Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Cover Crops!


Thad Picking Cover Crops
Field of Cover Crops 2014
If you just take crops from the ground, year after year, it will not take long until the ground stops giving you good crops. Someone once told me that good farmers feed the soil and let the soil feed the crops.  As soon as you are feeding crops directly, you have a problem. I have found that to be true. Planting crops into soil that has the resources it needs to care for the crops is the best way to farm.

Cover Crops
 Field of Cover Crops 2011

This may sound simple, but it can be complicated to understand and even more difficult to implement. When farming organically, there are some organic fertilizers that you can apply like feather meal, composts and seaweed extracts. These items are primarily used to add nitrogen to the soil that plants can use. They work okay, but are expensive and often have negative side effects that reduce the quality of a soil (salts in feather meal, non-compostable trash like broken glass in compost).


Cover Crops 1

These tools have their place when you are trying to give a little extra bump to a crop, but they are not tools that can be relied upon to care for soil and plants. The only way I have found to take long term care of soils is to grow cover crops, as often as possible. On our farm, we make a point to budget the expenses to grow one cover crop with each crop.

Thad Sharing Cover Crops
Thad Shows Off Our Cover Crop Mix of Grasses and Legumes

Cover crops are typically mixes of grasses and legumes. The exact mix depends on your location and the time of year. Right now our farm is using a mix of 80% Iron and Clay Peas and 20% Buckwheat. This is a mix that grows well in the summer heat. The peas have some nitrogen-fixing roots that take nitrogen gas out of the air and turn it into mineralized nitrogen that will decompose over time and turn into nitrates and nitrites that future crops will eat up.

Tomato Seedling
A Tomato Seedling Benefits from Last Season's Cover Crop

The green matter from both peas and the wheat will add valuable organic matter to our soil (we try to keep the organic matter level of our soils over 1%, which is easier said than done). This provides amazing benefits to the soil structure, enabling roots and water to easily travel through it. It also provides food for soil microbes to eat, digest and secrete valuable food for our plants.

All of these benefits are obtained by nothing but the local resources of land, water and seeds — they are without a doubt the most sustainable way to maintain healthy soil. Cover crops should be the cornerstone of every farm’s fertilization program. Unfortunately, they are not — but they are the cornerstone of your farm’s fertilization program!

Friday, April 25, 2014

A Carrot Story & Contest

In this week's Farm News, I mentioned a little something about a carrot contest. After you root around our carrot story and enjoy a few photos from our fields, leave us a comment or two with your creative carrot name or story! If you have one of the best comments, there just may be some "carrots" in it for ya!


Carrots - Really Good Ones!
FARM NEWS April 28 - May 2nd, 2014

Thad Showing Carrots Growing
Sneak Peak of our Carrots Growing
The sweet smell of carrots fills the air surrounding the field that we have broken open for the carrot harvest. Beautiful, sweet, crunchy and tender carrots are organized on the bed in two lines, each with their roots pointing toward the center of the row. Their green tops hang down into the furrow. The group of people who have plucked the carrots from the soil work quickly, keeping up with the tractor that is running a blade below the roots of the carrots to loosen the soil.

Carrots
Carrots in my hand on the left are almost ready for harvest.
Carrots in my hand on the right still have a ways to go.
A second crew bunches the carrots, shaking off as much of the residual loam soil that still clings to the root before banding a bunch together with a twist tie and putting them into a reusable plastic container that is destined for the packing house where the last of the soil will be washed from the gems.

The team treats the carrots with great care. These carrots are SUPER SWEET because they have lots of natural sugars in them, which also make them delicate and prone to easily snapping in two.

Big Carrots, Little Carrots
Carrots Just Starting To Grow
The key to amazing carrots is simple – the variety. Most carrots grown are selected to grow large, straight, last a long time and to not break during the harvest, packing and transportation process – ever notice how bendy some carrots are? The oversight in this process is that characteristics like taste and texture are ignored.

We grow a variety called Nantes, named from the place in France where humans first bred really good-tasting carrots. The seed is the secret to our amazing carrots, but seeds need to be put into the right circumstances to thrive.

Thad Holding Carrot Seeds
Carrot Seeds

We work our carrot soil deep, taking care to ensure that the carrot root can easily make its way eight plus inches into the soil. Beds are made perfectly smooth and a special seeder is used to precisely seed each bed with six lines of seeds, separated by 3/4 of an inch down each line. The result is a plant population of nearly one million carrots per acre!

Sprinkler and Carrot Crop

These little seeds are irrigated with overhead sprinklers on a schedule that is customized to the stage of the carrots growth. Carrots are slow to germinate, taking almost two weeks to get out of the ground. We take lots of care to ensure that we have grown and removed as many weeds as possible before the carrots are planted, and the weed seeds that do germinate are pulled out by hand. Once the carrots get established, their tops easily cover the bed, absorbing the beautiful sunshine and delivering it to the roots.

Our Farm Fresh Carrots
Freshly Picked Farm Fresh To You Carrots
The last step in the process is to wash the carrots and to place a band around the carrots themselves to minimize the jostling that can shatter the precious roots. I know that I often find a tip of a carrot in the bottom of my Farm Fresh To You box and have no problems eating it before the rest of my family can get to it! Over the years, I’ve heard some great stories and names for our carrots. I know some of you ration them out, one per family member, not forgetting the dog. Others have called them "Candy Carrots."

Thad and Lola
Lola Helps Me Show Off Our Carrot Seeds

Carrot Contest!

Enter our carrot contest by leaving your creative carrot comments on this blog post below. Enter as many times as you'd like before Friday, May 9th, at 8:00 p.m.


I've shared our carrot story - what's yours?
Can you come up with a good name for our carrots?  


On Monday, May 12th, we'll pick the 3 best carrot comments and announce the winners here on our blog post and by responding to the email included with your comment. 

Winners will receive a credit to their Farm Fresh To You account. 
1st Place: $31.50 - 2nd Place: $20.00 - 3rd Place: 15.00. 
Thanks for playing along and good luck!


No purchase required to enter giveaway. No limit on the number of entries. Entries will close on Friday, May 9th at noon. Three total winners, (1) $31.50, (1) $20.00 and (1) $15.00 winner will be chosen by merit of comment and announced on Monday, May 12, 2014 on this blog post and via email included with winning comment. Email addresses shared in the comment will not be displayed publicly and will not be used for any purpose other than to notify the winner. 

*Prizes are not redeemable for cash and can only be redeemed for use on Farm Fresh To You deliveries. Contest is open to Farm Fresh To You members and California residents who are eligible to receive a Farm Fresh To You delivery by being over the age of 18 and by living in our delivery area. Check our Delivery Areas here. 

Thank you for all the wonderful stories and name suggestions.  
We are so impressed and flattered!

Congratulations to all our winners!

1st Place: Rhea who said: Nantes Your Average Carrot. 

2nd Place: Liz who said: When we moved into our home 16 years ago, we quickly discovered that our next door neighbor was not just a gardener, but a farmer. He was a retired railroad engineer who grew enough produce on his extra 1/2 lot to feed the entire block. Steve grew many things, but he was best known for his carrots. He swore that Nantes Red were the best variety, and you couldn't stop by his house without digging up a few to take home. All the neighborhood kids loved "Steve's carrots". On Halloween he would make a special bag for each child on the block containing a piece or two of candy and several sweet Nantes carrots! Steve passed away this spring, aged 98, and we miss him sorely. However, thanks to Farm Fresh To You, we are still able to enjoy "Steve's" carrots. He was right. They really are the best.

3rd Place: Yvonne who said: These are truly the most delicious carrots I've ever purchased and can't bring myself to cook them, usually savoring one (or 1/2) after dinner. I'd say they are like "diamonds in the rough" and "worth their weight in gold" so how about Capay's "Kandy Karats".

Congratulations Rhea, Liz and Yvonne! 

Mother's Day Giveaway - The Orange Chef Co. Prep Pad


Countertop and Scale
Prep Pad and the Countertop Application on an iPad

Giveaway! We are very excited to team-up with The Orange Chef Co. (a neighbor to our Bay Area folks) to offer Prep Pad, the smart food scale that visualizes nutrition, to one of our lucky customers just in time for Mother’s Day.

Let's face it, Moms are like superheroes, but with all of her day-to-day responsibilities, she doesn’t always have time to measure food and calculate proteins and carbohydrates. This is where Prep Pad comes in.

This American-made 9-inch-by-6.25-inch scale is sold on The Orange Chef Co. website and at Williams-Sonoma, and works with the Countertop app on your iPad, to display a breakdown of proteins, carbohydrates and fats as you build a meal (an iPad 3 or newer is needed).

Prep Pad and Countertop
Weighing Food on Prep Pad

Most of us have a good idea of what foods are healthy and what foods aren’t, but building a well-balanced meal of correct proportions can intimidate even a seasoned health food enthusiast. Prep Pad’s guidance is conveniently built into its display. To begin, create a profile based on your individual characteristics and goals on Countertop. Once you've done this, you're ready to begin adding ingredients to Prep Pad. You can do this by scanning a bar code, using the voice command feature, or searching the database of 300,000+ food items. From there, two rings will appear on screen. The outer one is the original recommended breakdown of carbs, fats, proteins, and calories per day. The inner ring tells you if you have the right balance.


In addition to a visual pie chart display of protein, carbs and fats, Countertop also displays a balance score (out of 100), plus the total calories per meal count. The balance score will give you a real-time indication of how close you are to hitting your original goals; a simple visual nudge in the right nutritional direction.

Coupled with fresh ingredients from your Farm Fresh To You deliveries, Prep Pad will help restore balance to your kitchen.

We're so happy to have a Prep Pad to
giveaway to one of you! Thank you to The Orange Chef Co!


To win a Prep Pad, simply leave a comment answering the question below. Note: an iPad 3 or newer is needed for display. 

(CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED)

What are you looking forward to cooking or eating in celebration of Mother's Day?


Can't wait to get started with your own Prep Pad? Receive 10% off when you purchase online and enter the code: WELOVEMOM. Code valid through May 6th.

The Orange Chef Co. Prep Pad retail value is $149.95 and does not include the iPad. No purchase required to enter giveaway. Limit one entry per person. Entries will close on Tuesday, May 6, 2014 at 5:00 p.m. Winners are chosen by Random Number Generator and announced on our blog on Wednesday, May 7, 2014.

Thank you for all the amazing comments!

Our winner chosen at random is Carrie who said:


I am looking forward to a nice relaxing day filled with great food, family & laughs! There is sure to be fresh asparagus along with your delicious rhubarb & strawberries! YUM


Congratulations Carrie Lutz!
A big thank you again to The Orange Chef Co!
Be sure to check out Prep Pad.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

2014 Event Season Kick-Off!

During event season we look forward to welcoming guests to our farm to see sustainable agriculture in action and learn how it benefits our local economy and community. In the last year, we've also been thrilled to add farm-to-table, seasonal dinners to our events calendar. For these dinners your farmer, Thaddeus, collaborates with progressive local chefs and restaurants who pride themselves on finding the best locally and sustainably-grown, organic produce and artisan products.

Here's a glimpse of the fun we had at the first five events of our 2014 season. Hope to see you at an upcoming farm event!

Seasonal Dinner at Wilshire Restaurant in Santa Monica


This past February, guests enjoyed a unique dining experience with their farmer Thaddeus at the Wilshire Restaurant in Santa Monica. The chef prepared a delectable 4-course meal with some of the season's best, organic ingredients from our Farm Fresh To You farm, Capay Organic.

The evening began with the opportunity to mingle with Thaddeus and winemakers from Topanga Vineyards and Palmina Winery. During the dinner, Thaddeus, the Wilshire team and winemakers shared about the farm-fresh ingredients, the making of the meal and the craft of wine-making and food-pairing. Our Seasonal Dinners benefit the Kathleen Barsotti Non-Profit for Sustainable Agriculture.

Photos from our March 2014 Farm Tour in Capay


Tractor tours, a harvest activity and beautiful scenery are the highlights of our Northern California farm events. Guests can picnic and there are plenty of activities for both kids and adults. We offer farm-fresh produce at our market stand. Listen in on a Farm Talk from Thaddeus or one of our farm staff.  We encourage you to come and connect with the land that grows your food.

Photos from our March 2014 Farm Tour in Bardsdale


In Southern California we welcomed folks to our farm nestled in the hills near Bardsdale. Everyone enjoyed a day of arts & crafts, a farm talk with Thaddeus, an avocado harvest activity, picnicking, a market stand and more!

Our April 2014 5K Fun Run & Farm Tour in Capay

5k Run 6
5k Fun Run with Your Farmer

April 12 marked the first "5K Fun Run with your Farmer" on our farm in Capay. This family friendly course followed a scenic route alongside the new spring crops. Thank you to everyone who joined us and helped raised proceeds to benefit the Kathleen Barsotti Non-Profit for Sustainable Agriculture (KBNP).


Our April 2014 Farm Tour at Stehly Farms Organics

Tractor-tram
Tractor-tram Ride
Click here to see more photos from our April Farm Tour in Valley Center

Nothing signifies spring like fresh strawberry harvesting at our partner farm, Stehly Farms Organics in Valley Center. Guests enjoyed a learning more about sustainable agriculture, kids' activities, a tractor-tram ride, petting zoo and more!

Upcoming: More Fun on the Farm!

It's not too late to join us for some farm-style fun this year. For more details about our upcoming events, check our the Events Page on our website. We hope to see you at one of our Farm Events this year!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Mason Jar Salad Tutorial

Mason Jar Salad

Bust out of your lunch rut with a mason jar salad!

Besides the fact that a salad in a jar looks lovely, this tasty trend is simple to prepare early in the week for an easy grab-and-go, healthy lunch solution.  Here's how to mix it up!

The name of the game is layers. The basic idea when packing salad into jars is to start with the most hearty and less-absorbent ingredients first. Begin with the dressing on the bottom of the jar and work your way up through the lighter ingredients until you end up with the leafy salad greens. 

1.  Salad Dressing: Pour your favorite salad dressing into a pint (for a nice side salad) or quart (for a larger salad) size jar. The wide mouth style of  jars work well. 

2.  Hearty Vegetables: Next, add a layer of more firm, heartier veggies such as carrots, radishes, beets and those shown below. 



Vegi Grid

3. Grains, Pasta or Proteins: Next, add a layer of your favorite cooked beans, rice, pasta, grilled chicken/steak or marinated tofu.


4. Softer Vegetables and Fruits (optional): Next, add any soft vegetables or fruits, like avocados, tomatoes, strawberries or dried apricots. 
TIP: If you're making salads ahead to eat throughout the week, wait to add these ingredients until the day you're planning to eat the salad and add them to the top of the jar.

Fruit Grid













5. Nuts, Seeds and Lighter Grains: Next, add any nuts or seeds, like almonds, walnuts and sunflower seeds.

6. Salad Greens: Last but not least, fill the rest of the jar with your leafy greens like lettuce, spinach, shredded kale or arugula.


Lettuce


7. Tossing and Eating the Salad: When ready to eat, give the jar a gentle shake to incorporate the dressing, unscrew the lid and empty onto a plate and enjoy!


Salad in a Bowl

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Sacramento Food Film Festival - Ticket Giveaway


Spinning-Plates 
Sacramento Food Film Festival is here! We just received two tickets - and we are excited to give them away to you, but you have to act fast!

Entry deadline is 7:00 p.m TODAY, March 19th!
 
Tickets are for the VIP Festival Premiere Reception on Thursday, March 20th, OR to the film "Beer Wars" on Saturday, March 22nd! The winner will choose which event they want to attend. Please note, the events are in Sacramento and you have to be available to attend on either of the two dates mentioned.

ENTER TO WIN
(CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED)

To win two tickets to one of the two events
(winner chooses which event - one entry per person please),
leave a comment below answering the question:

My favorite food-themed movie is ___________.
 
We've randomly chosen a winner! Congratulations to Sabra,
whose favorite food-themed movie is "Big Night."
We hope you enjoy the event!

The Festival, which starts Thursday, March 20th, at Ten22 Restaurant in Sacramento, is a 10-day event that benefits California Food Literacy Center. Farm Fresh To You has been a proud sponsor of this festival since its inception and we encourage you to increase your food literacy by enjoying one of the seven food-themed events taking place March 20th to 30th.

Event prices ranging from FREE to $40 and events will include a mixture of family entertainment, film stars, local celebrity chefs and more! Check out the entire line up of events.
 

More About the Events Featured in our Giveaway

Thursday, March 20, 5:30-8:30 p.m.
Film: Watch the award winning Spinning Plates!
Venue: Food Film Festival Premiere at Ten22!
Food & Fun: Ticket includes a swag bag stuffed with olive oil, Chocolate Fish coffee, gourmet vanilla beans, & more! Enjoy wine, appetizers and dessert from Ten22 made with ingredients sourced from Passmore Ranch & Farm Fresh to You.

Saturday, March 22, 4-6 p.m.
Film: "Beer Wars"
Food & Fun: Sneak preview of Ruhstaller Beer’s never-before-released Nugget Ale, a local beer made with native hops grown just off I-80 outside Sacramento. Bites from famed Chef Adam Pechal, including soft pretzels from Freeport Bakery, popcorn, cheeses and nuts from Whole Foods Market Sacramento.
 
No purchase required. Limit one entry per person, please. Entries will close on Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 7:00 pm. Winners are chosen by Random Number Generator and announced on our blog on Wednesday, March 19, 2014.

Monday, March 3, 2014

California Endive

Endive

The endive (pronounced on-deev) is a unique and delicious treat that is crisp and bitter when raw, making them a great way to brighten up salads this time of year. When cooked, endive's sharp flavor softens into a mellow sweetness -- whether steamed, grilled or braised.

Endive-Avocado-Cups 

Endive is grown from chicory roots in a dark environment, which is why their tender leaves are such a light yellow. Most people refer to this variety as Belgian endive although it could be called the refined cousin of the chicory family, with its tightly packed leaves and smooth, elongated shape. This versatile veggie can be prepared in many ways: appetizers, salads, stuffed, side dishes and can even take center stage as a main dish. A great way to serve them is to use the leaves in the form of a "boat" and stuff the leaves with goodies like soft cheese, avocado or fruit salad. You can also use them as substitute for chips and eat them with your favorite dip.


California Endive Farms

Endive is one of the most difficult vegetables in the world to grow and requires a two-step growing process before it is ready for to enjoy. The first growth takes about 150 days in the field, where the chicory grows from seed into a leafy green plant with a deep tap root. At harvest, tops of the leafy chicory plant are cut off, the roots dug up, and then placed in cold storage where they enter a dormancy period.


Endive Rows

As demand necessitates, roots are removed from cold storage for their second growth, which takes 28 days in dark, cool, humid forcing rooms, similar to a mushroom growing facility. The control over the initiation of this second growing process allows for the year-round production of endive.

 
Rich Red & White Endive


Although these delicate beauties were once imported from Belgium and Holland, Rich Collins started growing them in California more than thirty years ago. His family farm was started in 1983, with just five acres. Originally named Rebel Farms, because many doubted that Belgian-style endive could be successfully grown in America. Today, California Endive Farms cultivates 300 acres in Rio Vista, CA and is the largest grower of red endive in the world.
A big thank you to the Collins family for sharing this specialty crop with our CSA family!