Prior to farming in Maine, two decades ago I worked on a farm in California.  Of the many differences between west coast agriculture and east, I was most  looking forward to two things, winter (i.e. vacation) and regular rain. Midcoast Maine's 36 to 40 inch annual average put the monthly rainfall at three to four inches, perfect for the one inch weekly needs of most vegetable crops. We knew we would still need irrigation (as averages are always just averages) so we put in one well, assembled a makeshift system to move water between fields using portable pipes, and ran water a few times a year in the early seasons. The past three years we have been running water about twenty weeks of our thirty week active growing season. This increase has caused us to improve the irrigation system, burying some of our above ground pipes and adding new ways of delivering water to crops that are more portable and put water on faster. Over the past 3 years we have spent about $13,500 in new equipment, and increased labor time running the system, which is a significant addition to our annual budget. We are just a little postage stamp of a farm in Maine. When I think of all the changes farms large and small across the country have had to make because of our changing climate my mind goes into astro physics mind blown mode. 

Thankfully I am grounded everyday on the farm by the incredible people I have the deep honor of working with in the fields. Our crew is simply the best. Focused, committed, and with a sense humor through it all, they make this farm live and breathe. Every day that we have a crew that is willing to share their passion and vigor with us in the field is a day that we make this little postage stamp a better place.

What's in the Share

Arugula

Lettuce

Baby Boy Choi

Tatsoi

Grilling leeks

Scallions

Summer onions

Chickories

Daikon

Summer Squash

Cukes

Broccoli

Kohlrabi

Cabbage

Baby Kale

What's in Upic

Peas (waning)

Herbs (basil, dill, cilantro, sage, parsley, chives, oregano)

Flowers!

 

Objects in motion tend to stay in motion. Newton must have worked a farm crew as a kid, getting that first law percolating in his young brain (maybe that pushed him to hit the books a bit harder to get off the farm). This time of year if we stop our forward motion we are done for.  The rails that guide our inertia are the lists of things to harvest, weed, pick-up and put down.  The process of making them and checking them off is almost tidal. Tasks wash up one day and are swept away the next.  From the passer by it might look static but to those of us rolling in the surf the gain and loss is constant.

Our full hearted crew has been plowing through the backlog of tasks in pouring rain and blistering heat. Smiles and laughter are present from 6:00 am until 5:00 pm. If they are in any way representative of the future I feel confident the next generation will kick this country back on track. 

What's in the share

Kohlrabi

Summer onions

Scallions

Red/green Cabbage

Broccoli

Cukes

Summer Squash

Kale

Arugula

Garlic scapes

Lettuce Heads/Mix

Mini Daikon

Chickories

What's in Upic

Snow/Snap Peas

Basil

Cilantro

Thyme

Marjoram

Savory

Chives

Parsley

Adjusting to Change?!

As most of you may have noticed (with the exception of those who came later on Tuesday) we have made some adjustments to the way you are putting your weekly produce together.  Our hope is that we will have a wide enough variety of vegetables each week to allow you to choose the vegetables that you want to take home, and not feel compelled to take home food that you don't particularly want.  

We appreciated that the vast majority of you last week were excited about the potential to have more choice in your weekly harvest.  While we had scallions last week, some people still had theirs from the week before and didn't want to double up on this in the fridge.  However we know  a few of you were less than pleased - this tended to be people who have been coming to our CSA for years, and were quite happy with the system in place.  

Why are we changing things up?  

We ask CSA customers for feedback at the end of the season.  While feedback is always quite positive, (thank you!) we always hear both, "Too much kale!" and "I wish there was more kale!"   Each year we are always looking to improve and make this CSA model work for as many people as possible.  So to solve the too much kale - not enough kale problem (in addition to always seeing people leave the CSA to shop at the farmer's market where they can get what they want) we researched current trends in CSA models.  We visited friends of ours in NH who offer this "choice" model CSA where you take a certain number of items each week, choosing from a wide variety of options.  We liked it so much we decided to give it a try.   That being said, there may be some weeks where we are not able to offer as much choice - this will really depend, as always, on all the elements that go into growing and harvesting. 

How am I going to keep count of how many items I take?  How am I going to decide? 

When we visited the NH farm and saw their system of choice - one of the first things I (Maura) thought of was the challenge of keeping track of the number of items as you make your decisions of what you want.  As I observed over the course of a few hours, I was surprised to not see anyone struggling with the counting.  They seemed to choose their items with ease.  This system has been in place for some time, I suppose they've gotten used to it.  Our hope is that we will get used to it as well.  We will try to post on this blog by Monday night what we expect to harvest, and as always, this is subject to change as we harvest hours before the pick up.  Please keep in mind that the foundation of our farming practice is our relationship with you.  Our goal is to make this farm experience the best it can be for you.  As we go forward please continue to talk with us so we can troubleshoot issues together.  

Speaking of too much not enough kale...

I've had some questions about how to prepare the vibrant kale we've had for the past few weeks.  Some easy go to ideas that are staples in our house include:

  1. Chop & saute kale with olive oil and garlic (and/or onions/scallions).  Add to frittata or omelet for a quick option, or a quiche if you have more time.  Of course this allows you to add other veggies, herbs (in the upic!), or of course, bacon. 
  2. We use variations of spanikopita recipes using any of the greens we have on hand.  I always use lots of basil (coming soon in Upic!). Also, I usually don't have time for the fillo dough topping, so I just top with toasted bread crumbs or panko, toasted sunflower seeds, or even crushed up tortilla chips (a little more kid friendly).  
  3. Pesto!  You can steam (or not, but the hearty greens might be good to steam) greens & throw in the food processor with basil, garlic, walnuts, cheese, olive oil - however you like to make a version of "pesto" and toss with pasta or other grain dish.  Kids and those "learning" to like kale love this. 
  4. Pizza toppings!
  5. Smoothies! 
  6. Let us know if you're still not feeling the love for the kale or other greens and we'll try to help!

Whats in the share

Garlic Scapes

Scallions

Cabbage Kohlrabi

Arugula

Radishes

Spicy Salad Turnips

Spicy Mustard

Overwintered Onions

Cucumbers

Zucchini

Chickories

Whats in Upic

Sage

Parsley

Chives

Oregano

Strawberries

Snow/Snap Peas

Quick, utilitarian newsletter today. Here's the bullet points:

  • Strawberries in Upic (yea!)
  • All add-on shares (except flowers) begin this week!
  • Rain saves farmers from nervous breakdown
  • Compost program in swing. Talk to us about how to get a bucket and participate.
  • Local Beer Fridays start next week. Last Friday of the month come for your share and have a short glass of local session brew. More info in next week's newsletter....

Whats in the share

  • Lettuce
  • Kale
  • Radishes
  • Winter onions
  • Cucumbers
  • Chicories

What's in Upic

  • Strawberries
  • Herbs
  • Peas soon!

We have reached fluidity. Not the kind that comes from the sky unfortunately but almost as good as far as the farm is concerned. Each summer we hit a point where the length of the the to do list meets our peak in productivity and we surf the zero sum of tasks being completed as new ones are added to the list. The board is still full and there is no end in sight but there is a balance (of sorts). Last week we finished hand weeding an acre of onions, set 5,000 sweet potato plants, sowed down 3.5 acres to green manure crops and figured out how to harvest and pack for our new delivered share software system. This week we added hand weeding .25 acres of carrots, prepping 2 acres for canteloupe/watermelon, pruning and tying 1000 tomato plants (along with a few other things). The completion of the old task fuels the desire to jump into the next.To those with very structured days or clearly separated work and home lives, finding satisfaction from the perpetuation of a work cycle instead of it's end may be a foreign concept. If you have ever owned a small business (or grew up in a family that ran one) you will likely know what I'm talking about. It can be thrilling and very tiring to work towards more work but nothing beats riding that crest in-between the end and the beginning...especially if you can keep a good sense of humor through it all.

So Much Good Stuff on the Way

We have been a little light in the greens department this spring. Dry days, excessive pests (look up leaf miner for some gruesome pics) and variable growth have all hampered our expected harvests to date. That said there is a lot of great food coming in the next few weeks. Strawberries are really close, spring onions (something new for us) will be in next week and lettuce, though moving slowly is making good progress. It's been great to see all of you at the farm and your excitement is infectious to all of us.  Thank you!

We Like Leftovers

We have a good supply of Crystal Spring Farm compost buckets at pickup! Composting has never been easier!  Toss in your vegetable trimmings, produce leftovers, and other kitchen scraps.  Each week simply leave your full bucket at the farm & grab an empty one.  After some time in our big compost pile on the farm, we will spread this "black gold" on the fields. Buckets are $6 and have a cool farm sticker on them....

What's in the share...

Radishes

Broccoli

Summer Squash

Scallions

Kale

What's in Upic

Thyme

Chives

Oregano

Savory

And We Are Off

The farm season is officially underway this week as we start our CSA pickups at the farm. As I write we are getting our first rain in many weeks and I can almost hear the ground drawing the moisture in. This is our third "dry" spring in a row. Our hope is that this year's the lack of rain isn't drawn all the way through summer and into fall like the last two seasons. Fifteen years ago when we started this farm, spring was wet and cold with the sun coming out just enough to keep the plants (and people) alive until July came. July was dry and first half of August too before fall rain began and fell regularly right until it changed over to snow. Is this May-September dry season the new normal? Time will tell but until then we keep irrigating and enjoying these few days of cold wet.

We are cow sitting agin this season for our friends and Old Crow Ranch. These 11 Angus crosses will be with us for the next 8-10 week eating our grass and pooping everywhere. Just the way we like it.

Compost program buckets will be ready for those that want to jump into the pilot program....

Pick-Up Your Share

Come to the farm this week on Tuesday or Friday, 2-7pm for produce. Please bring bags to carry your share home.

Add-On Shares, Take Them for a Test Drive

Add-On shares of yogurt, cheese, eggs, mushrooms and bread will begin in two weeks. This week we will have samples of bread, cheese and yogurt.

What's in the Share

Spinach

Lettuce

Chickories

Scallions

Radishes

What's in Upic

Mint

Thyme

Savory

Marjoram

Sage

Chives

And...we're off! Let the harvest begin! We are excited to announce the start of harvest next week with on-farm CSA pick-up on Tuesday June 5th or Friday June 8th. Come anytime, either day, between 2:00-7:00 p.m. The greens look great, the strawberries are in heavy flower, and zucchini is on track to make its earliest appearance ever. The crew has been going all out to keep us on track the past month. They have come in early, stayed late, and spent more than a few weekend days on a tractor. Maura and I are very grateful to have such a dedicated team this year.

While it has not been the warmest of years it has also lacked the extremes of highs and lows, which if you are a plant is the better way to go. We often lose early sowings of arugula and radishes that stress out in the hot-cold temperature yoyo and go to flower before we can harvest them. With moderate temperatures working with us my only wish now is for a good soaking rain.  For the past two years southern Maine has  been shut out by a jet stream that sends storm after storm through Massachusetts to the south and Quebec to the North. I'm pining for the days when we had a wet spring and didn't need to worry about irrigation until July!

Add-on Samples

Add-on shares will formally start in the third week of pick-up.  This first week we will have samples for you to try as you come for your produce. The products are some of the best that Maine has to offer and we think they really add to the produce we grow to make an unmatched Maine summer eating experience. Want to refresh your memory as to what we offer for add-on shares? Click here. You can also order these add-on from this link.

What to Bring for Your First Pick-Up

Please bring bags to pack your produce into as well a larger tote to carry everything home. We will always have new smaller plastic bags but the fewer of these we have to bring into the world the better. 

The switch from winter to spring flipped a couple weeks back and we have been off to the races! Temperate weather with a little rainfall, nights not too cold and days not too hot have made it a pretty good spring so far. The crew and I have been plowing through the planting schedule, building plastic tunnels for tomatoes and peppers, zucchini and cucumbers, burying irrigation lines and refilling the greenhouse with endless seedlings. Kim and Bob have been setting out endless flowers, herbs, beans and peas into the Upic field.  All of this scurry is to get us ready for the first harvest just a few weeks away. Honestly the hardest thing  faced this year is getting the blog post out in a timely way!

When is the First Share?

The plan for for our first harvest is the week of June 4th. At this point we appear to be on track for that but we will make the final call in about a week and send out another email note to confirm. The crops look good and healthy. The deciding factor for harvest start this time of year is always temperature. If the lettuce grows and the strawberries flower then we will be on track.

Brunswick On-Farm Share Almost Sold Out, Delivered Shares Moving Quickly

If you have been waiting to join the window is closing. At the time of this post we have but 9 Brunswick on-farm shares left. Want to close the deal now? Here's the link for the on-farm share.Our delivered shares are also going quickly. Click here to sign up for our farm box delivered all over the greater Casco Bay Area.

Add-on Great Maine Food to Your Produce Share

We work with the best growers and producers in Maine to offer add-ons of organic eggs and yogurt, artisan cheese, fresh cut flower bouquets and more to make you weekly farm share even better. To find out more log into your farm account and add-on. Here are the links for On-farm and Delivered shares to sign-up.

New Member Orientation May 26/27

If you are new to CSA or just new to Crystal Spring come out to the farm and see what we are all about. Our annual non-mandatory new member orientation is a chance to meet the farmers, find the Upic field and see behind the scenes of how we grow all this great food. Both Saturday and Sunday, May 26 and 27 at 4 pm.

How Do We get it all Done?

Ever wonder what the day looks like on the farm as we grow all this great food? Come join us and find out. Every Wednesday we welcome members to join the crew as we plant, harvest and weed our way through the summer. We love to share what we do and we are pretty good at chit chat while we do it. The crew leaves the farmstead for the fields promptly at 8am and we work until our lunch break at 1pm. Send us an email the day before so we know to look for you.

Save the Farm and Save the Landfill -BETA Version

Our newly created Brunswick on-farm share composting program is coming together. Starting at the first Brunswick pick-up we will have buckets and lids for you to take home and fill with your trimmings and leftovers. Bring them back to the farm, trade for a clean bucket and repeat. Our hope is that we can all work to extend the life of our local landfills, save you some cash by reducing your garbage costs, and at the same time build some fertility back into the farm. The cost for the season will be just $6 to cover the cost of organizing, labor and supplies. Here's a link to everything we do to protect and preserve the farm and the planet.

It's really not that bad. This spring has been psychological warfare on Mainers. I know this because everyone I talk to is sure that the season is late, unusually cold, dark, (add your negative adjective here). There is something to be said about being really busy during this time of year, all of us on the farm crew have just kept our heads down and plowed through (soil plow, not snow). We have have been in the fields prepping and planting for more than a week and looking back at our instagram feed we are a day ahead of our requisite "first transplanting" post. With the exception of the coming mega-flood-mythical-cyclone weather channel hyperbole event coming next week the long-range forecast looks good. 

Crops in the ground so far are beets, carrots, kales, chard, chickories, asian greens, lettuce and peas. In the next week onions, strawberries (for the 2019 crop), mini broccoli, cabbage, and scallions should go out. We also have a couple tunnels to build and get irrigation set for the season. 

CSA shares for both our Brunswick on-farm and Delivered shares are selling very quickly now that the weather has turned. If you haven't signed up yet please do as we expect to sell out. Here's the link for On-farm shares and Delivered Shares. Thanks so much to those who have become members this winter. Your commitment early makes this model work. 

Add-on Shares 

The bouquet share is back! Kim is taking the reigns of the ever popular 10 week share and is bringing her deep botanical skills to create what will be some knock-out arrangements. Filling your home with the color and scent of a bouquet share is truly the icing on the cake of your weekly farm produce experience. For more info and to sign-up click here.

Want more than flowers? Here's our offering of add-ons this year:

Compost at the farm...

Running a farm is all about circles. Occasionally running in them but mostly finding the interconnectedness between what we put into the soil and what we take out. For years we have been wanting to close the loop with all the produce we send off the farm and all the trimmings and leftovers that go to the landfill. This season we are trialing a new program for on-farm shares that will allow you to bring your food waste back to the farm each week which we will then compost and return to the field. We have a system that will allow you to bring clean buckets home each week, fill them up with your food waste, drop them at the farm when you come for your share, and take home a clean one to repeat the process the next week. The farm gets a regular source of compost and you get to send less to the landfill, reducing your waste footprint. More info in the coming weeks...

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.