Friday, October 17, 2014

What success looks like

If you are new to the CSA, perhaps you would like some background on our squash history. You might notice the bulk bins in the barn, full of squash... umm, like 15... at least. Well, a mere three years ago we had a meager crop of exactly one distribution- two squashes per person for the whole fall, (and they were "Carnival" squashes, more appropriate for decoration than eating.) Last year was a bit better, but I told everyone to eat their squashes soon after pick-up since bugs had bitten-- or sucked actually; punctured with their sucking proboscises... proboscii...  anyway, their storage ability had been compromised.  Another crop failure.

This year, with focus and strategy, (and a proper Maine winter behind us) we had crop success. Those ten beds of squash, a bit over half an acre exploded with way more squash than we need. And it all should keep quite well tucked in your coat closet, under your bed, or in the attic (not the root cellar mind you... it likes steady 50 degrees and dry.) Of course we always aim high with production, so that we have extra to sell, and I am NOT COMPLAINING!... but wouldn't it be nice to have a bumper crop of berries instead? Just a little easier on the back...
So, we are loading you up with squash. Please do not feel compelled to take as much as the chalk board tells you to take. Take only what you think you can use; that is the CSA member ethic. And don't think about food going to waste. What we can not sell for a decent price (AKA we don't "dump" product on the market) we feed to our animals= not wasted; we donate as much as possible to food pantries= not wasted; we compost the rest which feeds the soil=not wasted.

The Harvest:
pac choi
brussels sprouts
be sure to get a buttercup whose flesh is very dry and flakey (which is good) and which we have failed extra hard in past years!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


I often think that history is made up of one bad decision after another, with a few random mistakes thrown in, sending humanity down deeply uncertain pathways. The transition from gathering and hunting to a culture of farming was devastating in its consequences, but to call it a choice is probably some kind of reification of a drawn out process. I imagine our ancestors as individuals gathering seeds this time of the year, fully aware of a plant's cycles, and just beginning to identify promising landscapes where gathering begins to feel like a harvest. One organizes a community around a few specific plants, and the stability of a food source begins to ensure a more successful birth rate...
Sounds great, but in retrospect...

Here I am 12000 years later, no longer living the agricultural revolution; in fact, that was like, four or five revolutions ago! These weeds that fill our fields, the consequences of our farming, glare at me with dark mirth and bemusement.
Rewilding has been on my mind this fall season. Not that we can ever "go back," but more of a letting go, an undoing... entropy. It is too cold to germinate any more cover crops, and so I let the weeds sprout and do the important job of covering the soil as we move into the shoulder season. Any fertilizer to keep kale and arugula green would be a waste; there is so much microbiological momentum in the soil, that any young crops will cruise along until the freeze comes. The millions of seeds-- from weeds and from the many flower crops gone by, are layered on the surface of the soil, and I can only hope that there are enough worms, beetles, birds, and mice to eat them. (Those among us who still gather.)
Its hunting season also that brings my thoughts to the re-wilding. Dudes with big shiny trucks, wearing crisp new camouflage gear. They grumble about not being allowed to drive right up to their favorite high-tech tree-stand and camera set-up. I thought farming was conflicted with paradox; I feel for these hunters who follow the urge to connect with nature via Cabella's and LL Bean. Such is our human nature: drawn towards authentic experience but employing mediation and cleverness as a means.
Just as with many concepts that pull our interest, rewilding is just another decision. Once we investigate it, it seems clear that part of rewilding implies building our skill set, or actively stewarding natural spaces through conservation efforts. We begin to drift slowly away from an anarchist's rewilding towards a clever progressional plan.

These days rewilding implies using genetic technology and geo-scaping to bring back the wild auroch and the wooly mammoth.  But fall, for me at least, is a tired time of letting things go. Having actively cultivated our space all summer, I'll happily pass through the fields and into the woods, to sit and rewild my brain for a few minutes.

Harvest List Follows
CSA Harvest
mizuna -- a green like arugula, though a little tougher. Good as a salad or slaw (not great cooked.)
red kuri winter squash
sweet potatoes
radishes- daikon
broccoli (for some... more next week)
...and these:

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

30 Days Has September

 This week's CSA harvest list


The farm is still a bustle of activity and the to-do list is a mile long. In the fall, we always start adding back on the projects that got dropped off the list in the spring when planting, weeding and harvesting took over. But then, there are still those regular farm work activities. We have garlic and tulips to plant, we have dahlias and carrots to harvest. We have wedding flower arrangements to make. The new stuff, the fun stuff, the big picture stuff is what's fueling the momentum. Talk of renovations, new equipment, vacation....a girl's weekend (Did you get that?....a girl's weekend?... as in I'm going away for the weekend with my girlfriends!!!) are the stuff of sanity, release, spark.

We are ending the days with soups and stews, popcorn and hot cocoa. The oven is on, cooking squash to be made into pies. There's time to be in the kitchen now that the days end earlier. And, I put on my long underwear again. Nothing like a wool layer to make a cold day bearable. We've made the switch back to flannel sheets and everyone has their puff back on their bed. We're getting close to having time to put away the mountain of laundry on the second floor of the house. And, the fire is rolling again in the woodstove.

All the baby farm animals have grown up. We're going to try veal for the first time this year. We sent Babycakes off to the butcher. He was on a diet of 6 gallons of milk a day. He didn't want to wean, despite our best intentions. As hard is it may be for some of you to wrap your head around, the easiest solution for a livestock problem is the butcher. He was headed there in the long run, tis the fate of most male livestock on the farm. If you can't lay an egg or make milk, off you go.  I've been scouring the internet for veal recipes. I think its going to be delicious! The cycle of the farm, the livestock that come and go, that's what puts food on our table and keeps the whole farm organism in motion, including the well fed farm workers.

The other thing going on is flowers....always flowers. We are starting to chat with couples about their weddings next season. We are making charts and lists about what worked and what we didn't like. The flowers are really making an impact in the business bottom line this year and that feels really exciting. 

We are starting to map out our staff needs for next year. We're looking for a production manager. We're channeling good intentions out there, hoping the right person comes our way. 

And, this will be the last week our farmstand is open. 

These fall days help us take stock of it all, offer a brief moment to reflect a bit on the successes and failures of the season. There are always so many of both. 
For me, the best part of this season has been our outstanding crew: The flower ladies who work endlessly on the weekends to make things a little more beautiful. The camp crew who greet every family to the farm with openness and warm heart. Our workshare folks who show up each week for 4 hours to harvest, wash and pack produce for the CSA. The field crew who perform a myriad of odd jobs all day, everyday. You all make this place sail smoothly and we love you all for it. 

Blessings on the meal-

John's mighty nice cover crop

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

And The Frost Date Is..... ?

Every year as we approach the end of September and the frost warnings start sounding about on the news, we wonder when it will appear for us. It's always a relief, a sign that things are slowing, a gift of a little moment longer at the kitchen table with coffee and the New York Times. 
But, it doesn't come without some remorse. We are usually dancing around trying to get a few things harvested before the frost and I inevitably have a wedding or event I want some more flowers for and never know exactly if they'll make it.

But, it comes and then the following morning we wake up to crystals covering the plants. The cows greet us in the barn with warm clouds of breath and the big fluffy dog shows a renewed energy, preferring the chilly mornings to the hot days of July. Visitors to the farm in the summer always comment on how mellow the dog is. It's really that she's hot and irritated. Her pep and verve most certainly return when the mornings are regularly in the 40's.

This is the last week for our Flower CSA bouquets. I just want to thank you again from the bottom of my heart for you support of locally grown flowers. We have so enjoyed cutting and making bouquets for you each week and most especially we have loved your smiles as you grab your flowers from the bucket. I hope the memory of color and beauty stays in your heart through the winter. 
We have one more big week of cutting to do next week and are ever anxious about the appearance of the frost.... fingers crossed that it holds off until at least Wednesday. We have 3 weddings and a big party the weekend of September 26th! (this is the sort of thing that keeps a flower farmer up at night)

Thank again for your support.

An invitation to our FLOWER CSA members (membership has its benefits)
As of Monday, September, 29th, (in the event we still have not had a frost) I invite you all to bring your clippers and come by to glean the remaining flowers from the field. Enjoy armloads of gomphrena that will dry for you and make for lovely Christmas tree garland. And make one last big dahlia bouquet to usher you into October. I guarantee that once you get your self out into that field with your clippers and all those flowers, the love for the bloom will most definitely be solidified.
...A gift to our flower loving friends.

And....on to the produce, which I forgot all about mentioning last week....thinking about the flowers too much! My apologies.

This week's harvest includes:
  • lettuce
  • tomato
  • beans
  • pepper
  • eggplant
  • potatoes
  • onions
  • garlic
  • acorn squash
  • Arugula
  • beet greens
  • cilantro
  • daikon radish

And then there's pork.... Living over in the tree line across Hanson Road from the farmstead are 5 lovely swine. There were 6 but we shared him with 200 of our guests at the 3rd Annual Fresh From the Farm Dinner, a Scarborough Land Trust fundraiser. So, of the remaining 5, we'll keep one for our family, leaving 4 to sell. We offer them by the half side. $4/pound based on the hanging weight. We cover the butcher fees. The pigs are butchered to the standard cuts...chops, hams, roasts, bacon, etc and packaged, frozen, in portions for 4. I am expecting the half sides to weigh in around ~150-175 pounds. They may be larger but definitely not smaller. These guys always go fast so if you are interested, its first come first served. They head to the butcher October 25th and the unsmoked meat will be available to pick up at the farm that week. the smoked meat takes another few weeks.

Blessings on the meal-

Monday, September 8, 2014

You Don't Bring Me Flowers, You Hardly Talk To Me Anymore

We did it! We cut and cut and cut and planned and strategized and woke up a few times with anxiety about things unraveling. But, between Thursday and Friday of last week, we installed our first gallery exhibit, Offrendes Florales, and we handed out bundles of free flowers to folks on the streets of Portland.

The whole goal was to spread the word about local flowers, increase awareness about the importance of considering the chain of events that occur when you purchase flowers, whether its locally or from a large retailer that imports flowers from abroad. We had hoped to use the forum of public art as a way to preach our message. What happened was much more fun than that! We made people smile, we surprised them with the gift of flowers, we talked with strangers and saw old friends, and all over the remarkable joy of flowers in hands.

Who knows if it worked.... But, what I do know is that my family and our crew had more fun than you can ever imagine giving flowers away to hundreds of folks who walked past SPACE Gallery on Friday.

When people would walk up they would say they had been seeing others with flowers all over the streets and were wondering where they came from. And they all would remark on the smell of the flowers as they approached our little display. It was heartwarming in the best kind of way. Worth the effort, for sure.

If you have time early this week, take a stroll past SPACE, at 538 Congress ST. The show will come down in a few days when the flowers are toast.

We're already jazzed up and scheming about our next project. Flowers: I can't think of anything I'd rather be working with.

Photo Credits: Amanda Soule Because of course I brought my camera with a dead battery. Thanks friend for sharing :)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Offering Flowers

So....Here's what we've been up to all week, and tomorrow, we offer it to you. Come by and take home a bouquet. Let's spread these flowers out all through town.
SPACE Gallery, 1st Friday, September 5, 2014.

Ofrendas Florales
In a small indigenous community in Ecuador called Saraguro, flower wreaths are made every Sunday on the steps of the church at the center of town. Though Ecuador is one of the leaders in the global export floral market, the home-grown flowers used to make the Saraguran wreaths are made as an offering to the community itself, to simply be enjoyed as an object of beauty and gratitude. Broadturn Farm in Scarborough grows flowers for local markets alongside their organic vegetable plots. Their offering of a flower wreath is made in the same spirit of giving to Portland Maine. They will construct the arrangement on September’s First Friday and it will be on display for as long as the effemeral nature of the flowers allows.

The Flowers
Nature finds its most expressive form in the flower. It's scent, color, form, and it's ephemeral beauty has endeared the flower to humanity, despite its utilitarian shortcomings. Most importantly, the flower inspires an embrace of the natural world; a mysterious part of a living system of beauty for its own sake.
But as humanity's symbol of love and beauty, the flower has a more troubled history. Just as industrial production has transformed all aspects of traditional life, flower growing has left the backyard and the country lane to production in large agricultural settings. On the global scale, it is subject to monoculture, chemical pest control, and intense hybridization. The industry is dominated by few corporations, and characterized by capitalism's incessant search for the lowest labor standards and production costs.
The irony of industrial beauty runs deeper still, in the export markets of South America and Africa. There, communities of farm workers, mostly women, are exposed to pesticides which due to the inedible nature of flowers, are some of the least regulated in agriculture. Farmland is converted to vast plastic greenhouse structures, where water resources are compromised and the landscape becomes less diverse. Global trade of this perishable product employs jet transport at tremendous environmental cost.
Ecuador is one of the global leaders in the flower export industry. In the 1990s the US was waging its War on Drugs, and sought to encourage alternatives to narcotic production throughout Central and South  America. The US flooded Ecuador with technical assistance for the flower industry and implemented tarif-free import policies. Global producers (mainly Dutch corporations) established farms throughout the Andean highlands where the climate is unsurpassed for floriculture. During this time period, the costs to consumers of roses in the United States dropped by a factor of 10. US markets were flooded by South American imports, driving many local farms out of business.
Awareness of the consequences of cheap imported flowers has begun to shift how people perceive flowers. A long stemmed red rose no longer expresses nature, any more than a French fry implies a potato (let alone anything French!) Dyed carnations and spray-painted hydrangea only add insult to the idea that flowers are at their essence a natural expression of beauty.
However, there is a revival happening. In the recent decade local flower growers on very small scales have been able to build sustainable markets. Floral designers have begun to use less conventional material, sourced locally, which recalls a more natural, less manufactured feel. Even modern design aesthetics have become conscious of the variety and possibility of flower material locally grown.

Broadturn Farm in Scarborough has been part of this movement. Stacy Brenner is the lead grower and designer of the farm's design business, Flora Bliss. Her husband, John Bliss manages production (along with another 9 acres of organic vegetables.) Her design crew is lead by Laura Williams of Biddeford and made up of several other talented design artists.  Their focus is on romantic, flowing arrangements and large structural pieces which evoke the natural origins of the farm. Flora Bliss makes a point of incorporating unconventional material, not excluding elements revealing the temporal essence of nature. Just as the Dutch Masters incorporated hunted game, and blemished fruit, as artists our goal is not to conceal, but to reveal a more full impression of our world.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Well Hello There September

One of our CSA members share this with us and we were over the moon about this campaign and its success.

So, we've decided to offer you all some inglorious vegetables this week. We have the last flush of cucumbers that taste delicious but are a little less than gorgeous. In addition, the red potatoes have not fared well and have some blemishes. They are both still edible and totally delicious. They will both be making an appearance this week on the extras table in the share room. They are both offered as supplements to the regular share.

In addition, its probably helpful for you all to know that when we have leftover produce, if it is glorious, we offer it for sale in our farmstand or to our wholesale customers. Every Monday, the Biddeford Food Pantry comes by to pick up whatever we were unable to sell either because of its inglorious nature or just an overabundance. The final resting place for produce that is neither appropriate for the CSA, sellable or donatable is our well fed pigs. Rest assured, we do our best to make sure nothing gets wasted here.

This week's share:

  • tomato
  • beans
  • carrots
  • onion
  • garlic
  • ground cherry
  • pepper
  • dill
  • spinach
  • eggplant
  • lettuce
  • turnip
  • potato
Ground cherries are lovely little husk cherries that are related to tomatillos and tomatoes. My nephew thinks of them as candy. They taste sweet, make a great snack raw and also produce a delicious sauce for duck or chicken when cooked or roasted. Enjoy!

This week's beans are a farm favorite: Dragon's Lingerie Heirloom snap beans. We all love them raw and cooked. If I ever have a band, it will surely be named Dragon's Lingerie. These beans can be used interchangeably with green beans.

This Friday, we have our capital A art debut with an installation for First Friday in the SPACE Gallery window. We will be transforming the window into a floral explosion, showcasing the way local flowers can draw a community together around ephemeral beauty. It's our way of saying thanks to our community with an offering of flowers. Come see us in action, grab a few stems for your hair, your desk, your lapel, and your lover when you are passing by and let's fill Portland with little moments of Broadturn Farm goodness.