Spring/Summer CSA Menu Planning


Our 2017 CSA started April 1st, and our members got beautiful kale, lettuce, spinach, asparagus and beets. Yum! The great thing about CSA membership is getting beautiful, fresh-from-the-local-garden veggies. For new members, the difficult part can be getting produce you are not used to eating/cooking.  Many people eat the same basic 4-5 veggies week after week, regardless of whether they are in season or not. A CSA turns that concept upside down, because each bag contains only what is in season locally, and changes as the seasons change. If you are accustomed to picking up lettuce, tomatoes, and broccoli at the store, getting a big bag of asparagus, spinach, kale, beets, sweet potatoes and onions can present some challenges! Some of you will wonder, how can you eat all that in a week? Well, it may  require some menu adjustments, but we’re here to help!
When you get your produce home, it is a great idea to wash and spin dry (and store in a big zip lock) your leafy veggies. Then, take inventory and make a plan. Here is what I would recommend with the veggies I listed above, and the specific directions are detailed below the list. See our Recipes Page for many more recipes, and see our What to Do with All Those Greens  for lots of ideas for using greens. See our Help Me Get Through this Bag post for even more inspiration! 

-Make a frittata (or egg casserole or quiche) with spinach, onions and herbs. You could even use grated sweet potatoes as the “crust”. 
-Make a breakfast hash with the sweet potatoes, onions, herbs and kale.
-Roast the sweet potatoes, along with some beets for dinner. Roasting “spiralized” sweet potatoes and beets is a fun option too.
-Wrap one or two of the beets up in tin foil, drizzle with olive oil and roast in the oven for about 45 minutes. Chill and chop up to top salads.
-Make an arugula (or any lettuce greens), beets and goat cheese salad to go with dinner.
-Roast a chicken with olive oil, garlic and herbs (some sweet potatoes could get roasted with the chicken if you didn’t use them all in #2 or #3).
-Toss the asparagus in olive oil and sea salt. Roast on the grill (or in the oven) with a juicy steak.
-Chop up any leftover asparagus and put it in a pilaf with onions, parsley, slivered almonds, and Gouda cheese.

Details here:
Frittata: Fry out half a pound of bacon or sausage with onions. Add spinach and parsley. Add 5-6 beaten eggs. Top with grated cheese. Bake until set, about 20 min 400 degrees. 
Breakfast hash: Cut sweet potato in small cubes. Rough chop onions. Rough chop kale (stems removed). Chop up your herbs. Fry the cut sweet potatoes and onions in coconut oil (or any other oil you like) until soft. Add the chopped kale and herbs. Serve with a couple of fried eggs on top.
Roasted Root Veggies: Cut root veggies up into similar sized pieces. I like them about 1 inch square. Toss with olive oil and add salt and any herbs or spices you like. Spread in one layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 400 about 20-30 minutes or until beginning to brown.
Arugula/Beet Salad: Put some arugula in a small bowl or plate. Add sliced or chopped roasted beets. Add a spoonful of yummy goat cheese. Add some walnuts. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Roasted Chicken: Rub an entire chicken (inside and out) with a mixture of olive oil, salt, garlic, and fresh herbs such as thyme, rosemary, or oregano. Cram a quartered onion in the cavity. Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour or until done (internal temp at 160).
Asparagus and Gouda pilaf: Measure out broth and rice according to rice package directions. Put the broth on to heat in a saucepan. In a separate frying pan sauté onions or leeks in plenty of butter. When translucent, add the dry rice and sauté until beginning to brown. Add the chopped asparagus, chopped parsley, and slivered almonds. Mix well and put the mixture into the pot of simmering broth. Simmer until the liquid is absorbed. Finish with small chunks of Gouda cheese, sea salt and pepper, and more chopped parsley. Stir well until everything is mixed, melted, and fluffed. Serve as a lovely side dish.

Oh my, we are out of veggies and it has only been three days! What a yummy week of eating.
Eat your veggies,

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Spring Is Here And So Is The Asparagus!

SFC_asparagus_labeledThis is the earliest I have ever seen asparagus. The warm weather in February warmed up the soil, and the asparagus is already up! The cold hardly mattered. Spring is amazing because, in a matter of weeks, the produce world goes from mostly collard greens, onions, and sweet potatoes, to some of the best produce all year! Our CSA (click the big green “Join Here” button on the top right of this page to join) begins in April, and our members will get fresh spring asparagus, as well as tender spring lettuce, sweet onions, mint, and fresh pesticide-free strawberries. That’s just to mention a few of the great things! Wow, what a plethora of yumminess that all shows up in April!

Here are some things I would do with the fresh spring asparagus. Wrap it in a wet paper towel and microwave it for 2 minutes. Unwrap it, add fresh butter, add seasalt and enjoy the simple fresh flavor of just cut asparagus. Nothing else is like it!
Or try this: buy some mushrooms and green garlic or ramps at the market. Sauté the ramps or green garlic in a good chunk of butter (or ghee), and when soft, add a bunch of chopped mushrooms; when mushrooms are soft, add chopped asparagus. Finish with sea salt.asparagus and mushrooms veronica
This next recipe came from a market Dad: sauté shallots in olive oil or butter. When fragrant, add fresh washed chopped asparagus (with the water from washing still on it), sautee just a few minutes until bright, add a splash of wine vinegar and sea salt. This one really impressed me! It was so so yummy. Then I got creative and combined recipe number two with this one. I added mushrooms to the mix.
You could also try it this way: Spread asparagus on a cookie sheet and toss it with olive oil. Add coarse salt and parmesan cheese. Roast at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until the asparagus is bright green and the cheese is slightly browning. Add a little squeeze of lemon and serve it up.IMG_2504
Or grill it up along with a steak! Toss whole asparagus in olive oil. Throw it on the grill for just a few minutes, after the steak is cooked and it is resting. When the asparagus gets some grill lines on it, it is done. Finish with sea salt, or even a fancy salt like truffle salt. A squeeze of lemon is really great on grilled asparagus also.

Asparagus dinner2

Eat up those lovable veggies in your CSA bag!

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2017 Spring/Summer CSA and Plenty of Reasons to Join!

Spring CSA Veggies are growing!

Spring CSA Veggies are growing!

Now is the time to join our CSA!  Click on this link to join. 

There are plenty of good reasons why you should be in a CSA, Community Supported Agriculture. First, you are much more likely to eat nutritious food if you already have it in your fridge! Getting a beautiful bag of fruits and veggies every week ensures that what is good for you is already in your fridge, ready for you to eat.
Secondly, produce tastes better (and is probably more nutritious) when it is fresh from the farm. Remember how great Grandma’s home grown tomatoes tasted? Remember those tomato sandwiches with nothing but tomatoes and mayonnaise? That amazing flavor comes straight from the farm and can’t be bought at the grocery store. If you like fresh tomatoes, wait until you try fresh picked lettuce, fresh cut asparagus, or blueberries picked yesterday. There is nothing like it.
Third, we’ve made it easy for you to find quick and easy recipes and resources here at bellsbestberries.com! Our blog helps you learn how to cook these local vegetables you may not be familiar with. There is also contact information on the blog, so if CSA members have questions, we’re happy to help. We also offer a Farm to Table Dinner every year, to let you experience what the “pros” do with our vegetables!
Lastly, it is good to be part of the local food system. Local farmers are what stand between you and giving up our entire food system to industry. Support your local growers. Support your local restaurants that serve local food. Support the health and wellbeing of your family and your local economy! Know your farmer. It’s worth the investment.

Check out some of the cool things we have planned for this year!  The first seeds are already planted. The transplants arrive this week. The CSA starts April 1st!

These cool season crops are planned for early spring:
Several types of kale grown to mature size (Curly, Lacinado,Red Russian, and Siberian)
Several types of kale harvested while young
Asian vegetables such as pac choy and tatsoi
Young Asian vegetables 
3 Types of beets (red, golden, and candy cane)
2 types of turnips (sweet Japanese and purple tops)
2 types of carrots (purple and orange)
Fennel that can be harvested mature or at baby stage
Young spring leeks
Young spring onions
Sugar snap peas
Mixed radishes
4Types of lettuce (red leaf, green leaf, romaine)
Rainbow chard
Beira kale for juicing (produces 5 times the amount of juice!)
Napa cabbage
Green cabbage

Here is what we have planned for summer:
Blueberries of course!
Strawberries from our friends at M&M Farm
Peaches from our friend Chris Yonce
Mixed colors of gourmet salad tomatoes
Several types of peppers
Squash and Zucchini
Snap beans (red, green, or yellow)
Heirloom Dragon Tongue beans
Malibar spinach

If we missed something that you love, let us know!  Want to come out the farm?  We would love that! Check out our new farm pick up at Rabbit Eye Ridge!

Eat your veggies!

Jay and Robin


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Lessons Learned From Farming in 2016

jay seedingEvery year, we try to look back on our farming to assess what we did and figure out how to do it better next year. This year, we made some big changes to our farming operation, and along with that came some key learnings. Last year, we decided that we were going to die trying if we kept on doing so many things by hand. This was a great decision that led us to purchase a tractor mounted seeder, a cultivator to keep the weeds out, a mechanical transplanter, and an entire irrigation system. Now that it is the end of the season, I can honestly say that those were good choices and we have not yet died trying. Now I think we can improve on things even more! Here are some of our key learnings from 2016.

1.  Start with transplants.  It provides an earlier more reliable crop.  This is key because seeding can sometimes go wrong. I remember last winter we reseeded 4 times! Almost anything can cause seed germination problems, no rain, too much rain, too hot, too cold and the list goes on. Transplants avoid all of that and allowed us to start with beautiful baby plants. Yes, it was a little more expensive than seeds, but the savings and reliability made it worth it. We haven’t abandoned direct seeding all together, but will be shifting at least half of our crops to transplants. We already ordered them for spring, with delivery in February, just in time to have lovely kale, lettuce and greens in April.

2.  Plant for our Winter CSA earlier, to ensure we beat the hard freezes and hopefully our cauliflower and Brussels sprouts will be ready earlier. This year we planted fall crops on September 1st. Sadly, this timing caused our cauliflower and Brussels sprouts to all be perfect at the same time our Winter CSA was ending, and the weather was dipping into freezing temperatures. Next year we will do it better and aim to plant those transplants before August 15th. I know it is really hot and our cool season crops won’t love it, but I think with adequate irrigation we can do it!

3.  Plant lettuce with transplants. Lettuce seems to be the most persnickety of all crops. It won’t germinate if it is too hot, too cold, or if the soil is not perfectly prepared. Ugh. We don’t have time for this high maintenance behavior. With adequate irrigation, transplants should get these errant children in line.

4.  Plant closer! Our new mechanical transplanter spaces plants 18 inches apart. We didn’t know that it was adjustable, so everything we planted had that spacing. What a waste! Kale and cabbage can be planted as close as 6 inches! That means that it took 3 times as much land to grow the same amount of crop as it would have if we had adjusted the transplanter. Wow, we were silly. Not only that, any land that is not shaded by a crop becomes host for weeds. With our kale and cabbage so far apart we created a weedy mess. Next year we will plant closer together to suppress weeds by shading them out, and get more plants in one row. A simple, but key, learning.


5.  Make the rows straight. So, last year we bought a new cultivator to get rid of the weeds between rows, and so that we were not hoeing so much. It was a great idea, but we planted our rows kind of crooked, with some closer together than others. This meant that our beautiful new cultivator didn’t work very well because we kept having to adjust the spacing. Not only that, but if the row was crooked, sometimes we tore out a whole chunk of the row when we tried to cultivate. The cultivator was a great idea, but we have to do a better job. Make all the rows straight and exactly the same distance apart, so we can mechanically cultivate between the rows to keep weeds down.

6.  Thank God every week for irrigation!  It saved us this fall when we had no rain from September until November! Now, we just need to do it better. This year we had some rows with two lines of drip tape, and some with only one. The double lines worked much better. We also had a strange problem with some lines getting lots of water down at the end of the row, and not enough water at the beginning of the row. I think it was a pressure problem. Irrigation is essential. We need to get it right.

We love farming and continually try to do it better, so that we can keep farming. Everyone who is a member of our CSA or a farmers market customer is a key part of our ability to farm. That is one of our clearest learnings of 2016. Thanks to everyone who is a member of our CSA or meets us at the market. You support our farm.  We couldn’t do it without you.

Jay and Robin


Eat your veggies in 2017 and Happy New Year,


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Winter Veggie Breakfast Hash

winter veggie hashWe love having an absolutely huge breakfast, and have it almost every day. Last week I remembered a delicious hash that Craig Barbour, of Roots Farm Foods, used to make that he called his “Root Hash”. This is my version of it. I basically used almost every veggie I had in the fridge, which are the same veggies our CSA members have been getting this winter!


Half a pound of breakfast sausage (look for local products from outdoor raised hogs)

One peeled sweet potato cut in small cubes

One peeled turnip cut in small cubes

One onion or scallion diced 

A bunch of chopped kale 

Curry powder


Coconut oil


Salt and pepper


Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet

Add all the chopped veggies (except kale) and the sausage

Cook until the sausage is well browned and the veggies are tender. I like to cook it until the veggies are starting to brown.

Add a good sprinkle of curry powder and a little cinnamon.


Add chopped kale last and cook until just wilted.

Finish with some salt and pepper.

While the hash is cooking, fry a couple of over easy eggs.


Serve the hash with 2 beautiful eggs on top, and a side of your favorite veggie. I like this with roasted broccoli or cauliflower or a kale salad. Or veggie out, and add them all!

This simple hash and eggs makes a breakfast that will stick with you, and is loaded with good veggies. It has become a regular in our kitchen!

Eat Your Veggies,

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Unstuffed Cabbage Recipe and Pressure Cooker tips

Hello BBB readers! My name is Dana Ramsey (aka OrganicEater) and I’m taking over the blog today, since Robin and Jay are extremely busy at the farms.  With the mild weather we’ve had here in the Carolinas, along with some recent rains, things are looking great for this week’s winter produce (which will be available in the CSA and at Atherton Mill’s Farmers’ Market on Saturdays)! 

I want to share a Beef and Cabbage recipe with you, that a fellow CSA friend, Tina Brenize, shared with Robin and me a few weeks ago. It requires an electric pressure cooker, so if you don’t have one, you should click on that link for an explanation/review and consider getting one. They are a popular item these days, so it’s pretty easy to find them on sale and I believe they are 100% worth the $100 you’ll spend to get a good one. My tips: don’t get anything smaller than a 6Qt, especially if you have more than two people in your family. Spend the extra money to get the stainless steel bowl. It will hold up better than any teflon or plastic covered bowl, and no one needs to be cooking their food in Teflon. Yuck. As electric pressure cookers have gained so much popularity recently, there are plenty of websites and recipes popping up online to help you learn how to use it. We use ours almost every day, now that I’ve taught my teens how to use it. They love how easy it is for pasta, rice, boiled eggs and sweet potatoes! (And you know you need some extra ideas for all those sweet potatoes we get in our CSA bags. Did you know NC is the leading producer of sweet potatoes?!)

When you try this “Unstuffed Beef and Cabbage” it’s very forgiving and easy to replace ingredients. For instance, I had no Savoy cabbage, so I used regular cabbage. I had no Worcestershire sauce, so I Googled a substitution. I had no strained tomatoes, so I used a jar of marinara (it probably changed the flavor of the final dish, but so what?! It tasted great!). I had no ground pork, so I used all beef. That’s the beauty of having a few years of cooking practice under your belt; you feel a lot more comfortable substituting ingredients! Let’s chalk that up to one of the good things about aging, shall we?! 

So, try it and let us know how you changed things up for your version. As Robin always says, “Eat your veggies”; and cooking them in an electric pressure cooker is a great way to retain more nutrients since they cook so quickly, so I’m sure she would approve!

Find me on Instagram or Facebook if you want more veggie/cooking tips for using all these wonderful CSA veggies from Robin and Jay! And when you find me, be sure to let me know you’re a fellow Bells Best fan!! We are so blessed to have them in our community, and it’s always fun to connect with other veggie peeps. 

Encouraging Health,



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The amazing health benefits of strawberries


photo credit: @organiceater

A month ago, Jay and I went to the International Strawberry Symposium in Quebec City.  There is so much new research going on right now in strawberries, that I was amazed.  One of the best talks was on the effects of strawberry bioactive compounds on human health, by Dr. Maurizio Battino at the Universita Politecnica delle Marche, in Italy.  This is what I learned.

Strawberries are being studied for the prevention and treatment of several chronic degenerative diseases and they do some amazing things!  Dr. Battino’s team tested fresh strawberries and strawberry extract on mice and humans for over 10 years.  They found that strawberry bioactive compounds were able to enhance plasma antioxidant capacity, folate levels, and vitamin C levels.  They also protect humans from intracellular reactive oxygen, reduced DNA damage, reduce inflammation and cytokine levels and restored functionality of damaged mitochondria.  Not only that, eating strawberries improved blood lipid profiles by lowering the low density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglycerides.  

There was another talk by Yves Desjardins, from the Universite Laval that was also very interesting.  He discussed the positive effect of strawberries on cardiovascular diseases, obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases.  Wow what a super food!  

What gives strawberries its superpowers?  According to Dr. Desjardins, they are rich sources of vitamins and phytonutrients and are especially rich in anthocyanins, phenolic acids, ellegic acids, ellagitannins, gallotannins, and condensed tannins.  These all have strong antioxidant activity.  Even so, his hypothesis was that the real power of strawberries is the effect of the polyphenols on the gut microbes and their ability to favor a healthy microbial community.  Specifically, they can stimulate the growth of a mucus inhabiting bacteria called Akkermansia nuniciphila, the anti-obesity bacteria.  This bacteria has been shown to improve intestinal epithelium tightness and to reduce inflammation.  To sum his research up, strawberries have great health benefits and it is likely that their bioactive compounds act as prebiotics to feed and enhance gut microbes.

These talks actually rekindled our healthy eating habits.  Strawberries aren’t the only food with high levels of phenolic compounds and anthocyanins.  All colorful fruits and veggies have high levels.  This conference renewed my commitment to load my plate at each meal with every kind of seasonal and colorful fruit and vegetable that we have in the fridge.  This includes strawberries, blueberries, muscadine grapes, chard with pretty red stems, red kale, beets, deep green broccoli, red lettuce and so many more.  Food really can be our pharmacy, and it works hard to keep us healthy.  I’m in!

Eat your veggies!


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I’m Not Sure I Like Eggplant


Eggplant is at its finest when the weather is at its hottest!  By early August, the bushes are loaded and will keep producing until it frosts.  We grow enough to put them in CSA bags, however, it can elicit a few complaints from members.  To be honest, I’m not sure I like eggplant all that much either, but the deep purple skins are an antioxidant boom, and there are a few ways to cook it that even the biggest eggplant haters will be ok with.  


photo credit: Cannizzaro Famiglia

Fried eggplant, grain free


  • A few Japanese eggplants (the long skinny type of eggplant) sliced into little rounds 
  • Coconut flour
  • Hemp seeds
  • Italian seasoning
  • Salt 
  • Coconut oil

Implement it.

Cut the eggplants into rounds that are about ½ inch thick.  Mix up about a quarter cup of coconut flour and a quarter cup of hemp seeds along with some Italian seasoning.  Sprinkle the eggplant with salt and  let them sit a few minutes, until they appear wet.  Then toss the eggplant rounds in the hemp/coconut flour mix.  Heat up some coconut oil (a decent amount) in your heavy skillet.  When  the oil is very hot, add the eggplant one layer deep.  Fry them until they are brown on the bottom, and turn them over with a fork to cook the other side until brown.  Remove from heat and  serve.   We had these with pork chops the other night, and they were really yummy.  

Here is an even easier method to try.  Make a sausage and veggie scramble.  The eggplant adds an amazing creaminess that is irresistible.  

Sausage and veggie scramble

Fry out about a half a pound of bulk breakfast sausage in a large frying pan.  When it is about halfway done, add one chopped Japanese or Italian (the fat round type) eggplant. When the sausage is nearly done, add halved cherry tomatoes.  A few minutes later, add chopped up greens, such as kale or chard.  When the greens are wilted, add five beaten eggs and scramble up the whole mix.  When the eggs are nearly set, top with cheese.  Mix that around until the cheese is melted and serve it!  The dish actually tastes way better than it sounds.  You will love it!  

Lastly, if you happen to get a big fat round Italian eggplant, then you need to make eggplant rollatini!  I put this recipe on the blog last season.  It is a never fail winner.  

Eat your veggies, even if they are strange and purple!


Fried eggplant, grain free
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  1. A few Japanese eggplants (the long skinny type of eggplant) sliced into little rounds
  2. Coconut flour
  3. Hemp seeds
  4. Italian seasoning
  5. Salt
  6. Coconut oil
  1. Cut the eggplants into rounds that are about ½ inch thick. Mix up about a quarter cup of coconut flour and a quarter cup of hemp seeds along with some Italian seasoning. Sprinkle the eggplant with salt and let them sit a few minutes, until they appear wet. Then toss the eggplant rounds in the hemp/coconut flour mix. Heat up some coconut oil (a decent amount) in your heavy skillet. When the oil is very hot, add the eggplant one layer deep. Fry them until they are brown on the bottom, and turn them over with a fork to cook the other side until brown. Remove from heat and serve. We had these with pork chops the other night, and they were really yummy.
Bell's Best Berries http://bellsbestberries.com/
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Time To Sign Up For Winter CSA


When most people think of farming, they think of spring and summer with huge juicy tomatoes and crisp cucumbers.  I like that, but my favorite time is the winter.  Winter is when the lettuce is sweet and crisp, the kale loses its bitter bite, the broccoli heads up, and the beets and turnips make their balls.  I love these veggies, and grieve for them in the summer when they are gone. 


This is why we have a Winter CSA.  I know there are people in our veggie community who especially look forward to that beautiful lettuce, the profusion of greens, and no local fruit to be found at all, except some apples from the mountains.  This winter, we have planted so many pretty little things that my brain can hardly remember, but here is an incomplete list: 

  1. Three types of kale
  2. Collards
  3. Two types of chard
  4. Three types of beets
  5. Three types of turnips
  6. Four types of lettuce
  7. Herbs such as parsley, dill, fennel, cilantro and chervil
  8. Four colors of carrots
  9. Broccoli
  10. Cauliflower
  11. Two types of arugula
  12. Cress
  13. Three types of mustards
  14. Pac Choy and Tatsoi
  15. Garlic and onions
  16. Two types of sorrel


You can’t beat the diversity and nutrition of winter vegetables.  I also love the way farming is a pleasure in the Carolinas in the fall and winter.  Most of the time I am out there in jeans and a sweatshirt, and happy not to be sweating to death like in the summer.  There is another great blessing of winter: the weeds stop growing (or at least slow down a lot).  This is such a nice break after chasing weeds all summer.  Weeds are the bane of herbicide free farming.  We have high school kids who chase them all summer!  They also rejoice in the winter.

The bugs go away as well in the winter, for the most part.  It isn’t unusual to be dismayed every week of summer by the stink bugs, squash bugs, harlequin bugs, cucumber beetles, and all kinds of caterpillars.  There may be a few insects around in the winter, but they don’t cause much trouble.  It is easier to grow pretty produce in the winter than in the summer, if you farm without chemicals like we do.

Lastly, we don’t worry so much about the weather in the winter.  The summer is a constant prayer for it to either rain, or stop raining.  Normally, the winter is full of beautiful sunny days with just enough rain to make it all grow wonderfully.  Gone are the 100 degree days and no rain predicted for weeks.  We are just now getting our well and irrigation in place, so not worrying about rain and weather has been important.  Maybe next summer that won’t be such a stress.

Do you want to be a part of veggies in the winter?  Sign up for our CSA!

Joining our winter CSA is a great way to put your toe in the CSA waters, because it only lasts two short months, with six deliveries.  It is a great way to see how you like it, without the commitment of the whole spring, summer and fall.  We would love for you to join us.  Be a part of the local food community.

Eat your veggies,


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It’s Fall Planting Time

jay seeding

I know it is hard to believe, but July is the time we plan for fall crops and get the seeds ordered.  The fall crop actually gets planted by mid-August.  We often try to be the first to market with several crops, so we may even push the common wisdom and try to plant some of our fall crops by early August.  We have a few gardens with good afternoon shade and irrigation that work pretty well for this.  Our planting strategy is to first plant Rabbit Eye Ridge and the fields that are closer to the house because they have irrigation.  This is essential because it is so hot here, these fall crops will not germinate and grow without adequate water.  We will plant our second planting of fall crops in the fields that are not irrigated.  Seed selection is tricky for fall plantings because the crops planted in late summer need to be very heat tolerant, and the crops planted later in the fall need to be very cold tolerant.  Read and choose varieties carefully if you are a grower.  Also be careful to choose varieties resistant to the insects and diseases you think you will encounter during the growing season you are targeting.  

We peruse the seed catalogs in July, and get all of our seeds ordered.  We also order our transplants.  I love this part of my job.  I want to plant everything!  My favorite seed choices for fall include Brussels sprouts, mixed lettuce, mixed kale varieties, colorful root vegetables, broccoli, cauliflower, chard, and cool season herbs.  Each one has its own strategy behind which variety to choose.

Kailey Cabbage Transplant

Lettuce: choose a heat tolerant variety for early planting, then shift to a cool season variety for later plantings that will be harvested in the winter.  Plant the warm season varieties in places with afternoon shade and irrigation.  Plant the cool season varieties in full sun and in fields farther away.  

Kale: the most heat tolerant varieties I have found are Lacinado and Siberian kale.  These go in first.  Then, I plant Red Russian for later season harvests, because it tolerates cold much better.  I also specifically look for something colorful and different.  I might do Redbor this year, or even a Portuguese kale just for juicers.  

Broccoli and Cauliflower: as with all winter crops, I buy heat tolerant varieties and cold tolerant varieties for successive plantings.  For broccoli and cauliflower, I also look for good disease resistance, as well as pretty colors.  The seeds for colorful broccoli are extremely expensive, but these crops do demand a slight premium at the market.  The key is to not waste any of the seeds.  This means I need to buy them as transplants.  If I direct seed them into the field with my seeder, too many get wasted.  It has to be transplanted.

Brussels Sprouts: these are a challenge because the time from when the plants emerge to when they can be harvested is very long.  They are not very heat tolerant either, so they cannot be planted too early.  This means that if they are planted in early September, when it finally cools off a little bit, they may not have time to mature before it gets too cold.  We use two strategies.  The first is to find varieties that have some heat tolerance and the shortest possible days to harvest.  The shortest I have found is 90 days.  Plant them early, and be ready to cover them with frost protection if you have to.  The second strategy is to find very cold tolerant varieties with a long days-to-harvest and try to overwinter them for an early spring harvest.  I’m going to do some of both this year.  Last year it didn’t work because it got so cold that everything froze out.  This year might just be a little warmer.  Everyone loves Brussels sprouts.  It is worth the extra work and a bit of risk.  

Root Vegetables:  I choose sweet turnips, colorful beets, colorful carrots, and different types of radishes.  I don’t hesitate to direct seed these crops with close spacing, because I can remove some of the crops as baby root vegetables, and allow the rest of the crop to mature to full size.  If is funny, but root vegetables sell well as babies, but it is much harder to sell full-sized beets or turnips.  

Herbs:  great winter herbs include several types of parsley, dill, cilantro, and chervil.  We plant all of these and love them.  These also make great beneficial insect habitat, so I love having them all around the farm.  

By the end of July, we have at least half of our fields empty and are preparing to plant fall crops in August.  The chore list for the last week of July and August includes removing many of the tattered summer crops, composting, tilling, raking, and preparing to plant.  I can hardly wait!  I love fall crops, and honestly, think I might be better at growing cool season crops than summer crops.  Not only that, I love the huge diversity of cool season crops.  Bring on the winter farming!

Eat your veggies,


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