Steve’s Update for 4-29-10

Dear members,

With the brief return to winter at Mesa Top Farm: 3 inches of snow early Friday morning April 23, we are clearly in the “yo-yo” phase of spring.  The weather goes from extreme to extreme, which is not easy for any creatures.  Nights are often in the mid and upper 20s at Mesa Top.  We are using row covers to keep the seedlings warm, and transplanting other frost tolerant varieties like onions out into the field.

I spoke to Luz at Gard-n-hers farm just north of Las Cruces, and she had a very light frost last week!  Unbelievable.

Sherry and Keith at Desert Gardens in Salem (just north if Hatch) have squash plants ready to go outside and they report that they do not feel secure that they have seen their last frost either.

The dance of climatic variability continues…

I have more stories about the Mesa Top cows, especially the 3 momma Tarentaise cows, but that will have to wait until next week…  Hint: calves?

This week’s update on cheese value chain and Jim Miller Ayrshire projects:

Kenny Carter from High Desert Dairy in Las Palomas (just South of T or C) reports that he will achieve grade A milk status with the NM Dairy Bureau in a week or so and is ready to make ayrshire cheese.  This means that he will be inspected and certified as a legal producer of cow milk.  He has been working with the 5 cows that I brought him after the arrangement at Old Windmill failed, and has them all restored to good health and producing well.  The mommas are raising terrific calves and the milk is flowing.

I also confirmed with Keith from Desert Garden, who is just a 10-15 minute drive away from Kenny, which I can depend on his hay as a feed source for the cows.  I am very happy after all the struggles of the last few months to have found a home for these cows where they can be cared for well, and where I have a personal and strong relationship with a nearby hay grower.

Keith has been growing hay for larger dairies as a member of the Hatch Valley Hay Association for a long time and grows some terrific hay:  I trucked his alfalfa all the way to Mesa Top last fall.  (In fact, if anyone knows buyers who want the best alfalfa I have seen grown in this state, Keith is also gone back to baling small bales that will be available to us up here in the next week or two.)

Patience is still the watchword as the new production ayrshire cow cheese will still not be available for several months.

Meanwhile the cows at Twin Mountain are still producing and Andy is ready to send us more of the amazing cheddar that we shared with you a couple of weeks back.  We also hope to include some goat cheese in the share once or twice in the next month, when there is room.  But that won’t happen this week!

This week’s Veggie/Share Update:

We had to push the atole forward last week due to handling issues:  there are only so many items that can be weighed out in a given week.  You can look forward to receiving it on Thursday.  Amy has posted recipes on Atole, so take a look on the blog!

Thursday’s share will include a variety of greens, a result of the sudden, unanticipated opportunity to support the Red Willow Greenhouse project at Taos Pueblo.  Bill Bockbrader is a long time bio-dynamic farmer in the Taos area who helped found Morningstar Farm.  He has been working with Red Willow to improve production in their solar heated greenhouses.  These greenhouses use a duct system that is installed underground to pass solar heated air through and warm the soil.  One of the barriers to “out-of-season” vegetable production is cold soil.  With the warmer soil temps, plants in the Red Willow greenhouse grow more quickly in spring, as the days get longer.  As a result of this design and Bill’s skill, there is an abundance of several items that local markets in Taos cannot consume without disproportional effort on Bill’s part to deal with marketing and delivery.

Enter La Montanita Coop Distribution Center truck, and Beneficial Farm CSA!!!!

One of the advantages of the CSA is that we do not require a steady supply of the same item week after week like a retail or restaurant does.  Members actually prefer variety and diversity.  We are able to help Red Willow keep up with their production and harvesting:  this week we have 3 items from Red Willow, large heads of Michelli Choi, (a fancy bok choi), heads of Romaine lettuce (though a few of you may see red leaf as there was not quite enough Romaine for all of our shares) and kale.  This is all of the Choi we will get from Red Willow; so do not worry if you cannot eat it all this week.  It will store well in your veggie crisper in the fridge, and even if the tender leaves get wilty the basic “head” will be sturdy. We have held heads of choi for several weeks in the refrigerator at Mesa Top.  We hope to receive lettuce weekly for the next couple of weeks.  The Kale may not re-grow quickly enough to give us a weekly harvest, but we will see it again soon sure.

This will likely be the last chance we have for another round of wild mustard from Mesa Top as it is bolting quickly.  The cool weather has helped, but as a wild plant, it gets “down to business” of going to seed quickly.  Survival is the prime directive for all species.  Feeding us humans is a secondary effect.

We also arranged for pea shoots from Susan at Sungreen.  Susan plants them for us 9 days before harvest, so they were committed for this week before we learned that there were so many other greens available.  We will be backing off from sprouts as the veggie variety increases.  We offer a warm thank you to Susan for providing us with vibrant, living greens during the winter months when it is so difficult to get living local food.

We will continue to offer the Equal Exchange bananas ($5 bananas for $2.50, or 50 cents each for an organic, fair traded, tropical fruit?  What more can I say…) while we wait with our fingers crossed to see how much local fruit survives the roller coaster weather of this spring.  The late frosts wreak havoc with the New Mexico fruit crops.

We learned that the fair trade avos are tied up in paper work and there is no estimate on when they will be available again.

Membership news:

This is the final week of distribution under the old “seasonal share system” and the shift to the new online “farm account system” is nearly complete.  Dena is working diligently to contact each of you in order that you can continue with us in the CSA adventure.  “Boldly” (?) developing creative and mutually beneficial ways to support our regions small and mid scale farmers and in turn to be supported by them.

We hope that all of you will continue, but understand that this may not be possible for some.  We thank you for your ongoing support and hope that you will spread the word to neighbors, friends, and co-workers about Beneficial Farm CSA.  We expect an exciting year ahead with many opportunities to experience the amazing bounty of the farms of our region.

All my best and thank you for your support,

Steve Warshawer

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