For Our Members

Very briefly, we want to reassure you that despite any economic, or medical hardship you may be enduring right now we want you back in the CSA and will work with you to make sure you have access to healthy, organic food.

We are willing to be patient with your early payments and are committed to making sure all our members get the full extent of their shares in 2020.  We are happy to accept partial payments and payment plans for any of our returning CSA members.

Although we are still holding pick-ups for Winter and Spring in the parking lot, Bell Street Chapel is currently closed until further notice.  If there is any scheduling delay to the start of our Summer/Fall CSA we will either pro-rate shares, bulk up shares in the summer/fall, or extend into the late fall/early winter if necessary.

We need your support and you need good healthy food.  Let’s work together to make sure we have a healthy and productive 2020.  Please Sign-Up Today

 

Cultivating the Young

I’ve had the privilege of working with Dawn King from Brown University’s Engaged Scholar Program over the last several years.  It consists of pitching project ideas to teams of students who pick projects based on their own interests in the topics.  Last year I worked with two young women, Hailey and Nadine, to try and organize food waste relocation onto the farm to supplement our chickens’ diets.  In year’s past I’d worked with students around greenhouse construction and compost tea brewing.  This year I am excited to be re-exploring an old goal of BTF to expand the amount of people using EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer, aka Food Stamps) in our CSA.  The idea had been to organize and educate organizations in the community that work with EBT recipients to, when appropriate, steer these individuals and families to CSAs in their areas that accept EBT payments like BTF does.  Since CSA members routinely get a return on their vegetable share investment every year (2019 saw a 2-5% return according to share size) and also considering that the Bonus Bucks program provides EBT recipients with a 50% discount, people who receive food stamps stand to reduce their cost in CSA membership significantly.

Another project we have cooking is organizing a long-term, on-farm, multi-student, multi-grade level research project around soil health and crop production.  I am always trying to cultivate interest in students of any grade level in using BTF for research projects.  Last year we had a high school student from Ponagansett (Glocester High School) FFA working on a foliar feeding senior research project.  I am really excited to work with Brown to streamline some projects that would be available for students to step into, collaborate on, and expand.

Dawn was kind enough to invite me to speak to her class today.  I always start with my usual pitch about farming which is to ask the class if they are familiar with the concept of a guaranteed income.  The nut of the question is what are we going to do with ourselves once we’ve allowed silicon valley to automate us all out of work?  I posit this question to the class and then give me them an answer:  many people are going to come to work for me.  For free.  We turn away volunteers every spring due to over saturation.  I have one of the only jobs in the world where people are lining up to work for me for free and it’s not because of some moral obligation like you might see in a cat shelter or in a hospital.   It’s because farms offer something unique and special and farming is an enviable lifestyle.

It’s not always such an easy message to get across considering the stigma that still persists about this lifestyle:  thankless, penniless, back-breaking, endless drudgery are the stereotypes that come to many people’s minds when they think of farming.  Icy wind and snow turning to freezing rain and mud to blistering hot summers back to drenching fall downpours.  Yes, many uncomfortable, stressful days weave through the farming season but when your farm has the support of committed people, both in your labor pool and through your markets, and you’ve learned over the years to work smarter and not harder than farming changes from an agrarian nightmare to a joyful endeavor.  We are at the cutting edge of everything that is important on this planet from the immediate to the philosophical.  Farming more than any other industry has the power to mitigate climate change while improving our food and soil quality at the same time.  Farming has much to teach us and say about the intersection of work and purpose, stewardship and self-worth, nature and humanity.  Farmers have much to share with their communities not the least of which is providing beautiful landscapes for us all to enjoy.

Another scripted part of my talk is an anecdote I always employ when speaking to a group.  I take a head count, in this case forty students, and I ask twenty percent of the group to stand up.  In this case eight out of forty students stood.  I tell the class that the eighty percent of students still sitting represent the amount of farmland that Rhode Island has lost since World War Two and that the precious few still standing represent what we have left.  It is little use for me to try and inspire young people to consider farming as a viable career if we can’t hold on to what little farmland we have left.  I think that preserving open space and farm land is important for several reasons.  Farmland in particular supports both body and mind in the products they produce for us and for the reprieve their green landscapes provide for our minds.  I can’t think of any other land management strategy that performs both of these tasks in tandem.  Farmland is precious and it’s protection needs to be prioritized at the same time that young people need to be inspired to consider farming as a viable, fulfilling career.  As we look to the jobs and lifestyles that the twenty-first century is offering us we need a new narrative for farming.  It is one that many successful farmers are eager to share.  We need to quit with the simplistic caricature of what a farmer and farming is.  We have to explore why people are drawn to this lifestyle and what kind of life is possible when we work and prioritize the stewardship of the land and the health of our customers.

I sometimes wonder if I’m being irresponsible when singing the virtues of a life committed to agriculture.  After all I’ve had a few close calls financially and more than a few bouts of despair over disappointing years and projects.  But I always think about Gabe Brown when I heard him say “on our farm we want to fail a little every year.  Otherwise we’re not trying enough new things.”   It’s little mantras like this that expose that silver lining of what farming can be: an endless opportunity to learn about nature and sound
land management that has woven into it’s fabric, I believe, humanities salvation and more than a little joy.

Reflections on 2019

The instances that appear at the forefront of my thinking when I reflect on the past year are often non-events: ideas of a better world and my place and my farms place within that world.  They’re instances of goals unfulfilled within the context of many, many physical goals actualized.  Ideas of expanding the role of agriculture in our lives and consciousness, ideas of conservation and progress.  The hope of a year where we see more farm land salvaged in RI rather than lost to development.  A hope for the momentum of regenerative agriculture tipping the scales towards a healthy and less hateful world.  Farming in my eyes, in particular the social, racial, and ecological injustice of it, is like a euphemism for the world as a whole.  But unlike the rest of the world with it’s seemingly inextricable problems the solutions to our agricultural problems are clear.  And with the adoption of regenerative processes for our farms and landscapes we could see a cascade of relief in virtually all human matters of complaint.  From the global climate crisis, to biodiversity to water scarcity agriculture is a major player in resource concerns across the planet.  When I think about moving into the third decade of the 21st century and the fifth decade of my life I reflect on how BTF plays a role in this greater push toward a more sensible and just understanding of land and heart.

I have a theory that profit and beauty are mutually exclusive and inversely proportional.  Although beauty, I would surrender, is in the eye of the beholder we should consider some patterns.  For instance consider a drive in your car, wether it is on your way to work or just for leisure.  If you belong to the majority of commuters than your commute gets decidedly worse as you get closer to your job (because as a typical commuter you are moving from a lesser density of people to a higher).  Traffic of course increases but so too does the proliferation of gas stations, strip malls, and so on.  These businesses are where they are because of the flow of people and the sloughing off of money that inevitably follows the greater flow of traffic.  Instead consider a leisure drive in the country or a vacation trip somewhere rural.  The landscape becomes more calming, more inviting as the machinations of profit become less and less, breaking away completely when inside a wholly natural landscape.  Looking out from a pristine vantage point you would cringe to have your view interrupted by golden arches or a shell station sign.  But you would not cringe if a rural small dairy was nestled in the landscape.  Just like humans respond positively to the color green in our world (chlorophylla) we naturally recoil from the artificial and the baseless.  Farms, even though man-made and full of industries insistence, still strike us as a natural part of a landscape.  The more industrial the farm often the more offensive.  Same with residences.  Think of a neighborhood developed over time from the mid 20th century:  individual homes, each different from the next, often quirky and weird (and often money pits nowadays) and think of a landscape changed in a season into small-lot cookie cutter homes.  Which is more pleasant?  Which is more profitable?

When we first started clearing our property on Snake Hill Road five years ago their was an anxious buzz around the neighborhood.  Certainly the eleven acre property would soon be cleared for a subdivision.  When people found out that a working farm would be starting up here we were met with relief and, of course, skepticism because who would be crazy enough to start a farm from scratch?  You can’t make any money from farming, right?

Here’s a newsflash: farming is a difficult business model.  Farm “start-ups” don’t sell for millions of dollars.  Farms are not started by people motivated by profit.  They are started by people motivated by many different things but green paper is not one of them.  One of those many things that I believe is shared (even by the gruffest of farmers) is a thirst for beauty.  That our farms are not profit/growth machines fits into my theory:  there for they are beautiful.  That theory is generally attested to.  You can do your own sample.  Show someone a picture of the route 6 Johnston hillside before and after it was cleared, dynamited, and paved in order for a BJ’s to move 2.4 miles from its previous location on Hartford avenue.  Ask that person which image is more pleasant.  Bring someone from your sample pool to my farm and ask them if the air tastes better here or on route 44 at the Smithfield Crossings.   Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder but I think what I’m saying will strike you as fairly obvious.

It’s important that we insist on a better world for young people to grow up in.  To me a better world is synonymous with a more beautiful one and, as you see, since beauty and profit are inversely proportional (more of one means less of the other) I have to advocate for a less profitable world.  On a more realistic angle I would be satisfied if more young people could understand that farming could provide them with a beautiful life albeit one of simple means.  If beautifying the world is a priority than sequestering land into small, shakily profitable farms is a worthy avenue of attack.  In reflecting on 2019 and the new decade around the corner I would like to admit that I did not do enough to make this goal a reality.  I intend to do better and I’d be very grateful if you could help me.

One of the most important things that was said in 2019 came from the lips of an organic farmer from Montana.  She said that the farming methods best suited to deal with the impacts of climate change are the very same practices that will help remediate [climate change].  Inspired by this, and building on this, I say the practices that make farming good for our community are the very same practices that make it a more beautiful place to live.  Good luck everybody and support people who make life a little more pleasant.

PS. The truth is that farms that employ regenerative practices on their land have potential to be even more beautiful and more profitable!  So there may be a few holes in my theory but as a general rule I think it holds up!

 

When The World Is Cold…

When the world is cold, the will is warm.  A healthy dose of coffee and staying busy with seeding schedules, field plans, chicken chores, and seed orders (see photo) help keep me from getting lazy during the month of January (the moon of Excel).

Couple exciting updates for 2019 to consider when you are renewing your CSA membership:  First of all we are offering for the first time ever a Spring CSA!  We have an extra high tunnel on the farm now which gives us a little extra room for harvesting in the months of April and May (always our most difficult months for cash flow).  We are also experimenting with overwintering lettuce and spinach in the field under “low-tunnels”.  We are excited to be able to offer this share to a small group of members (maxing out at 40 shares for the spring so we don’t get ahead of ourselves).  Check out the details here about logistics:  Spring CSA

Secondly, we are super pumped to be sourcing our meat share from a new farm this year.  Katie Steere, currently from Chepachet, soon to be relocating to Cranston, runs an impressive livestock operation and is offering her products at a discount to our CSA members.   These shares (half or full) will allow our members to shop directly off of Katie’s website and receive delivery once/month to our CSA pick-ups.  Check out Deep Roots Farm for more info about Katie and her products.

Hope Everyone is doing well and looking forward to snow which hopefully will be coming soon.  Best Wishes as the new year chugs along.  Get cold, get warm, and stay productive.

Organic Farming and Global Warming

On December 12th 2018 an article was published in the journal Nature which concludes that due to the poor productivity of organic agriculture more land is required to grow food when compared to conventional methods.  According to this article, and Stefan Wersenius of Chalmers University in Sweden who held a related press release, organic farming is responsible for global deforestation rates accelerating because of this inefficient use of agricultural land.  Looking at Swedish farms they found that pea production was 50% higher on conventional farms compared to organic farms.  They extrapolate this to organic meat production, which requires organic grain, which compounds the impact on climate change for the worse.

The following day, on December 13th 2018, another article was published.  In the British Journal of Medicine (BJM) a group of Harvard University researchers published their results that show, conclusively, that parachutes are inconsequential to saving lives when jumping out of airplanes.  That is to say, that when the research was conducted the control group and the treatment group had the same likelihood of surviving the fall from an airplane whether or not they were wearing a parachute.  The fact that this sounds absurd is wholly the point.  When an aircraft is parked on a grassy runway and the deck is only 2 feet from the ground it comes as no surprise that your chance of survival doesn’t depend on having a parachute strapped to your back.  Cardiologist Robert Yew, associate professor from Harvard who worked on this project, points out that “of course this is a ludicrous result.  The real answer is that the trial did not show a benefit because of the types of patients who were enrolled.”

Most of what people believe about organic farming can be categorically disproved depending on what your sample looks like.  For instance, many people understand the term organic to mean, at it’s core, an abstention from pesticide use.  This is true for many successful organic farms.  It is also not true for many organic farms.  The same is true for nutritional values, fertilizer utilization, and carbon sequestration.  Studies have shown that organic produce has no benefit in nutritional value when compared to conventional produce.  This would not come as a surprise to many of us who see large scale organic production as being nearly indistinguishable from conventional ag.  The more similar an organic operation looks to a conventional operation the more likely they are to use pesticides and be nutritionally poor.  But within this large tent of organic agriculture (where many, many natural growers no longer feel comfortable) we find hiding in the corners the promises that organic farming has been making made good.

When enrolling the farms for this study in Sweden, did the researchers choose two paradigms of agriculture to compare?  According to the press release the striking difference between the two systems (organic vs. conventional) was that the organic farm did not use fertilizer.  Considering that these farms almost certainly both employ tillage, and one farm is not using any supplemental fertilizer, organic or not, are we surprised that their yield was 50% lower than the conventional method? No, the comparison is uninteresting because it represents two sides of a conventional paradigm, one conventional and one conventional-organic.  Conventional organic being a farming system that employs tillage, minimal soil building techniques, and will often include NOP (organic) approved pesticides and fertilizers.  What needs to be demonstrated are the results achieved through harnessing soil buildings programs.  The research study I’m interested in reading compares the farms observed in the Nature article next to Gabe Brown’s farm in North Dakota.  Or Singing Frog’s farm in California.  Or Polyface farm in Virginia.  Or Scratch Farm in Rhode Island.  Or Tobacco Road Farm in Connecticut.  I want to see the metrics applied to people working under David Johnson from NMSU’s consultation.  Or Elaine Ingham’s consultation.  These people and farms are on the cutting edge of what is possible in production as well as climate change mitigation through carbon sequestration.

Gabe Brown is a rancher from North Dakota.  Brown transitioned his farm from a conventional approach that incorporated tillage and synthetic fertilizers to a method people refer to as “biological farming”.  Biological farming falls within paradigms of what people might consider to be organic farming.  That is to say some organic farmers are biological farmers, some organic farmers are not and vice versa.  This digression becomes complicated because the term organic is today both a very technical term as well as a figurative term.  For the sake of convenience let’s refer to Gabe Brown’s farm as biorganic.  Brown’s system now incorporates no till cover cropping and row-cropping methods with mob grazing methods for beef cows.  In a telling by Brown of a corn crop he grew in 2009 in his biorganic system he refers to a soil test that showed he had 10 units of nitrogen available in his field. Corn needs approximately 150 pounds of nitrogen per acre (according to Knott’s Handbook).  If Brown’s units of nitrogen are ppm (parts per million) than he is seven and one half times deficient in nitrogen.  If his units are lbs/acre than he is fifteen times deficient in this field to grow corn.  Despite these supposed deficiencies reported in his soil test Brown was able to grow corn in this field that beat his county average.  That average was, according to Brown, “just under one hundred bushels per acre.”  On this biorganic field Brown was able to grow 142 bushels/acre.  That is without conventional or organic fertilizers “of any kind”.

I’d like to know why methods like Gabe Brown’s are not documented and analyzed by researchers who, and I don’t doubt their sincerity, want to explore the ways in which different farming methods effect the environment.  Such a striking difference in the example of Brown’s ranch to both the conventional and the organic practices studied in the Nature article demonstrate that we are looking at something different.  These are the models that need to be measured against the current conventional and conventional-organic models.  Within these systems are all the promises that organic farming has not been able to keep:  farms that are water efficient, soil building, carbon sequestering, and just as important:  beautiful places that stir imagination, provide nourishing food, provide livable incomes, and can bring us food security in the here and now.

NPR story with link to BJM article

AgFax reporting on press release regarding Nature Article with link

Gabe Brown speaks 2014

 

Sally

fullsizeoutput_193There is so much to say about Sally Lee.  I’m fortunate to have known her parents so as to understand a little better where she came from.  Her mother, Shiva, was my friend Rusty’s dog and her dad, Dante, was Willa’s.  Shiva had several litters with Dante in a fairly short amount of time.  My friend Marc can verify some of these details (they are a little fuzzy in my mind after thirteen years) but I recall the first litter consisted of eleven puppies.  Each successive litter produced fewer puppies and Shiva took less and less interest in them.  Anyway, not to drag my friends through the mud of being irresponsible pet owners since coincidently this union produced the best friend I have ever had.  Sally was from Shiva’s first litter and had her markings (fawn colored).  I picked her out the day after she was born and named her that day.  Marc reminded me that I used to come over as often as I could to check on her and I pulled the bigger pups off of Shiva so that Sally could nurse.

IMG_4368Sally spent the first year of her life on Simmons Farm, where I used to work.  She had several friends there including Jack, the Simmon’s border collie, and Larry and PeeWee, Mis’s two miniature dachshunds.  Sally then moved up to Providence where she and I lived at different locations until moving to Scituate in 2011.  Starting Big Train Farm in 2008, Sally spent virtually everyday with me on the farm.  Whilst living on the west end we would make visits to a dog park behind Bell Street Chapel.  Through Sally I met Ray Perrault at the park.  He recommended I host my CSA program at Eddy Hall in Bell Street Chapel, which I’ve done since 2009.  Ironically I was guest minister at Bell Street (at Ray’s request) last weekend (Dec 2nd, 2018) where I was able to give Sally a small tribute for bringing BSC into my life.  The next day Mindy and I put her down at Scituate Animal Hospital.

IMG_2132Through her long career with Big Train Farm I always wrote off her expenses on my taxes.  She was a huge help to my farming career in practical support and emotional support.  She was in charge of pest control of which she performed honorably and faithfully.  She was also my Moral Booster in Chief and tasked with welcoming people to the farm and making people feel comfortable there.  I will never be able to live up to or replicate the warmth and generosity that Sally could provide to people so easily.  Her gentle nature and joyful charisma was experienced by so many people who have visited or worked on the farm with us.  These are some of her irreplaceable virtues that we will deeply miss.

IMG_2137Dogs provide a consistency to our lives that I’m not sure any other creature can.  Dogs, although adaptable through training, are who they are and offer a predictability that we can’t expect from people.  Loyalty is a term used to describe dogs and it’s true that many dogs are loyal in the sense that they are attached to their owners.  But dogs are also loyal in their character and, even more profound, so forgiving of our own lack there of.  Sally has seen me at my worst and at my best but she never wavered in her consistency.  I know that kind of character is very special and I concede that despite all the training Sally endured with me she was good already in her heart.

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We put up with a lot together.  After popping two vertebrae in her back she went through major surgery in 2013 which severed the nerves that controlled her bladder and her colon.   It was my duty to squeeze this fifty pound dogs bladder three or four times a day for the last five years.  Bent over the toilet with her tail bobbing a few inches from my face I would lift her up and squeeze below her rib cage to push out as much urine as I could and, if lucky, a few stubborn turds as well.  Luckily Sally was able to regain her mobility after surgery but she was never the same afterwards.  The little dog who used to be able to jump from a standstill into the open window of my Silverado now had to be carried up and down our narrow staircase at our apartment in Scituate.

 

 

IMG_2145With the acquisition of our new property in Chepachet Mindy and I had always looked forward to having a comfortable place for Sally to spend the remaining years of her life.  Having a one-story house allowed us to open the front door and let her out without having to navigate the formidable stairs of our apartment.  At our wedding my friend Jim looked around and said: “It looks like Sally finally made it to the promised land.”  It was really satisfying to be able to have her here, on the new farm, for nearly a whole year.  She got to lounge on the hot days in an air conditioned room that Mindy set up for her, and was always able to check-out whenever she wanted to.

IMG_2131As always I feel very lucky to have a community to share these kind of things with.  So many of you who knew Sally have been inspired by her.  Some of you have sought out dogs that remind you of her.  Some of you have worked with her and some of you have traveled with her.  Many of you have enjoyed pictures posted on the blog or through Mindy’s instagram accounts.  I’m sad to report that she will not be with us for the trials ahead but she will always inspire me to be a better person even though she holds up an unobtainable bar.

Captain Call’s memorial to Joshua Deets:

“Served with me 30 years. Fought in 21 engagements with the Commanche and the Kiowa. Cherful in all weathers, never sherked at task. Splendid behavior”

 

 

 

 

Big Crossroads Train RI

IMG_2128This post is intended as a big THANK YOU to our CSA customers who gave a little extra money (and sometimes a lot extra!) on top of their CSA Shares in order to support Crossroads RI.

Crossroads operates their kitchen with a very tight budget that is supplemented with crucial donations.  A typical problem for the cooks is not being able to anticipate what is going to be coming through the door on any given week (as far as ingredients are concerned).  With your donation we were able to communicate with David, the head chef at CRRI, and allow him time to look over, plan, and shop from our produce lists every week like we would with any other restaurant or grocer.  Also, since the product was paid for by CSA members, CRRI received top shelf quality stuff for their clients.

We raised $1,200 and added 10% to each order for a total of $1,320 worth of produce in 2018.

We got a lot of positive feedback from the kitchen and will be excited to try this again next year.  For now, let us just say Thank You for your kind support of this important organization and our farm.

Seasons Come and Seasons Go…

IMG_1719Writing reflective blog posts can be a little tedious.  In the past farming seasons seemed to fly by me, scorching along at record paces and leaving little time for reflection.  Nowadays, with a more reasonable amount of help in the ordeal I find that I can take in more of the goings on through the calendar.  Also, thanks to Mindy teaching me Mindfulness practices, I am present for at least some of the time.

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Occasionally I have the opportunity to teach.  I some times am invited to speak at Organic Farming or Landscaping Conferences on subjects ranging from “How to Grow Brassicas” to “Understanding the Soil Food Web” and so on.  I also teach a four-class Course of my own design on Soils, Plant Biology, and Organic Farming Methods every spring.  I love teaching in no small part because of it’s ability to bring me totally into the present moment.

IMG_1936When farming I have a To-Do List a mile long.  I have a binder full of scheduled appointments (seeding, marketing, etc) two-inches thick.  When organizing a job for myself and/or members of my crew I have to consider the next job that follows and usually one or two more related tasks to that one we are embarking on in the present.  With a crew of several employees and sometimes as many as a dozen volunteers to manage I often have to make arrangements like this two or three or four times at once.  So if you do the math that can be as many as twelve different steps that have to be considered and anticipated all at the same time.  A memo pad in my back pocket is how I accomplish this.  But, as you might be able to imagine, it can be very distracting to juggle all these things and can lead to a perpetual mindlessness, always a step or two ahead of where you are presently.

IMG_1913Teaching allows for focus on the topic at hand.  The way I like to teach is by a general presentation of the material followed by an insistence on questions.  I often will not move on from a topic until I get one or two questions from the crowd.  This brings both the students (at least the ones interested in the question) fully to the present and forces me to engage with their perspective, bringing me fully to present.  I like this a lot.  It is the most present-minded I can be easily.  Otherwise it takes work.  Anyone who has tried to maintain mindfulness knows how incredibly difficult it is.  A lot can be learned from a mild Psilocybin trip due to the chemicals insistence on your attention to the beauty and majesty of the world around you.  Teaching is a natural way for me to reach this point.n

IMG_1953Being more involved in teaching and learning has been a goal of mine for many years.  I have attempted to bring college students to the farm and compensate them with work-study hours in return for hours spent on farm research projects.  In 2019 I am hoping to go a step further and do something a bit more formal that helps expand my understanding of soil science, plant biology, and organic farming.  We’ll see how well I can balance that with all the demands of the farming season which can get more and more complicated every year.  More emphasis on streamlining will continue as we work towards a simple model that results in vigorous, productive soil and excellent crops for ourselves and our customers.

IMG_1870Another Summer/Fall CSA season is wrapping up.  We are, as always, incredibly grateful for the support of our CSA members.  Some of you have truly become friends and family.  Many of you have expressed the satisfaction the CSA brings to your lives.  Nothing is more rewarding then hearing about young children being raised on our vegetables, or about how fresh vegetables brought into people’s diets has improved the quality of their lives.  We are so touched to be able to be a part of people’s sustenance and to reunite people with what food is supposed to be.

IMG_1736We are looking forward to serving many of you this Winter and many of you the following Spring/Fall season.  We wish you all a safe, fun, productive and/or restful winter.  Please share your thoughts with us over the off season.  We do much planning in the winter time so if you have any ideas for next year now is the time to let us know.

Endless Thanks,

John

Winter CSA Season! 2018/2019

2BD19D52-7970-4902-8BDF-3BC97917B3ECWith the arrival of Fall it is time for us to start thinking about the impending Winter.  I know many of you might dread the coming cold months, but we farmers typically see Winter as a reprieve.  With the fields frozen or blanketed with snow we turn to our high tunnels (un-heated greenhouses) for fresh greens and to our storage vegetables for Fall harvested vegetables.  We offer these items in a Winter CSA Share so that you can enjoy farm-fresh vegetables through the cold months of the year.

We have been offering Winter CSA Shares for several years now and we have improved the share every year (in my opinion) offering more variety and more of what people want.  We have also come to understand what crops store well and which don’t under our circumstances so that we are getting you stuff when it is in it’s prime.  This year we will be offering more potatoes, beets, and rutabagas as these have been popular in the past.  We will also be offering more spinach and kale as well as micro green salad mix.

IMG_2924WINTER SHARE DETAILS Abbreviated:

Details: The Winter CSA is a 14-week share that runs through December, February, and March (no pick-up in January)… We condense the weekly shares into one pick-up every other week.  This way you will not have to travel to the pick-up every week but will pick up two weeks worth of vegetables at one pick-up.  The crops we are selling in the winter will last for a long time in your fridge so you don’t have to worry about things spoiling over the two weeks.  We will be pre-bagging the shares, so you will simply come to the pick-up and we will pass over your bags.

What’s Offered? We will be offering winter-harvested greens from our greenhouses every week such as kalespinach, and micro greens as well as onions, potatoes, rutabagas, carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, leeks, celeriac, fall radishes, turnips, daikon radishes, winter squash and parsnips.  In early December and late March there may be some other hardy vegetables available as well.

Price: A Winter CSA share is $300. (EBT can be accepted for Winter CSA shares)

Where and When?  Pick-up will be at the Bell Street Chapel (5 Bell Street Providence) on Thursdays from 5-7pm (the pick-up window is tighter, please be aware).  If you would prefer to pick-up at the farm we can leave your bags in a cooler.  The dates will be as follows:  Dec.6th, Dec. 20th, Feb. 7th, Feb. 21st, March 7th, March 21st, April 4th.

There is a limit of shares that we can accommodate in the winter so sign-up early!  Payment can be made anytime between now and the first pick-up.  Payment plans are also available.

Sign Up Today by emailing John and say “I want a Winter CSA Share!”

 

New England Community Supported Agriculture

Prop House May 2018With the quick approaching beginning of the main CSA season I take a deep breath.  So many people have been subjected to my metaphors and analogies that I have to apologize if these two are familiar.  In terms of the seasonality of this business and lifestyle I think about things in these terms:  Spring is the season of promise.  Summer is the season of reality.  Fall is the season of reprieve and taking stock.  And Winter is the season of rest and forward thinking.    With spring rolling out ahead of us I picture a road that runs straight to summer.  Spring is perhaps our most ephemeral season in New England.  Some years it seems like we go from Winter to Summer.  This year it seems to me that we have had something like a definable spring with cold fluctuations (in particular in April, ouch cold!) mixed with warmer, bud-popping days.  The lemon-green spring leafs seem to be lingering a little longer before they push into their fully operational summer sheen of waxy forest green.  My friends Gus and Neil and I went up to Maine so they could pick-up some apple trees.  I on a whim bought an English plum which is just starting to leaf out now.

IMG_1762Another analogy I like to use to help me contextualize my life and explain the seasons in terms of farming is the Roller Coaster story.   In the winter and the spring we (being farmers) are building the roller coaster.  You do your best to make sure you have all your tracks in place, all your hardware tightened down.  Every nut has it’s washer and every hydraulic line has it’s gasket.  Every thing is in place and the safety equipment is functional and the people you hired to maintain the equipment are competent.  Then you ride it.  You spend the rest of the year riding the roller coaster you built in the spring.  Hopefully it stays together because it’s difficult to work on the track while you’re riding in the car.  When winter comes and the train finally comes to that jaulting halt at the end you hopefully can look back and see the tracks all still standing and (even better!) in a stronger position to build upon next year.

IMG_1777So we roll into summer happy and hopeful that we have our ship tacked together well enough to carry us smoothly.  Farming, when the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed can be smooth and consistent.  When things are not tended they quickly devolve into frustration and disappointment.  I am so excited about all the goals we are working towards this year on the farm from installing perennial raised beds for all our vegetables to building a new tool shed and lunch room and high tunnel to planting some of our first perennial crops (asparagus, strawberries, horseradish, elderberries!).  We have expanded some of our vegetable crops to include more variety and longer seasons for certain crops as well as put in more long-term storage crops to include in our Winter CSA.

It’s amazing to think that this time last year we had no power, basically no water, no functional buildings, and barely functional fields.  Now we are living on the farm, do our own seed propagation on site, have two new out buildings, have irrigation access to all corners of the farm, and have the opportunity to plant long-term crops.  Our fields are being managed to accommodate the farms high spring water table and our soil fertility is improving with each successive crop.  When I look back at the wild ride that was 2017 I wonder how we managed not to go flying off the roller coaster track.  This year the promise of spring is a promise of consistency, more growth as people and place and lots of nourishing food for our friends and neighbors.  Here’s to hope and to the unexpected.  Good luck Everyone in 2018!  – John