January 13-19, 2020
Thanks for signing up for Elmwood Stock Farm’s 2020 winter CSA program. Most of you are “year-round” members, and we very much appreciate your vote of confidence in choosing where you want to source your food. We do take your commitment seriously. With your support of the farm, we can take on the challenges and extra expenses of growing fresh greens, root crops, and other vegetables for January harvest.
We are fortunate that there are enough Winter CSA members to allow us be sustainable, and maybe somewhat efficient, in the plan-plant-harvest-wash-pack-distribute activities. Growing through the winter allows several of our staff to be employed year-round, the eggs and meats that we have available all winter can be included when we distribute vegetables, and our year-round members realize that the partnership with the farm relies on taking what Mother Nature brings us.
So, what does winter growing in Kentucky look like? The plan to have lettuces and other leafy greens in your winter share started back when it was really hot outside. One strategy we employ is to make successive trans-plantings from mid-August through mid-October, which means some of the seeds actually germinated back in July. During this same time period, we planted enough crops outside to harvest for the fall season CSA. Items like kale, spinach, Brussel sprouts, celery, and many root crops are established during late summer with the intention of hopefully making it through the ups and downs of frosts and freezes up until Christmas. Frost blankets help buffer the falling temps, and this past year we had a real challenge when temperatures dipped to the low-teens in early November. We used double layer row cover on a few crops, and even plastic overtop row cover on a few others, to afford each plant a fighting chance for survival. As a result of those efforts, we were able to offer a nice selection of crops at Thanksgiving and throughout the rest of the fall season.
Indoor growing space in unheated high tunnels is at a premium, so detailed maps and spreadsheets inform which varieties are planted which week with a predicted harvest window, depending on how much cold comes, and equally as important, how many cloudy patterns are bestowed upon us. We acquired some new frost blankets last fall and have used them inside the high tunnels since all the way back in early November.
One reason to go to all this trouble is tasting just how fantastic the food can be! The fascinating thing about winter grown plants is they are packed full of flavor and nutrient density as a result of the cold weather. (Actually, it’s the other way around.) The science behind this claim is simple. Anytime the conditions are right for plant cells to function (photosynthesis), the cells are making the sugars, enzymes, and other plant cell stuff for growth, but the plants are not actually growing because it is too cold for that. So, each existing cell is chocked full of awesomeness: high flavor and nutrition. Throw in a heaping helping of plant biome robustness and we’re talking about wholesomeness ratings off the charts. I like to think of winter greens as everything your body needs and nothing it doesn’t packaged into tasty servings on your plate.
The thing is, during the winter we do go through a really cumbersome process of uncovering rows of plants just to access them for harvesting, often in trying weather conditions, only to have to replace the covers back, and reposition all those wind weights when harvest is finished. Another critical component in navigating the weather for the health of the winter plants is venting the high tunnels. We have learned not to keep them buttoned down too tight, because a lack of air flow favors mildews. Conversely, on sunny days the temperature can become 40 or 50 degrees above outdoor temperatures which could shock these cool season crops. Adjusting the various venting systems is part of morning and evening chores, and sometimes will even be done several times in between.
This is the time of year for review, planning, and reconfirming. We are appreciative of the opportunity we have to grow good food for people that want it. Know that we are very appreciative of you, our core CSA members, and as winter brings all this work upon the Elmwood team, it is your commitment to the healthy eating and your commitment to Elmwood Stock Farm that sustains each of us.
You know how great good winter food can taste. You know how healthful it is for you. You know how important it is to plan your daily diet around local organic food. We were able to make the commitment back in July to grow these veggies knowing you’d be here in January looking for them. Thanks for the opportunity to be your farmer! – Mac
In Your Share
- Cabbage, Savoy
- Kale, Curly
- Lettuce, Salad Mix
- Squash, Delicata
- Squash, Honeynut
- Squash, Spaghetti
- Sweet Potatoes
- Turnips, Hakurei Salad
Check out our Pinterest board for this week’s recipes!