The Valley Flora Beetbox

Valley Flora's newsletter, sharing news from the farm, seasonal updates, and more!

Week 1 of Winter!

  • Red Cabbage
  • Chioggia Radicchio
  • Winter Kale Mix
  • Red Onion
  • Celeriac
  • Fennel
  • Butternut Squash
  • Yellow Potatoes
  • Parsnips
  • Leeks

Back at It in the Field!

It's all too fitting that our first winter harvest lined up with the first week when we finally get some real winter weather! Snow level is licking the top of White Mountain above the farm right now, making for some nice "41 degrees and raining, er, make that hailing" conditions (the coldest cold there is). We've been truly grateful for insulated boots and waterproof harvest gloves this week. Our winter get-up does slow the whole show down a bit: gloved hands lose dexterity, sensitivity and nimbleness, and big warm boots mean more slogging and stumbling than hopping and skipping. Then there's the head-to-toe impermeable membrane we cloak ourselves in (aka Grundens and other brands of vinyl raingear). All to say, it's not exactly ballet or high fashion out there as we're bringing in the bins of bulk kale and muddy parsnips, but at least we're semi-warm and getting the job done.

This week's share is the epitomy of winter eating: hearty leeks, durable spuds, sweet butternuts that are begging to become soup, our wintry kale mix, long-keeping cabbage, ugly-as-usual parsnips (but you're practiced with VF parsnips and a veggie peeler by now :)). I was also delighted to forage up some "resurrection fennel" for all the totes this week. This is second-growth fennel, sprouted from the stump of an already-been-harvested-last-summer fennel plant. As a fennel lover - and I acknowledge that not everyone is - it's one of my favorite winter treats. The bulbs themselves have an intensified sweet flavor due to winter frosts, and from a harvest persective it's kinda like the free prize inside the cereal box: a total bonus. I love to slice the little bulbs up thinly and add them to radicchio salad, along with some orange slices and maybe some candied pecans and a little bleu cheese. Whip up a sweet-tangy-citrusy vinaigrette and then call me and invite me over for dinner.

A big, big thank you to all our Winter CSA members who are on board for our 2024 winter season. We appreciate your year-round support and love the challenge you create for us: to fill up those totes - amply and colorfully - through the darkest, coldest months of the year. We hope you enjoy this first installment!

Newsletter: 

Week 28: Your Final Harvest from Valley Flora!

  • Beet Medley - Red, Gold and Chioggia
  • Carrots
  • Red Potatoes
  • Chioggia Radicchio
  • Purple Brussels Sprouts
  • Curly Parsley
  • Leeks
  • Spaghetti Squash

I am not one to toot our own horn, but after 15 years of packing CSA totes I think this was the prettiest Week 28 share we've ever put together. In spite of it being December, those bins are somehow still full of cheerful rainbow vegetables. (Rainbows, by the way, are the standard by which my 8 year-old Uma judges the merit of all things, and I think we might have done her proud this week.)

I sincerely hope that you have enjoyed the entire rainbow arc of the season, from those first June shares of leafy green-ness, to the reds-oranges-yellows of September Solanums, to the pretty-in-pink and cabernet-red radicchios of late fall. Farming for us is not unlike paint by number: fill in the rows of purple eggplants here and the golden squash there; the deep blue lacinato kale in this corner, next to the fire engine red strawberries.

For us, head down and hustling, it can feel like a blur. Which is why I love to take a minute to appreciate the year in review and be reminded of all the bounty that passed through our hands and into yours over the past 7 months:

We are forever grateful for our CSA membership that inspires and drives the diversity of plants we grow on our little farm. YOU are the reason for our season!

And, I am deeply thankful to the team of people who make it all possible: Roberto, Allen, Sarah, Alexa, Jen, Bets, Abby, Donna, John, Danny, Jack and Lily (the horses), and our goofy kids. What a team we had this year, dare I say BEST EVER?! Yes, I dare.

For those of you who have signed up for the Winter CSA, we'll be back in a month with more rainbow veggies! And for those of you who want to be part of our 2024 June-December season, look for an email with signup info in late January or February. We'll be reaching out directly and giving you first dibs on the 2024 season. We hope we have the honor - and delight - of feeding you again next year!

Happy Holidays to all, savor the cozy time.

-Zoë

 

Newsletter: 

Week 27 of 28 from Valley Flora!

  • Kale
  • Carrots
  • Celeriac
  • Winter Kohlrabi
  • Leeks
  • Lettuce
  • Mini Daikon Radish - pink and purple
  • Butternut Squash
  • Green Cabbage

This penultimate CSA share is a dense one, loaded with veggies that will store for weeks (leeks, carrots), or months (butternut, celeriac, daikon, cabbage, kohlrabi). The only two things that you need to eat soonish are your kale and head lettuce (this, by the way, is your final little head of lettuce for 2023, after seven straight months of harvest - thanks be to a productive lettuce year!). Next week's share will also be laden with more storage crops, in hopes of stocking you up so that you might still be carving off a VF cabbage come January (yes, these late season cabbages are lunker-esque)! If you're having a hard time getting through them I highly recommend roasting wedges at high heat on a sheet pan: Roasted Cabbage Wedges. A little olive oil, salt, and a 450 degree oven will take cabbage to the next level, turning it into a mouth-watering, warm winter comfort food. 

Next week will be our 28th and final CSA delivery for the season:

  • Last pickup for Farm and Coos Bay members: Wednesday, December 6th 
  • Last pickup for Port Orford and Bandon members: Saturday, December 9th

AND, if you find yourself headed into an end-of-CSA seasonal depression (wah, no more VF veg until next June!), don't despair because.....

Winter CSA Sign-Ups are Open!!!

We have a limited number of Winter CSA shares available, sign up now to secure your spot!

This winter we are also delighted to be offering UpsideDown Egg Shares, which you can sign up for and have delivered with your Winter CSA box.

If you live in Coos Bay, we are considering the possibility of adding a winter Coos Bay CSA pickup option at Coos Head Food Co-op (Wednesdays, as usual). If you like that idea, let us know via email so we can determine if we have enough interest to justify the drive to Coos Bay this winter.

I'm headed out the door to do one last scurry around the farm before the evidently endless rainy forecast settles in on us, but you'll hear from me again next week in our final 2023 Beet Box newsletter. In the meantime, go clean those gutters, quick!

Newsletter: 

Happy Thanksgiving from Valley Flora!

  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Celery
  • Rosemary
  • Head Lettuce
  • Shallots
  • Parsnips
  • Yellow Potatoes
  • Rosalba Radicchio
  • Autumn Frost Winter Squash
  • Cleo's Gourds!

Smooth sailing this week as we pushed through our big Thanksgiving harvest, thanks to easy weather and our all-star farm team. The delivery van has been on the road since 8 am, dropping CSA totes at the farm, in Port Orford, Bandon and Coos Bay. Be sure you pick up your produce today! One final reminder about pickup times:

  • For members who pick up at the Farm and at Coos Head Food Co-op, it's business as usual: same time, same place today.
  • For Bandon Members: Pick-up is on Wednesday, November 22nd between 10:30 and 5 pm at Well Within
  • For Port Orford Members: Pick-up is on Wednesday, November 22nd between 8:30 and 5 pm at the Port Orford Co-op (please try to pick up before 11 am or after 3 pm to avoid congestion on the loading dock at POCC)
  • REMEMBER: NO CSA PICKUP on SATURDAY, 11/25 in BANDON or PORT ORFORD!

My favorite radicchio is in the share this week: Rosalba. In the past I've described it like a quinceañera dress - layers and layers of pink petticoat. But this year, a new name: it's Barbie salad.

Wait, correction: it's Barbie Salad and it's Ken Salad (because some of my favorite men love eating Rosalba as much as me and my girlfriends). And if you haven't seen the new Barbie movie yet and are wondering what in the world I'm talking about, here's your very un-pop, very un-pink, very un-Barbie farmer telling you to go rent it this holiday weekend! Here on our women-owned and run farm, we freaking loved that movie.

To go alongside your pretty Rosalba, you have our annual dig of ugly Thanksgiving parsnips. Actually, not quite as ugly this year, and whatever blemishes you encounter are only skin deep, so get out your veggie peeler and make 'em shine! I always plug this one recipe, which has become an unshakeable tradition on our Thanksgiving table: Roasted Winter Squash and Parsnips with Maple Syrup Glaze and Marcona Almonds.

The Autumn Frost winter squash is a specialty butternut, equally well-suited to baking, roasting, or souping. It has a fantastic apple-y flavor that I love, with more complexity than a standard butternut.

And for the first time ever in the history of the Valley Flora CSA, there's something inedible in your share this week: Cleo's whimsical gourds! Cleo is my 12 year old daughter and she's been growing and selling decorative gourds for a number of years. She had a bumper crop this year and I figured they'd make for some lovely adornment on your Thanksgiving table. I bought a few hundred of her choice specimens (every single one is different and unique) to help fund her miniature donkey breeding (and feeding) project. 

All of us at Valley Flora are wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving, with gratitude that you are a part of our little farm on Floras Creek. Thank you!

Newsletter: 

Week 25 of 28 from Valley Flora!

  • Red Beets
  • Carrots
  • Celeriac
  • Lettuce
  • Yellow Onions
  • Pie Pumpkin (in advance of Thanksgiving so you can make that homemade pumpkin pie!)
  • Apples (Topaz for Wednesday CSA sites, Fuji for Saturday CSA sites)
  • Garlic

On Rotation:

  • Collards
  • Kale
  • Violet Queen Turnips
  • Pink Daikon
  • White Cauliflower

Thanksgiving CSA Deliveries - PLEASE READ!

Thanksgiving is sneaking up fast this year! Our CSA delivery schedule will be different next week, so PLEASE READ the following:

Here's the dealio: Because all of us here at the farm don't want to be working on Thanksgiving day, and because most of you might want to be eating your VF veggies on Thursday, we do a crazy thing next week. We smoosh our entire 5 day work week into 2.5 days, Monday through Wednesday. I can't remember who's terrible idea this was many years ago (that's a lie, it was mine), but basically our team doubles down and pulls off an unimaginable feat of industrious efficiency to get all 130 CSA shares, all farmstand orders, and all wholesale orders packed and delivered by Wednesday. 

The takehome is twofold: 

  1. Next week ALL CSA SHARES GET DELIVERED ON WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 22nd (that includes you, Port Orford and Bandon, see below for times!).
  2. There is NO CSA DELIVERY TO BANDON OR PORT ORFORD ON SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 25th!

Please mark your calendars with big bold Sharpie so that you don't miss out on your food next week!

  • For members who pick up at the farm and at Coos Head Food Co-op, it's business as usual: same time, same place next week.
  • For Bandon Members: Pick-up is on Wednesday, November 22nd between 10:30 and 5 pm at Well Within
  • For Port Orford Members: Pick-up is on Wednesday, November 23rd between 8:30 and 5 pm at the Port Orford Co-op (please try to pick up before 11 am or after 3 pm to avoid congestion on the loading dock at POCC)

And for once, and just this once, I will attempt to tell you exactly what will be in your share next week so you can plan, scheme, flip through cookbooks and shop for other ingredients as needed at our farmstand. We're open this Saturday and next Wednesday 11:30 to 2:30 pm. You can pre-order online (highly recommended) via our online store, or drop in to shop.

The Week 26 Thanksgiving Share:

  • Brussels Sprouts - 1 stalk
  • Carrots - 0.75 pound
  • Rosemary
  • Shallots - 1+ pound
  • Parsnips - hopefully 2+ pounds, won't know until we dig them next week
  • Yellow Potatoes - 3 pounds
  • Rosalba Radicchio - 1 very pink head
  • Head Lettuce (unless we get a hard freeze before next week, unlikely)
  • Autumn Frost Winter Squash - great for roasting or soup-making or anything that involves squash. Also beautiful decor for the Thanksgiving table
  • TBD: Celery - 1 bunch

OK, everyone repeat after me: "I will pick up my Thanksgiving CSA share next WEDNESDAY!"

AND finally, if you are going to be out of town next week we are more than happy to hold your Thanksgiving share in our cooler for late pickup from the farm when you return. In order to do this, I need you to email me by this Sunday, November 19th with your NAME, PICKUP Location, and the DATE you plan to retrieve your tote from our cooler at the farm. We ask that late pick-ups come between 8 am and 5 pm, during daylight hours. Thanks!

Get ready to feast!

Newsletter: 

Week 23 of 28 from Valley Flora!

  • Dazzling Blue Lacinato Kale
  • Carrots
  • Fennel
  • Italian Parsley
  • Head Lettuce
  • Red Onions
  • Mini Daikon Radish
  • Butternut Squash

On Rotation

  • Cauliflower
  • Romanesco
  • Tomatoes

November and Beyond on the Farm...

Happy first day of November! We are six weeks from the end of our 28-week CSA season, and although we are headed into the final chapter there is still a lot of good food yet to come! In hopes of ensuring that everyone continues to get their CSA produce until the very end, here are a few important dates for you add to your calendar:

  • November 22 (the Wednesday before Thanksgiving): we will be delivering ALL CSA totes to ALL pick-up locations, to ensure that everyone has their produce in time for Thanksgiving. If you usually pick up on Saturday in Bandon or Port Orford, your pick-up for that week will be on 11/22 instead of 11/25 (no CSA delivery on 11/25). We'll send out more info about this schedule switcheroo the week before Thanksgiving.
  • December 6th and 9th: This will be our final week of CSA deliveries for the season (12/6 for VF and Coos Bay pick-ups; 12/9 for Bandon and Port Orford).

And for those of you who want to keep the party going, we will be offering Winter CSA Shares again this year. Our winter season runs from mid-January to mid-May on an every-other week delivery schedule (10 CSA deliveries over 20 calendar weeks). We have limited space in the winter - shares are capped at 60 members - so we give first dibs to everyone who is part of our current, 2023 CSA membership. If there are still spots available after our current membership has had a chance to sign up, we open up the winter sign-ups to the general public. If you are a current CSA member, look for a direct email from us in the next week or so with sign-up details!

Heads up, I will not be sending out a farm newsletter next week (I have a 15-year anniversary to celebrate with my darlin' dear Danny!).

Enjoy that big butternut squash this week. If ever there was soup-making weather in the forecast, here it comes! :)

Newsletter: 

Week 22 from Valley Flora!

  • Bunched spinach
  • Garlic
  • Sweet Sixteen Apples
  • Carrots
  • Kohlrabi
  • Head Lettuce
  • Radicchio

On Rotation:

  • Tomatoes
  • Cauliflower
  • Romanesco

New Veg!

Garlic: Beautiful heads grown by Bets. This is a softneck variety that stores well, in case it takes you awhile to work through an entire head of garlic.

Winter Kohlrabi: A colossal variety specially adapted to fall/winter, which stores extremely well in the fridge. Peel the tough outer skin and then slice it up for easy snacking: tender-crisp and juicy!

Spinach: We could never grow enough spinach to keep the world happy, but at least this week we're making the world a little bit happier. 

The first radicchio! I realize that my personal excitement might eclipse that of our entire CSA membership combined, but never was a salad-lover like me so ready to walk away from lettuce and into the arms of radicchio instead. The variety you're getting this week is a specialty type called "Marinanta," which visually resembles a head of variegated iceberg. I like to introduce radicchio season with this variety, along with the reminder that radicchio is the best winter "lettuce" there is. If you are resistant to that idea because you think radicchio is bitter, all you have to do is slice up your cabbage-like head of Marinanta and submerge it in a bowl of cold water for 10+ minutes. Spin dry and give it a taste. Blindfolded, you might wonder if it isn't iceberg itself: mild, crisp, juicy. THEN, toast up some croutons and make my favorite dressing, a recipe pirated from Nostrana (a fantastic farm-to-table restaurant in Portland), see hand-scrawled recipe card below. This is what my family will be eating as often as possible from now until February when radicchio season comes to a sad end. But why dwell on that when there is the fabulous present moment at hand, aka TONIGHT when we celebrate the 2023 radicchio kickoff at our house with an enormous bowl of Insalata Nostrana (my kids made me promise I'd make it for dinner, if that says anything about learning to love radicchio).

 

Apples! Apples! Apples! 

What a year for apples! Not only are you getting some in your share this week, we also have 10 pound bulk boxes of apples available that can be delivered to your CSA pickup site by special order.  The three varieties currently at their peak are Liberty, Honeycrisp, and Cox's Orange Pippin.

Liberty are deep red with exceedingly white, juicy flesh.  They have a sweet-tart flavor suited for fresh eating, baking, cider, and sauce.  The red skin produces beautiful pink applesauce if the apples are cooked in chunks with the skin on and then strained/pureed to smoothness.

Honeycrisp are golden and red streaked apples that are known for their light and snappy crispness.  They are sweet and refreshing.  Similar to Liberty, Honeycrisp apples are multi-purpose and can be eaten fresh or used in baked goods, cider, or sauce.

Cox's Orange Pippin are unsurpassed for their richness and complexity of flavor.  One connoisseur says, "Almost all other apples taste one-dimensional alongside a good Cox's Orange Pippin."  They have attractive orange/red coloring and an aromatic flavor.  Cox's Orange Pippins are multi-purpose, but fresh eating is the best way to enjoy the incredible flavor.

We are selling 10 pound bulk boxes of each variety for $25.  If you would like to get some, please click here to email your special order.  Your email should include the following information:

  • Apple variety(ies) you would like
  • Number of 10 pound boxes per variety
  • Your email address, phone number, and CSA pickup site

Checks for special order apples can be made out to Valley Flora and mailed to PO Box 111, Langlois, OR 97450.

Fall tastes so good!!!

Newsletter: 

Week 21 from Valley Flora!

  • Gold Beets
  • Carrots
  • Head Lettuce
  • Yellow Onions
  • Painted Purple Potatoes
  • Spaghetti Squash
  • Black Winter Radishes
  • Eggplant
  • Tomatoes

On Rotation:

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Romanesco

All kinds of new things showing up in the totes these days: purple cauliflower, black radishes, spaghetti squash, painted purple potatoes, and gold beets (so sweet!)!!

The black winter radishes, aka "black Spanish radish," look like a bunch of charcoal briquettes topped with pretty green leaves. They have the skin of a rhino and some serious kick. I saw a little piece online about black radishes, entitled: "Ode to a Difficult Food" and thought, "eep, time to do some CSA hand-holding this week....," especially when I got to the part where the author writes:

Thanks to heirloom seeds and small farms, I’ve enjoyed many types of radishes in the last few years, realizing that they vary so greatly from the crisp, magenta balls that recall fishing bobbers. These include the striking watermelon radish, dense and spicy Chinese green radish, elegant French breakfast radish, finger-shaped purple and white radishes, and smaller varieties of daikon radish with mint-greenish shading at the top of the root... None put up more barriers to being loved than the coarse-surfaced, rotund black radish. These stringently bitter bulbs are coated in a thick skin that resembles a rhinocerous. Their dense, fibrous flesh has a fierce lick of horseradish. Why the hell did anyone cultivate this, when the cheery sparkler radish was just as easy to grow?

The author goes on to answer their own question, historically, by explaining that black radishes were great survival food in Medieval times in Europe because they store well through the winter and can squat outside in the ground through the harshest freezing weather, thanks to "their thick, tar-like mask of skin [that] protects the icicle-white flesh like armor built for function over fashion."

So WHY are we growing them at Valley Flora, circa 2023? I'm not sure I have a great answer to that question, other than: they looked cool in the seed catalogue? Which is also another way of saying "diversity! diversity! diversity!" Also: sorry?

Given that they might too easily fall into the "difficult" category among all your CSA foods, and thereby land too easily in the compost pile, here are the previously quoted author's top three recommendations for getting them down your gullet:

1. Chopped and roasted with olive oil, sea salt and chili flakes

I don’t know too many root vegetables that don’t taste great like this, and the crisped peaks of the wedges are delightful contrast to the softer, mellowed flesh inside. I preheated the oven to 400 degrees, then peeled and chopped the root to equal-sized pieces. Coated lightly with olive oil, sea salt, and flakes of chili, they were roasted about 20 minutes, with one break to toss them around in the pan in between.

2. Shredded raw with apples, carrots, lemon and mint

Black radishes are a bit spicier and tougher than most types, but combined with the sweetness of carrots and tartness of fresh apples, they’re a pleasant complement. I used lots of fresh lemon juice and let it soak in for a while, along with good olive oil, and finished it with a few mint sprigs for extra refreshment.

3. Roasted in skins, peeled, and mashed with butter

A spin on Mike’s suggestion, with simply butter, salt and pepper. This could lend a hint of flavor if blended with mashed potatoes, or it could be the start of a creamy radish soup if simmered with stock. To concentrate its flavor more, I roasted the radishes in their skins, sliced in half flesh side-down on a pan (like I would a winter squash). After a good 40 minutes or so, the flesh shrinks back and allows the skin to be easily peeled off the bulb once cool (like with beets).

Pickling will also beat them into submission.

I could be convinced not to grow them again, but they just look so weird and spooky...kinda perfect around Halloween.

Oh! That's it! You can hand them out as trick-or-treat "candy!" As mentioned, they'll store in your fridge well into 2024, so no problem keeping them until October 31st!

 

Newsletter: 

Week 20 from Valley Flora!

  • Dill
  • Carrots
  • Head Lettuce
  • Red Onions
  • Collard Greens
  • Serrano and Jalapeno Peppers
  • Sweet Pepper
  • Delicata Winter Squash

On Rotation

  • Eggplant
  • Broccoli
  • Romanesco

Our most beloved single-serving winter squash is in your share this week: Delicata! These thin-skinned, delicious squash are so sweet they can double as dessert. The easiest way to appreciate their delectable flavor is to cut them in half the long way, scoop out the seeds and place them face down in a baking dish. Put a half inch of water in the dish and then bake at 400 for a half hour+ until the squash is soft. When you pull them out of the oven, let a pat of butter melt in each squash boat and then find a spoon! You can eat the skin of Delicatas if you like, or just use your spoon to scrape out the soft-baked squash meat. I find that once the Delicatas are ready, I go on a bit of bender: Delicata every night (and it's still not enough Delicata!)...

Farm-to-School Field Trip Season in Full Swing at the Farm!

After a three year hiatus due to the pandemic, we are once again welcoming busloads of school kids to the farm for weekly field trips! Valley Flora has been involved in Farm-to-School efforts since 2008, hosting thousands of kids from Coos and Curry schools on experiential tours of the farm. We love engaging the kids on the farm at this time of year, in particular because there is so much to taste in the field (including the late season strawberries, which are always a hit as the grand finale of a tour, see pic below). We also get kids sampling some of the lesser-known fruits and vegetables: raw beets, fennel, romanesco, turnips, peppers, asian pears, hardy kiwis and more. For a lot of students, it's their first time on a farm altogether, and for most of them it's definitely their first taste of fennel! It's so fun to watch them light up with surprise as they taste a slice of gold beet, pause, and then say "yum" with a big, incredulous grin. It's even more fun when they ask for seconds. :)

This year, many of our field trips are coordinated with the support of the Beet Food Systems Consortium, a community-based coalition that works to increase access, engagement and education about our local food system in Coos County. Their Farm to Child Coordinator, Lindsey Bellefeuille, has been spending time in classrooms teaching food system lessons, prepping kids for their field trips, and joining us on tours at the farm. These field trips are a chance for students to see a working, diversified farm in action and to learn about organic agriculture and local food systems in a hands-on way: compost piles, draft horses, cover crops, and a real live crew of passionate farmers there to answer their fantastic, curious questions. As one fourth grader quipped last week while loading her shirt with strawberries: "This is the best day of my entire career." I couldn't have agreed with her more.

 

Newsletter: 

Week 19 from Valley Flora!

  • Curly Parsley
  • Leeks
  • Sweet Peppers from our 2023 Pepper Trials:
    • Rio Grande - colossal, thick-walled green-to-red pepper
    • Petit Marseillais - small, thin-skinned yellow frying pepper
    • Tatli ücburun - small, thin-skinned red frying pepper
  • Head Lettuce
  • Tomatoes
  • Hakurei turnips
  • Acorn Winter Squash
    • Starry Night
    • Night Shift

On Rotation:

  • Eggplant
  • Broccoli
  • Romanesco 

2023 Sweet Pepper Trials in Full Swing: the Story of a Pepper Named "Glow"

Joy and heartbreak are built into the fabric of farming in roughly equal parts. Crop failures lay you flat but a surprise rainbow arcing over the farm lifts you back up. You delight in the miraculous germination of seeds and then find yourself crestfallen when you walk into the greenhouse one morning to discover that all your seedling babies were decapitated by a mouse the night before. You fall head-over-heels in love with a specific variety, and then the seed company discontinues it without warning for no apparent reason.

That last bit is the story of "Glow," my all-time favorite sweet pepper, which we discovered years ago after doing a round of outdoor pepper trials. Outdoor pepper production is possible at the farm, but given our cooler climate we have to be selective and choose shorter days-to-maturity (DTM) varieties (ones that will ripen in, say, 60 days as opposed to 90 days). This means that heavy-walled bell peppers (which can take at least a month longer to color up) are not so much our forte, but Italian and roasting types thrive at Valley Flora.

Bets does most of the pepper production on the farm in high tunnels, which gives her a month+ jump on the season. She starts picking some of her indoor peppers as early as July, with the peak of pepper season hitting by September (ahem, as you may have noticed in your CSA share the past month). But meanwhile, I also have a smoldering passion for peppers (the colors! the flavors! the mind-blowing array of genetic diversity! the snap of them coming off the plant; the plunk of them landing in the bin; the snack-time perfection of biting into a juicy ripe pepper anytime, anywhere!). As a result, I usually plant a bunch of outdoor peppers each season, in order to have my own endless supply of pepper snacking AND to see if I can discover any new varieties that do well in our coastal conditions, specifically outdoors. It was one of those trials that led us to "Glow," a variety that, true to its name, shone forth with everything I crave in a sweet pepper: juicy, flavorful, sweet, productive, early and orange. (What can I say, I've got a thing for orange peppers above all.) Not only was Glow the first to ripen of any of the outdoor peppers, it was also the last to give up its final fruit, often yielding into November. 

We all started growing it and Glow became a staple variety in Bets' hoophouses, in my outdoor beds, and we turned lots of farmer friends onto it as well (including friends who farmed in much warmer climates and didn't need a "cheater" pepper with short DTM like Glow). Nevertheless, Glow became their favorite variety as well, eclipsing the rest of their pepper lineup with its beauty, reliability, flavor, and juiciness.

And then, just like that, it disappeared from the seed catalogues this year. None of our seed reps could explain why, and we couldn't source it anywhere on the big world wide web. Because it's a hybrid we also couldn't save our own seed and expect to get the same pepper. It was like losing a friend.

And so were born two connected initiatives: The Great Pepper Trial of 2023, and my first-ever seed breeding project to try to dehybridize Glow into a stable, open-pollinated variety. 

The Great Pepper Trial of 2023, currently in full swing, is an effort to try to identify a substitute variety for Glow (and an excuse to try out a bunch of other peppers we've never grown as well). Jen, who joined us last spring through Rogue Farm Corps, has taken on the pepper trials as her special project and is waist deep in Capsicum annum these days: harvesting, recording yield data, sorting, making observations and setting up taste tests with the crew (October is the peak of outdoor pepper season for us, which times out well for the CSA totes as greenhouse pepper production peters out). We're glad to announce that we think we've found a temporary replacement for Glow, a variety called Corinto Arancia (slightly smaller and less lobed than Glow, but similarly early and productive with great flavor and sweetness). We've also been having fun with a dozen or so other varieties, some of which are showing up in your share this week. You've got a couple of frying peppers - one from France and one from Turkey. Thin-walled peppers are not well appreciated in the States, but you'll find that they shine in culinary applications: great for seasoning rice, sauteeing, stuffing, pickling, and frying. 

Simultaneously, my Glow dehybridization project is underway. We grew out our last 100 seeds of Glow F1 that we had on hand and planted them in isolation in our far-west field, a quarter mile from any other pepper plants. I've been selectively harvesting the ripe fruit for seed-saving, and next year we'll grow out the F2 generation. It will likely be a year of dramatic genetic instability, when all kinds of traits are expressed. My job will be to select for the best Glow-like traits I'm looking to preserve and save the seed again, with the end goal being to stabilize the genetics to the point that our saved seed reliably produces a pepper like Glow. It's a process that can take anywhere from a few years to fifteen. For the love of a pepper, stay tuned for the next decade! And in the meantime, you'll likely be enjoying Corinto Arancia in your Harvest Basket this time next year :)

P.S. Enjoy the first of the winter squash, leeks and romanesco this week! The two acorn squash varieties are also the result of ongoing variety trials at VF. Let us know which one you like better: stripey Starry Night or the ink-black Night Shift!

Newsletter: 

Week 18 from Valley Flora!

  • Fennel
  • Celery
  • Eggplant
  • Yellow Onion
  • Red Potatoes
  • Sweet Peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Asian Pears 
  • Carrots

On Rotation

  • Head Lettuce
  • Broccoli

It's our first full week of Fall, everything all around softened by rain and hope: less smoke, grass resurrecting, soil moisture, encouraging news from Elk River. The CSA share reflects the shift of seasons, with Asian Pears making a shy appearance, inaugural celery, the return of broccoli (on rotation this week), big fat red potatoes, and the first of our yellow storage onions (this variety knows how to stick around - until April if you keep them cool and dry and dark). Your sampler of Asian Pears includes Nijiseiki (yellow skin, sweet and a little tangy, crazy juicy) and Chojuro (bronzen skin, denser, rich butterscotch flavor). One of my favorite fall snacks is slices of Chojuro dredged in crunchy hazlenut butter. Enjoy these new flavors as you savor the slide into autumn. Feelings of renewal and reflection always piggyback on Fall for me, and I find that my body intuitively starts to crave new flavors - winter squash for one! It's coming soon to a CSA share near you (next week!). I've got a few baking in my oven as I type - taste testing is underway in your CSA farmer's test kitchen :)

Last Week of Abby's Greens Salad Shares

Hello soup season, goodbye salad greens (I guess it's true, the choice always is one or the other on the menu). This is the 18th and final week of Abby's Greens salad shares for our CSA members. Abby's Greens will still be available for awhile longer at our farmstand, various restaurants, and at the stores and co-ops we supply (Port Orford Co-op, Langlois Market, Coos Head Food Co-Op, McKay's in Bandon). Thanks as ever to Abby for keeping us in salad heaven all season.

Please Join Us: A Memorial for Bill Bradbury, October 15th at the World Forestry Center

Many of you responded with heartfelt (and deeply appreciated) condolences when our dad, Bill Bradbury, passed away unexpectedly in April. There will be a memorial for him on October 15th at the World Forestry Center in Portland, starting at 2 pm. If you would like to attend, please RSVP here. Everyone is welcome as we gather to remember a beautiful and remakable man who cared deeply about the Southcoast, Oregon, and the world.

Newsletter: 

Week 17 from Valley Flora!

  • Beets
  • Napa Cabbage - light in texture, mild in flavor. Makes a great raw slaw or salad, or cooks up in infinite ways. Try this "Melting Napa Cabbage" recipe!
  • Purple Carrots
  • Sweet Peppers, LOTS of sweet peppers!
  • Tomatoes
  • Cipollini Onions - pungent when raw, incredibly sweet when caramelized.
  • Serrano and Jalapeño Peppers

On Rotation:

  • Eggplant
  • Cilantro

A Man and a River: Grieving them Both

Many, many of us are preoccupied by and grieving the fire on Elk River right now. For those of you who don't know the Elk, it's an incredible place on earth: a steep watershed full of old growth forest and cold crystalline water, home to wild salmon and marbled murrelets. If you were familiar with spectacular Opal Creek in the Cascades (before it burned catastrophically a couple years ago), the Elk is the Opal Creek of the southcoast. For many of us, it's a pilgrimage kind of place - where you go for renewal and reconnection to the wild. It's the place where I retreat to recharge, the place that fills me back up with life force, the place that I'm always melancholy to leave after a weekend of hot rocks and cold turquoise water and ripe thimbleberries. I spent large chunks of my childhood up the Elk River - camping for days at favorite swimming holes, and even rafting sections of the river during high water in the winter (imagine champagne bubble flood waters - clear, not muddy like the rest of our coastal streams in winter). We've swum/crawled/scrambled every mile of the canyon from Butler Bar to the fish hatchery, exploring like wet-suit clad river otters. It is a place beloved, and currently engulfed in flames.

The Anvil fire started a couple weeks ago with the rumble of midnight thunder. I remember waking up to the sound of it, then the flashes of lightning, and thinking "Please let that be to the west, over the ocean. Not inland." My very next thought lying there in bed was, "Jim. Oh no. Jim is gone. Who will protect the Elk?"

Jim Rogers, lifelong guardian of the Elk, had died just a week earlier due to complications related to Parkinsons disease. I had just learned of his passing, feeling the loss of him and my dad as a dual blow (they were friends, and two peas in a conservation pod who worked together to gain protection for the Elk). Sometimes described as a “logger-turned-environmentalist,” Jim started his career as a young forester working for the timber industry. In his timber survey work, he recognized what a special place the Elk was and turned his energy towards conservation, at a time when most of the Coast Range was being leveled by clearcut logging. From his little cabin on the Elk, to Salem, to Washington, D.C., he circled tirelessly to organize political support for protecting the watershed. Over his lifetime, that unflagging dedication to Elk River led to the designation of two wilderness areas—the Grassy Knob (1984) and Copper Salmon (2009), and to designation of the Elk River (1988) and its tributaries (2019) as "Wild and Scenic." All told, he protected more than 30,000 acres of old-growth forest and over 75 miles of wild and scenic river (if ever there was an example of the oft-quoted Margaret Mead quote, Jim was at the center of it: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”). 

I laid there listening to the rumble-flash of the sky, hoping Jim's legacy was not in harm's reach, trying not to worry myself out of a good night's sleep.

But by mid-morning there were reports of four spot fires up the Elk. Fortunately we had a stretch of high humidity and light winds on the heels of the Labor Day rain, but that all changed last week as temps rose and winds picked up. The fire has grown to almost 15,000 acres, many residents on the lower Elk have been evacuated, air quality is abysmal to the south, and it's considered 0% contained. As grim as all of that feels, the forecast has me hanging onto hope. The growing promise of rain next week can't come soon enough (even though in the farming realm we are maximizing every last shred of daylight to get potatoes, winter squash, and dry beans out of the field as quickly as possible while we have dry weather).

I have spent quite a bit of time in new wildfire burns the past few years on my horsepacking trips: the Trinity Alps, Jefferson Wilderness, the Gifford-Pinchot, the Wallowas. Fire scars are a ubiquitous - and ever-dominant - element in the landscape nowadays with climate change. Every time I enter a recent burn on horseback there is an emotional reckoning - so much sadness for the cool, dark, beautiful forest that is no longer there, but also amazement as life resurges out of the char and ash. Last year in Jefferson, two years after the huge fires that almost reached Portland and scorched Opal Creek to cinder, we saw fir seedlings 6 inches tall, wildflowers, early-succession shrubs - the thinnest scrim of green against a black backdrop of burn. You had to look, but it was there. The forest that returns - in Jefferson Wilderness, and on the Elk - will probably look different than the one it replaces, especially as conditions get hotter and drier. And it will never be a mature, towering old growth forest in my lifetime again. But maybe for my kids, my grandkids. I would like to think that they might head up the Elk on a summer day 50 years from now and see a river canyon filled with green, shading that incredible clear water. And before they leap off the high rock at Jumpoff Joe's, give thanks to Jim Rogers for the legacy he left to us all.

To learn more about Jim's life, there is a great Oregon Field Guide episode about him from about 10 years ago: https://watch.opb.org/video/oregon-field-guide-jim-rogers/

To read his full obituary, go to https://www.westrumfuneralservice.com/obituary/James-Rogers
 
A celebration of Jim's life event will be held on Saturday, October 28 at 2pm in Port Orford, location TBD.

Pray for rain. Lots of it.

Newsletter: 

Week 15 from Valley Flora!

  • Baby New Potatoes
  • Purple Carrots
  • Sweet Corn
  • Eggplant
  • Serrano and Jalapeno Hot Peppers
  • Sweet Peppers
  • Zucchini
  • Tomatoes
  • Head Lettuce

On Rotation:

  • Cantaloupe Melon
  • Italian Parsley
  • Cilantro
  • Heirloom Tomatoes

It's a produce bonanza this week! Historically, the first week of September is usually the peak of the season on the farm, resulting in CSA totes that are quasi-ridiculous in their heft and value. I bet with a little creativity and concentration you can get through it all, though. And if you can't, things like carrots and potatoes will keep just fine in your fridge for a week or three. The melons that are on rotation are called "Sarah's Choice," an Abby-grown cantaloupe that is scenting our walk-in with ambrosia this week! 

In a Landscape at the Farm This Evening!

In a few short hours, Hunter Noack will be arriving at the farm with his 1900's Steinway piano and setting up for this evening's In a Landscape concert in the field! Proceeds from concert will go to the Wild Rivers Land Trust, our local non-profit that works to protect watersheds, open space, and working ranches, farms, and forests for future generations. The concert is sold out and we strongly encourage all ticketholders to carpool since parking is limited.

If you are a CSA member who picks up at the farm on Wednesdays, please note that we will be taking all CSA items back to our walk-in cooler at 3 pm today due to the concert. You should have received a direct email from us last night with instructions for picking up if you're coming after 3 pm. We expect there will be plenty of congestion on Floras Creek Road by 4pm (it would be best to pick up earlier in the day if you can)!

If you are coming to In a Landscape this evening, we look forward to seeing you! We're anticipating a magical evening on the farm. :)

Please note there will not be a newsletter next week (CSA deliveries will occur as usual, just no Beet Box dispatch). Look for the next Beet Box in your inbox on Wednesday, September 20th.

 

 

 

Newsletter: 

Week 14 from Valley Flora!

  • Collard Greens
  • Carrots
  • Sweet Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Head Lettuce
  • Walla Walla Sweets
  • Sweet Peppers
  • Zucchini
  • Tomatoes

On Rotation:

  • Eggplant
  • Heirloom tomatoes

The Halfway Mark!

We are 14 weeks into our 28-week CSA season, tipping headlong into the peak of the late summer harvest: tomatoes by the bucketload, peppers by the bin-full, eggplant spilling out of totes, apples and melons making their first appearance. On Tuesdays and Fridays, we find ourselves staggering out of the corn patch under the weight of 80-pound harvest backpacks overflowing with fat ears of corn. This is that moment when my countertop is covered in a glorious rainbow of tomatoes and peppers, and making dinner is as simple as cutting them all up, tossing in some spiced chickpeas and pouring a lemony dressing over the top (my go-to Wednesday night meal plan for late August/September/early October: Spiced Chickpeas and Fresh Vegetable Salad from Ottolenghi).

But simultaneously while we revel in the glory of late summer produce, our every spare moment is now turning towards bringing in the storage crops. We are at once bears (gorging in the moment to put on fat for a long winter's nap) and squirrels (racing around maniacally stashing food for winter). All of the onions and shallots are out of the field as of last week, curing in the warm environment of our propagation greenhouse right now. Once the tops have dried down completely, we have hours of onion cleaning work ahead of us: clipping the tops and the root hairs, filling bins to a standard weight, and stashing them in our climate-controlled dry room for long-term storage.

We begin digging storage potatoes in earnest tomorrow, with the help of the horses who will undercut and "lift" the beds with our horsedrawn potato digger. The crew will fall in behind them, filling bins with red, yellow, and purple potatoes that will will get stashed in our new walk-in cooler (built just for storage potatoes, beets and other root crops this year). If yields are on par with past years, we have about 10,000 pounds of spuds sitting underground right now, and every last one of them will be sorted, lifted, stacked, washed and packed by hand. (If you join our Winter CSA, you will be still be enjoying VF potatoes next April.)

And also near on the horizon, winter squash harvest. Way out in Molly (that's the name of our western-most field), we have a beautiful half acre of winter squash finishing off. It's been a great squash-growing season this year and my latest fieldwalk revealed big over-sized Delicatas, bright orange Kabochas, deep-dark Acorns, sunny Spaghettis, and an abundance of buff-tan Butternuts. It's a good thing we're all farm-fit, cuz the squash deadlifting is about to begin. It's a physical test for everyone, including our little 1/2 ton flatbed farm Toyota :)

All to say, even though summer is waning, school is resuming, the days are shortening - we're only halfway through the season and there is much, much more still to come. Your CSA tote will continue to get heavier and denser (watch out in October, whoa!). The one good thing about the days getting shorter from the tired farmer's perspective is that there's a little more time in the evening to cook, at least come November. But for now, the marathon continues: it's mile 14 and we're digging deep. Thanks for all your cheering; it keeps us motivated and inspired.

Newsletter: 

Week 13 from Valley Flora!

  • Carrots
  • Sweet Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Dill
  • Head Lettuce
  • Red Onion
  • Zucchini
  • Tomaotes
  • Sweet Pepper
  • Serrano & Jalapeno Peppers

On Rotation:

  • Japanese Eggplant
  • Italian Eggplant

Eggplant season! Which means that any day now we should begin to see free boxes of Valley Flora eggplant kicked to the curb in front of CSA members' houses (true story, photo taken last fall at an anonymous location in Bandon).

Eggplant is one of those things - like fennel - that struggles to gain traction with some folks. I'm not sure if it's a texture thing (it can be rubbery if undercooked), or a flavor thing, or the sheer overwhelm of "what do I do with it?" But for whatever reason it's not the most appreciated of vegetables (er, fruits actually) in the CSA. Me personally, I swoon over eggplant. The colors, the shapes, and the fact that it's a fantastic vehicle for olive oil and salt. My go-to weekly eggplant indulgence at this time of year is to slice the Italian ones into 1/4" thick rounds, brush them on both sides with olive oil, and then put them under the broiler for a few minutes until they begin to get crispy brown. Flip them and brown the other side equally. I sprinkle them with salt and then eat them a million ways: slathered with homemade pesto; in sandwiches with fresh tomato and basil; in lasagne (instead of noodles, or in addition to); next to caramelized fennel and Walla Walla sweets; chopped up with cukes, tomatoes and peppers to make a deluxe greek salad. Something about the char-broiling brings out an umame flavor explosion that sends me. Like, who needs steak?

Last night I cut up a pile of the Japanese variety into 1/4" rounds and did a hot-wok cook with olive oil and salt, letting the rounds get browned and crispy in places. Super fast and easy if you don't want to hassle with the broiler and the brush and the flipping. 

If you want to take eggplant to the next level, and without a lot of effort, Eggplant Chermoula might be the best recipe ever. We discovered this dish in Yotam Ottolenghi's incredible cookbook, Jerusalem, and it's become a go-to "fast food" for us in August/September. It riffs on North African flavors with a blend of spices that infuses the eggplant as it becomes silky with baking.

I'd say that if you are someone who needs eggplant inspiration in general, Ottolenghi needs to become your new best friend. He's got a bunch of cookbooks you could buy (chock full of all kinds of incredible recipes), but I also discovered this morning that he has a website with all his best eggplant recipes from his various cookbooks in one place! Go there, be inspired! And maybe with Ottolenghi's help we can keep VF eggplant off the streets of Bandon.

And in parting: corn as high a draft horse's eye. (Actually, much higher! It's towering over Jack this year, and he's one tall horse!)

Enjoy those super-sweet, super-fat ears this week!

 

 

Newsletter: 

Week 12 from Valley Flora!

  • Bunch Beets
  • Carrots
  • Sweet Corn!
  • Cucumbers
  • Walla Walla Sweets
  • Strawberries
  • Zucchini
  • Tomatoes

On Rotation:

  • Purple Peppers

Corn, sweet corn! It's on this week, our first big pick of a bicolor aptly named "Sweetness." We plant five successions of sweet corn, so you'll be seeing it on a regular basis between now and mid-September. And hark! The first tomatoes of the season! Those two little red slicers in your tote portend one of the best moments of the season, when all the much-anticipated late summer Solanums collide: peppers, tomatoes and eggplant. Combine them with your zucchini and onions, some basil, throw in a little salt, and you have one of our favorite meals, ratatouille. My mom makes vats of it in September and freezes it so that she can thaw out a little bit of summer and eat it over polenta come winter. For the time being, we're too busy farming to do much cooking (uh, salad and quesadillas for dinner anyone?), but we hope you're making the most of the VF bounty in your own kitchen. We'll live vicariously for the time being, and look forward to that thawed ratatouille once the pace slows in the field.

Thanks for giving us a reason to grow all this food!

Newsletter: 

Week 11 from Valley Flora!

  • Walla Walla Sweets
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
    • Slicers
    • Mini Cukes
  • Basil
  • Head Lettuce
  • Austrian Crescent Fingerling Potatoes
  • Strawberries
  • Zucchini
  • Beet Greens

On Rotation:

  • Green Beans
  • Purple Peppers

Here comes August, hitting us upside the head with a rainbow of abundance. Instead of trying to figure out what to put into the CSA share each week, the challenge now is deciding what NOT to put in it! The cucumber glut continues, the green beans are still giving, the strawberries are on the rebound, and when we went to thin our beds of red storage beets we realized that the greens were too tender and beautiful to not share with you (beet greens are delicious and deeply nutritious - use them like kale/spinach/chard).

All this, plus Bets just hinted that tomatoes might be on next week, we harvested our first bin of eggplant, AND, drumroll, we just unwrapped our inaugural stick of "corn butter" last night, which means that we ate the first ears of a bicolor named "Sweetness" for dinner (slathered in said butter). I'm pretty sure you'll be seeing sweet corn in your tote next week! As my irrepressibly enthusiastic father, the late Bill Bradbury, would say: WOOHOO!

Hold onto your hats and get ready for some quality chewing: the heart of harvest season is here!

Also here - and almost a month early: Uma's watermelons! Ask my 8 year old daughter what she wants to be when she grows up and she will instantly reply: "a watermelon farmer." By the looks of this year's melon patch, she seems to have a pretty good knack for it (although I will continue to gently suggest that, longer-term, variety is the spice of life, and more to the point, that diversity is your best friend in the unpredictable world of farming :). You can find her watermelons at the farmstand piled high in the red wagon, and if you happen to catch her there at her lemonade stand you can ask her all about watermelon whispering: how do you know when a watermelon is ripe and ready for picking?! I think she knows the answer, see Exhibit A below.

Have a great week, savor it all!

Newsletter: 

Week 10 from Valley Flora!

  • Green Beans
  • Purple and Orange Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Curly Parsley
  • Red Long of Tropea torpedo onions
  • Strawberries
  • Zucchini

On Rotation

  • Lettuce
  • Kale

Strawberries are back in the Harvest Basket after a two week hiatus! We've been pulling teeth trying to get enough berries out of the patch this year: yields have been two to three time lower than usual - in spite of giving the plants even more TLC than usual - and the bronzing episode we went through in July was demoralizingly long and widespread. Fortunately we've popped out the other side of the bronzing and the berries are back to being shiny, bright, and sweeter than ever these days. It also appears that we're having a little bump in production as of this week, so although we had to disappoint all of our wholesale accounts we were able to get the berries back into the CSA totes, harvest for the farmstand, and give a couple more beds over to the u-pick. Predicting the future on a farm is usually a terrible idea, prone to jinxing the whole outcome, but could it be that August/September might just be when our strawberry season finally hits its stride this year?

A depressed strawberry season has big economic ramifications for the farm, because even though the berries only occupy a humble half acre of space, they contribute disproportionately to the bottom line. Low yields make us ever-grateful for the abundance elsewhere on the farm, all of which helps make up for the strawberry income shortfall we're experiencing this year. But it also begs the question, what's going on out there in the berry patch to cause such a drastic reduction in yields? I've been casting about looking for answers this past month and from all the other farmers, gardeners and university strawberry experts I've spoken with, it appears to be a West-Coast-wide phenomenon. Even the mainstream commercial growers in California are having a rough year.

I got on the phone with Mark Bolda, a cooperative extension farm advisor with the University of California (and widely considered to be the THE guru when it comes to all thing strawberry), last week and he described a pretty grim season on the California coast. His theory is that our whopper of a winter - with so much prolonged rain - leached out too much nitrogen from the soil so the strawberry plants (which have a long and intense production season from June through September) are deficient in N and are firing on one cylinder instead of four. He said that among his growers on the Central Coast, those who increased their application of summertime Nitrogen are doing better than those who stuck to their standard fertility plan. It so happens that we've been feeding our plants twice the usual amount of organic fish emulsion since June (we run it through our drip irrigation lines every other week to stimulate the soil biology and support the plants). The problem is, there is a 6-7 week lag-time from application to ripe fruit (you get a flowering response from the strawberry plant two weeks after application, and then it's 4-5 weeks from flower to ripe fruit). So if we started doubling our rate of fish emulsion in mid-June and it's now early August, there's your 6-7 weeks. All to say, maybe we have reason to be hopeful that the berry patch is kicking into gear at last and will be more productive for the remainder of the season. Most of the plants look pretty healthy and vigorous - save for the zone that had to endure standing water for many weeks this winter during the worst of the weather - so I chose to be optimistic (it's kinda your only choice in farming, really....in fact, if there's one thing we farmers have in common, it's something that should be called "Perverse Optimism Disorder"). How else could we play this huge gamble each year?

Long story short, enjoy that little pint of strawberrie this week AND stay hopeful there will be more! 

Newsletter: 

Week 9 from Valley Flora!

  • Broccoli
  • Red Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Basil
  • Head Lettuce
  • Walla Walla Sweet Onions
  • Zucchini
  • Cucumbers, lots of cucumbers!
    • Sometimes it's fun to get a motherlode of something in your tote, so that you can make a heap of a recipe that's all about that one thing. Cucumbers are that one thing this week, and all of them are super-sweet and crunchy. They're coming out of our outdoor planting by the cart-load now and are soooo good (I ate four cukes yesterday, just munching and snacking throughout the day, and slicing them up at dinner, so hopefully you'll have no trouble getting through 6 cukes in one week). This food blog has 50 ideas for all the tasty ways you can feature your cukes: https://insanelygoodrecipes.com/cucumber-recipes/. And if you start to have a cuke pile-up in the fridge, the fastest way to disappear them is by juicing (in which case, you might find yourself clamoring for twice as many cukes as you're getting right now. If that's you, we'd be happy to pack you a special order bulk box, just email us).

In non-farm, high alpine news, I'm back from a spectacular week in the Trinity Alps, this time (and for the first time) with kids, dog, and hubby! And while it was hard to find some pictures where everyone had their clothes on (skinnydipping opportunities abound in those lake-strewn peaks), here are a few to sum up the sublime week that it was: clear skies; willing, steady and strong horses; wide-eyed and delighted kids; vast grassy meadows teaming with micro-flora and fauna; flutters of butterflies cavorting at the top of peaks; sci-fi lakeside hatches of dragonflies (metamorphosis before our very eyes!), and the height of the alpine wildflowers. The kids are already babbling about "next year in the Trinity Alps..."

A huge thank you to the rest of the farm team for getting all the food harvested in my absence and keeping the train chugging on Floras Creek. So grateful!

Newsletter: 

Week 7 from Valley Flora!

  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Fennel
  • Basil
  • Head Lettuce
  • Sugar Snap Peas
  • Purplette Onions
  • Strawberries - Our strawberries are going through a period of Type III Bronzing right now, causing them to look more dull and seedy, as opposed to bright and shiny. Type III Bronzing is a physiological disorder similar to sunscald that commonly occurs in strawberry fields from late spring to mid-summer when UV radiation is at its peak around the summer solstice. When there's intense light, high temps and low humidity the developing fruit can be affected, particularly on the heels of a cold winter (ahem, that would be this past year) due to reduced plant canopy development (without as much leafy shade cover, the green fruit is more exposed to the negative affects of intense light and heat). Fortunately the fruit is still tasty - sometimes even sweeter than usual - but the berries don't have the same bling, cosmetically speaking. It usually take a few weeks to get through a Type III Bronzing episode, at which point the berries get back to being pretty lil' red shiny morsels again. It's always painful for us strawberry pickers when this happens, since we end up tossing a lot more of the harvest in the compost and the berries aren't up to our usual standards of beauty. But like most things, this too shall pass. There's a lovely flush of new flowers and green fruit on the vine right now, so hopefully we're in for an abundance of nice berries in the coming weeks. 
  • Zucchini

Laminated CSA Checksheets Coming Soon!

We'll be sending laminated CSA checksheets to all our pickup locations in the coming week, now that the dust has mostly settled on our CSA membership for the season. Thanks for putting up with the paper copies for a few extra weeks this season (there have been an unusual number of changes, additions, and switerchoos within our membership this first 6 weeks). Please mark yourself off with the dry erase pen each week from here on out! Thanks!

No Newlsetter Next Week - Zoë is Headed for the Mountains!

Assuming no big wildfires flare up in the next few days, Zoë will be heading for the hills on horseback for her annual wilderness pack trip next week. That means no newsletter next Wednesday. If you need something next week, emailing us is your best bet (the crew will be checking the email daily while I'm away and getting back to folks as best they can). Calling or texting will most likely get you radio silence until I return. :)

Valley Flora is Stocking Local Foodbanks and Community Fridges this Season, Thanks to an Oregon Foodbank Grant!

The farm received an "Oregon Producers Feeding Oregon Communities" grant this winter, which is allowing us to provide $15,000 worth of produce to local foodbank partners this season! For over 15 years, we've donated produce to various foodbanks in Coos and Curry County, but this grant is enabling us to take it to the next level. Since early June we've been doing a weekly harvest and delivery of fresh veggies to our partners: the Common Good Foodbank in Port Orford; Coast Community Health Clinic in Port Orford (they have a new community fridge that they're distributing produce from); the Coos Bay Public Library community fridge; and to the biweekly Bandon Public Library "Farm to Families" events organized by the Beet Food System (see flyers below, and spread the word to folks in need!).

The grant funding is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Local Food Purchase Assistance Cooperative Agreement Program (LFPA) — and is administered through a partnership among Oregon Food Bank, Oregon Department of Human Services and Oregon Department of Agriculture. All told throughout the state, the program is providing $2 million to support anti-hunger efforts, with a focus on communities that are experiencing rising food insecurity and have faced disproportionate hunger and poverty for generations. Coos and Curry County both have food insecurity rates upwards of 20%, which ranks us among the most food-insecure counties in the state.

Access to fresh produce can be particularly grim on the southern Oregon coast - particularly at food pantries, where most things are shelf-stable and highly processed. At the moment, Valley Flora is the only source of fresh produce for the Common Good, Coast Community Health Clinic, and the Farm to Families program, so it's been deeply rewarding to bring them cases and cases of head lettuce, cucumbers, broccoli, zucchini, and anything else we have coming out of the fields each week. It also means that nothing is going to waste on the farm, and that we as farmers can get paid for our efforts. It's been a win-win-win, so much so that our team of partners is trying to brainstorm ways to find permanent funding for these programs, once the initial grant money is gone. Please reach out if you're interested in helping grow the long-term sustainability of this effort!

 

 

Newsletter: 

Week 6 CSA from Valley Flora!

  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Fava Beans
  • Head Lettuce
  • Sugar Snap Peas
  • Strawberries
  • Zucchini

On Rotation:

  • Kale
  • Rainbow Chard

New This Week: Fresh Favas and Broccoli

Our heading broccoli is starting to come on strong in the field and should be making a solid appearance in your totes for the next month or so. Most everyone seems to know what they like to do with broccoli, but this is often my go-to prep for broccoli or broccolini: Charred Broccoli. Crispy, salty, olive-oily, and the high heat of the oven brings out the broccoli's natural sugars in perfect balance with the charred bits.

Fava beans, on the other hand, are probably not part of your regular repertoire in the kitchen. Favas are an early summer, one-week phenomenon in your CSA share. Lots of gardeners grow them as a winter or spring cover crop - they fix nitrogen for the soil, provide ample organic matter, and when their fragrant blossoms open in the spring they are a sweet source of nectar for the pollinators. But they feed humans equally well: early in the season when the fava plants are still small we thin our planting and bunch the greens, which are delicious sauteed in butter. But the real harvest comes in early July when the beans fatten up, filling their downy pods and weighing the plants to the ground.

Eating favas can go one of two ways: fast finger food, or a labor of love. If you're short on time, try this recipe for grilling them whole in the pod: Grilled Fava Bean Pods with Chile and Lemon. But if you have time and enjoy some meditative bean shelling, then it's worth the time to coax them out of their pod (the easy part) and then out of their skin (the time consuming part - the beans have an outer skin that is edible but a bit tough, and blanching is a good way to remove it; here's a tutorial). Once you have your beans shelled, the world of fresh fava recipes is at our fingertips. This one sounds particularly mouth-watering to me, and you can use a combo of your sugar snap peas and your favas (you can often find burrata at McKay's): Flatbread with Fava Beans, Cucumbers and Burrata. You can find more gourmet inspiration in Bon Apetit's collection of fresh fava recipes: 18 Fava Bean Recipes.

 

Knee High by the 4th of July!

If, like me, you keenly anticipate sweet corn season, here's a photo that should make you happy. Bodes well for a good corn season come August...

 

Newsletter: 

Week 5 from Valley Flora!

  • Sugar Snap Peas
  • Green Cone Cabbage
  • Bunch Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Fennel
  • Arugula
  • Head Lettuce
  • Zucchini

On Rotation:

  • Broccolini

Last Thursday, hot on the heels of the solstice, we crossed the threshold from spring food into summer food. It was a distinct shift: suddenly the sugar snap peas were fat on the vine, the cabbages had heft, the beets were flashing broad shoulders above the soil line, and the zucchini were fat and abundant. It makes for a fun change in the Harvest Basket this week, away from leafy greens and turnips, and towards the sweet crunch of summer. I often breathe a slight sigh of relief at this point in the season, knowing that most of you probably know what to do with peas, carrots, and cucumbers - things that even your pickiest five year old most likely enjoys raw, simple and unadorned. 

For some of you, this week's kitchen challenge will be fennel. I always have to remind myself that not everyone is as excited by fennel as I am, either because they've never had it, or they detest black licorice. To the first point, fennel is not a commonly eaten vegetable in the U.S. Go to Italy and you'll find big, fat fennel bulbs on prominent display in every grocery store, and at bargain basement prices. It's a culinary staple there. But here if it's stocked at all it gets relegated to a little corner of the produce aisle and is often bruised, tired and expensive. I don't blame you for not buying it every week alongside your broccoli and romaine.

As a CSA member you'll see it four or five times this season from now until November (it's really at its prime in the fall when the bulbs get huge and juicy under the influence of shortening, cooler autumn days). Summertime fennel is often smaller in size but bigger in flavor, which brings us to the second point: black licorice. Some people complain that fennel tastes like it, but I disagree. Black licorice bludgeons you with its overpowering black licorice-ness (I'm not a fan), whereas fennel is more subtle and delicate (I'm a zealot). They are two very different flavors in my book. The word for fennel in Spanish is "anís." Anise, flavor cousin to black licorice, manifested gently in an earthy, juicy, crunchy, beautiful bulb named fennel. 

So how do you eat it? First off, you can eat the whole thing, bulb and leafy fronds. The leaves are often used as an herb garnish - chopped up like dill. The bulb is the meat of the matter and it can be eaten raw or cooked. I love it thin-sliced into salad or as the base for slaw, but I also love to saute it down with onions until it's caramelized and then eat it atop pasta or a grain. Cooking diminishes the anise flavor of fennel, so if you are on the fence about striking up a love affair with this particular vegetable, you should cook it first to ease your way into the relationship.

Nothing brings me greater joy than having a skeptical CSA member report back that they have learned to love fennel, so please write in the event that your heart (and your tastebuds) are moved!

Strawberry U-Pick Opens Today!

At last! The berries are ready enough for us to open the gate for u-pick. We'll kick off the season today, Wednesday, June 28th and should now be open every Wednesday and Saturday starting at 11:30 am. The berries are still limited and strawberry fever is running hot, so we expect the patch will get picked out pretty quickly these first few weeks. The u-pick will be open only as long as there is ripe fruit to pick each day; once it's picked out we will close (our apologies that we cannot guarantee an exact range of open hours for u-pick). Our "official" hours are 11:30 am to 2:30 pm, or until the patch gets picked out - whichever comes first. Sometimes we are only open for a quick hour at the start of the season when strawberry fever is at its peak (we often refer to it as a "strawberry derby" in June and July). 

We provide buckets to pick into, but PLEASE BRING YOUR OWN CONTAINERS TO CARRY YOUR BERRIES HOME IN (bowls, cardboard flats, buckets, etc).

U-Pick is $3.50/pound and like everything on the farm our berries are grown according to the National Organic Standards (and then some!). Our bareroot crowns (variety is Seascape) are sourced from the only organic strawberry nursery in the nation and from the moment they are planted at Valley Flora in early November they are tended using organic practices and inputs. We never use sprays or chemicals anywhere on the farm, ever.

Remember, our strawberries yield all summer and well into September, so there is ample opportunity to get your fill this season. If you don't like a crowd, or are traveling a long way with eager kids whose hearts will be broken if we're picked out, or are hoping to pick heaps of berries to fill your freezer for winter, you might wait until August when there's more elbow room and lots of super-sweet berries! Also a reminder that Valley Flora grows 101 other things besides strawberries. We know it's hard not to love the sugar, but there are additional reasons to visit the farm, all waiting for you pre-picked at the farmstand: Sugar snap peas, which actually have "sugar" in their name! Bunch carrots, which might be sweeter than the strawberries right now! Abby's Greens, find them in the new Farm Fridge at the farmstand! Head lettuce, larger than your overweight cat! And much more!

Newsletter: 

Happy Solstice! - Week 4 from Valley Flora

  • Baby Bunch Carrots
  • Braising Mix (a tender mix of mustards, kale, tatsoi, and other Asian greens in the 1/2# plastic bag)
  • Head Lettuce (two heads this week, so you can go all-in on the Summer Solstice Salad Challenge, see below!)
  • Strawberries
  • Shallots
  • Hakurei Turnips - Getting backed up on turnips? (Yes, they are rather large, aren't they?! But delish!) Never fear, this is the last week you'll probably see them until Fall, and they store well in the fridge if you top them. Here are some recipes to help them go down easy (note: you can use Hakurei and Violet Queen turnips interchangeably in any of these recipes; they are both tender salad turnips with mild flavor):

On Rotation (lots of things right now as our early summer crops ramp up):

  • Broccolini
  • Cilantro
  • Zucchini
  • Cucumbers
    • The first wave of cucumbers is starting to come out of one of our high tunnel greenhouses right now. In sampling them, a few have had some bitterness at the stem end. The bitterness is due to the compound cucurbitacin, which is naturally occuring in all Cucurbits (cukes, zukes, winter squash, melons, etc), but levels fluctuate based on growing conditions. The more stress a plant is under, the more cucurbitacin it will produce. Temperature stress, inadequate water or low fertility are usually the culprits. Because ours cukes are growing in well-watered, rich soil, we're pretty sure that the occasional bitterness is due to unstable temperatures, which are a hallmark of spring (these cukes were planted in April and thus have weathered temps from the mid-30's to over 100 degrees on Mother's Day). The problem for us as farmers is that we can't tell if a cuke is bitter unless we cut the stem end off and lick it. And since you all probably don't want pre-licked cucumbers in your totes (no matter how much you love your farmers), we recommend you do it yourself: cut an inch of the stem end off and lick it. If it's bitter, then you can use this old trick: rub the butt end in a circular motion on the cut face of the cucumber. This will "milk" out the bitterness (you might even see a white film develop). Then peel your cucumber from blossom end to stem end and rinse under cold water. Most of the time this leaves you with a deliciously sweet cuke. Hopefully as temperatures stablize we won't have this issue, but it's always a good thing to check a cucumber before you dice it up into your Greek salad - and then find out the hard way that you got a bitter one.

Summer Solstice Salad Challenge!

If you were a head of lettuce living out your life at Valley Flora, you would love the month of June. Everything is perfect: the days are long and not too hot, your roots are well-watered, the soil is rich. You would grow to a colossal size, racing the bed next to you to see who could get the biggest the fastest. And then one cool morning when you were in your prime - perhaps gloating about being the girthiest head of romaine, or the most voluptuous ball of butterhead ever to grace this earth - Zoë would come along with a large, sharp knife and with one swift stroke, fell you to the ground. Shocking at first as you tumble over, finding yourself looking sideways up at the sky. But you're not alone. Four or five hundred other heads of lettuce topple alongside you in the span of a couple hours, then you all get packed into bins, loaded onto a truck, put into a cold, dark box. Then out of the box into the light again, only suddenly to find yourself tumbling into a tank of water head-first. "But I can't swim!" you are thinking, panicked, until you realize, fear ebbing, that you innately know how to bob. A moment of lovely, relaxed, gravity-free floating. "I could get used to this spa," you're musing, contentedly (although it's crowded with a dozen other heads of over-sized lettuce floating shoulder to shoulder). You're really hoping no one pees in the pool. Then comes the big hand that dunks you under again and the world goes dark and muted, then light again, upside down and askance while you are shaken vigorously, water flying off you like a wet dog (you know about them because sometimes the naughty ones run through your field and the humans suddenly start yelling loud words). Before you know it you are being stuffed into another bin, packed tight like your vertebrate brethren, the sardine (although you haven't met in person, you've heard of him and possibly been fertilized by some of his bones, so the kinship is not entirely a figment of imagination). Back into the cold dark box for a few hours, then into the light again, only to be plucked from the bin (quick, a hasty farewell to your lettuce comrades squished in around you). You are put into another tote alongside another head of lettuce (phew, not entirely alone!), atop some bright orange sticks and alluring red orbs (who knew there was other plant life besides lettuce lettuce lettuce!). Now the world goes dark and cold again for many hours and the whole time you are bathed in an intoxicating aroma like none other (it's basil perfume, you just don't know it). Also, you're pretty sure those big white balls are farting, and not even trying to cover it up (that's what turnips do, though, so you admonish yourself not to judge - everyone has their gifts). Hours later there is some jostling, then the hum of an engine (kinda reminds you of the tractor passing nearby when you lived in the field), then some more jostling, then suddenly: blinding light and the face of a human with big googly eyes staring down at you, their mouth forming the words, "holy s**t, what am I going to do with all this lettuce?!"

And so begins the Summer Solstice Salad Challenge, unfurl the banner in your kitchen this week! The lettuce is huge and juicy and these long solstice days have created an insane pile-up in the field, with three beds ready all at once (instead of one). You're going to eat salad this week, lots of it, and you will love it (I am smiling while I say this, not slowly tapping a baseball bat in my hand).

  • First off, if you have a head of romaine in your tote, please make a Solstice Caesar! That's where you use raw, cubed hakurei turnips for croutons, or in addition to croutons, with my favorite riff on Caesar dressing.
  • Oakleaf lettuce - everyone is getting a head of this special lettuce this week. It's very similar to butterhead, but crinklier (which makes it great for holding onto yummy dressing). This Peach and Butterhead Salad with Honey-Shallot Vinaigrette is a winner. Although it's a little early for Oregon peaches, you might be able to find some from California at the grocery store, and it's a good use for your shallots.
  • Butterhead - if you have a head of red butter in your share, the outer leaves are great for lettuce wraps. In this vegetarian version you could sub your turnips for the daikon and use your bunch carrots (if you don't eat them all on the way home!).

I believe in you. Send those intrepid lettuce heads on the final leg of their journey so they will have lived a vegetative life fulfilled!

Summertime Music and Artisan Festival in Langlois this Sunday!

Point yourself in the direction of the Langlois Cheese Factory this Sunday for an all-day outdoor music extravaganza and artisan market. There are some great bands coming our way, including The Travelin' McCourys, Low Down Brass Band, Reb and the Good News, Wild Hog, and more. Local food trucks on site to keep your dancing legs fueled!

Newsletter: 

Week 3 from Valley Flora!

  • Spring Onions
  • Broccolini
  • Baby bulk arugula
  • Kohlrabi
  • Head Lettuce
  • Violet Queen Turnips

On Rotation:

  • Zucchini
  • Cilantro
  • Chard
  • Kale

51% Art: The Valley Flora Maxim

Farms can be messy places. Most of the time when you pull into a farmyard there's evidence of the inherit chaos and everyday hustle that defines a working operation: piles of this, piles of that, old junked equipment, some of it an eyesore. But when people visit Valley Flora, often the first thing they say aloud is, "it's so tidy, so beautiful!" It's true, the farm is pretty tidy most of the time. We are constantly striving to create smart systems and good organization so that the place will shine. We blame that impulse partly on our genetics (a heavy streak of German ancestry runs through my mom's side, and her grandmother had an iron rule that I suppose is still vibrating in all of us at some cellular level: "A place for everything and everything in its place!").

But there's another streak of influence from the more bohemiam side of the family milieu, which is expressed simply in one of my own mother's maxims: "Everything we do has to be at least 51% art." That's where the beauty part comes in on the farm, whether it's the layout of the fields or the arrangement of kale leaves in a bunch or the interplay of colors and shapes in Abby's salad mix. We want everything to pass, and hopefully exceed, the 51% art test, every day, whenever possible.

This week, I don't think the spring onions are passing the test. A quick backstory: these onions were seeded last August, planted last October, and grew through the entirety of our frigid, harsh winter. Miraculously, most of them decided to bulb up instead of bolt this past month. Bolting is disappointingly common in overwintered onions, especially when they're subjected to extreme temps. So common, in fact, that I vowed that if this bed of onions bolted it would be the last bed of overwintered onions we ever planted (this on the heels of five years of trialing different onions, trying to find the best type that will survive for 7-8 harsh months in the ground and then give us a nice, juicy onion come June). Well well well, two of our three varieties shined this year (good news for continued overwintering onion production!). The only problem is that after 2/3 of a year in the ground, having been pelted by 65 inches of rain and some snow and hail, the bed they're rooted in is as hard as concrete in places. That can cause the onions to break while we're pulling them out of the ground, and alas, it means that some imperfect onions are going into totes this week. Perhaps if you eat them with your eyes closed you can find the 51% in the flavor or texture or aroma instead (not all art is visual, or perfect, I suppose...).

But there shall be redemption! On Monday evening, after we'd pulled the last of the onions from that bed, I planted it straight away into 220' of mixed sunflowers, right next door to the strawberry patch. Just for fun. Hopefully it means that come August the edge of the u-pick will be ablaze in yellows and reds and oranges and browns, like a sunny brush stroke across the field. For beauty's sake. For 51%+.

p.s. and for the pollinators and birds, too :)

In a Landscape Concert at Valley Flora, September 6th!

And while we're on the topic of art! Mark you calendar and buy yours tickets quick (sell-out warning!): We are so lucky to have Hunter Noack of In a Landscape coming to the farm on September 6th to transport us with a virtuoso piano concert performed on his 9-foot Steinway atop a flatbed trailer, parked in the middle of the field. Yup, classical music has never been so awesome. Pack a picnic, bring your lowback chair, and prepare to be moved, heart and soul.

A limited number of Good Neighbor (free) tickets will be available for those who would otherwise not be able to attend due to cost. Check out the Good Neighbor Tickets section when you go to purchase your tickets. 

 

 

Newsletter: 

Week 2 from Valley Flora!

  • Red Beets
  • Baby Bulk Mizuna
  • Bunched Mustard Greens
  • Hakurei Turnips
  • Kohlrabi - purple or green
  • Strawberries
  • Head Lettuce
  • Radish Blend Microgreens
  • Purple Radishes
  • Red and Yellow Spring Onions

On Rotation:

  • Zucchini
  • Artichokes

New to your Kitchen this Week:

Mizuna: a mild, yummy Asian green from the mustard family (light green leaves with serrated shape, in the larger bag this week). It's a staple ingredient in Abby's Greens salad, and it can be eaten on it's own to make a mizuna-forward salad (make it as simple or as fancy as you like: sliced radishes, nuts, cheeses, or just a simple vinaigrette). The magic of mizuna is that it also holds up to heat really well, so you can also saute, steam, or stir-fry it, or add it to soup, risotto or pasta. There are lots of inspired recipes on the internet if you google "mizuna" - have a gander and decide for yourself if you want to go in the Asian-inspired direction, or lean Italian, or something else altogether.

Mustard Greens: Some of you will be receiving a dark purple mustard variety; others a blended bunch that contains a handful of varieties. I love mustards greens cooked with a savory, umami flavors like miso. Here are a couple riffs on that idea, Braised Mustard Greens 2 Ways. You can also use the hakurei turnip tops like mustards - throw them into the recipe!

Kohlrabi: In my humble opinion, the best way to eat kohlrabi is raw: peeled, cut into straws, with a little sprinkle of salt. It reminds me of eating sliced jícama with chile and lime in Mexico. Kohlrabi has a tough outer skin that isn't very palatable, so you'll want to peel it with a paring knife or veggie peeler. The tops can be used just like kale or collards, so don't toss them if you're hankering for bonus greens this week. The kohlrabi bulb will store for weeks in the fridge if you cut the leaves off.

How to Keep your Produce Fresh at Home:

We work hard to send you the freshest, highest quality produce we possibly can each week. Some of that relies on harvest strategy and skill, but a big part of it is post-harvest handling. Every fruit and vegetable has a specific temperature and relative humidity it likes for longest storage. You can extend the life of your produce - and reduce waste - if you give your veggies what they want when you get them home. Here's a great guide from the city of Seattle that gives you pointers in a handy chart for every kind of produce there is, from asparagus to zucchini. In the meantime, here are our quick and dirty tips for keeping your produce perky as long as possible:

  • Leafy things need to be put in a sealed container or plastic bag. Bagging will help keep the relative humidity high around wilt-prone crops like lettuce, herbs and bunched greens, but it also makes a big difference for root crops like radishes, turnips, carrots, and beets - if you want them to stay firm and crisp. 
  • Cut the tops off of root crops like radishes, turnips, kohlrabi, and bunched beets and carrots. The roots will store for much longer - and stay crisper - without the transpiring leaves attached. Root crops will keep for weeks - or even months - this way. Potatoes are the lowest maintenance root crop and you can toss them into your crisper without a bag. But bagging won't hurt them and it makes it easier to pull them out of the fridge when it's time to make homefries.
  • Some crops, like zucchini and eggplant, like to be stored at 50 degrees with high relative humidity. That's not a set of conditions that most folks have in their kitchen, so the best you can do is put them in your fridge wrapped in a damp towel (or bag them) and use sooner than later. Try to eat them within a week.
  • Other crops, like tomatoes and strawberries, will continue to ripen if you leave them on your counter. If you put them in the fridge it will slow ripening significantly. You may want to use refrigeration strategically, say if you're trying to save your berries for a special occasion later in the week. In that case, put them in a lidded tupperware for longest storage. Tomatoes - once we start harvesting those later in the summer - generally don't respond well to refrigeration. It can make them mealy, so best to keep them on your counter or eat them ASAP :)
  • Finally, there are a few crops that don't need refrigeration at all: onions, shallots, garlic and winter squash. These things will last the longest in a cool dark place, but your countertop or fruit basket will also work for shorter-term storage.

Introducing our 2023 Farm Crew!

And now, my favorite thing: getting to introduce the wonderful humans behind the scenes at Valley Flora this season! 

From left to right: Zoë, Jen, Alexa, Sarah, Allen, Roberto, Abby and Bets

Jen and Alexa are new to our team this year and are both participating in the Rogue Farm Corps Apprenticeship Program. They've been a stellar addition to the crew and have quickly taken on some key responsibilities: deliveries and running the farmstand. We've thrown them into the deep-end with all there is to learn about harvest, packout, irrigation, transplanting, weeding, propagation, greenhouse watering, and much more. On top of all that, they're both learning to drive stick shift amidst the hustle (our farm flatbed is a manual transmission, so it's sink or swim :). Please give them a warm welcome if you see them at your CSA pickup site, or at the farmstand. We are so lucky to have them on the team!

The rest of us are pretty old dogs:

  • Allen and Sarah are both in their fourth year with us on the farm, after having worked for 7 years on other farms in Idaho and Hawaii. Sarah manages our propagation greenhouse and all of our microgreens production, as well as helping with key harvests (all that while running her own business as an herbalist, Octopus Herb Garden). Allen is our intrepid and ever-patient crew and harvest leader. He mentors our new crew members on a daily basis as they go about tackling the never-ending to-do lists, and is in charge of production for Octopus Herb Garden (Allen and Sarah culitvate a corner of the farm to supply their apothecary with things like elderberry, St. Johnswort, calendula, echinacea, and much more). 
  • Roberto has been part of Valley Flora since 2010, before my babies were born! He's a lightning-fast asset to our harvest and packout crew, can transplant like a human piston, and knows pretty much every in and out of our field operations. He's also my right-hand man when it comes to building a new shed, barn or greenhouse, and he handles all the grounds maintenance (mowing & weedeating are a big job, particularly at this time of year). But perhaps most importantly, he's the official Valley Flora Spanish professor - muy divertido para todos! :)
  • Abby, my sister, is the one and only Abby of Abby's Greens (world famous!). She's the magician behind that beautiful salad, working unbelievably hard (and mostly solo) to bring you your greens each week. She's also the Valley Flora orchard maven, with a passion for pruning and grafting that is made manifest in our well-tended, extremely diverse orchard. 
  • Bets, my mom, is the matriarch of it all - the reason we're all here, and a woman who has inspired countless others by the example she has set all her life: that making a lavish living is not as important as living a lifestyle you love. At the age of 71, she's still working the rest of us under the table as she goes about propagating, cultivating and harvesting all the tomatoes, peppers, basil, zucchini and other peak-of-summer crops for our CSA, farmstand, and wholesale accounts.

As for me, Zoë, I love to grow cover crops and butterhead lettuce and sunflowers. I love horses and the high alpine and wild rivers and sweet peppers. I love to write, and I love it when a CSA member tells me they learned to like fennel. (I also, by the way, love my kids, my dog, my family, my husband, and the steaming mug of spicy-gingery homemade chai he hands me on Sunday morning). Not necessarily in that order, just all of it together in one big, happy, messy pile of lucky-to-be-alive-ness. 

See you next week!

Newsletter: 

Week 1 (of 28!) from Valley Flora!

  • Baby arugula (bulk, in the larger of the two plastic bags)
  • Head Lettuce - varieties rotate each week
  • Yellow bunched spring onions
  • Bunched Tatsoi (bunched, dark leaves with white stems)
  • Radishes - pink or purple
  • Spinach, bunched
  • Sunflower Shoots (in the smaller plastic bag)
  • Strawberries!!!
  • A SunOrange Cherry Tomato Plant

On Rotation:

  • Zucchini
  • Artichokes

Hello 2023 CSA Members, and welcome! The Valley Flora van is on the road as we speak, delivering the first load of CSA totes to Coos Bay! Old Frank (that's the van) is also loaded down with a motherlode of head lettuce, radishes, turnips, and other VF produce for Coos Head Food Co-op, 7 Devils Brewing Co., the Langlois Market, and a handful of other stores and restaurants (insider tip: the first Abby's Greens salad was delivered to McKay's in Bandon today, in case you are not an Abby's Greens Salad Share member and are jonesing for some of those greens, stat!). All to say, the season has started with a bang. We are off and running.

The farm surprised us with a few things this week, in quantity enough to share with our beloved CSA members: namely, STRAWBERRIES! This has been perfect strawberry weather the past couple weeks and the plants are starting to yield some beautiful fruit. There isn't enough red out there to open the u-pick yet, but hopefully within a few weeks we'll be ready for the strawberry stampede. Also ramping up: our early zucchinis, which - like artichokes - are on rotation this week. That means that some pickup sites will get them this week, others will get them in the coming week or two. We are diligent about tracking who gets what every week so that we can keep it even-steven for all of our members throughout the season.

Overall, though, the name of the game right now is greens! Big salads, spinach in your smoothies, tatsoi in your stir-fry. We farmers tend to be terrible sympathizers when it comes to that common feeling of greens-overwhelm that some CSA members experience at the start of the season (that's because our household can easily put down a couple heads of lettuce and bunch of spinach/chard/kale/tatsoi every day, between morning smoothies, lunchtime leftovers, and dinner plates heaped high with salad). So my advice: eat like your farmer! The more greens the better! Also, remember that you have a superpower in the kitchen and it's called heat. If that bunch of tatsoi or spinach is staring you down in your fridge, toss it in a frying pan or the steamer and you'll diminish it to a teency but tasty little pile in a flash. Zap! Take that, tatsoi! (Definitely put on your superhero cape when you do that, and please send me the picture.)

Also going home with Harvest Basket members this week: a SunOrange cherry tomato plant. Be sure you take a plant from the yellow bin at your pickup site, one per Harvest Basket. We don't grow cherry tomatoes for the CSA, but we provide you with our all-time favorite variety, SunOrange, to grow in your own garden or pot. It's an improved Sungold the produces tons of tangerine-orange fruits from August through the fall. The flavor is exquisite - tropical/tangy/sweet. For best results, plant your tomato as deep as possible in a warm, protected location (it's good to bury the stem and some of the bottom leaves; the plant will sprout new roots underground and add to it's root mass). If you're planting it in a pot, use at least a 5 gallon container and put it in a warm, sunny, protected location. Give it a balanced organic fertilizer and water deeply. You'll need to provide some kind of trellis or support because this variety is an indeterminate, which means it'll climb, and climb, and climb. Prune excess leaves as it grows, leaving all fruiting/flowering stems and suckers. With a litte TLC it should be yielding fruit for you by August. These little cherry bombs are fantastic snackers, are awesome sliced up in salads, and also make the best dried tomatoes I've ever eaten - like little candies.

A reminder that all of the info about our CSA pick-up locations is on our website, in case you need a refresher about the when, where and how of it all: https://www.valleyflorafarm.com/content/valley-flora-pick-locations

FARMSTAND UPDATES

As of today our farmstand is operating on Summer hours: we're open every Wednesday from 11:30 to 2:30 for order pickup and drop-in shopping. We will be adding Saturdays to the schedule within a couple weeks, once the strawberry u-pick is ready to open. You have two options for sourcing produce at the farmstand: pre-order your produce on Local Line (our online store); or, drop in to shop. You'll find the greatest diversity, abundance, and guarantee if you pre-order on Local Line, but we try hard to always have some produce on display for folks who don't want deal with the internet :). (We understand, we're half-Luddite, too. See Exhibit A, below).

Enjoy your first week of VF produce, and thank you ALL for being part of the magic!

-Zoë

P.S. Coming in next week's newsletter: an introduction to our all-star crew, aka the fantastic humans who are growing and harvesting your produce this season! Stay tuned for more!

Newsletter: 

Week 10 of our Winter/Spring CSA - the LAST one!

  • Mixed Baby Lettuce
  • Sunflower Shoots
  • Redleaf Lettuce
  • Tatsoi
  • Red Cabbage
  • Yellow Onions
  • Red Shallots
  • Red Beets
  • Harvest Moon Potatoes

And That's a Wrap!

This is our tenth and final week for the winter/spring CSA season. To all of you who've been eating with us since January, thank you for your support through a truly wintry winter! In spite of the rain, the hail, the snow, and the ice-on-the-windshield-every-morning, the farm still managed to yield a remarkable abundance of food for all of us. Gotta love those hardy overwintering cauliflowers, those durable steadfast onions, and those brave greens that are willing to germinate in the coldest, darkest corner of the calendar. For plant diversity and resilience, we give thanks!

We hope you are signed up for our upcoming summer/fall CSA season, which should be starting the week of May 29th. We love feeding folks year-round and delight in knowing that we're all on the same seasonal eating adventure together, week after week, fueling our lives with vibrant plants.

Next week we'll be taking a break from harvest so that we can focus the entirety of our efforts on transplanting a whole slew of crops into the field: winter squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, lettuce, and our first big wave of sweet corn. We'll also be direct seeding beans and carrots and herbs; putting up a new walk-in cooler; and starting in on construction of a new equipment shed (pardon our mess at the farmstand for the next couple months!). It's a doozy of a list, but thankfully we've got a rockstar team this year and we're having a great time tackling all the projects together. Believe!

The week of May 29th will also be the kickoff to our summer farmstand schedule: every Wednesday starting May 31st, 11:30 am to 2:30 pm. As many of you know, we did a big expansion to the farmstand this spring, so there's lots more room (and lots more shade) to shop. You're welcome to drop in and shop the stand, or place a pre-order using Local Line, our online sales platform. We'll add Saturdays to the farmstand schedule by mid-June-ish, once the strawberry upick is open. (Speaking of which, the strawberry patch is looking vibrant and we've found a few red berries, so hopefully we'll start seeing a harvest in the next few weeks). Meanwhile, we get to savor all the greens that early summer provides with gusto (the best of those - Abby's Greens - are two weeks away from harvest, and counting!). 

Enjoy your final "winter" share and thanks again for being a part of Valley Flora.

Newsletter: 

Week 9 of the Winter/Spring CSA from Valley Flora!

  • Rainbow Chard
  • Bunched Spinach
  • Redleaf Lettuce
  • Radish Micro Mix
  • Kabocha Winter Squash
  • Cauliflower
  • Yellow Onions
  • Bunch Carrots
  • Cebollitas
  • Bunched Fava Greens
  • Bulk Lettuce Mix
  • Purple Sprouting Broccoli

Leafy and Green!

It's a sign that Spring is springing when the CSA share is stuffed with so much lofty green goodness! Chard, spinach, head lettuce, cut lettuce, micro mix, and - yes - fava greens! If you are a stranger to fava greens, now's the time to remedy that. Most of the time we eat the fava beans - usually sometime in early summer. But the greens are also edible, with the same delicious, nutty flavor as the beans. They're also a lot simpler and quicker to prepare: simply pluck the tips and leaves from the stem, give them a wash, spin or pat dry, and then sautee lightly in some butter or olive oil. Finish off with a little salt. The bunch that's in your share this week will cook down to a modest little side dish, which our family enjoyed this week alongside Roasted Cauliflower Soup and one of our long-time favorites, Wilted Spinach Salad.

If you are a Winter CSA member, there is one more week of deliveries after this. You'll receive your tenth and final tote on Wednesday May 17th. If you are signed up for the upcoming 2023 CSA season with us, we hope to kick it off the week of May 29th, weather permitting. If you would like to sign up for the upcoming season, you can still do so on our website: https://www.valleyflorafarm.com/content/valley-flora-harvest-basket

Farmstand Re-Opens, Newly Remodeled!

Today was our grand re-opening of the farmstand and it was wonderful to see so many familiar faces queued up at the gate this morning. We've been in a remodeling sprint the past two weeks and were excited to open the gate into a whole new space for our customers. We've doubled the square footage, designed for better flow, and made more elbow room for drop-in shopping. AND, we had just a wee bit of fun putting all our old broken tools to use for decorative effect :). We hope you'll come check it out. We're on an every-other-Wednesday schedule through May (our next farmstand is May 17th), but will switch to weekly Wednesdays by June. We plan to add Saturdays to the schedule by the Summer Solstice, if not sooner. In the meantime, Wednesdays are a great chance to stock up on seasonal produce, Farmstead Bread, Wild Coast Brew Tea, Octopus Herb Garden Elderberry Syrup, Aguirre Farms Organic Eggs, and more! We're open from 11:30 am to 2:30 pm for drop-in shopping and order pickup. If you'd like to pre-order your produce for next time, hop onto our webstore when it re-opens for business next Thursday, May 11th: https://valley-flora.localline.ca/

And finally, our heartfelt thanks to all of you who have showered us with your love and condolences on the heels of the loss of my dad. Every card, every email, every hug has meant the world and bouyed us through the past couple weeks. We are so grateful to be surrounded by such an amazing community of support. Thank you. xoxox

Newsletter: 

Week 8 of Winter/Spring from Valley Flora!

  • Green cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Cut Lettuce Mix
  • Sunflower Shoots
  • Onions
  • Potatoes
  • Hakurei Turnips
  • Baby Carrots
  • Curly Parsley
  • Purple Sprouting Broccoli
  • One LAST Leek!

Tribute

Last Wednesday, after months of cold relentless winter, the sun began to shine. The forecast up until that point had been so fickle that it was hard to trust the little sun icons on my weather app, but nevertheless, there they were: Wednesday afternoon through Saturday night, 84 hours of tenuous possibility for an increasingly desperate farmer. I started crafting a master plan for our 3.5 days of promised sun - a plan that would hopefully catch us up on two months of farming and a spring season that had thus far been jinxed completely by the weather. At that moment in time, our propagation greenhouse was busting at the seams with thousands of waiting transplants, many of which should have been planted outside a month ago, and we had yet to break ground anywhere in the field (something we usually start doing in February). 

The problem was, it had rained 3+ inches at the start of the week, so even though the clouds were finally breaking up, our fields were saturated. If it dried up enough to get into the field, it wouldn't be until the last possible moment - Saturday. And should we be lucky enough to get the conditions we needed to work up some beds with the tractor, we were going to have to pull off 4 weeks worth of transplanting in one day, with half our crew on vacation. There was an element of desperate faith laced throughout this master plan.

Leading up to Saturday would be a flurry of preparation: rolling back the occultation tarps that we had deployed back in February - insurance against exactly this kind of winter, which disallows any early ground prep (over the course of 6-8 weeks, the tarps kill the cover crops, leaving us with bare ground that dries out much more quickly once we get a sunny window). We'd also be mowing, weeding, weedeating - all things we need dry weather for - and last, but not least, spreading 15 tons of amendements on the field (a custom blend of calcium carbonate and micronutrients to help bring our soil into balance for the growing season to come). It was a to-do list to beat all to-do lists.

And then early Friday morning while rolling out the kinks on my yoga mat in anticipation of our 15-ton day, we got the news from halfway around the world that my dad had died. He was off the east coast of Africa on a trip of a lifetime, sailing around the world with my step-mom, Katy. He died of unexpected medical complications at the age of 73. His name, which many of you know from his lifetime in public service in Oregon, is Bill Bradbury: state Representative, state Senator, Senate President, Secretary of State. He was the innovator of Oregon's vote-by-mail system, a climate warrior, and a champion of watershed restoration, wild salmon, land use, renewable energy, and campaign finance transparency. He was an avid whitewater enthusiast, sailor, pilot, lover of all things wild and beautiful and free, and there was no one who appreciated food more than he did (somehow every meal he ate was the best meal he had ever eaten - which pretty much sums up how he approached life: unbridled enthusiasm about everything). He was a big, warm, redwood tree of a man at 6'4" with a huge, twinkling, goofy grin, an unmistakable laugh, and a tireless dedication to making positive change in his beloved state, and beyond. He was also the best dad on earth. Bill Bradbury was all of this, in spite of fighting a 43-year battle with Multiple Sclerosis, which eventually confined his body, but never his irrepressible spirit, to a wheelchair.

My dad died on a precious, dry, sunny Friday, and all I could think was: I wish it would rain. Rain so that I could stop everything and stay home and lay still and try to make sense of it. But instead, Abby and I suited up in a shocked stupor and spent the next twelve hours spreading our 15 tons of calcium on the field. It was her birthday, and despite the world turning upside down, it was wonderful to spend the entire day with my sister to process, remember, and feel grateful for the fact that it was our dad who stumbled upon Floras Creek almost 50 years ago and traded a short-order restaurant in Bandon for the farm. The rest is history, made manifest in your CSA tote today (if there is anyone to thank for your veggies this week, give credit to my dad for that serendipitous impulse in 1975).

Before we called it a day to go celebrate a subdued version of my sister's birthday, I had to spend another half hour on the tractor in preparation for our big Saturday plant-out. The evening light was pouring into the valley from the west, lighting up every living thing on the farm. It was heartbreakingly beautiful. Tears were rolling down my cheeks and I suddenly felt the presence of my dad in everything. In the dipping flitting swallows, the apple blossoms, the new buds on the kiwi vines, the easter-green grass, the rich brown earth, and also, I realized, in me. He loved wild, beautiful places and would always say - on a river trip, or at pretty overlook - “this is my cathedral!” (exuberantly of course, with his arms thrown wide). In that moment I felt like I was in his church and I was so grateful he was there with me.

On Saturday, the planting commenced. Roberto and I started at 8 am and were soon joined by my mom, then my husband, then my girls and my nephews. We worked together all day, past dark, and planted every last start. On Sunday morning, right on cue, the rain blew in again. And as it's poured down these past few days, the condolences have poured in - an overwhelming deluge of love and support from so many people who knew and loved my dad, and from people who never had a chance to meet him but respected and appreciated all he fought for and stood for in Oregon. To everyone who has shared their kindness with my family these past few days, whether we have met or not, thank you so much. It means the world to know that his stone has made a wide and beautiful ripple.

I am proud of our dad for the legacy he leaves Oregon, and grateful for what he helped instill in us: the instinct to create some kind of positive change on this planet (not to mention, a great love of good food). But more than anything I thank him for this family, and for this homeland. I wish more than anything he was still here with us, that enormous, joyful laugh echoing down the valley. 

 

Newsletter: 

Week 7 of the Winter/Spring CSA!

  • Purple Sprouting Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Leeks
  • Micro Mix
  • Yellow Onions
  • Cebollitas
  • Purple Potatoes
  • Spring Raab
  • Spinach
  • Hakurei Turnips
  • Autumn Frost Winter Squash

Let's hear it for LEEKS! Never, ever before have we found ourselves still harvesting leeks in April. Normally by now they've all bolted, but thanks to this frigid winter and spring we've had a record-breaking six month leek streak! (Silver linings are everywhere....ahem, not that I wouldn't pay a million dollars for a week of sunshine right about now). If you are one of those people who wonders, "what do you do with a leek?!" my answer is always: "whatever you would do with an onion!" Perhaps with the exception of slicing it raw onto a burger. Besides that, leeks are as versatile as their bulbous, more common cousin, the onion, and so delicious. I like it when they get crispy-roasted on a sheet pan alongside wedges of cabbage, or cauliflower, or purple sprouting broccoli. Or sautee them in a pan as the start to pretty much any meal. Fabulous in soup. Plus they store almost forever in your fridge, so if you have a 7 week pile-up of leeks in the bottom drawer right now, no worries!

What else this week? Cebollitas! The tender little tops of all of onion and shallot seedlings that are growing big and strong in greenhouse trays right now. We start all of our Allia from seed and give them periodic haircuts to encourage them to bulk up ahead of transplanting. This is their very first haircut, which like all good mothers, we put in a plastic bag - but rather than putting it in the freezer and losing it under all the apple cider and frozen peas for 30 years - we share them with you so you can eat them like chives this week. (Wait, is that what all mothers do, or just mine? Doesn't everyone have their first whacked off blond braid somewhere in a ziploc at the bottom of their chest freezer?)

Also, spinach, and lots of it! This crop is a labor of love, and one that I question growing every single year. But you all love it so much, and I mean unanimously love it - which is a rare thing when you manage a CSA, where feelings about vegetables run hot. We spend hours crouched over this crop, picking it leaf by leaf, then washing it leaf by leaf, because we know it will make you happy. Who cares about being profitable when your CSA members are smiling!?!

And finally, Hakurei turnips. There is no turnip better than the first Hakurei turnip of the season, and here they are, tender, buttery and sweet. Please eat them raw, whole or sliced up on a heap of spinach.

Announcements!

Announcement #1: We have a few CSA shares left for the 2023 season!

I love it when we get to say this, because it means no one has missed out yet, destined to spend an impatient year sitting on our waiting list. Instead, instant CSA gratification is available to a few more folks for the 2023 season. Sign up info is on our website. Pay with SNAP and get matching funds through Double Up Food Bucks! Or take advantage of our sliding scale, which is there to make Valley Flora food as accessible to the entire community as possible. 

Announcement #2: In a Landscape at Valley Flora on September 6th!

Get your tickets for a very special evening at the farm: Hunter Noack will be pulling in with his grand piano and treating us all to a live concert on the farm. In a Landscape tickets tend to sell out, so don't delay.

Announcement #3: Please Make an Offering to the Sun Deities so that We Can Get Some Transplanting Done!!! 

Newsletter: 

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