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My wife Margaret and I started Groundworks Farm 7 years ago.  She was 21 and I was 22 years old when we started this business and I never expected to come as far as we have come.  We struggled for many years to make ends meet on leased property at first, and more recently on land we own.  Now, at 27 and 28, we’ve never felt so successful or supported by our members and community.  Our vision of a successful Whole Diet CSA has come true before our eyes, and I feel compelled to express my eternal gratitude to everyone who has ever helped us–and Groundworks Farm–reach this point.

When we started our own farm we already had about 4 years combined experience as farm hands for other farmers, which was a great asset.  But, we had no business experience, no equipment, no money, and really no idea what we were up against.  Starting a farm, as it turns out, is not for the faint of heart.  It is a rocky road full of the highest highs and lowest lows, as many of you know.

I’ll sum up the history of Groundworks Farm quickly like this:

Our first season we did one farmers market in Concord NH, and somehow we were able to round up 10 or so CSA members to pick up on the farm (then called Huckins’ Farm) in Hebron, NH.  We grew produce and Pasture-raised Chicken.  That first boot-strapped year we learned a lot.  After that first year we had an opportunity to lease a larger farm in Vermont.  We started from scratch again the very next year–moving our greenhouse and all our supplies over the winter.  That next year we switched to CSA-only and started to take steps towards our dream of a Whole Diet CSA.  We added hogs and laying hens to our produce and pastured poultry operation that year.  We learned a lot and continued pinching pennies to get the farm started.  We were there one more year and added our Meat Share option.  We then had the exciting opportunity to purchase our farm in Maryland, where we started from scratch yet again.  We hit the ground running–building all our infrastructure from the ground up while spreading the word and farming all at the same time!  The first year in Maryland we supplied 200 families–an astonishingly high number for our first season in the area.  A good sign!  The second year in Maryland we supplied 250 families.  This year we supply 300 families and are starting to experience recognition and success we never dreamed of 7 years ago.

What we lacked in experience that first year we made up for in energy, open minds, a desire to succeed at all costs, an eternally optimistic attitude….and, A LOT of support from friends and family.   Looking back now, if we had been lacking in any of these categories–especially friends and family–we would have failed.  We are happy to have endured the tests of these past 7 years, and are truly grateful for the blessed lives we have lived thus far!

We’ve come to find friends in our CSA members, neighbors, and partners who have come on this journey with us–and we are forever in your debt for all you have done for us.  Truly we consider you all friends-and we are truly rich in friends.

We have never been so committed to the goal and dream of a Whole Diet CSA as we are today, and we believe in it profoundly.  Our greatest desire is to provide the best food and CSA experience possible in the most environmentally responsible manner.  We hope to continue to farm for many years to come, and will keep you all informed of our continued progress.

Thank you.
Kevin

Margaret and Kevin

While we bake in the summer heat this week–working to keep up with everything planted–we are already thinking about winter.  This week I am working on planning out exactly what our Winter Produce Share will look like.  I am thinking forward to flavorful sweet carrots, potatoes, and tender leafy greens while harvesting summer squash and cucumbers.  Last week Kevin was able to begin prepping ground for some fall and winter-harvested crops.  We have offered a Winter Produce Share for many years now, and through much trial and error and  innovation we have figured out how to put together a Winter Produce Share that is equally as diverse and bountiful as our Summer Produce Share.  We are working on finalizing the details of this year’s Winter CSA and will have signup info out soon.

As we work to hammer out those details we always appreciate hearing what you want to receive in your Share.  The year before last we heard requests for more greens.  I responded by adding pea shoots and a few other items to the wintertime repertoire.  Let us know what you want in particular from your Winter Produce CSA Share and we will work  to make that happen!  Would you like locally-sourced hothouse tomatoes?  Mushrooms? Dry beans? Frozen berries? Popcorn, even MORE greens? Less of something? More of something?…  Please let us know if there is anything you are dying to get in your Winter Produce Share by talking with me or Kevin at the CSA pickup, or by replying to this email.

Pastured Egg Shares, Pastured Chicken Shares, Pastured and Grass-fed Meat Shares, and Local Cheese Shares are also offered in the winter months.  Signup details for all your Winter Shares are coming soon.

I hope everyone had a great holiday week! We are pumped to be back to delivering Shares this week.

I have been really appreciative of everyone in the past weeks who has sent me recipes and such.  Keep them coming. It it awesome to have a catalog to pull from when something pops back into the Share again.  Another great way to share what you are up to in the kitchen is on the farm’s Facebook page.

This week’s Produce Share is the epitome of the start of real summer food.  Tomatoes and basil are in the Produce Share and in the Cheese Share you will find some fresh mozzarella. If that did not make you feel like summer enough, I worked with Fifer Orchards this week to provide blueberries and peaches in the Share!

More than in past years you will continue to see us working with other local sustainable partner farms to fill out and diversify the Shares.  We are hoping this means that (within the confines of eating locally and seasonally) you will not tire too much of any one crop.  And it means we can offer you awesome items that we don’t grow on our farm, like the fruit this week.

We are also super pumped to be adding to the egg supply by working with a couple other farmers.  Anticipating that we would have a gap in supply coming up, we reached out to some other local farms.  Our grass-fed beef and lamb supplier (Valentine’s Country Meats) also raises pastured laying hens.  I also connected with Wholesome Living Acres in Pennsylvania. Between these sources we will have an ample supply of pasture-raised eggs. Now that we are working with a couple other farms we will even start to have a few extra again for those of you who prefer to buy eggs every once in a while from the store. We will still be collecting egg cartons for ourselves and for Valentine’s Country Meats if we get more back than we need.

Happy Cooking!

The shift has taken place in the air around us and I can feel the summer season creeping up. There are plants pretty much everywhere I look. There are plants in the heated greenhouse, small tomatoes and peppers popping up above the soil and starting to form into larger plants. There are heads of lettuce and bok choy, now in trays germinating, in a few weeks they will go in the fields and then before we know it the first week of June will be upon us and those lettuce and bok choy heads will make their way from the fields to your kitchens.

When the sun is shining the greenhouse fans are running, keeping the plants from getting to warm. Our germination room changes daily. It is a heated room but there is no light so we check the plants multiple times a day and if they have germinated we move them to the greenhouse. It is like a giant heated mat. The fields are drying out and begging to be tilled in. We have to be patient this time of year. We don’t want to plant to early and have everything ready the last week of May, before we begin our Summer CSA and after the Winter CSA ends.

The piglets that we have had in the woods all winter are finally starting to run around and grow. The ground is no longer frozen and they are rooting around like crazy. The chickens are starting to venture out further from their shelters to where the grass is green and lush. The farm is coming to life.

Thank you to everyone who has already signed up for our Summer CSA. We still have space, especially for more Produce Share members so if you have not yet signed up or think you know someone who may be interested please feel free to pass us along. Word of mouth is a big part of how people find out about us.

Have a wonderful spring weekend everyone!

This post was written by the amazing Elizabeth Evans, farm member and in full disclosure, my sister.  Part of our goal with this post was to document one person using up a CSA Share.  Success! Thank you to Elizabeth for taking the time to write this up! One observation I have to share from reading Elizabeth’s post is that we are all very different and our tastes reflect that.  While she found the hardest thing to use up was the greens, I usually find I use them right away at the start of the week.

Hello! Margaret asked me to spend some time documenting how I use my farm share. So here I am, fulfilling my food blogger fantasies. I hope this documentation provides some good ideas, but more than that I hope it sparks other, even better ideas that you will share with other farm members!

So, first thing’s first. Here’s the share for this 2 week period:

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In the veggie share this week there we have: Spinach, Kale, Upland Cress, Napa Cabbage, Black Radishes, Carrots, Butternut Squash, Turnips, Potatoes, and Sweet Potatoes.

For my 17 points of meat this month I have: Pork Steaks, Ground Beef, Soup Bones, Ground Lamb, Lamb Chops, Hot Italian Sausage and Breakfast Sausage.

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Stir Fry

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What I used from the share:

  • 1 pork steak
  • Pea greens (from the previous week’s share! Is that cheating for the purpose of this project? Oh well! I intended to use spinach, but wanted to use the older greens while they were still good…)
  • 3 carrots
  • 2 black radishes
  • 1 egg

What else I used:

I made a sauce with…

  • Soy sauce (about 1/3 cup, but I didn’t use all of it)
  • Minced garlic (about a teaspoon…more would have been ok)
  • Brown sugar, a couple of pinches
  • Red pepper flakes (a few good shakes)

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What I did:

  1. Peel the carrots and radishes and then slice thinly on a mandolin.   (I usually “clean” the root veggies by putting them in a bowl of cold water just to get the worst of the dirt off and then peel them…that seems faster to me than actually cleaning them.)
  2. Slice pork thinly, sprinkle with salt and pepper and throw for a very short amount of time into a hot pan that has a little bit of hot oil.
  3. Remove pork from the pan, add a small amount of oil if needed and put sliced carrots and radishes in the pan. Salt and pepper them. Let them cook for a while…they should be nice and brown/charred on the edges.
  4. Add the washed and dried greens to the pan and put the pork back in. Throw some of the sauce and some more red pepper flakes and cook for not very long at all, until greens are just wilted.
  5. Take all that stuff out of the pan and put it somewhere. Put some more oil in the pan and fry an egg, because it is not a lie that everything is better with a fried egg on top.
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Yum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ahhh, I just realized: Sriracha. Sriracha AND an egg. I totally dropped the ball. You should do it the right way.

 

Sheppard’s Pie

So on some Buzzfeed list of healthy things to eat I came across a vegetarian Sheppard’s Pie that used premade lentil soup, which led to my attempt at Sheppard’s Pie.

What I used from the share:

  1. 2 turnips
  2. 6 carrots
  3. 2 black radishes
  4. ½ bag of kale

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What else I used:

  1. Lentils
  2. An onion (small chop)
  3. Salt and pepper
  4. Minced garlic
  5. Mozzarella cheese

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What I did:

  1. Peel and chop turnips and radishes. Boil until soft.
  2. Cook lentils. I cooked 1 dried cup which was way too much, but I did have enough lentils for about three meals…more on that later.
  3. Clean and slice the carrots and sauté with onion and some garlic.
  4. Clean kale. Once the carrots are as soft as you want them, add the lentils and mix everything together. Salt and pepper to taste.
  5. If you are me, at this point you remove about a third of the lentil and carrot mixture because you realize this is way more than you need for the smallish corning ware you decided to use.
  6. Add the kale to the lentils and carrots and keep heat on until the kale cooks down a bit.
  7. Drain the turnips and radishes and using a food processor or electric hand mixer, mash them. Salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Put the lentil mixture into your baking dish and cover with the mashed turnip/radish stuff. Sprinkle mozzarella on top and broil to melt/brown.

Here’s how it turned out.   I got distracted for a minute and the cheese got very browned…but still delicious.

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So learned a couple things from this…like, I have no idea how much lentils increase when you cook them. I also learned that boiled radishes don’t have much taste (this I was actually counting on) but DO have a strange-ish texture that I didn’t love. If I did this again—and I would, with some other refinements, like chopping the greens up—I would use just turnips, or turnips and potatoes, rather than getting all ambitious with the radishes.

Lentil and Kale Salad

 lenitls greens

Like I said, I had a lot of lentils left over. For lunch a couple days later, I cooked the remaining kale with red pepper flakes and garlic (olive oil in pan, and heat up with the pepper and garlic before adding anything else) and mixed that with the lentils. I dressed it with a generous amount of lemon juice and ate it cold—it was very good.

 

Baked Sweet Potato Chips

sweet potato chips

What I used: 1 large sweet potato, very little olive oil, salt and pepper, parmesan cheese

What I did: Slice sweet potatoes on a mandolin. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 20ish minutes, turning over half way through. Make sure they don’t touch.

Remove and sprinkle with parmesan. Or chipotle? Or whatever else you like…

Roasted Carrots and Radishes, with Hot Italian Sausage

Oops, I forgot to take any pictures of this, but you know what roasted vegetables look like, you have a CSA share. I chopped up some radishes and carrots and roasted them at 400 degrees for about half an hour (longer for the radishes). While they were cooking I seared an Italian sausage in a pan on the stove and then covered it and let it cook at a medium low heat while the veggies roasted. Then I put an over easy egg on it. Obviously.

Orange Pork with Pan Roasted Carrots and Radishes; Mashed Potatoes

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What I used from the share: A pork steak, a couple of carrots, a radish, all of the white potatoes from the share.

What else I used: Orange juice, olive oil, garlic, soy sauce, honey, salt and pepper; whole milk from the farm store

What I did:

Pork:

  1. Mixed the non-share ingredients (not the milk) together to make a marinade. Removed some of the marinade to use later, and put the pork in with the rest in a container to marinate.
  2. Broiled the pork on low for about 15 minutes per side.

Mashed Potatoes:

  1. Boiled the potatoes.
  2. Mash the potatoes with some whole milk from the farm store, salt and plenty of pepper.

Pan Roasted Vegetables:

  1. Chopped the vegetables and put in a non-stick pan with a small amount of olive oil.
  2. Roast them.
  3. When they are mostly done, add some of the reserved marinade that was used for the pork. So good.

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Leftover Breakfast

What I used from the farm: An egg (fried), leftover pork from previous meal, curry-kraut from the farm store

What else I used: ¼ of an avocado, whole wheat bread

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End of Week Reflection

I learned a lot from my (almost successful!) attempt to use the entire share this week—like, I do not have the patience to clean leafy greens (I never used the spinach, and the upland cress went south before I got to it), and that I will never use 3 lbs of white potatoes in a week unless I have a sick person at home who needs soft foods to eat. Also, that sprouts container was so small in my refrigerator that I both forgot to include it in the initial picture and to use it all week—the good news is that they have held up in the fridge all week, and I used some of them on a breakfast sandwich with a piece of lox and cream cheese this morning—super yummy.

Every week Margaret writes on the board to take what you’ll use up to the listed limits. I learned that I basically CAN use an entire share, mostly on my own, but that to do so requires great time and dedication.   The results, though, were very much worth the efforts.

 

This week’s Farm Note was written by Molly Rich.  We have been so lucky to have Molly as part of our team since she started. Here is a reflection from Molly on her first year of farming full time.

The close of the month of January marked my first year of farming full-time. I remember last February, at the end of a long day of harvesting spinach in the high tunnel, Margaret came in to check on my progress. Before leaving, she left me with words of comfort, “Things will pick up again soon.” I didn’t completely understand what that meant at the time. For one thing, I was perfectly content spending the day in its entirety harvesting spinach in the warm high tunnel. I can’t say that about everything, but spinach, yes. Secondly, I hadn’t experienced the Farm in its most lively state by that point. I had just missed the summer craze, joining the team that September, and I had only been working part time then.

As the work changed with the season and the farm team grew, I started to understand what Margaret had said. Still not to its fullest meaning. In the spring, once the high tunnels were depleted of their greens, the air warmed, and the ground softened enough to welcome the new plants, we were harvesting outside again. There were more hands in the field, more tracks in the dirt, and more green in the rows. The springtime held an invigorating balance of the release of a heavy winter and the anticipation of the heat of summer. Of course, that balance was abruptly thrown as summer crashed in full-force, as it does.

Looking back at those 7 short months ago, it’s already a blur. Summer craze is an understatement. I was lost in a whirlwind of tomatoes, and squash. I felt whiplash from the drastic changes in weather. My wardrobe of dry dusty dirt, when the heat was at its strongest, was replaced by a coating of mud after a dose of summer storms. The days were long, but were never long enough for the work to be done. But that is summer. It’s extreme, and dramatic, and pushes everything to its limits. And then, one day, it’s a little bit cooler in the evening when the sun isn’t there to warm the sky. The tomatoes and squash became less threatening, and a balance was achieved again. Different than that of spring, but no less crucial.

As the leaves transformed into new creatures of burgundy and orange, and the sun became friend instead of foe again, fall emerged.  Once again, the work changed. The fields were quieter, the vegetables were heavier, and the days lost patience for our work habits. The sun goes down whether we’re ready or not, naturally slowing us down. It’s appreciated on some level. Then, in the midst of bulk harvesting and winter preparation, the holidays appeared. By the forces of nature, winter arrived.

Now, here we are in February, harvesting spinach in the greenhouse again. Everything has come full circle, because that is how this works. Winter leads to spring, spring to summer, and summer to fall. Every time. This may sound arbitrary, but this piece of fundamental knowledge has never held so much meaning to me.

To understand this cycle is vital in farming, and to accept it is to accept everything that comes with it. Seasons change, people come and go, plants and animals grow and die. As farmers, we are facilitating this natural ebb and flow, and providing all we can to help it flourish at its peak, and maintain what’s left at its low. Now, with that experience, I find comfort in Margaret’s words once more knowing, “Things will pick up again soon.”

Your Farmer,
Molly

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For the past couple weeks my cousin Hannah has been at the farm helping out. She had come to stay and work for a couple weeks in the summer as well and I asked her to give you all a change in perspective from mine for this week’s farm news. A big Thank You to Hannah for all her help this month!

Hi! My name is Hannah and I’m living and working here at Groundworks Farm for three weeks this January. My college gives students the month of January to pick an independent project to work on throughout the month, and I decided to come back to Groundworks after being here for a few weeks this past summer.

Margaret and I are cousins, and I jumped at the prospect this past summer of working outside on her and Kevin’s farm. My motivation to come work at Groundworks in the summer stemmed from a curiosity as to what organic farming entailed. I had heard a lot about its benefits, such as how organic farming is more environmentally sustainable than big, pesticide-using farms, and that organic food is healthier to eat because it is not covered in chemicals. However I had no idea what went in to growing these organic vegetables.

During the summer, I loved working outside and getting acquainted with “farm life,” and I did not want to leave after just two weeks. When I had the opportunity to come back in January, I was excited because Groundworks gives me the chance to, so to speak, practice what I (and others) preach. Working here allows me to be in the midst of the local food and sustainable farming movements, both of which I think are extremely important movements but I do not always have the chance to participate in them. Although the work here in the summer is very different than in the winter, I had the opportunity both times to experience the hard work and dedication it takes to raise and grow organic food and manage a farm business.

Summer at Groundworks Farm is extremely physically demanding and eventful. There are onions, squash, and tons of other vegetables to be harvested, CSA shares to be sorted, fields to be weeded, rows of crops to be hoed, and eggs to be collected. There is an abundance of sun, sweat, and activity. When I came back to Groundworks this January for a few weeks, I was not quite sure what to expect because I had no idea what farmers did when it was cold outside. One thing is for sure: they definitely keep busy. Snow, wind, and other January weather do not prevent some varieties of crops from growing, while other vegetables are grown in warm, humid greenhouses. Work here in the winter still requires hours of harvesting and packaging vegetable shares, just as it did in the summer. However, instead of rows upon rows of onions and zucchini, there are fields of purple kale and broccoli greens. The chickens, of course, still lay eggs, so there are buckets of eggs to be collected from the coops and washed each week.

This January, apart from the outside vegetable and animal related labor, I got a snapshot of the office paperwork that comes along with managing a farm business. There were a few days during a lull between CSA pickups when it was too freezing and snowy to do anything outside, so we spent the days in the office. There were letters to be written, addressed, and stamped, orders to be made, receipts to be organized, and accounts to be looked over and arranged. I had no idea how much “behind-the-scenes” office work had to be done to keep the business side of the Farm running.

Even though my time here at Groundworks Farm this January differed from July in the lack of heat, the amount of work that had to be done stayed the same.

However tiring the work or cold the weather is outside, the work ethic here remains strong. Kevin and Margaret’s commitment to Groundworks is inspirational and my time working here in both summer and winter has shown me the intense but rewarding labor it takes to grow, raise, and deliver organic food.

Your Farmer this month,
Hannah

 

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Molly, Kevin and Hannah Harvest Greens for a January pick up

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Hannah and Teresa warm up by the fire at the Alexandria pick up

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harvesting and bagging greens for a January pick up

Sunday night brought our first hard frost. We had won the race and gotten all of our winter squash and sweet potatoes harvested and safely into their winter storage cooler. By the time the frost came we had moved on from squash harvest to preparing for this week’s meat deliveries, which meant cutting up a few lambs, a couple pigs and two cows. That is right, as a collective group, combining everyone who has a meat share with the farm; about that much meat is eaten each month. The numbers are tiny in the grand scheme of things but for our little farm here they are plenty big.

This is perhaps my favorite time of the year. There is little to stress about with the crops at this point. While we still have much to harvest for the winter, we can see at this point that everything is doing well. Carrots are growing big (as evidenced by the ones in the share this week). Beets are coming along as well as other root crops. We have a ton of greens all growing in the fields which means that we will have plenty of greens coming up in the December and January deliveries. We have planted one of our high tunnels to spinach and will be prepping the other one soon. The heated greenhouse is pretty much shut down for the season, though we are entertained by the rouge eggplants and squash that continue to bloom inside.

And I have to say I don’t mind working outside with the colorful leaves to look at and the chilly air. It makes harvesting storage crops quite pleasant work.

 

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Sweet Potatoes and Butternuts safely in storage

 

Sunday night we had our first light frost.  It did not reach much of the fields but it left a chill in the air and a reminder to us that harsher frost are soon to come.  We are harvesting peppers and eggplants still, as long as they keep producing for us.   You will be getting the first of the fall/winter broccoli this week in the share.  You will also see more sweet potatoes.  Now many of our sweet potatoes grew to be very big, so big in fact that some of them were sliced up a little by our potato digger when they were harvested.  They have dried up and are perfectly good sweet potatoes, even the ones that look like they have been sliced apart.  Another thing that you will see in the share this week is turnip greens (look for a recipe below).  Last year when we were distributing our turnips many people asked me about turnip greens.  Now often when the turnips are large enough to harvest the greens are not as tender.  So we are giving out the turnip greens now.  You will see that they will have small turnips on the end of them (some more mature than others) and you can use these as well or toss them in the compost.  They should be pretty tender since they are so young and small.

We are hoping to be giving out Brussels sprouts as well in the share this week.  Our early Brussels sprouts planting (which are these) have seen a few challenges on their way to becoming Brussels sprouts, the most unruly being harlequin bugs.  So while we will refrain from giving you the most damaged plants you may see a few damaged sprouts here and there.

 

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