News from Waltham Fields Community Farm CSA

Amanda Cather <farmmanager@communityfarms.org>
Mon, Jul 28, 2008 at 2:11 PM
Reply-To: farmmanager@communityfarms.org
To: Shareholders
local food for everyoneWaltham Fields Community Farm
CSA Newsletter #8
July 28, 2008
In This Issue
What's In the Share This Week
Pick-Your-Own Crops
Notes from the Field
Quick Links
Join our Board of Directors!
Waltham Fields Community Farm is a nonprofit run by a volunteer board of directors. We are currently recruiting board members to start serving in January, 2009. We are especially seeking candidates who have one or more of the following qualities:
  • financial expertise
  • fund-raising expertise
  • personnel expertise
  • previous nonprofit experience

Please contact Kathy Diamond by email or by phone (617-926-6025) if you think you might be interested or would like to learn more about the board.

Roasted Vegetable Torte
This appeared in our newsletter two years ago and was a big hit. Paula Hodges invented this recipe at Barefoot Contessa, and it was an immediate hit. Make it ahead of time and then cut it into wedges, like a cake. The layers of roasted vegetables look so beautiful. Serves 6.

2 zucchini, cut into ¼ inch slices
1 red onion, cut in half lengthwise and sliced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
Good olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 red bell peppers, halved, cored, and seeded
2 yellow bell peppers, halved, cored, and seeded
1 eggplant, unpeeled, cut into 1/4 -inch slices (1 ½ pounds)
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cook the zucchini, onions, garlic, and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat for 10 minutes until the zucchini is tender. Season with salt and pepper. Brush the red and yellow peppers and eggplant with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and roast on a baking sheet for 30 to 40 minutes, until soft but not browned.
In a 6-inch round cake pan, place each vegetable in a single, overlapping layer, sprinkling Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste between each of the layers of vegetables. Begin with half of the eggplant, then layer half of the zucchini and onions, then all of the red peppers, then all of the yellow peppers, then the rest of the zucchini and onions, and finally the rest of the eggplant. Cover the top of the vegetables with a 6-inch round of parchment paper or waxed paper. Place a 6-inch flat disk (another cake pan or the bottom of a false-bottom tart pan) on top and weight it with a heavy jar.
Place on a plate or baking sheet (it will leak) and chill completely. Drain the liquids, place on a platter, and serve at room temperature.
Many thanks for the recipe suggestions and links you sent in last week -- keep 'em coming!

Need more ideas? Visit our Produce Info and Recipes page.
Bring us your compost!

Bring your own household compost if you don't mind the walk to the compost piles. Acceptable compost ingredients include all vegetable and fruit scraps, eggshells, bread crusts and coffee grounds. Please, no other animal products. Thanks to everyone who has helped us build our compost piles!

Local Raw Milk Buying Group Seeks Coordinator

A group of interested buyers are looking to start a purchasing group to buy milk directly from Robinson Farm, a certified raw milk dairy located in Hardwick. Robinson Farm is in the process of transitioning to certified organic status. This group would have no official connection with Waltham Fields Community Farm, but could include buyers from within and outsideWFCF's CSA.

The group is looking for a coordinator to make it all happen! The coordinator will need to work out transportation and distribution processes between Robinson Farm and milk buyers. The legalities of purchasing raw milk are very specific in Massachusetts, and the coordinator will need to make sure that the buying group operates within those guidelines.

If you are interested in coordinating the group, please contact
WFCF CSA shareholder Linda Robinson. Linda, who has no official affiliation with Robinson Farm, has done some great research into how other buying groups have organized and can share that information with a potential coordinator.
Welcome to the 2008 Harvest Season!

CSA Pickups at the Farm this Week:sunflower
  • Tuesday, July 29 from 3-7 PM
  • Thursday, July 31 from 3-7 PM
  • Sunday, August 3 from 3-7 PM
CSA Pickup in Davis Square (for pre-registered shareholders only):
  • Tuesday, July 29 from 5-7 PM

Many thanks to Eric Wlodyka for this week's farm photos.

What's In the Share This Week
eggplantPlease note:

This list is prepared the week before you receive your share. Some guesswork is involved!

We do our best to predict which crops will be ready to harvest, but sometimes crops are on the list that are not in the share, and sometimes crops will be in the share even though they're not on the list.



Pick-Your-Own Crops This Week
future veggiesShareholders are welcome to pick-your-own during daylight hours Mondays through Thursdays and Sundays. Check the white board on the red kiosk for PYO information.
Notes from the Field
The Best-Laid Plans

We've had a couple of emails this past week asking whether our CSA shares this summer are smaller than last summer at this time, and wondering why that might be. Economy? The weather? A change in the policy of the farm? First, it's helpful to keep in mind that despite the dry weather, 2007 was a record harvest year for our farm. If I look back at the harvest list from last season around the 8th distribution week, things look pretty similar right at the time being, but there are definitely a couple of big differences in the way this year's CSA shares were conceived and carried out that I think have had an impact on the first third of the season.

Andy and I used the huge number of responses to last year's email CSA survey in planning for the 2008 season. Large majorities of people asked for more "basics" -- sweet corn, carrots, cucumbers, summer squash, onions, lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli and spinach. These, not coincidentally, are also crops that our hunger relief partner organizations love. More than a few CSA shareholders signalled their dislike of kale, collards, kohlrabi, endive and fennel -- again, not coincidentally, these crops are not easy for us to find a home for among our hunger relief partners.
I know, to some of us kale IS a basic, and I'm one of you. So never fear -- we will still grow all of those crops (and most of them are coming up in the second part of the season, as I'll explain below). But we'll try to include them as part of the share in a mix-and-match system that allows folks who love those items to take them home while allowing our more traditional eaters to take more of the standards instead.

This is a great idea in theory, but we need to be harvesting lots and lots of "basics" in order to make it work so that the choices last throughout the 150-share pickup on Sunday evenings. We don't usually have the volume this takes until August or September, our biggest harvest months. So, look forward to having all of your old favorites returning, and to our best attempts at making them a choice, at least in part. In the first part of the season, however, it has probably seemed like our variety has been a little more limited than in the past as we focus on giving you more of those basics, and trying to provide each share with enough of each item to do something with (the exceptions to this rule, of course, are always at the beginning of the harvest season for a crop -- hence, one eggplant per share for the past week).

The second big factor for us this year is that many of the crops we traditionally grow for harvest in late June and July (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, bok choy and other Asian greens, sweet turnips, radishes, etc., etc.) are members of the same botanical family, the brassica or cole family, also sometimes called the mustard family. These crops are a real challenge for us to grow because they are attacked on our farm by a pest, the cabbage root maggot, that tunnels into the roots and causes the plants to die, or to become stunted and produce terrible yields. Death is obviously not a good outcome for the farm, but terrible yields are also not great. Doing all the work to support a crop only to harvest half a pound of broccoli per share from a planting that should be prpoducing 2 or 3 pounds per share is not something that serves our needs -- or yours -- particularly well.

The cabbage root maggot produces two generations a year -- one in the spring, which ends when soil temperatures rise above about 90 degrees, and one in the fall, which overwinters as a pupa in the soil and hatches in late May, just in time to attack our newly planted crops. We've tried floating row covers to keep the adult flies off the young plants, and we've tried adding parasitic nematodes to the soil to feed on the larvae. We've tried rhubarb leaf spray and mulching the plants heavily so that the flies can't lay eggs at their base. Still, our yields and crop quality have grown worse over the years, not better, as the population of the root maggots on the farm grows.

This season, we decided to try to interrupt the life cycle of the pest by planting fewer of these crops in the spring for late spring and early summer harvest. The goal was to decrease the population by not providing them with anything to eat early in the season. Unfortunately, the brassica family crops we did plant were severely damaged by the heavy populations of hungry root maggots despite row covers and parasitic nematodes, so our Napa cabbage and kale produced only marginal crops. In addition, because we didn't plant as many of these crops (for example, no spring or summer broccoli), we definitely felt their absence in the diversity of the shares at the beginning of the season. For next year, it's clear that we need to be creative about ways to diversify the shares, particularly in early July, with crops that are not in the broccoli family. We're still generating a list, but our ideas include new potatoes (which, of course, have their own pests) as well as additional types of non-brassica greens like Swiss chard and escarole or radicchio.

Again, broccoli family plants will make their appearance in the late summer and early fall. We have several beautiful generations of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and kale already in the ground and growing away. We've actually planted more row feet of broccoli this year than we did last year -- it's just all planted for harvest in the last half of the season instead of spread over the spring and fall. Bok choy and tatsoi are only a few weeks away from harvest. Kohlrabi and other cooking greens are right behind. The only casualty so far has been our collard greens, which were lined up in the field ready to be transplanted when they were hit by the mower and killed. We managed to find a few collard transplants from another local grower, and we'll start more in the greenhouse next week, but we won't see the volume of collards in early September that we've been fortunate enough to have for the past two years. Since these are an important donation crop for us as well, we'll have to move quickly to try to find a substitute for our hunger relief partners and our outreach market stand.

What else? Deer, with which we've never had a problem on the farm before, have eaten two plantings of lettuce. Bunnies (grrrrr) nibbled the Swiss chard, apparently undeterred by our fake coyotes. Crazy weeds, which the wet weather has made it difficult to control, consumed parts of two plantings of carrots. These things, of course, happen every year, but in combination with our brassica family issue, they loom larger than they usually do.

I hope this is not too much of a nerdy nuts-and-bolts discussion of how farm planning -- and the intrusion of nature's vagaries into the best-laid plans -- affects the way the shares turn out. The bottom line is that the volume and variety of the CSA shares should increase quite a bit in the weeks to come, and that we'll have some fun with our seed catalogs in the later part of the season, dreaming about what else we could plant to supplement the shares in the early part of next year. This, of course, all assumes that it stops raining and we can start working on some of the weeds.... More next week on how ALL this rain will affect the farm.

Please keep the feedback coming, positive and constructive alike.It's a privilege afforded to too few farmers in our food system to have the chance to hear from people who are as involved in the production, distribution, and preparation of their food as you are, and who have opinions about and relationships with their vegetables. We see our CSA as a long-term, evolving partnership between the owners of our 300 shares and our farm, a particular set of 300 relationships that I wouldn't trade for anything. Except maybe some four-week-old collard transplants.

Enjoy the harvest.

Amanda



The Staff of Waltham Fields Community Farm
Amanda Cather, Farm Manager
Debra Guttormsen, Administrative and Finance Coordinator
Amanda Jellen, Farm Crew
Paula Jordan, Children's Learning Garden Assistant
Claire Kozower, Executive Director
Jonathan Martinez, Assistant Grower
Dan Roberts, Farm Crew
Erinn Roberts, Assistant Grower
Andy Scherer, Assistant Farm Manager
Mark Walter, Children's Learning Garden Coordinator
Waltham Fields Community Farm | 240 Beaver Street | Waltham | MA | 02452