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The Weekly Menu
Here's where we list what is going to be in the weekly shares. What we think we will harvest when writing the newsletter - may not necessarily be what's actually ready on harvest day. We'll do our best to get it right!
This week: Lettuce 2 heads, Cilantro or parsley- one bunch, Kohlrabi, Kale or Chard, Pea greens, Garlic Scapes (lots!), and Green Garlic.
A Quick Field Update
It's been a few years since we've had a spring like this. Even though it's been a bit too warm lately, we've had a nice respite from the rain and not-too-long of a dry spell. Everything is growing really well in the fields... including the weeds. Any day, any time, you want to come out to the farm and pull weeds, we'll be happy to have the help! It's meditative and productive at the same time! If you're local (or willing to drive), the best time to come out is either 7 am or 6 pm. The early mornings and evenings are perfect to get out there and pull weeds! Just let me know - via email or text (Seven two four-226-3939) that you're coming and I'll get you all set up on your own to rescue some crops!
Crops are growing like crazy out there too! The beets look beautiful and should be ready to harvest in the next couple of weeks. We've planted successions of squash - zucchini, patty pan, and a tasty italian summer squash - Rugosa Friulana and cucumbers.
The basils and tomatoes are doing great too - although they had a rocky start with a late frost hitting them in May. You couldn't tell that they were frost burned just a couple months ago.
We're trying our hand at pole beans this year - and are hope to get our trellising up for about 150' (triple rows) of Kentucky Wonders. The nice thing about pole beans is that we plant them once in the summer and harvest throughout the season. We grow bush beans too - but end up with a couple week's of harvest before they have to be tilled in.
Our Cilantro crapped out with this heat and has bolted. When the fields dry out a bit, Greg will mow it down and we'll plant another crop in its place. There's a possiblity that we'll be able to harvest the cilantro flowers. I've heard that Chefs in Pittsburgh buy this "coriander' flower as a delicacy!
On his way home from market on Saturday, our Chevy S10 crapped out too! Luckily, Greg was stopping for gas in Fox Chapel when the truck sputtered and then cut out on the exit ramp. The tow truck driver thinks it's the fuel pump and will be an expensive fix since it's hard to get to... but we'll find out later this week what's going on.
Many of you already know me and Greg pretty well - but for the new members, I thought it might be nice to give you a bit of a back ground.
We're in our 10th year farming at Blackberry Meadows. It's been a quite a ride, and honestly, things have gotten tougher as time has gone by (including us)!
One of the first questions folks ask me is "did you grow up on a farm?" and "Nope" is my answer. My parents (who you'll see in the barn on Wednesdays usually) always had a big garden and often bought large batches of produce from local farms for canning and preserving.
I didn't know about organic agriculture until my Sophmore year in college, when I switched my major from History to be in the innagural class of the new Environmental Studies major for Shepherd University, in WV. We learned about the environmental and economic impacts that organic agriculture can have and I immediately went out and found the local organic farm.
The first year, I volunteered, the second year I worked for $5 an hour and the third year, I was learning how to manage the farm on my own. I spent 7 years working on that 3 acre organic farm and by the end, I was running my own CSA and going to markets.
In the winter months, I'd take off and work on farms in different countries. World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farm (WWOOF) back then, was a small organization that you'd have to mail in a check to get a paper booklet for each country that had farms who would trade room and board for labor. I traveled and worked in New Zealand, Europe, and Scotland. In the summers, I'd be back to the farming gig on my own. WWOOFing was a great way to see the world, meet new people, learn new farming techniques and get out of my comfort zone.
In the end, my Dad talked me into going to grad school. I ended went to Slippery Rock University for my Masters of Science in Sustainable Systems - MS3 (RIP.... Slippery Rock University unfortunately didn't have the foresight to see that the MS3 program fostered forward thinkers and produced revolutionaries ready to make big impact and change in the world... and especially Western PA. They shut the program down in 2007, (I think). Anyway - that's where I met Greg.
Since SRU, I worked on Kretschmann Farm and for Grow Pittsburgh (when it was just starting) and started my own company with Greg, his brother Dave, and our friend Heath. Urban Homesteaders LLC was way ahead of its time. We were ready to help convert Pittsburgh homes and landscapes into self-sufficient homesteads - capitalizing on ecological systems thinking. We'd help home owners green their homes as well as create cottage businesses that would change their home from a liability to an asset. Gone would be the grassy lawns, and instead, like the Garden of Eden, our customers would step out of their ultra eco-homes and into a bountiful landscape dripping with food.
Well... not too many people, back in 2006, were really into that idea.... it was a tough sell.
Instead, we heard that Blackberry Meadows Farm, out in Natrona Heights was up for sale and we thought we'd give that a try. It took 18 months of discussion with lenders and educating them about CSAs vs Commodity Crop farms. After a season of apprenticing with Jack and Dale (the previous owners), we signed the mortgage and "bought the farm".
I'll save the next installment of our vivid and exciting farm history for next week. Stay tuned!
Work Day Sign ups for "Mud Pie Days"
We had a nice turn out of kids and moms last Tuesday, and fortunately, my Mother-in-law, Barb, was here to watch Evelyn, Olivia, and some of the new kids that showed up with their moms to help and play on the farm. It's really great to have new friends to play with and new helping hands on the farm. Now that this looks like it might be a popular idea - I'd like to get a handle on how many kids are coming and which parents are willing to spend a couple hours helping to monitor the kids! Please click on this link to sign up for roughly 2 hour long sessions throughout the growing season.
Kids are welcome to help be in the fields - so long as they are conscientious of where they walk and what they pull out of the ground! Please bring snacks and lunches for your own kids.
We have a bunch of new pork cuts in the freezer!
Interested in pork? We just has a new shipment of pork come back from "freezer camp". There's a few new items for you to try: We have 1 lb packages of unseasoned sausage patties (great for the grill), fresh side (unsmoked and uncured belly bacon), ham loaf (recipe to follow), and THICK cut chops - seriously... 2" thick?! There's lots of roasts, steaks, and a few hams for sale too. We feed our hogs all verified non-GMO grains, veggie scraps, and pasture. They've a good life and they produce a quality meat! You can buy pork by the piece, the Homestead Hog CSA Share, or by the 1/2 hog.
Our Market Card Program - is a great way to support our farm up front when our risks are higher. You can buy any of our home-grown items in our barn with the market cards. For $50 your get $60 worth of purchasing power!
Looking for a bit of respite form the city? We have two (soon to be 3) bedrooms available on AirBnB. Come out and spend a few days living like a farmer.... or watching us farm. Click this link for more info.
Customers who want to Workshare: Some of you have already signed up for workshare, thank you! Maybe you're interested but can't commit to coming out weekly? No problem. As long as you are here more often than not, we are happy! If you'd like to do a workshare with us, just show up on Tuesday and/or Saturday at 9. We will get you oriented and then talk details. An email or text would be nice, but not necessary.
Customers who would like to spend time in the fields: If you'd like to come out and get a little dirty and see what we are up to, we are happy to have "working visitors" almost any day, except for Wednesday, Saturday afternoon or Sunday.
If you want to bring the family, check out the farm, visit some farm animals, and snack on a few cherry tomatoes, then you should come by on Wednesday 11-7 or Saturday 2-5. Bring a picnic, buy some veggies, relax, and enjoy the countryside!
Find us at area Farmers markets: Lawrenceville, Arsenal Park Saturday 1-4. Phipps Green Market, Phipps Conservatory- Wednesday 2:30-6:30, and Pitt Farmers Market in front of the Union on Thursdays
We are not maxed out on CSA memberships. If you know someone who's looking for a healthier lifestyle, curious about local organic food, or wants to eat fresh, nutrient dense food - send them our way (and make sure they mention your name to receive $25 off in the barn or market stand).
CSA Pick up Details:
If you're coming to the farm to pick up: Stop at the wooden barn by the road (at 7115 Ridge Rd) it will be open Wednesday from 11am - 7 pm and Saturday 2 - 5 pm. Just park by the old wooden barn and come in. We'll check your name off and give you an intro to our CSA system. Bring your own bags please!
If you're picking up at the Phipps Farmers Market: We'll be at our market stand from 2:30pm - 6:30pm. Swing by and pick up your veggies. Bring your own bags please! If you'd like us to bring down items that we sell in the barn - just let firstname.lastname@example.org know. Each newsletter will list the items we have for sale.
Be sure to carve out some time for yourself. We're now happy to have Alyssa from Adore´Yoga to host Sunset Yoga on the Farm. Each Wednesday 5:30-7:00 Rain or sShine. $10. Please bring your own mat.