Farm Stand is Open Tomorrow 9:30 til 2pm
Good morning. Here is what is in the CSA shares this week.
It has been a while since we have caught up. Besides manning the farm stand with Rachel, I would say that writing and detailing our own recipes, sharing pictures and telling stories about the farm experience are pretty much my favorite things to do. I rarely have time to do them anymore. I have had to shift and contort in order to continue to be able to farm. 12 years ago, when we started this CSA, share cost was five dollars more. Water costed 3 times less. Land wasn’t ridiculously expensive. Gas was 1.25 cheaper. Tools, soil inputs, pretty much everything needed to farm has gone up significantly in a short period of time. A fifteen hundred ft roll of irrigation tubing cost 68 dollars in 2007. now, it is 178. The guy who I used to hire from time to time for 12 dollars an hour, now wants 20. He was already making more than me at 12!
None of the farms that were around when I started are still in business. I don’t know how many of you remember Suzies Farm. I watched them for a couple of years and with the help of Ingrid at Blue Sky, I basically copied their CSA contract and used it to start Blue Sky Ranch CSA while still volunteering for Barry up at Milpa Organica. Barry shut down the following year. Lucille and Robin farmed Suzies until a couple years ago. They put the concept of local CSA on the map here is San Diego.
In all the years I have been doing this blog, I don’t think I have ever spoke negatively about anyone or anything except for maybe bugs or the weather. It was a real disappointment to see how they went out. The San Diego food scene has changed significantly since I started farming. Its gone full circle. I believe the real local food buzz exists between small farms and neighbors connecting one on one. And I don’t mean that as a metaphor for chic restaurant owners or farmers market managers with dollar signs in their eyes using the idea of hard working farms as a personal currency to lure wealthy tourists and locals alike to partake in their instagram worthy, quasi virtuous wares. The real local food buzz happens when proprietors of a small farm connect with neighbors on a one to one basis over the food grown at the farm. That rant is over.
I do like the way things are now. With the farm stand and the CSA, everyone comes to us. We get full credit for every carrot we grow! Unfortunately, growing food small scale for profit in southern California is challenging and not practical. But it is rewarding. It is one of the most important things I do. I work my other job so I can farm. The fact that I can do that makes it all okay. I still consider myself one of the luckiest people I know. I cant tell you why I farm local organic. Some people will say things like “for the environment” or “social justice” and “to fight climate change” or “because GMO”. Those are all good reasons. And I am for all of those things. But if those are your reasons for farming, either you don’t actually farm, you only just started farming or you are likely growing food for a non profit organization that pays you whether the crops fail or not. Throughout the years, Ive shared my passion for working with nature and experiencing the joy of community through food and service. But I have never been able to put into words why I keep getting up, going out and farming. It’s like breathing.
This poem by farmer John from Angelic Organics almost describes it perfectly.
I’ve written plenty in the last few weeks about the obstacles in farming – the decay of buildings, the unreliability of help, the capriciousness of weather, the uncertainty of bugs and blights, the financial horrors. So, do you wonder why I farm, why anyone would farm? It’s kind of hard to say…
Our neighbor showed up this week and said, “I got the arthritis bad, but why wouldn’t I after 30 years of beating up this body – broken bones all over. Broke my ribs twelve times working with those cows, broke both ankles, dislocated my shoulder, had to milk with one arm in the air. Whatcha’ gonna do? Cows gotta be milked. Couldn’t get any help. We offered sometimes up to ten dollars an hour, and we couldn’t get kids to show up more than two days. You gotta get the cows milked. It just got so I did it myself – didn’t care what was busted.”
Our neighbor didn’t say exactly why he farmed; it’s just not farmerly to talk about such things out here. But I noticed in his speaking that there was something he liked very much about farming, or he wouldn’t be doing it.
Another farm family nearby is legendary for getting their crops in first. They move fast, all ages, in a spritz of tobacco juice and beer. Even the 80 year old grandpa, his hip smashed by a bull, races to the barn at 5 in the morning. Several of them are missing toes and fingers from machinery accidents. The last finger the family lost didn’t even stop the haying.
It’s hard to explain just what causes a person to stay in such a life. For me, as I miraculously type with all ten digits, I think about when I suddenly went from a fleet of cars and trucks and an arsenal of machinery down to nothing in the early eighties.
My boots were worn out, and I didn’t have the money for another pair. My mother bought me boots. I will forever remember the exquisite sensation of walking what was left of this farm, secure in my shiny rubber boots, feeling somehow that those boots had restored me to the land. The land has a feel underfoot that melts me to it.
And then there’s the smell – our machine shed has a smell of eternity, a musty ancient fragrance from before my birth and into the hereafter. There’s the rhythm – the barn door opens and closes; the swallows return; the brome grass swishes.
On NPR, Susan Stanberg interviewed a Mayan girl in the Yucatan Peninsula (through a translator). She wanted to know why the girl weaved all day long. The girl didn’t answer to Susan’s satisfaction, so Susan persisted.
“Is it because you can sell your weavings for money?”
“Do you weave because your ancestors weaved and it’s a way to stay connected to your people?”
“Do you weave because you love the rhythm and the patterns of weaving?”
“Why do you weave, then?”
“I just weave.”
I don’t stay on this farm because brome grass swishes; that’s a fringe benefit. The closest I can describe my bond to farming is a shudder I get, an irrepressible vibration when it’s time to work the fields. I can be eating, sleeping, or having a great conversation, and when the time is right to plow or plant my body registers some mysterious sensation, an irresistible beckoning. My legs take me to the work, put me on the tractor; I am all surrender. And the joy of pushing dirt around, the ecstasy of spraying potentized silica, the thrill of organizing little dots of green into straight lines on bare soil – these invoke in me a subtle delirium.
For two years I toured rural Illinois with a play I wrote about a farm family losing its land. Audiences wept and laughed. Once an old man caught up to me backstage. He said, “Let me tell you how to farm. There’s only one way. You farm ’til you’re down to your last nickel. And then you keep farming until the nickel’s gone.”
Like a drug, the land can lure a person into destitution. It can overshadow ones love for others. The land can embolden, exhaust, ennoble. It can nurture, destroy, sustain.
I don’t know why I farm.
I just farm.
The tomatoes aren’t the prettiest in late November. They still beat the pants off what you can get at the store. For halfway ripe tomatoes, put them in a paper bag in the warmest part of the kitchen to ripen up.
We added a few green tomatoes to the bags. The idea of making fried green tomatoes was intimidating to me. Growing up in California and having no southern influences in my life, the first reference to fried green tomatoes I ever experienced was in the name of the movie. Honestly, I thought the idea of frying green tomatoes was a joke until a few years ago.
Now, I have them a couple times in spring before the first tomatoes ripen. Often, a new tomato plant will set more fruit than you know it can mange to carry to ripeness. This makes for a fine excuse to prune a few bushes for a batch. I also have them a couple times in late fall, early winter when I know the plants will not be around much longer and that the first frost will likely damage the remaining green fruit.
Choose a simple fried green tomato recipe online and as long as you follow the recipe, you will be very satisfied. If you have some experience making fried green tomatoes, here is a most decadent and creative truly southern Recipe.
Jalapeno Persimmon jam
Fermented Spicy Ketchup
Pomegranate Meade made by Greg and Cass at Alpine Ranch
Like I said, I wish I could spend hours sharing our ferment and preserve recipes. If i did that, I wouldn’t have time to provide the food. And that is where I think my best talent lies. Hopefully, you might get an idea and look into it. Fermenting is such a satisfying way to process excess CSA food. Nancy does a fermented foods class at the main farm house at Alpine Ranch. I promise to give everyone a heads up when she schedules her next class.
See those trees behind Tocayo? They are olive trees. There is a fruit fly that likes to lay eggs on the fruit of the olive. It is our intention to start putting up vinegar traps on each tree. There at least 40 trees and we can use a few liter sized plastic bottles per tree. Feel free to bring bottles to the farm stand tomorrow. If you would like to leave some bottles at one of our pick up locations, let us know so we can be sure to get them. And if you want to help put up the vinegar traps, I’m sure we can get you on a project somehow okay? Just send me an email or a text if you have any questions.