CSA Spring CSA Week4B Newsletter

Some days in Spring are especially busy for the farm and today was one of them. Crazy busy. 

There were melons to plant, tomatoes to trellis, slicing onions to dry. There were weeds to pull (nothing new about that.) And then, of course, the harvesting for this week’s share, which is a nice balance of the last of the winter crops and the first of the summer crops.

And then there were the kids. One hundred and two, to be exact. And I”m not talking baby goats. No, these were well-behaved, exuberant third graders from Elgin ISD who arrived at nine this morning for a field trip.

Erin is constantly hosting field trips at the city farm and most of them she can manage alone or with the help of Carolyn and one or two other farm educators. But today was different. Even before the dew had dried, three yellow buses pulled up to the barn and enough kids spilled out to encircle the entire barnyard several times.

Erin is our general and soon all seven of us foot soldiers for good food  are at our stations, ready to spend the next two hours giving these kids a real farm experience. For the farmer, who so often spends hours alone in the field, it is exciting and exhausting at the same time — all these questions thrown at you, ones you haven’t thought about in years. 

Some you can answer without thinking: what is organic, where does a potato come from, how old is Spot (our 800-pound boar)?  

And then come the one’s that give you pause. What is that pink thing on the back of Spot?  Why does the rabbit have red eyes. How do the goats make babies.? How do vegetables get their names? Do worms eat plastic?

 Humor goes a long way on days like this. And sometimes the kids run with our games. Our daughter Alex was in charge of the chicken and rabbit station. Pointing at the round rabbit droppings beneath the cage, she explain that we don’t call it poop. “

“We call it bunny berries,” she explained.

“Oh,” asks one astute third grader. “Can we eat them?”

“Yeah,” another chimes in. “It looks like Coco Puffs.”

Ah, life on the farm. Never a dull moment.

-Farmer Skip

Join us for Yoga at the Farm

Need to unwind from the week on our beautiful farm? Join us for Yoga the Farm on April 22nd, from 12-1pm. All levels are welcome and encouraged to come, our instructor can accomodate all levels of experience. Cost for yoga is $10 and please bring your own mat, but we will have extras. Come find your breath in a community-building, all-levels yoga practice…and then swing by our bountiful farm stand (organic veggies, herbs, eggs, pastured meats)!

Sign up here.

HMI Presents: Open Gate at Green Gate Farms

Join us April 29, 9am-4pm  for the Green Gate Farms Day, part of HMI’s Open Gate Learning Series. Open Gates are peer-to-peer action-based learning days with short presentations and small group exercises geared for participants to share discoveries and management techniques with guidance from experienced facilitators and producers.

Since 1984, HMI has helped communities grow and thrive by educating family farmers and ranchers and pastoralists in regenerative agricultural practices that empower them to strengthen their businesses, produce healthier food, improve local wildlife habitats and protect the environment. Their mission is to educate people in regenerative agriculture for healthy land and thriving communities.

Presenters include Peggy Sechrist from Holistic Management, Skip Connett & Erin Flynn, Green Gate Farm Owners, Ronda Rutledge the Executive Director of Sustainable Food Center • Robert Maggiani from NCAT (National Center for Appropriate Technology), and Edwin Marty, a Food Policy Manager for the City of Austin.

In addition to Erin & Skip’s story and tour of the farm, there will be a wonderful in-depth discussion about the benefits and challenges of neighborhood farms. The lunch will be lovingly made by Andria Millie from Culvito Catering from pork and vegetables grown at Green Gate Farm.

Click here for more information and to sign up.
Scholarship opportunities are available.

CSA Spring Week2B Newsletter

For years Erin has challenged me to try no-till farming, at least as an experiment on a couple of our fields. This year, after meeting an intense, passionate farmer from Arkansas named Patrice Gros, I decided to give it a try.

The Frenchman’s detailed sharing of his 10-year experiment provided the recipe, which requires four main ingredients, two of which were available on the farm this year — massive amounts of leaves and wood chips, and a five-species cover crop I planted in the fall.

The one ingredient that makes it unsustainable right now was having to purchase compost. Lots of compost. The initial bed-making requires literally tons of organic matter and the combination of leaves, compost and mulch are the secret to keeping weeds down while also building up the critical microbial habitat that can break down all that organic matter you heap onto these raised beds.

The fourth — and most critical — ingredient is lots of hands. As in hard labor. There is no way to skimp on this requirement — making the beds, weeding, and then pulling back all the decayed vegetative material to the shoulders when you get ready to plant the next season.  

Fortunately we have had lots of volunteer help this season. I won’t even try to estimate the number of wheel barrels that were filled and emptied for just one-quarter acre.

Another incentive for going no till this year was the fact that our old Shubaru tractor had stopped running; it, too, was tired of tilling up the ground each year.

Farming no-till organically on larger plots requires special equipment and ideal conditions. But for small plots on farms that have lots of volunteer hands, this style of no-till seems is about as sustainable as it comes. But it also requires a long-term commitment. Gros has been doing no-till for 10 years now and only recently has he felt like he has created the perfect system. His organic matter during that time has increased from 1 percent to more than 8%, which is about three time what we have in our fields right now.

Last week’s pac choy is the first crop to come from these no-till beds. The mediocre results were not unexpected. The leaves and cover crop underneath the thick layer of compost did not have enough time to break down and allow the roots to penetrate into the soil below.  The plants were fairly stunted and it didn’t help that our record warm spring forced the plants to bolt several weeks early. Next season will undoubtably be more fruitful.

Like a kitchen table after a hastily prepared meal, these fields are messy, with cover crop still growing in the crooked isles and uneven rows that were laid down without the benefit of string. And as with any undercooked meal, the farmer is still chewing on what he has wrought and whether this last-minute experiment is going to take off and become the apple of his eye.

Either way, the farmer feels good that he is pushing the envelope and wishes he had listened to his wife a long time ago.

-Farmer Skip

Click here for this week’s Newsletter in full.

One Pot Kale & Quinoa Pilaf

Serves 2-4

  • 2cups salted water
  • 1cup quinoa
  • 1bunch lacinato kale, washed and chopped into 1″ lengths
  • 1meyer lemon, zested and juiced
  • 2scallions, minced
  • 1tablespoon toasted walnut oil
  • 3tablespoons toasted pine nuts
  • 1/4cup crumbled goat cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Bring the water to a boil in a covered pot. Add the quinoa, cover, and lower the heat until it is just enough to maintain a simmer. Let simmer for 10 minutes, then top with the kale and re-cover. Simmer another 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and allow to steam for 5 more minutes.
  2. While the quinoa is cooking, take a large serving bowl and combine half of the lemon juice (reserving the other half), all of the lemon zest, scallions, walnut oil (you can substitute olive oil if you desire), pine nuts, and goat cheese.
  3. Check the quinoa and kale when the cooking time has completed — the water should have absorbed, and the quinoa will be tender but firm, and the kale tender and bright green. If the quinoa still has a hard white center, you can steam a bit longer (adding more water if needed). When the quinoa and kale are done, fluff the pilaf, and tip it into the waiting bowl with the remaining ingredients. As the hot quinoa hits the scallions and lemon it should smell lovely. Toss to combine, seasoning with salt and pepper, and the remaining lemon juice if needed.

CSA Spring Week1A Newsletter

Welcome to the first week of the Spring/Summer CSA season. And what a great start to your culinary commitment to local organic food and small family farms. Warm weather. Nice rains. And hard-working farmers. Those are key ingredients to a bountiful harvest
and this week is a taste of delicious things to come.

I was going to delete the “Spring” part but I’m still hoping that this summer-like weather is not here for good. Last night’s storm dumped more than two inches to our river farm; the front also dropped temperatures by 10 degrees, but we are expecting highs in the 80s for the rest of the week. 

Spring. Ephemeral Spring. Where art thou?

As you may already know, Austin recorded its warmest meteorological winter (December, January, February). March will surely follow suit.  Who would guess that one of the most severe freezes we’ve had in years also arrived this winter and cut our winter season short. (Thank you, winter share members for hanging with us and returning this season!)

The good news is that we have seen an explosion in growth for the past month. Our tomato plants in the hoop house are already fruiting and we planted them only a month ago!  Cucumbers are flowering! And summer squash is only a few weeks away!

The downside to this unseasonable warmth is that the lettuce in this week’s share is on the verge of going bitter while the pac choy has started bolting. These are problems a farmer would anticipate in late April and plan/plant accordingly. Today, with climate change upon us, “accordingly” is begging for a new and revised Farmers Almanac.

Next week you can anticipate some beautiful romaine lettuce, green garlic, purple mustard greens, radishes, chard, and more. I’ll also share the results of our new venture into no-till farming and why new farming techniques are critical for a more sustainable agriculture.

-Farmer Skip

Click here for this week’s Newsletter in full.