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Monday, November 23, 2015

Thanksgiving Share Information

We had our Thanksgiving share distribution on Friday.  If you bought a Thanksgiving share but didn't make it to the pickup on Friday, please stop into the Dairy Store anytime this week during regular store hours to collect your share.  Be sure to let the shopkeeper know if you purchased cranberries or pies along with your vegetable share.  Below you will find some very relevant information for making your winter veggies last.

  Making your Winter Vegetables Last
A look at optimal vegetable storage conditions
Storing 40 pounds of produce might seem a little daunting at first.  The temptation to just leave everything on the kitchen counter or to stuff it all into the fridge might appeal to you but your vegetables just won’t last as long if you don’t take the time to organize them and store them according to their ideal conditions.  Below you will find a chart to assist you in making your winter vegetables stay as fresh as possible for as long as possible.
Vegetable
Optimum Temperature (degrees F)
Optimum Humidity
Approximate Storage Lie




Brussels Sprouts
32-40
95
3-5 weeks
Cabbage
32-40
95
3-4 months
Carrots
32-40
95
4-5 months
Kale
32-40
95
10-14 days
Leeks
32-40
95
1-3 months
Onions
32-60
65-70
6-7 months
Parsnips
32-40
95
2-6 months
Potatoes
39-60
90
4-9 months
Rutabagas
32-40
95
2-4 weeks
Shallots
32-60
65-70
6-7 months
Sweet Potatoes
55-60
80-85
4-6 months
Winter Squash
50-60
50-70
1-6 months

This table is based off of information provided to vegetable producers so don’t worry if you can’t provide the exactly conditions listed above.  Keeping your produce out of direct sunlight and free of standing water or condensation will help to inhibit decay.  Keeping your potatoes, sweet potatoes, shallots, garlic and onions in brown paper bags in the pantry should be enough to keep them for quite a while.  Winter Squash can often be kept for weeks or months with no special conditions at all.  For leafy greens and thin skinned root vegetables, refrigeration is the way to go.  Put these into plastic bags with a paper towel to absorb excess moisture and place the bag into your vegetable crisper draw for best results.  Happy eating!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Farewell Appleton Farms 2015 CSA Season

Looking back

Another season has come and gone here at Appleton farms.  I feel, as I do at the end of each season, that we have made so much forward progress this year as a farm and as farmers although not without some growing pains along the way.  This was another tremendous learning year for us.  We welcomed almost 100 new members who joined us from the Moraine Farm CSA. What a fantastic group of people!  We also expanded our acreage by growing vegetables on the Moraine fields.  Working out the logistics of farming in two places at once and the last minute re-budgeting that accompanied this process sometimes drove the sleep from our eyes and left our heads pounding but, at the end of the season, I’m proud and pleased with what we have been able to accomplish this year. 

Above and beyond the added production demands we achieved this season, the Appleton CSA can boast that we have an experienced crew of dedicated and passionate farmers working to keep the share room full of seasonal goodness.  I am overwhelmed by the hard work and commitment to our mission that I see from our young farmers.  In all kinds of weather, through pestilence and drought, through good days and bad
these men and women have never waivered and working with them has raised my spirits right along with them on more occasions than I can number.  Leah, Ryan, Sean, Hannah, Emily, Charles and even Peter “Peaches” Cohan, thank you all so much for everything you do to make Appleton Farms such a great community to be a part of.  On my own behalf and on behalf of the CSA, we hope to see you all back again next season.

As part of our continuing efforts to improve our soil structure and fertility, we were able to fallow one of our fields for the entire year.  This is the first time in many years that we have been able to manage a year long fallow.  Even more exciting, we were able to coordinate with the dairy team and graze the cows on the cover crop growing in this field!  By mimicing the ecology of a natural plain or meadow we hope to see compounding benefits to our soil structure, biology and fertility.  While managing animals within a crop rotation poses new and interesting restrictions on how and when we can use a field to grow vegetables (think food safety) the chance to improve our cultural practices has been well worth the challenge.


“Farming in a changing climate” was the theme of a conference I attended this past winter and it seems to have been a defining theme in our season as well.  We have borne witness to a season of extremes.  A late winter, an erratic spring and a long, hot and very dry summer challenged our carefully laid plans.  Some crops flourished under these conditions and some languished.  For me the failures have been equal measures humbling and educational.  By taking the lessons of this season into the next we hope to construct plans of greater resilience to manage Appleton Farm in this changing climate.  We hope also that our CSA members can bare the cost of our lessons with rueful good humor.

But instead of dwelling on our disappointment I would like to innumerate and reflect on a few of our triumphs from this season.  We were able to consistently provide a variety of share room staples.  Beets, cabbage, carrots, chard, kale and onions are a few prime examples of “staple” vegetables that had an increased presence in the share this season as compared to last.  We also introduced over a dozen new vegetable varieties to the share room and pick your own fields this season: that is added, not replaced!  Many of our crops performed as well or better than we had hoped but a few stood out as exceptional.  Slicing cucumbers for example were far more abundant than in years past and the quality was much improved from last season.  The greater care and attention we paid to our eggplant was rewarded with a true bumper crop.  Although we only planted 2 experimental beds of Sun Jewel melons (just enough for our CSA members to try as it turned out), we were blown away by the sweetness, texture and “Wow” factor of this new comer.  I was unreasonably proud of our spring spinach and broccoli, both of which we were able to offer without the usual limits.  Both our direct seeding schedule and our cultivation schedule were executed with great precision this season which resulted in higher quality greens and PYO crops, a smoother transition between successions and fewer weeds reaching maturity!

The successful growth at Appleton has a created a positive ripple effect beyond the impact in the CSA program.  This was a season of building and strengthening our relationships within the community.  Working with local food access organizations we were able to donate nearly twice as much food towards hunger relief this season compared to last season; over 10 thousand pounds!  Working with other local farmers to help supply our CSA we were able to address weaknesses in our own farming methods while simultaneously quickening the local farm economy.  The Appleton CSA also gave back to the farming community through sharing our equipment, resources and labor with over half a dozen other small farms this season.  We have been very active in the pursuit of our goals to become leaders in food access and local agriculture. 

Looking forward
We still have so much work to do in order to build on the successes of this season and address our short
comings.  Even as this season winds down I have been a part of so many exciting conversations about where we want to go next season and well beyond.  The winter is the time to engineer our grand designs and for the farmer these are days of boundless optimism.  I’d like to share some of this optimism with those of you reading. 

Hopefully all of our CSA members have received a link to the CSA renewal web page at this point.  Online renewals are live and running smoothly.  If you have taken the chance to check out the renewal page you have probably noticed that the cost of CSA membership is staying the same while we are moving from 22 weeks to 20 weeks of CSA distribution next season.  Appleton CSA share prices have stayed steady for the past 4 years and we decided to reduce the number of distribution weeks in lieu of hiking the upfront cost of a share.  This change makes the Appleton CSA share consistent with the other Trustees CSA programs throughout the state.  Beginning next season, we will NOT be reducing the amount of fall crops we plan to grow or harvest for the CSA!  Instead these crops (squash, onions, cauliflower, carrots and all the rest) will be offered in the same quantities over a shorter span of time.  Effectively this should allow us to reduce or eliminate limits on the more popular fall crops and distribute them all over fewer weeks.
Appleton Farms CSA will end the last week in October.

We are very excited by the opportunities opened up by ending our Summer CSA season a little sooner. 
Most notably we are in the early planning stages for a new offering next year: an eight week stand alone fall share.  Revenues from this fall share will go towards paying for a new full time farmer positioned at Moraine farm.  I am so thrilled that we will be able to offer another up and coming farmer the opportunity to pursue his/her dream with the security of a year round position while also returning the fields at Moraine to full production capacity.  My hope is that everyone else will be thrilled by the chance to continue buying local, healthy produce into the early winter.   

Although this was a fantastic season at Appleton it wasn’t by any means a perfect year.  From production, to communication and shareholder experience, we are looking for ways to elevate our level of excellence next year.  Getting a little better at everything we can is ever our goal but we need your help to make it happen.  We have a few great ideas for how to improve the CSA from a farming and business perspective next season but we need the voice of our members to guide and shape our decisions.  CSA members should have received our season wrap up email at the beginning of this week.  Within the body of that message is a link to an end of the year survey.  Please tell us what you thought about this past
season and what you would like to see happen at the CSA next season.  Thank you so much for your past and continuing support of Appleton Farms.  It is through your participation and commitment that we are able to continue growing and giving back to our community.  Happy winter and we look forward to seeing you again in the spring!


Ryan

Monday, November 9, 2015

Week 22

The Share:
Kale
Collards
Greens
Carrots
Potatoes
Onions
Leeks
Garlic
Winter Squash
Sweet Potatoes
PYO Parsley

Expect a season wrap up post for later today.  For now take a gander at what our last week of CSA holds in store!  Also please excuse the obligatory plug for Thanksgiving shares (we still have a dozen or so available) and don't forget to renew your CSA share online!  You can use the Ipad at the CSA check in desk to renew or follow the link provided in the"Renewals for the 2016 Appleton Farms CSA are now open for current CSA members" email  to renew online at home.  If you have any questions or issues with your renewal please give us a call at 978.356.1655 ex 4110 and Susan will be able to walk you it.

Monday, November 2, 2015

week 21

Hello all-
      This is Leah Jurman the assistant manager subbing in on blog duties today. I’m a little rusty at the writing desk but my hope is I can maintain Ryan’s elegant yet informative writing style, so, fingers crossed!

The Share:
Kale
Greens
Bok Choi
Cabbage
Leeks
Onions
Shallots
Garlic
Potatoes
Winter squash
Turnips
Beets
Carrots     
Brussel sprouts
PYO Parsley

Field Updates:
Before I get going, just a quick reminder that there are still Thanksgiving shares available. Pick up is on November 20th and its 50 ponds of the good stuff to get you through turkey day and beyond. Sadly, pies and cranberries are no longer available to preorder but they will be available in the Dairy Store to purchase.

As we enter the last two weeks of the share it has really dawned on me the level of transformation I witnessed here this season, my first at Appleton Farms. I arrived in February and dug my way through snow to my new front door, dug my way through snow to the green house, dug my way through snow to open the field gate… and so on, to all the new places I would encounter. You can imagine that through all this digging I was being filled with hope and descriptions of this beautiful property that for all intensive purposes, I couldn’t really see! And then it was all I could see! And day by day I got to learn more from Ryan, from my crew, shareholders, and from the land. I have enjoyed very much learning and getting my footing here on the north shore and I cant wait to keep doing so.
          In news outside of a personal late introduction- Brussel Sprouts! Yipee! From a childhood aversion to an adult favorite I have been awaiting patiently ( sort of ) for my tiny tender sweet, essentially miniature cabbages. To those newer to these fall treats they too are members of the Brassica family, joining cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and many other vegetables we have had all share long. The sprouts themselves are modified stems that grow in the node of each leaf. They will be delivered to you on the stalk so this will be easy to visualize on arrival to the share. Patience is key to getting these; planted july 3rd and seeded in the greenhouse at least a month prior, these little guys like to take their time. But time well worth it I hope.

Thanks and see you in the share!
      

                                      Guest blogger Leah Jurman, assistant CSA manager