Middle Way Farm CSA - Week 12
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Weekly Announcements

Remember to Confirm when Placing Order  - There has been a few instances lately where shareholders thought they had placed their online orders but I did not receive them. Please remember to click Confirm when you checkout of the online store and make sure you receive the confirmation e-mail with your order. If you do not, please place your order again to make sure I get it. If I get a duplicate order, its easy for me to just ignore one, but if I don't receive any order, then I have to contact you to find out if you want to order that week. 

Order Deadline - Several of you have also been unsure about whether you could submit orders "late" after the Tuesday morning deadline. The truth is I do not close online ordering so you can place your order anytime before Wednesday at noon and I will be able to pack your share. Please do your best to place your order by Monday night (since I begin the week's harvest on Tuesday morning) but if you cannot place your order that quickly, please do still submit it on Tuesday. 

Attention Standard Shares - Standard shareholders, remember you can order extras on the online store. To log-in (if you haven't done it before), go to, click Member Log-in on the left side, and then use Log-in Via E-mail to generate a log-in link. Not all items in the share are always available to order as extras, but most are. Also, please let me know what you think of the share so far (Too much of something? Too little of something else? Fewer items?). Since I choose what's in the share each week your feedback to me is important!

Egg Share - Based on the survey results, I don't think there is sufficient interest to do an egg share for the remainder of the season. Sorry to those of you who were interested! You should consider ordering from the Grinnell Local Food Source, which now has Sandy Hill Farm as an egg producer. I am still considering having an egg share starting at the beginning of next year's CSA. 

Field Day - Based on my schedule and the survey results, I've decided to hold the CSA field day on Sunday, September 14 from 4-7 pm. Please mark your calendars! More details to follow soon.

Returning Twist Ties and Containers - Remember that I will take back any twist ties or paper pint/quart containers that come with your CSA box, as long as they are not dirty (i.e. had rotten produce on them). Just leave them with your boxes. I cannot take back plastic bags. 

The Wisdom of Fallowing

This past week, in addition to the usual routine of harvest and preparation for CSA and farmers market, was marked by preparing a large section of the current garden to go into a year long fallow or rest from production. The fallow area covers most of the 1/3 acre where the garden was located in 2013 (the first year as Middle Way Farm), which includes the much smaller section from 2012 Grin City garden. This was the area this year that contained all of the onions, shallots, garlic, head lettuce, peas, spinach, and chard as well as the first plantings of broccoli and beets, all of which have been harvested, the area mowed, and the residue tilled under.  Most of the farm's production has shifted to the 3/4 acre expansion area of the garden, which I tilled and began planting in May.

So what is a fallow area anyway? Fallowing is taking an area out of cash crop production for a significant period of time, usually at least a growing season. In lieu of growing a cash crop, a multi-year cover crop or a succession of cover crops are planted to protect the soil from erosion (hence the term cover crop), build soil fertility, biology and organic matter, suppress weeds, and promote beneficial insects, among other reasons. A cover crop is also sometimes called a green manure (as opposed to the brown kind) when it is plowed into the soil. Fallowing is a way of 'resting' and restoring soil between demanding cash crops. Most cash crops remove large amounts of nutrients from the soil that are then sent off the farm, require annual tillage (which destroys soil structure and causes compaction) to establish, and cause weed and pest populations to build up over time. Fallowing is a way of keeping land productive and healthy by occasionally giving sections a year or more off from cash crop production.

I believe that annual vegetable production can only really be healthy and sustainable if the annual rotations include fallow periods. This means that a farmer needs more land in their rotation than they need to grow their cash crops. How much? It depends. Some farms might only use half their land every year to grow their cash crops while fallowing the rest, but being able to fallow any portion of land during a rotation is helpful. I am fortunate to be in a situation where I am on a 320 acre farm with a supportive landlord that wants me to have the amount of land I need to have a successful operation. In other situations, where a farmer is more pressed for space, a fallow period is simply not an option; they have to use every piece of available land every year. 

Preparation for the fallow started this week with mowing off the weeds and crop residue and then an initial tilling with the tractor. With time and rain, any weeds that did not get killed by the initial tilling will begin to regrow and some of the weed seeds in the soil will germinate. After a few weeks, around the first week of September, I will till again to kill these regrown weeds and this first flush of germinated weed seeds then broadcast seed the cover crop and shallowly incorporate it. This will give the cover crop seed a jumpstart on the weeds. I will be experimenting with several different types of overwintering cover crops that will grow in the fall, survive the winter, and continue growing in the spring. 

I will be doing strips within the field of several different cover crop mixes as a trial. There are two basic categories of cover crops you can plant in the fall. One type is overwintering cover crops, which means the cover crop will grow some in the fall, go dormant and survive the winter, and then regrow in the spring. Winter wheat, winter rye, and winter triticiale are all grasses that in addition to being raised as cereal grain crops, can fill this niche as cover crops. Grass cover crops are often mixed with a legume (nitrogen fixing) such as hairy vetch or clover to provide full spectrum of benefits to the soil. The grass creates fibrous root system that holds the soil in place against erosion and provides a boost to organic matter as it decomposes while the legume fixes atmospheric nitrogen into a form that is available to plants. Because overwintering cover crops have to be killed in the spring before the cash crop is planted, they are typically planted the fall before a warm season crop is to be planted, since it will be May or June before the soil can be prepared for planting. The other type is winter kill cover crops, which means the cover crop will grow in the fall, die during the winter, and leave a residue which will begin to break down in the spring. Oats is typical cover crop for this purpose, able to grow into the fall but dying once the real cold hits, making it ideal for planting the fall before cool season crops, since you can till right away in the spring without having to contend with a living cover crop. 

Both land and people need fallows. We need time and space where we are not being specifically productive because its these non productive periods that enable us to be productive in the first place. I work long hours in the spring, summer and fall, but I enjoy more time to read, cook, follow non-farm interests, and spend time with friends and family during the winter. I also try to carve out Sundays during the growing season as a rest time from farm work (although not from the newsletter!) and to take trips out of town at least monthly, no matter how much work there is to do on the farm, to spend time with friends and recharge. Just like agricultural land, we can't be constantly "on" without having to use external inputs to try to prop ourselves up. A more sustainable and healthy way to use land and use our time is to give it a rest once in a while. 

A little over a month after planting, the buckwheat was ready for mowing this week in anticipation of rain. I used the sickle bar mower on the BCS tractor to cut the standing plants. The photos below show the buckwheat patch prior to mowing, after one pass with the BCS mower, and after the whole patch had been cut. I'll be tilling this buckwheat into the soil this week, waiting a few weeks to allow it time to break down, and then planting the last fall spinach crop here. 

Notes on This Week's Share

Cippolini onions (pronounced chip-oh-lee-knee) are a real treat. Meaning "little onions" in Italian, cippolinis are smaller than storage onions and have the shape of flattened piece of dough. They also have more sugar than your average white, red, or yellow onion and are the best onion for roasting, carmelizing and grilling on kabobs. One drawback is they are more difficult to peal than a regular globe shaped onion, but using a smaller, sharp knife usually does the trick. you can also boil them for a few seconds to loosen the skins. To carmelize cippolinis on the stove, peel and dice the onions and add them to a hot skillet with oil or butter. You want the onions to cook slowly for a long time. so keep the heat low. Allow them to become translucent and keep going until they are just about dissolved.  The long cooking process of carmelizing reduces water content and concentrates the sugars of the onions, making them very sweet with very little onion flavor. Cippolinis in this week's share will include both yellow and red varieties (see photo at end of this e-mail). 

The leeks look great this year and I have been seeing them at other vendors stands at farmers markets, so I thought it would be a good time to offer them to the CSA. I think of leeks more as a fall vegetable, so I will be saving a good portion of the crop for September and October. Leeks will hold in the field for a long time, well into freezes of early to mid-fall, which causes them to sweeten like many other cold season vegetables (kale and brussels sprouts being other good examples). Leeks make an excellent pair with potatoes, but are also wonderful on their own sauteed in butter. I think you can use them basically as a substitute for or an accompaniment to onions and garlic in just about any dish. 

Potatoes this week come in your choice of red, yellow, or purple. While I'm still considering the potatoes "new" because their skins are not cured, most of the potatoes are reaching full size and I will soon be harvesting them as cured potatoes that I expect to store for the winter. 

Zucchini are on their way out, so enjoy them while they last! Now would be a great time to order extra for freezing so you can enjoy them throughout the winter. They do not need to be blanched before freezing, just shredded or cut into rounds. 

The garlic this week is a variety called Persian Star. This variety is close to my heart because I began growing it in 2009 with just one bulb I bought from Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah. It made it through the garlic diseases of 2012/2013, which destroyed other varieties I was growing. 2014 was my fifth year harvesting the garlic that started with this one bulb and I now have 20 or more pounds of it. I love the idea of growing this variety of garlic for the rest of my life and find it very meaningful to be shepherd of a line of garlic that stretches back to my earliest days as a gardener and grower. Like Chesnok Red, it has soon of the red coloration on the skin and is sweet when roasted. The variety originated in Uzbeckistan, one of the Islamic republics in the former USSR close to the historical territory of Persia. The appearance of the garlic after all the wrappers have been peeled away, with the way the sharp pointed cloves are arranged, gives it the name star. 

The fruit share this week will once again be blueberries from Berry Patch Farm in Nevada. Fall red raspberries may be on the horizon for next week or the week after. I would like to offer blueberries for several more weeks, as long as they are available, since I think these are some of the best blueberries you can buy. I bought some blueberries while visiting a farmers market in the Twin Cities this weekend and thought that they were not nearly as good as the ones from Berry Patch. 

One of the garden areas that is transitioning into a fallow period this fall. The residue of thick weeds in the pathways can be seen between the more nicely tilled raised beds where the broccoli and head lettuce was growing this spring. I used the smaller, more agile BCS two wheel tractor to till the pathways after going over the raised beds with the larger but less precise tractor mounted rototiller. 
CSA Availability For Delivery on Wed, Aug. 20

Orders should be placed at by Tuesday morning if at all possible. Go to the website and click Member Log-in. If you have any trouble logging in, use the E-mail Verification tool to receive a link to access the store. You can change your password to whatever you want and use your e-mail and password to log in for future orders.Please e-mail me at if you have any problems with access or ordering. 
  1. Green top Beets - 1 bunch ($2.50/bunch or 2 for $4)
  2. Carrots (no tops) - 1 pound ($2.00/pound)
  3. Globe or Japanese Eggplant -  1-2 eggplants ($1.50/Globe eggplant, $1/Japanese eggplant)
  4. Garlic, Cured (Persian Star hardneck variety) - 1 bulb ($1/bulb or 3 for $2.50)
  5. Green Beans - 1 lb ($3.50/lb or 2 for $6)
  6. Leeks - 1 bunch = 3-4 leeks ($2.50/bunch)
  7. White Onions - 1 lb ($2/lb or 3 lb for $5)
  8. Red & Yellow Cippolini Onions - 1.5 lb ($3.50/lb)
  9. Green or Purple Pepper - 3 peppers ($1/pepper or 3 for $2.50)
  10. Yellow, Red, or Blue New Potatoes - 1.5 pound bag ($3/bag or 2 for $5)
  11. Cherry Tomato Medley- 1 pint ($3/pint or 2 for $5)
  12. Juliet Tomatoes - 1 pint ($3/pint or 2 for $5)
  13. Roma Tomatoes - a few (.50 each or 3 for $1)
  14. Slicing Tomatoes - a few ($1 each or 3 for $2.50)
  15. Zucchini - 3-4 squash, green & yellow ($1/squash or 3 for $2.50) (see BULK for more)

  1. Beets (no tops) - 2 pounds ($4.50), 5 pounds ($9.50) 
  2. Juliet Tomatoes - 5 lb ($9)
  3. Zucchini, Baking - $1 each for large zucchini good for baking or freezing 

  1. Lime Basil - $1/oz., any amount
  2. Sweet Basil - $1/oz., any amount 
  3. Broccoli - 1 lb ($3.50/lb)
  4. Green, Savoy or Red Cabbage - 1 head ($2.00/head or 3 for $5)
  5. Collard Greens - 1 bunch ($2/bunch or 3 for $5)
  6. Kale - 1 bunch ($2/bunch or 3 for $5) - Choose Winterbor (green, curly), Redbor (red, curly), Lacinato (heirloom green flat leaf) or Red Russian (heirloom red flat leaf) (see BULK for more)
  7. Kohlrabi - Purple or green bulbs ($1/bulb or 3 for $2.50) 
  8. Parsley (choose flat leaf or curly leaf) - 1 bunch ($2/bunch) 
  9. Turnips, Spring - 1 pound, no tops, white skin ($2/lb or 3 lb for $5)

Coming Up
Yellow & Red Storage Onions
Fingerling & Storage Potatoes
Red Peppers
Delicata Squash

Fruit Share
Blueberries - .3/4 lb pint (conventionally grown - Berry Patch Farm in Nevada)
Storage Tips: 

Tomatoes - If not fully ripe, store on a window sill or counter for a few days until ripe. You can put them in a paper bag to prevent fruit flies from congregating on them. Once ripe, use as soon as possible. You can refrigerate them if you can't use them to make sure they don't spoil, but they will lose some flavor and texture. However, this is better than a rotten tomato! 
Red and yellow Cippolini onions after being cleaned on Friday. 
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