Archive for the 'Community Supported Agriculture' Category

Farm Day! our annual open house – everyone’s invited

Farm Day 2014

…around the farm the past few weeks

Preparing the rows for planting – after we form the beds with the tractor, we add fertilizer and level off the tops. If our soil was a couple of inches deeper, the bedder attachment would have done this for us – it almost does it in some of the deeper soil areas (6″-8″ mounded). Pretty good for our “shallow, Krome gravelly soils”, as the USGS labels them.

IMG_5486Here I’m documenting what’s being planted in the rows. This is good farming practice, and is required recordkeeping for organic certification. Why? These kinds of records allow the farmer to keep track of what’s planted where, so s/he can maintain a rotation plan for the crops, helping to keep crop-specific pests and diseases minimized, and prevent excessive soil nutrient depletion.
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The baby Lacinato Kale plants are coming right along, with their drip irrigation delivering water right to the root zone of the plant, where it is needed.

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These D’Avignon French Breakfast radishes are popping out of the ground, ready to be harvested. Yummy!

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Just a few weeks later, here’s those kale plants last week, nearly ready for first harvest as bunches. Look for some at the market on Sunday, and soon in the CSA shares.

IMG_5955farm pictures courtesy of Marian Wertlka-RedlandRambles.com

 

Proud to announce: Rachel’s Eggs ranked 4th by Cornucopia Institute

The Cornucopia Institute recently updated their Organic Egg Scorecard. Our certified organic Rachel’s Eggs have been ranked 4th among over 120 farms across the nation, with 2160 of a possible 2200 points and a “5-egg” rating (2001-2200): “Exemplary”—Beyond Organic!

Here’s the link to their latest report; http://www.cornucopia.org/organic-egg-scorecard/

click here to see OUR scorecard, with 100 points in 19 of 22 categories!

Our assortment of heritage breed hens rotate around our farm’s avocado grove in their chicken tractors, a bottomless pen designed to keep them safe from predators. They’re moved at least twice a week to fresh pasture, where they scratch around for goodies. They’re supplemented with certified organic, soy-free, non-GMO feed. During the wintertime, our eggs are snapped up as add-on egg shares by our CSA members, with a waiting list. Between mid-April and October, when the CSA isn’t operating, anyone can purchase our eggs though our ‘summer offers’ program.

Our other local organic egg producer, PNS Farms, who we mentored a few years back, has a 5 rating as well, with 2120 points out of 2200. Our CSA members also enjoy their eggs.

…aaaand, we’re BACK!

After a dormancy approaching 2 years (really? really!! time flies!), I realized it’s time to crank up this blog again – just in time for the new season.  We didn’t REALLY fall off the face of the earth. We’ve continued to send out emails, and have been active on Facebook, with some Tweeting thrown in from time to time, but I know that a number of our fans don’t “do” Facebook, not everyone is on our email list, and many don’t appreciate being bombarded with constant emails. So, I’m brushing off the rust, oiling the gears…ready to blog it!

Lots of things have happened in the intervening months. It’s the cycle of  life on a farm – preparing, planting crops, weeding, harvesting, selling, delivering, removing, recharging, then starting all over again. And in between each one, there’s weeding, dealing with unexpected stuff – sometimes good, sometimes not – more weeding, and in the summer, mowing and mowing and mowing – oh, and weeding! Then somewhere in the mix, throw in a crop of baby chicks to replenish the flock, after decimation by coyote and feral dogs… yep, life on the farm is NEVER boring.

Bee Heaven Farm collage

Last year on the farm

We saw new markets start, and others die out. The Homestead Market at Losner Park and the Overtown Market on 10th Street did not return in 2011-2012, and were sorely missed. But the slightly less hectic pace let us concentrate on the Pinecrest Gardens Green Market, where we had a great season. We’ll be back in Pinecrest in December.

Last year we started using Farmigo’s  CSA software system. We’ve fully automated our CSA enrollment process and are now able to offer more flexibility with share options and payment plans. In the summertime, when the CSA isn’t running and we don’t sell at the farmers market, we’ve always had a prepaid system (open to anyone) to order seasonal summer items – mainly tropical fruit. We implemented Farmigo’s webstore functions for this, and expanded our summer pickup locations to include the Upper Eastside Market, where our more northerly customers could pick up their orders without having to schlep down to Joanna’s Marketplace in the Dadeland area or to the farm in Redland. That’s worked out really well!

Our CSA options expanded last year, with the discovery of locally-grown Sem-Chi certified organic rice right in the Clewiston area barely 100 miles from the farm, and the debut of local salt farmers Midge & Tom with their Florida Keys Sea Salt. As more local organic (or pesticide-free) producers come online, we continue to develop additional stability and more variety in the shares.  We’re always looking for new crops, too. We have an amazing opportunity in South Florida to explore tropical food crops not available in the rest of mainland USA, and we’re all about that! Of course, Mother Nature always has the last word.

…see you around!

Cornucopia Institute posts Miami Herald article- Bee Heaven owner: Organic farming is good for the foodie — and the land

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via Bee Heaven Owner: Organic farming is good for the foodie — and the land.

Agri-Council Annual Farm Tour

Last week we hit the big time – the annual Agricultural Tour of South Dade came to visit us. Every year, the tour highlights an aspect of local agriculture. This year’s emphasis was on alternative agricultural activities, and the effects of the freezes in January.

Three busloads of local dignitaries, politicians, snowbirds, media personnel,  and local residents took turns visiting a fish farm, a bromeliad nursery, an organic farm (us!) and Farm Share, charitable food distribution organization that receives donations from local farmers and distributes them to needy families and organizations that feed the hungry.

It’s great to see that we are now recognized as legitimate agricultural producers. It wasn’t that long ago that local organic growers worked pretty much underground, without any support infrastructure – in part due to lack information. Land grant universities,such as the University of Florida, now have organic and sustainable agriculture research and training programs. The explosion in consumer demand for organic products has encouraged growers to convert to organic production.

You can listen to the WLRN/Miami Herald reports after the tour here and here.

Asian Mix

Our Asian Mix a.k.a. Braising Mix is a truly nice product, especially this time of year when we get consistent cool nights and bright sunny days with the occasional cold front. I love this time of year as much as our greens do. Everything is lined up just right for the healthy development of Brassicas (the family of plants that include most of the greens we grow, including Mustard, Kale, Pei Tsai, Tat Soi and many others) right now. The days are getting longer so there is more sunlight for photosynthesis. At night, when I take a walk with my head lamp on I can see the leaves covered with dew standing perky and fully hydrated. They have developed a strong root system by now so they are never without water or nutrients. The quality of these plants really comes through in our Asian Mix. We’ve harvested it twice for the CSA and we bring it to the Pinecrest Farmer’s Market every Sunday.This is Pei Tsai growing out in the field. This is a delicious and not so well know Asian green that we love and grow every year. It’s a fast growing plant that resembles something between a cabbage and lettuce, so it is great both raw and lightly braised. It has a light, sweet flavor with hints of cabbage and the texture is crisp but soft.

This is Lacinato Kale, a.k.a. Dinosaur Kale, which most people are familiar with. These plants are seeded in the beginning of the season and produce abundantly until the very end. They get sweeter the cooler it is. The kale in our Asian Mix adds heartiness and turns it into something that is very braisable.

This an example of what goes into the mix. From left to right, Yukina Savoy, Lacinato Kale, Osaka Purple Mustard, Pei Tsai, Red Russian Kale and Tres Fin Frisee. It’s a perfect balance of textures and flavors!

Here we are mixing 80+ pounds of the freshly picked leaves for the CSA. When they are all laid out on a table it is pretty spectacular.

This is the finished product, 1/2 pound per bag. We sell these at the farmer’s market for $4.50/each. One bag is enough to make a beautiful salad for up to 5 people or a few salads for a couple. When cooked, greens shrink down substantially in volume, but the nutrition in a dish accompanied by them is very high so you wont need much.

The pictures below where sent to me by Emily, one of this season’s interns.  They are so beautiful I had to add them to this post.

BEAUTIFUL!

Thanks Emily.

First Market Day at Pinecrest Gardens

Wow, what a great start to market season! Folks showed up early to see what was on hand, and they kept coming, and coming, and coming…

at the market

first week at Pinecrest Gardens market

By 9am, the official start time, we were mobbed. The weather was great. The setting was awesome. There was plenty of parking and lots of space for many vendors. The mix was good. Pretty much everyone from the old Gardners Market site was there, plus some new folks.

Even this early in the season, we had lots of great goodies, and every single thing in our booth was (and always is) locally-grown, from either our own farm or our farm partners. We had interesting things like charichuela (Rheedia spp), black sapote, root basil, YingYang salad mix, fresh oyster mushrooms, smoked eggs, Yukina Savoy, Shungiku radishes, butterhead lettuces, callaloo, our dried Fruits of Summer mix, farm honey, and lots of other wonderful goodies.

our foodshed

how far did your food travel

Everything comes from South Florida, Lake Okeechobee south, except for the tupelo and orange blossom honey, which are from further upstate.

In addition, everything we sell is certified organic, or pesticide-free, and direct from the farm.

Furthermore, at our booth, you will be dealing with the very folks that are growing your food. That’s our guarantee!

And, of course, in honor of the closing of Art Basel week in Miami, our booth had its own resident local artist, our daughter Rachel, complete with exhibit…

Art Basil by Rachel

…and a new week

This is week 2 of our eighth CSA season. Wow! We’ve been at this 8 years already – hard to believe. And how we’ve grown – from a humble beginning of 20 folks renewing every 4-weeks (with a max of 8 at any one time), picking up at the farm, to today’s 465 families in a tri-county area (Pompano to Key West), with a long waiting list. It blows my mind!

So thinking back to that, little bumps along the road like our first week’s crazyness with the truck and the WWOOFers and the reefer are really only annoying flies to swat off. Yeah, it sure doesn’t seem like that when you’re in the middle of it, trying to figure out what to do to get those shares out to everyone in good condition. But this is the kind of thing that makes life interesting – after all, it’d be mighty boring without some challenges along the way…

You know the deal with the glass half-empty or half-full? I’ve always looked at it as the glass is under a gushing torrent, and what you catch with it is entirely up to your approach. Reach out with an upright, steady arm, and your glass will overflow! Reach out holding it upside down, and it will be and remain empty.

SO- we start a new week (after a week of Thanksgiving and recovery, and off to the next adventure!

See you at the market on Sunday!

The CSA season is about to begin…

and I’m sitting here writing a blog post. What is WRONG with me? Like I need another thing to do!

I can tell the suspense and tension are building – to the grand finale this weekend, when we’ll deliver the shares, hopefully sell out our heirloom starts at RAMBLE, and have the beef distributed. Between now and then, though, there is emailing everyone, preparing the sign-in sheets, the distribution lists, the newsletters, calling the folks from whom we don’t have confirmations, re-sending emails. Then there is coordinating with the other farms for their crops, picking up the crops from the other farms,  assembling the boxes, harvesting our crops, bunching, bagging, counting, splitting bunches, packing the shares, loading the truck.

Now wait…. what’s this about beef? Well, we decided we’d get a wholegrass-fed  steer from 4 Arrows Farm in Citra, near Gainesville, (www.thegrassfedgourmet.com) to share among us – a small group, to see how the whole process would work and check out the quality, thinking that maybe down the line we could share a cow every so often with whoever wanted to. So, of course, it has to come in on the same day everything else is happening, right? We can’t complain- we’re getting free delivery (and we gave them an excuse to go fishing in the Keys…) But, Lordy! somebody tie me up- don’t let me sign on for 3 major things at one time! You’d think I’d learn, right? I remember last season having a CSA delivery, a Fairchild event, and the Keys GLEE event all on the same weekend – that was another completely crazy week. Veggies, boxes, volunteers and workers were flying everywhere – the walk-in cooler was busting at the seams, the truck was overflowing, we had every vehicle we owned taking things somewhere…anywhere…  Foast forward to this week, for a similar scene. Be warned, if you come by anytime Thursday or Friday, we WILL conscript you and put you to work!

OK, enough of this babbling… time to make lists for tomorrow’s tasks…


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