News! News! Market Credit/Shares Now Available!

InstagramcarrotsThis just in.

Local folks!  Growing Wild Farm is now offering market credit/shares.  This is a wonderful option for those of our shoppers who prefer picking and choosing what vegetables from the harvest they would like to take home each week, but who have also wanted to become more a part of our farm family.  A CSA is not for everyone, and this we can appreciate, so this year, we are offering a market share option.

Paid in $90 increments, market members will receive a $100 credit at our farmer’s market booth.  Then with ease and without worrying about how much cash to bring each week, you can just swing by and grab what catches your fancy.  We will subtract it from your credit until it is used up.  Then, you can pay again.  We, in return each week, will harvest a lovely selection of what is ripe and ready from the fields, with lots of our standard favorites~salad mix, beets, kale, chard, onions~plus loads of summertime goodies~summer squash, cucumbers, and tomatoes.  We will also send out our popular and helpful weekly newsletter to each of you.  Part cooking ideas, part farm philosophy, you will get a big hug of farm love to your inbox with fun, interesting, sweet, and new recipes both for your kitchen and for living.

And all of our farm family is invited out to share in the summer-loving potluck evenings we host once or twice out on the farm each season.  Consider joining us in the adventures and flavors of our 2013 farm season.  Come by the market booth and sign up today!

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balancing acts: purple cauliflower

purple, purpleThere are a few themes I have running in my head like a mantra for this year.  Balance was the one I was sure most important.  It was the word I kept writing on the tops of my to do list.  That, and “today is the only day”, which is a constantly good reminder.

But the truth is that balance is a finicky goal when you are a homeschooling mother of four.  I keep wanting to balance some self-care, self-soothing, self-loving time in with the call of other’s needs and the beating rhythm of the farm, but I just can’t trump those others’ needs with my own, it doesn’t work for me.  And I seem wildly inept at creating time.  Sometimes, there just isn’t enough of it and I know that some day my “today is the only day” will look a lot less peopled than my today’s, so I let go of wanting more than it seems I can do while my main occupation and preoccupation is being here for smaller folks.

That kind of balance is hard to find when I look at how the scales are tipped at present, and I want to have peace with that as easily as I did when I probably had more peace in general–a few spirits ago and only a dream of a farm in hand.

so much purpleThe balance that is coming in to focus this year is the structure of our farm business.  We have been a CSA driven business since we set up shop out here, and we always thought this was the best way for us to farm.  We love the deeper connection we tend to get with our CSA customers, the sureness of their harvests over the more changing nature of the markets, and it just was always our driving intention.  We had read so much about it before we actually started to farm, our book knowledge left us settled with a plan before we’d begun at all.

As can be the case with just about anything you learn from a book, but so much so with farming, until you are on your land and doing your thing, you don’t really have all the information you need.  And as great of a model as the CSA model is, for our farm and its particulars–size, labor force, capital, etc–it meant that our own little (big) family was always last on the receiving end of all the really great food we grew.  Having community members invested in our farm for the whole year and having them be the main supporters of our farm meant that we prioritized their experience, always.

This is, of course, a good thing and is what we should be doing for them.  And we were always happy to do it.  But, as with the shoemaker’s children running barefoot round town, at times it was really hard for us to not taste any of a particularly wonderful crop, or to end up (graciously) eating food from other farms instead of our own.  To say it like that makes it sound a bit crazy, even though it wasn’t.  It was, however, not really sustainable for a sustainably driven operation, right?

And so, this year we significantly downsized our CSA.  We even downsized our markets to one summer-only market.  We hope that by restructuring it all, with our family prioritized, we will actually better serve everyone.  The word that has now materialized like a sweet song in my mind for this year is this~abundance.  A beautiful word.  A positive word.

Not that balance isn’t, but for me, it was always sounded with a sense of lacking and guilt.

Our smaller CSA will have a pretty sweet year since we will never be stretched at harvest.  We can provide for them even more abundantly.  Our market customers will be greeted with abundance each week too, since most of the harvest won’t be under the table set aside for the CSA.  And our family will experience the glorious state of abundance as well, which is after all, truly one of the best blessings of growing your own food.  It fills you up in many, many ways. If you have ever done it, you know that feeling.

And so, already in March, my kitchen is up to its ears in purple.  Cauliflowers!  A crop that was usually so important for market at this time of year that I could only drool over it while it made its way into our dear customers hands.  And already, I am getting out the vinegar and the canning jars (fermented cauliflower was decidedly unsavory in our opinion), preserving the abundance.  This, I love.

And although all we do out here on this farm stems from our love for it, to deepen this, straighten it out a bit, and get it just a little bit more right, is always good.  Change is a constant for us–today really is the only day–so we won’t say things are settled, we know better than that.  But I can tell that for this year, or this today at least, things are looking so good.   Balanced, even, a bit more.

pretty pickled purple

A heart full, thanks giving.

This year for Thanksgiving we mapped our hearts, calling forth the things, big and small, we are filled with gratitude for.  As you can see, the six year old girl in our house had plenty of things she wanted to list, all good things too, I think.  Who isn’t thankful for fairies, rainbows, and butterflies?  Fun, family, and friends?  My own heart was divided in much the same way as it is every year.  The pillars, the foundation, the same.  Those things I have vested most of my energy in are the very things that support me so well.

In fact, besides the annual love letter to our CSA members which will follow, in looking back at my other Thanksgiving posts (2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 three times) I could see that the trend holds true.  The things I am thankful for only grow more deeply important to me each year,  more deeply sustaining.  The small parts might change some, but not even they do always.  Delicata squash and arugula are still the two veggies that made the list, so seasonally delicious at this time of year, I can’t help myself.

The things that have subtly changed this year are those growing children I live with, a year more into being who they are, a new age and stage for each of them.  This year, it is the strong love of an eleven year old boy that I am especially blessed with, the goofiness now gracing our house more often than not from the eight year old boy , who also happens to give the best snuggles.  The fierce opinions of a six year old girl challenging me to continue to make room for all the peoples of this home, thankfully accompanied by some fierce love and a big, big heart, not to mention stellar storytelling skills and a beautiful imagination.  And there is the wonder of seeing the world through the two year old’s eyes, the joy of slowing way, way down and just being present with him.  Love.

Of course, the farmer is my never ending source of inspiration.  I am eternally inspired by his gentle, caring nature, and thankful, always, for his never ending ability to make me laugh.  And to make others laugh too.  I am thankful for how genuine and lighthearted he can be.

Sweet and good friends, the wood stove, all the children I know, new babies, gardens and canning jars, books, writing, music, sunshine and rain,  all of it, everything.  I am in love with life beyond measure.  I can’t help but be thankful for it all.

But it is important, like always, for me to say that I am truly, honestly, more than can really be conveyed, beyond words thankful for the support of our community for our farm and most significantly, the support of our farm members and the thanks they keep giving us.  This was the first year where I feel like our faith was really tested.  To be frank, there were times in the year we were imagining all kinds of different scenarios for next year, the first time we ever felt like we might eventually lose faith in farming itself if we didn’t change something.  Maybe no farmer’s markets, maybe no CSA. We just weren’t sure it was working.  We have calmed down a lot, and although we do know that we have to structure the farm according to its own unique characteristics, the one thing we were sure of in the end was that the CSA was the best part of our operation.

And that was because of all of your thanksgiving to us.  The love, joy, happiness, and yumminess you let us know our farm and food gave you.  We realized, like always, that we are eternally grateful to have all of you in our lives.  This mutually beneficial set up is really working.  We are so, so thankful for the CSA model, our CSA members, and the immeasurable rewards we all reap from this one little (or big) part of our lives.

Some things never change.  The cornerstone for a thankful life is knowing those things that really matter, that really make the difference.  Knowing them, being grateful for them, nourishing them so they keep on nourishing you.  With that equation, a heart should be full and strong and ready enough to forge ahead through another year, able to take the good and bad that may come along in that course, without too much cracking as a result.  The territories mapped out just enough to be sure of, with just enough open for the new things, big and small, that might need a spot too.  That is where my heart stands.

Happy Thanksgiving 2012! 

Working together

I snapped these picture months ago.  It was during some of the first nice weather of the spring and I was sitting on the porch watching these kids build this fort, marveling at how well they were working together.  They don’t always; they have to negotiate a lot and at a young age, that isn’t the easiest thing to do.  Still, they did so well on this project, no one getting upset, no one becoming bossy, no one feeling left out, the baby was even playing along.  I was tickled.   And the fort stood at the end, the product affirming the work they did.

That day I started thinking about this post, about what it is like working together on the farm, about what I thought this year might look like in regards to the laboring on the farm.  We knew that on one hand, with a tractor in play, the farmer would be able to increase the space he was growing on while still saving time that could then be used to keep up with growing more food on more space.  But ground prep is just one small part of the growing of food and everything else, from planting seeds and transplanting plants to weeding to harvesting and washing and bundling…this is all work still done by hand.  It takes quite a few man hours to do this.

When we first moved to the farm and thought about starting our farm business, we made our business plan and set our goals with the thought that we would have two mostly full time farm workers, the farmer and I.  I’m not sure why we thought this since I had been a stay at home mom for the prior five years working a handful of part time jobs here and there, but nothing too intense and always while the farmer was home with the small fries.  We had this idea that we would all be here, all together, working and playing and schooling.  Picture perfect.

But the reality is, of course, that with children and a home to care for–that first year a one year old, a three year old, and a six year old–this mama did not a full time field worker make.  We adjusted our plans accordingly, and since then, the farmer has done it all for the most part.  I have always worked behind the scenes and helped at the markets, but the work I have been able to do in the field and even on harvest days is paced by the children at my side.  Some years, at various stages, each of them have been good transplant helpers, great potato planters, pretty helpful harvesters, and generally good playmates.   This year–although the oldest boy has long since stopped waking early to pick rainbow chard on Wednesday mornings because he loves the colors of the stalks, and the middle boy who loves to work by his father has only begged over and over again to learn how to drive the tractor (because he loves machines that one), and the little girl who used to sing, “grow, plants, grow” as a blessing for me each time I nestled a transplant into the ground with her help has moved on–the baby (who I’m not sure I can call that anymore since he is almost two) is so darn independent with these three older siblings to learn from and play with that I have, more than ever, been able to work and help in the fields.

Which is good, because as we try to expand from the one man acre and half operation we are to hopefully a  4-5 acre  one, we can see the limitations the farmer has doing it all by himself.  We are still not at full production, but we are realizing that what we want to do will take two workers but will only be  the size we need to be at just to support ourselves, not at the point to have any employees.  We’re not sure how we will work all that out, but for now the kids and I dance our way through the days and weeks trying to balance our time on the farm working with our time playing and doing special kid stuff and getting in those important summer treats.  Then, if I am lucky, the dishes get done at the end of the day too.

But oh!  We do love working together!  The farmer is fond of watching me in the field and I am fond of the feeling of physical labor.  I know that in order to balance this with my love of time with my kids, we are going to have to rely on help.  This week we had a friend come over and play with the kids for the morning; next week we may have a friend come over to help finish planting some things we wanted in the ground yesterday.  I know that other farms get this kind of help and utilize volunteers and friends to make things happen, but it has been hard for us to accept and/or ask for this.  Although part of this farming gig is the building of community, we are also very private, quiet people who get along best with each other.  Lately, I guess we have come to realize that our definition of “working together” will have to expand in order to make it all work.   I suppose that is part of the original “community supported agriculture” movement in the first place, not just fiscal support but usually help on the farm, support and connection on an even greater level.  Friends, grandma and grandpa, community members, me and the kids–hopefully with a little bit of help from all these extra hands, the farmer will be able to do it all!  Just like in so many of the folk tales we tell to our children–sometimes even the smallest bit of help can make a world of difference.

Simple Pleasures

It probably isn’t a good idea to star the mushroom in this weeks CSA newsletter-blog post since there weren’t enough for everyone today; but when you are walking out of your front door to harvest shiitake mushrooms your husband “grew” to bring inside and saute with the spring green garlic–or perhaps with the fleetingly appearing garlic scapes–to start your meals, then it is hard not to stop and snap a picture and get a little excited.

Growing our own mushrooms has been a bit of a trial and error deal, but we have started getting some every year now, so that is definitely a step in the right direction.

And of course, it is really nice to gorge on all the funky or slug bitten ones ourselves.  It is a lot of fun and the whole thing is so different from growing vegetables.  The flavor, too, is a special and wonderful thing.  I have never–not even when I have bought mushrooms from local producers–tasted mushrooms like these, eating them right after plucking them off the oak logs they were grown on (except of course when doing the same with mushrooms in the wild).

All of that is part of the beauty of choosing small and local.  A farm member remarked today that she barely ate any salads through the winter when CSA harvests were off, the flavor of the farm’s salad mix lingering in her memory with nothing available at the store quite the same.  I know what she means–it is hard to find produce that comes close to what you are going to receive from your CSA or find at your local farmer’s market–or better yet, grow yourself.  Even market shops that hope to include truly local produce in their selections have a hard time finding farmers who want to go that route.  Although there have been a handful of times when we have sold extra produce to our local market, this is definitely our last stop.  We prefer selling things directly to the eater, it is much better for us and a lot funner for them.

As I found myself mentioning to anyone looking curiously at our green garlic on the farmer’s market table these last few weeks:  there are foods that are “farmer’s market only”  kinds of things.  In general, anyways.  I don’t make it to the city often, so I don’t know what markets offer there; but for the most part, green garlic is a spring treat you are only going to see at your local farmer’s market or in your CSA harvest.

And there’s a lot to say for that.  As simple and humble as what we offer is, it is as equally gourmet and foodtastic and unique and special.  The amazing flavors of things as mundane as lettuce and the offerings as special as ultra fresh mushrooms and spring pulled garlic are a small bit of what makes this adventure–for all of us–pretty awesome.

What I love about this the most is that these are all simple, tiny pleasures we bring to the table, but they really do add such an inordinate amount of depth and beauty to our lives.  Food is the most basic of human needs and human pleasures.  For very little and with very little effort, we can magnify the delight and joy of “eating” a hundred fold.

Another farmer that we know–probably not the first to do so–turned the old phrase “dirt poor” on its head when he was being interviewed about his life as a farmer by claiming that yes, he was poor, but not dirt poor…he was dirt rich.  It is true, there are things a farmer is rich in beyond measure.  We, alas, would also probably be classified as the stereotypical poor farmers because even though this model of farming can be quite lucrative, we have many extenuating factors that keep our bottom line lower than we would like.  Still, besides being rich in land, we are also exceedingly rich in food!  Those mushrooms!  So good.  All our meals, really.  We can’t even go out to eat except for at a few special places because with the ingredients we have access to, we are eating like kings at every meal, even if we aren’t living like them.

But really, that all depends on how you define living like kings…because I think that we are.  And I hope all of our farm members and market customers are enjoying their food this much too.  I hope that these humble vegetables and our weekly interactions around them ultimately result in happy tongues and full and fulfilled bellies.   I hope that for all of us, our meals bring us the most simple of pleasures.