Monthly Archives: August 2016

Newsletter – August 30th, 2016

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This week you are getting Yukon Gold potatoes, yellow onions, carrots, squash, eggplant, sweet peppers, hot peppers (jalapeno) and tomatoes.

Fruit Share Members: You are getting Santa Rosa plums from Ela Family Farms. First Fruit is having a bountiful season. They are offering a 20# box of peaches for $40. If you would like one, please call me no later than Thursday evening. When you call me, make sure you clearly state your name, your distribution center and how many boxes you would like to order. Because everyone has cell phones these days and the reception tends to be tricky out here; it wouldn’t hurt to repeat everything! First Fruit will need to start Friday picking peaches in order to have them here early Tuesday morning. He said I could call him as late as Friday evening with our final total…But anything after that would be difficult to include in the order.

The 1980’s: I would say this was a very exciting decade for the two of us. We married in 1984. I worked at a real estate title company and Jerry was working for the same place (that is where we met), but found out his heart was at the farm. He worked for his dad for the rest of the decade. I helped out after work and on weekends. I really didn’t have much choice in the matter; we lived in Eaton, had one car and Jerry took me to work & picked me up! I went where the car went. There always seemed to be something that didn’t get done by the end of the day and we had to go back to the farm.

Jerry’s grandfather & dad ran a U-pick farm since the mid 1950’s. Folks had the option to purchase crops at the farm stand under the shed or pick their own for a discount. By the 1980’s, people were not canning as much as they used to. They still came by to purchase smaller amounts from the farm stand, but that was slowing down too. Jerry started attending farm meetings about farmers markets. They were the rage back east and in California. Several were starting around the area and we wanted to be involved. Jerry was on the boards of two farmers markets; Ft. Collins (Sunday and Wednesday) and Boulder. We decided to attend three more in Cherry Creek, Cheyenne and Downtown Ft. Collins (on Saturday & a different organization).

This was the beginning of a new era for both small farmers and for customers alike. Farmers markets were way more convenient and there was a pretty good selection of produce. We called ourselves Monroe Homegrown Vegetables back then. Pretty much told our story right in the name. Jerry’s mom and dad ran the farm stand while we went to markets (Jerry’s brother and sisters pitched in too). They were successful, beyond our wildest dreams! But prices were very low because customers expected to get produce cheaper directly from the farmers than from grocery stores. We sold muskmelon 3 for $1.00, tomatoes 5 for $1.00, ¾ of a pound green beans for $1.00 and a 25# box of tomatoes went for $5.00. Everything went for a dollar; it was the most we could get! By the time the 1990’s came around, prices had jumped a little: muskmelon were 2 for a $1.00, tomatoes were 3 for a $1.00, green beans were $2.00 for ¾# and a 25 pound box went for $8 to $10. By the beginning of the 2000’s, prices had risen again: tomatoes were a dollar each, muskmelons were $1 to $3.00 each, green beans were $2.00 to $3.00 for ¾# and a 20 pound box of tomatoes went for $15. (Did you notice the size of the box just got smaller?) Today we get $3.00 a pound for tomatoes, muskmelons are $5.00 each on average, green beans are $4.00 a pound and a 20# box of tomatoes sells for $3 to $35.

Just to sum some things up and explain why we changed over the years: My problem with the farm stand was I had to be there from 7 am until dark, seven days a week. I could never leave the stand or leave the farm. We took over the farm in 1991 (I was not longer working in town by then) and after one year of running the farm stand ourselves, we closed the U-pick farm in 1992. We also decided to change our name since there was an explanation for what we did, “organic”. We became Monroe Organic Farms. We liked and appreciated the farmers markets, but whenever we had a weather related problem, no one seemed to care! They would just go to the next farm booth. We felt there had to be something out there that supported the individual farmer better. Besides, we were attending 14 farmers markets a week by then and they were just about killing us! I could not see how we could continue at that pace for the rest of our lives.

We started our CSA in 1993 (one of three at the time) with 38 members; and most of whom were working members! Back then, working members started the first week of April and finished the last week of October. I’m not exactly sure how we would have run the farm without them. These working members became our “Core-Group”. They were in charge of evaluating the farm shares and giving us their suggestions. The first year, we gave them way too much produce and everyone wanted to get a smaller share (which we did not provide)! I really didn’t know what the average family of four ate on a regular basis because I had just started mine (Alaina was born in 1989 and Kyle in 1991)! We told them we needed them to tell us what would be the perfect amount for the Half Share to feed a family of four with kids between the ages of 5 and 12. The second year, we gave out too little! It took us a total of five years of continual surveying to get the shares where they are today. Even so, we still adjust because so many people’s diets have changed over the years. So, when we do survey you, they are very important to complete!

Decades of Customers: In the last five years, Jerry, Kyle and I have run into people who have said they came to either Lester’s U-pick farm (Jerry’s grandfather) or Jerry Sr. U-pick farm as children. Jerry’s customer, Mary, came on a regular basis to his farmer’s market to purchase anywhere from 5 to 10 boxes of tomatoes a week. She did this for 15 years or more. Mary would buy them for everyone she knew. She spoke of coming to the farm in the 1950’s & 60’s. She passed away five years ago at the age of 90. Kyle ran into a woman this summer at his farmer’s market who said she had visited the farm when she was in her 20’s and knew Jerry Sr. He thought she was around 80 years old. And I had a gentlemen come to me at my market three years ago to inform me he knew the family farm and loved coming with his parents to pick tomatoes. One time, Jerry Sr. gave him his very own watermelon to eat. He said he never forgot that! I think he was in his mid-70’s. I can’t believe we are still running into people that knew the family farm from so many years ago. It warms my heart almost to melting!

Eggplant Dip (page 2 in our CSA cookbook)

1 medium eggplant, peeled & diced
½ tsp pepper
1 or 2 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 tsp cumin
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 green onions, chopped (or chopped white onion)
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp tahini paste, optional

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread eggplant and garlic on baking sheet lined with parchment paper and drizzle with oil. Roast until tender, about 20 minutes. Remove skins on garlic and mash together with eggplant. Stir in the rest of the ingredients. (I like to cook the onion too and mash with the eggplant). Serve with crackers or veggies. Other alternatives available in cookbook.

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Newsletter – August 23, 2016

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This week you are getting potatoes, red onion, garlic, carrots, cabbage, squash, specialty peppers, kale and tomatoes. The Full Shares will be getting broccoli. We do not have a lot of peppers due to the hail storm, so you will be getting different types. These specialty peppers are called lipstick. They come in red, green, yellow and orange, are very sweet and are good for cooking. Treat them as any other pepper. No fruit, but everyone will be getting honey that ordered it!

Going back in time to 1995-96: It was a wet, stormy spring and crops came on late. We planted our first asparagus field in 1993 (our very first year as a CSA) and expected our first crop this year. (Little did we know it would be three more years before seeing our first fat spears!) We added 120 laying hens, two goats, two calves, four piglets and a greenhouse to the farm. We had a “Barn Raising” event and around ten members showed up to help us erect the greenhouse. By the end of August, there was a small hailstorm. Crops were already set back by the cold, wet spring and this storm set them back farther and damaged the roof of the greenhouse. We did not expect most of the crops to come on until September and October. All the tomatoes in the greenhouse (no longer standing) went to farmers’ market. We had an early freeze on Sept 25th and were down to root crops and winter squash for the month of October.

The “Homeplace” (as we call the original farm where Jerry Sr. lives today) is a very small 21 acre farm where only about 15 acres are farmable. Jerry and I knew we could not grow our business with the amount of acreage we were farming. On March 1st 1996, Jerry and I expanded the farm by purchasing the place we live, work and play on today! This was the year of expansion and improvements for us and we invested a lot of time and money into the project. We purchased two used cold frames that year and Jerry planted lettuce and kale in one, the other held carrots, turnips and beets. The greenhouse needed a new plastic roof due to the hailstorm and a second “barn raising” occurred with five handy male members helping out. (It was planted with tomatoes again). The farm was 60 years old that year and we were asking all the PR types for tips and suggestions on what we should do to play it up. A harvest festival was suggested and we acted on that idea right away even though we have been getting together as a group at the end of the year since 1993 for a potluck. But this time we had a bicycle parade, I did face painting, we had a volley ball game and croquet tournament in the yard, a nephew performed a magic act and we had hayrides to the pumpkin patch; all happening under the 75 year old trees at the Homeplace.

1996 was probably the hardest year we endured yet. We had a hailstorm in early July and again in August. The hailstones were nickel size and it hailed for 10 minutes each time. Much to our dismay, we had another early freeze (Sept. 20th this time)! Two years in a row was excruciatingly painful! Now we have to get winter jobs to support our family. We asked members to dig deep and help us out by purchasing something new: a Winter Share.

Winter Shares looked very different than they do today. For $100 a member could receive 8 bushels of crops including carrots, onions, potatoes, corn, winter squash and anything else still remaining on the farm. Each household got to pick exactly what they wanted, how much of it and making any combination they wanted.

We had five to ten people get the Winter Share….my records are foggy here. Until we found a way to store the produce ourselves at the farm, the most people we ever got to purchase the share was 25. Today we serve 150 to 175 depending on the season.

Coming back to today: This summer (with the larger than golf ball size hail) is probably very close to being as destructive as the two hailstorms of 1996. It has been a long time since we have seen this kind of devastation! The biggest difference between now and then is: we were young, green, and had invested heavily in improvements. Jerry Sr. helped us by telling us what would continue to grow and produce and what to plow under and start over or forget for the season. (Much could be replanted in July, but not in August.) The early freeze cut off any recovery and production of so many plants. Is this starting to sound familiar?

It is cooling down already at night when we have gotten used to upper 60 degree temps in August for the last 18 years. A meteorologist once told us that we have 20 year cycles coinciding with cycles of the sun. Starting in 2010, we were supposed to start a cooling cycle. We did not see any changes until 2013 with the cooler spring, rainy month of May and torrential rains in September. Could we actually be seeing a cooling trend? Every May since then has been cold and rainy. This year has been fairly cool all summer with only a few very hot days. Normally we can feel fall starting to cool down our evenings in September….but I am feeling this already. All I can say is this is all very interesting to me!! Goodness! Does this mean I am getting old enough to be like my grandmother/grandfather and be able to recite weather through a historical setting? Yikes!! (What does this mean for global warming? Which I do believe is happening! We have already gone up a degree and a half around the world. Will this continue? Will the cool springs we are seeing right now continue?)

2016 Fees: All fees are due in full by September 1st for your vegetable, fruit and honey shares. We have always tried to make this CSA as easy as possible to pay for. We do not ask for 100% of your fees up front, which is how most CSA’s work across the US. We have divided your fees into three installments between the Membership Fee due early in the spring and your Produce Fees due on July 15th and September 1st. We go even farther by allowing some members to pay monthly now. If you cannot pay your fees in full at this time, please call me and let me know as soon as possible. We plan on discontinuing delivering shares for those customers who have not paid in full starting the week of September 4th.

Harvest Festival RSVP’s and Volunteers: What time is it? It is time to tell us if you plan on attending the festival! Please RSVP to Peg Lehr about volunteering or your attendance. Her contact info is wrdwrrior@comcast.net or 303-320-5706. The festival is September 18th from 11 to 4. She will need to know the number of adults, kids and guests and if anyone is a vegetarian and will want a Boca burger. (Guests will be charged $10 per person, three and under are free!) 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 your calendars now, so you do not plan anything else on top of this festive day!

Volunteers are needed to keep this day running smoothly. This is an excellent time to invest some of your time into the farm! Our Wish List: 8 people for the Check-in Station, 6-8 Master Grillers, 4 people to cut up produce, 8 to set up tents, tables and chairs, 6 to rinse cookware & set under the serving table and resupply cut veggies, 4 to refill drink containers, 4 to check on bathrooms and empty trashcans around the area, 5-6 people to run the canning booth and/or t-shirt booths.

Everyone has been so wonderful to us and has said the kindest things. We truly have the best CSA Members in the world. We cannot thank you enough! Have a great week.

Jacquie, Jerry, Kyle and Sam

Newsletter – August 16, 2016

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Dear Members,

This week you will get Yukon Gold potatoes, white onions, garlic, red beets, squash, Japanese or Nubia eggplant, bell peppers of various colors, basil and a mixture of tomatoes; beef steak and heirloom.

Fruit: Allstar peaches from Rancho Durazno. They are a free-stone, classic eating peach with good flavor.

Week 2 after the storm: Well, how can I describe this for you? It smells funny here! Broken melons are turning to vinegar and everything that was damaged is rotting. Some places of the farm are brown where a sea of green should be. It is very hard to see the farm in this shape. Amazing how mad Mother Nature can get!!

What is surprising is what we have been able to find that is still good to eat! The summer squash has recovered a bit and we are picking those for you now. It looks like some eggplant has survived as well as the basil. Tomatoes that have not been crushed to death are continuing to ripen on the vine.

The bad news is we had to let two employees go and the two summer interns. This was a very sad day for us. It is difficult to find employees and to have good ones you have to send away is crazy hard to do.

Kyle and Sam made a wonderful farm dinner and we sat down with the interns and tried to get some closure on the season for them. They were gracious and learned a tremendous lesson about farming: It’s not easy, it’s hard work, there are long days, it can be very rewarding and when you least expect it; things can go wrong!

Harvest Festival: Please come help us celebrate 80 years of being a continuous organic farm. We are so proud to be able to say we have always been organic and now a four generation farm! The plan is to continue with the festival because it is our way of thanking you for being members and supporting this farm, the employees and your farmers. We will be doing this on September 18th which is a Sunday. Hamburgers, hotdogs, drinks and your utensils will be provided. We ask you to bring the side dishes. A member of the farm is having a large sheet cake made to commemorate our 80th anniversary. I would say we only need gluten free deserts brought to the picnic.

Until we get closer to the date, I cannot tell you for sure if we will have U-pick hot peppers, tomatoes or raspberries. I can tell you for sure we will not have anything else available! We will have hayrides to the pumpkin patch (Jerry will purchase organic pumpkins for the occasion) and a few murals will have been painted by then for picture taking and there will be face painting, corn shucking contest, stick horse races (please bring your best steed) and games on the front lawn. We hope to have a new game available where families compete by loading up dad with pumpkins and he tries to carry them to a finish line. The winner gets to keep all the pumpkins he can carry! Mark your calendars to keep this day open. We plan on having a ton of fun!!

Have a wonderful week!

Jerry, Jacquie, Kyle and Sam

Newsletter – August 9, 2016

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Dear Friends of the Farm,

This is week nine of an 18 week season. You are getting Yukon Gold potatoes, yellow onions, garlic, carrots, squash, eggplant, tomatoes and corn. Fruit: Nectarines are in your future this week!

Week 1 after the storm:

When Kyle and Sam heard about the storm, they came home right away to help Jerry. The three of them planted like crazy for two days. Now you need to realize this is very late to be planting anything! Normally Jerry is completely done for the season by the third week of July. We hope for a long fall and a late freeze. With any luck, we will have peas, lettuce, radishes, kale, fennel and summer squash. All the root crops have survived and you will continue to get those on a regular basis. The watermelon, squash and cucumbers you received last week were picked before the storm. We will continue to glean our fields for produce.

The fields will take a couple of weeks before the plants that survived will show any signs of enough recovery to bloom and produce again. Time will tell! Hopefully we will see summer squash again soon. The vines are dead on things such as melons and cucumbers. Plants like summer squash can continue to produce if the top of the plant survived and there are some leaves left. Tomatoes leaned over during the storm and anything under the plants may continue to ripen. How fast that happens, we don’t know. (They were just starting to burst into a beautiful red color.) Peppers were stripped of leaves and bells on top were destroyed. But those underneath may also survive. This is the problem: We do not know exactly how these fruits will react, what the texture will be or how they will taste.

Anything you get from now on will need to be inspected for bruising. Do not be surprised to find scars on your produce. Eat anything badly bruised, like the eggplant you received last week, right away. They will not store. If we do not give you bruised and scarred produce, you will not receive much. Use what you can of these items by cutting out the bruises and bad spots.

We feel badly about this and our hearts ache every day when we are inspecting fields. We have cried more than a few times and I’m sure that isn’t over yet. We care so much about the people we feed and feel terrible about what has happened.

I asked Jerry the other day if his day has gotten easier or harder. Jerry replied, “Much harder. I am having to replace shut off valves on a huge part of the drip irrigation. (It was also destroyed by hail.) I am watering plants I don’t know will even live and planting plants that could die from frost before the end of the season. We pick crops that we don’t know if they will last long enough for consumption. Then turn around and feed it to the animals when it goes bad.” Please know we are trying hard to find produce (in the fields) to give you and will continue to do so throughout the rest of the summer!

Winter Share: We will be doing a Winter Share this year. Distribution Centers will be asking those of you who already have signed up for a share a few short questions. Please take the time to do this for us so we know how to proceed with the Winter Share. If you plan on getting a Winter Share, you too can take the survey. Please note: we will have all the root crops! We need to know how you feel about purchasing dried beans if ours do not turn out and winter squash because it was destroyed. We borrow quite a bit to get each season started in November. Your Winter Share fees help us pay our employees and pay some of these costs. (Your Membership fees help pay these costs too.) Without consistent revenue, we will have to borrow more money to get through the “dry months” (which will make the beginning of next year more stressful!).

Thank you for such encouraging notes, email and phone calls!

Jacquie, Jerry, Kyle and Sam

Newsletter – August 2, 2016

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Dear Farm Friends;

The Storm: This is the hardest letter I have had to write in a very long time. It breaks my heart to inform you that Friday night we not only received a hail storm, but two hail storms within four hours of each other. The first one showed up around 7:30 and consisted of hailstones from nickel size to golf ball size. The storm lasted approximately 15 minutes. We have to replace five truck windows and two skylights in the house. Every vehicle we own has hail damage. We watched the storm from the house. Every large hailstone that hit the barn looked like a small explosion. The sound was absolutely terrifying! It’s incredible that something that large can stay up in those clouds! We immediately could smell the strong sent of onions. It continued to rain for another half hour. Water drains from the south end of the farm to the north and it looked like a river was running through it; so much so, we could not go out and look at the damage. All we could do was go to bed. The thundering and pounding of the second storm awoke us at 11:30. This storm carried pea size to quarter size hail and it also lasted 15 minutes with rain for another half hour. We couldn’t imagine what the farm was going to look like or what might survive these storms. But the farm is resilient. You will be surprised what we will find alive and thriving!

Trucks were loaded for farmers markets, so the next morning it was decided to go ahead and go. Jerry stayed behind to search the farm for survivors and damage. When I got home we went out again so I could see what happened and to take pictures. (We sent pictures to Alaina and she has posted them to Facebook.) It looks like the east side of the farm got it way worse than the west side. Now we just have to wait and see what happens. It will be a few days before we will know what will continue to grow and what will completely die. Until then, we will glean the fields for food. We saw that some tomatoes and peppers tucked under the plants have survived, so we will see what happens to them. It also looks like some eggplant and corn may have survived too. Cucumbers and melons are gone so I am so glad we gave you more than normal of those while we had them. (But we have a surprise….we picked watermelon, cucumbers and squash before the storm and you will be getting them this week.)

Our immediate plans are to plant things that grow quickly such as peas, fennel, lettuce, radishes, turnips and kale and hopefully they will be on by the first week of Oct. Until then, we have to make do with whatever survived the storms.

This week you are getting Yukon Gold potatoes, onions, carrots, garlic, eggplant, cucumbers, squash, watermelon and hopefully, each of you will get a tomato.

Fruit: You will be getting peaches from Rancho Durazno.

Notice: I am in need for someone to set up and monitor a Survey Monkey survey. We need to reach out to those of you who have already paid for and those of you who intended to purchase a Winter Share. Please call me about setting this up because I don’t have a clue (or the internet know-how) to do so!

Being a part of a CSA is one of the most important things you can do to reassure yourselves the farm will be there to grow and provide food for the future. Without your support during these horrific times, we would not survive. Start-up costs are high and your deposits help us pay these expenses and borrow less money. Your mid – season payments allowed us to pay off that borrowed money. The support we get from you for the rest of the year will keep us going by paying those never ending, forever continuing expenses! We love receiving your notes and look forward to reading them. Thank you so much for being the greatest members a CSA farm can have! We appreciate you!! Jacquie&Jerry