We get these questions A LOT from members who are new to Groundworks. Most new families who come to us are familiar with farmers market produce, and have probably given a couple other CSA programs and delivery services a try over the years. But, they are universally blown away by both the flavor AND long-lasting nature of what we bring them – that’s why we have so many happy families who have been with us for 10 or more years. Groundworks Organic Farm Produce is undeniably THE BEST produce out there.
Here’s the short answer:
Our produce is of unparalleled quality – first of all – because we have 4 different walk-in coolers tuned to 4 different temperature and humidity specifications to perfectly meet the storage needs of each piece of produce. There are no other farms, grocery stores, or even produce companies with as many unique, specialized, state-of-the-art produce storage environments as we have here at Groundworks Organic Farm. Additionally, we have developed an entire procedural handbook of novel techniques to make flavorful, organic produce last an unbelievably long time from seed to table. Developing these techniques has been our relentless pursuit for 15 years. We are doing about 25 unique-to-Groundworks harvesting and handling procedures to maintain quality that nobody else is doing.
We’ve worked hard to develop our techniques and procedures, and they are the key to our success. Thank you to our members and supporters for YOUR part in all of the innovation in organic agriculture happening right here at Groundworks Organic Farm. Here’s to the future being a brighter, better, and less wasteful place to live!
Here’s the long answer:
We are obsessed with produce flavor and long-lasting quality for 2 reasons: 1) We want to provide our members with the best possible produce, and 2) we are passionate about reducing food waste (for many reasons we will save for another blog post). When produce just doesn’t go bad in your house, it doesn’t go to waste (and that makes everyone happy!).
At our own peril, we will share below a sampling of the many growing, harvesting and handling procedures we have developed over the years that make our produce both extremely flavorful and incredibly long-lasting. Our staff have worked at, and keep up with many other farms, and we can assure you that NOBODY is doing anything close to our efforts to maintain produce flavor and long-lasting quality for their customers. All of the following techniques are unique to Groundworks, and have been developed over 15 years of dedicated experimentation utilizing the scientific method. Here’s an overview of some notable and unique things going on at Groundworks Organic Farm:
-It Starts With the Soil. Groundworks Farm sits on Hurlock Loam Soil of Statewide Importance. The soil at Groundworks is special to begin with. We have visited MANY farms, and have yet to find a more beautiful soil anywhere – very dark brown, packed with organic matter and nutrients from years of ancient aquatic deposits, but yet also sandy and incredibly well-drained. The farm sits at the top of the local watershed and is very well-drained with a well-engineered system of swales and ditches, meaning it will never flood. All production fields are carefully graded every year to ensure excess rainwater will never sit in puddles and drown plants or create environments for fungal growth. Every inch of our production fields are planted to 1 or 2 cover crops every year – a summer cover crop mix of buckwheat and soybeans, and a winter cover crop of vetch. Cover crops increase biological diversity in the soil, which prevents disease outbreaks. The micronutrients injected into the soil from a stand of cover crops create flavorful, nutrient-dense, and resilient cash crops.
-You’ve Got to Space the Plants out Exactly Right. Proprietary in-ground plant spacing keeps airflow around plants and limits plant diseases, which ensures flavor and shelf life.
-DRY DRY DRY. Nothing gets harvested wet, ever. Plants must be dry (but not too hot) – they get wilty when they are too hot) for us to harvest. This means we do not harvest in the early morning (like most other farms) when dew covers every plant. We only harvest in the evening and nighttime (with powerful headlamps!) to maintain dry, crisp, and high quality harvests.
-Keep the Foliage Clean and Dry. We utilize soil tarps on many crops to keep the plants clean and undamaged by soil contact on foliage and fruit, maintaining flavor and shelf life.
-Don’t Leave Harvested Produce Unprotected. We take produce to our on-farm storage building after we have harvested either 4 bins, or 30 minutes has passed, whichever comes first. This keeps produce out of the wind and sun, which can greatly reduce quality. Ambient wind has a very negative effect on produce, even when it doesn’t feel “windy” the air is always moving around, which dehydrates harvested produce quickly, even at night.
-Correct Storage Temperature. Every crop likes a slightly different storage temperature, and we have created 4 different storage walk-in coolers to meet the needs of everything we grow. There are no other farms, grocery stores, or even produce companies with as many specialized, state-of-the-art produce storage environments as we have here at Groundworks Organic Farm. We have 1 high humidity (99%) and low temperature (35 °F) state-of-the-art walk-in cooler, 1 walk-in cooler JUST for basil that is 55 °F and 65% humidity, 1 walk-in cooler for tomatoes and eggplants that is 60 °F and 65% humidity, and 1 walk-in cooler that is 75 °F and 85% humidity that is just for ripening tomatoes that need just a little more time and attention until they’re perfect.
-Temperature Pull-down. When our crops enter our storage facility here at the farm their core temperature is the temperature of the outside air – this can range from 37 °F all the way to 110 °F. Our challenge is to bring the core temperature of every piece of produce down (or up!) to its ideal storage temperature as quickly as possible without drying out the product or creating water condensation. This is incredibly difficult to do well and we have a number of handling tricks to do so.
-Proprietary Stacking Techniques. This set of rules and procedures in storage provides maximum airflow around every container, keeping optimal storage temperatures constant once the produce has been brought to its optimal temperature.
-Insulated Containers for Members to Take Home. Protection of greens and other very temperature-sensitive items in insulated cardboard boxes when they are going out for delivery in our refrigerated truck keeps the produce protected from adverse temperatures from when you pick it up to when you can get it into your refrigerator. Other farms will give you waxed cardboard produce boxes full of holes – not us. Produce boxes full of vent holes means that the produce inside is getting condensation all over it (it won’t last very long after that), and the produce is getting exposed to air movement and heat on your way home (it won’t last very long after that). Also, side note: waxed produce boxes that you might get from another farm ARE NOT recyclable – a subject for another blog post. We reuse our FULLY RECYCLABLE containers when folks bring them back.
-Produce Sorting and Packing Happens at 60 °F and 60% Humidity. Sorting and packaging of produce happens in a well-lit, clean, insulated room directly connected to our state of the art walk-in coolers. We keep this room at 60 degrees fahrenheit and 60% humidity to ensure that no produce gets condensation forming on it when we bring it out of the coolers for inspection and packaging. A higher temperature and higher humidity packaging environment would lead to water condensing on your produce, and a much-reduced shelf life because of it. Wet produce will last about ⅓ as long as well-handled produce kept dry with our handling and harvesting techniques. We NEVER package produce unless our packing room is at or below 60 °F and 60% humidity. It does get chilly working in there all day, but we just put on snow pants and carry on because we believe in what we are doing – creating the best produce available, reducing food waste (from produce going bad too quickly), and protecting our local ecosystem with ever-improving organic farming techniques.
–We love what we do and LOVE developing techniques to do it better! Thank you for being a part of these innovations in organic farming!
Thanks for reading if you made it this far! <3
“We’ll take sandbags over pesticides THANK YOU VERY MUCH”
We spent Earth Day moving sandbags and saying goodbye to our overwintered greens – overwintered spinach, tatsoi, spicy greens mix, collards, and kale have all finally gone to seed with the changing of the seasons.
As a certified organic farm, we use sandbags to hold insect netting on top of our pest-sensitive crops, eliminating the need for insecticides. This insect netting works extremely well and lasts for many years, but it is certainly labor intensive (as well as expensive!).
Although it is hard work to move sandbags back and forth by hand, we honestly wouldn’t want to farm any other way. We definitely don’t want to be handling and spraying pesticides for the sake of our own health, nor would we feel good about eating that pesticide-covered produce or selling that pesticide-covered produce to anyone else. When people spray pesticides on produce it is recommended to wear a hazmat suit and ventilator mask so the farmer doesn’t poison themselves (I know, it’s not fun to think about). If pesticides are poisonous enough to necessitate a hazmat suit and ventilator mask for the farmer, why would anyone want to feed that produce to their family?
So, we’ll take the sandbags THANK YOU VERY MUCH. These same sandbags will now be used to hold down insect netting over the new season’s greens, melons, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, basil etc. in an adjacent field.
John Oliver’s main story this week shed a light on the plight of many modern farm workers and the rough conditions and harsh treatment that many endure on farms. Thank you, John, for shedding some light on this troubling topic. In case you didn’t see the segment, I’ve posted it below:
We are a small family operation and have not had very many employees over the years, but sometimes we have needed an extra set of hands. When we have hired employees, we have always worked alongside them and never asked them to do any jobs we wouldn’t do ourselves. We take every precaution to make sure everyone is safe and happy. We provide wide-brimmed hats, sunscreen, sunglasses, water and sun shirts when it is hot, and insulated overalls and jackets when it is cold. We provide a climate-controlled break room and a real bathroom with running water. We have first aid supplies available 24/7. We treat everyone with respect and pay them FAR above minimum wage. We are proud to pay all our payroll taxes, and we supply workers compensation insurance (we have had zero claims). Groundworks really is a great place to work. I wish every farm was a great place to work – sadly this isn’t the case. Groundworks is your cruelty-free produce connection.
Dear 2020, 2021, and 2022 CSA Members, Customers, Supporters, and CSA Host Sites,
Thank you so much for choosing to support local, organic farms like ours during the pandemic. Being of service during the crisis was the proudest achievement of our lives – we were honored by your trust and support. When communities come together we can accomplish great things!
Here’s to a new season of renewal, connection, community, and sustainability ahead,
-Margaret, Kevin Brown and family
Eating well can be difficult…life moves fast…and between work and family commitments it can be hard to find the time and energy to create and maintain the healthy eating habits we all want. It is easy to get stuck in a rut at the grocery store, buying the same canned and processed foods we always eat…because it’s easy.
This is exactly where the Groundworks Farm CSA can help you. Sign up with us and – RIGHT AWAY – you will bring an ever-changing assortment of the most beautiful local and organic vegetables into your house (at an affordable price too!!).
But, it doesn’t stop there. Groundworks Farm CSA is there with you the whole way. We have top notch support and service to help you use your produce and create great healthy, memorable, and easy meals for your family. Helpful tips, simple recipes, and friendly advice await you at each CSA pickup.
And, the CSA pickups are fun! Pick up your produce with your kids! Meet other members in your community! Share your successful recipes and ideas! Get input from others. Make some friends.
We’re here to make it simple and easy for you to eat great local organic produce at home. We want to help you be healthy and happy! Join us this Summer…you deserve it!
Fun Fact: We serve just as many families in the Winter as in the Summer! Some families join us ONLY for the Winter-Spring Season because they love it so much! Join us this season and find out what all the fuss is about.
The darker winter months are right around the corner and with COVID surging we need to do what we can to stay healthy. Groundworks Organic CSA can help you reach and maintain your health goals this winter with a consistent supply of the most nutrient-dense, flavorful, and varied produce you can get anywhere. Join us this Winter and stay on the health train year-round.
Don’t think you like Winter produce? Think again! We deliver a huge variety of quality organic produce at each Winter-Spring CSA Pickup. The Winter-Spring Season has all my favorite vegetables: fresh crisp greens, flavorful roots, winter squash, the best fresh mushrooms around, and even juicy strawberries and wonderful asparagus when Spring roles around.
Keeping Our Communities Healthy and Safe
Per Health Department and CDC guidance, we are taking steps towards making our CSA Pickups the vibrant social events they once were. We have taken the COVID-19 outbreak very seriously and will continue to take all steps within our power to keep our communities healthy and safe while continuing to provide uninterrupted service to our members. Our CSA will remain a very safe and reliable way to get your healthy, local, organic, nutrient-dense household groceries.
-Margaret and Kevin Brown
Most people would agree that healthy eating is important for a variety of reasons. We know we can all improve our energy levels, strength, cognitive function, disease resistance, and longevity, and decrease our chances of many chronic illnesses through simply making healthier food choices. We know we should eat more healthy foods – nutrient-dense foods with more vitamins, minerals, and fiber per calorie like fruits and vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and clean meats. We know we should eat less unhealthy foods – those foods high in saturated fat, sugar, salt, and simple carbohydrates. When you’re on a healthy eating kick you feel great – you get sick less often, you have more energy, you do more things with your kids, you are happier at work, you have energy for your hobbies. But, let’s be honest – it’s hard to stay on that wagon. It takes willpower, and effort, and knowledge to feed yourself and your family healthy food every day. It’s very easy to fall off the health wagon, and once you’re off, it’s hard to get back on.
It takes willpower, effort, and knowledge to drive past that pizza restaurant, or to resist the temptation of mouthwatering take-out and make yourself a healthy meal at home. We are all bombarded with seductive ads for unhealthy sugar, saturated fat, salt, and simple carbohydrate-filled, nutrient-poor food all day long. And it’s an easy sell because these kind of foods taste AMAZING! While you’re eating a bowl of ice cream, or a plate of white pasta with creamy clam sauce, or a greasy cheeseburger on a white bun your brain can release dopamine that makes you feel euphoric. Our brains (and our children’s brains) are programmed to LOVE this kind of food (a relic from our evolutionary past), so it is very difficult to resist. Because of this programming it takes effort and energy to get a child to eat healthy nutrient-dense food and vegetables – they eat unhealthy food happily and without complaint. It is a very easy path to feed children the unhealthy food that their brains crave, and to avoid the tougher task of teaching them to choose healthier foods instead. That Euphoric feeling you get when eating sugar, saturated fat, salt, and simple carbohydrate-filled foods is temporary though, and we know that we (and our children) will have less energy overall, be less happy overall, and be more likely to get sick, if we eat these foods regularly. It is easier in the short-term to feed our kids the unhealthy foods they crave, but we may be doing them a disservice in the long run.
It is worth noting that it even takes willpower, effort, and knowledge to avoid buying unhealthy food and ingredients at the grocery store. Displays lined with candy bars, chips, sweet breads, sweetened drinks, frozen meals, ice cream, white pasta, boxed mac and cheese, sugary snacks, and other nutrient-poor foods are featured prominently. This food tastes amazing, AND it is easier to prepare than nutrient-dense whole grains, organic vegetables, and lean proteins…who could resist them? We know if we eat these foods regularly we will have less energy overall and be less happy overall, and more likely to get sick overall, but it takes willpower and effort and knowledge to avoid these foods…even in a grocery store.
Is there an easier way to stay on the health food wagon? There is.
Please forgive my somewhat obscure sports metaphor…Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya is the greatest marathon runner who has ever lived. He has won his last 12 marathon races and holds the current world record. His sport, and his training, is an ultimate test of willpower and effort. It takes extreme willpower and effort to continue running at high speeds when every part of his body is screaming for him to stop. His sport is an individual sport – often in his races he is running alone (except for the crowd) – but yet he puts a high value on training with other athletes, and completes most of his training in large groups with other like-minded runners. Even though he is a world-class athlete, he knows that he would not have the willpower, on his own, to complete the training necessary to race at the speeds he does. He feeds off the energy and community of the runners he trains with (and the spectators at his races) in order to push himself to run just a little bit faster. Eliud Kipchoge has said “100% of me is nothing compared to 1% of the whole team.” In short, were it not for his community of runners all striving to run their best, his coaches, nutritionists and trainers, the greatness he has achieved would never have been possible.
This so-called Group Effect has been documented by Sociologist John Bruhn who writes,
“When people work together, their brains release greater amounts of mood-lifting, discomfort- suppressing endorphins than they do when the same task is undertaken alone. Consequently, endurance athletes perceive less effort and perform better when training and racing cooperatively than they do alone. The group effect is not something that has to be acquired. It is a coping skill that exists latently in everyone, ready to be activated by the right situation.
What is the right situation? There are two – call them micro and macro – that are relevant to running. One situation (micro) is any type of group workout or team competition in which a number of individuals work together. The other situation (macro) is a broader sport culture in which numerous groups of athletes train and race together often.”
In other words, when attempting a difficult task (such as feeding your family healthy food), we can achieve greater success by working together with a community of others striving for the same goal. We don’t have to be professional runners to understand this effect, which Bruhn points out exists latently in everyone. I’m sure everyone can think of a situation when they rose to a higher level because of the Group Effect. But to a lesser extent, most of us actually experience the Group Effect every day when we show up at work with our coworkers, or go to the gym. When we have a community of people striving for the same thing in the same location – working for the success of the company at work, working to make our bodies stronger at the gym, we all go farther than we could ever go alone.
So how can you take advantage of the Group Effect to increase your healthy eating success? If you live near one of our distribution locations, you can join our CSA program. We have a one-of-a-kind CSA program, designed to take maximum advantage of the Group Effect, while also fitting seamlessly into your busy life. When you join Groundworks Farm CSA, you are not JUST getting a curated assortment of the freshest and highest-quality local, organic produce available. You, perhaps more notably, are getting to participate in the benefits of the Group Effect of the Groundworks Farm CSA Community (at no extra charge). But, instead of training to run world record marathons races like Eliud Kipchoge, we are practicing the daily willpower, effort, and knowledge battle of feeding ourselves and our families healthy food:)
Each of our weekly CSA pickups is a vibrant event where cooking tips and recipes are shared freely (although, if you are in a hurry you can be in and out in just a couple minutes). Everyone is happy to be there, and you can bet everyone you see around you is making the difficult effort to feed themselves and their families healthy food. We strive together to set ourselves and our kids up for success in whatever we do with healthy food every day. If you want to feed yourself and your family nutrient-dense healthy food – and stay on that wagon – you cannot make a better decision than joining the Groundworks Farm CSA Community. You don’t have to go it alone:)
For more information on any of our programs, please email us at email@example.com, or call us at 443.220.2338.
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