Angelic Organics Farm News

Week 3 - Sat - July 5, 2008

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This Week's Vegetable Notes - by Diana Nolden, assistant growing manager

6 degrees of William the Intern. It is truly amazing how small this world really is. For instance, I am only 2 degrees from Kevin Bacon, a game that was promptly banned during harvest because it distracted me too much. I was again reminded of the world’s little coincidences when our summer intern originally applied for the job. William Martin is a student at NYU but originates from Henderson, KY. While on his initial farm visit, it was quickly learned that we had mutual friends living in Louisville, KY (William is close to the Turnipseed family of Henderson with whom my boyfriend too, is acquainted). Encouraged by this “chance” meeting, and his friendly disposition, we offered William the position.

William arrived in early June. Though he had little previous farm experience, he has quickly proven to be an asset. It was during harvests, while honing his skills, that other random connections were discovered. Just before his summer holiday started, William learned that a friend/classmate lived 20 minutes from the farm in Belvidere. Being aware of the car accident last fall, William asked me if my Doctor’s name was Hodge. “Yes, why?” Oh, it just so happens to be the father of this fellow NYU student. That and our family dogs are one and the same.

We were quickly labeled BFF. It was agreed that William would leave school and we’d be sidekicks. Plans were made for a monkey wrench-esk gang that would fight for small farms and the organic movement. We are contemplating termination plans for a friend of William’s from a chemical company. A name has yet to be determined, but we are leaning towards the Ragweeds.

Whether or not our gang of ruffians materializes or William returns to school, we are happy to have him for the summer. This history major has globe trotted to Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, and now Northern Illinois. Besides getting hands on experience of organic farming, his goals for the summer include meeting Snappy d’ Turtle and having his first fried cheese curd. Who better to introduce him to this Wisco delicacy than a native and a BFF.

Young Shareholder Isabelle enjoying her veggies!
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What's In Your Box Bob writes...

-list ordered according to vegetables I, Diana, find most exciting!

Please note:this box summary is written the week before you receive your box. Some guess work is involved: some things may be in your box that are not listed, and some listed things may not be in your box. As always, be sure to thoroughly wash all your vegetables.

The page numbers listed below refer to cooking tips and recipes in Farmer John’s Cookbook: The Real Dirt on Vegetables as provided to all shareholders.

BRASSICAS - 248-269

Cabbage, Cauliflower, and/or Broccoli

ROOTS

Beets- with their greens, pp. 55-62

Young Turnips-scarlet queen red stems &/or white hakurei, bagged with young chard. Some turnips greens have been ravaged by insects but are still edible and zesty. Perhaps use them in salad or stir-fry, pp. 129-135

Radishes-bagged with lettuce, greens can be used the same as turnips, pp. 129-135

Kohlrabi-maybe; purple or white, pp.201-204

FRUITING CROPS

Cucumbers-cool and crisp; more to come, pp. 95-101

Zucchini & Summer Squash-pp. 145-150

Popcorn-maybe; cured over winter

COOKING GREENS -pp. 81-94

Swiss Chard-big, beautiful bunches

Kale-young Red Russian, nice salad additive or can be cooked; Note: Some aphids have become particularly fond of some leaves. We tried to discard these leaves during harvest and remove aphids when washing the kale. However, we recommend rinsing it in salted water before cooking or adding to salads to remove any persistent aphids.

SALAD GREENS -pp. 136-141

Lettuce-heads of Magenta(a red summer crisp), Crispino(an iceberg), and Pic 714(a green romaine) It is not often that people grow organic iceburg lettuce, so we are very proud of our Crispino.

ALLIUMS

Scallions-deep purple &/or white spear, pp. 121-128

HERBS -pp. 102-120

Anise Hysop, Thyme, or Sage

As the season continues, more things are falling into place and I feel that I am able to write up my newsletter contribution myself this week. (Although I am noticing how busy I can get.) Farmer John’s former girlfriend Shannon once said something like this to him, “You and Bob go around talking about how busy you are like it’s a badge or something. Nobody cares.” I took this to heart and still remind myself that busyness is more of a sign of weakness than a sign of importance. And in light of how my busyness sometimes got in the way of my relationship with Lora, I am even more desirous to shift my life away from this state which can lead to ineffectiveness.

I am not alone on the farm here in working from 6 am to 5 pm Mon-Fri and 6 am to noon on Saturdays (about half of our crew has this schedule). But I am alone in that the work often oversteps these boundaries and that it is not uncommon for there to be 5 or 6 simultaneous projects going on which frequently require my input. Fortunately, however, I really enjoy the work. And my capacity and skill at managing all of it is increasing all of the time. My middle son, who is 18 and works in Chicago, was noticing the other day how he doesn’t enjoy his summer job as much as he would like. And I can empathize with him as, like probably most people in this world, I have had jobs which I did not enjoy and, during which, time went slower than I would have liked.

Here, at Angelic Organics, I am presented with this tension: love for the work and too much of it. I see delegation as part of the solution. This requires quality assistants who return year after year. And most of the time we have been blessed with good people returning and bringing their experience back again to help. But sometimes, key employees move on: such as Diana, who will take on her next project at the end of this year, or Lora, who departed suddenly last year. Within the constraints of the economics of farming, we do what we can to take care of all who work here. When we are able to do so, this is an easy decision which can’t help but pay off. (Lately, however, I have been wondering how the increase in fuel prices affects our crew.) To supplement any turnover issues, we attempt to improve our systems--from harvest procedures to work directives (click greenhouse seeding, direct-in-the-field seeding, transplanting to see sample directives). Further, we attempt to create procedures for common tasks and clearly communicate expectations to everyone.

Perhaps some of the solutions to busyness is to do things better and to get the right people, systems, and equipment in place. One thing we are doing differently this year is that we do not plan on growing and harvesting a salad mix. This is because we just don’t have the right systems and machinery in place to ensure a high quality mix for each and every bag, for each and every week. Instead we are including pieces to the mix -- like arugula or young chard-- which you can add to your lettuce or cook with your greens. Baby lettuce has proven to be too delicate for us. When Farmer John returns to the farm for more time than just a few weeks, we will take on these systemic weaknesses and turn them around. (One of the benefits to John’s travels with the film is that he has seen hundreds of farms--people insist on showing him their places. From these visits, John, who already was very good at systemizing now even has more ideas for solutions in his arsenal. I am already aware of some prominent organic farmers who want John to consult with them on their operations.)

Back to me and my personal busyness, sometimes I ask myself in reference to the past: where am I, where is the farm, and what direction are we heading. It’s mixed--for the farm things are slightly better than in the past. However, for me, I am unable to assess this as my life is still suffering from the setback of Lora’s transition. For instance, from the basic standpoint of making meals, I am sometimes lost. Lora knew exactly what I liked and how to cook it. (I am not picky but rather refined--I avoid all simple sugars except raw honey and will not eat mushrooms, eggplant, meat, or cilantro--plus there are many more particular preferences I have.) Lora supported me and took care of me in this regard. And as such, my capacity to manage all that goes on in my life is currently diminished. A postive, however, is that my awareness of, and relationship to busyness is evolving and my desire to change and manage this condition has grown. I’ve read that awareness can be a starting point. Overall, I would imagine that most people would find looking at this condition in my life as boring (including parts of this essay). I get tired of hearing it and so why would anyone else care. But it is what it is and hopefully, on a deeper level I am learning and making progress. We shall see in the weeks and years ahead.