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Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter August 12 2012 Market

Sarah West

Eamon Molloy and his hardy band of volunteers will transform the parking lot at Hillsdale into bustling farmers' market by 10:00 AM on Sunday.

Here is what we will have:

Chesters, Chesters, Chesters, and, oh yes, we will have good quantity of Triple Crowns as well, about 35 half flats Zenón tells me.

We have told the story about the Chester Blackberry many times. Kathleen Bauer posted the most recent one on her site, even illustrating it with photos of Robert Skirvin, John Hull and Senator Dirksen. Her nickname around here is the "Bauer Bird" because she does such wonderful job of collecting and arranging material for her site. Here is the link:

http://www.goodstuffnw.com/2010/08/farm-bulletin-pt-2-taxonomy-of-chester.html

The berries are also at Pastaworks, both Food Fronts and all 12 New Seasons stores if you run short during the week. Fine establishments all.

Beets, Cucumbers and New Potatoes

Pole Beans: Preacher and Fortex

Garlics, Shallots & Onions

Some Preserves

Frikeh

Wither the Turnips? One of our farm aphorisms is "you are only as good as your next turnip." We collected and cleaned two crates of beautiful turnips, grabbing a handful for dinner. Even Tito, the amazing turnip eating bandy-legged dictator backed away from them. If we had sold those, you could have called us tough, woody folk with a bitter edge. As it happened, our appetite spared our reputation. A week earlier they were delicious, but the heat was their ruination, and they almost took us down with them. New aphorism: Never trust a pretty turnip.

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La Cajita Blanca

Two weeks ago, the little white box returned after a year's absence. For many years, we have used half-flats made from unbleached container board. Four years ago, we were caught short at the end of the season and bought a bundle of 100 with a white liner board. They were soon gone, and by last year there was just one still in circulation. It stood out in the stack and we commented on how many times it must have returned to the farm. At least five times by the initials, though it might have been more because staff typically initial flats later in the season when mold has set up in the field. That way, if someone is inattentive, we can address the situation quickly. The flat also had a small oval sticker, indicating that at least once it was filled with Triple Crowns. Those yellow stickers were left over from the days when we grew melons, and we used the extras to mark the non-Chester boxes. Maybe it also went out filled with mirabelles, green gages or festooned with Joe's Long Cayenne peppers, looking just like a jester's hat. Still in good shape after its many journeys, the box was filled with fresh hallocks, Chesters and sent out into world again last week.

We typically reuse paper flats until they look shabby or their ears get mangled — what we call the tabs that lock the boxes together when the are stacked. We never reuse the green paper-maché hallocks however. There are three good reasons why. First, and most importantly, it is a matter of food safety. We do not know where the hallock was stored and it comes in direct contact with the fruit that is eaten raw, unlike the flat. From a food safety perspective, it is reckless to reuse the hallock without knowing where and how it was stored. Second is food quality. If there is a speck of mold in the used hallock, that mold will infect fruit put in it later. Mold and berries are a match made in heaven if you are into rapid decay. Third, as a matter of federal law, organic growers can only reuse packaging that previously held certified organic produce. Consequently, the used hallocks go to recycling.

Packaging is always a fraught subject, especially for organic growers who want to extend the ecological ethic beyond the field. There are many factors that need balancing in selecting how to present the food. For example, on a hot summers day the delicate greens wilt rapidly, their quality suffers, and we waste a lot if they are sold out of an open crate. In the winter, the kale, collars and chicories fare well in the open air. They remain beautiful through the day and sell well. We try to make sure it is always a judgement call rather than a reflexive need to bag.

In the valley, farmers are fortunate to have a superb plastics recycling service. Located on Waconda Road in Brooks, Agri-Plas, Inc. recycles a wide spectrum of plastic waste generated by farms. Pots, old irrigation tape, barrels, plastic bags, old twine and grain sacks are all sorted and sold to domestic users. When we have to pick up some supplies in St. Paul, we will carry down our recycling and stop by Ernst on the way home. Very efficient.

In the meantime, we will be waiting to see if our little white box returns some Sunday in the future. It is hoped with her ears intact so we can send her forth once more.

Cheers, and see you all Sunday,

Carol & Anthony Boutard
The Costermongers of Fair Gaston

Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter August 5 2012 Market

Sarah West

Suffering the usual grunts and groans as we get ready for the Chesters. A couple of weeks ago, a young heron shorted out the power line to the pumps, frying the controller on our smaller pump. Ernst Hardware had a used one that worked, and Gerry had it installed quickly. Heron survived, just some singed primaries. Then, ten days ago, one of the utility vehicles lost compression, bad symptom but we were spared the worse. On the Gator, older models they used a plastic camshaft gear. Doug down at Ernst installed a new steel gear and it is running nicely. Early this week, an "alarm 14" on the controller for our big pump used to cool the blackberry field indicated a short in the motor windings, so we had to pull the 600 beast and bring it down to McMinnville. Picked it up this morning. Craig from Ernst got it up and running just in time for the upcoming heat ripple. Funny how mellifluous a 50 HP pump coming up to pressure sounds on a hot afternoon.

Despite this tale of woe, we have not retreated from our solemn commitment to bring Chesters and other good food to the Hillsdale Farmers' Market this Sunday starting at 10 AM, with a cheerful smile. Credit all the good staff at Ernst Hardware in St. Paul for easing us out of tight spots over the last couple of weeks. The banal bumper sticker reads "No Farms, No Food" which has some measure of truth, but the last couple of weeks drove home the fact that there are plenty of other businesses that are essential for us to bring you all food. Any successful business is part of a community and we don't do this alone, despite some of the cramped rhetoric bandied about lately.

Berries: Model T rules, any color as long as it is black. We will haul in a good supply.
Prunes: Imperial Epineuse
Pulses & Grains: Chickpeas and Frikeh.
New Potatoes
Beets and Summer Turnips: We had an idea. Perhaps people really want summer turnips. Beautiful little neeps ready to sauté, pickle or have raw in a salad. We certainly did, so we planted some.

That's it. Sending this out early because all hands will be in the field early, even the slacker essayist.

Carol and Anthony Boutard
Ayers Creek Farm