Middle Way Farm CSA - Week 2
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Community Supported Agriculture

I have probably explained what CSA stands for over a hundred times and I'm sure I will several hundred more times. I'm always a bit surprised when people haven't encountered the term before, but then I realize that not everyone lives in my world of farming and food, where CSA is basic vocabulary. I have heard several theories of the origin of the CSA concept (some say Japan, some say Switzerland, some say elsewhere) but most agree that it came to the US in the mid-80's through a pair of Massachusetts farms. Like agriculture itself, it probably originated independently in multiple places. The original concept of Community Supported Agriculture in the US was quite different from how it is normally applied today (and my farm is a clear example of that). The original CSA farms were true community farms, where customers of the CSA helped set the budget and prices for the season and participated in the work of the farm. Over time, most CSA farms have moved towards using the CSA model more as a marketing strategy while retaining the principle of a box of vegetables each week, selected by the grower. I've taken it a step further by allowing custom orders in addition to having a standard shares each week. 

Even as I stretch the CSA model (and some would say that I've abandoned it), its good to look back at the history of CSAs not only to know where I've come from but also to incorporate some of those original tenets into my model. On Saturday I hosted what I hope will be the first of many "Weed and Feed" events, inviting people (both CSA shareholders and others) to come out to the farm to help weed and in exchange I would provide a meal afterward and free produce to take home. Rather than make it a general CSA event, I decided to invite a smaller group of closer friends and supporters, as a trial run. I'm happy to report it was a success and I will be doing more in the future, with a more general invitation to all CSA shareholders to come participate. Byron Hueftle-Worley, a CSA shareholder, friend, and the builder of my walk-in cooler, and his wife Karen not only came out to help, but they provided an excellent locally raised brisket from Doty Angus Beef as well as homemade homous and bread. Bryon said afterward that helping to weed the leeks not only made him anticipate getting to eat them later in the season but it also helped him better understand the cost of the produce coming off the farm, by seeing the work that goes into it. His thoughts illustrate the value and possibility of truly community supported agriculture.

I am extraordinarily lucky to have the network of support and community I have. While I put a lot of effort into the farm, that effort would not be possible without all the ways that I have been helped and supported in my enterprise, through monetary and non-monetary means. Self-made entrepreneur I am not and I've decided that I'm okay with that. We like to think that we can do things solely by our own effort, and that there is special merit in doing something without help. The truth is that we are supported in innumerable ways, explicitly and implicitly, by humans and non-humans alike,. Our efforts never occur in a vacuum. Community supported agriculture is a way to acknowledge and celebrate that truth and to realize that the full richness of eating and being sustained by food is not just in consumption but in the ritual, community, and effort that comes with it. 

Thank you not only for being customers but for being a part of my community. 

Weed and Feed volunteers tackling the last bed of onions on a very windy but beautiful afternoon on the farm. It’s amazing how much hand weeding a group of people can get done in a few hours. All the onions and most of the garlic got weeded. We enjoyed an excellent meal afterward including brisket, bread, homous, Middle Way Farm salad, grilled turnips, as well as quiches and rhubarb crisp made by my partner Emily Guenther. 

Important Notices:

  • It turns out the new wax boxes I bought to increase my supply have a completely different folding style than the old ones, so the video link I've been circulating from Tipi Produce doesn't apply to them. Feel free to leave your boxes folded when you drop them off at the farm or leave them out for pick-up. But please do return them each week. 
  • Remember to get your orders in by 6 am, Tuesday! Thanks everyone for your prompt orders last week. 
  • Also remember, if you will be out of town and not ordering, please log into the order page at and click on the tab that says "Holds". Here you can enter the dates you will be gone and I will get an automatic notification to let me know that I shouldn't expect your order. 
  • Please let me know if you have specific preferences for delivering your CSA share that I might not be following. I try to put your share in a shaded place close to the front door. Especially as the weather heats up, its important that you get your share inside and refrigerated as soon as you can, or otherwise provide me access to a cooler or refrigerator (garage or in the house) where I can store it. 
  • Feedback about produce you receive (positive and negative) is much appreciated. I'm constantly doing quality control and adjusting how I do things to make sure that the produce you receive arrives to you fresh, in good condition, and stores well. If you are finding otherwise, I want to know! 
A view of the Practical Farmers of Iowa sweet potato mulch trial I am conducting. The three trial beds contain strips of paper mulch, plastic mulch, and bare ground. I will be looking at if there is any difference in yield between the three different treatments. Plastic mulch suppresses weeds but also warms the soil, helping the sweet potatoes grow faster, and keeps the sweet potato roots drier by blocking rain. This means that they require more irrigation, however. The plastic also has to be pulled up and disposed of at the end of the season however (although we are lucky to be able to recycle it with Audas Sanitation in Montezuma). The paper mulch suppresses weeds while allowing in water and can be tilled into the soil at the end of the season, but it is more expensive and doesn't have the same warming properties as the black plastic. 

Notes on This Week's Share

Chinese cabbage, also known as Napa cabbage, is a cousin to the green and red heads of cabbages that we are used to encountering. It has a thinner leaf than traditional cabbage and is formed in a loose collection of leaves rather than a tightly bound head. Organic Chinese cabbage will almost invariably have small holes in it from flea beetles, a common pest that damage the plant but don't devastate to an extent that justifies spraying pesticide. Its probably most famous in a salad with ramen noodles, but its also an excellent stir fry vegetable. You can use the stalk along with the leaf. Strip off and discard discolored, tough outer leaves, using the interior, more tender leaves. 

Garlic scapes, for those who haven't encountered them before, are the unopened flowering stalks of hardneck varieties of garlic (softneck varieties do not flower). They appear usually in mid-June each year, several weeks before the actual harvest of garlic. Its common wisdom that the scapes should be snapped off so that the garlic plants put energy into increasing bulb size rather than producing a flower. They also turn out to have an excellent, mild garlic flavor. Use them anyway you would use clove garlic. The entire stalk, including the flower, can be minced and used. Some other ideas include garlic pesto and a double garlic soup including green garlic and garlic scapes that comes with high marks from friend Carolyn Jacobson (who is in China right now so she's missing scape season in Grinnell but is in a place where scapes are a mainstream food). I wil also have scapes next week and possibly the week after that. Then garlic harvest should start! 

The kohlrabi this year is absolutely beautiful. The leaves are so nice I'm sending them to you in bunches, rather than as bulbs alone (bulbs grow above ground as swollen stems). The leaves can be used like other brassica family crops such as kale and collards or just composted. Strip the leaves off of the stem before using. Bunches will include both green and red kohlrabi. I've described kohlrabi in the past as being like a cross between a cabbage and an apple. Peel off the tough outer skin and enjoy kohlrabi raw as a crudite (after slicing store it in water to retain freshness) or use it in stir fries, where it readily absorbs other flavors and sweetens as it cooks. Its also great roasted. Its an excellent, versatile vegetable that is not commonly encountered outside of local agriculture. The bulbs will store well for several weeks more more in the fridge. 

Peas have begun producing this week! I grow both snow peas and snap peas. The amount delivered will depend entirely on the amount harvested and the number of orders this week, but expect somewhere around a pound. I will try to deliver a mix of both varieties. Peas are wonderful raw but also will go great in a stir fry with Chinese cabbage, kohlrabi, garlic scapes, and green onions. Here are some basic tips for stir fries, if you haven't done one before.

Turnips this week will include some "Scarlet Queen" variety, which has a beautiful reddish pink skin but white interior. With a second planting beginning to produce,spring turnips should be available for a little while longer. By the end of the month, we'll say good bye until the fall. White "Hakurei" turnips may look a little rough this week, as they have been getting damage from wire worms in the soil. Still perfectly edible, but cosmetically, not the most aesthetically pleasing. 

Amaranth is a wild edible green that is quite similar to lamb's quarter in distribution and growth habit, so much so that I always think of them (and often see them growing) together.  Amaranth is more well known as a grain, which actually contains complete protein and was a staple akin to wheat or corn for the Incan Empire. The leaf, however, is also edible and contains a high amount of protein for a leafy green. It was introduced to me as "blero" by a Guatmalen immigrant I worked with. He foraged it every day this time of year.  The plants are best picked small and tender but leaves remain edible throughout the growing season, like lamb's quarter. The leaves contain less water than most greens so they cook fairly dry. I like them prepared simply, pan fried with a little bit of lemon and salt. 

This will be the last week for most plant starts. New plant starts this week include several types of perennial herbs, lime basil, and watermelons. Sweet potato slips are also available for one more week. 

The fruit share will have strawberries from either Keller Berry Farm (transitioning to organic) or Grinnell Heritage Farm (certified organic). I'm still working figuring out which one will have berries available. I hope to provide strawberries for at least two weeks and possibly three depending on weather. Strawberries will likely be followed by wild black raspberries!

The cucurbit (squash family) field, after spraying Kaolin clay on everything. The kaolin coats the leaves and stem of the plants and acts as a protective barrier against cucumber beetles and squash bugs, which have begun their devastating, annual migration into the field. The clay cuts down on photosynthesis but otherwise these plants would be totally vulnerable to pests. Its an organic alternative to spraying pesticides (including organic approved ones) that might harm pollinators and other beneficial insects. 
CSA Availability For Delivery on Wed, June 18

Orders should be placed at by Tuesday at 6 am. 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. It may take a few weeks to work out all the kinks with this new ordering system but ultimately it will be more convenient for everyone. 

Standard shares will receive one unit of everything listed under "Standard" automatically. No need to order. If you would like additional standard items (not all standard items will be available for extra ordering), extra items, or plant starts, you will need to order them separately. Whatever you order on the website will be delivered IN ADDITION to your standard share. 

Custom shares need to place an order each week in order to receive delivery ($10/week minimum, no upper threshold). If orders are not received by early Tuesday morning you may not Note the limits for individual items (for example, only 1 bunch of radishes per person, but as many heads of lettuce as you want). 

Fruit shares are pre-determined each week and are only available to those who signed up for the fruit share. They are not available for weekly ordering. 

Storage Tips: Everything in this week's share should be kept in sealed plastic bags in the refrigerator for best quality and storage life. Turnip greens should be used quickly or discarded. They will not store as well as the roots. Garlic scapes will store quite well in the fridge for several weeks. 

  1. Chinese Cabbage -  1 head (up to 3 heads) ($2.50/head or 3 for $6)
  2. Garlic Scapes - 1 bunch (up to 3 bunches) ($1.50/bunch)
  3. Green Onion - 1 bunch (up to 3 bunches) ($2/bunch)
  4. Kohlrabi - 1 bunch (up to 3 bunches) ($2.50/bunch or 3 for $6)
  5. Lettuce, Head - 1 head (no order limit) ($2/head or 3 for $5)
  6. Lettuce, Mix - 6 oz. bag (no order limit) ($3.25/bag or 2 for $6)
  7. Peas, Snow or Snap - 1 bag (amount  per bag TBD by harvest) ($4/lb) 
  8. Spinach, Full Size -  1 pound bag (no order limit) ($5/lb)
  9. Turnips, Spring - bunch (no order limit) ($2 or 3 for $5)

  1. Amaranth (wild edible) - 1 bunch (no order limit) ($2.50/bunch)
  2. Arugula, Baby - 6 oz. bags (no order limit) ($3.25/bag or 2 for $6)
  3. Broccoli - 8 oz. bag (1 bag only) ($2.50/bag) 
  4. Green Garlic - 1 bunch (up to 3 bunches) ($2/bunch)
  5. Kale, Winterbor (green curly) - 1 bunch (1 bunch only) ($2/bunch)
  6. Lamb's Quarter (wild edible) - 1 bunch (no order limit) ($2.50/bunch)

Fruit Share
Strawberries - 1 quart (Grinnell Heritage Farm or Keller Berry Farm in Toledo)
Plant Starts - LAST WEEK!

All plant starts have been grown in soil blocks in my greenhouse and repotted into larger containers. They are hardy and ready to be planted outside. 

Basil - $2 per plant or $6 for 4 pack
Genovese - Seed Savers Italian type heirloom
Mozzarella/Aroma - Hybrid green Italian type
Dark Purple Opal - Seed Savers heirloom, beautiful purple leaf
Lime - zesty lime citrus flavor, good for salads and fish

Eggplant - $2.50 per plant or $7 for 4 pack
Black Beauty - Italian globe eggplant
Orient Express - dark-clored, long Asian eggplant

Kale - $2 per plant or $6 for 4-pack
Lacinato - Italian flat leaf heirloom
Redbor - red curly leaf hybrid, beautiful as ornamental as well
Red Russian - red serrated leaf heirloom 
Winterbor - green curly leaf hybrid

Hybrid Tomato - $2.50 per plant or $7 for 4 pack 
Celebrity - medium sized hybrid beefsteak 
Juliet - hybrid mini roma, very productive and reliable. 
Paisano - similar to San Marzano, more compact and more concentrated harvest 
San Marzano -
hybrid roma or paste tomato

Heirloom Tomato - $2.50 per plant or $7 for 4 pack 
Black Cherry - dark colored cherry, high yielding and flavorful
Cherokee Purple -  Cherokee Indian heirloom, deep dusky purple-pink color
Gold Medal - large yellow fruit that blush with red, low acid
Italian Heirloom - large productive beefsteak, good for slicing & canning
Matt's Wild - very small, very sweet, prolific cherry tomato closely related to wild tomato, released by Iowa State's Dr. Matt Liebman, a pioneering professor in sustainable agriculture

Parsley - $2 per plant or $6 for 4-pack
Flat leaf - Italian type
Curly leaf - garnish type

Peppers - $2.50 per plant or $8 for 4-pack
Gourmet - green to orange bell pepper
Snapper - green to red bell pepper, very reliable
Jalapeno - hot pepper
Martin's Carrot - heirloom hot pepper from Seed Saver's

Perennial Herbs - $2.50 per pot. 

Sweet Potatoes - $3 for 5 slips or $5 per 10 slips. 

Swiss Chard, Rainbow - $1.50 per plant or $5 for 4-pack

Watermelon - $2.50 per plant or $7 for 4. 
Moon & Stars - Seed Savers heirloom, speckled foliage and fruit
Sugar Baby - standard, small red flesh watermelon
Petite Yellow - small yellow flesh watermelon
The walk-in cooler is almost finished. On Friday the interior walls were coated with spray foam, which will act as both an insulation and vapor barrier. Next steps are to cover the interior walls with plywood and install the air conditioner, which will be modified with a device called a CoolBot to cause the room to reach cooler temperatures. Thanks to shareholder Byron Hueftle-Worley for engineering and building the walk-in. I gave him a basic sketch of what I wanted and he brought it to fruition. 
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