Monthly Archives: August 2009

The Risky Business of Organic Farming

Ever wonder why you buy a “share” of produce from the farm?  A CSA farm sells “shares” of produce to the community. These shares provide the farm with capital for operating expenses before the produce is harvested. It saves the farmer from having to rely solely on the farmers market, assures them their produce will be sold, and guarantees an income rain or shine for the farm. In other words, a CSA gives small, family owned farms a chance to make it.  

The USDA defines CSA as: “… a community of individuals who pledge support to a farm operation so that the farmland becomes, either legally or spiritually, the community’s farm, with the growers and consumers providing mutual support and sharing the risks and benefits of food production. Typically, members or “share-holders” of the farm or garden pledge in advance to cover the anticipated costs of the farm operation and farmer’s salary. In return, they receive shares in the farm’s bounty throughout the growing season, as well as satisfaction gained from reconnecting to the land and participating directly in food production. Members also share in the risks of farming, including poor harvests due to unfavorable weather or pests. By direct sales to community members, who have provided the farmer with working capital in advance, growers receive better prices for their crops, gain some financial security, and are relieved of much of the burden of marketing. “

Sounds amazing, right? What could be better? Buying locally; eating organic, super-fresh food; supporting a small farm; helping the local economy.

Many of you voted in that poll a few months ago that you were so grateful to be a part of the Monroe’s CSA that you’d be happy to help with some volunteering.  A great way to help out would be to volunteer to help at the Harvest Festival on September 20th (watch for details in the newsletters), and while at the festival, remind each other to take only the U-Pick crops on the list the Monroe’s give us.  The other crops will be for our shares in the coming weeks, and for the Monroe’s to take to market (since they still need to sell that produce too)! 

Farming is a risky business.  So much depends on the weather and good timing!  Added to that, organic farming means there are no pesticides, so there’s a risk of insects as well.  I’m so glad Jerry knows what he’s doing and he is masterfully making sure we get the very best every year!  We have made wise investments buying a share with the Monroe’s!

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Fire & Ice Salsa

How about those melons! Jerry’s been bringing on the most beautiful melons this year. The yellow watermelons are my favorite. And from time to time Jerry’s been known to accidentally drop a melon near the kids when the working members are out there. Too bad it has to be eaten right away!

Here’s a recipe my mom shared with me recently, and just in time! Not that watermelon isn’t great on its own, but here’s a refreshing way to use it, and it’s a perfect side dish for your next barbeque!

3 cups chopped watermelon
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
2 tablespoons lime juice (about 1 lime)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon chopped green onion
1-2 tablespoons chopped jalapeño pepper (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

After chopping, drain excess juice from watermelon in a colander. Combine melon in a large bowl with green pepper, lime juice, cilantro, green onion, jalapeño and garlic salt; mix well. Refrigerate 3 hours. Serve with corn or potato chips!

8/26/09 Newsletter

Hello Members,
New crops this week are our regular green basil, tomatoes, oblong watermelon, yellow beans, golden beets and green flesh honeydew. In addition to this, you are also getting Yukon Gold potatoes, sweet white onions, summer squash, lemon cucumbers, Japanese eggplant, green peppers, Ivory peppers, carrots and muskmelon.

Jerry and I were discussing the plight of our tomato patch. You know the story that tomatoes appear to grow (or ripen) overnight. We have always known that the temperatures need to be between 65 and 95 degrees for tomatoes to grow, mature and ripen. Nothing has proven this more to us than this summer. Our average nighttime temperatures have been in the high 50’s. Our summer highs have been in the 80’s. As some of you have observed with your own gardens, the tomato plants are just sitting there waiting patiently for warmer temperatures. They really do grow overnight! When our daytime temperatures are in the high 90’s or low 100’s, they protect themselves by pushing all their water into the tomatoes. This is why you see splits on tomatoes. At night, when temperatures drop, the plants pull the water from the fruit into the plant for nourishment & growth, allowing the tomato to ripen. When the temperatures at night are less than 65 degrees, the tomato plants go into a type of hibernation, waiting for warmer temperatures. We are not seeing enough warm days of bright sunshine to make up for the low nighttime temperatures. And the repeated weeks of cool & cloudy or rainy days do not help the situation! We hope to give everyone at least one tomato each. But with today being cloudy and supposedly we are to get rain on Monday and Tuesday, we will see what we have by the end of the week.

I have to laugh when I say this, but we are picking our early tomatoes. Our main season tomatoes are starting to show signs of ripening, but this particular plant comes on earlier than our main season planting. I do not know if there will be any tomatoes for picking by the box, but, I have a feeling that we may have a whole field on at the same time, (if it ever matures)! So let’s go ahead and get a list going of those of you who would like to come out and pick tomatoes by the box. When you call in, leave your name and phone number along with how many boxes you are interested in getting. We will either call you and get you scheduled to pick because there is only a few ready. Or we will let you know through the newsletter to call and make an appointment because the whole field is on!

The oblong watermelon you are getting this week is an heirloom called Charleston Gray. This a type of watermelon most of us grew up with when we were kids. Do you remember when Grandma or Mom would come home with a long watermelon instead of the round ones we get today? Hope it is a good one. It is hard to find the seed for oblong watermelon and we would like to add this as one of our staples!

We grow several different kinds of honeydew. This week you are getting a gourmet green fleshed honeydew that should thrill your taste buds! As most of you already know, Jerry has a passion for growing melon, especially watermelon! We hope you will enjoy all the different types, because it sure is fun to grow them!

Have great week!

Jacquie, Jerry, Alaina and Kyle

Creamed Zuchini Over Pasta
Saute ¼ cup olive oil
Add 5 cups zucchini, chopped
1 onion, chopped
½ cup fresh parsley
3-4 cloves of garlic smashed
1/2 cup fresh basil
1 cup dry white wine
Cook until zucchini is soft. Transfer to a blender and blend with:
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
4 Tbsp butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Serve over pasta of your choice.

Working Member submitted

Melon Freeze
Cut up and freeze muskmelon.
Add frozen melon and 1/4 to 1/3 cup frozen lemonade concentrate to a blender.
Appearance will be of a soft sorbet.
Drink immediately, tastes better while semi-frozen.
Wendy Oldenbrook

Jacquie’s Summer Pasta
1 Bell pepper, any color or 2 banana peppers, chopped 1 or 2 tomatoes, chopped
2 Summer squash, any kind 2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion (I prefer white but any will do) your favorite pasta
1 or 2 cloves garlic, smashed then chopped (I use elbow macaroni or bowtie)

Bring salted water to a boil and add your favorite pasta and cook according to the directions on the box. Saute onion and bell peppers for 2 minutes in oil. Add squash, garlic & tomato. Cook until squash is soft & tomato has broken down. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve over pasta.
Options:
Can add basil, dill or hot peppers to give it a different taste or some kick!

Eggplant!

How incredible is this week’s share!??! So pretty with those pale green banana peppers, vivid watermelons, and gorgeous eggplant!

Last year when we got eggplant in our share, we weren’t quite sure what to do with it. The only way I’d ever seen it prepared was in eggplant Parmesan. I needed options people!

So I started researching a few recipes. One of the best I’ve found was called ‘Whole-Wheat Pasta with Roasted Eggplant and Tomatoes’ from the Great Food Fast cookbook by Everyday Food. I’ve made it quite a few times and come up with this variation. It’s my husband’s favorite way to eat purple food!

1 large eggplant, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 large onion, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
2 cups cherry tomatoes, or a few Roma tomatoes roughly chopped
2 small or 1 large zucchini, sliced into bite-sized pieces
coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 lb whole-wheat penne pasta
2-3 TBS capers (to taste)
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

1. Preheat the oven to 450. In a medium 9×13 pan, combine the eggplant, onion, tomatoes, zucchini, and oil; Season with salt and pepper, to taste; toss well to coat. Roast about 30 minutes, tossing mixture halfway through.
2. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water according to the package instructions – do not over cook. Reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water; drain the pasta and return it to the pot.
3. Add the roasted eggplant mixture, capers, and Parmesan. Toss to coat, add the reserved pasta water, if desired to make a sauce. Serve immediately, sprinkled with more cheese.

Serves 4-6. Total time: 45 minutes.

What about you? How do you enjoy your eggplant?

Introducing myself

Hey there friends of the Farm! Just wanted to introduce myself. I’m Anisa Schell, and I’ve been a Monroe-aholic for 2 years now. 😉 My family and I joined the farm in 2008 and, like many of you, fell in love with the awesome organic produce that we get weekly from Jerry and Jacquie.

Last year I signed up to be a working member because I wanted to see for myself what people did on a farm every day. My husband, Rick, hoped that doing this last year would get the dream of owning a farm out of my system, but I think it only deepened the desire. And this year, he had the opportunity to work a few weeks as well, and he loved it just as much as I did!

I am fortunate enough to be a stay-at-home mom with my two kiddos. This allows me to be a working member, and the boys (Henry, age 2, wearing the skull hat & Emmett, age 7 weeks, wearing green tye dye) get to come along for the ride. That’s me in that picture, wearing the baby. Henry’s been having a blast this summer catching toads and bugs and feeding the pigs each week as we fill the shares for all the members.

We live in downtown Englewood, so we carpool up to Kersey on our “farm day” with another working member from Littleton. We also have chickens in our backyard, in my tiny effort to turn our house into a wannabe farm. 😉

So there’s a little back story on me. BUT this blog is about YOU and about our awesome CSA! So… stay tuned for my next post about this week’s produce. I can’t wait to get to know the other members of Monroe’s CSA. Thanks to Brandon & Jacquie for letting me contribute!

Oh, and one more thing: the best part about blogging is that it is interactive! So if you see a post you like, leave a comment! If you have a question, leave a comment! If you want to see more of something…. leave a comment!
*thanks to Rachel Carlson Photography for sharing the pictures of the farm!

8/16/09 Newsletter

Dear Friends,

We are half way through the summer season with this being week 9 out of 18. We are pleasantly surprised so far with the quantities and variety of produce you have been getting. This week we will not have potatoes. We have had several pieces of equipment break down and we are incapable of harvesting those potatoes! You are getting, Walla Walla onions, orange carrots, cabbage or cauliflower, summer squash, slicing cucumbers, green & purple bell peppers, Globe eggplant, a few ears of corn, and muskmelon. New crops this week include lemon cucumbers, cinnamon basil, jalepeno peppers, banana peppers and red & yellow watermelon!

Cool weather again this week means the tomatoes are another week later. For those of you who have not grown tomatoes, they have stages of colors they go through before they turn red. We will see tomatoes in several shades of green, from dark to almost white. From there they turn an ugly yellow color and then head to an orange stage. The final stage before turning red is the pink stage. This is a tomato that is red, but not red enough to pick! One plant can have all the colors present on it. Right now we are starting to see a few plants with white and yellow tomatoes. Let’s convince Mother Nature to kick up the heat a little and see where it takes us!

Mother Nature has really thrown a curve ball in our direction this summer! It has not only affected the produce and when it ripens, but also the animals. The beef processing was postponed by one or two months. And now we will be postponing the processing of the sheep. We had several processing dates set well in advance for late August and September. But we will be cancelling those dates. It will be approximately another 3 or 4 months before they are at an acceptable weight for processing. For those of you getting lamb, we will send you a letter just as soon as we know something! The pigs, however, appear to still be on schedule for the October and November processing dates. We will be sending out information by letter to those of you who have pigs as well!

Just out of curiosity, I went back 5 and 10 years to find out what we were doing. Ten years ago we only had 215 members and 9 Distribution sites. We only distributed produce one day a week. Our Full Shares cost $400, our Half Share cost $250 and the Single Share cost $175. Five years later, a member created our new logo (as above), we added a fruit share and we had 350 memberships. We were distributing produce 2 days a week to 12 distribution sites. The cost of a Full Share was $470, a Half Share was $315 and a Single Share cost $235. Today, we have 600 members & 24 Distribution Sites. We also added a third day of distribution! The cost of a Full Share is now $620, a Half Share is $440 and a Single Share costs $335. My, how things have progressed!

Today’s tidbit: Just like trees, we all need to find a place to grow and branch out!

Jacquie, Jerry, Alaina and Kyle Monroe

8/11/09 Newsletter

Dear Friends of the Farm,

Well here it is, the second week of August and it is supposed to be very hot. What have we been getting? Rain…again! Last night we even received a little hail with it. That was lovely. Something every farmer looks forward too. It doesn’t appear to have caused any damage really. But you will see the marks on everything. Is it monsoon season yet? It looks to us as if it started a long time ago and never really went away! Enough with this crazy weather!

There is a really nice blog put together by a member who is a food writer in Denver. Gretchen has a passion for food, but more importantly, food from sustainable sources. Check out her blog at http://www.seedtospoon.com. If you are looking for more recipes for all the goodies you receive each week, you may want to try out http://www.cooks.com. I like this site quite a bit. A few years ago, a couple of members took the initiative to create and monitor a Yahoo Group Page. This group discussion page will have a calendar to mark off special events, when extra pickings are available and freeze warnings. It is designed for members to keep in touch via email. It is a great place to get to know each other as well as exchange recipes, cooking and preservation tips. You send email to a common address and yahoo distributes it to whoever has chosen to receive emails about Monroe Organic Farms. Your email address is kept safely within the group and traffic is low. You can be removed at any time. To join, either go to: http://www.yahoogroups.com/group/MonroeOrganicFarms/join, or send an email to MonroeOrganicFarms-subscribe@yahoogroups.com and we’ll get you signed up.

Once melons, corn and tomatoes are on, you will need extra cloth bags or a box to take all your loose produce home. It will also keep it from rolling around in your car! We do not provide the bags you will need for this, so plan ahead! You are welcome to bring your extra plastic bags to share with other members for this task.

Distribution Centers are asking me to remind you that they have set hours for you to pick up produce. Please do not come early unless you have called them ahead of time and made arrangements to do so. Never take produce from a Distribution Center without checking in with them first. They keep track of who have come and who have not, who have turned in their bags and picked up honey &Western Slope fruit. So you can see if you arrive and take produce without checking in, Distribution Centers are at a loss as to where that produce has gone and who has taken it!

Produce Fees are due and payable in full by September 1st. Statements will be sent out by the end of this week showing what has been paid and what has not. A $25 late payment fee will be assessed by the 15th of each month the accounts are not paid in full.

For those of you interested in the Winter Share, I will be sending out information about that in September. Watch for it! If you are one of those members who has already signed up for the Winter Share, do not worry about sending another form. We will take care of you!

The Harvest Festival will be Sunday, September 20th from 11am to 3pm. This is our ‘thank you’ for being members. We are asking you not to invite non-members. But if you do, they will be charged $10 per person, adults and children. We will be taking reservations starting this week. We need to know how many people are coming from your household. If non-members are coming, we need to know that too and how many.

I need volunteers to help set up tables and tents and chop produce. We get started at 8am. I will also need 3 volunteers to clear the table during the day, keep up with filling the drink containers and chopping extra produce if necessary. There is a need for 8 people (two every hour) to run the Check In Station from 11 to 2 pm. A couple of people will need to empty the trash in the bathrooms, make sure there are extra T.P. and paper towels available. The canning booth was a big hit last year and I would love to have volunteers sit and talk to people about canning. The most important job yet, the Master Grillers! We need two people every hour over a four hour period. Grilling will need to start at 10am. and continue until 2 pm. Tear down and clean up will start around 3:30pm. and we need as many hands as possible to make it easy and light work.

We hope to have the apple cider press back this year. We need everyone to bring a big bag of apples to the Festival to share. This way everyone will get a small sample of fresh apple cider. The more variety of apples, the better the cider! I haven’t checked with Jerry to find out if there was any popcorn left over from last fall. If there is, we will set up the popcorn sheller and everyone can try their hand at removing popcorn from the cob and take a small bag home for popping. We will of course have the hayrides to the pumpkin patch throughout the day. Each child should be able to take home a pumpkin!

We will also have our list of u-pick crops & directions available at the check in table for those who want to pick. We ask that you bring your own containers. If you do not, you will not be able to pick this year. We need all of our containers for distribution. We also ask members to only pick crops on the list. For the last couple of years, we are noticing more and more people taking crops out that were not listed. If this continues, we will stop the u-pick part of the party. We do not grow extras of every crop. And every year that list changes according to what Mother Nature has decided to give as bumper crops.

Would anyone like to do the shopping for me? Once we have a tally as to how many people are coming to the Festival, we will need the supplies for it. A shopping list will be compiled and passed on to you. You will need to bring those supplies to me on the day of the Festival. And I will reimburse you for those costs.

The Harvest Festival is something we all look forward to every year. But it does take several volunteers to make it happen. We noticed the same volunteers show up every year. It would be nice to see some new faces. The chores are not difficult and you get to know other members at the same time. To be successful, this festival needs you!

The Festival is a potluck. We ask you to bring the side dishes & desserts and we will supply the fresh veggies, fruit, hot dogs, burgers, utensils and drinks. The Festival is a great way to get to know other members and see the farm where all your veggies come from. Mark your calendars and plan on joining us for a fun filled day!

This week you are getting red potatoes, red onions, red beets, yellow carrots, celery, eggplant, ivory & green peppers, slicing cucumbers, summer squash, beans, muskmelon and corn! Normally you would not see celery this time of year. We assume it is due to the cold wet spring. Muskmelon is in the same plant family as cantaloupe, however, it is stronger tasting and sweeter than cantaloupe. Try not to fall head over heels in love with this. Oh yes! I do believe summer has arrived!

The Monroes