Week 20: October 12, 2017

Rib Lake School second graders on a field trip to We Grow this week.

Rib Lake School second graders on a field trip to We Grow this week.

In Retrospect

With our last few shares and final harvests comes very real retrospect of the season overall. We carefully identify things we need to prioritize to improve and value the feedback from our membership during the process. Especially those who have gone through more than one season and can compare one year to the next.

The late, wet spring nearly threw us completely off our course for the entire season. Weeks 5-7 were quite unnerving with slow growth across the fields. This was by far the worst bean and pea crops we’ve ever had. Deer damage eliminated the Swiss chard early in the game and took out our first planting of kohlrabi as well. The garlic was extremely weedy from the straw we chose to mulch it with leading to smaller harvest than expected. Pretty much every root crop experienced heavy insect damage below the soil line. Largely root maggot and wireworm. And the onions! We still don’t know why the onions never sized up.

What went well? The brassicas flourished in the cool weather and we harvested the most broccoli and cabbages ever. We were thrilled that the investments we made in the soil allowed us to finally include corn in the shares. From the same field, a bumper crop of winter squash. And it was also the first time we offered free pumpkin picking to the membership. And what a wonderful day it was to have folks on the farm! The carrots and potatoes didn’t get flooded out as was the case in 2016 when we got all of our fall carrots from another farm. Items we’ve been extremely limited on in the past have showed up this season as well like microgreens, beets, rutabaga, turnips, and kohlrabi.

So what will we change. We have to remember it is the first year in this field. It will take several years and tons of organic inputs to get this area to optimum soil structure and fertility. Constant addition of organic matter and rotation of cover crops and eventually, we will eliminate a lot of the insect and disease pressure simply by growing perfectly healthy plants. We also plan to try harder on a few things we missed like melons, leeks and cauliflower. We also intend to research into the root crop damage. We thought we had a good idea of how to curb it with companion plantings, soil temperature testing, and cultivation, but we were wrong. We also hope to bring on one more person our crew to help us achieve more succession plantings so our harvests are better timed out to meet our weekly CSA needs. We are hoping to gain enough capital over the winter to install a heated, double-walled tunnel to allow us to start the large number of seedling trays needed to get more plants in the ground earlier. We need more pre-season growing space! The free-range poultry was a huge success and we hope to simply expand on this offering so we can offer birds to customers at the farmers market as well as in our CSA program. This goes along with our long term goal of offering pork. With our own breeding stock and their young off to a great start, we should achieve this goal in spring of 2018. And finally, improved communication with members. The email messages have been hard to get together at the end of the season for lack of time and an on-and-off internet connection, so we have come to rely on our members reading their newsletter for the important information.

There is definitely much work to be done. The field work will be wrapped up in November and we will take time to re-group and formulate our improvement plan. The heart of the winter is the best time to linger over such matters along with the much anticipated seed purchases and field maps. The respite and relaxation is hard earned and truly so much sweeter after six days a week of fast-paced, hard work during the growing season.

We thank each and every one of you for hiring us to grow your food. Thank you for letting us into your kitchens and trying our products. There is hardly a more personal choice than the food we eat. We are humbled to have been chosen as your farmers.

Ready for furlough,

Eric & Rebecca signature

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Week 19: October 5, 2017

Pollinators spend a cold night on a sunflower wearing a pollen blanket.

Pollinators spend a cold night on a sunflower wearing a pollen blanket.

Settling in

Fall is finally settling in and surely winter is just around the corner with the long fall we have been enjoying. It’s hard to believe we had similar cool temps in late August, but then saw some of the highest temps of the year in mid-September when we are typically experiencing our first frost in “regular” years. The unpredictability makes farming ever more challenging. We like to wait for first frost to share certain fall crops with you, but alas this is not an option this season. Rutabaga is the first example and this week, you are receiving brussel sprouts even though they have not been sweetened by frost. Rest assured that they still taste great!

On the farm, we try to keep the produce growing as long as possible, but there comes a point that we just need to get the field ready for winter and prepped for next season before the soil freezes. Maps are being drawn for where next season’s crop rotations will be. We will cultivate and shape several beds in preparation for spring planting. Covering the shaped bed with black landscape fabric will prevent erosion, nutrient loss and preheat the soil next spring. While it is not ideal to shape beds this far in advance, spring rains can put us severely behind schedule when we have to wait for perfect soil conditions to support the heavy tractor. Having a portion of the field ready allows earlier crops, even if it must be planted by hand.

The only annual overwintered crop we grow is garlic. Individual cloves are planted in late October, left six inches deep in the field all winter and bulbs are harvested in July and August. Any garlic we grow can be used for seed garlic, but the best and biggest is intentionally sorted from the crop each season to be used as the next year’s parent crop.

Removing old plants to prevent the spread of disease, adding organic matter and incorporating manure are all a huge undertaking in the fall. This must be done after crops are out but before the ground freezes, so time is of the essence. If anyone is interested in coming to the farm to work their muscles and help with fall field clean out, please let us know.

Making plans for the coming season is the best part of fall work on the farm.

Look ahead,

Eric & Rebecca signature

Week Nineteen Newsletter

Week 18: September 28, 2017

Basil at We Grow

The Mighty Dollar

In meeting with retailers the past few weeks in hopes to reach new markets, we have had an eye-opener in the portion of the dollar a farmer actually receives when we buy something. We have also been wrapping our heads around the concept of “just” prices after a store 70 miles away offered us exactly double what a local store can pay.

The manager at the distant store explained to us, as she was figuring what she could offer for a top dollar amount, her co-op believes in paying farmers a just price so they can have a living wage. Her consumers are paying more than the larger grocery stores, because she markets and sells her farmers’ story. She visits a different farm every week, then posts stories and photos both in the store and on social media. The marketing plan is obvious as you walk through the aisles and see farmers faces attached to products on the shelves. Her customers see their money keeping small farms in business, providing jobs and maintaining a rural economy.

This begs the question, can our local store offer a better rate to their local farmers? If we demand a better price for the farmer, the cost of the product will go up in order for the store to cover their overhead. We can easily assume that less people will purchase the items. It’s a lose-lose situation for both the store and the farmer. Does connecting the farmer to consumer create a strong enough connection to warrant a higher price?

Should we leave it up to the consumer to decide if their local economy is worth spending more? Is it fair to ask the store to make less profit? Is a living wage for farmers a priority? According to the distant store manager, “just” prices is not just a catchy slogan. Her customers are willing to pay more. But in her situation the population density is much higher as is the income level, allowing her to develop this niche market.

Cue the importance of direct to consumer sales. If you can get a product straight from the farmer, they get the total profit. Cut out the middle man and you are giving your local economy a direct boost. Of course we know you understand this concept, you are CSA members afterall.

Reaching a retail milestone,

Eric & Rebecca signature

Week Eighteen Newsletter

Week 17: September 21, 2017

Medford Middle School Ag Ed Students harvesting winter squash at We Grow

Lessons in the Harvest

On Friday last week, the Medford Middle School agriculture class, along with their teacher Lisa Kopp, came to We Grow to assist with the winter squash harvest. We knew in August that there was going to be a glut of fruit in this particular crop and Kopp has been asking for an opportunity to get her students involved in We Grow since we connected in her classroom last spring.

The students arrived first thing in the morning and we were fortunate to have a very light dew and sunny skies. Armed with branch cutters and crates, the kids began searching through the sprawling, tangled mess of squash vines to find the famed fruits. Students shuttled crates full back to the landing where we had large bins waiting, one for each variety. Several students cleaned the dirt and sorted them while the others continued to harvest. The fun is in finding the squash and not knowing how big and small or what color and shape you would find next. Hoots and hollars were heard when someone found their excitement.

With only one hour in the schedule for actual harvesting, things were happening as rapidly as possible. But lessons were learned in covering a harvest area, taking fewer steps, lifting with the knees, handling produce in general and most importantly working together. Students also got a peak at what we do here. As usual, the animals were the greatest attraction.

The lessons will continue back at school. The class took a box of squash back to the classroom where they will learn how to cook it. And with such a bountiful harvest, we have agreed to donate enough spaghetti squash to the school for the cafeteria to serve it at lunch.

We set a goal two years ago to grow enough of something to be able to donate it to the schools. We hope this is only the beginning. The nutrition of our youth needs to be top notch, free from harmful chemicals and made of whole ingredients, not processed, if we expect them to learn and grow and address childhood illness and obesity. Getting kids involved in the farm might not be the fastest route to healthy eating, but it will have long term effects when these kids learn how to grow their own food.

Happily harvesting,

Eric & Rebecca signature

Week Seventeen Newsletter

Week 16: September 14, 2017

Small Farm Landscape

Weather is often talked about in our newsletters as it dictates everything we do on the farm. But weather is getting more attention the past couple weeks for the disastrous results of some powerful storms doing serious damage, even taking lives. In watching the news reports on television, we can only imagine what these folks are experiencing and feeling fortunate to live where we do and only have to worry about floods and tornadoes, and not hurricanes and earthquakes as well.

In the wake of the damage, a reporter was speaking with a restaurant owner in Florida who had ridden out the storm. A portion of her business was badly damaged, but the restaurant was largely in tact and she was feeding the rescue workers as it was the only food establishment left in the area. The trouble was no deliveries could get into the area leaving only local producers to provide food for these people. Though I would assume some folks were planning ahead and had local stores put away for just this situation. But surely not enough for the entire community.

The entire situation brings to mind the flooding in northern Wisconsin last year when our farming friends near Marengo made their CSA delivery when all other traffic was prevented from entering the area due to washed out roads. They were able to get their produce into Ashland to local grocery stores when trucks from out of the area could not.

This is cause for us to think about the value of having small farms spread out across the landscape to meet the needs of their own community no matter what else is happening far away. By shifting our consumerism to corporate farms, we have eliminated much of our local food sources that were commonplace before the invention of refrigeration. But at what cost have we created this “convenient” and “inexpensive” food system? With catastrophic drought then heavy rain cycles in the western states, corporate agriculture has made a major shift to the Midwest the past ten years. A place where weather hasn’t made farming boom or bust. But how long will we be able to keep up until “natural” disaster strikes here too?

Feeling like fortunate midwesterners,

Eric & Rebecca signature

Week Sixteen Newsletter

Week 15: September 7, 2017

We Grow Winter Squash curing

Another Farm Season

Behold the beginning of winter squash season. If you are not already, it is time to become a fan of winter squash. It can easily be considered a superhero in the CSA share for its nutrient overdose and health food classification, but also in the field when it’s not even being consumed by humans.

Every year, we learn more about the food we grow. We have learned in the past about the way our ancestors stored winter squash and ate it in copious amounts during the cold winter months. The fiber in squash consumed in large amounts has a natural ability to cleanse our digestive system and prevent polyps. But this week, we learned that winter squash also cleanses our soil. On farms where chemicals have been used in the past, a crop of squash will take up a lengthy list of unwanted contaminants from the soil so they can be discarded. The absorption of chemicals in squash, which is four times that of other vegetables such as tomato, broccoli or beans, is another reason to make sure it is grown organically if it will be hitting your table.

This year is shaping up to be a bountiful year of winter squash at We Grow. The varieties planted this season include spaghetti, white acorn, butternut, red kuri, blue “winter sweet” kobocha, gold nugget and delicata. Each has a slightly different flavor and texture. The only one that we have a limited amount of is butternut – our favorite! For some reason the deer preferred this over the others and it did not grow well while being heavily browsed.

Nearly all winter squash benefit from time in storage. They achieve their peak sweetness some time in the winter months. The exception to this is delicata and acorn. These two are better in the first two months. The squash you are getting have been cured on our farm. They must be stored at 80ºF for about two weeks to season or harden the skins before going into 45-50º basement or cool storage. Be mindful to check your winter squash every week for blemishes turning into rot. If you catch it early, a rotting spot can easily be removed and the squash still utilized. With everything it has going for it, why would we want to waste a bite?

Ready for the new season,

Eric & Rebecca signature

Week Fifteen Newsletter

Week 14: August 31, 2017

Fall Harvest is Upon Us

One might assume that things get slower and easier on a CSA farm in the fall, but this is when we do a lot of heavy lifting. Our average first frost is the second week in September and while some crops are sweetened and improved by light frost, others are killed and damaged.

All those summer treats are coming to an end and we must get as much as possible to our customers before first frost. Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, beans, sweet corn, fragile herbs, and more. Then we can focus on the end of season harvest-all-we-can. The farmers market are busting at the seams!

To start, we must get all the onions out of the ground and cured in the hot sun for a day, then trimmed and put into storage. The potatoes need to be dug before the weather gets cold enough to penetrate the skin and cause brown spots inside the tubers. They will store, but the brown stripes are unpleasant. The rutabagas, turnips and radishes stay in the ground until the last harvest day before deep cold. In theory carrots can actually be left in the ground overwinter, but we will harvest the entire lot that remains. Simply not washing them and putting in bags in the cooler will allow storage carrots last for months. On a small scale, we have also had great success with utilizing wet sand as a storage medium for carrots. The brussel sprouts stay out well into the cool frosty season. Finally, the winter squash. This storage giant must be cured in the greenhouse at 80ºF for 10-14 days before going into a cool, humid, well-ventilated space for winter. In storage, winter squash will ripen and sweeten sort of like a banana until it can’t get any sweeter. Then it starts to rot. Properly stored winter vegetables will last well into spring, so it is worth knowing proper techniques. We have prepared a complete list sorted by veggie type on our website. Check it out.

This time of year we are weeding our fall greens, radishes, and those salad turnips and baby beets for the final boxes. We have pie pumpkins turning orange and kale turning lovely purples. The monarchs are flying home and our students and teachers are enjoying their final days at We Grow before returning to school. All signs of the rest that comes at the end of the final harvest. Only six share weeks left!

Eric & Rebecca signature

Week Fourteen Newsletter

Week 13: August 24, 2017

Intern Racheal Krug at We Grow in 2017

A Growing Passion

Hello, We Growians! Intern Racheal Here!

As I am packing up my bags and getting ready to make the lengthy haul to the UW-River Falls campus for the school year, I am becoming a bit sappy knowing my days at We Grow are soon coming to an end. When Rebecca and Eric approached me in January about a potential internship on their CSA farm, I never could have imagined that leaving this farm, come August, would be so hard!

Rebecca and Eric told me that they wanted me to learn as much as I possibly could while I was on their farm. Well, they definitely held up their end of our bargain. I can now impress members with memorization of the MANY varieties of kale and heirloom tomatoes, capture a swarm of honey bees, and grow my own vegetables in my own garden.

However, these are not the only things that I was taught this summer. I was also taught the importance of taking pride in a job well done, how to endow my passion for agriculture unto others, and how to value a homegrown meal. From planting my very first seeds, in the end of May, to harvesting my first heads of cauliflower this week, I’ve really come to take pride in completing a job from start to finish. It is very refreshing to look down rows upon rows of fresh transplants, knowing that I will help fill shares for an upcoming week. As I continue to personally meet more and more members, I learn that you too, have a pride in the work that we do on the farm. Having this sense of pride is important as it fuels our passion. I’ve also experienced the passion that the Zuleger’s have, it’s contagious to say the least. It’s the kind of passion that sends you home, building up a raised bed garden with a future harvest in mind. I know that their passion has spread to me as I too have put in a garden to make my first homegrown meals with produce that I grew.

Thank you for your support and for the unforgettable summer.

Racheal Krug, 2017 Intern

Week Thirteen Newsletter

Week 12: August 17, 2017

Cabbage at We Grow LLC 2017

Working Energy

In discussing employees with our fellow CSA farmers this week, we realized that we an amazing crew at We Grow. Growing food for people is not a glorious job. Farming is often romanticized by media, but when it gets right down to it, we are mucking through the dirt and busting our rears for several months straight. This work can wear a person out physically and mentally unless they can keep a positive attitude.

Positive attitudes and energy at a workplace can make even the worst jobs fun. Both our employees and volunteers have been a huge source of positive energy for us to gain our motivation even when something isn’t going our way or we experience a failure. When asked what motivates our volunteers to be here, you might expect the response to be “for the vegetables” or “to get exercise and fresh air,” but the response was “because we want you to succeed.” Our volunteers and workers believe in what we are doing. What a humbling concept!

Both of our employees are bright young women who did not have gardens of their own when they started at We Grow. With a little encouragement, both have installed raised beds and are raising their own crops to feed their families. Last week, Racheal brought her beans in to show us how proud she is of growing such a bountiful crop. It brought joy to our hearts to see her success. Susan has winter squash leaping out of her beds and taking over her yard. We love it! You can’t eat that grass this winter, let ‘em grow. They both alert us to each “first-harvest” in their gardens.

All of our workers take pride in successful crops on our farm. This is exactly what it takes to keep doing what we do. Working alongside someone who appreciates each beautiful bright pink potato or perfectly round radish is a mental diversion from physical labor. Stopping to taste test the first red fruits and think of creative names for trial varieties makes each day in the field a new experience. The enthusiasm and positive energy is contagious. Please keep it coming!

Eric & Rebecca signature

Week Twelve Newsletter

Our Deer Problem

Winter squash missing a majority of the leaves due to deer.

First planting of beans was so heavily browsed by deer that we tilled down 2/3 of the row feet and started over. The plants were stunted and could not outcompete the weeds at that point.

This is the second planting of beans. It is doing much better. There are approx 1,000 row feet of this planting and we have been spraying with homemade deterrent to keep the deer off of these beans.Small amount of browsing still takes place.

Brussel sprouts tops are the new favorite in early August. Interesting how the deer’s tastes change.

What is left of the corn continues to get chewed off by the deer.

Tomatoes. The deer largely leave the tomatoes and plants alone. They do occasionally decide to try to eat them and here is the evidence on one such incidence.

Appears to be the perfect shape of deer teeth. Just a taste test apparently.

Some suspected deer damage based on the tracks around the plant.

Sweet potato vines missing leaves late in the season. About 10% of the slips originally planted were eaten off and did not grow back.

Sweet potato vines missing leaves late in the season. About 10% of the slips originally planted were eaten off and did not grow back.

Onion sampling as well. This will not set this plant back in our opinion, but it does make selling an onion with it’s green edible top a challenge.

Broccoli heads are chewed on as well.

For the most part, they love broccoli leaves which sets the plant back and makes regular harvest patterns unpredictable. Occasionally they will eat the heads too.

For the most part, they love broccoli leaves which sets the plant back and makes regular harvest patterns unpredictable. Occasionally they will eat the heads too.

Peas have definitely taken the greatest hit. We barely harvested 15 lbs from this 250′ row. They were eaten down several times. We did not remove the vines late in the season in hopes the deer would eat the peas instead of other crops.

Peas have definitely taken the greatest hit. We barely harvested 15 lbs from this 250′ row. They were eaten down several times. We did not remove the vines late in the season in hopes the deer would eat the peas instead of other crops.

Peas have definitely taken the greatest hit. We barely harvested 15 lbs from this 250′ row. They were eaten down several times. We did not remove the vines late in the season in hopes the deer would eat the peas instead of other crops.

Beets have been eaten down to nubs. Some died, some grew back. Here is some more recent browsing after regrowth. The roots are not as large as they should be without browsing pressure.

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Kohlrabi browsing. These bulbs don’t grow well without leaves. Losing product value.

Kohlrabi browsing. These bulbs don’t grow well without leaves. Losing product value.

Late planting of red cabbages. Transplants won’t recover from this deer damage.

Late planting of red cabbages. They won’t recover from this deer damage.

One of the biggest disappointment is by far the complete loss of the field cucumbers. These are the trial cukes we were growing for UW Madison Horticulture Dept research team. Total loss. Most of the row was eaten to stubs and died. Only about 10% of the plants grew after initial mow down.

One of the biggest disappointment is by far the complete loss of the field cucumbers. These are the trial cukes we were growing for UW Madison Horticulture Dept research team. Total loss. Most of the row was eaten to stubs and died. Only about 10% of the plants grew after initial mow down.

Eggplant with the center growth tip eaten by deer.

New fence provided by APHIS in hopes of preventing further damage this fall. Installed 8-18-17 thru 8-22-17.

New fence provided by APHIS in hopes of preventing further damage this fall. Installed 8-18-17 thru 8-22-17.

New fence provided by APHIS in hopes of preventing further damage this fall. Installed 8-18-17 thru 8-22-17.

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Week 11: August 10, 2017

Cleaning garlic at We Grow

Keeping Time

How different would life be without clocks and the keeping of accurate time? We watched a public television program about the origins of the clock and it turns out that people had no reason to keep track of what time it was until maps of the seas began being used for navigation. Before the industrial revolution, most people worked with the rhythm of the sunrise and sunset and did more work on sunny summer days than in the winter. This was also a time when a majority of people were farmers. When nearly every family had a large garden for growing their own food and at least a few animals for milk, butchering or to sell and earn income for materials goods.

Oftentimes, we hear of people seeking a simpler way of life in which they give up the watches and clocks in their life. This seems nearly impossible with today’s technology, but just imagine relying on life’s natural rhythms. One would think this would lead to a healthier way of living, one that could provide relief from my temple-throbbing, blood-pressure-ratcheting, compulsive need to monitor every minute of every unfolding day. Unfortunately most of us would be late for work, but for a farm there is some flexibility.

We’ve acquired more livestock over the past few months than we’ve ever had at We Grow. Our mornings start with chores, feeding and watering all the livestock. Then we all converge for breakfast. The complexity of breakfast is based on whether our work crew is showing up at 8:00 or 9:00 or at all, then we get started harvesting or doing field work until our stomachs tell us it is time for lunch. We get a nice break and then head back out until the evening sun is starting to let up and the sweat is no longer beading on our brows. We usually pick out veggies to go with supper, make this meal as a family and then go out and do evening chores as a team. While we probably can’t give up the clock, we do live a bit more by the natural rhythms of the farm. Don’t worry, the animals let us know when we are behind schedule and with east facing windows, there is no sleeping in.

Enjoying every moment,

Eric & Rebecca signature

Week Eleven Newsletter

Week 10: August 3, 2017

Cream Sausage tomatoes at We Grow LLC

There is hope for a good bean crop yet! Better late than never. In years past, we’ve loathed bean picking season. As we were out in the field this spring planting 1,000 row feet more than we’ve ever planted, our workers were joking about calling in sick on bean picking days for it is a laborious, back-breaking task. When the cold wet spring forced replanting, we knew the beans would be behind. Then the deer started jumping the fence and browsing at will we started to really wonder if we would have any at all. Now other farms have had beans for a couple weeks and we feel the pressure to put such a seemingly simple to grow item on your plates. Tiny beans are starting to appear among the pink and white blossoms. So if nothing else goes awry, we will see bean season finally begin in week eleven.

Despite being in our third season growing produce, we struggle to get large enough quantities to meet customer demand. Every year we grow more and every year we have more people want more. Growing organically places high demands on the soil. To properly prepare, we should rotate cover crops with specific goals in mind for each crop for at least three seasons before planting a single vegetable. The soil should be in peak condition with high levels of organic matter, good drainage and maximum nutrients for optimal plant health. Unfortunately, we don’t always get the cart in front of the horse as demand coerces expansion.

As we expand, we continue to chunk off sections of formerly worn out hay land and this in itself creates problems. This season we moved into a new three-acre area following only one season of winter rye. It isn’t optimal, but we understand what needs to be done to make it better and feel we are on the right path to grow more simply by improving conditions for next season. We are talking about this now, because this month is the last opportunity to plant a cover crop and get idle spaces ready for next season. The investments we make now will be paid back, but planning so far in advance is an intricate task.

Excited to be half way,

Eric & Rebecca signature

Week Ten Newsletter

Week 9: July 27, 2017

Fresh Garlic at We Grow LLC

Overfed But Starving

A quote by Daniel Vitalis came up that read “our people are overfed, but they are also starving to death.” It fits we into our topic of nutrition in relation to agriculture this week.

It’s hard to imagine, but we went well over a week without any precipitation here at We Grow and found ourselves watering in the field. Watering is one of the few opportunities we have to add more nutrients to our soil and plants mid-season. Oftentimes we are looking at a blend of organic fertilizer with the big three, nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium and some have added magnesium, calcium, sulfur and boron micronutrients to really give plants a boost. But what about the remaining nutrients? Why don’t we talk about all the other elements of the periodic table? Because we don’t yet know their function within the plant, nor do we fully understand the importance of these trace minerals in the human body.

People are growing increasingly concerned about wearing out our agricultural land and depleting the nutrients. The science is contradictory on this subject, but we see an overwhelming amount of research showing that growing with the most biologically balanced soil – or making sure all the major and micro nutrients are present – results in optimal growth. The good news for our customers is that the side effect of biological based production (growing organically) is nutrient dense vegetables and protein (livestock fed with organic feed). Tissue samples show that you get more nutrition, flavinoids and in each bite. Thanks to Tom T., we have started utilizing Sea Crop with 90 different trace minerals to boost soil and plant health in 2017.

And at a time when most Americans don’t eat the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables, perhaps the most important step is to simply add them to your diet. But there are potential health benefits as well, at least when it comes to maximizing the nutrients you get from foods.

Eric & Rebecca signature

Week Nine Newsletter

Week 8: July 20, 2017

Heritage breed piglets at We Grow LLC

For Love of Tomatoes

A new season started this week at We Grow, tomato season. We will pick these delicious, versatile fruits every three days, now through first frost. Some days we will harvest upwards of one thousand pounds. It seems like a lot, but imagine everything we can make with tomatoes besides simply eating them fresh – pasta sauce, soup, ketchup, enchilada/taco sauce, juice, steak sauce, salsa, and the list goes on! If you find yourself with an over abundance of tomatoes, just toss them in the freezer whole and raw. When you get them back out, run them under warm water to remove the peeling if your recipe requires such and you are ready to cook with them. No more blanching! This technique has been invaluable to us as we freeze a small amount each week and then process them when the days get cooler.

We are growing 37 different varieties of heirloom and open pollinated tomatoes in 2017. Plus, we have ten varieties in the UW Madison Seed to Kitchen trials and five in the Organic Seed Alliance trials. Heirlooms come in many colors from pink and red to yellow or even indigo. Rather than rely on color to determine ripeness, simply squeeze the tomato for firmness. When they start to soften, they are at maximum flavor.

Our flavorful blend of heirloom tomatoes makes amazing recipes and are available to members first, so please let us know how many pounds you would like, what you need them for (juice or sauce), and when you would like them. We can deliver with your share or at market, or you can get them on the farm any day of the week. Make your requests now so you get on our picking calendar. We do not offer tomatoes by the bushel as we have found this is very inconsistent amounts. Bushels of tomatoes all weigh different amounts based on their variety, the size of the tomato, and who is packing the box. We simply offer them by the pound. For recipes, figure a bushel is about 50 lbs. Farm members pay $1.00 per lb when you take $25 lb minimum. All non-members must have 50 lb minimum for this rate.

Rolling into some new crops,

Eric & Rebecca signature

Week Eight Newsletter

Week 7: July 7, 2017

Bull calves at We Grow LLC

The Face of Your Food

As we get ready to harvest for week seven, we are also busy making preparations for our first dinner that is actually on our farm. Cleaning up things that haven’t been touched in years to try and make this place look presentable. Everyone should have a gathering at least once a year to get things into shape. Wow are things getting done! We met with our chef earlier in the week and chose the items for the menu right from our fields. The Idaho Pasture hogs are butchered and curing in preparation for a slow two-day smoking process. Desserts have been sampled, a few times. The pack shed is even getting sinks and counter tops installed at the last minute in an effort to set up a makeshift kitchen for this event. We are planning on making the farm dinner an annual event, so it will only get easier after we get this first one under our belt.

There has been a obvious decline in the local farmers market the last two weeks. We lost two vendors from the Medford markets in large part for lack of produce. Some vendors buy much of their produce at the weekly auction in Withee and resell at the farmers market. With the poor spring, auction prices are high and vendors are not able to resell as they have in the past. Those of us remaining at market are offering less than normal and customers are getting discouraged.
Produce resale has been a point of conflict in years past at the Medford Farmers Market. Most consumers are completely unaware if their items are coming from a different region, lack freshness and contain unwanted inputs. In our experience, consumers shopping at a farmers market make the general assumption that those farmers grew the food they are selling.

This is a form of deceit, particularly if products go unlabeled as such. Our best advice is to talk with the farmer and ask them straight out if they grew what you are buying. Most aren’t afraid to tell you where it is from. Obvious things like melons or sweet corn in mid-July are cause for question. Others aren’t so obvious. Just ask when in doubt. Or better yet, join them for dinner and visit your food in their fields.

Excited to share our farm,

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Week Seven Newsletter