What Organic Means to Me – GMOs and Hydroponics and Pasture, Oh My!

“Organic” is one of those words that polarizes. For some of us, it has connotations of healthy, natural foods, and pastoral scenes of frolicking calves in rolling green fields with neat vegetable rows nearby. For others, it creates images of ugly overpriced food available only to the wealthy, grown by dirty barefoot hippies in weedy fields.

As a farmer involved in the organic industry, I can definitively say that neither of those images is representative of organic as a whole, though for sure parts of each might be true in singular instances!

No dirty hippies, just farmer fashion shows where Matt rocks his patented Blue Steel look.. (absolutely don't tell Matt I posted this photo!)

No dirty hippies, just farmer fashion shows where Matt rocks his patented Blue Steel look.. (absolutely don't tell Matt I posted this photo!)

This week was a big week for organics on our farm because we just mailed in our application for certification. [Keep your fingers crossed so that we pass inspection this summer and can actually say that we are organic!] To some extent, this isn’t a big deal – we only use practices approved for organic production already, so we aren’t changing our farm management, but in other ways, this application represents a big decision for us because of all the loaded connotations of that certification.

We know that some of you have asked us to certify, others might assume that we are certified, and we worry just a bit that by officially becoming organic we risk losing a few customers because of the perception that organic costs more or is elitist.

Our answer is that since we use all organic practices already, we already price our products at the organic level, and of course it isn’t just for the rich! (One of my pet peeves as a farmer is that when I grow vegetables just like how all our great-grandparents did not using modern products, it’s considered elitist. Shouldn’t doing things the old school way just be considered normal?) Yes, we will see some production costs go up by certifying but measured against the yearly march of minimum wage increases, overall input cost inflation, and constantly rising taxes, the financial impact of certification on the farm will be swallowed up by the greater increases elsewhere.

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What really is “Organic?”

What is organic to us? It’s not about certification and a label. Part of why we held off certifying so long is that we wanted to stay outside the regulation and just not deal with all the hassle just to get a label that our customers didn’t really need since you all can come visit us anytime. This also might sound silly, but what’s actually bothered me most over the years about “Organic” is that as a writer, it annoys me that the government owns a word, because words belong to the people using them.

What organic does mean to us is interacting with the world that we grow our vegetables in a way that works with the natural ecosystems, and builds up an (admittedly artificial) agricultural system that complements and fits in the environment, rather than imposes a completely man-made order on it. Our world is amazingly beautiful and complex, so much so that even with all of our modern technology and science, we still don’t understand the workings and interactions of large swaths of it.

Some days are great days, some days it floods...

Some days are great days, some days it floods...

Farming using organic methods is like an incredibly challenging puzzle, where the pieces are alive and grow and move, the variables are infinite, and every time where you think you’ve learned how a part of the system works, nature throws in a new challenge (thanks for the hail last summer, earth!). We’ve been farming for twenty years but learn a graduate degree's worth of new things each season. We don’t farm because it’s easy or lucrative, but because we enjoy working outside and for the most part (again, reference the hail!) enjoy the challenges and embrace the chaos.

To be honest, we aren’t organic purists. We recognize that there is a spectrum of farm management styles and we respect that each grower has to make the choices that work for their operation. We don’t plan to use GMO crops (they aren’t allowed at all in organic production) and we don’t like that their genes are floating around out there, but we recognize that at some point, our planet might become crowded and trashed enough that we need things like GMO, indoor hydroponic production, and geo-engineering to survive. But when we think about how we farm, shouldn’t we be trying at this junction, when things aren’t quite dystopian thriller level bad, to do our part to keep s*%$ from reaching that point?

Some days we see our farm goals as doing whatever we can to keep us from the Blade Runner or Hunger Game futures, striving towards the Star Trek level where we cruise around a happy universe rather than live in cliffside bunkers to avoid the Morlocks. (I apologize to all non-nerds who had to read that sentence.)

The year we made our own super hero costumes from farm supplies...

The year we made our own super hero costumes from farm supplies...

A Tangent on GMOs

In this all, we should talk about GMOs for a second. First of all, organic means no GMOs, they simply aren’t allowed under organic production, and using them gets you booted from the program.

I personally dislike GMOs not because of any human health issues in their consumption (I’m not sure the science is there on that front), but because of their Pandora’s Box nature of implementation. GE (Genetic Engineering) tech modifies the genetic code of plants that are then are used in our open world. Sure, there is testing for safety and attempts to try and keep them from spreading and mixing with non-GMO crops, but plants by their nature are promiscuous. Nature has plant sex going on every which way, and once out there in open field production subjected to the forces of nature, there is no way that GMOs can be 100% controlled.

I don’t care about people and animals eating GMOs, my concern is that their release endangers the international commons of open-pollinated seed pools and the communities relying on these seeds who didn’t get any say in the GMO development and release process. The companies selling the products cash in big time, while potentially taking away the livelihood and rights of impacted communities.

The other reason I’m not a GMO fan is because there are a LOT more modern science-backed breeding techniques out there, and in some circles, GMO tech is considered outdated, inelegant, and inefficient seed breeding. Yet GMOs persist largely because the companies selling them have sunk so much into that tech (and their concurrent marketing) that they are heavily invested in its present and future success.

While I’m happy to rail against the companies making and selling GMO technology, I don’t blame farmers for using it and won’t give anyone a hard time about it. Our weather frankly sucks now, and if you are running on a tight margin where a few more bushels an acre feels like the difference between staying in business and losing the family farm, and GMO technology promises to bridge that difference, than it would be silly to not use it from a growers’ perspective. In the system we have, it’s not the farmers banking millions on a technology that’s opened a genetic Pandora’s box, they too are at the mercy of the seed companies, which rather than spending money on new technologies for improved classical (non-GMO) breeding, instead only offer and promote GE tech.

Challenges to Organic Integrity

The thing is, and this is what makes it a little funny that we are certifying now, that organic agriculture has been a bit besieged. The news recently about organics, that for some have brought its integrity into question include organic hydroponics, the outside access rule for livestock, and some recently highly publicized issues of fraud on giant grain shipments coming in from overseas. Overall, organic integrity is important to us, and we are among a large group of growers committed to legit, honest organic production.

Before this last year, hydroponics was a grey area for organics. In hydroponics, plants are grown in some kind of substrate and fed a nutrient solution. There isn’t soil involved, but the nutrients used can be formulated to be either conventional or organic. It was passed last year that hydroponic farms can now be certified organic, which has raised the hackles on many organic growers and provided fuel for alternative organic labels that keep soil in farming. I’m not going to say that hydroponic farming is easy, but it sure deals with a lot fewer variables than farming in soil. The startup cost for hydroponics is HUGE, but once started, crops can be grown for way less cost than outside in a region like NY.

I can see that there is a place for hydroponics, and frankly, when I see their gorgeous heads of lettuce in the grocery store I am totally filled with envy. But I also question whether such a reductionist system is as good as field grown crops--can we test tube create food without losing some essential essence of that food?. Like ancient hunters who felt that eating the heart of their prey imbued them with the strength of their quarry, does eating soil grown plants share with us some of the energy and strength of the earth and the sun? I worry too that taking big steps to remove the outdoors from food production potentially weakens preservation and land use planning, beginning a trickle towards those darker dystopian futures where we embrace a model that gives more power to the huge well-funded commercial entities that can afford to finance hydroponic operations, moves all food production inside, and severs our connections to the real outside world.

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The second challenge this year came with keeping lower levels of outdoor access for organic animals. This one has my ire raised up more than the hydroponics rule, because I’m pretty sure that lettuce doesn’t care if it grows inside or outside, but that chickens much prefer the outside! There is a high cost for growers to provide outside access, namely that it’s a pain in the butt to manage in terms of time and money. If we had a big barn and our chickens were inside all the time, it would save us SO MUCH time and money. They’d be easier to feed, the eggs would be cleaner and faster to wash since they weren’t traipsing through mud puddles, and chores would take a fraction of the time. But what makes our eggs good is that they have come from the muddier butts of busy outdoor chickens.

I know that money is tight and matters, but as I wrote a few weeks ago, our food costs are relatively low compared to the past and other parts of the world, and is it worth a few more cents an egg or pound of meat for those animals to have a happier life? This pasture rule change is going to hurt the farms that take on all the extra management costs to ensure good outdoor access for their animals, put pressure on farms to reduce outdoor access in this tight farm economy, and it makes our hens sad.

My takeaway here is of course the same as my takeaway always is—buy local because then you can see in person what’s going on with your farms!

A final part of what’s driving our certification is something that might not be visible on the customer end. Producing and selling local food has become an incredibly crowded market these past years, with so many new delivery services, meal boxes, aggregation services, food apps, big companies gettingn involved, and more, all advertising heavily (and expensively) to anyone who seems to have the slightest interest in local or organic food.

All this competition combines with the major social media services significantly changing their algorithms so that farmers like us, who *finally* figured out how all social media worked, have now lost our best way to share our farms stories with you all.

We want to connect and sell directly with our customers through our CSA, on the farm, and at the market, but in this noisy, shiny, crowded world, we are starting to realize that we might lose our capacity to reach folks directly and may end up having to sell to these better funded aggregators instead, and the only way we have a chance to even contemplate making this switch is with that big organic stamp. [Do you know that you can make sure you see information from your favorite farms and small businesses on Facebook still despite the changes, just go to their Facebook pages and under the “Following” or “Liked” tab, scroll down and select “See First.”  You can also make sure you hear from us by signing up for our newsletter at www.hartwoodfarm.com.]

So until next week, keep your fingers crossed on our application process, don’t shovel too much snow, and drink some local milk (and buy some local veggies)!

Daylight Savings Edition: When Do Farmers REALLY Get up In the Morning?

Farmers in general get a LOT of questions, but this is actually the one that we get the most, and there is no good answer. (There's a farmer joke that the only answer people want to hear is 5:30, a time that is neither psychotically early or deviantly late!)

My answer is that as a vegetable farmer, I'm like a plant and get up at the same darn solar time everyday, but since that time is sunrise, it falls all over our fake human clock! [Full disclosure: I grew up in one of the non-time-changing states, Indiana, and 20 years later, I remain incredibly bitter about time changes for a solid month after they happen!]

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Historically, farms all had cows to milk, and it's most comfortable for the cows to get milked at evenly spaced times each day, which means on a two a day milking cycle, you find farmers milk early (say 5am and 5pm) to eat dinner at a normal-ish time and see their kids before bedtime. Even now, dairy farmers (or farmers who work a second job) will often be out there in the barns at 4 or 5am doing chores. The cows don't care when they get milked and the animals don't care when they get fed, as long as it's evenly spread out and consistent, so a night owl could milk at 8am and 8pm and from the cow perspective, that would be cool (from a cultural perspective, the other farmers might give you a hard time!).

For us veggie growers, schedules vary more, which is why I don't have an easy answer to what time I get up, because dawn right now falls a lot later that it does in July. In the spring and fall, when we are out in the field but days aren't long enough for all our work, we tend to get up earlier to maximize daylight hours. However, in the summer when days get close to 16 hours, we at Hartwood Farm certainly aren't rising at the 4am breaking light!

There are two main reasons (beyond wanting more sleep) why we intentionally don't start working at 5am (when lots of folks think we start work--thank you all for having such high opinions of our ability to be up and at 'em so early).

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First, in the north we don't have as much heat as California or Florida, but we get a lot more dew. We want to harvest crops when it's cool enough for best quality, but we don't want the crops to be too damp with dew, or the act of harvesting among wet plants can spread plant diseases around the farm from one dew laden plant to another (and for an organic grower, plant diseases are the bane of our existence that we work really hard to keep from spreading).

Some farmers are super early birds, so they brave the dew and get going at sunrise even in our area, so you can see a huge spread in start times for vegetable farms, including as early as 4:30am (ugh) and as late as 9am (decadent). For us, we don't want to be jerks to our poor employees with long commutes and we don't want people to burn out (which can happen fast when you start working long hours at manual labor if you aren't used to it!), so we have our team start at 8am in the cooler spring and fall months and at 7am in the summer months (only dropping down to 6am if we get a heat wave). We usually start harvesting from the most heat sensitive crops (the greens) to the least (tomatoes), which is why we don't have a lot of good photos of the greens, as we are always picking them in low light or with harsh early shadows (like below)!

So there's two votes from Matt and I to switch to Daylight Savings Time on a permanent basis... and if you have 7 minutes, the funniest take on farmer wake up times (and IMO the funniest CSA promotion video ever--I promise you no "Sky Eggplants" in our shares), can be found in this gem from Hugonaut Street Farm.

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Selling Cows and Money Matters

This winter I’ve worked part-time for the Northeast Farming Association of NY, which includes handling technical assistance requests from farmers about organic vegetable production. Most of these are pretty straight forward—helping read a soil test, suggesting places to source organic seeds, or brainstorming pest control options. Others hit me in the gut—like the growing numbers of dairy farmers wanting to learn about vegetable production after this year’s low milk prices forced them to sell off their cows.

Yup, this is one of my more downer blogs, but I’m writing it because I think it’s important to think about money in agriculture and where our food dollars go. Despite the price of milk seeming high from the consumer end, those dollars don’t trickle all the way down to the farm. This has been rattling around in my head since December’s Guardian article on increased farmer suicides (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/dec/06/why-are-americas-farmers-killing-themselves-in-record-numbers) caught a lot of press in the agricultural world as it captured some of the stress that farmers, especially commodity farmers, are facing, and was reinforced by a more local story about NY dairies receiving information about suicide prevention from their coop last month WITH their milk checks (http://www.watertowndailytimes.com/news03/dairy-cooperative-sends-out-letter-with-suicide-lifeline-and-other-contacts-20180212&&) which was then picked up nationally by NPR (https://www.npr.org/2018/02/27/586586267/as-milk-prices-decline-worries-about-dairy-farmer-suicides-rise).

The US is amazingly blessed with good land. We can feed the world a few times over, but we struggle mightily to chart a farm policy that keeps Americans fed, our farms and environment intact, and lets us all enjoy the healthy bounty of good crops raised well. Instead we’ve taken the tack of commoditizing our food, of raising vast quantities of what we can grow the cheapest (corn, soy, grain), and then processing them into nutritional oblivion. At the same time, we incentivize and reward farms to get bigger and bigger and run on razor thin profit margins so that one disastrous year or a hiccup in the market can flatten even the best producers.

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The most frustrating thing with the US cheap food policy is that it has warped agricultural markets and depressed rural economies for decades, but food *still* doesn’t feel cheap to us as consumers because food purchases now vie with all the new expenses in our lives (internet access, cell phone plans, and rising health care costs eat up anything households save on food) and our darn salaries haven’t risen with inflation. According to the World Economic Forum, the US is one of only eight countries that spend less than 10% of household income on food and by percentage spends the least of any county (We’re number one?). From a consumer standpoint, this isn’t necessarily bad, but for the farmers whose life lies in the margins of a few cents more per pound of grain or milk, that’s a brutally low percentage.

The thing that’s frustrating for farmers isn’t that food is affordable (because many of us work hard to be as efficient as possible to keep prices down to feed as many people as possible). What’s frustrating can be summed up in the next picture:

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Yup, 8.6 cents on the food dollar going into food production, with only 15.8 cents overall reaching farmers and the remaining 84.2 cents going to marketing. So as inflation hacks away at consumer salaries and the input costs of farming surge higher each year, the actual bit of the average food dollar getting back to the farms is less than two dimes. And it’s this situation that has suicide prevention resources going out with milk checks and me answering calls from farmers that feel the weight of the generations before them as they face losing their farm.

Do you want one more depressing graph?

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This one is what I find most challenging as a household with two full time farmers. Farming households look economically sound on paper, bringing in a median household income above the national average. Yet median *FARM* income, the income derived from agricultural activities, is negative, which means there are a lot of American farm families spinning their wheels as fast as they can working all day farming, yet not actually earning any income from that labor! It makes me wonder how many executives at dairy or food processing operations work full time for free?

Beyond helping struggling farmers at NOFA-NY this winter, I also worked on projects that address more vegetable related production challenges. With the proliferation of new technology and growing numbers of farmers markets, grocery deliver services, and CSA-like aggregators, non-dairy farmers are facing looming financial challenges as well as their costs of farm inputs and labor keep shooting up, as retail and wholesale market prices plummet. Even vegetable farmers like us with more flexible marketing options than dairy producers are pinched, with many now selling the same crops they used to sell retail at wholesale pricing that doesn’t cover increased costs of production. In 2004, my take home pay from farming full-time was 35 cents on the dollar. In 2017, it was 9 cents, despite thirteen years of hugely improved production and efficiency.

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Farming is one of those careers where it’s not so easy to walk away or make big changes, especially for established dairy operations. Current milk (and produce) prices usually cover costs of production but are hard to stretch over to capitalize new projects, and farm loans and mortgages are variable by the month, so as interest rates rise, producers will struggle to keep up with debt payments they have rather than be able to take on new debt to change gears. It’s also hard for long time farmers to conceive of not farming—how do you walk away from the barn where you’ve spent every day of your life milking in, just like the generations before you?

It’s clear there are no easy answers here—the world is changing and farms have to adapt. My concern as a farmer, a food-eater, and someone who loves our state and our local community, is how do we navigate through this transition without losing the things that are important to us, our community, and our environment? When I look at the ongoing “cheap” food policy where so little of the money spent on food reaches the real producers, I see it buying us an emptying rural landscape with fewer rural jobs and fields that are easier to fill with houses and developments, where we don’t get the chance to have the connection with the food that we eat and the farms that feed us. Yet this question of a broken food system is way beyond the scope of any easy fixes.

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So to move off my downer note, what *can* we all do? One way to start is buying more locally—search out your farmers and buy directly from them so your purchases go to cover costs of production rather than corporate marketing. Local farms are vitally important for ecosystem services (all this open land helps trap carbon, filter water, and provides habitat way better than houses or roads do). Local food is also super fresh—it’s hitting your plate at its peak taste levels rather than getting shipped across the country (or the world). Supporting your local farms and farmers is also fun. Just in our town alone, there are farm festivals, farm tours, U-Pick gardens, concerts, great weekly markets, local food stores, a ton of CSAs, and even dairies selling milk directly to customers.

Beyond buying local and connecting with your farming neighbors, there are also organizations (and some politics) that you might want to pay attention to. On the political side, the Farm Bill is on the docket for this year (hopefully, though it’s not guaranteed given how Washington is recently). The farm bill is a behemoth piece of legislation that bundles a lot of social service programs with farm funding that reaches across the country. It’s certainly not a perfect bill but is vitally important to supporting farmers and food systems.

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In NY, we have an invaluable organization called Farm Net (www.nyfarmnet.org), funded largely through tax dollars, and you can encourage your representatives to continue supporting its funding. Farm Net utilizes a network of professionals and volunteers to provide free, confidential assistance to farmers going through difficult times and is a much-needed resource right now. Finally, you can connect with and support local and national farm organizations, with Farm Aid being a good start to finding groups that help farmers (and I of course love NOFA-NY).

And what we are doing as farmers in our small corner of the country? Well first of all, we are keeping on keeping on. We are passionate about growing food for our neighbors and community, and don’t see this fading. From our farming perspective, with it being increasingly hard for farmers of all scales these past years, and the prognosis not great for many of our larger neighbors, it’s reinforced to us why we want to stay as a small farm and sell our food directly in our community. We want to know our customers, help folks enjoy and have fun with delicious, local produce, and open up our fields and farm so that you can see how we grow and connect with nature and the joy of growing things. Being able to sell more locally means we can save money on transportation and marketing and logistics, and we don’t need to sell our product to wholesalers for less than what it costs us to grow it. It also means we can focus on what our customers and CSA members want us to grow—good, healthy food for the community that tastes great. Finally, we are buying local as much as we can as well, to help support our neighbors as well.

We hope you have a great rest of the winter—go explore your local farms and drink lots of milk from local farms and co-ops!

Because all serious blogs need to end with a puppy!

Because all serious blogs need to end with a puppy!

Our Love Affair with CSA - Happy Valentine's Day!

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dear CSA,

let me count the ways I love you...

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I remember when...

we first met on the first farm I worked at. It was 1998 in the Berkshires and you were still a very young idea--I had never heard of you before until I was roped in to help pack bags up with a mix of delicious looking vegetables.

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That's what caught my eye at first...

how fresh all your vegetables were-- none of this trekking back and forth across the country in reefer trucks, but harvested and distributed all within a day.

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Since then...

you and I have both been around and you've evolved and become so much more popular, for good reasons. You've inspired thousands of farms to embrace you and built hundreds of thousands of connections between farmers and eaters around the world.

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That's what has kept my love strong...

when we grow for you, dear CSA, we grow for members that we get a chance to meet, and we shape our crops to what our shareholders what want rather than what a distant grocery produce manager wants. Those members can visit the farm and be a part of enjoying the outside, which is what we most love and want to share about farming. CSA, you are always keeping it real.

And as we get old...

hopefully together, your true value keeps shining through. Sure, there are younger models of box kits coming in to try and edge you out, but we still see your real worth. And as you get older, we add more things to keep our relationship fresh and young--like movies and fruit and a bigger U-Pick garden.

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Love, your farmers

Want to start your love affair with CSA? We'd love to have you join us as a member!

Are you stressed out? Anxious? Overwhelmed? Confession: sometimes so are we! (A farmer’s guide to building peacefulness on the farm and in the kitchen)

This winter I’ve worked part-time for the Northeast Organic Farming Association of NY, which plopped me down into an office a couple days a week (okay, it was my farm office so there was a cute puppy distraction hanging around) and sent me around to a number of food and farm conferences. Spending days in cars and windowless rooms gave me a HUGE refresher glug of appreciation about our farm and how special and beautiful it is being outside and surrounded by growing things!

Farms can be hectic and crazy places—we certainly know about stress between the weather, trying to cram a year’s worth of work into a six-month growing season, and the deep well of uncertainty and chance that lies at the root of farming… Will these seeds germinate? Will there be a hailstorm/drought/freeze/[fill in the blank with your disaster of choice]? Will folks want to eat the crops that we grow?

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But even amidst the chaos of farming, there are these amazing moments of peace that overwhelm you sometimes… like when you are pulling a late night to finish planting in the dark, with the deep blue sky perfectly highlighting the trees and then a shooting star flares down… or when you've been with the crew looking down all day weeding a field and then look up at the end of the day to the feeling that everything is perfect for a moment… or all the thousands of little daily unexpected gifts like the glimpse of an osprey catching a fish from the pond, a fifteen minute migration of hundreds of thousands of red wing blackbirds, or even just the peace of the crops waving in the wind.

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Things are crazy out there in the world now—we’ve talked with CSA members and market customers a lot about this in the past year. Things are so mean and toxic that many of us are tuning out social media and emails, which seems both understandable and healthy. We feel your stress, but at the same time as we join the crowd and tune out some things, we are also trying to figure out how to best share and spread the peacefulness and vitality of the farm.

We want our veggies to carry the sense of growing happy, out in nature, bringing some of their wildness into the kitchen so that every bite has a bit of that farming zen, of some calmness and sanity in the midst of nature’s or our human world's chaos. And even more, we want eating vegetables to be a fun and relaxing experience, and not cause folks any added stress about how to handle or cook them.

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So what can we do to make farming more peaceful for us and for you? Here’s our plans for 2018:

Make using vegetables less scary—we know some of you are kitchen pros, but other folks find using the veggies harder, especially when pinched on time. We know this first hand, because we too sometimes have weeks where it’s easier to eat a bowl of cereal or grilled cheese for dinner rather than making something from the amazing veggies we have piled all around us.

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That’s why we finally dredged up the nerve to start doing videos, especially in the kitchen. Videos have been one of our goals now for three seasons, but were intimidating because it involves being on camera (my phobia) and having a kitchen that doesn’t horrify all of you (it’s good now, but just wait till August rolls around). But since not everyone can make it to the farm or the market, we realized that this might be the best way to bring the vegetables to you. Also, on our personal sanity front, it takes a LOT of writing and thinking to get things like recipes or cooking techniques into words, and it’s so much faster to just demonstrate and record it!

The challenge for us is that while we know our way around the kitchen, we aren’t really pros. But we hope you will be patient with us as we pick up where last year’s veggie charts left off to explore some of the delicious classic preparations of vegetables. We are looking forward to pushing our own culinary boundaries with you.

Let us know if you have anything you struggle with in the kitchen or that you’d most like to see demonstrated and we will work on it for a future video!

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Make the CSA as easy as possible for all of us—Besides focusing more on hands-on kitchen prep, we’ve started streamlining our CSA signup and management process and have it all on our website now. As the season gets nearer, we will also add a “Members” page on the website so everything is easy to find and access. We also really enjoyed getting out to our remote sites last year and plan to do that more regularly this summer, where we can bring more extras to each site and get to see everyone in person regularly.

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We also are making the U-Pick garden our top priority this year—okay, I know that we said this last year, but this year we are putting one of our employees in charge of it, and their sole job one day a week will be to keep things all ship shape and boss us around to get things done. The U-Pick honestly has been a challenge the past two years, because in rough weather, we have to push it aside to keep the main CSA share crops going.

What we really came to appreciate this past year is how the U-Pick garden has so much importance beyond picking a few flowers. It’s the chance for our community to come see the farm and experience some of both the vibrant chaos and amazing peacefulness that somehow peacefully coexist. And equally important to our own sanity, it gives us a chance to see the farm fresh through your eyes as you enjoy it at the end of your work week.

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And finally, we are hosting regular farm tours and three volunteer days this year for folks who have requested more time to get involved (thank you!). The regular monthly field tour will be one Friday every month during the U-Pick and CSA distribution, open to all who are able to come to pick some flowers and see what’s growing. We are also holding three volunteer days to help deadhead U-Pick flowers in July through September (the main task that overwhelms us that involves taking off the old flowers so that the plant keeps producing new ones, jam band music is optional).

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We would love to hear your feedback—we always love pictures and suggestions, because it’s so helpful to have a fresh set of eyes looking at things. Over the next few months you can also find us sharing all the peaceful moments we can around the farm on YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook, this blog, monthly emails, at the winter farmers markets, or come by and snowshoe if you want!

Until later, we hope you have a peaceful day!

Maryellen, Matt, and Beulah [okay, Beulah is the opposite of peaceful and likely wishes upon you have an amazingly crazy 18-hour day filled with five other puppies, twelve disemboweled squeaky toys, a rabbit or two, and seven 10-year-olds throwing sticks non-stop]