Steve’s Weekly Update for 6/9/10

Dear members,

Climatology 2010: June 5, record heat.  The roller coaster ride continues.  The squash and cucumbers are not happy campers, moving from the gentle, humid heat of the greenhouse to the scorching heat of the soil.  Row covers help a lot, but one MUST look underneath and be careful that the tender babies are getting enough water…

Steve’s Soapbox:

I will be part of a “local food” panel tomorrow in Albuquerque at a class called Climate Masters that is offered by the New Mexico Environment Department.  I was part of a similar panel last year during their inaugural Santa Fe class.  My soapbox this week is about the prevalence of extreme information about “conventional” agriculture, and livestock agriculture in particular.  The UN FAO released a report some time back which placed a larger burden of responsibility for climate change on livestock agriculture than on transportation.  I found that hard to believe.  Subsequent research and careful review of the study found plenty of flaws.  But the study continues to be cited as authoritative.  I am sending along some “counterintelligence” that paints a broader (and I think more accurate) picture of the impact of livestock and agriculture in general.

Although I am personally a local and regional food activist, readers of the blog have often heard me sharing my own angst as a small producer, and pointing out the benefits of scaling up.  In the end, the attempts to polarize our food producers into “good,” small and local, and “bad,” large and global, is a disservice to all, and the climate change debate is but one more place where this polarization is often promoted.

As I so often do, I will be speaking for scale neutrality when looking at agriculture, even in the area of climate change.  Large farms and ranches can sequester carbon efficiently.  They can provide significant “ecological services” such as habitat preservation and water quality enhancement and range and riparian restoration.

“Small is beautiful” is simply not always true.  Neither is its opposite that large is ugly!  Beauty can be found in farms everywhere, of all shapes and sizes, as can opportunities for improvement.

What I love about the Climate Masters program is its focus on what each individual can do to reduce carbon pollution.  The many small things that can be done add up to a major “culture change.”  This “personal empowerment” of both urban and suburban residents is important, but oversimplifying the facts makes them less relevant. The information that is shared empowers people to take responsibility.

Individual responsibility is the basis of the improvement that we all seek.  Sustainability is not enough; with personal responsibility we can create a regenerative culture.

This week’s Cow stories:  update on Mesa Top cows,
Jim Miller Ayrshire projects and more:

The cows are doing their cow thing.  I found our herd on the hottest day of the year on a hill, feeling a slight breeze, and enjoying the shade.  I moved them to another pasture with more and deeper grass.  They are happy right now.

This week’s cheese share update:

This week we will give a smaller piece of the artier basil Ayrshire cheddar along with a one pound chunk of Tucumcari smoked Gouda!  We only have a few more wheels of the specialty Ayrshire cheddar available, and in some cases the wheels are of such a size that it is better to give a smaller piece along with another cheese, from one of our other local cheese producers, providing a little variety…

This week’s Veggie/Share Update:

This week we have another big serving of Mesa Top Salad greens.  There is likely to be a gap in salad green availability and we have been flush the last two weeks.  We have noticed that these greens store very well in plastic bags; you should be able to keep them for more than a week in a cold place in your fridge.  Just don’t compress / pack them too tightly.  We also have the first of a short run of Mesa Top arugula.  And the Mesa Top collards and cooking greens are now beginning.

We also have the last of the fall 2009 storage veggies:  sunchokes from Gemini Farm.  These will also store well.  They pickle nicely (see Amy’s recipe) and can be a nice addition to a mashed potatoes or potato salad (in small amounts).  They are also a crispy addition to stir fry, with a texture like water chestnuts when added at the last minute.

And the big excitement is the arrival of the first fruits of the season from Shiraz Vineyard:  apricots and cherries!  We are going just a little “over the top” on quantities this week, but we think everyone will be so glad to see this fruit, we do want some of it to make it to your kitchen, as opposed to being all eaten during the drive home from your CSA pickup.

This means no more bananas for a while.  We would like to keep offering bananas through the CSA Marketplace, but to do so we will need to accumulate a case (40 lbs) at a time of orders.  If you are enthusiastic about continuing to have access to bananas through the CSA let us know.  If we do not hear much in the way of requests, we’ll let it go as there is plenty else to work on these days!

Next week we will begin summer squash from Desert Gardens, and we will have more of their green cabbage and hopefully some turnips from Vida Verde as well.  We will do our best not to overwhelm you with cooking greens.  We also expect our first onions from Gard’n’hers.  YAY!  The Southern connection delivers!  This week we also sent some of our salad mix and arugula down South for use in their CSA.

And next week is going to be the big GARLIC SCAPE week.  Look for more information on how to use this interesting and unique crop that is only available briefly each year.  Thank you to Bill and Claudia Page, our award winning garlic growers in La Madera.

One interesting problem that we are trying to solve at this point is the wide discrepancy in desire for cooking greens among our members.  Some cannot get enough!  For those who want additional of any of the cooking greens, or for that matter any of the other vegetables that are available on a regular basis, we ask:

Does it make sense to offer produce items in the CSA Marketplace so that you can add to your share?  As with the bananas we will work on this issue more or less according to your interest, so let Dena know what you think.

Membership news:

Along with the opening of the Albuquerque distribution site, we are looking for more sites and more members through new sites.  It is imperative for the long term health of the CSA, and its ability to support our local farmers, that we grow quite a bit more this summer.  We are interested in members’ ideas of locations/sites where a concentration of new members can be found.  Please talk to Dena about any thoughts or suggestions that you have on this topic.

Thank you for your continued support!

Steve Warshawer

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