Cover Cropping!

Time to Sign Up for Fall CSA Shares!

We are under a month out from the beginning of our Fall CSA share! I call the fall share the “Farmer’s Favorite Share.” It is loaded with all the storage veggies we grow on the farm–carrots, beets, onions, garlic, winter squash–as well as potatoes and sweet potatoes that we buy in. Plus all the super sweet fall veggies like broccoli, spinach, chard, and cabbage. I love this share and so do our longtime fall members.

Shares run for eight weeks between October 5th and the week of Thanksgiving.

 
Fall VEggies Time to Sign Up for Fall CSA Shares! We are under a month out from the beginning of our Fall CSA share! I call the fall share the “Farmer’s Favorite Share.” It is loaded with all the storage veggies we grow on the farm–carrots, beets, onions, garlic, winter squash–as well as potatoes and sweet potatoes that we buy in. Plus all the super sweet fall veggies like broccoli, spinach, chard, and cabbage. I love this share and so do our longtime fall members. Shares run for eight weeks between October 5th and the week of Thanksgiving.
FALL SHARE SIGNUPS
HARRISVILLE/NELSON FALL PICKUP SITE AND DELIVERY DRIVER NEEDED We are looking for a pickup site in the Harrisville/Nelson area to receive shares on Wednesday evenings. We usually do this at someones house that has a covered deck, porch, or garage that members can easily pick up their share from. We are also looking for a driver to bring shares to the pickup location. Pickup location hosts receive 50% off their fall share, and drivers also receive 50%, so if you are able to do both, you can get a free fall share in exchange. Please email Jack at farmers@traciesfarm.com if you think you have a suitable site to use!

On the Farm

I was late getting in from the field last night, apologies for the late newsletter.

I got to spend the afternoon and evening doing my favorite duty on the farm, cover cropping! A rule of thumb for cover crops is that they should be in the ground by September 15th. With rain in the forecast, yesterday was our chance to get more fields seeded before the “deadline”. This was the second cover crop seeding of the year so far. The first was about a 1/2acre on September 1st. Last night I covered another acre or so.

It is notoriously difficult to seed cover crops on mixed vegetable farms. Most of our beds are “double cropped,” meaning we plant or seed into the same bed two times over the course of the season, and the ones that aren’t double cropped are usually used for long season crops. Because we crop our fields so intensively, it is difficult to get the final crop out in time to get a good stand of cover, it is also the reason why covering is so important on the farm.

Cover crops provide countless benefits to the soil. They can add nitrogen for plant growth, condition the soil for planting, smother weeds, break up compaction, contribute organic matter, retain moisture, soak up excess moisture and more and more and more. I’m reading a book on cover crop strategies as we speak. We don’t get to see the benefits until the following year, or for many years, but it is a top priority for me to keep figuring out how to get more of the farm covered and covered early. Over the years I have gotten better at it, and this year was the earliest I have ever been able to seed a cover crop! When I plan fields in the winter, I keep that September 15th deadline in mind for getting a cover down. In my mind, cover cropping has the same priority level as any of our marketable crops. Vegetable farming asks a lot of the soil. It is intensive production compared to a field of wheat or corn. We use fertilizer to help replenish the nutrients in the soil, but a cover crop will replenish nutrients while repairing the soil structure.

I could go on and on about cover crops. I mean it when I say that it is my favorite job on the farm, and I see it as a marker for my duty as a land steward. This year we’re using two different types of cover crops. One is a rye/oat/clover mix that will overwinter and keep growing in the spring until we terminate it to plant into. The other is a six species mix that was made to “winter kill” for early planting into in the spring. This is where a solid crop rotation is so important when it comes to cover cropping. Something like onions, which we aim to have planted by the first week of May, needs a cover crop that will be successfully terminated by the time we’re ready to plant. For those early beds I use the winter kill mix. Tomatoes, on the other hand, don’t get planted until the first week of June. For those we want a cover crop that will keep growing through the spring until we are ready to plant. But in order to plan what cover to use where, I need to know now where crops will be next year. I have been working on solidifying our crop rotation over the past couple of years, and a big part of my motivation was to figure out how to cover crop more effectively. Crop rotation has its own benefits, which I’ll get into in another newsletter, but suffice to say soil conservation requires a multi faceted approach that combines crop rotation and cover cropping, along with many other cultural practices.

I wrote the beginning of the newsletter this morning before the crew arrived, and am finishing up now before we take lunch. We sure got a soaking first thing! Abigail, Joe, and I pulled beets for shares tomorrow and started in on our edamame harvest.

We are still in a little bit of a lull that is carrying over from last week. There are a few crops teetering on the edge of maturity. Lettuce heads need one more week, same with bok choy and broccoli. Believe it or not, our weekly harvest is based off a schedule I set in the winter. Almost all of our crops are on a schedule by date of harvest, it’s the only way to make sure that we are planting in time to fill baskets for any given week. Obviously that schedule fluctuates throughout the season, and right now we are behind by a couple of weeks. The lack of rain in July and August set back planting times, but also days to maturity for a lot of crops. Without much water to drink, the plants don’t grow as fast as their potential. Lettuce, broccoli, and bok choy were all supposed to be ready for last week, but we’re still waiting on them. Other crops that are usually safe bets this time of year haven’t performed as expected. Our eggplant set out an initial fruit set, but the second flowering never really occurred, and beans have been decimated by deer and are only producing marginally. That wouldn’t be such a problem except that the other fall veg is lagging behind, which means I am scrambling to figure out what will fill baskets this week. Last week I thought we’d have a lull, but were able to put together a pretty decent basket regardless. We’ll see what we are able to do this week. If it is a lull week, rest assured that the final two weeks should have some very full baskets.

SUMMER SHARES WEEK 14!

A reminder that we are on the even week schedule for half shares. FULL SHARES receive a basket every week. HALF SHARES receive a basket every other week.

EVEN WEEKS

Week 2 – 6/22 Week 10 – 8/17
Week 4 – 7/6 Week 12 – 8/31
Week 6 – 7/20 Week 14 – 9/14
Week 8 – 8/3 Week 16 – 9/28

ODD WEEKS

Week 1 – 6/15 Week 9 – 8/10
Week 3 – 6/29 Week 11 – 8/24
Week 5 – 7/13 Week 13 – 9/7
Week 7 – 7/27 Week 15 – 9/21

I was please with what we were able to put together in shares last week, and this week I’ll be checking in on items that can make it into shares as the week progresses. We have a few beds about a week out of maturity, so if we have a lean week this week, it will be made up for over the last two weeks. Greens in particular. Our Lettuce, Bok Choy, and Salad Mix are all a week away from going into baskets. Squash is off of the harvest list after production fell off a cliff following some cool nights. Beets will be in shares this week. They are Chiogga beets and a more pink hue of red. They almost look like a radish. Beets will be a mix of large and small. Edamame will be in shares this week! My favorite side dish. We’re gonna harvest a big bag for folks, and I’ll include a recipe below. Garlic is a staple. We’ll include some small Kale bunches just to have a green in shares. Leeks are the allium this week. Peppers might have another week or so left in them. Sage is the herb this week. I like to pair it with beets. Tomatoes of some variety will make it into shares.

Check for recipes below!

Shares Week 14:
Beets
Edamame
Garlic
Kale
Leeks
Peppers — Sweet Red & Green
Sage
Tomatoes — Cherries, Romas, or Slicing Toms

Egg Share: CHECK LIST FOR NAME
Bread Share: Cinnamon Raisin CHECK LIST FOR NAME

EDAMAME

Edamame is a great side dish for any meal. Similar to shishito peppers, it is easy to prepare and delicious!

Ingredients

Edamame
water
Salt

Directions

Bring water and salt to a boil. Add edamame and cook for 5 minutes until edamame are tender and easily release from their pod.
Drain thoroughly and toss generously with a coarse finishing salt like kosher salt or fleur de sel. Serve warm or cold.

LINK: ROASTED BEETS WITH BACON, SAGE, AND BROWN BUTTER

Ingredients

2lb beets
olive oil, as needed
4 strips bacon
1 red onion, julienned
2 oz. unsalted butter
½ cup walnuts
1 oz.honey
1 oz. lemon juice
1 oz. apple cider vinegar
6 Fresh sage leaves
¼ cup flat-leaf parsley

Directions

Heat a convection oven to 375 degrees. Coat the beets lightly with the olive oil. Wrap them in aluminum foil, place on a sheet pan and bake for about 45 minutes. Remove the beets from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes.
Peel, cut them in half horizontally and slice them into wedges. While the beets are cooking, slice the bacon into small pieces. Heat a sauté pan over medium heat and cook the bacon until most of the fat is rendered and the pieces are crisp.
Remove the bacon from the pan and reserve pan with the bacon fat for later use. In a 14-inch pan over medium heat, add the butter and cook until just before it starts to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the roasted gold beets to the pan and sauté for 2 minutes.
Add the julienned red onion and cook for 3 minutes longer. Add walnuts, honey, lemon juice and apple cider vinegar and cook for 5 minutes longer. Once the pan sauce has started to thicken, add in the sage and bacon and cook for 2 minutes longer.
Reheat the pan with bacon fat to medium heat. Add the roasted red beets and get a nice sear. Cook for about 5 minutes, then remove from the heat. Add the red beets to the gold beet pan, finish with fresh parsley and serve.

LINK: CREAMY KALE AND LEEKS

Ingredients

1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large leeks, halved and thinly sliced (white and light green parts only)
4 cloves garlic, smashed with the side of a knife
Sea salt
1 teaspoon chile flakes
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Black pepper
1½ cups heavy cream
2 bunches lacinato kale, thick stems trimmed, leaves chopped in quarters

Directions

In a large sauté pan with a cover, warm the butter and olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and garlic cloves, season with salt, and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring regularly, until the leeks are fully softened (if they look like they might start to brown, turn down the heat). Add the chile flakes, lemon juice and zest and loads of black pepper, stir well, and add the cream.

Let the cream come to a simmer (you want some gentle bubbles here) and then add as much kale as the pan can hold in a single layer. Cover the pan, lower the heat to medium, let the kale wilt for a minute or so, then give it a thorough stir to coat it with the cream. Add a splash of water (2-3 tablespoons) and another sprinkle of salt; cover again, and let cook for another minute or two, stirring it occasionally, until the kale is wilted enough to make room for more.

Repeat as many times as needed (but don’t add water unless your cream has cooked away too quickly) until all the kale is fully wilted in the cream. Lower the heat even more and let it cook a bit longer. You want it to cook way down, until it’s dark, soft, and creamy. Before serving, check for seasoning: You may want a bit more black pepper, a bit more salt and a final sprinkle of chile flakes.

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