Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Pictures At An Exhibition

Meet Peanut and Maple. They are Z Food Farm's cats. As kittens they are social and loving. Hopefully they will turn into 'mousers' and keep the barn and greenhouse as mouse free as possible. Earlier in the season mice ate two seedings of one variety of sunflower and one variety of winter squash. Also, having mice in the barn is not a good thing. We look forward to a decrease in the local mouse population.

Garlic is a one time harvest. It is then place on the tables you see below to 'cure'; that is to keep it dry so that moisture does not cause it to go bad. Not seen in this picture are a couple of fans that are used to aid in keeping the garlic dry. The variety David has is a hard neck garlic; "Hardneck garlics have fewer, larger cloves then the softnecks. They also have less of an outer bulb wrapper, sometimes none at all. This makes them more sensitive and reduces their shelf life." Most garlic found in stores is 'softneck'; "Almost all supermarket garlic is a softneck variety. This is because softneck garlic is easier to grow and plant mechanically and also keeps for longer than hardneck. garlic." ( the specific variety that David has is musik. It is a wonderful tasting garlic. If you like garlic you won't need to worry about its shelf life. As it is, if you don't immediately use it, it will still last 3-4 months or more. Keep it in a cool, dry place and you should have no trouble with it lasting.

A bed of salad mix. David has four varieties of lettuce in his mix. Both salad mix and head lettuce are currently on hiatus. Both will return within the next two-three weeks.

elements Restaurant of Princeton has an appetizer on their menu called- Z-Food Farm vegetables. Thank you Scott, Joe, and staff of elements!!

Here it is, David's walk-in cooler. It is 10x40. A 25,000 btu air conditioner is being used to cool it. Heavy duty plastic has been taped up in two places to divide the cooler into thirds. The back third at about 41ยบ. The middle part is a little warmer and the front end is warmer yet. A sturdier plastic barrier will eventually be installed to make the whole thing more efficient. For now the system is working out just fine and life is much improved.

This is what the truck looks like after being loaded up on the way to Rittenhouse Square. As you can see, the truck is quite packed. Ah, the fresh goodness of locally grown organic produce.

Happy and healthy eating to all.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Summertime Blues

'I'm gonna raise a fuss, I'm gonna raise a holler about workin' all summer just to try to earn a dollar. Sometimes I wonder what I'm a gonna do, but there ain't no cure for the summertime blues'.

These words have been used before in this space, but late August of a very hot and dry summer makes it an appropriate repetition.

As mentioned in the most recent post, David finally has his walk-in cooler in place. This is critical part of the continued success of what David is striving to accomplish this first year of Z Food Farm. Not having a cooler has been a source of David having a serious case of the summertime blues. Walk-in coolers are an essential component of a farm- once the produce is harvested it needs to be kept fresh. Left in the sun and heat the produce will wilt and lose its freshness. (That is why David uses coolers and cold water at market- he is keeping his produce as fresh as possible. Produce is put out for display and purchase. If it is not quickly sold it is put in a nice cold tub of water and fresh produce is taken out of the portable cooler for display and sale. The goal/intent of course is to sell the produce as quickly as possible.) In the absence of having a cooler at Z Food Farm David has been, once again, greatly aided by the generosity of Farmer Matt at Cherry Grove Organic Farm. Matt has allowed David to use space in his walk-in cooler. This has been inconvenient for both David and Matt. For David it has meant multiple trips to CGOF to put produce in the cooler. For Matt it meant having to work around David's crates of produce. For David it also meant going back to CGOF on market days to get the produce that was being kept there. This added to the amount of time required to get ready to leave for market. And when time is tight, every minute counts. Matt has been a gracious host, but it is a great relief for both now that David does have his own cooler.

The daily grind continues for David, as it does for all farmers. Weed. Seed. Plant. Harvest. Mow. Repeat. One trait/shill/attitude that allows farmers and their workers and volunteers to survive is a sense of humor. Not just any humor, but MASH humor. If you have seen the movie MASH, or the TV show, you know what is being referred to. IF you have seen neither, then let it be said that the humor that helps one to survive an extremely challenging environment can be referred to as irreverent. In general, farm humor is not for the faint of heart. If you can't find some means of having fun while grinding away in extremely hot and humid conditions you aren't going to last very long as a farmer.

As always, thanks to all who support David, his workers, and his volunteers by purchasing your produce either at the farm stand, at the Lawrenceville Farmers' Market, and at the Rittenhouse Square Farmers' Market. Also, your kind words about the produce David brings to market are a great source of encouragement to keep on keeping on.

Happy and healthy eating to all. Eat local. Eat sustainably. Eat organically.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Keep On Working

I was digging in the yard today when a letter came from Southampton way, keep on working, keep on working. I must admit I was a bit in the red, but if you never have pleasure then you could be dead. Keep on working.

"Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise." With all respect to Mr. Franklin, farmers, especially small organic farmers, might not buy all of what is being said. Yes, the physical labor is invigorating and helps build strength and endurance and aids in weight loss. But all that sun, despite regular use of sunscreen, and all that bending over to weed and plant, and all that lifting of heavy crates, are not the best ingredients for great health; if not in the short term, then in the long term. Dry skin, cracked hands, and aching backs are the farmers' lot in life. As far as wealth goes, well a farmer can, in time, make a decent wage. Yet, if you take into account the number of hours a farmer works on a daily basis from mid-March through the end of November, the hourly wage is minimal. And as far as being wise, there are a lot easier ways in which to make a living. This leads to the question for the farmer, 'why put yourself through this day in and day out for the better (worser) part of eight months'? The answer to this will vary from farmer to farmer, but in all likelihood a common theme will emerge- a love, a commitment, a passion for what they are doing. Farmers who are growing to a local community, farmers who grow organically and sustainably, are in fact wise in that they are striving to preserve the land and the environment. These farmers are wealthy, not necessarily in monetary rewards but in the responses their produce elicits from consumers. When a customer tells David that she and her husband attribute an improvement in their overall health to what David is making available to them, then David, and farmers with similar experiences, is indeed wealthy.

As of this posting the fullness of the bounty has arrived. Lettuce, carrots (purple, orange, and yellow), beets (four varieties) fennel, basil (four varieties0, parsley, cilantro, summer squash (a variety shapes and colors), cucumbers (including Suyo long and Striped Armenian), tropea and cipollini onions (both very sweet), scallions (white and purple), garlic, melons, and on and on, have all hit their stride. Most wonderfully the heirloom tomatoes have arrived. For those not familiar with heirloom tomatoes, this will be explained int he next posting. For now, believe the following- Run, don't wlak to your nearest farmers' market and buy yourself some heirloom tomatoes; if you like tomatoes you won't be sorry and you will then have a hard time going back to what is sold in stores. They come in all sizes, shapes, and colors. A painter's palate won't have more colors than these tomatoes. (OK, there aren't any blue tomatoes, that that's about it.) And the flavor, ah, the flavor. Once you have enjoyed the wondrous flavors of heirlooms (or even 'regular'), grown locally, organically, and sustainably, you will be challenged to enjoy the tomatoes that you find at your local store once local tomatoes are out of season. (This is probably true of most of the produce you will find at markets.) And when you get your tomatoes home, please, do not put them in the fridge.

People who come to the Lawrenceville (NJ) Farmers' Market, thank you. People who come to the Rittenhouse Square Farmers' Market in Philadelphia, than you. Thanks to one and all who come to the on site Z Food Farm stand. Thanks also to the chefs of Rouge (Philly), Pumpkin (Philly), Blue Bottle (Hopewell, NJ), Palate (Newtown, Pa), and elements (Princeton, NJ). David is well aware that there are multiple options as to where produce can be purchased. David is greatly appreciative and grateful to all who obtain their vegetables from Z Food Farm. Many who come to market comment on the multiple colors of the various vegetables that are offered. Many indicate their appreciation of the attractiveness of what David is offering. Your kind words mean a great deal to David. Again, thanks to one and all.

Late breaking news- David finally has his walk-in cooler up and running. This is a huge part of putting together the puzzle that is Z Food Farm. More details about the cooler coming soon.

One final note- Currently, elements restaurant in Princeton, NJ is presenting an appetizer named: z-food farm vegetables. With a couple of exceptions the ingredients for the dish are vegetables grown by Farmer David. The support shown to Z Food Farm by elements is greatly appreciated. Great food, great cocktails, and great people are waiting to provide you with a wonderful dining experience. If you are interested in checking out elements head on over to

Good, healthy eating to one and all. Eat local. Eat sustainably. Eat organically. Support local farmers. Keep on working.