Farm & Field Update- August 22nd 2018

 
  Soil erosion at Katchkie  

Soil erosion at Katchkie 

Rain, rain…GO AWAY! Obviously rain is crucial to growing vegetables, however, this week’s newsletter is a good time to address an important, topical question:

What is the impact of extreme rain on a farm?

On a basic level, heavy rain affects a farmer’s ability to do the essentials- harvest, plant, and weed. Thick, deep patches of mud make it extremely difficult for Bob to use the tractor to plant new crops and combat weeds. The rain also limits our farm team’s ability to harvest in the fields. Thunderstorms make that task impossible.

One of the most potentially dangerous impacts of heavy rain is soil erosion. Bob spreads compost and the rain washes the rich soil away, nutrients running off like a river from the crops that need them. A neighboring farm had a promising potato crop exposed to the sun due to erosion, causing them to sprout. Ultimately, this will drastically reduce the yield of their crop that was planned months ago.

Extreme rain also increases the risk of water related disease and pests. Water molds can spread rapidly in recirculating irrigation water and cause serious damage within a few days. Here at Katchkie, overly wet fields prevented us from harvesting tomatoes until the leaves have dried, so as not to spread diseases.

Finally, heavy rain (and climate change in general) impacts the crops themselves. Late summer veggies that thrive on hot, sunny days are not getting their optimal growing conditions. This leads to a later harvest, or potentially, the loss of a whole crop. Keep an eye on your CSA share too. Rain can cause blemishes and cracks in more fragile vegetables, such as tomatoes. Even the taste of the vegetables can be altered by heavy rains! Remember the losses I mentioned due to soil erosion? Imbalanced levels of sugars and important nutrients can alter the taste of the end product too.

Such are the challenges of farming! On the bright side, we hope you will be inspired with this week’s harvest to make that special margarita or grab a nice cold beer to go with the Pico de Gallo, or stuffed poblanos or gazpacho we’re certain you’ll be making. Ole'!

 

Farm & Field Update-- August 8th 2018

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August is here. This will be our last week of the regular seeding schedule for transplanting. Feels like we are in a race. A race against the weather, be it rain when we were harvesting onions to get them out of the field for drying or racing against time as we must start early in the mornings to harvest in the cooler temperatures before the sweltering heat and humidity of the afternoons. We can hardly breath in the greenhouses after lunchtime the heat is so intense, however the cherry tomatoes are loving it; and we’re racing against the limitations of our own physical strength in the effort to get it all done. Farmer Bob strategically choreographs our days, so we spend the hottest part either washing vegetables or boxes, or sorting, or packing, or some task that is out of the heat or the rain. Harvest time is the crescendo of the farming season. The intensity is growing and ripening as are our fields and it will continue until fall officially arrives and relieves us at least from the pursuit of the summer heat allowing the tempo of this race to step down a notch as we head toward the finish.

Sylvia Center Update-- August 8th 2018

This month, The Sylvia Center had the privilege to work with PS21 and Perfect Ten in creating a community experience full of dance, music, and of course -- healthy eating. We had the privilege of cooking with a group of fourteen girls, ages ten to sixteen, from Perfect Ten’s programs last week. Each day, we had two, 1.5 hour rotations, spending meaningful time with both the younger and older students. In this program, we made a wide variety of healthy meals including: Mafé, Fresh Pasta with Ratatouille, Hand Pies, Triple Berry Cobbler, and much more. The variety of dishes we prepared allowed us to be inclusive of the many different preferences of our students. Some students enjoyed using seasonal fruits in baked desserts, while other students loved preparing savory dishes like pasta dough or making Mafé.

At The Sylvia Center, we take pride in giving our students the opportunity to have choices in the kitchen classroom. When the girls from Perfect Ten requested to make garlic bread, we were more than excited to help them learn to make one of their favorite foods. Together, both students and staff brainstormed ways to make a healthier version of garlic bread, putting our critical thinking skills and creativity to the test. At the end of the brainstorming session, the students came up with many innovative ways to make garlic bread healthy, while still retaining the bread’s deliciousness. The students decided to replace the bread with a whole grain bread, use olive oil instead of butter, and add a fresh tomato bruschetta on top. The end result was both healthy and delicious.

As the week progressed, the students challenged themselves in many different ways by learning to bake, roast, fry and cut with new ingredients.  Many ingredients were items that some of the students had never tried before. Each meal provided this group of girls with the energy they needed to dance and drum for the rest of the day with Jamal and Company. Most importantly, sharing the meals allowed the group a time to build community and relish in their own successes after a day of growth, challenges, and hard work. One of their first challenges was creating a Triple Berry Cobber, making it the perfect meal to try with new young cooks:

 

 
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Triple Berry Cobbler

Serves 8-10

 

Ingredients:

2 cups blueberries

2 cups strawberries

2 cups raspberries

3/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar, divided

3/4 cup all purpose flour, divided

½ cup whole-wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into ½ inch cubes

2/3 cup low-fat buttermilk

2 teaspoons sugar

 

Preparation:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Grease a 13x9 inch baking dish.

  2. Combine berries with ¼ cup all purpose flour and ½  cup sugar. Toss to combine. Spread evenly in the baking dish.

  3. Combine remaining flour, ¼ cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a mixing bowl. Mix in  the butter using fingertips or pastry blender, and mix until it resembles coarse cornmeal.

  4. Add buttermilk, mix until moist. Combine dough into eight equal balls, and place evenly over berries. Sprinkle with sugar.

  5. Bake for 35 minutes, allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Farm & Field Update-- July 25th 2018

With rain in the forecast, we ended up starting the garlic harvest on Friday. It took us 2 days to get it all harvested and laid out in the greenhouse for drying. Both days were beautiful. Temperatures dropped to tolerable levels-- thank goodness-- and it seemed as if we flew right through the task. It started raining Saturday night, rained again Sunday night and looks like it will continue off and on all week. Time was of the essence. Bob got more fields plowed, seeded and sprayed and my daughters and I canned 2 dozen quart jars of dill pickles. It was a busy weekend. We are now halfway through the season. Four months in and four more to go. Stamina is the word of the moment now. It’s wonderful that the oppressively hot weather seems to have broken its long hold, the rain may alleviate the task of irrigating or at least some of it. I like to think mother nature is watching over us, sensing the limits of our capacity to endure this most difficult life of farming and pitching in to help when she can.
 

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PS: If you get some of these over ripe cherry tomatoes, consider yourself fortunate. They are naturally sun dried & the sweetest of natures candy. Try making a tomato pesto with them. To die for!