*from Tani Creek Seed
Last weekend Ali and I took a trip down to Rochester, WA for the Washington State Young Farmers Coalition's annual farmer mixer. We got to tour a few different farms in the area and learn about the farming history of Independence valley along the Chehalis river. It was a great party, with really good farm food, music, beer, lot's of young farmers, and a few government officials, who seemed a little out of place, but were there to help give young farmers information about state and federal funding, laws, etc pertaining to farming. This year Ali and I have got to meet and see many farms that make up the larger organic farming community in western Washington. For the most part it always strikes me how open and willing farmers generally are to share their practices. Every farmer does things differently but when something works well it seems to always be shared openly. Seeing all these other farms also made me appreciate how unique our farm is in the greater context of organic farms.
The location of our farm is in many ways a blessing and a curse. Unfortunately it is not in a fertile river valley like most farms are so we do not have any deep, loose, mineral rich soil to work with. Our native soil is primarily hilly, rocky, clayey, acidic and compacted. The upside is that we have good solar exposure being on a southern slope, and have a thriving diverse ecosystem with pasture, ponds, orchards, and animals. Thankfully we also don't have the rates of pest problems that most organic farms have to contend with in heavily farmed conventional areas often without any balanced ecosystems. The nature of our un-ideal farm soil has also caused me to take great care in our soil preparation and methods of fertility. I estimate we have created 4-6" of soil in the last 7 years that I have worked this land. Soil formation typically takes nature a 1,000 years to create an 1 inch. Most farms in the US are losing topsoil annually mostly to erosion, over tillage, etc. We have also never sprayed any type of pesticide, herbicide, synthetic fertilizer, etc ever. What's more, we have never used any by products of industrial agriculture as fertility inputs i.e rendered chicken waste, bones, etc. I am rather amazed at how often certified organic versions of these inputs are used by small and mid-sized organic farms. We have always used farm made compost, locally sourced minerals, cover crops, plant/animal diversity, and biodynamic preparations as our backbone of fertility. We practice soil remineralization aiming to supply the soil with an ideal balance of minerals that fosters soil life, and ultimately then creates healthy nutrient-dense plants resistant to disease and insects. Many organic farms use agricultural cloth or row cover that creates a physical barrier from pests. It works very well and allows sunlight and water through and keeps the crops warmer and growing faster; we use it primarily to keep plants warmer in the spring/fall. We also use it on the brassica and umbel families of crops which have many wild weed relatives and thus higher rates of naturally occurring pests.
I am happy with our fall brassica (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, etc. a large family of cultivated crops) crop this year. We cut hundreds of pounds of cauliflower, cabbage, and broccoli the other day all from the small plot pictured below. The rain in the forecast made us worry that many of the cabbages would split, and heads of cauliflower and broccoli would rot so most of them are now safe in our fridges or in your shares. We spent most of today cultivating (weeding) as much as possible to get beds clean and ready for winter before the ground becomes too wet to work. We drilled (seeded) our cover crop in rows this year instead of broadcasting to allow us to cultivate between rows. I used our small Italian walk behind tractor with cultivating tool bar to weed the cover crop in a matter of minutes. I had a big grin on my face seeing the cover crop weeded so quickly before the rain.
They are great for baking and the skin is tender enough to eat as well. To bake cut squash in half and place halves, cut side down, on a baking dish filled with just enough water to cover to bottom of the pan (we usually leave the seeds but you can scoop them out if you prefer). Bake at 350 until soft, about 45 minutes depending on size. Remove from oven and fill with butter, seasonings, etc, no sugar needed for these sweeties!
We hope that the recipes and cooking suggestions included in these newsletters give you some helpful inspiration as you make your way through your weekly supply of produce. In all honestly, Max and I are somewhat lazy cooks, as we've openly admitted to market-goers who often suspiciously ask us "what do you do with this?" More often than not I fall back on the old cast iron. I make everything in that baby. I casually chop and saute almost everything. I rarely undertake anything too elaborate and believe that with good ingredients you don't have to get fancy. At the same time, the CSA has forced me to seek inspiration in our collection of cook books from around the world and from friends, family and folks that frequent the market. That said, if you have any recipes you would like to share that use the veggies of the season please feel free to email them and I can include them in the newsletters for everyone to enjoy.
1 cauliflower, cut into medium florets
4 tbsp creme fraiche
2 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tsp paprika
3 tbsp finely chopped parsley
5 oz smoked mozzarella, grated
2 oz cheddar, grated
salt and black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
Simmer cauliflower in a large pan of boiling salted water for 4-5 minutes, or until semi-cooked. Drain and dry.
Preheat oven to 375. Break eggs into a large bowl, add creme fraiche, mustard and paprika and whisk well, making sure everything is thoroughly blended. Stir in parsley and three-quarters of the cheeses, season well with salt and pepper.
Heat up olive oil in a large ovenproof frying pan. Fry cauliflower for about 5 minutes, or until golden brown. Pour over egg mixture and use a fork to spread cauliflower evenly in the pan. Cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes.
Scatter remaining cheeses on top, then carefully transfer the pan to the oven. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes, or until set.
Remove from oven and let rest for 2 to 3 minutes before cutting into wedges. Serves 4-6. (from Plenty)
(While not originally included in this recipe, I would personally add garlic, leeks and sweet peppers to add some flare to this one)