Blog/Farm Newsletters

Posted 5/18/2012 8:11am by Dave.

When I was a kid sometimes I wouldn’t know what to do with myself in the early days of summer.  The first few days I had big plans, the fourth or fifth maybe would be marked by luxurious laziness and spent doing nothing at all, but by the second week of summer vacation time stretched out in front of me and there seemed no way to fill it all up.  The farm crew lately has the opposite problem – the coming of the summer CSA has sprung up on us and planning, harvesting, and packing boxes has gone from one chore among many in our biweekly winter schedule to a constant, daily task.  Tuesday deliveries come and go, we eat dinner at 9 and fall asleep exhausted, and wake up on Wednesday needing to plan out Friday’s distribution. And for CSA members, too, who have gotten used to grocery-store cooking during March and April’s lean times, the first few boxes can be miraculous, the third and fourth exciting, but when the fifth and sixth come and you still have a leftover bok choy from the second week you start to realize: vegetables can be demanding, as well as delicious. Just remember, almost anything can go into a stir-fry, and both farmers and eaters shouldn’t be afraid to experiment.  I'm relearning that myself this year since, after four years living on the farm, I've moved to a new home - and so instead of having access to the infinite (if bug-ridden) grocery store that is our seconds cooler, I'm actually taking home a regular weekly CSA box.  Now I'm the one eating some items on the ride home, cooking others that night or the next, and then staring in the fridge five days later wondering why we haven't been eating more salad.   So while the farm crew gets our bodies used to the daily rhythms of harvesting, weeding, planting, trellising, seeding, and mulching all day long, hopefully all of you (and me) can get our families used to cooking straight from the farm every week once again.  Thanks to wet weather a month back, I can already tell you that salad will play a big part in this week's menus.

Produce Notes:

 

 

Asparagus – Asparagus production is in full swing so hopefully it can stand up to providing you a weekly bounty.  We took a chance on it on Sunday – lightly tilling the beds to cut down weeds without harming the crowns deep underground. But it loves hot humid days and drenching showers, so it should spring rightr back.

 

Carrots – Full shares are getting the last of our sweet overwintered carrots – a perfect mid-afternoon snack or salad fixing.

 

Kale– Kale is a mild broccoli-flavored green that cooks down into a delicious side dish.  Like arugula, it has a bit of a snooty food snob reputation to it, but it’s really a super-simple peasant food – chop it up, sauté it in a little bit of oil and liquid, maybe add some salt, pepper, and garlic, and you’re done.

 

Endive – This bitter green needs a little bit of cooking to really be delicious on its own, although if you mix it with lettuce it’ll be good raw too.  See the classic bacon dressing recipe on the back for one idea.

 

Herbs – Spring is high time for herbs and while we usually think of them as a supplement, when they come in abundance they can really hold a dish together all on their own.  Spaghetti dressed with a little olive oil, a dash of vinegar, and lots of chopped herbs makes a delicious  ten-minute meal.

 

Lettuce Heads – There are a couple different lettuces you might get today – the falsely-named Magenta (more of a reddish green), the bright red Oscarde, or the lime-green Simpson.

 

Rhubarb – Rhubarb season is winding to a close, so if you haven’t used last week’s yet, combine it with this portion and make up a couple pies or three.  Or check out farm intern Meghan’s discovery: a website positively obsessed with rhubarb – www.rhubarbinfo.com – where there are hundreds of interesting and novel rhubarb recipes, including chutneys, stews, snack bars, beverages, and the curry recipe below.

Curly Endive Salad with Bacon Dressing

Lentil Curry with Rhubarb and Sweet Potatoes


Posted 5/11/2012 9:23am by Dave.

Welcome to all of our 2012 members!  Our weekly newsletter provides a place for you to hear a little news from the farm (brought to you by me or one of our other crew members), read about what’s in the box that week, and find a few new recipes to stoke your imagination.  This year we’ll be trying to integrate the newsletter a little better online, so (as you can see) you can check out this Farm Note here on our blog, search the lists of recipes online, and maybe we can put a few photos up of some of those more exotic, hard-to-describe vegetables you may be getting in your boxes.  If nothing else, when we get a little long-winded in here, we won't have to shrink the newsletter font down to fit it all on two pages.  One of our workers, Will, is even daydreaming about writing us a farm comic strip, but that may be dreaming a little too big. Of course, we’re all still busy seeding, hoeing, weeding, irrigating, and covering and uncovering crops while we wait to see if it frosts out to spend much time online – but we’re moving ourselves into the twenty-first century.

      The farm is speeding up every day as May moves past us.  We thought we were in good shape in late March, with dry hot weather draining our fields of all that moisture left over from last year, but the rainy, windy, chilly weather of late April slowed down lots of our March plantings and made weeds spring up all over the farm.  It can be hard to get ahead of the game in farming with all the different things that get thrown our way, but we’ll be doing our best to fill your boxes with tasty spring greens, as well as some asparagus and rhubarb, while the strawberries spend their “sweet” time ripening in the field.  Summer seems to be rushing towards us at breakneck speed! 

In the box this Tuesday: Arugula (full shares only - a few are getting radishes instead), asparagus, bok choy, herbs, scallions, lettuce heads, radishes, rhubarb, and spinach.

Recipes: 

Linguine with Asparagus, Lemon, and Spring Herbs

Rhubarb-Apple Crisp

Download a pdf of this week's newsletter

Posted 4/21/2012 12:00am by Hannah Smith.

AsparagusSpread the word! Village Acres will be delivering to Harrisburg, starting with this Summer's CSA shares. The delivery will take place on Fridays, starting May 11th. We will have two drop-off locations: a private home in Uptown Harrisburg (just off the Front Street exit of Rt81) and the Unitarian Church on Clover Lane in Swatara Township. Delivery to Uptown will likely be around noon and to the Church will be around 1pm. Both will allow for pick-ups until 7pm.

As always, anyone interested in a CSA share should visit our website, email us at info@villageacresfarm.com or call the farm: 717-436-9477.

Don't forget: If a new shareholder signs up and mentions you as having referred them, it's your choice of a flower bouquet or honey!

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Posted 2/29/2012 7:32am by Dave.

Last day of February here - a strange day, tacked on to our lives every few years, in a strange winter.  But I think the farmers have gotten over any sadness at our missing winter.  The sun is on our backs (most days), the soil is warming up, and while we may be apprehensive about the lack of a good deep freeze we're eager to get started on another growing season!

Plus, I took a short trip to Vermont in mid-February - and although they were also pretty much snow-free the temperature was in the single digits two days out of four.  I walked out of our hotel room in a rush one morning and was alarmed to feel my hair freeze solid on my head within a minute! - should have toweled off a little better.  So I did get a little bit of winter after all.

Any winter lull we may have experienced is over now and there's plenty to do. A few highlights: the propagation greenhouse is filling up with onions, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants; the mesclun in the production greenhouses is growing fast and furiously; the rhubarb is peeking up through the soil; the baby carrots have overwintered succesfully outside and are deliciously sweet (expect them soon!) and our new high tunnel is being worked on all this week (except wet rainy today)!  We're also interviewing apprentices and finding lots of good ones (but if you know any hopefuls send them our way).  It should be a great season and we're off to a fresh new start after a soggy 2011.  Hope you'll be there with us!

Posted 12/13/2011 10:57am by Dave Ruggiero .

Actually, it has been here for a week or two, but such is the nature of this blog (especially without Brosi around).

The farm has been a fairly quiet place since the Thanksgiving rush has passed.  Many of the inhabitants have left - Brosi is back home, the summer workers no longer come around, the turkeys and broilers are gone, many of the pigs have disappeared.  Even the ever-present insects are largely gone, aside from a few half-frozen grasshoppers we occasionally find in the greenhouse.  Not until noon do they come groggily to life and half-heartedly hop away from you.  The plants, too, are largely gone or dormant - long past are the days when I could walk around the farm and wonder at all the veggies growing, way too many for the boxes to come.  Now I am  happy for the few crops still at it out there - kales, mostly, and a few Asian greens and leeks.

On the other hand, deep winter has not yet settled upon us, so we can be thankful for the chance to walk around the farm at all. Once the snows really come we rarely even venture so far as the creek, instead living out our lives in the acre or two of land that comprises the greenhouses, packing shed, wash station, and barn.  If you don't mind the crisp mornings, or the frost not burning off until lunchtime, now is a fine time for a farm walk.

I have been busy of late preparing the seed order and planting schedule for next year.  I'm trying to pay particular attention to it since I'm supposed to be presenting on that very subject at this year's PASA conference in February!  Keeping the CSA supplied year-round with vegetables is a tricky task and one that I like to think we get better at every year.  There are inevitably going to be weeks where you don't get much - and other weeks where you get too much - but we really do try to balance that out.  Factor in planting times, different varieties, expected yields, and the occasional insect outbreak or freak weather event, and the planning can get a little complicated!

Folks always ask me what we do to keep busy in the winter time- you all know we harvest salad mix for the CSA, but what else goes on here?  Well Adam has to make all those crates you all love, especially when you forget to return them.  Steve is busy fixing up and/or winterizing animal housing; as our resident mechanic he also spends a lot of time each winter doing maintenance our our tractors, ATVs, trucks, and farm implements.  When most of your tractors are older than most of your farmers, there is a good bit of maintenance to do!  The greenhouses require attention on more than just CSA harvest day - keeping weeds and pests to a minimum is a busy job.  We're also spending time right now pruning the blueberries, mulching strawberries, garlic, and overwintering carrots, chopping and splitting firewood, fixing our walk-in coolers, cleaning our irrigation supply room and barn, taking all our used plastic mulch to get recycled, and testing out recipes for Food Shed products!  And of course the farm is transitioning to an LLC business structure, while Marsha is busy with year-end accounting and bookkeeping.  It's also about time to start looking for new summer members, so if you've gotten this far be sure to tell your friends how busy we are all the time!

I hope your holidays are approaching with lots of joy and very little stress. We'll see you all soon! - Dave

Posted 11/2/2011 8:38pm by Brosi.

As I realized I started the previous posts with "where did (insert month) go?" I also found the last post was about August flying by and now it is November.  I'm guessing not much happened on the farm in September and October.  Truthfully, it rained. After writing about rain in most of the newsletters, I think we all just didn't feel the need to also blog about it.  However, last weekend we got snow, so we are back to blogging.  It all makes perfect sense right? 

The rain, particularly in September, wasn't exactly the weather we were looking for. Although we were very fortunate not to loose any crops flooded out by the rising creek as many other farmers had to deal with, the inundated fields made many plants quite unhappy.  The last plantings of beans, tomatoes, cantaloupes seemed to give up after that and while the turnips, carrots, broccoli, kale and other fall crops hung on, it definitely seemed to set them back. Due to the wet ground, we also missed a window to plant some additional fall season crops such as more lettuce and mesclun mix. Perhaps the biggest impact might be how the wet grounds delayed or eliminated the chance to seed fall cover crops in many of the fields.  Not only do they provide erosion control over the winter, but some such as hairy vetch also serve as a nitrogen source for next years crops.  These last few sunny, gorgeous fall days are  helping the sprouting rye and wheat, which grows at a suprisingly rapid rate for so late in the season.

Also growing at full speed are the winter greens in the greenhouses: spinach, lettuce mix, baby kale, tatsoi, baby chard, beets, mesclun mix and more are filling up the beds, building up reserves for the winter.  We are also busy harvesting the remaining fall crops: carrots, turnips, rutabagas, cabbages, etc before the snow flies again and this time doesn't melt the next day.  Although without snow, we resort to throwing the crops at each other so perhaps it is better to have a snowball fight than battle with precious turnips.

We will be having the FoodShed Grand Opening and Havest Fest this Sat. Nov 5th at the farm, which we hope everyone can stop by to check out the completed FoodShed building, tour the farm, have questions answered, and enjoy the music, art, as well as tasty food available for sale.  Helping with the csa share distribution and seeing all the members picking up their shares always serves to remind me of the bigger picture of where all the work at the farm is going. In the same way, We hope visiting the farm gives the members a chance to see not only where their food comes from, but the farm they sustain and make possible.

Happy November!

Posted 8/31/2011 8:13pm by Brosi.

When did August sneak upon us?  And completely fly by? 

I'm truly not sure, but just as those weeds have grown up in that leek field that had none as of early July, the blog has also grown neglected.  Neither thing is surprising, Dave predicted that the blog would be a bit more sparse during the summer months.  Which is a pity because there are so many exciting things going on.  But when trying to decide whether to eat another bowl of ice cream, write a blog post, or weed the leeks, typically the ice cream wins.  Despite claiming an affinity for both blogging and hand weeding, it feels I've spent only a pittance of time on either this summer.

As we are rounding that corner to fall, appreciating the beautiful days and cooler nights, we also begin to worry about the fall harvests.  Have we planted enough and early enough to size up before the killing frosts?  It is also a tricky balance to not seed things too early so they won't keep through the winter.  We seem to have some early fall harvests, particularly our first winter squash planting, which benefited greatly from mulching, both plastic and hay in the aisles.  The farm becomes a difficult juggling act it seems to me.  Trying to determine whether to work on harvesting those boutiful crops that were cultivated through the summer (raspberries, beans, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, peppers), versus ensuring there will be a similar bounty in the fall and through the winter CSA. 

Also after the long days of summer, and the later sunrise, it feels a bit harder to spring out of bed.  However, Dave and I were discussing how the weekly CSA distribution, while a bit hectic packing boxes, is energizing.  All the encouragement we recieve from members, and seeing everyone come together to pick up their boxes definitely provides an energy boost and inspiration.  We'd just like to thank everyone for such support and encouragement!

Tags: august
Posted 7/10/2011 2:49pm by Brosi .

July.... when did that sneak up on us.  Probably while transplanting at 0.8 mph placing leeks that have waited their turn...and waited some more.  They  waited until some even achieved the desirable pencil size diameter that Roy said was optimal but we all thought impossible.  Then some became marker size and things got serious.  So they sun came out, the thunderstorms missed us, and they got planted.  I'm thankful for fewer seedlings to water, but i'll miss my daily companions that I, or someone else on the farm, or the rain, has watered for the past 2 months.  I'm hoping now they have more soil they will grow a little faster in their second half of their life despite a bit of a delayed graduation. 

Leek seedlings in plastic tray

 

Newly transplanted leeks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other farm vegetables have far less restraint.  A month ago the daily harvest switched from asparagus to zucchini and cucumbers.  There is something quite amazing in the rate those vegetables can grow.  We try to keep the zucchinis on the smaller side, sometimes a little too much. However, by hiding for one day they can become the large club easily seen protruding from the plant.

 

  

The first watermelon and cantaloupe plantings, photo below, are coming along nicely, particularly the ones that got hay mulch between the plastic beds.  A weed free sight for sore eyes. Some of the cantaloupes are showing signs of bacterial wilt transmitted by cucumber beetles, but we are hopeful most plants will make it until we can harvest them.

 

First cantaloupe planting

 

The mulched beds of winter squash, below, seem quite happy, with some baby squash even starting to develop in the first planting.

 

Winter squash beginning to vine out

Onions are growing, as we start to harvest the larger of the fresh white onions.  Peppers are slow....or maybe i'm just overly eager for them.  They seem to flower so early then the waiting begins, even longer for them to turn colors.  But they say patience is a virtue, and we all certainly appreciate our members patience and support through this years rainy slow spring.  

 

 

Tags: July
Posted 6/21/2011 6:38am by Roy Brubaker .

I want you all to know that our farm crew has been working very hard, and happily, as well, in spite of our most unusual wet, muddy growing season.  Fields have been accessible for tractor and equipment only for short windows of time, and then rain comes again. This means much more hoeing and weed pulling.  Plantings have gone in late, plantings—especially peas and beans, have been stressed and terminated by all the excess moisture.  This season has for sure been our wettest in my memory!  And for years I have been saying the dryer the season the better our production!  So will we ever get your CSA boxes filled to capacity?  I’m hopeful.  Our guys are so determined to ensure our later crops will come through.  A lot of straw mulch is being spread around our melons, squash and cukes to stop the weeds.  Weeds pulled from around every pepper, onion, sweet potato plant. Plants taken to the fields and planted by hand (since it’s too wet to use the tractor and planting equipment).  So you, too, can be hopeful that good things are coming.  But we acknowledge that the boxes currently are not what we had hoped.   And we appreciate so much your understanding and patience.  That’s part of what the CSA model espouses – keeping community in the lean times and the abundant.  Thank you!

      To update you on the Food Shed, we had a group of educators to the farm this week and served our first meal from the new kitchen.  It’s almost finished, though we still need to have final inspections and approval.  We also have a fair amount of landscape work to do.  We are so eager to have it all completed over a year after we broke ground. Plans for open house will been made after final approval, and we hope you will be able to enjoy the benefits of this facility in the years to come.  We will also still be having our annual June festival – normally a Strawberry Fest, now just a Summer Fest, this Saturday and invite you all to visit. 

Posted 6/14/2011 11:53am by Dave.

After last week’s water problems the farm crew was finally forced to muster our resources and attack the irrigation problem from every angle.  One person setting up the system just wasn’t cutting it anymore, even if there were plenty of other tasks at hand.  Finally we had to send everyone out – running drip tapes, moving overhead sprinklers, fixing leaks and pumps, networking all the miles of tubing together and trying to keep track of how it lays in a way that makes sense later.  Finally, by late Thursday evening, the thirsty crops all had a direct line to the cold water in Lost Creek.  Thunderheads moved in as if on cue and dark rumblings sounded off in the distance, but aside from a few sprinkles the rains never came – so all the work seemed worthwhile.  We did get a good soaking over the weekend, but the crops under plastic mulch are much happier for the water and having the system set up is a great weight off our shoulders.

      Otherwise the farm crew is settling into summer.  We found ourselves slowly adapting to last week’s heat, so that the cool mornings this week have taken us by surprise. The weeds are as dense as ever, but the strawberries are (sadly) diminishing already, and the constant rush of transplanting occasionally abates.  Before long blueberries will be ripening, and then tomatoes, and summer will be over before we know it – so I hope you all can take some time to enjoy June while it’s here!  

Tags: summer, water
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