Working with imperfections of a system both in and out of garden and field
Dela and I spent much of Monday, slowly working our way along three 250-foot rows of Maxi-Belle green beans. These beans are in one of 5 fields we rent to grow plants in blocks and rotate crops over years from field to field. Each field is from 1 to 5 miles away from our farmstead. It’s sometimes very hard to get water to plants in parts of these fields. In particular, these Maxi-Belle beans have suffered when temperatures topped 90 degrees for days. At one point, I thought we were going to lose them altogether. Yet rain revived the plants. It brought back new growth. We’re trying to harvest them again. The two of us Monday worked over each plant, testing each bean with our fingers before rejecting or keeping it. Soft beans damaged in the hot, dry conditions are rejected. Beans damaged by any of several types of beetles (that thrive in hot conditions) are rejected, too. We find ourselves discarding about half the beans. A trail of rejected beans lines each 24-inch path of the three bean rows. We don’t let less experienced people who work or volunteer for us do a job like this. With all we have to do to keep 60 varieties of plants going in all of the fields, Dela and I have fallen behind in harvesting these beans. It is slow, tedious work. Sometimes, even those who’ve raised beans most of their 60 years of life make mistakes. Sometimes it’s impossible to tell whether a bean is going to taste crisp and moist, or chewy and dry. Between the two of us, I know even Dela and I are going to make mistakes. Some beans you won’t like are going to slip through. We try to control for quality a second time when we weigh and bag produce to pack shares. A big chain store can simply order green beans from another part of the country – or world – when drought negatively affects a regular supplier. A community supported family farm cannot. It’s likely inevitable. Some beans we should have rejected, among thousands we handled, are going to slip through. You’re going to taste the downside to Community Supported Agriculture, as with all “community” endeavors. It isn’t perfect. We have successes. We have failures. This is what we described on the reverse side of the CSA sign-up form. This is what we asked each of you to read and sign 15 or more weeks ago. We do the best we can with what Nature, adverse circumstances and climate change hand us. We do the best with the time each of you budgets for our farm. No one has to volunteer at Scotch Hill Farm. We don’t require this of subscribers. Some CSA farms do. In fact, in parts of the United States, no CSA farm delivers vegetables to neighborhood locations. ALL their subscribers pick up at the farm. Each supporter budgets time to work on the farm, too. Quality of what you receive is often measured in the community’s involvement. One woman who’s been with us for 17 years. has been out here to work a full- or half-day every other week this year. One couple, second-year subscribers, have been helping a full day, beginning in the early spring, about once a month; sometimes they’ve come here several weeks in a row. Sometimes, however, we schedule workdays for our community of supporters, and no one shows up. Before the economy crashed, we would sometimes get 40 or more people here on a work day. This past Saturday, 4th- and 5th-year supporters came from Milwaukee. A 6th year supporter came from Chicago. Several couples came from Madison. Second-year Beloit College student worker shares came, too. Several volunteers spent the night. There was a good deal of eating and conversation, as well as work. It stretched into the Soil Sisters farm tour, which brought many more interesting people to visit us. Some had never been on a farm before. One subscriber described it best. He said this weekend he experienced the “c” in Community Supported Agriculture. We’re in the last quarter of our 20-week season. We hope you’ll experience that “c” at least once before November, too. We’ll need more help from volunteers these last 5 weeks than we’ve enjoyed thus far. Please make time to visit Scotch Hill at least once in the remaining quarter of the season. Everyone, especially you, will benefit from this contribution.
This Week’s Vegetables include:
- “New” bright lights chard
- Heirloom tomato varieties
- Peppers (some hot, some not
- Bok choi
- Spaghetti Fall Squash (if you find it is mushy inside, let us know, and we’ll try to give you an extra replacement squash Next week)
- Green beans
- Ice Box Melon (they fit in the frige!)
- Okra OR broccoli
Cooking Tips for the Week
Okra is quite good sliced raw into a salad. You can also grate beets raw into a salad; they’re also good in stir fries. Or, try Teriyaki Beets from the Winter Harvest Cookbook – B oil or steam several unpeeled beets until almost tender. Rinse in cold water and cut into halves. Combine 4 tablespoons of butter, 2 tablespoons of honey, 1 tablespoon of fresh ginger and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce in a small saucepan and heat until butter and honey are melted. Brush some sauce over beets and place on heated broiler pan. Broil 5 to 10 minutes until tender, basting frequently. Transfer to serving dish and pour remaining sauce over.