Dear CSA shareholders,
As summer has rolled into August, I've been thinking a lot lately about local abundance. Eating locally and seasonally neccessarily means encountering abundance. When our diet is disconnected from the seasons, everything is available all the time in similar quantities. There is a constant abundance of everything. We are insulated from the more limited but more gratifying seasonal abundance that comes with each crop. This is especially true for highly perishable crops like cucumbers, tomatoes, and sweet corn. When these crops are ready, that tend to come in quantities far beyond what you would want to eat fresh. The only way to deal with this abundance is to preserve the excess. While preservation allows us to enjoy local food throughout the year, it doesn't mean we can eat a fresh local cucumber in February. That pleasure becomes reserved for the two or three months in late summer when local cucumbers are readily available. The rest of the year we can enjoy pickles and look forward to next cucumber season. This is not to say that we should never buy fruit or vegetables out of season, but to make the point that seasonal eating retains rthyms and pleasures that have largely been lost from our diets. I sometimes encounter the attitude that seasonal eating is very limited, that it is a path of austerity and hardship which we left behind decades ago with the advent of refrigeration and long-distance hauling. Having read of the late winter constipation experienced by farmers and settlers in the prior century (who subsisted on diets made up entirely of preserves and storage crops), I certainly can't advocate for a diet that results in discomfort, diminished health or lack of pleasure. While the constant abundance we see in grocery stores seems to hold the promise of plenty without end, its a plenty that in many ways has done as little for our collective health as the seasonal austerity of historical times did for people then. Too much food can be just as bad as too little, as it turns out.
A number of people this week asked me about the meaning of the name Middle Way Farm. I see the Middle Way as being a principle that we all can follow in all aspects of our life. In farming, I see the middle way as finding the critical balance between management and nature. Its clear that I can't control everything on my farm (the rain this spring and the drought this summer have made that abundantly clear), but its also true that I can't let nature have complete free rein (or I'll have far more weeds than vegetables). The middle way also applies to the way we eat. We don't want to return to a prior austerity where winter diets were limited entirely to what could be put up by a family from their garden. By the same token, we don't want our winter diets to be sourced from all corners of the globe and curated in grocery stores, obscuring the tremendous consequences of this food system. So where's the middle way here? I'll leave that up to you to decide, but I think the development of a community based food system holds the promise of providing abundant, seasonal food without the austerity of historical times. I think this is similar to the middle way represented by organic farming. Its not really a return to historical methods of farming, but rather a new agricultural system based on modern innovations and sensibilities. Its an example of how we can take the good of the past and the good of the present to work towards a future system that improves on both.
I'm excited to offer plums this week from several trees at the farm. From what I understand they are a Czech plum, a Lacina family heirloom that has been passed down through generations. The plums are small and the trees are short-lived, meaning they have to be replanted every so often. The plums you receive will be across a spectrum of ripeness. Any plums that aren't fully ripe should be kept at room temperature, preferably in a paper bag. Check them frequently. Once they are fully ripe (flesh is soft and skin has powdery appearance) they can be held at that stage in the fridge for a week or more. I have had a number of ripe ones straight off the tree and they are very tasty, I'm sure even more so once they've been chilled.
After the failure to delivery sweet corn last week, I made some inquiries and found a local grower who sells at the Grinnell Farmers Market who was willing to provide some sweet corn this week. The sweet corn comes from the grower's parents in Marengo and is conventional. While I know many of you probably already buy sweet corn locally, this gives you a chance to get it delivered with your other vegetables. I can guarantee a dozen for everyone, but please let me know if you would like more for preserving. Price will be around $6 per dozen.
Onion harvest will wrap up this week. Turnips and spinach for the fall have been planted in place of the garlic that was harvested last month. The middle plantings of beets and carrots are moving along nicely and should be ready to harvest by the end of the month. Beets should be available again next week. Unfortunately zucchinis and cucumbers look to be on their way out. They have been under an onslaught of squash bugs and cucmber beetles for several weeks and although they have performed well under the circumstances, they are beginning to show signs of damage and diseases typically spread by these pests. I hope they will hold out long enough to bridge us to the peak of pepper, eggplant, and tomato harvests. Melons and watermelons are ripening, but I'm not sure how many I will have available. Racoons have become an unexpected problem in the squash and melon patch, taking progressively bigger bites out of unripe melons and squash over the course of several weeks. Fall crops like leeks, brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, and cabbages are all maturing nicely.
Returning Boxes: If you missed giving me a box at delivery, you can always drop it off before Friday at my house (1325 4th Ave, NW corner of 4th and Elm) on the screened-in porch. You can also drop your box by my stand at farmers market on Thursday from 3-6 pm.
Tomatoes: As I mentioned in my e-mail on Friday, tomatoes are coming in very slowly. I know they will pick up at some point, but since we haven't experienced any truly hot weather in almost a month, they seem to be content to stay green. In the meantime, I'm dividing whatever I harvest each week between shares, so whatever I'm able to pick will go evenly into each person's share who orders tomatoes.
Harvest Festival: Time change for the harvest festival at the farm on Saturday, September 21st. In order to accomodate Grinnell College's Prairie Festival, which is taking place on the same day, the harvest festival will now take place from 11 am to 2 pm. The Prairie Festival will take place from 2 pm to 5 pm at the Conard Environmental Research Area in Kellogg afterward. It should be a great day of appreciation for local food, culture, and landscapes.
Until next week!
(641) 821 0753