And just like that, it is late fall in New England again. Stick season has arrived, and I am welcoming it with open arms. Bring on the cold weather!
We were forecasted for a low of 16 degrees last night, so I spent the day picking all the greens for shares on Wednesday. Temps in the teens will start to kill off some of the less hardy veggies, or at least damage leaves. My main concern was getting the brussel sprouts, lettuce mix, and napa cabbage out of the field before the freeze. According to my home weather station, we only hit 20 last night, it’s hard to say how those veggies would have fared, but better safe than sorry.
Being outside in the cold all day yesterday wiped me out, so I figured I’d do the newsletter this morning while waiting for the ground to thaw. Then I got distracted reading about and researching tomatoes with the best disease resistance… So I could be outside by now, but I also have a few options for which tomatoes to plant in 2023.
Our outdoor tomatoes have to be hybrids because of disease pressure. For the last 6 or so years we have been growing a variety called “Defiant,” which has a broad disease resistance package, but I think we need to switch up our variety because we have grown the same one for so long. Tomatoes in the field this year were hit pretty hard with disease, and I need to do some more research, but my hunch is that since we have been growing the same variety year after year, pathogens in the soil are acclimated to the tomatoes resistance and working around it. I changed up a couple of varieties in other veggies this year that had struggled with disease, and the new cultivars seemed to perform well.
Just to be clear, because hybrids sometimes cause a little confusion–a hybrid variety is NOT a GMO variety. GMO means that the DNA of the vegetable was genetically altered, most often in order to make it resistant to disease, pests, or pesticides. Hybrid varieties are bred for resistance to disease. It’s a complicated process that I don’t fully understand, but essentially two varieties of vegetables are bred together for their desired qualities, and the outcome is a new variety with the desired traits from both parents.
Probably 90% of the veggies we grow are a hybrid, with the exception being heirloom tomatoes and a few well performing heirlooms of other veggies. We do not grow GMO crops on the farm, but for the sake of conversation, I’ll include a Michael Pollan article from 1998 on a GMO potato variety that really altered my perspective on GMO’s. This particular variety was called the “New Leaf Potato,” and it was genetically altered to defend itself against the Colorado Potato Beetle. The modification all but eliminated the need for chemical pesticides to control the pest, which is a fascinating trade off. On the one hand heavy pesticide use, on the other playing with the DNA of our food. I highly recommend the article. Personally, as with many things, I find myself in the middle. There could be a time and place where GMO crops are the best option compared to the alternatives. I try to avoid taking hard stances wherever possible. Michael Pollan is one of the reasons I got into organic farming, and if you read the article and want to continue the conversation, feel free to send me an email.
There are only two weeks left in our 2022 CSA season! Once the CSA is up, the farm all but shuts down. We have a crew for harvest tomorrow, some last bits of cleanup on Friday, and then for the final share day on Tuesday of next week. After that it’s mostly Finn, Gurdy, and I poking around the farm until February when we start to seed for 2023! A lot of folks ask what I do in the winter when the CSA isn’t running. For the most part I work full time, year round on the farm, although the work changes in December and January. Following the end of shares I usually spend about two weeks finishing up everything I needed to do outdoors before the ground completely freezes. Once winter sets in, I move indoors and spend maybe 15hrs/week maintaining the greenhouses for spring shares. December and January are the two months I have “off” from the physical aspect of farming, and I use my time collecting inventory, planning the fields for next year, ordering supplies, attending conferences, and reading up on farm practices. I also get to spend time focusing on farm adjacent personal projects. I get more involved with the Monadnock Farm and Community Coalition and other organizations that are ask for a farmer’s perspective. One of my favorite parts of farming is that in the winter I get to switch it up and pursue other farming related ventures. I am passionate about advancing local agriculture, and the winter time is when I get to focus on that aspect.
Monadnock Farm and Community Coalition Appeal
As regular readers know, I am a board member of the Mondanock Farm and Community Coalition, an organization that promotes local agriculture as a form of community building in our region. We are making our annual appeal in the hopes of reaching a fundraising goal of $5,600 by December 31st. Usually I try to keep my board self separate from my farmer self to avoid any conflicts of interest, but in this case, I think it is fitting to speak from both experiences. The MFCC has had a direct impact on our farm and many other farms in the Monadock Region.
This year we saw the roll out of a Mobile Food Pantry that has so far visited three towns in the Monadnock Region. One of those towns was Fitzwilliam, where the Mobile Pantry worked with the fantastic group that organizes the Fitwilliam District Nursing Association to organize a pickup at Emerson School. The MFCC helped fund raise for the mobile pantry so that they could purchase fresh produce from local farms, and when the mobile pantry came to Fitzwilliam, they reached out to Tracie’s to provide fresh produce.
If you visit our store, you will see a poster and stickers featuring a “Monadnock Grown” logo that indicates a product was produced locally to our region. This is the MFCC’s latest project to promote local agriculture, and will continue to be rolled out over the winter and into next year. I have been a strong supporter of this project as I love to see producers gather together to make a truly local product. Adjacent to this project has been what is called the Harvest Bridge program, which the MFCC has lent assistance for. Harvest Bridge is taking aim at finding out how to get farmer’s crops to last through the winter by preserving them in a value added form. Through the MFCC, I met Jacob Sherwood of Harvest Bridge, and we have been working on making pesto using only local ingredients, as well as minced garlic. Jacob and I are still working everything out, but we hope to have Tracie’s pesto in our store at some point in 2023!
These are only a couple of the projects that the MFCC works on in any given year, but they are real stories of how the organization supports local farms. We are one of many that have stories like these with the MFCC, and I believe it is an organization worth supporting in our region. If you would like to help us reach our goal of $5,600 by December 31st, please follow THIS LINK . Your commitment to our local agriculture is greatly appreciated!
FALL SHARES WEEK 7!
Fall shares go out every Wednesday from October 5th until the week of Thanksgiving. On November 22nd shares will be packed on Tuesday.
Carrots, Onions, Garlic, Potatoes, and Sweet Potatoes are the weekly regulars in shares. Brussel Sprouts will be in shares this week and we should have enough this week to give everyone an extra pints worth. They’ll be bagged this week since they won’t fit in the pint. Celeriac is back in shares. Celeriac lasts forever, or at least until the following year when you can swap it out for a new root. I use it as a substitution for celery in soup bases all winter long. Lettuce Mix will be in shares. This will be a salad mix with some Raddichio mixed in as well. Raddichio is a bitter green, but I love it. It goes well with a vinegar or lemon based salad dressing. Napa Cabbage will be in shares as mini heads. Watermelon Radishes are absolutely stunning and will be in shares this week. They are sweet radishes with a little spiciness at the end, but most notably they are a speckled reddish pink inside that looks gorgeous when you slice them.
1 teaspoon soy sauce (or tamari or coconut aminos)
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. (To get them perfectly crispy, make sure this is the only pan in the oven and you’re not roasting anything else at the same time.)
Slice off any hard ends of the Brussels sprouts, as needed. Slice them in half lengthwise and place them in a large bowl.
Mix the sprouts with the olive oil, kosher salt, and lots of fresh ground black pepper.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper*, then pour the spouts onto the sheet. Turn them all cut side down.
Roast for 25 minutes until very browned and tender (don’t stir!).
While the sprouts are roasting, place the maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, and soy sauce in a small saucepan. Simmer 3 to 5 minutes on medium low heat until thickened slightly and reduced (this should result in about 2 to 2 ½ tablespoons glaze).
When the sprouts are done, pour over the maple balsamic glaze. Serve immediately.
1 head radicchio (10 ounces), broken into individual leaves
1 small lemon
1 teaspoon whole-grain mustard
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup packed fresh mint leaves
Using a sharp knife, remove peel and pith from lemon. Quarter lemon lengthwise and discard center membrane and seeds; finely chop. Place in a large bowl, and stir in mustard,sugar, and oil to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Toss radicchio and mint with dressing, season with salt and pepper, and serve.