Newsletter – July 27, 2015

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Dear Farm Friends,

Ooooo! This week you are getting something very special! Jerry has tried two new purple potatoes. One has dark purple skins and yellow flesh and the other is dark purple skins with purple flesh. You may get one or the other this week. We are just about out of Walla Walla yellow onions, so this week you may get our regular yellow onions instead. Also new this week is basil, green beans and radicchio. Radicchio is a bitter green and it normally comes in a head. You will be getting this, but it did not form a head. The May rains did something to these plants and they are already bursting into flower! You are also getting garlic, carrots, Chioggia (Italian) beets, fennel, squash and a cucumber.

Fruit: Good news! You are getting a 20lb box of peaches this week! Yay!!

Harvest Festival: Just a reminder that the Harvest Festival will be the third Sunday of September, (the 20th). This is our way of thanking our Members for supporting us from season to season. There will be a potluck with us providing the hamburgers and hot dogs and you providing the sides and desserts. There are normally u-pick opportunities, especially tomatoes and chilies. You can explore our buildings and farm with a self-guided tour. It wouldn’t be a festival without hayrides to the pumpkin patch, now would it?! This is an excellent time to visit your farm, chat with Jerry, Kyle & me and get to know other members. Anyone play an instrument or sing and wants to share that with us? We encourage even children to share their talents! I think everyone would love to see what you are learning! Mark you calendars now, so you do not plan anything else on top of this festive day!

Day in the Life of Jerry: I did this a few years ago and it was so popular that it has been requested to be written again! Jerry starts his day (every day) around 5am. He runs around the farm checking the water he set the night before and changing it to new areas. He checks on the animals to see if they are healthy and happy, and have water and alfalfa. ‘The Crew’ starts at 7am. He gives out assignments such as the harvesting or planting of crops, cultivation of crops by machine or hoeing of crops by hand. On Mondays, Jerry himself has to plant the next succession of crops such as beans, corn, squash, cucumbers, etc. This will normally take all day and if there is a lot to be planted, he usually has to take part of Sunday to do this as well.

Tue, Wed and Thr is Distribution. All the crops are in cold storage until that morning (being picked the day before). The working members arrive at 6:15 and are ready to start their day by 7. First thing is to get everything out and lined up to be bagged for non-working members and loaded into trucks. This will take anywhere from two to three hours. Then working members are off doing farm chores. Jerry and I start the route to deliver produce.

On Tue. I drive to Yale & Broadway, Arapahoe and Broadway, Highlands Ranch and Aurora. Jerry drives to Golden, Lakewood and Wheat Ridge. When he gets home, it’s off to see what is happening on the farm and to continue doing anything he didn’t finish on Monday. On Wed. I drive to Forest & 23rd, Colo. Blvd & Colfax, Leetsdale & Holly, 1st & Logan and 6th & Downing, plus a couple of restaurants. Jerry stays home. He works on special projects such as plowing, disking, land planing, making beds for a new planting, he will fertilize with fish emulsion, use insecticidal soaps if necessary, grade roads and repair machinery. Wed. is also the day to take machinery to the mechanic if necessary. If the alfalfa is ready to harvest, he will make that phone call to a local farmer to come out and start the harvesting process. He will cut, windrow and bale the hay, and Jerry and I remove it from the field and stack it (usually done on a Sunday).

On Thr, I drive to 470 & Parker Road, 470 & Quebec, Littleton and I-70 & Youngfield/Simms. Jerry drives to Broomfield, Louisville, South Boulder, 5th & University, 10th & Delwood, a couple of restaurants and Longmont before coming home and continuing with farm chores. On Tue. & Thr. afternoon, he checks on the guys to see how their day went and if everything got done. He changes the water and checks his fields. He is always looking to see if there is an insect infestation, weed infestation, water needs, and crop maturity.

Fri. is a busy day of harvesting, washing, sorting, bunching, bagging and weighing of produce that is going to farmers markets. We have to pick fields more than once a week or your produce would be overgrown, tough and mealy. We use the crops that go to farmers markets as your insurance policy. Very seldom have our CSA customers really felt the impact of a truly bad year. We take the produce away from the markets and give it to the CSA! It has worked beautifully for several years now. There have been shortages, but not like it would have been if we didn’t grow for and attend farmers markets!

Sat. is the big farmer’s market day. We all go different directions and run a market. When we get home from market, every truck is unloaded and the produce that is returned is sorted and repacked and sent to two farmers markets on Sun. Food is donated both on Sat. and Sun. and anything not edible is fed to the animals (veggies to animals is like us eating candy!) (We think this is why our animals taste so good, because they get their daily dose of veggies too!)

Sun. is our day off….except we never seem to get the day off! This is the day we run things to the mechanic, do paperwork and do any unfinished fieldwork like planting and irrigating. It is also the one day Jerry and I get to explore the farm together and see if there is anything new we can give the members. We spend a couple of hours walking fields and checking out plants. I can’t tell you how many times Jerry has taken me for the whole day to weed, pick or plant because no one else is around that day. And if we are lucky…very lucky, we get a two hour nap!

Every evening (about 6:30pm) Jerry ends the day by changing water and checking the animals. We have 200 acres of irrigated crops. About 70 acres are in vegetables and the rest is in pastures and alfalfa for animals. It is extremely important to rotate your crops on an organic farm. Every plant takes something from the soil. We have a four or five year crop rotation in our vegetable fields. Then we take out alfalfa and plant vegetables in its place. Because alfalfa is ‘mowed down’ three times a summer, there are very few weeds! (Plus alfalfa is a nitrogen fixing plant and the ground is perfect for vegetables!!) Old vegetable fields will either go into pasture or alfalfa; the three always being rotated every four or five years. So I can honestly say that no one vegetable has been grown in one place more than once every 12 years!

Quote of the day: Most people have a clock that tells them what time to quit.
But most farmers have a little voice that tells them not to! -Unknown

See you next week with more goodies! Jacquie, Jerry and Kyle

Newsletter – July 20, 2015

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Dear Friends of the Farm,

This week you are getting New Red potatoes, red onions, garlic, green kohlrabi, beets, carrots, squash, rainbow chard and maybe a cucumber. We have hit that lull in the crops where you are pretty much going to see the same thing for a while. I hope every now and again something new will come along and make the share look a little more exciting!

We are starting the pickle wait list. Even though both the slicing cucumber and the pickling cucumber plants survived the rainy month of May, they have been very stressed out. The plants are stunted and at this time are not producing very many cucumbers. We will be giving them out in distribution so that you have some cucumbers to eat (I prefer pickling cucumbers over slicing anyway!). And just as soon as we have an abundance, we will start calling people from the wait list. Please call me to be placed on the wait list. I will need your name, phone number and whether you will want a full bushel or a half bushel of pickles. Do not leave your information in the blog comments – I will not receive it. Calling me is the only way to be put on the wait list.

Fruit: This week you are getting apricots again. I found that they get sweeter with time! I set out half the bag in a bowl on the counter and they were great in about three days. Peaches will be in soon, so you can probably expect them next. I expect you should get somewhere between 60 to 80 pounds of fruit this summer. And if I have anything to do with it (which I do!) you will get all 90 pounds by the end of the season! Ranch Durazno has been wonderful in helping me find fruit. He knows most of the growers over there and is talking to all of them. But like so many fruit growers, they have already committed their crop to a purchaser. That does not mean we can’t find apples and pears. It just is a bit challenging at the moment!

Several of you have sent checks in support of First Fruit Organic Farm and I want to say thank you. We even got a check from a member who doesn’t even get a Fruit Share! The note simply said, “Please pass along to First Fruit. I want to support any organic farm that has worked so hard to give out such lovely produce.” If anyone else would like to make a donation, I will accept your checks and send them to First Fruit on the 15th of August. Please make them out to First Fruit. Thank you again, you do not know what this means to me!

Honey: Those of you who get monthly deliveries of honey will be getting that this week. I was informed by Clark that the bees were affected too by the constant rain. They are making honey like mad but they, like so many other things, are delayed. For those of you who are getting a one time delivery of honey, you will not be getting that in August, but in September instead. There is nothing we can do, but wait for the bees to do their thing!

This is going to be one of those trying years. It is the reality of farming and what I am trying to teach you about food production. It isn’t easy, but we love what we do! Feeding people is our passion!! We wouldn’t want to live or work any other way!

Jacquie, Jerry and Kyle

Newsletter – July 13, 2015

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Hi Everyone!

This week you are getting New Red potatoes, Sweet Spanish White onions, garlic, purple kohlrabi, radishes, carrots and squash.  The Half and Full Shares will be getting the remaining fennel from last week and everyone will get one of three types of lettuce again.

I was recently asked if there is a special way to store the beautiful onions and fresh garlic.  I do not do anything special.  I put the onions (unwashed, but trimmed) in my crisper drawer and leave the garlic on the counter!

Kohlrabi is in the cabbage family.  It can be eaten shredded in coleslaw or salads, it is excellent in stir-fries as a replacement for watercress and it is wonderful simply sautéed in butter or coconut oil.

CSA Memberships & Fruit Share:  The concept behind CSA is to support your farmers in the good years and bad.  It is always a possibility every season that we cannot fulfill your CSA shares with the amount of produce we normally give out.  The fruit is no different.  You need to be prepared that this can happen.  I am looking at options that work with Members as well as First Fruit.  After much discussion at the dinner table, it has been decided refund checks are not an option and neither is going out of state for fruit.  Distribution Centers will be surveying you about the possible options you do have pertaining to your Fruit Share.  We will continue to discuss the results and make a decision on how we plan on handling this very unfortunate situation.  We should feel fortunate.  Because I didn’t hesitate and started looking for other resources immediately, we are getting fruit for our shareholders.  There are other CSA’s that are not getting any fruit at all!

Internet Enthusiasts:  We need some help from those of you who love to explore the internet and love those sites that review and rate everything.  We need to get our name out there!  Could you please make a listing for Monroe Organic Farms?  I just recently talked to a new member and she said she found out about us from one of these sites.  Here is an example of sites she said she looked us up on:  harvest.org, denver.cbslocal.com, coloradocsa.info and yelp.  If you can think of anything else….then please put something out there!  If you love doing these kind of things, please check out if anything has been set up for us and post a comment.  It would really be a huge help to us!!  (I didn’t know anything like this existed, but as you know, I am such a huge fan of the computer!)

80th Anniversary Celebration:  Next summer will be a very exciting year for us!  Monroe Organic Farms will be 80 years old.  As many of you know, farmers try to be ‘jacks of all trades’.  But this is too important for us alone to work on and we are asking for your guidance.  Would you please help us by joining a committee to work on our 80th celebration?

I’m sure there are several of you who know how to “work” the media.  How do we get our name out there?  How do we let the world know how old we are?  What do we want people to know, what do we want it to look like, where do we put this information.

I really want the Fall Festival for the members to be the pinnacle of all this.  What do we want to change with the festival?  Do we want to do something in the spring too?  How do we make it more fun for everyone?

We need to meet this winter and discuss different scenarios.  One idea I had was to paint face ‘cut out’ boards.  It would be nice if someone could host and we could all meet once in Denver, Boulder and at the farm.  I’m sure we will have to meet more than just one time!  Who has some ideas and who wants to help out with this monumental occasion!  Please contact me by email and I’ll get you on a contact list!

Your Bags:  The farm and DC’s need a little help here.  We need the bags sorted by color and size.  If you could please remove everything from your bag and shake out any crop residues, that would be great!  Please keep the small bean/pea bags separate from the large bags.

Jacquie’s Soapbox:  Okay, this is where I start in on a subject that is really bothering me, so this is a good time to drift away from the newsletter if you don’t want to hear me go on and on!

Front lawns.  What good are they?  When was the last time you sat down on or used your front lawn?  Did you go out and play catch with your kids this last week?  Did you go out there and do some yoga/stretching or calisthenics?  Did you have a bar-b-que with your neighbors?  I bet the last time you used your front lawn was to mow it.

Why do we allow HOA’s to require front lawns?  Why as citizens or legislators can we not stand up and voice our objections and stop this nonsense?  Front lawns are absolutely absurd here in the arid high plains desert, but we love them.  They should be ripped out and xeriscaped or planted in a garden.  (I grow a pasture grass that needs little water and basically no mowing!)  If you are going to water something, why waste it on grass.  Make it something you can eat or in perennial flowers.  Someday we will look back on front lawns like we now look back at littering and smoking in public areas.  Keep this in mind, one square foot of Kentucky Bluegrass (which most lawns are made of) requires 55 gallons of water each year to survive.  (Oh! FYI:  If every person in a four person household did not flush the toilet one time during each day, they would save 1100 gallons of water a year.  Remember Meet the Fockers?  “If it’s brown, flush it down.  If it’s yellow, let it mellow!”)

Water is like gold west of the Rockies because of all the water shortages in so many places.  Though it may not seem like it right now, we too were crying for water not too long ago.  Remember 2012?  Our annual rainfall is 14 inches a year (including snow).  We are considered a high plains desert for a reason!  Cities right now, are buying up water as fast as they can.  And guess where that is coming from?  Farmers.  We have something extremely valuable and the cities want it.  They are willing to pay a very pretty price for it.  But we need to rethink our needs.  Do we want lawns or food?  What will happen when we dry up all these farms?  What will they look like?  Do you realize 72% of our produce is already imported from other countries?

I don’t blame the farmers for selling.  They are aging and we have not made farming as profitable for them as other businesses.  When they retire, there is no one that is young and willing to work the extremely hard, long hours to take over the farm.  They sell off their water so they can retire.  It is not an easy choice, but it is hard to say no when there isn’t anyone interested in taking over the family farm.  Even Kyle struggles with the decision sometimes!   I ask you this one thing – what is important to you?

Thanks for listening and I hope you have a healthy and happy week!

Jacquie, Jerry and Kyle

UPDATE ON FRUIT SHARES JULY 15: Jacquie does not yet have details, but she will share with members as soon as she does. She does expect fruit shares to receive peaches and plums, though there is not yet a source for apples or pears. She is still trying!

Newsletter – July 6, 2015

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Dear Friends,

This week you are getting Yukon Gold potatoes, garlic, Walla Walla onions, beets, fennel, carrots, squash and lettuce. It appears that we will have to give out three types in order for everyone to get a head. It can be one of any of these types: butterhead, romaine or iceberg.

Walla Walla onions are the sweetest onions around. They caramelize wonderfully, but are known for their sweetness when eaten raw. The entire fennel is edible. Use the leaves in salads; i.e. potato salad, macaroni salad or freeze dry for soups and stews. The bulbs are good in coleslaw, salad, caramelized and cooked under fish or roast. The beet and carrot tops are edible too.

I’m sorry about the beets. Hopefully soon you will get a nice bunch at some point, enough to make a meal anyway! Thanks for your patience with the farm!

Fruit: You will be getting apricots from Rancho Durazno this week. We both are trying to figure out where to find you late season apples and pears. I can see this going two ways: If we cannot find them in Colorado, we can go outside of the state to find organic fruit. But this is not what CSA is all about. The concept behind Community Supported Agriculture is to support your local farms in the good years and the bad. With that in mind, what I would really like to do is donate the rest of your fees to First Fruit. If there aren’t too many objections and we cannot find pears and apples in state, I think we should support First Fruit with a check. Distribution Centers will be surveying you next week.

July Fees Due: Statements have been mailed and it is now time to pay half of your remaining fees (for fruit, honey and produce) by July 15th. If they are not paid by the end of the month, a $25 late payment fee will be added to your statement, produce deliveries will stop and will not start again until your fees are paid. Those of you making monthly payments, please continue doing so or a $10 late payment fee will be added to your statement every month.

About Your Fruit: I have asked Thomas to write something about what is happening over on the Western Slope and about his farm. I feel it is very informative and will give you a good look at what has happened and who he is. Enjoy!

All of Colorado has seen erratic swings in the weather this year – mild and dry winter, cool and very wet spring including excessive rain, wind, hail even tornadoes. Though it has not been as extreme on the Western Slope, the unprecedented weather has lead to contrasting circumstances for the two primary fruit growing areas of Colorado. The mild winter led to fruit trees blooming more than three weeks early at the First Fruits and other North Fork orchards of Paonia, Hotchkiss and Cedaredge, making their blossoms especially vulnerable in late April, when a late winter storm arrived in Colorado (though not an unusual occurrence), but all of the fruit buds and blossoms were in a most vulnerable stage, and were killed by a long, cold night that turned even colder in the middle of the following morning. Orchards just a few hundred feet lower in elevation along the Gunnison River in Dominguez Canyon and in the Grand Valley at Palisade experienced the same storm, but with temperatures a few degrees warmer and didn’t get hurt near as bad.

Monroe Organic Farms has reached out to Rancho Durazno to provide organic stone fruit (fruit with a pit) for their farm share and (hopefully) organic apples and pears from Fortunate Fruit run by Ewell and Lauren Culbertson in Dominguez Canyon between Delta and Grand Junction. Rancho Durazno is also searching for late season pear and apples to round out the Fruit Share for the end of the season. We intend to provide fruit as flavorful and nutritious as Members have been accustomed to with First Fruit. We at Rancho Durazno are honored to be working with Monroe Organic Farms, ensuring the connection of CSA members to Colorado’s organic fruit farms on the Western Slope.

Rancho Durazno’s Story

Thomas Cameron named his farm “Ranch Durazno” in 1981 when he started his own operation after managing orchards for others in Palisade, CO. The names means “peach farm” in Spanish, the language of most of the workers in Palisade orchards.

Rancho Durazno was among the first orchards in Palisade to transition to organic growing methods, and has been certified organic by the Colorado Department of Agriculture since 1991. The irrigated farm is now 40 acres, with 30 in production of peaches, sweet cherries, apricots, plums and nectarines. The remaining acres are planted with new trees that are not yet bearing or are growing cover crops to enrich the soils in preparation of replanting after two years as fallow ground (left untended).

Gwen Cameron, the youngest of Thomas’s three daughters, is presently working on the farm and developing the skills, experience and judgment to become the farmer within a few years. Here is her story, as she tells it:

For a long time, I harbored a single-minded focus on working as an editor of an obscure but well-respected literary mountaineering magazine called Alpinist. And for a number of years, I did just that, helping writers bring to the print and digital page stories of lonely summits reached, death nearly missed and moments of enlightenment glimpsed. But no one tells you what to do after you have your dream job. Just when I’d begun to search for that answer, my dad showed up in Vermont with a proposal of his own: “Come back to Colorado and take over the family fruit farm. I’ll teach you everything you need to know.”

Within a year, he and I moved my tiny-house-on-wheels, my three-legged collie dog and myself back across the country to Palisade (with only a “brief” three-week detour to raft the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon). Midway through my first season back at Rancho Durazno, my knowledge base is growing exponentially every week as I navigate this transition from farmer’s daughter to farmer, and frame a new vision for my ultimate dream job.

It’s an honor for a dad to have very capable daughters, and one who chooses to make her life on the foundation of her family farm.

Harvest Festival: Mark your calendars now so you don’t plan anything on top of this fun filled day! September 20th is our festival and it is our way of thanking our members for supporting us throughout the season. We grill hot dogs and hamburgers and provide the utensils and drinks. All of you bring side dishes and desserts. There is a hayride to the pumpkin patch, games for children, corn shucking contests, u-pick opportunities and self-guided tours.

This has been a tradition since 1993 when we started our first year as a CSA. Only once did we have to cancel the festival completely and that was in 2013 during the floods. It sure is nice to be back on track!

Jacquie, Jerry and Kyle

Newsletter – June 29, 2015

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Dear Members,

This week you are getting swiss chard, turnips, beets, onions, carrots, garlic, snap peas and squash. We are thinning the beet crop. You are not going to get a lot of them. So eat them raw shredded in a coleslaw or salad. It doesn’t look like the snap peas were very productive, so you may get snow peas too or instead of snap peas. There will be a very slow start to the season. The cold and rainy days stalled the growth of all the plants. So when we start harvesting crops, you will not get very many. You will have to be creative by combining the wonderful treats we are getting to make a meal.

Fruit: Unfortunately you will not be getting fruit this week, as we expected. The deal fell through with Eat a Peach Farm. But you will get fruit next week; probably apricots.

Boxes: I’m sorry. I guess I didn’t finish my thought process last week about the boxes! At some point you will need to add a cloth bag or box to your vehicles to pick up additional crops. We do not bag things like corn, melons and tomatoes. You will need a container in order to take these things home. Do not expect the Distribution Center to provide you a bag…more than likely, it will not happen and you will need to place these crops on your seat or floor of the car! Some members bring extra bags or container, transferring their produce right on the spot at the DC and leave their bags right then and there. This way they do not have to remember to return them.

Crops: Things are really starting to come out of the shock from the storms in May. The farm is looking great! Now, if we could only tame Mother Nature’s explosive temper that flares up from time to time! (No more rain, no more hail!!) I know several of you have been hit by the recent bad weather…basements are flooded, your streets & cars may have been affected, hail damage to roofs and vehicles, toppled trees, etc. Know we are thinking about you and hope you were not affected to badly.

Thank you to those of you who made it out to the farm Sunday. We got a tremendous amount of work done and the crops look wonderful. Jerry was so happy that all the row cover was removed and the side of the plastic was hoed. It was a big project and with so many people coming to help, it really made it seem easy! We all went home tired but filled with great accomplishment. Thank you!!!
Jacquie, Jerry and Kyle

Newsletter – June 22, 2015

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Dear Friends,

Our first week was exciting, but this week is even better! We are so happy to be giving you peas, turnips, squash, garlic and garlic scapes. The scapes are the tops of the garlic. This has become the new favorite of our members! It is extremely versatile. It can be grilled and eaten as a vegetable, chopped and added to salads (like onion), it’s fantastic in eggs and it’s wonderful in stir-fries. One member told me the best pesto she ever had was prepared with garlic scapes. Another told me she made green garlic hummus with scapes. Don’t be afraid to experiment with these little buggers. They are mild eaten raw or cooked.

You will not receive greens this week because the second planting came on with the first planting. So even though it was nice to get two different kinds of greens last week, it shorted you this week!

Fruit: You are receiving cherries from Ranch Durazno this week. And we expect more cherries and possibly apricots from Eat a Peach Farms/Farmacy Farms next week. Both are from the Western Slope.

Crop reveal: We need as many hands as we can get this Sunday (28th)! After replanting so many of our early crops, we covered them with hoops and row-cover. It is time to uncover our crops and give them direct sunshine and fresh air! Think of this as a barn rising, except this is a crop reveal! You won’t know what you will discover until we get it uncovered! Not only the crops have recovered and grown, but the weeds have too. After removing the cover, rolling it up & getting it off the field, it needs to be hoed on the sides of the plastic. It will take all morning to get the job accomplished and the more hands to help the sooner we can get it done! Come join us for a day of delight as we uncover and discover what is underneath! Plan on getting to the farm at 8am and working all morning until noon.

Bags and Boxes: I forgot to tell you how important it is to return your vegetable bags every week. We reuse them as many times as we can. This includes any small produce bags for beans or peas. Please take the time to dump or shake out any extra organic material left in the bottom. Distribution Centers will be keeping track of this, so don’t be surprised if they remind you how often you have forgotten or how many bags you have not returned.

Something interesting: I want to share a story that touched me. A member took home a barn kitten from the farm 19 years ago. His name was O’Malley (from the Aristocrats). He was part Siamese and part Tabby. O’Malley passed away last Friday. I was told that O’Malley was the best cat she has ever had! He was a wonderful companion and I’m so glad he had a wonderful home. Thanks for sharing your story Adrienne! 19 years, can you believe it!

Have a great week! Jacquie, Jerry and Kyle

2015 Shares – Update from Jacquie

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Dear Members;

I’m sorry if I did not explain myself well about the statements and the
enclosed documents. It would be helpful if everyone would read the
newsletter before calling about making changes to your statement/order.

I need everyone to sign the third page whether or not you are making any
changes. Please return it to me along with your payment. By signing this
document, it is saying you agree with the order as we have it listed or
you want to make changes (as you have listed) and agree to pay for those
items.

You are not obligated to continue with the membership or to purchase
everything you received last year. If you need to cancel everything or an
individual item, please list that and return the document to me and we
will take care of you! Please list your Distribution Center.

Thank you in advance for sharing our dream of farming and supporting that
financially and emotionally. It can be taxing at times when Mother Nature
will not cooperate. Your cards and letters of support can really get us
through those tough days!

Thank you again for supporting this 79 year old farm,
Jacquie Monroe