Make Eggplant Great Again

In case you were unavailable to watch it live, below is a transcript of this year’s State of the Farm Address.  But before we get to that, here are a couple of announcements.

If you plan to purchase SeafoodShare please do so ASAP.  The deadline is fast approaching (Valentines Day).  This is a great way to eat the most delicious seafood found in Minnesota.  Plus it is harvested using sustainable methods to ensure future generations can enjoy the taste and healthy benefits or wild seafood.

We are still taking orders for VeggieShares.  Please spread the word.  Tell both of your friends and all your family members!

Now on to this year’s State of the Farm Address!

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of the Farm, the First Lady of the United States, and my fellow Farmers:

Less than 1 year has passed since I stood at this podium, in this majestic chamber, to speak on behalf of the Veggie Eaters — and to address their preferences, their tastes, and their recipes. That night, our new Administration had already taken swift action. A new tide of hunger pangs was already sweeping across our farmland.

Each day since, we have gone forward with a clear vision and a righteous mission — to make eggplant great again for all Veggie Eaters.

Over the last year, we have made incredible progress and achieved extraordinary success. We have faced challenges we expected, and others we could never have imagined. We have shared in the heights of corn stalks and the pains of thistle’s spiny leaves. We endured raccoons and deer and mice. But through it all, we have seen the beauty of Fresh Earth Farms’ soil, and the calcium in the farm’s spuds.

We saw the volunteers of the “Brassica Army,” racing to the rescue with their hoes to save the kohlrabi in the aftermath of devastating pigweed pressure.

We heard tales of members like Coast Guard Petty Officer Ashlee Leppert, who is here tonight in the gallery with homemade salsa verde and chips.  Ashlee was aboard one of the first tractors on the scene in the sweet corn field. Through 18 hours of beautiful weather, Ashlee braved live corn earworms and raccoons, to help save more than 40 shares of Bodacious sweet corn. Thank you, Ashlee.

We heard about farm members like firefighter David Dahlberg. He is here with us too. David faced down walls of foxtails to rescue almost 60 bushels of cucumbers trapped in the north field threatened by cucumber beetles.

To everyone still recovering from too many tomatoes, onions, carrots and everything else — we are with you, we love you, and we will pull through together.

Over the last year, the farm has seen what we always knew: that no people on Earth are so fearless, or daring, or hungry as Fresh Earth Farms members. If there is a kohlrabi, we slice it. If there is a tomato, we sauce it. If there is a hot pepper, we tame it. If there is a potato, we mash it.

So let us begin tonight by recognizing that the state of our Farm is strong because our members are strong.

And together, we are growing fresh, nutritious, and delicious veggies.

We have created 2.4 million new peas, including 200,000 new snow peas alone. After years of pea stagnation, we are finally seeing rising snaps.

Potato beetles have hit a 45-year low. Flea beetles stand at the lowest rate ever recorded, and crow damage has also reached the lowest levels in history.

Meal preparation confidence is at an all-time high. Members have sliced one carrot after another, gaining trillions in nutritional value. That is great news for members’ health, wellness, welfare, and wellbeing.

And just as I promised the members from this podium 11 months ago, we enacted the biggest radish cuts and reforms in farm history. A typical family of four purchasing a FamilyShare will see their radish allotment reduced by two dozen — slashing their radish consumption in half.

This is our new member moment. There has never been a better time to start living the CSA Dream.

So to every member watching at home tonight — no matter where you have been, or where you come from, this is your food. If you eat hard, if you believe in fresh vegetables, if you believe in organic farming, then you can dream anything, you cook anything, and together, we can consume anything.

It was a yearning for fresh veggies that nearly 15 years ago gave birth to a special place called Fresh Earth Farms. It was a small cluster of members caught between a Cub Foods and a Sam’s Club. It was home to an incredible people with a revolutionary idea: that they could consume delicious, locally-grown vegetables themselves. That they could chart their own food destiny. And that, together, they could light up their waistline.

That is what our farm has always been about. That is what members have always stood for, always strived for, and always done.

They work in every trade. They sacrifice to feed a family. They defend our farm from imports from abroad. They are strong moms and hungry kids. They are firefighters, police officers, border agents, medics, and Marines.

But above all else, they are vegetable eaters. And this farm, this soil, these vegetables, belongs to them.

Our task is to respect them, to listen to them, to serve them, to feed them, and to always be worthy of them.

Farm members fill the world with wonderful  aromas. They push the bounds of recipes. And they forever remind us of what we should never forget: The people dreamed this farm. The people built this farm. And it is the people who are making this farm great again.

As long as we are proud of who we are, and what we are fighting for, there is no vegetable we cannot grow.

As long as we have confidence in our soils, faith in our members, and trust in our tractors, we will not fail.

Our veggies will thrive.

Our members will prosper.

And our Farm will forever be safe and strong and proud and mighty and delicious.

Thank you, and God bless Fresh Earth Farms.

On Ice

Garlic Patch

It has been awhile since the last newsletter.  Seems like time is going faster the older I get.

First a couple of announcements:

We have pricing in our online farm stand for most of the products we sell.  One item in particular I need to mention is SeafoodShare.  It has an early deadline — February 15th — so if you are interested please order it soon!  SeafoodShare is a fantastic way to enjoy delicious, nutritious wild, line-caught seafood from the cold, nutrient-dense waters off the coast of Alaska.  Plus you will help small boat fishermen and fisherwomen maintain a sustainable fishery instead of supporting large, Chinese trawlers destroying the ocean ecosystem.  Each month includes two different varieties.  New this year SeafoodShare includes dungeness crab!  If you choose “Payment Plan” or “Check” at check out you won’t have to pay for it right away.  Unfortunately you’ll have to pay it all upfront if you choose “Credit card”.  I highly recommend this product for those looking to increase their intake of healthy seafood.  Let me know if I can answer any questions.

We are taking orders for the 2018 farming season!  We’ve had a great response from existing members rejoining this season.  Thank you!  If you plan to rejoin please sign-up soon.  Space is limited.

But not limited enough to not refer your friends, neighbors, etc.  Spread the word about Fresh Earth Farms.  We had good luck with members who mentioned us on NextDoor last season.

Farm News

First, I should mention that we successfully planted the garlic back in November.  Actually I won’t know how successful it was until we see how it grows during the summer.  But at least we got it in.  Cross your fingers that it works!

Next, the primary activity at this time of year is taxes, seed orders, and taxes.  New this season is fixing the tractor we use to plow the driveway, which happens to be the same tractor we use to plow the field — but with a different plow.  Seems like the starter motor decided it was too cold and gave up.  Sure I could have had the new starter shipped overnight but then it would arrive when the temps were below zero.  Instead I saved the $s and await the starter to arrive during this upcoming warm spell.  Hopefully I can get the job done before the next snow storm.  In the mean time we’ve implemented the pack down method of driveway maintenance.  It works well as long as we don’t get too much snow or lots of drifting.

Other than that, an important job this time of year is seed ordering.  It is a multi-step process that starts with counting the seeds left over from last season.  Have you ever tried to count seeds?  Neither have I.  I use the estimate method.  Does it look like enough seeds?  If not, order more.  It works well enough.  The harder step is to look through the catalogs for new seed varieties.  We are always on the lookout for something new and interesting.  If you have any suggestions please send them our way.  If you would like more of anything now is the time to let me know.  And the interesting thing is that since so few people take me up on the offer each response holds a huge sway on what we grow!  So speak now and dramatically influence the veggie consumption of your fellow CSA members.

That is pretty much it for now.  Hopefully the next newsletter will be the “State of the Farm” address.  As always do not hesitate to send in your questions, comments, veggie suggestions, jokes, brain teasers, etc.





The following statements may be attributed to Christopher James, Chief Farming Officer of Fresh Earth Farms, CSA:

“For more than a decade, under both Republican and Democratic Administrations, Fresh Earth Farms has consistently made clear that we provide CSA delivery services in an open and transparent way.  We do not block eggplants, nor censor herbal content, nor throttle or degrade flower bouquets based on the content, nor unfairly discriminate in our treatment of add-on shares. These principles, which were laid out in the FCC’s 2010 Open CSA Order and fully supported by Fresh Earth Farms, are clearly articulated on our website and are fully enforceable against us.  In short, CSA delivery will continue to work tomorrow just as it always has.  Despite the existence and the enforceability of all of these commitments, we have, since 2004, also repeatedly called for a non-Title II legislative solution that would make these vegetable consumer protections permanent. We continue to support a legislative solution and will work with any interested members of Congress to achieve that solution.”

“Today’s vote by the FCC to remove the Title II section of the Vegetable Neutrality rules does not impact our commitment to Vegetable Neutrality. We do not block, throttle or otherwise interfere with consumers’ desire to eat what they want from their CSA share.  Fresh Earth Farms has always been committed to providing an open CSA experience for our customers, and reversing the classification of CSA services does not change our commitment.  We applaud FCC Chairman Ajit Pai for his leadership that has overturned the previous Commission’s decision to enact Title II, the 1930s-era CSA regulations.  Reestablishing ‘light-touch’ regulation returns a level of certainty for consumer protections and future investment and innovation that spur the growth of CSA.”

“And don’t forget to sign-up for 2018.”

Last Chance to Plant Garlic

With all the weather we’ve had so far this fall we haven’t planted all the garlic yet.  So we plan to finish the project on Sunday, November 12th from 12:00 until 4:00 or done.  Please come out and lend a hand!  We could use all the help we can get before we run out of time.  It would be helpful to know if you will make it but feel free to come at the last minute!

Farmers Marketing

If you are interested in Winter/Spring FruitShare please let me know ASAP.  It starts Wednesday, November 15th.  We have drop sites in St. Paul near 94 and Dale St, St. Paul’s Monastery on Century Ave and here at the farm.  Payment plans are available.  The fruit is delicious and gives you a bit of sunshine with every bite!  What more could you ask for during a cold, snowy winter?  Order online or just email me and follow up with payment.

And while you are online ordering your winter FruitShare you might as well sign up for the 2018 season!  We’ve had a great response so far but of course would love to see the rest of you join as well.  A deposit of $100 secures your spot.

Farm News

First and most discouraging is the weather just is not cooperating for us to be able to plant the garlic.  Too cold.  Too wet.  And not enough sun.  The ground is saturated, which in a normal year would be a good thing.  Oh well, looks like we will have to try spring planted garlic and hope for the best.

Second, at this time of year I spend a considerable amount of time working on marketing and sales, whether it is web site maintenance, Facebook postings, online videos or other means of selling the product without paying a company that has plenty of money and doesn’t need any of mine.  One idea I want to work on this winter is customer testimonials.  These could be just short one to two lines saying something positive about us or your experience, to a more involved multi-paragraph piece discussing why you joined, what benefits you received, what other places you’ve used in the past (other CSAs, farmers markets, etc.), why you continue to come back to our farm, etc.  If you have comments or stories you’d like to share please let me know.  If anyone is interested in writing their story that would be even better.  Don’t be shy and don’t expect one of the other members will do it.  Share your story!  And thank you in advance for anyone who steps up!

Third, there is always a third.

As always, do not hesitate to contact me with questions, comments, suggestions, requests, jokes, etc.

It’s the End of the Season as We Know It

Harvesting tomatoes while it snows

First of all I want to thank everyone for their support of the farm this past season.  Without your support our business would not succeed.  Our farm survives on the personal connections we strive to have with each of our members.  It is more difficult to have this connection with our delivery customers but we do our best to be available and accessible to everyone.  I hope you enjoyed the season as much as I’ve enjoyed getting to know you.  I look forward to another successful season with all of you next year!  And if you this isn’t clear, last week was the final week of this season.

Second, we are doing Winter FruitShare again this year!  What is winter FruitShare?  It is like summer FruitShare except it is in the winter with fruit that is available in the winter!  It is approximately every other week (with exceptions around the holidays).  We have three locations for picking up the fruit: here at the farm, a drop site near 94 and Dale St. and St. Paul’s Monastery near Larpenteur and Century Ave.  Pick-up days will be on Wednesdays again this season.  You can order online or by emailing me then follow up with payment.  You are also welcome to use a payment plan; no need to pay it all upfront.  Winter FruitShare starts November 15th so get your order in ASAP.  Let me know if you have any questions.

Third, we are taking orders for 2018!  We have had a great response so far but would love to get everyone signed up before the holidays hit and it gets forgotten.  The store has been updated for those who like to purchase online.  You can also just send in a check for $100 to reserve your spot.  A third option is if you have a PayPal account you can send a $100 deposit using their “Friends & Family” service; use my email address as the recipient.  It is free if your PayPal account has money or is linked to your bank account.  There is a fee if you use a credit or debit card.  Let me know if you have any questions!

Farm News

Here are a couple of things I should have mentioned in the last newsletter:

You should let the sweet potatoes sit for a few weeks before eating them.  Sweet potatoes when first harvested are not as sweet as you’d think.  It takes a bit of time for them to develop the sweetness.  I suggest you save them until Thanksgiving.  This gives them time to sweeten up a bit more.

The popcorn we sent out last week may not be fully dry yet.  Then again it may be.  The only way to tell is to test a few of the kernels.  If they pop the way you like then the rest should pop.  If not, wait a few more weeks.  Pro Tip: if the kernels are hard to get off the cob it is probably not dry enough.  I will test some in a few weeks and publish my results.

We did our best to get the carrots clean in the time available.  We felt it was more important to get you an abundance of somewhat dirty carrots than to get fewer cleaner carrots.  Hopefully this is your preference as well.  Speaking of carrots, this variety stores pretty well.  Keep it in the coldest part of your fridge.  And if you want to ensure they keep well put them in damp sand (sure Chris, I’m going to fill up my crisper drawer with damp sand).  The goal is to keep them cold and damp but not wet.  Cold to preserve them.  Damp to prevent dehydration.

The most crucial activity at this time is to find a way to get the garlic planted.  We’d typically have it done by now but with the wet October and the amount of work we still had we did not find a time to get it done.  If we can’t plant it this fall we may not have garlic next year.  Not good.  Plus we’d have to buy new garlic seed for 2019 at a cost of $1,000 or more.  Definitely not good.  I’ve done a bit of research and we still have a chance to make it work — as long as the weather cooperates.  But looking at the forecast I don’t see a whole lot of cooperation.  We’d prefer a week of warm, dry weather.  I’m seeing nothing but cool and damp.  One strategy may be to plant it in the hoop house.  If we can figure out a way to do this yet still have space for the tomatoes this may be our only option.  Otherwise we make the choice between garlic and no indoor tomatoes or no garlic and indoor tomatoes.  Neither is our preference.

Carrot Soup!

Speaking of an abundance of carrots, this past weekend we made carrot soup!  It was delicious and easy to make.  There are a lot of carrot soup recipes out there; here is the one I made.  It was easy and tasty.  I’ve seen others using peanut butter, interesting.  If you have a good recipe for using a lot of carrots send them my way!

And for those of you who have read all the way to the end I have a whole bunch of under-ripe tomatoes.  If you are interested in getting some please contact me and we can schedule a time for you to stop by.

I think this newsletter is plenty long enough.  But before I go here is a use for romaine lettuce.  Might come in handy next season (plus it looks warm)!

As always, if you have any questions do not hesitate to contact me!

How Sweet It Is!

This is the last week of the 2017 season!

Be sure to sign up for 2018!  We’ve had a great response so far and hope to hear that all of you will be returning.  To reserve your shares send in or bring in a deposit of $100.

Don’t forget to fill out the online survey conducted by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.  Cards with the link were handed out last week.  If you didn’t receive a card please contact me and I can send you the link.

Farm News

Just a whole lot of harvesting and washing going on these days.  A lot of our harvesting is of below ground veggies — carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc. — which makes the washing part so much more work.  We do our best to get them clean but with only a couple of tanks and a hose it is hard to scrub off the dirt.  So we give a little bit farm away free with every order.  Hopefully you don’t mind a little extra scrubbing.  We could certainly spend the extra time washing them but then you would receive far less produce.  There is only so many hours available to do all the farm work.  Next week we will have more than enough time to do it, but then there won’t be any left to wash…

What will we have this week?  Most importantly sweet potatoes!  We dug the sweet potatoes two weeks ago and have been curing them in our greenhouse.  They were a bit dirty when we pulled them out of the ground and as far as I can tell they haven’t cleaned up much since.  We will try to get them washed prior to distribution but if we run out of time I apologize in advance for their uncleanliness.  Also new this week is popcorn!  The popcorn may not yet be dry enough to pop.  I suggest waiting a couple of weeks.  To test if it is ready take a couple of kernels off the cob and try popping them.  If they pop the rest should be ready.  If they don’t pop, wait another few weeks and try again.  I will send out a newsletter when I find ours is popping.  Pro-Tip: If the kernels are really difficult to get off the cob it is most likely not ready.

What else will we have this week? We have plenty of carrots, onions, shallots, and garlic.  Hopefully we have enough potatoes though I’m not positive if we have enough for every share; it may need to be matched with something else.  We will have bigger squash like butternuts.  Then the rest is odds and ends from what remains in the field.  Things like brussels sprouts, leeks, beets, cabbage, kale, etc.

We have SeafoodShare and SalmonShare this week.

The potatoes for WinterShare will also be distributed this week.

I believe that is all of the extra shares left for the season.

As always, do not hesitate to send in comments, questions, etc.

Addendum to Heavy Lifting

I forgot to mention that we have been selected to participate in a survey on CSA customer satisfaction being conducted by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.  Details regarding the survey and a link to the survey will be included on a card that I will put a card into each delivery box for delivery members and on the sign-up table in the pick-up tent for on-farm members.  Feel free to contact me with questions.

Thank you for your participation!

Heavy Lifting

Not much time to write so first a couple of announcements then some other stuff.

We are taking orders for 2018!  Thank you to everyone who signed up so far.  We appreciate your support!  To reserve your spot for 2018 (we turned a few people away this season due to being sold out) simply put down a deposit of $100 — either cash or check.  Or if you prefer to use a credit card you will have to go through our online store and pay the whole amount.  Also for those savvy enough to know how to use PayPal you can send your down payment to my email address.

WinterShares are being distributed.  The first pick-up/delivery will be the garlic, onions, shallots and squash.  Next week the rest of the shares (which is potatoes) will be available.

Speaking of next week, that will be the final week of the season!  Please make a note of it.

Last chance for syrup.  Stock up for the winter!  Purchase in the tent or we can send it out in your delivery box.

Due to untimely rain we still have not planted the garlic.  Stay tuned as we figure out what we will do.

It looks like a beautiful week for farming.  If anyone is interested in helping out please contact me.  We have a couple of projects that could use a “many hands make light work” approach.

Farm News

As I mentioned last week we had a frost on Monday night.  It killed the warm season crops and even scorched some of the cool season crops.  But we managed to harvest everything we wanted.  It took us longer than we hoped.  The sweet potatoes didn’t get harvested until Wednesday and Thursday but they don’t seem any worse for the wear.  We have a pretty good crop of them.  They currently reside in our greenhouse “curing”.  When we first dig the potatoes the skins are quite delicate and easily scarred.  By heating them to around 85 degrees for some number of days we can heal the scars and toughen the skin.  Curing also helps sweeten the potatoes.  So we are waiting until next week to hand them out to give them a chance to cure.

Speaking of putting things in the greenhouse.  This time of year involves a lot of moving of heavy produce.  Not only do the sweet potatoes need curing but also the winter squash.  So much of our energy is in moving heavy things into and out of the greenhouse, then washing them, then packing them for later distribution.  Way too much moving around.  There are a few things we can do to improve the flow but there would still be a need to move lots of heavy things too many times.  It becomes obvious why large scale producers have so many fork trucks.  Hydraulics are a wonderful thing if.

So if you see me and I look a little shorter or one arm seems a little longer you now know the cause — lots of heavy lifting.

What will we have this week?  Rutabagas!  Ok, maybe that didn’t really need an exclamation point. Lots of carrots.  The rest of the peppers (there are still quite a few).  Some leeks and onions. Garlic.  Tomatoes from the hoop house.  Brussels Sprouts!  Maybe another place where an exclamation point isn’t necessary? Some kohlrabi, some cabbage, some beets and some other things.  Oh and of course winter squash and pumpkins!  Don’t miss next week since it is the last week and there will be sweet potatoes!

FlowerShare gets gourds this week.

The final CoffeeShare is this week.

SeafoodShare and SalmonShare are next week.

All other shares are done for the season.

As always, do not hesitate to contact me with questions, comments, volunteer offers, etc.


The Five Letter F-Word

A couple announcements then on to farm news!

Due to all the rain this past Friday night the Garlic Planting Gala is rescheduled to Sunday October 15th from 1:00 until done, followed by a bonfire and potluck.  Sorry we can’t make it on Saturday the 14th but there is already something in the way.  Let me know if you can make it.  We are typically done planting garlic by 4:00.  Eating by 5:00 and done by 7:00 so plenty early.

We are taking orders for 2018 (2018 already?  Seems like it was only yesterday when all years started with a 19!)  You can reserve your share by putting down a $100 deposit.  Send/bring in a check, or bring in cash.  If you want to pay with a credit card you have to pay the full amount since our store doesn’t allow partial payments.

We are starting to assemble WinterShares.  These may or may not be available this week.

Farm News

Frost.  We got our first frost of the season last night.  We saw the forecast was for frost so we went into frost mode Monday.  What is frost mode?  When frost is forecasted for the first time in the fall we review what is left in the field that is frost sensitive, then develop a plan to harvest as much as we can during the time we have available.  Typically the frost sensitive plants still around in the fall are tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers, eggplants, beans, hot peppers, sweet potatoes, and okra.  Since this year’s frost came later than usual the beans were already done for the year.  The outdoor tomatoes and cherry tomatoes were done as well.  If the frost was earlier we would put row covers on the beans to get them through the cold.  We would keep the pepper plants alive by running the sprinklers overnight (click here to learn why this works!)  That way we could have several more weeks of peppers and beans.  But with it being late in the season we just harvested the peppers green and let the bean plants perish.

We harvested all the ripening tomatoes in the hoop house.  There is a good chance these plants will survive since they are indoors but there is also a chance they would not.  By harvesting the ripening ones we hedge our bets and don’t lose all of them yet still have a chance for more later.

We harvested all the remaining tomatillos, eggplants and hot peppers.  There are quite a few baby eggplants this week but then we’ll be done with them for the season.  The okra was harvested as well though it was pretty well done for the season — okra likes it hot.

That left the sweet potatoes.  We started digging them on Monday until we ran out of time.  They look pretty good and though the frost will kill the tops we still have a day or two to dig the roots.  Hopefully today or Wednesday we will finish this project.

That’s pretty much how our long, frost-plan Monday went.

What will we have this week?  The usual onions, and garlic.  We’ll also have peppers, eggplants, hot peppers, tomatoes, tomatillos (not many), winter squash, pie pumpkins, potatoes, a few okra, a few cabbage and lemongrass.

This week also includes FruitShare, CheeseShare, EggShare, IceCreamShare, and MeatShare.  As mentioned above we may or may not have WinterShares available.

That is all for now.  Let me know if you have any questions, comments, suggestions, etc.