the air conditioning putting your bunches together even as I write.


We harvested all the garlic this week and it is in the barn drying and curing.  We usually let it dry for a couple of weeks before distributing it but we are going to give everyone a whole garlic plant this week.  Consider this an educational opportunity.  You will be able to see how garlic looks when we pull it from the ground.  You have been enjoying the scapes the last few weeks.  The scapes grow out of the top of the plant and produce seed. Some of the plants you get may even still have the "stub" where we cut the scape off.  You will also see the roots.  Garlic is in the same family as the onion and you will see the similarity to onion roots.  When you eat garlic before it is cured it is known as "fresh" garlic.  Each clove is very juicy and packed with flavor.  Many chefs prefer fresh garlic (in fact, Jeremy kept eating it raw out in the field while he was harvesting!) to the fully cured.  Garlic you buy in the grocery now was harvested last summer and has been stored for the past year. Let us know what you think of the taste of fresh garlic and we might give some more next week.


Zucchini is a prolific producer when there isn't any pest or disease pressure.  We are starting to seeing some Squash Bugs and they have taken out a few plants but most of the Zucchini is doing well.  Should have enough for you to take all you need.  Also will have Yellow Crooked Neck Squash and Boothby Blonde Cucumbers.  This cucumber is an heirloom variety from Maine and has a wonderful mild taste.  The smaller ones can be eaten just like a pickle, no need to peel.  Won't find these in the grocery store.  Zach and Jeremy dug a row of Red Norlund Potatoes this morning so you will get to enjoy a quart of those this week.  


Farm pick-ups come to the back door of the house.  Too hot in the garage and we will have everything in the sun room for you.  Saturday pick-ups, you know what to do.  Come early.


Thank you for supporting us and our organic farm.  This weather is challenging but we feel things are doing very well.  We do use drip irrigation but would sure appreciate some rain.  We are not as bad off as many other farmers in Kentucky.  Some farms in western Kentucky may not make it this year.  Pray for rain--we all need it!


Larry and Beth


 

 

Posted 6/15/2012 8:08pm by Larry Brandenburg.

Friends,


I encourage you to come early tomorrow as it looks like it will be rather warm.  These warm days are really good for the summer crops (which are doing really well) but the lettuce is now officially done.  I had hoped that our bed of Gourmet Mix would be ready but the official "tasters" say that it is too bitter.  It hasn't bolted yet, in fact it is still rather small, but I guess that you can't fool mother nature and it knows that it's time to get on with making seed.


However, we are delighted that we will have the June apples again this week.  We only get these apples about one in every three years and thanks to the heroics of chef/worker Jeremy, he was able to scale the heights and get the rest of the apples.  Beth couldn't watch.  She is a mother you know.  I was cheering him on and wishing I was younger so I could join him.


The onions are also continuing to produce as are the radishes.  This will probably be the last week for the Napa Cabbage and the Garlic Scapes.  The Garlic is looking great and it won't be long before we will begin harvesting and curing it in preparation for distribution. 


We didn't have any mint for you last week since I decided to put it in the back of the truck, and despite my best efforts to shield it, the road between Shelbyville and Louisville was strewn with mint!  I will do a better job this week.


Going to be hot next week and we will be busy stringing up tomatoes and weeding.  Weeds love this heat. Labor, weeds and bugs are our biggest challenges.  It takes a lot of labor to deal with the weeds and bugs.  Sometimes, however, nature helps out.  The wild turkeys are coming out of the woods and devouring the Colorado Potato Beetles. I guess if they keep this up I will have to put them on the payroll.  It would be money well spent.


Thanks again for believing in what we are trying to do.  It is challenging but so rewarding.  The biggest reward is knowing that there are people like you who understand.  As they say, "you get it." Keep on "getting it".  That helps motivate and inspire us.  See ya soon.


Larry 




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