I am so happy to be back with you all after nearly two weeks of exploring the (very wet and very muddy) beauty of the Pacific Northwest. It was fabulous. I hope you followed along on IG so you too can see the all the magic and wonder that exists in this world.
I can’t wait to tell you about all the trails and all the eats (and the scenic drives, sprawling beaches, quaint little shops and badass airBnbs), but for now, I want to catch you up on the farm because so much is happening and before we know it March will be here and we’ll be planting seeds and nurturing baby plants in the greenhouse and I’ll be so obsessed with talking about them that I’ll completely forget to tell you anything of substance.
As evidenced by my recent piece for Edible Madison, 2017 was kind of a rough year on the farm. Not bad rough. I mean we met our financial and production goals for the first time in five years. That felt tremendous. My Carrot became a really effective manager while I realized I want to avoid managing people on the farm as much as humanly possible. We got better at defining our roles on the farm as a couple while still working collaboratively. We had some seriously exciting folks out to the farm (hey Sarah and Monica at Modern Farmer, I am talking to you!). We had our first ever Farm Founders’ Retreat and did some thoughtful branding work which ultimately led to the decision to build a new website to better tell our story. It was a good year in a million ways.
But it was also hard as hell. We had a lot of losses and we worked ourselves at a level that just wasn’t healthy (or possible of sustaining). My husband made it all the way to the end of the season because his work ethic and drive is seriously unparalleled, but I burned out by early September. I grumbled my way to the finish line and then immediately began thinking hard about this mess we had gotten ourselves into.
In my pensive state, I recognized that farming was a hard profession and acknowledged the fact that farming isn’t for everyone: :that lots of people don’t make it to year five or year six for good reason. But I also knew we weren’t those people. I knew we could do so much better. We were above the chaos we were dealing with. I couldn’t stand it that things weren’t going well just because they hadn’t been given the energy or thought or support they needed to thrive.
I tried to have patience with myself. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. We started something right out of college with no experience. We were young, immature business owners’ with a lot to learn who didn’t always know how to make decisions together or make good decisions at all. We hadn’t been ready to dive in too deep.
But I also knew we were also better than that now. We were committed to this life and business we were building and it was time to stop getting by with nothing. It was time to stop tilling four acres with a walk-behind rototiller. It was time to stop weeding only by hand. It was time to stop washing vegetables without tables or a roof. It was time to get serious.
So after a lot of conversations together as husband/wife/business partners, we began having conversations with friends and family. We decided to take out our first loan in order to afford the things our growing business so desperately needs. It was a big, scary decision and I feel immensely vulnerable sinking so much money into this dream, but I’ve learned that though caution can be wise, it can also be your worst enemy limiting you from growth, potential, and new possibilities.
The bulk of this loan will finance a building (a BUILDING!!!!!!) that will become the epicenter of our farm. My Carrot and some friends are going to build it themselves (from the beams to the roof to the concrete) and I shocked myself by trusting them completely. The building will be where we wash and pack vegetables. It will have a small office and lots of storage. It will also house a secondary cooler so we can store all our vegetables at the temperature they prefer. We’ll build a bunch of tables at the appropriate height for ergonomic wash stations and probably retrofit an old washing machine into a salad spinner.
The loan will also fund better access to water (so we can survive in these weird seasons of intense rain followed by intense drought), an expansion to our greenhouse so we can grow more seedlings in the spring, and two new devices to make weeding our beds more efficient. It will also help us purchase a brand new, shiny, beautiful, absolutely overwhelming 33 HP tractor. A tractor you guys. My Carrot and I are buying a tractor. And going to attempt to learn how to use it. And building a pack shed. All before the CSA season begins on June 6th.
It’s exciting. It’s overwhelming. It’s amazing. It’s terrifying. It’s honestly still just a lot to even digest at one time, but it’s happening. And it feels good. It feels like a step in the right direction of what we want to become.
So that’s my news. I’m sure you’ll have to look at a lot of pictures of us trying to figure out how to put up a building and likely even more of the beautiful tractor. I apologize for that in advance.
But now, onto the food.
One of my resolutions for 2018 was to eat more salads which I know, I know is funny because I literally grow vegetables for a living, but I’m just not that good at remembering to eat salads. I either don’t have any salad dressing (even though I know making my own takes all of four seconds) or I forget to bring greens home from the field (don’t worry, we’re going to put in a kale plant at home this year!) or I just imagine them being a lot more work than they really are.
This recipe is evidence of the simplicity of a good salad. It literally couldn’t be easier. You have to roast beets. I guess that takes a little while, but it’s my favorite kind of cooking because it involves zero effort. I wrap the beets in foil, toss them in the oven and walk away for an hour. Sometimes if I’m feeling extra ambitious I’ll roast up a bunch of squash or something while the oven is already heated up. I expect batch cooking of ingredients to be a big theme in 2018.
Anyhow the rest of the recipe takes about five minutes. Maybe ten if you are new to segmenting grapefruit (which I absolutely was– thanks for the great tips Pioneer Woman!). Segment a couple clementines. Segment a grapefruit. Slice a shallot. Toast some nuts. Candy them if you are feeling fancy. Peel and dice your roasted beets. Voila. Beautiful, bright, citrus-y salad done. No salad dressing or complaining necessary.
Enjoy your weekend my friends,
P.S. If you live in the Madison area, I just wanted to let you know we are now accepting sign-ups for the 2018 CSA season. We would LOVE to have you as part of our farm! We have six different share sizes to meet the needs of all different kinds of families and our newsletter is a great educational tool to help you know what to do with all the veggies! Check out our website to learn more!
BEET CITRUS SALAD
I used a grapefruit and a couple clementines for the citrus in the salad for the simple reason that I had both in my fridge. If you only have oranges or happen to have some of those glorious blood oranges in your fridge, feel free to substitute. Citrus is what’s important. The kind of citrus, not so much.
Takes 1 hour, 10 minutes, most of it inactive
Serves 2 generously or 4 if on the side of a meal
4 large beets
1 shallot (or 1/2 large), very thinly sliced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 grapefruit, sectioned
2 clementines, sectioned
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 cup toasted pecans or almonds (or candied ones, recipe below)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Wrap beets in foil. They can all be in one large packet or broken into two packets for slightly quicker cooking. Place packets on baking sheet and roast until cooked through, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- If you want candied pecans on your salad, do this now. Otherwise, leave the kitchen for the next 30-45 minutes or so. Or make some other things for later meals. Or do some dishes. Whatever tickles your fancy.
- When the beets have about 15 minutes left to cook begin building your salad. Slice your shallot and then place it in a medium bowl. Add balsamic vinegar and maple syrup. Toss to combine and let marinate while you section your grapefruit and clementines. If any citrus juice gets onto your cutting board during the sectioning process, just toss it into the bowl with the shallots. Add citrus to shallot mixture.
- Once the beets are finished, slide the skins off (it should be easy- if not, use a vegetable peeler). Cube or slice your beets. Whatever you prefer. Add to bowl with shallots and fruit followed by olive oil and salt. Stir to combine. Taste and adjust flavors as desired.
- Serve beet mixture over a bed of arugula being sure to use any remaining liquid in the bowl as dressing for your salad. Top with pecans or almonds.
1 tablespoon egg white
2 cups pecan halves
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
- Beat egg white until foamy.
- Add pecans and toss until well coated.
- In a separate bowl combine sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle over the pecans and toss to coat.
- Spread in a single layer on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
- Cool on parchment paper and separate any clumps.