My farmer is Lower Valley Farm: Jay and Mandy. Currently the 2 acres they farm supports over 100 CSA members, Farmers’ Market sales (40-46 tubs per week), 4-6 tubs donation to Food Pantry and stocking a local natural food store. Lower Valley Farm recently received their “certified Organic” status. Financially the farm is supporting its operations, Jay and Mandy and their 3 children, 3 full time employees and 3 part time employees… on 2 acres of planting and a LOT of hard work.
I think those are astonishing statistics and I am so happy for Jay and Mandy and their crew. I met Mandy at Farmer’s Market – I think 2011 – and I think it was the first year and maybe just she was doing the garden. I bought heirloom tomatoes and it was memorable because I had purchased some heirlooms at the grocery in May from a hydroponic grower so when I saw she had “from the ground” heirlooms at market I zipped over to her stand. At that time she had an old pickup truck and 1 red tent and 1 table. We talked about the heirlooms and she said she had been told that she couldn’t grow heirlooms in Montana with our short growing season. But she did and they were and continue to be wonderful. At that time, she also sold eggs from their chickens and it was my introduction to fresh eggs. She stopped the eggs and I’ve had to find a different source but I am grateful for the opportunity to try and learn about good eggs!
Fast forward to 2017 and now the farm sends tubs to market in an air conditioned trailer with a special farm van. There are 2 red tents and “terraced” tables. When appropriate, items are packaged. Everything is beautifully displayed with a label saying what it is and the price plus a cute chalk board that details what is on offer.
I pick up my CSA box at the farm and have now met 2 of the 3 children and they are a delight. Cute, smart, articulate and just fun kids. Jay and Mandy are usually around when I pick up and they never fail to be pleasant and greet me enthusiastically. And this is at 5:30-6:00 p.m. when they have no doubt been working … and lately in the heat … since dawn.
It is a joy to be part of their customer base and to see how they are growing the operation. They added crew this year for the first time as well as some equipment. Their goal is to be able to continue to do this. Per their newsletter, they are in their 30’s and they want to continue and as we all know … it gets tougher to do this kind of very hard physical work as bodies get older. This thinking ahead and the obvious research they’ve done about methods and equipment and variety of produce and no doubt more that I don’t know about … but it is obvious that they are not only working hard, but working smart. And I admire both, but really admire the working smart and their being willing to try and to risk.
Last Thursday, I picked up week 9’s produce, plus some extra. Things are ramping up with squash, kohl crops, and getting close to tomatoes. Up until this week, I’ve mostly been eating up my CSA box. I did make some arugula pesto when I saw I wasn’t going to get through the arugula. I’ve had to throw out a little bit of the “lettuce mix” … mainly it is not my favorite, it cannot really be processed/frozen in any way and so … some weeks, I just did not eat it before it went bad.
This week was a whole ‘nother story … I bought extras with the thought of putting some away for this winter! I’ve spent time Friday, Saturday and this morning doing just that.
The red cabbage.
So beautiful I just had to take a photo.
My plan for this cabbage was to ferment 2/3 and eat 1/3. It has worked out more like ferment 1/2 and eat 1/2 because…
… I made a slaw of the red cabbage, carrots and broccoli. And I drizzled a little of a wonderful new dressing: Mel’s Honey Mustard Ranch Dressing
Repeat twice – we’ll get back to the cabbage in a moment!
The basil. That is 4 ounces of basil.
It processes down to 2/3 cup. I found these paper cups that have no wax … they are plain paper. They are wonderful for freezing small bits of things holding about 1/3 cup.
Saturday morning after basil and broccoli and washing/blanching other items, I was hungry!
I got a crustless quiche/frittata kind of thing in the oven: eggs, meatballs chopped, chard, onion, eggs and cheese!
YUM! I make a darn good pie crust, but I make better sourdough so the no crust quiche allows some sourdough toast – YEA! Good breakfast – brunch … it was 10:30 ish!
We are back to the red cabbage.
Good cabbage. And, I like cabbage! And that slaw and the dressing.
So by the time I went to get started, there was less cabbage than I originally planned to ferment. I added some carrot. The carrots were in the CSA box and they are now large but still so sweet.
I bought 2 bunches as an extra.
The photo above is the 2 bunches washed and kind of chopped.
I blanched and cold water bathed.
After the blanching and bathe … ! It is incredible how the braising greens cook down.
I squeezed as much water out as I could to a baseball sized result.
I froze half of that result to use later in soup or stew.
The other half went in pasta shells with ricotta, parmesan, Monterey Jack and seasoning. And of those 14 shells – 4 into the frig for a meal this week and 10 into the freezer for another time. They both will be topped with marinara and baked.
Last, but definitely not least – the broccoli. I blanched, cold water bathed, drained and froze on a cookie sheet … most of 3 heads – 3 GIANT heads – of broccoli.
Most of the frozen was then vacuum sealed but one bit I put in a zip loc bag for easy use now.
I still have kale, red beets, 1 carrot, a patty pan and a zucchini squash plus some small purple onion to use before week 10’s box that I pick up on Thursday. I think all will work perfectly for meals I have planned and I will be ready for week 10 and maybe some extra.
From here on out I’d like to eat 1/2-2/3 and freeze 1/2-1/3. I don’t have room to freeze enough for the entire winter but it will still be nice to sometimes have the option of using something from this summer and thinking on the success and progress of Lower Valley Farm.
And P.S. … a “cold” front arrived. It started in the night and we got a few drops of rain and high humidity which gave way to low humidity and a high Sunday of 81F with 14% humidity (fire weather and we under red flag warning) … tonight is to clear and maybe get below 40F. Crazy!!!