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Monday, April 7, 2014

Planting has begun at the Farm!

Jeff Jr. is holding tomato and lettuce plants that are eager to go outdoors. 
Transplanting out into the fields has started with lettuce, onions, kohlrabi, carrots and
u-pick spring greens for the first week's planting.



Thursday, April 4, 2013

April Action


Seedlings are in the greenhouse right now!  Karen is busy transplanting the seedlings from seed flats to larger containers so they can sprout even bigger.  Next stop: planting them in the fields.
But you can get your plant starts beginning Wednesday May 1st.  The Nursery at the Farm Store opens for you to select vegetables and herbs to put into your home garden. 
Out in the fields, Jeff & George have been plowing and rebuilding the hoop houses.  The crew starts next week.  The pace is picking up; there is a lot of work to do. 
May marks the opening of the Redmond Farmers Market while June is the beginning of CSA summer shares.  The tempo is picking up ... can't wait for the first salad greens.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Mid-Winter at the Farm

The Farm is waking up.  The fields are spread with aged compost and Jeff is beginning to till in the rye cover crop on some of the drier areas.  It may look empty but the black soil is teaming with life under the surface!  By the end of February the entire seeding schedule and land use plan will be in place for the entire season.  Planting starts the first week of March, less than three weeks away.  In April, the nursery opens with its starts of herbs and spring vegetables.

But tomorrow, February 10 marks the return of  daylight; sunrise at 7:23am followed by sunset at 5:24pm.  10 hours of daylight.  Spring is only weeks away.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Goodbye 'til Next Year!

This is the end of our 26th year as a CSA. As far as I know, we were the second CSA in the US.  The first year we had 20 members, and I was the only “employee”. The farm grew rapidly after that, and although we could be proud of our success, I realize that the success really is due to you, our members.
In the early years, there was nothing here but the land – lots of mud, no power equipment, no driveways, no buildings, no “luxuries” like the Honey Bucket.  Most of our members lived in Seattle (no drop sites then), and were willing to drive to this little patch of our Earth every week, and pay up front on the promise and hope that there would be food in their box.  With only 1 acre as a start, we were the pioneers of the CSA movement.
The price of a share back then, 26 years ago, was $475. The selection and quantity of vegetables was a lot more erratic too, as we learned through experimentation.  Back then, income from the farm was put back into the business to expand and build all the infrastructure.  I spent days at the farm and nights cleaning dentist offices – fortunately, a lucrative enough business that I could wait for 15 years before drawing a salary.
Some of our members have been with us since the beginning, and many more for over 15 years.  I often hear a teenage child of a member comment that they remember coming here as a toddler.  What we have developed together, farmers and members, is a take on the “I remember my Grandma’s garden”, that I so often have heard from members as a reason why they were motivated to join the CSA in the first place.  I like to think that many of you will be thinking about “your CSA” when you have gone from here.
The Root Connection has been a model for other farmers to follow and start their own CSA’s. Many have failed, but despite that, there are now over 500 farms in Washington that have some form of CSA.  The management at The Root Connection has elected to continue with the original CSA model, with most of the members coming to the farm and being able to access the farmland.  The development of the inclusion of “u-pick” items was a really good idea, I think.  It’s been encouraging to see all the people enjoying the farm, and learning about the importance of saving our local farmland.
We sell around 400 memberships each year, and with all the people involved, that’s probably over 1,000 people who eat right from this 16 acre farm – really remarkable.  It’s been a tough decision to stick with the open campus model – with pressure coming in recent years from organizations that use a box delivery system composed of not-so-fresh produce purchased from other locations.  I know we lost a considerable amount of business (coming to the farm takes time!).  But it is gratifying to see people starting to come back, realizing that they want more of a connection to the roots of our food supply and this Earth.
In addition to our wonderful group of members, another group of people who deserve the credit for our success are our workers!  From the beginning, I decided that workers should be viewed as the number one asset of the farm (well, maybe number two after the incredibly fertile land itself).  Even in the early years, we have never paid our workers minimum wage.  It takes an incredible amount of skill and dedication to work a farm like this, and they deserve more.  True “sustainability” has to include more than being organic, taking care of the land – it has to include the humans too.  Unfortunately, according to the Dept of Labor statistics, farming is one of the 10 most hazardous occupations, and is the lowest paid.  Health issues are one of the reasons – on non-organic farms, people who work those fields have bodies that are so full of toxins from the chemicals that when they end up in hospitals medical personnel have to put on Hazmat suits before they can operate on them.  Children as young as 12 years old are allowed to work in the fields.  Life expectancy for farm workers is very short, usually die to cancer.  In fact, farmers and their families are in the top percentage of occupations that have brain cancer, breast cancer, testicular cancer, and miscarriages.
 Several of our wonderful field workers (the Laotian family) came here 14 years ago looking for farm work.  Since they were already working on a farm in the Puyallup Valley, much closer to where they live, I asked Dang why he wanted to work here.  He said “they pay little  and they poison us”.  They started work the next week and are still here. This year, a woman who was getting a farm tour from Stephanie, noticed the Laotian crew and asked “so how much to they get paid?”  I assume that she was thinking that they may have been getting paid a very low wage.  Actually, Dang earns more per hour then the General Manager (that’s me), and his brother not much less then that. The average wage for all our field crew is $14 per hour, and they take home all the food they can eat, for free.  I think that’s probably at least double the average wage for farm workers in the U.S.  Many of them have worked here for over 15 years.
Another component of sustainability is using any possible resources to encourage and support people who need help, and the agencies that are set up to help them.  Healthy food is primary – since farmers grow food, figuring out a way that farmers can afford to distribute part of their harvests to these people is sustainable for the community as a whole.
In 2009, Root Connection members formed Farms for Life (FFL), which is a link from local farmers to those in need.  Our members have been very supportive of this organization – thank you!  In 2012, with 5 farms involved, FFL donated over 18,000 pounds of produce from local farms to over 12 agencies, including food banks.  This was enough food to provide the vegetables in over 50,000 meals for an adult or child.  Please think about a year-end donation to Farms for Life so we can keep up and even expand the work next season.  And if you or someone in your family is a Microsoft employee, a donation to FFL can be made through the Microsoft Matching Fund which doubles the donation.
So all the components ~ the workers, charity, and the land ~ work in this wonderful dance. This is a model of true sustainability, and no one here is dying to grow your food. Thank you so much for helping to make it all happen!  Please spread the word to others, and come back next year.
Claire

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Steph’s Picks: Über Tuber Soup – or Golden Beet & Turnip Potage

I would suggest a small chopped bundle of flavorful cherry tomatoes and herbs be placed on top of the sliced baguette .  There ~ you have used 5-7 items you find at Root Connection! ~ Stephanie

One obvious reason to make root vegetable soup, besides it being so good for you, is that it lends itself to a luscious creaminess without necessitating the addition of cream or butter. … . The soup was so velvety rich that the toasted bread crouton pretty much floated on it briefly. Here’s my easy recipe.

Ingredients:

3 medium golden beets
3 medium turnips
one 11-oz can golden sweet corn
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup sweet orange pepper sauce* (optional)
1/4 tsp each of the following powder herbs/spices:  ground star anise, cumin powder, coriander powder, ginger (powder or minced), turmeric
3 cups chicken stock
Salt & white pepper
toasted slices of baguette
jalapeño slices and/or coriander or parsley leaves for garnish


* I happened to have about 1/4 cup left over orange pepper sauce which I added to the soup. It had been made by roasting several peppers, removing the blistered skin, processing the flesh in a blender, and straining it through a sieve.

Method:

Boil beets and turnips, let cool, then peel and cube. Transfer cubed tubers to blender, add the corn and milk and pulse until puréed. Add all the powder herbs and orange pepper sauce, if using, and continue to blend.
Place a chinois, or other fine mesh strainer, over a bowl and using a silicone spatula, push the blended vegetable mixture through the strainer. Discard the pulp in the strainer. (If you prefer a coarser textured soup, skip the straining step). Pour the smooth liquid that’s been strained (or the mixture from the blender, if not straining) into a saucepan, and heat over a medium flame. Begin adding the chicken stock, stirring well to blend and reducing for about 20-30 minutes. Season with salt and white pepper, garnish with jalapeño slices or chopped herbs, and serve while piping hot with a toasted slice of baguette.

RSA
Enjoy!
Recipe reprinted from http://www.2gourmaniacs.com/fine-food-food-photography/ber-tuber-soup-golden-beet-turnip-potage/

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Preserving the Harvest


It is that time of the season when there are plenty of greens to harvest. There's mizuna, kale (3 varieties), mustard (two varieties), collards, vitagreens and swiss chard. It is impossible to eat them all within one week so here's a way to eat what you can and preserve the rest: freezing.

 

These instructions and the recipe are from the Root Connection recipe file here:

http://rootconnection.com/rec-greens.html

FREEZING GREENS

Remove stems and cut or tear greens into large pieces. Put in a large pot with 2 inches of water. Cover, bring to a boil. Quickly stir greens until they are all wilted. Take off heat. With a slotted spoon, remove greens to another bowl to cool. Save liquid from cooking and let cool.

When cool enough, put greens into a zip-lock bag. Then pour some of the reserved liquid over greens in the bag to 1/2 inch from the top. Close the bag and put inn freezer. (When doing several bags, space them out in the freezer until frozen.) To serve, remove frozen greens and liquid, heat slowly in covered pot, then season and cook to desired consistency.



RITA'S SPICY GREENS

4 cups chopped greens (spinach, kale, chard, etc.)
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
2 Tbsp. corn starch
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 cup water
12 oz. spaghetti



Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Meanwhile, heat a large pan or wok. Add greens and cook for 4 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook 2 minutes more. Mix together corn starch, brown sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, pepper flakes, and water. Add to pan. Stir to boil and thicken. Serve over pasta.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Steph’s Picks: Roasted Beet and Corn Salad

Corn is here! This combines this week’s first harvest of corn and beets.  Delicious! ~ Stephanie

Ingredients 
3-4 beets (about 1-1.5 lbs)
2 cups corn kernels (about 2-3 ears of corn)
Olive oil
2 tablespoons Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
Juice from one lemon
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 shallot, minced
salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions
1.    Roast beets at 400 degrees F for 50-60 minutes. Take them out and let them cool for 20-30 minutes before peeling and dicing them.
2.    While beets are roasting or while they are cooling, roast the corn. Coat the corn with olive oil, spread on a cookie sheet or roasting pan, and roast at 400F for 15-20 minutes. When cool, use a paring knife to cut off the kernels.
3.    When beets and corn have cooled to room temperature, combine them in a medium/large bowl with the parsley, lemon juice, vinegar, and shallot.  Mix well.
4.    Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve room temperature or chilled.

Enjoy!
P.S. For  more instructions on how to cook beets, scroll down to view an earlier post titled "Instruction manual for beets".