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2016 Middle Way Farm Fall Share #4
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Final Fall Share (#4) 
December 11, 2016

This is the final fall share...and CSA share of 2016!

What's in the Share


Beet Medley - 1.5 - 2 pound bag
Butternut Squash (certified organic from Rolling Acres in Murray, Iowa) -
one 3-4 lb. squash
Cabbage, Green & Red - 1-2 heads
Carrots - 3 pound bag
Garlic, Softneck - 1-2 small bulbs
Kale, Winterbor - 4 stalks
Leeks - 3 stalks
Potatoes, Yellow (from New Family Farm in Elkhart, Iowa)- 1.5 - 2 pound bag
Purple Top Turnip - 1.5 pound bag

Looking Ahead:


2017 CSA Season sign-up will open in Janaury! Be on the lookout for an e-mail letting you know when sign-up is open. Returning members will have the first opportunity to renew their membership. 
  • Like in 2015, the farm will be offering spring, summer, and fall shares at the usual Grinnell, Newton, Marshalltown, and Ames drop sites. 
  • Middle Way Farm is anticipating becoming officially certified organic during the next growing season. Due to missing paperwork deadlines this summer, we delayed our certification application until this winter. 
  • Fruit shares from Berry Patch Farm and meat shares from Turkey Foot Farm will also be available. 
  • All the details and more announcements will be forthcoming in January!
Above: Golden beet on the left, Chiogga beet on the right

Knowing What We Know

I spent this past Thursday and Friday at what has become one of my favorite events to attend - the Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) Cooperator's Meeting. This annual meeting, in its 29th year, brings together farmers from across the state representing all types and scales of agriculture (from my dinky 2 acre market garden to thousand plus acre row crop operations) to present cooperative, on-farm research done in the past year and to plan for continuing that research or starting new projects in the coming season. As farmers we plan, design, and execute randomized, replicated on-farm trials testing hypotheses with the assistance of PFI staff, who help us design the trials, compile the data, run statistical analysis, draw conclusions, and determine avenues for future study. The late co-founder of PFI, Dick Thompson, is often quoted as saying "you can't buy the answers in a bag," reminding us that we can't simply buy a fertilizer or other hyped products to solve our problems on the farm. This kind of thinking exists equally in organic agriculture as it does in conventional farming. Just substitute synthetic fertilizer with organic fertilizer. 

We have to investigate those problems OURSELVES scientifically and determine solutions based on evidence and observations gathered on our own farms, with our own efforts. Thompson conducted over 50 on-farm trials during his several decades as one of the leaders of PFI, and he blazed the way all of us who continue to conduct on-farm research. Since 2014, I have participated in at least 4 on-farm trials or data collecting projects. Talking about on-farm research is one thing, but actually executing it in a diligent manner during the growing season is an entirely different matter. Being part of a cooperative effort made me accountable to following through on those projects, helped motivate me to ensure the success of the crops in the trial, and participating in the trials themselves made me more carefully and closely observe my practices and what was happening on the farm.  

I don't want to overstate what those trials have meant for my farm. Most of my decisions are still based on casual observations, relative successes and failures, and anecdote. And data is certainly not the only metric that one should use to make decisions in farming; I have to take into account other values as well. What on-farm research has taught me is to think more critically about whether adding or substituting a new production practice will really make the difference I imagine or hope it will. I am continuing to realize the value that on-farm trials can have in pushing my practices forward. Next season I will be conducting a trial to compare three ways of managing lettuce in two of my 4 foot by 100 foot beds (180 total beds covering 1.66 acres on the farm): 

1) rototilling, leaving the soil bare, and planting lettuce directly into the soil
2) Putting a thick, one inch or more layer of purchased compost over the entire surface of the bed (like a mulch), then planting lettuce into the compost without incorporating it with the rototiller
3) Rototilling, covering the bare soil with durable landscape fabric, and planting the lettuce through holes that have been burned at regular intervals into the landscape fabric 

The first practice is my current way of managing most crops. I am largely dissatisfied with it, particularly with the trying to keep up with weeding bare soil. The second practice is one that I have read about (never seen on a farm) and want to try as a way to eliminate rototilling, improve soil and plant health, and reduce weeding. The third practices is one I tried on the farm this year with several crops and found it promising enough to want to use on significantly more. I will be collecting data on the labor and cost of each practice, as well as the yield and quality of the lettuce produced, and the density of weeds that emerge in each treatment type. I hope to determine through data collection and analysis, as well as my own observations of the three practices side by side, whether either of the two newer practices really do have a distinct advantage over the old practice. My hypothesis is that they will, but I'm very curious to see in particular how the compost treatment will fare. 

After 27 CSA shares spanning 32 weeks from May through December, its time for your farmer to go into winter hibernation. Its been an amazing and challenging growing season; there is so much I've learned and unlearned this year. What I do want to say in closing, is this farm is made possible by YOU. Your decision to purchase your produce directly from me and pay upfront through a CSA share is the financial, logistical, and social foundation of Middle Way Farm. I hope you will continue to support not only my farm, but local food producers of all stripes. Thank you, happy holiday to you and yours, and see you in 2017!

Your farmer,

Jordan 

Notes on this Week's Share:

This final box is little smaller than the last three, as winter came in very decisively this past week and cut off any further outdoor harvest. 

The fall beet harvest this year was disappointing to say the least, but I am still happy to have enough for this final share. They are a bit smaller than usual but really the smaller, golf ball sized beets are generally considered more desirable in culinary circles (if more time consuming to prepare) than the larger beets typically sold. You will find a mix of three varieties: traditional red, golden, and Chiogga (red & white bulls eye pattern inside) (pronounced kee-OH-gee-uh). All can be used interchangeably, though you will find the golden and Chiogga beets do not stain like the red ones do. 

Check out the Recipe of the Week for hands-down my favorite cabbage recipe. I also loved eating roasted cabbage, which I tried at CSA members Erik and Katie's house back in October. 

If you're unsure what to do with your turnips (from this week or prior fall shares), check out this recipe (BONUS: it uses leeks and garlic too). Soup is probably my favorite way to use turnips. 

The kale in the share is actually the whole tips of the plants cut off prior to the hard freezes. These should keep very well in a plastic bag in the fridge - kale harvested late in the year doesn't seem to want to go bad in the same way that summer kale does! Note it has already been double washed at the farm. 
Farmers and PFI staff designing an on-farm trial at the 2016 Cooperator's Meeting. Liz Kolbe (Grinnell raised, in the red sweater) is the horticulture program coordinator for PFI. The man with elbows on the table is Dean Henry, co-owner of Berry Patch Farm, where the fruit share comes from.  

Pick-up Info - PLEASE READ!


Please bring your own bags so that you can take your produce and leave your box at the pick-up site!

On-Farm Pick-up (3633 Hwy 146, Grinnell) - 3-6 pm, Wednesday

Due to below freezing temperature, pick-up will be held INSIDE the loading dock at the farm. Please enter through the door to the left of the overhead doors (watch your step!). It will be heated and lit inside. 

Ally & Brian's home (next to Aurora Park, Newton) - 3 - 6 pm, Wednesday
Shares will be inside side door next to garage like the summer share.  

MCC Agriculture Building (Marshalltown) - 3-6pm, Tuesday

Farm to Folk (First Methodist Church, Ames) - 4:30 - 6 pm, Tuesday

Recipe of
the Week

Kenyan Curried Cabbage

From the Kayotic Kitchen blog

Ingredients:

1 small to medium cabbage head
1 large onion
2 medium carrots
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp curry powder
2 tsp salt
pepper

Directions:

Remove unpretty outer leaves and slice the cabbage in 1 inch thick strips. Peel and slice a large onion. Peel and grate 2 medium carrots.

Heat 2 tbsp butter and sauté the onion for 3 minutes before adding the shredded carrot and cabbage. Cook everything, over low heat, until the cabbage softens. This should take about 10 minutes. Stir now and then.

Combine 2 tbsp flour with 1 tsp curry power and 3 tbsp milk. Stir until it’s a lump-free paste.

Storage Tips


Cabbage - Store in sealed plastic bag in fridge. Will keep well for over a month. Outer layers will go bad first; you can strip them off to find good cabbage underneath. 

Leeks, Wintebor Kale - Store in sealed plastic bags in fridge. Use within 1-2 weeks. Leeks can keep even longer but quality will decline. 

Carrots, Purple Top Turnip, Potatoes, Beets -  Store roots in sealed plastic bag in fridge. Will keep in good condition for well over a month. Potatoes may be kept on the counter but will tend to dehydrate and lose quality over time. 

Garlic, Butternut Winter Squash - Keep in a visible place with good air circulation at room temperature above 55 degrees. Check for soft spots developing on winter squash and use immediately if they start to develop. All will keep in good condition for well over a month. Refrigerated garlic will tend to sprout.
Copyright © 2016 Middle Way Farm, All rights reserved.


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