Summer CSA & Market changes

It’s time to sign up for CSA shares for this summer! You can find out more information about our CSA on the CSA page; details like pricing are on our 2014 CSA Signup Form. To sign up, print out the signup form and mail it to us with a deposit.

The big change that we are making to the CSA this year is dropping to one distribution day each week. We will no longer have CSA distributions on Mondays; only on Fridays. While we know that this may be less convenient for some of our shareholders, we are working to make our operation more effective, and this change will allow us to spend more time farming by consolidating our harvesting and distribution time. Please remember that we offer part time shares if your schedule doesn’t allow you to make it to the farm every week.

The Burgy Farmer’s Market in Williamburg will not continue this year. While it has been a worthwhile market for us, several other vendors felt that they were not able to sell enough at that farmer’s market to justify their time. We were unable to find enough new vendors to make it feel like it was going to be viable, so the decision was made to not continue the market.

We intend to keep more vegetables and other products available in our farmstand on a self-service basis this summer, for those who are unable to get here for Friday CSA pickups or get down to Northampton for Tuesday Market. We are hoping that being able to focus more on production this year will enable us to have more products available at our reduced market times, and make our summer a little less crazy.

 

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Changing seasons & the Food Safety Modernization Act

This is the last week of our summer CSA season, but we are not done for the year. We are again offering a winter season CSA (here’s the sign-up form: 2013wintercsasignup), which this year is running through December. The early part of the season this year was a bit rough, and resulted in a poor harvest of several full season crops, including some of our major staples, like Potatoes and Winter Squash. A lot of our fall storage crops are looking great though, so which we are not offering a long haul option, we’ll have lots of vegetables through December.

Our Northampton Farmer’s Markets extend right through the winter – Tuesday Market is running through November 12th, and the Northampton Winter Market is starting up on the 16th, and will happen every Saturday through April. As some may have seen in the Hampshire Gazette, it looks like the Winter Market is going to lose the space in Thornes that we have been using. It’s still unclear how that is going to play out and where we will be, but we are expecting that the market is going to happen and we’re planning to be there.

Depending on how the winter market goes and how our hoophouses are producing, we’ll be assessing our vegetable supply in March and deciding on whether or not to offer a spring CSA season before our regular summer season starts. All we know right now is that we need a little bit of a break in January and February.

In other news, we want to encourage all of you to comment on the Food Safety Modernization Act. If you haven’t heard about it, this is a new piece of legislation that gives the FDA broad new powers to control the food supply from the farm through processing. It was enacted in response to the many disease outbreaks in recent years linked to fresh produce. Fresh produce has been almost entirely unregulated up until now. Since much of the produce industry really is industrial in scale, some level of regulation seems appropriate. In just the past week there was another recall of salad greens from a processor in Boston, of 300,000 pounds of salad. It’s a mind boggling amount of salad. But the proposed federal standards were mainly written based on the recommendations of the industrial processors, and are going to hurt small and mid sized farmers and processors much more than the big ones.

CISA has put together a lot of great information about the issues on their website: http://www.buylocalfood.org/get-involved/policy-and-action/proposed-federal-food-safety-rules/ (including a petition to sign and sample comment letters to send)

Crabapple Farm fits into the Small Farm Exemption, which means that we are (maybe) exempt from the new standards and so won’t be harmed by them. But here’s the catch – there are some folks arguing to get rid of the exemption (which would be terrible for small scale local production and would likely put us and most farms like us out of business), and the exemption as proposed leaves a lot of unanswered questions. My understanding of the proposed exemption is that a small farm is exempt from inspection, and so can ignore the rules, but if the FDA feels like inspecting you, they can, and if they want to, they can remove your exemption entirely, and then you must comply with the full requirements of the law, with no mechanism for getting back into the exempt category.

The exemption was written into the law due to an understanding that the costs of complying with the new rules would be prohibitive for small farms. There is a significant recordkeeping component to the rules, with many estimates determining that most farms would need to hire a full time employee just to handle the paperwork involved.

While not prohibiting it, the standards place so many restrictions on livestock and manure that integrated diversified production like we do will be very difficult. Basically, the FDA doesn’t want a farm to raise both vegetables and livestock. They also want farmers to keep wildlife away from fields used for vegetable production. While I don’t particularly like it when deer nibble our seedlings, we consider birds and other wildlife in our fields to be a sign of ecosystem health and something to encourage. The proposed rules could lead to the destruction of riparian areas near farm fields, which happened in California when the first produce rules were created by the processing industry there.

Meat and Dairy are both subject to federal regulation, and have been for decades. The effect of those regulations was serious consolidation in the processing industries, and most small farmers going out of business. It is only in the past decade or so that some small farmers like us are finding our way around the regulations and beginning to produce those products for a local market again. We produce a lot of different kinds of food. Two that we don’t do, you may have noticed, are dairy and poultry. Why? Because of the regulations. It would cost us too much money to build facilities that would be approved by the inspectors for either product to be profitable on our scale. There are a small handful of folks in the area who have waded through the bureaucracy in order to provide folks with these products, but the reason there are so few is not that there isn’t demand, and it isn’t that milking cows or raising chickens is so much harder than raising vegetables. But selling milk or poultry legally is way, way harder and more expensive than selling vegetables.

The only way we can do meat is to truck our animals to a USDA inspected slaughterhouse an hour and a half away. If you’ve ever heard of the idea of the hundred mile diet, well, you can’t do that around here. Our meat has over a hundred miles on it just to get from our fields to our freezers. There is no other option, if we want to sell our meat legally.

There are a lot of young farmers like us these days, and while some of us are raising meat or milk, most of us are vegetable farmers. Because that is the only sort of farming that you can do without investing a ton of money in infrastructure. If the small farm exemption isn’t made solid, then that may stop being true in the near future.

The comment period on the proposed rules is until November 15th.

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Memorial Day Plant Sale

Our greenhouses are overflowing, and it is time to get some of those plants into the ground! We will be open this weekend, on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday from 10am-5pm for plant sales (as well as other farmstand offerings, like eggs, beef, lamb, yarn, beans, wheat, and vegetables). Come by to get some great seedlings for your garden! We’ve got over twenty varieties of Tomato plants, as well as Pepper, Eggplant, Cucumber, Squash, Zucchini, Melon, Watermelon, Tomatillo, Husk Cherry, Cabbage, Broccoli, Lettuce . . . well, we may not have everything, but we’ve got the plants you need to grow a great garden this summer. Lots of flowers and herbs, too. All of our seedlings are varieties that we have specially selected to grow well here in the Hilltowns.

As always, we do everything organically – we use certified organic potting soil and as much organic seed as we can find. All of our tomato plants are from seed that we grew ourselves!

You can also find us at the Burgy Farmers Market on Thursday afternoons and Tuesday Market in Northampton.

The farmstand is open self-service every day, all year. Starting in June, our CSA distributions will be on Monday and Friday afternoons from 3pm-6:30pm – during those times we’ll have a full selection of vegetables available as well as being on hand to help you, so that’s a great time to stop by.

 

 

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2013 CSA Season

We’ve just updated our Summer Vegetable CSA brochure, and it’s time to sign up for a share! You can download a signup form by clicking on this link: 2013csasignup.

We have decided to change our CSA distribution system a bit this year. We will no longer be using a volume limit based on bag sizes, but are instead switching to a unit system. This is the system that we have been using this winter for our Winter CSA and it has been working pretty well. It continues to offer choice while giving clearer guidelines of what a “share” consists of. It will make it easier for us to adjust for the bounty or scarcity of crops (by adjusting portion size, for instance) on a weekly basis, without resorting to a vague and confusing “short supply” sign. It also gives us a system that watermelon and pumpkins can fit into (physically!). As an added benefit, shareholders no longer need to worry about forgetting their bag. We still, of course, encourage you to bring a bag to bring your produce home in, but now any bag will do.

In our new system, we will arrange crops by type on different tables, and post how much each share size can take from that table. For instance, on a hypothetical week in August, a small share could take 3 pounds from one table (of cukes, squash, carrots, beets, and potatoes) and 3 items from another table (of heads of lettuce, cabbage, and bok choi, and bunches of kale, chard, amaranth, and basil), plus 2 units from a third (with tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, beans, and sweet corn on it, each with different unit sizes). That week, a Medium share would get 4 pounds from the first table, 4 items from the second, and 2 units from the third, while a Large share would get 4 pounds, 5 items, and 3 units (or some other combination adding up to more, depending on what’s plentiful and what’s short). It will make a little more sense when there are actual vegetables on real tables.

 

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Winter CSA!

Yes, we are offering a Winter CSA this year. We’ve been doing the Winter Farmer’s Market for the past two years in Northampton, and have been able to have vegetables available straight through the winter, so we have decided that it’s time to offer a CSA share that extends our CSA season, well, forever. Not really forever, but without a break between this summer and next. We’re offering two season length options, one running for November and December, and the other running all the way through spring. We’re offering the shorter option because we expect that some folks will want to have plenty of vegetables for all the holiday meals in those months, but might not want to continue coming out to the farm once hibernation mode kicks in in January. Also, we’ll have more vegetables available at the start of the winter. But we’re going to keep things growing in the hoophouses and fill our storage spaces as full as we can for those people who want to join us for the Long Haul.

Space is limited for the Winter CSA, so please sign up quickly if you are interested.

More information and a Sign-up form can be found on our CSA page.

 

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CSA Starts this week

Our CSA distributions start this week, with distributions on Mondays and Fridays from 2pm-6:30pm.

The warm weather this spring has given some crops a bit of a jump, so we have plenty of early greens and vegetables ready. Some of the summer crops that we have never harvested this early in the season are almost ready, including summer squash, zucchini, broccoli, and cucumbers. Unfortunately, the warm weather has meant that a few things, notably radishes, arugula, and the overwintered scallions, haven’t held in the field and are already done. But we will have future plantings of all three crops to look forward to later in the season.

With the start of the CSA, our Farmstand hours for the rest of the summer will be Mondays and Friday 2pm-6pm and Saturdays and Sundays 10am-5pm. Expect the best selection and freshness on Mondays and Fridays, as well as being sure that someone will be around. On the weekends, we will stay within earshot of the bell in the farmstand, but it may take a few minutes for someone to get there. Vegetable selection on the weekend will be limited to what fits in the little fridge or won’t wilt.

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Workshop Series

We are going to be giving a series of workshops over the summer. Right now we have three scheduled – a Scythe workshop on June 9th, a Seed Saving workshop on June 30th, and a Wheat workshop on July 14th. For more information, check out our workshops page.

Tevis will also be presenting a workshop on breeding and seed saving at the NOFA Summer Conference at Umass in August.

We’re planning to continue this series with more workshops on the farm through the summer and into the fall. If there is a workshop you would like us to give, please suggest it to us. Also, if you are unable to attend either the Scythe or Seed Saving workshop but wish you could, let us know – if there is sufficient interest we will offer those workshops again later in the summer.

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