Just Farming + RECIPE: Tomato & Sweet Corn Pasta Salad

Well hello everyone. How are you? Apparently, it’s August. I’ve been so buried in my farm bubble that I really have no idea what’s happening in the world outside of sweet corn, tomatoes and watermelon. It’s not a bad situation. Not one bit. It’s absolutely delicious in my world right now. It is also quite heavy (we hauled in a couple thousand pounds of produce from the fields this weekend alone!), and a bit overwhelming, but if you’ve been with me for long, you have probably heard that before.

We’re juggling just about as much as we were juggling before—planting, weeding, harvesting, managing contractors, desperately waiting for the pack shed to be built, hosting events, hanging with farm cats, curing onions, digging potatoes, and trying to keep the dogs from eating all the corn cobs in my compost pile because they really just nibble them and spread them all over the yard.

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I’m sure you’re juggling your own crazy life right now hanging on to those last glimmers of summer. You’re probably planning trips, scheduling bonfires, trying to get out on the water, hanging in your hammock, sipping sangria, hosting outdoor meals, and hoping that if you hold tight enough maybe summer won’t slip away quite so quickly. At least that what I hope you are doing because if I wasn’t spending 1800 hours per week in my fields, that’s probably what I would be doing.

Instead I’m just farming. Luckily just farming is this beautiful whirlwind of total chaos and so that brings a lot of diversity to my days.

This past weekend farming didn’t look like harvesting or planting—though it certainly did for my husband who held the fort down while I changed gears completely. Last weekend, farming for me looked like taking on the role of educator, community organizer and public speaker. Last weekend, I was part of the Soil Sisters events taking place around Southcentral Wisconsin that celebrate female farmers and rural life.

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I hosted an array of events at the farm. On Friday, sixty farmers flooded my farm for an educational field day where Soil Sisters shared their secrets of success and I spent nearly two hours touring them around my operation sharing my story, explaining our strategies for investments, and admitting all our mistakes. I explained how no one is self-made and my small success are not only caused by the obsessive hard work and determination of my husband and I, but also the limitless kindness and generosity of my parents, my off-farm employer and my community.

Saturday brought a Preservation 101 workshop with my friend Jenny Weidel (a.k.a. the soon to be local restaurant and market owner in my adorable tiny town of Evansville). Jenny graduated from culinary school last year and is a total food whiz so together we taught a class on freezing, canning, pickling and dehydrating summer bounty with an eye towards holiday fare. We shared what gifts and meals summer produce can become in the colder months. It was a blast. There were rhubarb margaritas and lots of sampling of goodies centered around preserved produce.

Sunday my farm became a true community space. A neighboring farmer set up her alpaca wool products to sell while she explained to city folk why the Wisconsin Farmers’ Union mattered for our state and its producers. My mom ran a lunch stand of delicious food prepared from our fields—a fundraiser for the Soil Sisters group. A friend and neighboring farmer ran a creative retreat on our farm—a space for folks to get away from it all and just Make Time for themselves. Meanwhile, I gave tours to anyone who wanted one taking time to share the ins and outs of running a CSA business, walking them through what it means to be organic (and how I can be organic in the midst of conventional fields), and babbling incessantly about my favorite vegetables.

Local news cameras, journalists, and a national farm program showed up throughout the weekend asking me about my story and the business I was building with my husband. Never in my wildest dreams did I think the farm where I grew up would make a nice backdrop for a news anchor nor did I ever think I’d be effortlessly comfortable talking to them.

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I also never would have imagined that in six years’ time as a farmer I would not only have joined the rag tag group of crazy beautiful women who inspired me to farm in the first place, but would also be invited to share in their annual event and be asked to host an all-day educational field day for other aspiring lady farmers. I never imaged in six years’ time I would have anything worthwhile to share.

For the past year or so my focus on farming has been gently shifting beneath the surface. While we transition our farm from scrappy beginners to more strategic business owners, I’ve felt like I have a real role to take on in this movement as a teacher. I don’t know exactly where it began or why I feel so driven to share my knowledge, but it’s really becoming a driving force in my life. There’s a lot more to come on my transition from just a farmer to a farmer who is also an educator in the CSA movement, but I won’t get into that any more now because there is food to be shared. Just know that I am here to teach you if you have questions or farm dreams you aren’t quite sure how to manifest.

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Now to the summer eating. We have entered the land of peak summer produce. There are melons, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet corn, potatoes, onions, and so much more. The harvests are heavy and the eating is easy. With yummy summer veggies like these it’s important to just keep things simple. This pasta salad is as versatile as it is quick to make. I love the combination of tomatoes, sweet corn, cucumber, onion and basil, but you could easily add broccoli, zucchini or peppers if you have some laying around. The ratios for this pasta salad are based on the many pasta salads of my youth with a pretty hefty amount of noodles. You can absolutely feel free to use half the amount of pasta if you like more veggies than noodles in your pasta salad. Also note when selecting your pasta that a noodle with more nooks and crannies equals a better pasta salad because the dressing has more places to coat and hide. I really love fusilli and orechiette for pasta salad.

I hope you enjoy and I hope your August is off to a stellar start!

-Leek

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TOMATO & SWEET CORN PASTA SALAD

Serves 8-12 as a side
Takes 40 minutes

1 pound pasta, the type is your choice
1 cucumber, seeded and diced
1/2 Walla Walla (or other sweet) onion
1 pound tomato (or 1 pint halved cherry tomatoes), seeded and roughly chopped
4 ears corn, husks removed
1/2 cup basil leaves, roughly chopped
Dressing:
1/4 cup mayo
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon white wine or white vinegar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil on the stove over high heat. Once boiling, add pasta and cook to al dente according to package directions.
  2. While pasta cooks, prepare your dressing by whisking together all ingredients.
  3. Drain pasta in a colander and let sit for a minute to lose some of the water, then add to a large bowl. Add dressing to noodles while they’re still warm and toss to combine. Set aside.
  4. Refill stock pot with salted water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add sweet corn and cook for 7 minutes. Meanwhile, chop your other veggies. Rinse corn under cold water to cool and then cut off kernels with a knife. Add cucumber, onion, tomatoes, corn and basil to bowl. Toss to combine.
  5. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as desired.

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