Pumpkin bread recipe

This is the winter squash equivalent of zucchini bread: easy and delicious. The year we were married was a great year for winter squash. They served as decorations and we served them in wedding cake, baked according to this recipe and dressed up with cream cheese frosting. This recipe is kind of heavy on white flour and sugar and somewhat sparse on farm ingredients (only eggs & squash, and occasionally yogurt if I substitute it for a part of the oil). However, it is yummy, so we’re going to provide the recipe as baked for that special day.

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CSA share #1 & January newsletter

Weather permitting, the first CSA share of 2013 will be distributed Monday January 7th and Thursday January 10th.This will be a good trial run of the initial delivery routes, while functioning as an early-signing bonus for members who join up in time. We’ll be accepting members throughout spring until we fill up; the next share will probably happen in April. If you’re considering joining or rejoining the CSA, this would be a great time to do so. Continue reading

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Early winter farm to-do list

We’re often asked what we do in the winter when we’re not actively growing vegetables. The answer, is A LOT. This kind of diversified farm has seasonal work throughout the year, both to keep our own household fed & functional and to support the vegetable growing season. Here’s a wordy but far-from-complete brain dump of what we’ve been working on lately and will continue to work on through at least January; these are presented in no particular order. Continue reading

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Organic certification costs – Harvest Public Media radio story

Recently a reporter from Harvest Public Media visited our farm to talk about the costs & benefits of organic certification; a well-timed story given concerns over the effect of a stalled Farm Bill on the cost of certification, and the overall conversation we have every year about whether to re-certify. This is a very complicated topic that encompasses everything from giant international mega-farms to tiny local family operations, across a wide range of geographic and climatic settings, producing pretty much every kind of food one can think of, and in various regulatory environments. We thought the story came out quite well overall, and encourage readers to listen to/read it here.

There is one significant clarification we’d like to make, however: the quote from Sue Baird saying “USDA stats said an organic farm nets $20,000 more than the same size conventional farm” is a broad oversimplification and quite misleading in the context of the story; it may be accurate for large grain farms or other high-gross operations, but not for the kind of small, direct-market farms otherwise described in the piece. We didn’t appreciate the implication (though unintended by the reporter) that a $700 certification cost results in $20,000 of additional profit. That’s not even remotely the case. Also, just to clarify for our CSA members, the lettuce being fed to the animals was freeze-damaged or otherwise seconds-quality; you’re not being stiffed!

Bird list & natural events, November 2012

Like September and October before it, November continued our long, drawn-out, stable autumn. Like much of 2012, it was generally warm (a few degrees above average) and dry (about 30% of average rainfall as recorded by the Columbia weather station). In fact, it’s been so dry that (like summer 2012) we’ve been having the desert-air effect in which days become quite warm but nights cool off rapidly, producing a multitude of hard overnight freezes on days we could work in T-shirts. This has been a problem for some fall/overwintering crops, from which we’ve had to remove all irrigation lines due to the freezes, but which are likely drought-stressed and thus under-performing (like spinach). In addition, our fields of winter cover crops have barely grown since germination. We are definitely concerned about a repeat of winter 2011/2012, which was warm & dry and got us off to such an early start to the season with a variety of problematic consequences. Regardless, it’s  been a pleasant month with a fair amount of wildlife observation due to hunting season. Read on for some photos (including a very interesting new species for the farm) and bird list. Continue reading

Pit-roasting a goat: Our elaboration on the Rick Bayless method

Rick Bayless describes pit-roasting a lamb in authentic Mexican style in his cookbook, “Fiesta at Rick’s” (an online variant of the recipe for a pig is here). He laments that few people will ever try it, but that was just a challenge for our food-obsessed small farm that raises both goats and vegetables. We decided to adapt his method, using one of our goat kids (even more authentic), as the menu centerpiece of an end-of-season party (full menu here) for our farm’s 2012 CSA members. We’ve done a spit-roasted goat before, but the whole pit-roasting method seemed even more interesting. We followed his directions fairly closely, but found that some parts could use more clarification or elaboration. Here are our notes on what we did, what we will do differently next time, and what we wish we had had more information about before starting out.

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Assessing the 2012 CSA, Part III: decisions for 2013

After reviewing what we did in 2012, and what members thought of it, we’ve made our decisions on how to proceed with the CSA for 2013. In short, main features will stay the same, we’re adding a delivery fee, expanding the membership, and doing a better job defining the production/distribution season. Read on for more analysis and details of next year’s program, including how to sign up. Continue reading

CSA distribution #31: end-of-season Thanksgiving share

It seems quite fitting that our final share of the 2012 CSA season will help members celebrate the most important holiday in our lives as farmers. We celebrate Thanksgiving as a true time of reflection of the past year’s work, pleasure, and pain on the farm and hope the presence of our produce on your own table will help add meaning and enjoyment to the holiday. We thank all our members for investing in our first season, and hope to build on this experience in coming years. See below for information on next year’s program, and the upcoming Thanksgiving share. NOTE: All distributions will happen on Monday, 11/19.  Continue reading

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Organic cost-share, the Farm Bill, and us

Among the hoopla and uproar over the still-delayed Farm Bill is one situation that has important implications for our farm. As a general rule we’re not directly sensitive to Farm Bill contents, as we don’t take government handouts, grants, subsidies or other funding as a matter of personal principle (though the Farm Bill has all sorts of implications for our competition, both locally and nationally). Our stubborn independence comes with one exception, though: the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program (NOCCSP). Here’s why we reluctantly take this money, how it reflects the deeper problems in agricultural policy, and what will happen if the current Farm Bill doesn’t pass soon or loses this provision. Continue reading

How marijuana legalization could influence local foods

The recent successful ballot initiatives legalizing recreational marijuana use in Washington and Colorado have interesting, but overlooked, implications for small-scale agriculture and local foods. This attempt by states to circumvent a Federal law seen as unnecessarily restrictive on personal freedom of choice parallels other attempts to increase freedoms for small farmers to process and sell farm products independent of government interference. In both cases, over-regulation suppresses an in-demand consumer product and thus creates a real and potential black market for those products while blocking law-abiding entrepreneurs. It will be very interesting to see whether the attempt to allow more freedom to purchase recreational drugs will influence consumers’ legal ability to purchase fresh food from farmers of their choosing. What will it take to change the FDA’s position that Americans “do not have a fundamental right to obtain any food they wish.”? Continue reading