Category Archives: Weekly Distribution

Steve’s Weekly Update 7/27/11

Climatology 2011:   One lovely female rain late last week, cooler and quite pleasant, but still hoping for more rain.  The pastures are desperately trying to green up and  grow.  It would not take a whole lot more rain to get them growing.  Our rotational grazing program means that the pastures are ready to respond to even modest rainfall.

This week’s Cow stories:  Mesa Top cows and Jim Miller Ayrshire project: still no sign of the disaster relief paperwork.  We are finishing a new section of fence that will allow us to move the range cow and the dairy cows into some decent grass which will help reduce our feed costs for a few weeks.

This week’s cheese and herd share update:   Yesterday we had four new cheesemakers-in-training all working together with Colleen in the cheese room.  Newly arrived Chase, a master re-modeler and wood-worker, who grew up on a farm , and Tevis and Ben, a mother and son team who are neighbors and friends of the farm, and Chelsea, our stalwart CSA volunteer who has been handling the El Dorado distribution.  Starting tomorrow, for the next cheese-making duties will be rotated among 4 or 5 of us.  Colleen will have some relief from the daily cheese-making that she has carried for the last few weeks.

This week’s cheese share includes: a variety of artisanal cheeses.

Mesa Top Protein update:  We got so busy working on fences and the like that I did not get an inventory of the pork done yet, so I have not put it up for sale yet.  I have to admit though that we DID sample it and share a couple of pieces with our farm volunteers and it is by farm the tastiest pork any of us have ever eaten. Remember that these pigs were raised on whey from our own cows, and local wheat.  They lived outdoors in comfortable spacious, “forest” conditions that are natural for pigs.  Sorry to keep you waiting, but you can expect something from the pork to be available on the marketplace message that comes out to members later this week.

This week’s Veggie/Share Update:    Dena commented to me that it has been like pulling teeth to find produce for the CSA.  Michelle at the CDC has said that she has less produce than she can ever remember.

On the other hand as a farmer I am grateful not to be fighting the drought this year.

With all of that said, we have still been able to put together an interesting share for you this week.

First of the season cucumbers from Espanola Valley Farm, tomatoes, and a variety of melons from Los Poblanos,  beets from Synergia ranch, and radishes from White Mountain Farm.

And the crowning item of the share is White Mountain Quinoa.  I think we have a recipe for cold quinoa salad, which uses cucumber and even the dill sprig that will come with the Synergia beets, I think the beets can go in that salad too!

Membership news:  Thank you for your investment in the CSA .  We appreciate your continued support!

Steve Warshawer

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Steve’s Weekly Update 7/20/11

Climatology 2011:   Back to the furnace:  hot and dry.

This week’s Cow stories:  Mesa Top cows and Jim Miller Ayrshire project: the disaster relief paperwork has not arrived in the mail.  Additional hay bill, for cows who, but for the drought, would be doing fine on pasture, is $150 per week.  I am fortunate to have so many contacts at the Pueblos where I work with MoGro who grow good hay on small fields and are willing to sell for more reasonable prices.  The price of commercial scale hay is up about 40% from a year ago.

This week’s cheese and herd share update:   Cheese cheese cheese!  We hope to receive some feedback from members about last week’s cheese delivery.  Remember that we are also making fresh (pasteurized) mozzarella, along with our Salado Jack.

This week’s cheese share includes: a variety of artisanal cheeses.

Mesa Top Protein update:  I picked up the pork and beef late yesterday and got it home and we will sort it out and develop a pork share that will be available on the market place Friday.  Our butcher remarked that the pork was very, very good1  We will not have the smoked/cured ham and bacon back for a while yet.  But we have lots of chops and steaks and the like.  There will be a more complete list along with the pork share offering.

All of the meat is stamped “not for sale” but remember that applies to retail establishments.  We are not subject to that constraint as a voluntary COOP.

This week’s Veggie/Share Update:    The organic cherries from Paolo Lugara’s Sage Creations farm in Palisades continue for one more week.  We also have melons from Los Poblanos.

This week we also have carrots, from Vida Verde, tomatoes one more time from Agricultura,  chard from Synergia ranch, and our special treat of the week is basil from Vida Verde and the legendary Matt Romero.

Membership news:  Thank you for your investment in the CSA .  We appreciate your continued support!

Steve Warshawer

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Steve’s Weekly Update 7/13/11

Climatology 2011:   We had a measurable rainfall event!  We hope and pray for more.  Meanwhile the entire state of NM has been declared an agricultural disaster area due to drought, along with all contiguous counties.  Looking over the land this morning, I actually think the best hope we have for recovery of our forage for the summer is a hail storm.  This may seem odd, but with the hail sitting on the ground and soaking slowly in, the grasses really take off.

This week’s Cow stories:  Mesa Top cows and Jim Miller Ayrshire project: I am now feeding hay to all of the cows.  They are just not getting the nutrition they need because there is no grass.   Some of the older cows are suffering a bit, but I think we can take care of them.  The disaster designation means that if I can find the time to sit in the local FSA office and fill out paperwork, I might be able to get some emergency relief funds to help cover the feed costs.

This week’s cheese and herd share update:   We are grateful to the CSA for this week’s opportunity to send out packaged cheese to all of you.  We are sending a mixture of different types of cheese.  We are also experimenting with the packaging process.  We hope to have all of the cheese vacuum packed.  All of the cheeses should be marked with a date and batch code so that if you have comments on the cheese, we can correlate those to our cheese log.  We hope that you enjoy the cheese.  And we look forward to your comments, which will help us continue to improve our cheese making and packaging processes.

This week’s cheese share includes: a variety of artisanal cheeses.

Mesa Top Protein update:  We will pick up most of the pork and the new batch of ground beef next week. There will also be bacon and smoked hams curing that take 4 to 6 weeks to complete.  We will go back for those later in the summer.  We are getting some sausage made also.  Most likely the details on these new proteins will be available so that you can order next week for delivery on CSA distribution day the week after.

This week’s Veggie/Share Update:    The organic cherries from Paolo Lugara’s Sage Creations farm in Palisades continue for a short while longer.

We have cabbage and onions from Desert Gardens, tomatoes from Agricultura, and rhubard from Talon de Gato farm.

We are looking forward to an increasing variety of vegetables as we go on into the summer, and will do our best to keep the variety interesting.  Example:  Who thought they would get local rhubarb from the CSA?

Membership news:  Thank you for your investment in the CSA.  We appreciate your continued support!

Steve Warshawer

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Steve’s Update for 7/6/11

Climatology 2011:   Some rain here and there, and a couple of promising days of moist air.  More to come.  Soon, not a moment too soon!

This week’s Cow stories:  Mesa Top cows and Jim Miller Ayrshire project: The cows are doing fine.  There is more shuffling and moving about, from pasture to pasture, etc, that needs to be done this week.

This week’s cheese and herd share update:   Daily small steps are being taken to improve the cheese room.  We are working out a reorganization of the utility areas around the farm house to create more space in the cheese room by moving the solar and electrical generating equipment.  It is hard to tell how big that job will be, but we feel that we are getting closer to calling for a “pre-inspection” review of the plant.  At that point we will have another major expense to shoulder, a machine that tests the milk for the presence of antibiotics, which are not allowed to be present in the milk.

We feed hay and pasture our cows, they get a few scoops of a grain mix when they are in the stanchion getting milked,  If we treat a cow for any illness, her milk is withdrawn from the supply  according to the specifications of the medication.  But because big dairies have been having antibiotics show up in the milk, all dairies have to test for it.  Sometimes it appears there is no end to the $$$ needed just to milk 8 cows and to turn 15-20 gallons of milk into cheese every day.

This week’s cheese share includes: Garlic basil mozzarella and Salado Jack from Mesa Top.

 

Mesa Top Protein update:  Pork should be available by mid July.  We ran short of the beef we have been offering as lean ground beef.  This gives me a chance to clarify:  All of our ground beef is lean, even what we have been offering as regular ground.  A typical ground beef is 80/20 (meat to fat) or even 75/25.  An 85/15 ground beef is considered lean.  All of our beef is 85/15 or higher (less fat).  We had some beef that was EXTRA lean, and from time to time that may happen, but for the future, we may end up only offering a lean ground beef.  We have heard from members who have used both types that they are indistinguishable.  That has been our experience here at MT as well.  We are taking in another young bull, who mainly yields ground beef, so we do not expect to run out.

 

This week’s Veggie/Share Update:    The organic cherries from Paolo Lugara’s Sage Creations farm in Palisades have made it in, and we will be enjoying them for a couple of weeks.

We have carrots and beets from Los Poblanos, onions from Vida Verde, and kale/mustard mix from Gemini Farms.

For salad ingredients we have spinach and sunny sprouts.

Membership news:  Thank you for your investment in the CSA .  We appreciate your continued support!

Steve Warshawer

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Steve’s Weekly Update 6/29/11

Climatology 2011:   The big news is the Las Conchas fire.  It has put NM on the Reuters worldwide news service because of the threat to LANL.  I have word from my LA long distance runner friends that the risk to the town seems to be contained and that people may be able to return home soon.  Meanwhile there is an occasional hint of monsoon moisture in the forecast.   Hopefully relief from the heat is just around the corner.

Farm book-keeping and financial management:  We are still seeking Beneficial referral of accounting/bookkeeping talent.

This week’s Cow stories:  Mesa Top cows and Jim Miller Ayrshire project: We are struggling to keep the cows healthy and happy despite the heat.  Feed costs are through the roof.  A lot of time spent has been just trying to find and then go and get affordable feed. We look forward to some relief from high feed prices as an indirect effect of the reduced petroleum prices that are occurring as a result of the release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum reserves.

Last week we lost a momma cow to bloat, a manageable problem usually but this got out of hand.  Meanwhile the herd is generally in very good share, it is just a huge effort to provide for them under the current conditions.

This week’s cheese and herd share update:   The tilt kettle is at last in service and the cheese making process is improved one more step!  We hope you enjoy the Monterrey jack and Gouda while we look into new cheese varieties.

This week’s cheese share includes: a variety of artisanal cheeses.

Mesa Top Protein update:  Pork should be available by mid July.  We ran short of lean ground beef.  This gives me a chance to clarify what we are doing with our ground beef.  All of our ground beef is lean, even what we have been offering as regular ground.  A typical ground beef is 80/20 (meat to fat) or even 75/25) an 85/15 beef is considered lean.  All of our beef is 85/15 or higher (less fat).  We had some beef that was EXTRA lean, and from time to time that may happen, but for the future, we may end up only offering a lean ground beef.  We have heard from members who have used both types that they are indistinguishable.  That has been our experience here at MT as well.  We are taking in another young bull, who mainly produces ground beef along with the pigs, so we do not expect to run out.

 

This week’s Veggie/Share Update:    This week’s previous, scarce New Mexico fruit is green gauge plums from Shiraz.

The rest of the share is made up of salad mix, chard, squash and snow peas.

And along with those fresh treats, we have more of the wonderful early garlic from the Baja bus.

 

Membership news:  Thank you for your investment in the CSA.  We appreciate your continued support!

Steve Warshawer

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Steve’s Update for 6/22/11

Climatology 2011:   Waiting for moisture…

Farm book-keeping and financial management:  I am sending out another request for member assistance:  The farm and the CSA need a new accounting person to take over in July.  This position is part time now, amounting to 5-6 hours per week, and could grow with the CSA and farm over time.  It is crucial that we find a strong and experienced person for this work very soon.  Your referrals would be very much appreciated.

Farm investor Update:  Working with our accountant and our private investor we have simplified the investment process so that it benefits the farm and the investor as much as possible.  We are offering 6% interest on private investment dollars with Steve W’s personal guarantee as security.  Using this approach all of the assets of the farm back each investment.  If in the future we are able to convert the farm to a COOP of some sort, investors can be given the opportunity to apply some portion of their investment to shares/memberships in the COOP.

Another investor is gifting the interest, and taking that gift as a deduction on their taxes.

Securing a farm through private financing, and developing a cooperative share/ownership structure is a very exciting and much needed approach.  At the current time, there is no real support from the finance system for small and mid scale agriculture, or for any other type of small business for that matter.  Members interested in learning about investment in the farm are welcome to contact me.

This week’s Cow stories:  Mesa Top cows and Jim Miller Ayrshire project: WARNING, This section is somewhat graphic and detailed about animal handling at the farm:   It was time this week to “work the calves.”  In traditional Western ranching this means dehorn, castrate, and brand, all of which is done in the first few months of the lives of the calves.  With our largest calf crop ever this was a significant undertaking for us.  We have the help of a terrific cowboy/ranch foreman who I have known and worked with for at least 15 years since he was foreman on the expansive Canon Blanco Ranch, which is my next door neighbor.  With his help we are able to get the work done quickly and to minimize stress to the herd as much as possible.

Even so, the stress and pain and disruption to the herd was jaw dropping.  We did a terrific job, going by the standards for this type of work.  We could not change our approach a whole lot.

I decided to de-horn because I have to sell so many of the males, and elsewhere in the cattle world animals with horns are not desirable.  The full grown bulls that I sold to larger dairies have to be dehorned, and the older the animal the more stressful that is.

I agreed to castrate the males because that is what it takes, especially in the case of grass finished beef, to get some fat on them so that they are more tender when they grow up to become beef.

Branding is fine, it is really a minor effect on the cows when done properly, but the other two steps are difficult.  If dehorning and castrating is done in the first few weeks or month of the calf’s life, they can be done with relatively stress.  But that eliminates the possibility of them getting “work” later in life as bulls.

We are looking at other approaches.  The most promising is that we keep the calves on the mommas longer, and then when a calf is weaned, if it is a male, it either gets a job as a bull or is processed for beef as “young beef”.  The processing cost for young beef is higher because the animals are smaller and much of the cost is on a “per beef” basis.  Young beef would be more expensive per pound.  In this scenario, we could leave the horns on the bull calves.  The down side is that they would be subject to greater stress of dehorning at a later age if they go to a traditional dairy as bulls, because almost no dairy would consider having a bull with horns in its herd.

We will have to try a “young beef,” but cannot do so until next year’s crop is grown.  All in all, we learned a lot, and it was emotionally draining.  I am reminded by this experience of how the domesticated animals serve us, AND depend on us.  We are responsible for their well being. They sacrifice themselves so that we can learn and grow.

I am in awe of this responsibility.  We honor the creatures in our care by tending to their needs thoughtfully and responsibly.  This is the real basis of ranching.

 

This week’s cheese and herd share update: 

Power generation struggle continues.  Repair to our backup generator is has eluded two very good mechanics plus me.  We are out of ideas.  We are ready for a complete redesign of the power generation system, and are hoping that can happen soon.

Herd share opportunities at Mesa Top:  the farmers need some help boiling down the lengthy, legalese format developed in Colorado, to a simple one page herd share agreement.  Along with this simple agreement, members interested in owning a herd share will need to visit the farm and meet the herd!

This week’s cheese share includes: a variety of artisanal cheeses

Mesa Top Protein update:  Pork should be available by mid July.

This week’s Veggie/Share Update:    Another week of New Mexico Cherries.  We are indeed fortunate to have this fruit, which will be rare in 2011.

The rest of the share is spicy and exciting as we skip salad greens this week.  Spring turnips, white radishes, dill, and garlic scapes will all spice up your meals.

Along with those treats you will receive a pound of English (shelling) peas.

Membership news:  Thank you for your investment in the CSA.  We appreciate your continued support!

Steve Warshawer

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Steve’s Weekly Update 6/15/11

Climatology 2011:  Driving back from Colorado Sunday, helping Colleen and family move here for the summer, we got turned away by the newly exploded Raton Pass fire.  Information was sketchy except from the Raton Fire department, who helped me decide to turn west at Walsenburg and drive to SF via the San Luis Valley.  Much prettier but 2+ hours longer.  Waiting for moisture.

Thank you and an important opportunity:  Dena and I want to thank Pattie Ravenheart, former CSA manager and long time accounting person for the CSA and Mesa Top Farm for her 3 years of service.  Pattie has brought high standards of accuracy, accountability, thoughtfulness, and strategic thinking to her work, which has laid the groundwork for the present and future success of these businesses.  Pattie has decided to seek full time employment and can no longer fulfill the part time work responsibilities of BFCSA and MT.  We are looking for a new book keeper and accounting person!  If you have any leads, please contact Dena or Steve directly. 

This week’s Cow stories:  Mesa Top cows and Jim Miller Ayrshire project:   Happy and healthy and doing their cow thing, also wishing for moisture…

This week’s cheese and herd share update:   Cheese Cheese Cheese…  We have plenty of great Gouda ready.  Please try some!

The swamp cooler was delivered to the wrong gate by FedEx ground and sat there for 5 days until I realized it.  Meanwhile the backup generator went down as did the home-made, improvised vacuum pump.  We had made a deal for some used milking equipment and it has saved the day.  However we are struggling to keep enough power on hand to cool and keep the rooms from being too dry. 

Account of Visit to Shiraz Vineyard this week from Dena:

My son Ericson and I had the pleasure of visiting David and Sherry Banikarim’s Shiraz Farm on Monday in La Luz, right outside of Alamogordo. Just miles from White Sands, Shiraz is a patch of fertile green in the desert, watered by three deep wells.  Even though a hard freeze last winter did some profound damage, the Shiraz orchard is a testament to perseverance, resourcefulness and creativity. These same qualities can be attributed to all farmers.  David has gathered cuttings from around the world and grafted them, creating fruit trees unique in the US.  One treasure is a “rose flower water apple,” another is a white mulberry, both from David’s native Iran.

While walking through his orchard, we wakened a young coyote who sauntered off, in no particular hurry.  There was a group of young chickens under a plum tree – one of them found a worm which created a squabble among his siblings. David sent us home with an armload of fragrant spearmint, a bag of plums and some fig wood for our barbeque.

One of his quince trees was brought from Turkey by a friend.  Another friend owns a nursery in California that specializes in fruit trees from Iran which are a source for many trees now growing on David’s southern New Mexico farm.  (Up until recently, Iran was the largest grower of pistachios in the world – the US has now become number one – and the area around Alamogordo is full of pistachio orchards).  The climate and geography, reminiscent of Iran, are what drew David and Sherry to “retire” in La Luz.  Remember the bags of frozen sweet & sour cherries that we enjoyed all winter?  Growing up, David enjoyed these in two ways – as jam added to a rice dish with tiny meatballs, and as a traditional cherry syrup added to ice and water and served to special guests.

The Saturn peaches we have received in our shares for the past few years were also an important part of David’s childhood – unfortunately the fruit on these trees was frozen early this spring and we hope for their return next year.  We will have Shiraz apricots in our share for the last time this season on Thursday and green gage plums next week.  As Steve told us last week, there will be no pomegranates this year, also no figs or cherries.  Let’s treasure the apricots and plums for their rarity in 2011 – they are extra sweet just because they survived.

Herd share opportunities at Mesa Top:  The farmers need some help boiling down the lengthy, legalese format developed in Colorado, to a simple one page herd share agreement.  Along with this simple agreement, members interested in owning a herd share will need to visit the farm and meet the herd!

This week’s cheese share includes: Salado Gouda and green chile cheddar

Mesa Top Protein update:  I should have a pork availability date as part of next week’s member message.

This week’s Veggie/Share Update:   This is a very fruity week as we have the last week of apricots and the first week of James Cadwalader’s Sacramento Mountain grown cherries.  There are ample cherries so you can order more if you want, even by the case!

These fruit are never sprayed!  These cherries are a bargain as compared to certified organic cherries.  James is the third generation to tend these orchards and has moved them steadily to more sustainable practices.  The last barrier to certifiable organic practices is the source of phosphorus, which is crucial to tree health and fruiting.

Along with these sweet treats we have more carrots, beets, salad mix and some more baja bus garlic.

 

Membership news:  Thank you for your investment in the CSA .  We appreciate your continued support!

Steve Warshawer

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