Middle Way Farm 2015 CSA - Week 1 
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Community Supported Agriculture

Dear CSA shareholders,

Welcome to the 2015 season! Each week, I like to start the newsletter off with a short (some may question that) reflection on the farm, the growing season or a particular topic. Its a way for you to feel a little more connected to the farm and to me, the farmer, while creating space for weekly reflection and farm journal of sorts. Feel free to skip ahead to the good part - what's in this week's share!

Some of you have been with my CSA in prior seasons and may have read my thoughts about Community Supported Agriculture on multiple occasions. For those who are new, you may have prior experience with a CSA or have a fairly good idea of the concept. Even so, its still worth revisiting this question every so often: what is community supported agriculture and why is it worth supporting? 

Community Supported Agriculture from its start was a way to circumvent the conventional food supply system and connect consumers directly to farmers, to personalize their food supply. In Japan (where versions of CSA called teikei began popping up as early as the 1960's), the concept of Community Supported Agriculture was considered "food with the farmers face on it". Instead of going through a middle man, you get your food directly from the producer. The typical farmer today in America receives only a small proportion of the "food dollar" that the end consumer spends, typically well under 10%. By selling directly to our customers through Community Supported Agriculture, farmers like me receive more of that food dollar while also providing food that is fresher and higher quality than anything that could be bought through the conventional food system. Small scale agriculture is made more viable, which leads to a more diverse, healthy landscape and rural communities. Its a win win win for farmers, consumers, and communities. 

But its also true that you get to give your money directly to producers and get high quality products at farmers market or other outlets where you can buy products directly from local producers. So what makes CSA unique? Why is it necessary?

First and foremost, when you purchase a CSA you make an upfront financial commitment to the farmer. This commitment not only allows me to fund the farming operation in the early months of the season, but it also allows me to plan for what and how much to grow, knowing that I have a guaranteed outlet for a certain volume of produce. Rain can ruin a farmers market, but CSA remains consistent. Even with a large portion of the CSA doing custom orders, which fluctuate from week to week, I can still plan on a relatively reliable portion of farm production being dedicated to the CSA. The CSA also rewards me for diversity, by encouraging me to plant a wide variety of vegetables to supply the needs of a diverse CSA membership throughout the growing season. Instead of focusing on growing just a few of the most potentially profitable crops, I spread my risk over 30-40 different crops, many planted multiple times, which is also better for the soil health and ecology of the farm than an over-reliance on a few crops. As a CSA customer, you get to invest both tangibly and intangibly in the farm, more so than when you just buy produce at farmers market or farm stand. 

CSA is at the core of Middle Way Farm. CSA gets the first pick of the harvest, meaning that if something is limited in quantity, it goes to CSA before it goes to farmers market or other outlets (with standard shares getting the most preference on the occasions when harvest is limited for certain items due to a product season starting or ending, or a poor yield). Were it not for the CSA, Middle Way Farm would not be able to exist as it does. While farmers market, buying clubs, and other sales outlets are important, its the CSA that truly sustains the farm and makes it possible. I'm proud that I can rely on my customers rather than a bank to finance my operation at the start of the season, with the principal and interest paid in vegetables. 

Middle Way Farm's CSA membership has grown from 14 in 2013 to 31 in 2014 to over 50 in 2015. While this growth is significant, the CSA membership is still a relatively small group of people, most of whom I know personally, which means that you get a level of sustained attention and access to the farmer that is not as possible in a larger CSA, at a farmers market stand, and certainly not in other contexts where we typically buy food, like grocery stores or restaurants. The relatively small size of the CSA allows me to focus on both high quality food and attention to individual customers. When you become a CSA member, you aren't just buying a product or service from me. You are joining into the farm as a member, a shareholder for a season, and I strive to treat my CSA customers as more than just a sale. 

The next 22 weeks will be a guided tour through an Iowa vegetable growing season. Some of the stops may be familiar, others may be completely new to you. My goal is to satisfy your vegetables needs and wants for a growing season but also to occasionally surprise you and push your tastes, cooking, and thinking in different directions. The season is also a process for me, pushing me along in new directions, expanding my experiences, and constantly raising new questions and challenges. I'm glad you will be along with me for this ride. 

Your farmer, 


Place Your Custom Share Order!
CSA Availability 
For Delivery on Wednesday, June 3

Standard Share
Available for Custom Share Also Unless Otherwise Noted
  1. Beets - 1.5 lb bag - Standard Share Only
  2. Chinese Cabbage - 1 head - $2/head or 3 for $5
  3. Green Garlic - 1 bunch - $2/bunch
  4. Green Onion - 1 bunch - Standard Share Only
  5. Lettuce, Salad Mix - 6 oz. bag - $3.50/bag or 2 for $6
  6. Radish, Cherry - 1 bunch - $2/bunch or 3 for $5
  7. Spinach, Full Size - 1/2 lb bag - $3/bag or 2 for $5
  8. Turnips, Spring - 1 bunch - $2/bunch or 3 for $5

Also Available for Custom Order
  1. Arugula, Baby - 6 oz. bags - $3.50/bag or 2 for $6
  2. Spinach, Baby - 6 oz. bag - $3.50/bag or 2 for $6
  3. Head Lettuce - head - $2/head or 3 for $5
    1. Choose red leaf, green leaf, or buttercrunch variety

Berry Patch Farm Fruit Share
Rhubarb - Amount TBD
Sandy Hill Farm Egg Share

Every other week share - Odd Number Week

If you are receiving an every other week share, you will be assigned an even or odd number week to receive your share. 
Plant Starts Available for Custom Order

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. 

All plants are $2 each or 3 for $5
4-pack plants are $5 per 4-pack or $8 for 2 4-packs

Aroma - Hybrid green Italian type, slow to bolt
Dark Purple Opal - Seed Savers heirloom, beautiful purple leaf

Cabbage - 4 packs only
Super Red 80 - Very reliable, solid, compact heads of red cabbage

Collard Greens

Black Beauty - Italian globe type eggplant, reliable producer

Lacinato - Italian flat leaf heirloom
Redbor - red curly leaf hybrid, beautiful as ornamental as well as edible 

Kohlrabi - 4 pack only
Winner - green skin, green flesh
Kolibiri - purple skin, green flesh

Perennial Herbs 
Rosemary - $3.50 per plant
Garden Sorrel - early season, perennial lemony green
Winter Savory - perennial version of summary savory

Flat leaf - Italian type

Swiss Chard - Plant or 4-pack
Bright Lights - rainbow variety
Orders should be placed at by 6 am Wednesday morning at the latest. Go to the website and click Member Log-in. If you have not done so already, you will first need to validate your e-mail address and get an access link. Once you have accessed the link and logged in, 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. 

Custom shares need to place an order each week in order to receive delivery ($10/week minimum, no upper threshold). All items in the availability list above are available for order except those that say Standard Share Only after them. If you will not be ordering, you will need to place a hold on your account. Accounts without a hold that do not place a weekly order or a hold by 6 am on Wednesday will be charged a $10 no order fee. 

Storage Tips: Everything in this week's share should be kept in sealed plastic bags in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator (set to high humidity) for best quality and storage life. Radish and turnip greens should be used quickly or discarded. They will not store as well as the roots. 

Notes on This Week's Share

The beets in the standard share are actually overwintered in the cooler from last fall's harvest. Spring share recipients also enjoyed these beets in their final share last week.  Another treat from the cooler. There are so many ways to enjoy beets - the simplest is to roast them at high heat for 45 minutes to an hour, whole if they are small or sliced in halves or quarters if larger. You can remove the root and stem end and the skin if desired once they roasted. Roasting brings out their natural sweetness, which shines so much brighter when not covered up by the sugar in most beet pickles! Beets are also great shredded and sauted in butter or or oil for about 10 minutes. That really brings out their sweetness. 

Green garlic, for those not familiar with it, is simply immature garlic, similar to the relationship between a green onion and an onion bulb. It can be used any way that garlic is used, but its flavor is milder than a clove of garlic. I use it in place of mature garlic this time of year.You can use all of the bottom part and as much of the green leaf as you would like. 

Radishes inspire both loyalty and indifference. I have generally been in the indifferent camp but I've started to come over to the loyal side. I like munching on radishes raw and don't mind the spice. I have heard that radishes do well roasted, which is not a surprise because all root vegetables (almost all vegetables for that matter) are great roasted. Radishes are also great sliced thinly and served as a sandwich with mayonnaise, aioli, cream cheese, or cheese. 

The spinach this week is past the baby stage when it is often sold as a salad green but it can still be used that way if you don't mind larger, thicker leaves. It will serve great for cooking. Baby spinach is also available for custom order and will be in the standard shares in future weeks. 

What can I say about spring turnips? Well, I've said that they are "turnips for people who don't like turnips". They are small, sweet and tender, good enough to eat raw and excellent cooked. A simple preparation is to slice turnips thinly and saute in butter with the green garlic and green onions. You can even throw in the radishes as well. Save the turnip greens and wilt in a frying pan with a little oil. Add balsamic vinegar and soy sauce. You can also add in spinach or Chinese cabbage for more greens. Serve sauted turnips over bed of sauted greens. 

If you find yourself overwhelmed by the rhubarb in the fruit share, its easy to freeze. To freeze rhubarb just slice it thinly, put in a freezer bag, force as much air as you can before sealing the bag, and lay it flat in the freezer. It's that simple. Use within 6 months to a year. In addition to sweet dishes like crisps and pies, rhubarb is also good sliced into oatmeal before cooking or added to spring soups for a lemon like flavor.


"Million Dollar" Chinese Cabbage Salad

I suggest adding green garlic as well as green onions to this salad. 
Onions grown from seed this year have been weeded and are looking good! Soon they will be large enough for green onions.
The potato plants are getting quite large and will be hilled this week using my new tractor implement (image below). 
Newest tractor implement includes hilling disks for hillng potatoes and making raised beds as well as a potato plow for digging potatoes and making furrows for planting crops. 
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