Saturday, August 2, 2008

What's in the Box week of August 6th, 7th, and 8th

Hello, CSA blog/recipe fans. I admit I've not 'used' the blog this year so far. I'm sticking to both the website and the email newsletter for now. And, I'm wondering if the blog could be a recipe-only resource for CSA members: both our own and any others out there. Gardeners too, of course!

I could also just make posts that are single-vegetable specific for easier searching, I might try that too later this weekend.

So: I'm sending this post out today with a list of what will likely be in our boxes this next week, August 6th, 7th, and 8th. Please reply back in comments or directly to me: if you have recipes or ideas on how to use this box. Thank you!!

Also one other tiny disclaimer: if you are a current Two Small Farms CSA member, the below list might change, depends on what the fields decide between now and harvest!!

Let me know your thoughts.

From Mariquita Farm

1. Mystery (Cranberry beans, squash, tomatoes, OR eggplant)
2. Armenian cucumber
3. Lacinato Kale x 1 bunch
4. Chioggia Beets
5. Carrots x 1 bunch (Parisian round or yellow)

And from High Ground Organics

1. Scallions
2. Strawberry/ OR mystery
3. Lettuce
4. Red Cabbage

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

February 2008 Winter Newsletter #425

Winter Reading

I’m a farmer, so when the fields are muddy and the tractors are parked I like to snuggle up on the couch with my most recent copy of Vogue Magazine. Sure, I get the agricultural trade journals, like the Ag Alert and the CAFF newsletter, but Jeffery Steingarten only writes for Vogue. Food is the lens through which I look at the world, and Mr. Steingarten is one of my favorite food writers. He must take evil glee in writing about food for a magazine that caters to size one women. For those of you who don’t read Vogue, The Man Who Ate Everything is great collection of his essays. To further my professional development I read all kinds of books about food and cooking, but sometimes the best food writing shows up in books that aren’t about food at all.

Right now I’m working my way through The French Revolution, by Thomas Carlyle. This is a “no-food” book. If it had been written now, instead of in 1833, the chapter I’m reading now might have been titled “The Women Who Had Nothing to Eat,” or “French Women Can’t Get Fat.” As Carlyle relates, generations of appalling Royal French agricultural policy combined with a freak August hailstorm that destroyed the nation’s grain crop to bring France to the brink of famine. Meanwhile, a Popular Assembly convenes at the Palace to create a new constitution for the nation. Day by day, legislators discuss the Rights of Man. Month by month the nation’s remaining grain reserves of are drawn down. To remind their leaders that “those with food have many problems, but those without it have only one,” the women of Paris rise up and storm Versaille. When they encounter bodyguards at the gates the women are turned back, but not before wounding two soldiers and killing one warhorse. They cook the horse. A day later, they penetrate to the Assembly as it debates criminal law. “What is the use of Penal Code?” the women shout. “The thing we want is Bread.”

But women don’t want to live off of bread alone. Culture evolves when there’s enough food available that people can chew their meals slowly and ruminate on what life means. Charles Darwin is so famous for his speculations concerning the origins of species that his food writing came as a surprise to me. In The Voyage of the Beagle , Darwin recounts stumbling over fossilized mastodon skulls on the Pampas and he ruminates on the implications of the shark’s teeth he finds imbedded in rocks high up in the Andes, but he also focuses his considerable forensic powers on his dinner plate. One night Darwin finds himself eating a jaguar. Jeffery Steingarten has yet to eat a jaguar. Another night, in the Falkland Islands, Darwin watches a gaucho catch a wild cow with a lariat and roast chunks of fresh beef over coals in a platter of it’s own skin. “If any worthy alderman had supped with us that evening,” Darwin writes, “’carne con cuero,’” without doubt, would soon have been celebrated in London!”

Jeffery Steingarten might try to test Darwin’s theory by hiring gauchos to capture a wild cow and prepare carne con cuero at a sophisticated supper club before discovering that there are no wild cows in London. Mr. Steingarten frequently makes fun of his skyscraping, cosmopolitan urbanity. But prior to reading The Voyage of the Beagle I‘d always thought of Darwin purely as an explorer of remote wilderness worlds. It turns out that even by 1836, when Darwin sailed on the Beagle, South America had already been profoundly changed by agriculture. In the Parana River delta Darwin describes vast, thorny thickets of wild peach and orange trees resulting from colonial orchards gone to seed. On the Pampas Darwin encounters thickets of feral cardoon over five hundred square miles in extension, and he reflects on the role that careless livestock husbandry has played in the degradation of the environment. It’s interesting to see articles in the food press these days that challenge the choices we consumers make when we feed ourselves, but Darwin was there first. In 1836, the environmental ethics of food production was true terra incognita.

Then there’s Beatrix Potter, the gentle storyteller of ordered English landscapes. In The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies, Beatrix Potter uses the soporific effects of lettuce as the dramatic device by which Farmer McGregor catches six bunnies. Before I flipped the third page I knew things wouldn’t go well for Farmer McGregor, but as a lettuce grower he had my sympathy. I put the Potter book down and turned to my copy of The Oxford Companion to Food, to learn more about the pharmacological properties of lettuce.

I learned that in the beginning there was Lactuca serriola, or wild lettuce, which grew on rocky or disturbed ground across Asia, North Africa, and Europe. In the spring wild lettuces are tender, with a bitter flavor that isn’t unpalatable if you’re starving. The plant earned a reputation as a somniferous herb. One variety of wild lettuce worked well enough as a relaxant to pick up the common name “wild opium.” The garden varieties of lettuce we know now as Lactuca sativa are cultivars improved from Lactuca serriola ruthless selection and assiduous cultivation on the part of farmers. It’s only in senescence that our lush, full-headed garden lettuces begin to look like their wild lettuce cousins, with long, tough, bitter leaves. And it’s only as it nears the bitter end of its life that Lactuca sativa retains any somniferous qualities. Sure enough, on page 23 of The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies there’s a picture of the bunnies nibbling on the lettuces, and Beatrix Potter shows the plants very far gone to seed. No wonder the Flopsy Bunnies got stoned. Don’t worry about the lettuces we’re sowing for you. When we harvest them, they’ll be young and tender. It’s a mark of how much lettuce has been changed that an herb once valued for inducing a dream-state can now be extolled as an invigorating salad green.

In the end, the Flopsy Bunnies are saved by a mouse. Beatrix Potter is no Steingarten, Carlyle, or Darwin. By lulling young readers with a drowsy tale of lettuce and bunnies, she makes the night comfy. But even for farmers like me, who might resent the fictional breaks she gives to varmints, there are reasons to admire Beatrix Potter. Carlyle and Darwin drew their readers’ attention to the dire consequences of shortsighted agricultural policy, but Beatrix Potter did something about it. She invested her earnings from her animal tales in farmland. She knew the best way to preserve the countryside is by protecting working farms, so that consumers can eat fresh, local food, farmers and farm workers remain gainfully employed, and the landscape is well husbanded. When Beatrix Potter passed away she passed her properties on to the National Trust, and today the land the Flopsy Bunnies paid for lies at the heart of England’s Lake Country National Park. I’m looking forward to a day when it’s in vogue for everyone who eats to take farming as seriously as Beatrix Potter did, and I see Community Supported Agriculture programs like the Two Small Farms CSA as a step in that direction. Thank you for your support.

copyright 2008 Andy Griffin


Sign up now for 2008!

simple sign up form
Pick Up Site List (updated!)
Meet Shelley (includes cute baby goat photo)

Our CSA season starts March 19th, 20th, and 21st. We start deliveries in just 6 weeks. We'll be sending out real paper mailings with addressed envelopes in about a week, you can wait for that reminder too. Let us know if you DON'T want a postal reminder, saying 'no postal mail this time please' by Friday Feb. 8th. thank you.

Two Small Farms Employment: We're looking for two drivers for our 2008 season. Must be reliable, on time, and have an excellent driving record (you need to show your dmv print out), (no special drivers license needed) 20-30 hours a week, Tues-Friday, or Wed-Thursday; some lifting involved. pay = $13-$14 depending on experience. Located in Watsonville
contact Jeanne or Steve via email or phone: or 831 786 0286

Monday, January 21, 2008

Two Small Farms Newsetter #424

1. Planting Apples and Pears
2. Signing up for 2008
3. Pick up site info
4. Employment at 2SF
Ladybug Letter: computer theft!
6. Thanks to 101 Cookbooks and Heidi

Planting Apples and Pears
by Stephen

For a time around the turn of the last century the Pajaro Valley was considered the largest apple growing district in the United States. By some accounts the valley floor from Corralitos to Aromas was nearly carpeted with trees. The town of Watsonville itself was dominated by apple packing sheds, apple driers, and juice and vinegar factories.

By the middle of the century, as vast plantings in Washington and Oregon came into production, the tide had turned. Because there are fewer problems with apple diseases and insects, land and water are cheap and plentiful, and the apples themselves attain better color and size in the Pacific Northwest, growers in the Pajaro Valley couldn’t compete. Strawberries, vegetables, and floral crops eventually replaced the apples and the majority of orchards were removed—pushed over by bulldozers and set alight in enormous piles.

And so it raised a few eyebrows when I announced this year that we’ll be bucking that trend by planting apples and pears here at our home farm. But to me it makes perfect sense.

With the help of my friend Freddy Menge, a tireless advocate of rare and forgotten apples, we grafted over 25 varieties onto trees that had been planted several years ago as a demonstration orchard at the Redman House site where we lease land. Last season we let them fruit for the first time, and tasting some of the varieties was a revelation to me. That the selection available to us in supermarkets has been narrowed down to half a dozen or so varieties is certainly based on factors other than flavor because these apples had the most complex, juicy, delicious flavor of any I had ever tried.

It occurred to me that through the CSA we had the perfect venue for selling these rare but delicious apples—apples that are difficult or impossible to find elsewhere. We are always looking for ways to offer a wider variety of fruit to our customers. So this year we have decided to plant four of our favorite varieties from that demonstration orchard along with 6 different varieties of pears here at our home farm.

One of the apple varieties we’ll be planting is Hudson’s Golden Gem—first introduced in the 1930s. It is clear that its appearance alone has limited its popularity. While wholesale markets demand bright colors and shiny skins, the Golden Gem has a dull, rough, russetted skin and a brownish yellow color. Underneath that skin, however, is a sweet, crisp, pear-like flesh unlike anything I have ever tried. The other three apples are Rubinettes, Waltannas (named after a couple named Walt and Anna), and Jonagolds (the one newer variety we like a lot).

We’re also excited about planting pears. Of the six pear varieties we have chosen, three are French butter pears (Hardy Beurré, Beurré Superfine, Easter Beurré). The others are called Harrows Delight, Warren, and Seckel. Seckels are an American variety, developed near Philadelphia at the end of the 18th century. They’re small and not suited for long distance traveling, but are fine textured, juicy, and syrupy—a perfect CSA fruit.

Putting some of our steeper hillside slopes into perennial plantings makes perfect sense from a land management standpoint as well. Planting annual vegetables on these hillsides requires extensive tillage, taxing our equipment and tractor drivers and exposing the soil to erosion. When the orchard is established we will plant grass between the tree rows. The grass will provide protective cover and only require a mowing pass or two each year.

We’re awaiting our first delivery of trees this week, and will be keeping our crew busy during the next month planting root stock and grafting on the varieties from scion wood we’ve been collecting. It feels good to be doing our part to preserve Watsonville’s orcharding heritage.


2. Signing up for 2008

If you intend to sign up for
Two Small Farms Vegetable
CSA Boxes in 2008 please
tell us now. If you're able to send a check now, that's great. For those that prefer to wait until Feb/early March to send your check, no problem, we're just putting out an early call for those that want to send $ now. Thanks much.

simple sign up form

Pick Up Site List

Returning Member Form

Make checks out to Two
Small Farms
and send to:

Two Small Farms
PO Box 2065
Watsonville, CA 95077-2065

prices: 9 weeks: $180; 9 weeks with flowers: $234
36 weeks full season with discount: $691; full season with flowers with discount: $898 4 weeks (new members only): $80; 4 weeks with flowers: $104


3. We are seeking pick up site hosts for: Carmel (mouth of the valley preferred), Seaside, and Santa Cruz Westside. Call Shelley in the office if you're interested or would just like further info.


4. Two Small Farms Employment:

We hired Zelda's replacement: She's the amazing Shelley Kadota! Welcome to Shelley. Zelda continues to be part of our farms: she's currently helping Stephen with some on farm planting projects. You may occasionally see her at the Sunday Mountain View Farmers market too.

We're looking for two drivers for our 2008 season. Must be reliable, on time, and have an excellent driving record (you need to show your dmv print out), (no special drivers license needed) 20-30 hours a week, Tues-Friday, or Wed-Thursday; some lifting involved. pay = $13-$14 depending on experience. Located in Watsonville

contact Jeanne or Steve via email or phone: or 831 786 0286


5. Ladybug Letter Signup

Note: Some of you enjoy getting Andy's Ladybug Letter as well as this newsletter. There are different articles posted there: it's Andy's Writing Venue. In late November the Mariquita Farm Main computer was stolen and we lost well over 1000 names on our mailing list. (I was backing up incorrectly, I'm smarter about it now, and we didn't lose any of Andy's writings or any photos! phew.) Please consider signing up again or trying it out for the first time, thank you! The latest article Andy wrote was a slightly snotty piece that outlined what he thinks newspaper food sections SHOULD write about in 2008.


6. Thanks to Heidi of 101 Cookbooks for writing sweet things about our farm AND a great cabbage soup recipe to boot. Read her post.

It's worth visiting just to see her remarkable food photography. It's takes Heidi to make cabbage soup look fabulous! -julia