“So, friends, every day do something that won't compute...Give your approval to all you cannot understand...Ask the questions that have no answers. Put your faith in two inches of humus that will build under the trees every thousand years...Laugh. Be joyful though you have considered all the facts....Practice resurrection.”
― Wendell Berry, The Country of Marriage
Well, its another 18 hour day for this cowboy....good thing it ain't my first rodeo, nor my last. The Valley Roots Food Hub has been moving a lot of local food in the past 6 weeks. This week was our biggest yet. That means that some retailers and restaurants in our region are putting their money where it counts (one example below, and more coming). One big accomplishment for the food hub of south-central Colorado, one small dent in the food system of the dominant paradigm. Don't get me wrong......I love coal, gasoline, and commodity barley that makes great, locally-made micro brews. These things give us a life that no other human generation has ever experienced. Ever tried to homebrew an equivalent amount of energy and resources? Well, I have, and am still trying in vain, but that's another story. The immediate point is this: How could we show disdain where our predecessors would have given their left leg? And secondly, the right thing costs more! Its that simple. Economy of scale is not always an ecologist. The world's encyclopedia, business tools at light speed, and business/social networking available in every person's palm. The opportunity alone makes me dizzy, and because its cheap and accessible makes me suspicious. But as the wise sage says, just because you can doesn't mean you should!
This week's Fresh Box:
Season's Cafe in Salida. These guys are leading the pack with putting quality, local, and non GMO first in their menu planning and recipes. This is my recommendation of THE PLACE to eat. More info coming, but for now, check them out:
1110 E Highway 50Salida, Colorado
“A community is the mental and spiritual condition of knowing that the place is shared, and that the people who share the place define and limit the possibilities of each other's lives. It is the knowledge that people have of each other, their concern for each other, their trust in each other, the freedom with which they come and go among themselves.”
― Wendell Berry
The above picture is of our baby greens producer, Ring a Ding Farms, outside of Howard. This exceptional farm uses cover crops and green manuring exclusively for their fertility management. What does that mean, you might ask? That means that they don't use any compost, manure, or any other imported fertilizer to maintain healthy soils. What they do use is the biomass of other crops they plant and grow in place, which is then turned into the soil several times a season. Then every other year the soils that were in intensive baby green production get a full year of barley and vetch, oats, and then buckwheat. Each one is cut and "fed" to the soil. This is what Adam Ring calls a zero input farming system. You can see how this field above is planted in strips, the baby greens in the middle, and on the sides are two sections that are in green manure crops which next year will be in baby greens production and vica versa. Barley can contribute up to 12,900 lbs of biomass to the soil per acre, and what you see above the soil is dwarfed with what is going on below the soil level. Vetch is a leguminous nitrogen-fixing plant and buckwheat is good at mining and bringing up minerals from deep with the soil. The more diverse biomass you add to the soil, the more the microorganisms have a balanced diet to grow and prosper while transforming soil matter into valuable nutrients, tilth, and biology. When you have that going on in your soil, you can grow exceptional organic produce.
The CSA shares have received baby arugula and baby mizuna from this farm in previous weeks, and planted are also baby kale, baby beet greens, baby spinach, baby chard, and baby lettuce.
Ring a Ding Farms has put a ton of investment in not only their farming systems of intensive, bandsaw-harvested, baby green production, but also in being Certified Organic and GAP Certified (USDA's Good Agricultural Practices). Their state of the art packing barn showcases a triple wash system and cooling room that are designed to produce the most high quality, ready to eat, organic greens available in the State of Colorado (watch out California!). Customers like Whole Foods was lined up to be buying thousands of pounds of this farms product every week. The Valley Roots Food Hub and our partner hub to the East, Arkansas Valley Organic Growers, was also looking to be rolling out the baby greens and the baby lettuce mix as a Southern Colorado standard. Well, as happens in farming, Ring a Ding has been visited by 2 hail events, one on June 13th and the other July 2nd, that wiped out Adam Ring's crops. The sacrifice, patience, and perseverance that is exemplified by Adam and his crew is astounding. It is something our modern, instant-streaming, convenience-driven, and entitled culture could hook up to with battery cables and get rejuvenated with the simple virtues of life on Earth.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs were started in the spirit that when Acts of God such as hail happen to a farmer and wipes out their crop (or reduces the market value substantially) the community is supposed to be there to back them up, and not abandon them in times when they need support the most. The VRFH CSA wants to live up to at least some of that vision, and what we have worked out with Adam Ring is that we would step up and buy several hundred pounds of hail damaged greens that are perfectly nutritious and edible, they just don't have the characteristics that restaurants and retailers require in this day and age. We will take them to our commercial kitchen in Mosca and blanch and freeze them for winter use. That way at least Adam can keep his crew working, the fields are not all green manure, and at least some revenue can come back to the farm to support the tremendous investment.
Below is a picture of the hail from July 2nd.
The Fresh Box of 7/16/15:
Thanks for Liza and Esteban for helping in procurement, egg wrangling, and share packing! A big shout out to David Toews for filling in with those beautiful 75 dozen of organic eggs!
2 Tomatoes, Graber's Produce, Alamosa
1.5 lb Apricots, via Arkansas Valley Organic Growers (AVOG)
2 bunches Beets COG, Hobbs Family Farm, Avondale
2 bunches COG Grilling Onions, White Mountain Farm, Mosca. This is our home range farm and partners in our facility in Mosca. They are not just exceptional farmers (get ready for some awesome food), great business leaders, but they are just great people. Thanks Paul, Stephanie, Sheldon, Francisco, and your crew!
1 Peach Aloha COG, AVOG
1 Cucumber, Ab Yoder Family Farm, Alamosa
2.5 lbs Flying Saucer Squash, Blue Raven Farm, AVOG
1/2 lb Shelling Peas COG, WMF, Mosca. These are a valley standard and have much stories and history to tell about valley culture and agriculture.
1/2 lb Fava Beans COG, WMF. Recipes anyone?
2 lb Cherries, AVOG
1/2 lb Braising Mix COG, Green Earth Farm, Saguache
1/2 head each Frisee and Butterhead Lettuce COG, GEF
1 6 oz Goat Chevre, Laz Ewe 2 Bar Goat Dairy, Del Norte. You can learn about this operation here:
Photo below of last week's Fresh Box from Megumi Sugihara.
“There are, it seems, two muses: the Muse of Inspiration, who gives us inarticulate visions and desires, and the Muse of Realization, who returns again and again to say "It is yet more difficult than you thought." This is the muse of form. It may be then that form serves us best when it works as an obstruction, to baffle us and deflect our intended course. It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.”
― Wendell Berry
Photos of last week's box from Megumi Sugihara. Thanks Megumi!
This week's box:
· 1 lb Beefsteak Tomatoes, Graber’s Produce, Alamosa
· 1 English Style Cucumber, Ab Yoder Family Farm, Alamosa
· 1/2 lb Crimini Mushrooms, CO Mush Farm, Alamosa
· 2 bunches Beets (Chioggia and Gold), Hobbs Family Farm, Avondale
· 1 bunch Carrots, Hobbs Family Farm
· 1/4 lb Ruby Red Chard, Eat Fresh Farms (Aquaponic), Alamosa
· 1/2 head Frisee Endive, Green Earth Farm, Saguache
· 1 Head Red Butter or Red Leaf Lettuce, GEF
· 1 lb Apricots, from AVOG from Western Slope
· 1 oz Tarragon
· 2 Taos Mountain Energy Bars
Shout out to Liza for helping in procurement this week, to Krystin for helping keep our books straight, to Bruce and Beki from AVOG (Arkansas Valley Organic Growers) for meeting me during the Wednesday night dinner hour, and to Jay Young for helping pack orders this morning (and congrats to his wife and family for having a baby last night!) The torrents of life have no end!
I am really pleased to be distributing Graber's tomatoes to the CSA shares, to AVOG to the tune of 200-300 lbs per week, and the single beautiful tomato to the random wholesale account or person that is in my path. When I look at these tomatoes I see perfection. In fruit, form, and function. But I also see the Amish Graber kids blue eyes who helped me load the truck, and I feel the calloused hands of Allen Graber, even while he was off running a construction business. This is family farming. Its not perfect, timely, or convenient, but it puts wholesome food on the table and revenue to hard working families.
To Ab Yoder, thank you for allocating some of your cukes for our kitchens, I have been missing that fresh crunch in my salads. And thank you for gearing up for more GMO-free egg production, we're gonna need it!
Whadya know, Crimini mushrooms are baby Portabellas!
Beets. When I farm, beets are one of, if not my most, favorite crop. Something about the big seed, which makes planting easy, but also the double harvest: dense, succulent, and colorful flesh under a canopy of mineral-rich greens. In the dew-laden morning hours, I cruise the rows looking for that bit of red voluptuous flesh emerging from the wet, darkened soil. Every tug and pull out of the earth might as well be Christmas. These Chioggia and Gold Beets (also carrots) are from AVOG's Hobbs Family Farm. Not only does this farm put out some amazing produce and seed, but Dan Hobbs is one of the champion's of Colorado agriculture. He and his colleagues such as Bill Stevenson at Rocky Mountain Farmers Union have helped incubate the Valley Roots Food Hub as well as many others. Colorado agriculture as good as it gets.
Shout out to veteran farmer Tom McCraken at Green Earth Farm. His produce is tight, clean, and I don't think I've been shorted yet. That's waxing miraculous. Note the Frisee this week. Frisee is actually an Endive which is a leafy vegetable belonging to the Chicory genus. Endives are rich in minerals and vitamins, particularly in folate and vitamins A and K.
Apricots are from an AVOG member farm. They are tasty like I've never had, and are never sprayed.
Finally, what do you think of Taos Mountain Energy Bars? To me, these bars are changing the definition of what a "bar" should be: diverse, nutritious, and inspiring.
In food we trust!
“Rats and roaches live by competition under the laws of supply and demand; it is the privilege of human beings to live under the laws of justice and mercy.”
― Wendell Berry
Thanks Esteban Salazar and Jay Young for the morning harvest prep!
Thinking about Ring a DIng Farms in this weather & hail....They are still recovering from hail damage 3 weeks ago. Their Power Greens Mix will blow you away when we get there! Expect some offerings from Arkansas Valley Organic Growers next week.
Please see the Online Market for details and information on any of our producers, and soon, our wholesale customers. Thanks for another great launch week!
Picture below of last week's box from Liza Marron.