Wow, what a winter eh? This has been the real deal. It's barely February and I'm already looking forward to mud season!Here's what's ahead in this wordy farm update:

  • The farm's efforts towards sustainability
  • Help us feed more people
  • Haven't signed up?...now is the time.

It Takes Energy to Grow Your Food

In between jumping batteries and thawing various lines, cables and doorways, I've been cranking away in the office on the big picture. Each winter I get some time to pick up my head and gaze towards the long view of the what it is we are doing here. Over the years that view has gained depth and it includes many things Maura and I are proud of. As members and supporters of the farm we hope you will be proud too.

When the website was redone last month I added a page titled "how we farm." After fifteen years working this stretch of ground and feeding so many of you, we confronted big questions and arrived at some solid conclusions about what this farm needs both annually and in the the long term.  How do we build our soil quality while taking thousands of pounds of produce off the farm each year? Is it possible to increase our production while maintaining or reducing our energy footprint? Can we do everything we want to do here as farmers and community members and continue to make a living? As anyone who is reflective realizes, it's hard to be thoughtful and get the work done day by day. That said here are a few of the things we have been doing that we would like to share with you.

To grow enough food for the CSA and provide an income for ourselves and crew, we have to plant a lot of acres of vegetables, almost sixteen in 2017. Plowing, planting, and harvesting on this scale requires machinery and most of these machines are diesel powered. In addition to tractors, we also use fuel for heat. To have produce ready to harvest in June we start our transplants in early March, heating the greenhouse to 65 degrees day and night.  All of this tractor work and heat is very fuel intensive. As environmentalists we are conscientious about using energy conservatively but we are also thoughtful about our fuel sourcing. Most of the diesel and heating oil available in the U.S. is petroleum-based. The small percentage that is not petroleum based is called biodiesel and most of this is "farmed diesel" - produced from crops grown specifically to be converted to fuel. Farmers growing fuel is controversial and we believe begs the question of sustainability especially in a world with so much hunger. The biodiesel we heat our greenhouse with and run our machinery on is "post-consumer" biodiesel. This is the stuff that comes out of the fryolators from the myriad of fish shacks and donut shops (along with some white table cloth spots) all around Maine. Fryolator biodiesel is a great product that is super sustainable for a few reasons. First, grease as fuel is using a resource in it's second life. Next, it burns cleaner than petrol-diesel. Lastly, it provides better lubrication of our engines, reducing long-term wear on parts saving us maintenance dollars. Reduce, reuse and recycle all in one product! The icing on this donut is that it smells great coming out of the pipe too! Want to know more about local  biodiesel or how to heat your house with this great product?...Maine Standard Biofuels..tell them we sent you and we both will get a discount on fuel!

Beyond repurposing grease, we also are the last stop for another popular Maine product - craft brewed beer. For the past four years we have been working with both Allagash Brewing and Maine Beer Co. to recycle waste products from their brews into our soils. Malted barley dust and yeast/hop slurry (know as trub to you beer geeks) both get composted and or spread on the fields at Crystal Spring to provide fertility (surprisingly potent) and keep our soil ecology diverse. Have a glass of Allagash's White or Maine Beer's Peeper tonight and rest assured it's the karmic equivalent of eating vegetables.

As we have grown over the years we have also tried to get better at what we do. To improve the quality of our produce, we need to cool it quickly after harvest, and keep it cool.  Our antique cork-lined cooler in the CSA barn is beautiful but it's not the most efficient ice box. We built a brand new walk-in cooler in our wash/pack barn over the winter in 2015. Refrigeration takes a lot of electricity so we teamed up with a group of seven local families who are sustainability enthusiasts and built a solar array here at the farm. The financing of the farm's part of the array came from some very creative thinking and generous help from many local folks. Today 100% of the electric power we use here is produced by our panels and in another eleven or twelve years this power will be free.

We Need Your Help

In recent years our delivered CSA share to the Portland area has become a solid part of the farm's effort to bring good food to more people. Many of these boxed shares are going to new businesses that want to encourage wellness through good-eating for their employees. The most difficult part for us as hard working farmers is making that first connection to these businesses. That's where your help comes in. Do you know anyone who works for a Portland area company that is forward thinking and has fifty or more employees in one location? Please connect us with them and we will reach out this spring and bring our good food to more people. Thank you!

Haven't signed up yet? Now is the time

Having already mentioned karma in this newsletter I  am hesitant to suggest anything else on the new-age spectrum. However, now is the time to set a positive intention for spring! Click here for On-farm Shares, or here for Delivered Shares. When it's six degrees and there is ice both under and on top of the snow we all need help to bring spring closer. Laugh away the sleet and slop of February and March knowing you have great produce on the way. 

Happy New year

4Website Updates4Our CSA Evolves42018 Sign-up4Winter Staples Ordering

A month ago amidst the scurry of holidays and the last Fall Share harvest/pick-up we were really looking forward to deep winter. Short days and less to do outside is a welcome change at the end of a farm season.  Now, one month later, on the other side of this Siberian-cold, my head has turned towards optimism for spring.  Our days are filled assembling all the moving pieces that will allow us to work the farm for another year.

Website Refreshed

Part of our indoor time has been spent rebuilding this website from the ground up. New format, new information and new photos. Click around and explore. Yet to be completed are pages on the crew and the history of the farm. If anyone with local history passion has an interest in helping with some research on this last one I'd love some help.

CSA Evolution

Exciting changes are taking place in our harvest and pick up process as we increase the element of choice in our CSA share. For all the positive feedback we hear year after year, we are always looking at areas to tweak and shift to make the experience even better.  Some members have expressed concern that they take home produce they didn't want or couldn't use, which made them question the value of their share as a whole. This is a common issue within the traditional CSA model.  As you know, we've recognized this lack of choice inherent in a CSA share and offered "Mix and Match" items.  Our new system will expand on the "mix and match" to include ALL produce.  For example, if we have twelve crops available, you will have the option of choosing eight. Our intention is to provide everyone some flexibility even those of you who "love everything." You may be over the moon for spinach but still have a full bag in the crisper from last week. This system who allow you the flexibility to bring home something else.Those of you that have signed up already for 2018 may remember a quick survey that asked you to rate all of our crops by either liking them or not. In the coming weeks we will take the results of this survey and create a growing plan that mirrors your likes and dislikes, growing more quantity of your favorites while at the same time trying to bring more diversity in the total number of crops and varieties we have each week. The combination of these two changes will allow you to take home vegetables that make you happy, including the option of taking home the kohlrabi and baby bok choi that we have so successfully brainwashed you into loving. The overall quantity of produce you take home will compare with what we have offered in past seasons with the big change being an increase in the diversity of crops we have to offer each week.  Maura and I realize that change can be unsettling and knowing what to expect from your farm share has been a comforting thing to so many of you that have been members for so long. That said, we really believe that this adjustment to the way we do things will be a great update!

Sign-up for 2018 open

Join the collective dream of spring and sign up for your share today. New this year, your add-on shares can be folded into your payment plan and all run automatically on your card/echeck. You can also send a check in the mail if you prefer. Here's the link.

Winter Staples to Tide you Over

We've heard you are missing our carrots....  As many of you know we grow produce for a few restaurants and processors (pickle/sauerkraut makers). We had a good year for many of these crops and have more in storage than we will need to fill our standing orders. Knowing it's winter and we are all craving living food we thought we would try a winter staple bulk order open to all of you. Here's how it will work: look for our email at the beginning of next week with a list of what we have available (7 pound bags of carrots, 5 pound bags of beets, green cabbage by the head, etc). Place your order via our online form (link will be in the email) and come by and pick up your produce. We are looking at Wednesday February 7 as the pick-up date. We will also have organic eggs and sliced sandwich loaves from standard baking (we squirrel these away in the freezer for quick toast/sandwich options). Stay tuned for the email on Monday.