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

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