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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