Tuesday, December 9, 2014


To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it's not too late!

Over the eight years I've been helping David, one thing has become crystal clear, each farm season has its successes and its failures. Sometimes the success is small, but you take what you can get. Some years provide you with great bounty with one crop and not so much with others. Sometimes the failures are minimal for which you are thankful, but others have a significant negative impact on what's available to bring to market.
Last season deer ate the first two plantings of beets and Swiss chard. There was record rain in June and near record rain in July. The tractor was out of commission for at least six weeks. Due to the rain and the tractor problems a number of crops did not get planted. Or, when planted, did very poorly. For example, farm season 2012 saw the best winter squash harvest at the farm. Last season the winter squash harvest was virtually non-existent. Other crops, including melons, fared poorly or not at all.

This season David had his best winter squash harvest ever. Also, the watermelon/cantaloupe was the best ever. This was balanced by the eggplants not doing as well as they have in the past for no discernible reason. Also, due to disease, this was not the farms best year for cucumbers. Yet the tomato harvest was great and the first two plantings of summer squash were quite productive.
Sometimes the problems are disease. For example, after a good start, the basil harvest ended quite suddenly due to something called basil downy mildew. (It was first reported in the United States in 2007 and appears to be here to stay. It is located primarily along the eastern seaboard, but there have been outbreaks in Kansas and Missouri. Once it gets on your plants there is little that you can do to stop it. At this time prevention of the disease is a work in progress. I mention all of this so that when you go to your local markets and can’t find basil, you will have an understanding as to why.) The devastation of the basil crop was not specific to Z Food Farm. Various other local farms, and farms throughout the East coast, up into Maine, were ravaged by the disease. These ups and downs are par for the course for farms large and small, but the impact on small-scale operations can be quite significant; yet another reason to appreciate all that goes into the produce available to you at farmers’ markets. And the challenge for organic farms is that they have less available to them to combat bugs and diseases. I know that this point has previously been made, and it is not done to engender sympathy for farmers who operate small, sustainable, organic farms. It is to enhance awareness of all that goes into bringing produce to market. Yes, farmers of all size farms are trying to make a living out of what they do, but for most they have to have a sustaining passion for being a farmer. 

Z Food Farm only sells what it grows. At many markets this is the rule for all produce vendors at a particular market. (If you are uncertain about whether this is the rule at the market you frequent, find the market manager and ask). This means that you will only find produce that is available at that particular time of the season. Some crops do best in the early spring. Some do well in the fall. Some will be available in the spring and fall. Some we’ll have only during the heat of the summer. Having been conditioned to find everything we want year round at grocery stores, please appreciate that small, local farms, organic or conventional, are doing their best to bring you the widest variety of vegetables that are available at that time of the season. If a crop doesn’t do well, or is a complete failure, that failure will have a strong impact on that farm. Prior to my involvement with farming I had no sense of what it takes to bring produce to market. I took for granted the bounty that was available in stores. If you shop at farmers’ markets, whether for produce or some of the other wonderful diversity of goods available, you already have a sense of what the vendors go through to bring their products to market. Most of you who shop at Z Food Farm do convey to us your appreciation of what we offer and for that we thank you. There are numerous choices available to you and we do not take your support for granted.

Winter squash come in all sizes and shapes and colors. There are two things to know about them- they are delicious and they make great decoration until you get around to eating them. Keep out of direct light and direct heat and they will last in your home for weeks if not a few months. Though some will ‘keep’ longer than others, all of them can be saved. As far as cooking them goes, most of them are good for soups, pies, and just plain roasting and eating. Use your favorite search engine and you will find recipes galore.
 This is the harvest of winter squash. A very rough estimate of between 7-8,000 pounds worth of winter squash

 A roadside display.

Galeux d'Eysines - The sweet orange flesh is used in France for soups and also can be baked. Sweet, orange flesh.

Hule and Ernie 'guarding' the winter squash. The beige, somewhat flattened looking pumpkins on the second row up are Long Island Cheese Pumpkins. Have a moderately sweet flesh that is good for pies. Are used by the Bent Spoon in Princeton, NJ to make their pumpkin ice cream.

 Musque de Provence - Also known as the fairy tale squash. Moderately sweet flesh. The skin will start green and over time turn a golden brown. Gorgeous for decoration and then good for eating either roasted or as soup or pie.

 Kabocha - It has an exceptional naturally sweet flavor, even sweeter than butternut squash. Like other squash-family members, it is commonly mixed in side dishes and soups or anywhere pumpkin, potato, or other squash would be. Though the skin color is different the flesh is the same.

Spaghetti Squash- This year David grew this smaller variety of spaghetti squash. Being small they become a little more manageable to cook and use with less waste. For those new to these, after they are cooked and cut in half, if cooked whole, use a fork to scrape out the flesh. You will have strands very similar to spaghetti and you can use the strands just as you would spaghetti.

Acorn Squash- Sweet orange flesh. Good for roasting and eating. Good for making into soup. Just plain good.

Sugar Dumpling- Very sweet flesh. Roast it. Soup it. Enjoy it.

Baby Blue Hubbard- Good for soups, pies, and just simply eating. We grew the baby blue Hubbard. the regular Hubbard can weigh 15-40 pounds.

Kuri Squash- golden flesh is smooth, dry, sweet and rich.

Delicata- delicate, sweet flavor. Good for roasting and eating. Thin skinned.

This is what the greenhouse looked like at the end of the season.

Support local farms. Support organic farms. Eat Healthy.
Farm On!!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

To Every Season

The end as the beginning. It has been a long time coming, but here is a resumption of the happenings at Z Food Farm for the 2014 season. View the prolonged gap since the last post as a combination of laziness, exhaustion, and a lack of time on my part. But, as of today, with things winding down (note that this said winding down, not finished), there is time and a renewed energy to return to this blog.

Winding Down- Over the past five years David would skip the Rittenhouse Square Market in Philly the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend and then return for one last market the following weekend. This year he did the Thanksgiving weekend market and, weather permitting, will do the market on Sat, Dec 6. As of now the plan is to continue doing the Rittenhouse Market on a week to week basis. As of now Z Food Farm will be at Rittenhouse Sat, Dec 13. Though going to market will be ongoing, most things on the farm are winding down. There will be harvesting for market, but for the most part, general clean up and barn organization will begin. And then comes the inventorying of left over seed, going through seed catalogues and deciding what items to not do next year and what new things to try. And then comes ordering the seed and planning where in the field to plant things and then, weather permitting, start seeding about the middle of February. Basically, the winter break is not a very big break and while working the soil does come to an end, there is really no end. The current season may end, but the transition to the next season begins almost immediately. When you farm on a small scale your small, local, sustainable farmer doesn’t have that much of a break. It gets back to a point that’s been made before- farmers such as David do it for the love they have for what they do. Wherever you are, if you shop at your local farmers’ market, take the time to get to know the farmer who is selling you their produce. Most farmers will be happy to talk with you about what they do. They will share their passion and aid you in appreciating the uniqueness of what you get at market as opposed to a grocery store. What you are buying is the end result of hours of effort and a different level of passion and commitment than large-scale commercial farming. And, while there are exceptions, what you are buying is going to be fresher than what you’ll get at a grocery store. Also, if it is certified organic you will know that what you are buying has no synthetic pesticides or fertilizers.

Specific to Z Food Farm there are two things to mention in this post. The first is the totally redesigned web site (www.zfoodfarm.com) and the other is the painting of both sides of the truck. This season Z Food Farm did a market at the Andaz Plaza in New York City. The Andaz is a hotel that is part of the Hyatt chain and is located on Water St., one block down from Wall St. Megan is the director of community relations for the Andaz and became a big booster and supporter of the farm. While David provided some ideas and suggestions as to what he wanted the web site to convey, Megan is responsible for the redesign. The original web site was well done, but it was five years old and in need of revitalization. Over the course of the market season Megan invested her time and energy to bring about the overhaul of the site. It contains more pictures, videos, and all sorts of information about David and the farm. You are all invited to visit and check it out. One specific highlight of the website is that all the information about becoming a CSA (community supported agriculture) Member for farm season 2015 is available. The two types of membership, Farm Share and Market Share, are explained in detail. Pricing information for both types of shares is also spelled out. Memberships are available at three locations- at the farm in Lawrenceville on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, at the Rittenhouse Farmers’ Market in Philly on Saturdays, and at the Andaz Plaza Market in NYC on Thursdays. To get to the information about the CSA go to the website and click on the CSA link at the top of the page.

Z Food Farm now has the coolest farm truck. Through Megan David was introduced to the graffiti artist Dmote. He came to the Andaz Market to meet with David and to formulate plans to paint both sides of the truck. (If you google Dmote you will find links to his work and other links giving his background.) And thus it came to be that the truck got painted. If you click on the Dispatches link on the web site you will come to the page that has various videos and pictures about the farm. One of the videos shows one side of the truck being painted. It’s a little over a minute in length. In addition to her work in redesigning the web site, Megan put the videos together. The videos provide a unique perspective into some of the happenings pertaining to Z Food Farm.

Here are some pictures of the truck. The eggplant guy does not have a name. The pumpkin skeleton is Steve The Reaper.

Let me conclude this resumption of the blog with thanking various people without whom this farm season would not have been as successful as it was. 

Thanks to CSA Members. Your commitment to the farm at prior to the beginning of the farm season is crucial for the farms success. Thanks for your investment and faith.

Thanks to all the people who buy from Z Food Farm at the farm in Lawrenceville NJ, in Philly, and in New York City. There is a great deal of choice when it comes to obtaining fresh, local produce and your support is greatly appreciated.
Thanks to Mike and Karel for your assistance in helping to keep various things running smoothly and for general support and camaraderie. In a similar vein, thanks to Tommy. 

Thanks to Dmote (aka. Skank) for his time and artistic vision in painting the truck. 

Thanks to Megan for her time, energy, and creativity. Also thanks for your efforts in promoting the market. Also, thanks to the Andaz Hotel for their support in providing the space for a market in their plaza.

Support local and sustainable agriculture. Support organic farmers. Eat Healthy.

 See you next week at Rittenhouse Square in Philly; 12/13 from 10-2! Farm On!