Why join a CSA?

Many people who read this blog are already CSA members, and we appreciate it! But for those of you who aren’t CSA members, here is a post about why we have a CSA program at Blandford Farm, and some of the reasons a CSA share could be good for you and your family. 

Fresh, nutritious food is the cornerstone to healthy living.  But by the time most produce makes its way to the supermarket, it has been in storage and in transit for weeks or even months, depending on where it was sourced.  In addition to being imported from other states or countries, much of our food is also grown with pesticides and herbicides, which leave residue on the fruit and vegetables that we then consume.

There is an alternative: buying fresh, local fruits and vegetables from farmers who take care to have healthy growing practices.  There is a growing movement of naturally grown “slow” food production, started by people who know that where and how food is grown correlates to the nutritional value and taste of that food.  Blandford Farm is proud to be a part of that movement, offering you a local option for vegetables.

We offer CSA shares as a way to connect you back to the food you eat.  If you become a CSA member, you can pick up vegetables the very same day they are harvested!  We are committed to producing the most nutritious, ecologically friendly vegetables possible, practically in your backyard!

With pigs, goats and chickens for kids to interact with, a nature play nook, and a children’s garden for visitors to explore, picking up your CSA share can be a fun family experience as well as a culinary adventure.  We produce a wide array of vegetables, ranging from familiar favorites such as heirloom tomatoes and cucumbers to leafy greens to less familiar vegetables like kohlrabi, fennel and daikon radishes.

For more information about how a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share can support a local farm, to see a sample share, or to sign up for a CSA through Blandford Farm, check out our website: http://blandfordnaturecenter.org/blandford-csa/

 

We offer a discounted price on CSA shares for Blandford members:

Full shares are $510

Partial shares are $300

 

For those who are not Blandford members:

Full shares are $540

Partial shares are $315

 

We offer two pick-up locations.  One is at the Blandford Farm on Tuesdays from 4:00-6:30pm.  There is no additional fee for this pickup location.

The other is at the Fulton Street Farmer’s Market on either Wednesdays or Fridays from 8:00am-1:00pm.  There is an additional $25 fee for market pickup.

In the words of the BEEPS…

For those of you who don’t know, BEEPS are Blandford Environmental Education Program Students.  This year, Aaron and I have been part of a collaboration between Blandford Nature Center and Blandford School: the BEEP mentorship program.  This week, the theme was communication, and so the BEEPS decided to write a blog post that I could share! 

Hi.  Our names are James, Other James, Violet and Ava.  We are part of the first-ever Blandford Farm Mentorship Program, or BFMP.

I am Violet and I will tell you about how this mentorship is going for me.  The first day we cleaned the goat pen.  That was the worst day.  But it was still fun because we sang and told jokes.  I love being in the dirt and planting the seeds.

Hi.  My name is James.  And I like turnips.

Hi.  My name is James P. and I am part of the very first mentorship of farming.  I really like farming and it is so fun to do this mentorship. 🙂

Hello, I am Ava.  I am part of the first ever farm mentorship at Blandford.  I did not know that when I came to blandford a lot of things were going to happen.  Number 1.  I did not know that I would have this much homework.  Number 2.  I did not know I would make such great friends, and finally number three.  That I would be able to be in such a great mentorship.  This mentorship has been a once in a lifetime chance.  First of all I get to hang out with the goats so much more then I would have if I was not in this mentorship.  Second, I got free food, spinach, and turnips.  And finally third I got to know the farm a lot better.  Overall I am happy I am in this mentorship.  I would recommend this mentorship to any future BEEPS.

Growing Gardens

Part of the reason that I was able to be hired on full-time at Blandford is because I wear many hats for the Blandford team.  In the winter, when there is not as much to keep two full time farm staff busy, I am primarily working as an outdoor educator:  teaching programs such as “Anishinabek Lifeways,” “Wildlife with a Backbone,” and “Winter Explorers.” I am also privileged to be collaborating with other Blandford staff to pilot a school garden outreach program (called Growing Gardens), and create a new educational program based on the farm to reach upper elementary students.

As an aside, part of Blandford’s history is collaboration with a group called Mixed Greens.  Mixed Greens was all about helping schools plan and maintain educational gardens, exposing students to many different kinds of vegetables and promoting healthy eating.  Mixed Greens and BNC ended up merging together, but sadly, the program could not be sustained in the long term.  The program I am working on with other BNC staff feels like it’s coming full circle to the intention behind Mixed Greens curriculum: making gardening and garden spaces more accessible to local schools.  

I am hoping my role as educator, farmer (and occasionally graphic designer) will act as a bridge between the educational component of Blandford and the Blandford Farm.  I believe that both aspects of the nature center have a lot to offer each other.

With moving into the new nature center building very recently, the acquisition of the highlands golf course, and all the internal planning of how we can expand our offerings to the community, it is certainly an exciting time to be on board!  I feel honored to work at a place that values my perspective and contributions, and I’m excited to see where the next few years take us!  I’ll try and hold on to that perspective come August, when it’s 90 degrees and I’ve been in the field for hours.  I know there will be highs and lows to come, but for the present, I am feeling good. (Cue Nina Simone.)

Related: Blandford Nature Center’s Environmental Consulting blog

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The Future Looks So Bright

During the month of January I get to spend most of the month planning for the future. There are a lot of meetings talking about long term plans for the farm. We discuss how to incorporate more education on the farm, what programming we can offer, what events we can host, and what new buildings we want to think about. All of these things are great and fun and keep me motivated to keep growing. But, what I really enjoy every January is paging through the seed catalogs and putting together my seed order and crop plan.

The crop planning does take a long time. It takes me a solid two weeks of staring at my
excel spreadsheet and the seed catalogs to get everything ready. Meetings and other distractions always come up so it usually takes the month of January to get through everything. Now that it is done, I have all my seeds ordered, and I have a detailed schedule of when and what to plant in the field and greenhouse. I also put together the schedule for everything we grow for plant sales in May and June. This image I included is part of the greenhouse planting schedule. I list out what week we need to plant each variety. I also include how many seeds we need to plant, in what container, how it will be transplanted in capturethe field, and when I hope it will mature. I’ll print out all these schedules and each week we’ll be able to see what we need to do rather than trying to figure it out later. The more I can get done this time of year the better.

During the whole process of ordering seeds and planning for this upcoming season, I always get excited about all the new thing we’ll be trying at the farm. For example, I am going to try some new strategies for using ground cover for weed prevention that will hopefully save us time. We are also investing in a new seeder for seeding carrots, spinach, cilantro, and beets. It will better space the seeds so we won’t over or under seed those crops. It always feels like there will be so many new and great things we are going to implement that the season will be the best ever. Mostly, things do get better each year, but it doesn’t take long into the season before I start thinking how the next year will be better.

Maybe the best part of this time of year is getting the seed packages in the mail. This 20170130_154129-1picture shows seeds from two orders I’ve gotten.
Every box I get can hold hundreds and hundreds of dollars worth of seeds and so much potential. All the food we’ll be growing comes in just a few small boxes. It is crazy how small the boxes are for how many pounds of food we’ll grow. It always makes me excited to get started growing.  From this post, we have less than two week from when we’ll start our first seeds. It isn’t coming soon enough.

 

Introducing…

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Hello, there! My name is Liz Visser.

You may or may not remember me from an earlier blog post (Liz’s Farm Memories…So Far) that I wrote as a seasonal Blandford Farm Assistant.  I am elated to have been hired on as a full time, bona fide Blandford staff member, with an official title of “Farm Associate and Educator.” I’ll be given more responsibility, as well as working with the outdoor education folks through the slower winter months. What this means for you is that if you have questions regarding your CSA share, are interested in a farm event, or have any other queries that you’ll be emailing the Blandford Farm about, I’ll be the person on the other end.

*You can reach me at liz@blandfordnaturecenter.org.

This past season, I didn’t make much of an effort to be around for CSA pickups because (quite frankly) I was usually exhausted and just wanted to go home and take a shower.  But this year, I hope to be more present, and to get to know CSA members a little better.

Because many CSA members (and other supporters of the farm) may not have gotten a chance to get to know me, I wanted to give a bit of context for myself since I will be working at the farm in a more permanent (yay!) fashion.

After my senior year of college, I realized that sustainable agriculture (and all its nuances) was something I was passionate about and wanted to pursue.  I also realized that I didn’t have any practical experience with agriculture.  So I decided to WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on  Organic Farms) in order to learn more.  It is a program that connects people who want to learn about farming with farms that are interested in training/hosting a farm loving stranger.  I WWOOFed in CA, MS, and ME.

I have worked many seasonal jobs both on farms and at outdoor education centers in MI, OH, and WI.

I have traveled all over the US, but was always drawn back to Michigan. Fortunately, Blandford Nature Center is in Michigan, and allows me to combine all of my seasonal, educational, and traveling experiences into one meaningful job.  The main thing that got old about seasonal work was packing up and leaving every 6 months or so. I am very much looking forward to putting down roots (pun intended) at Blandford.

 

I welcome the craziness that is to come.

The best part of the season

This is truly my favorite time of the CSA season. It’s not because we only have a few weeks left or that things are starting to slow down a little. It is because I love the produce we get to harvest, I love the cooler weather, I love making warm food with the produce available this time of year, and I love planning for the winter months.

The produce this time of year is great. We get to harvest the leeks, brussels spround, winter squash, potatoes, celeriac, and all the root vegetables. I don’t know why I like harvesting them more than other crops. Maybe because I’ve been waiting so long to harvest them or maybe because I love to eat them all, either way I love it.

The best part of the produce though is all the great food to make with it. It is finally getting cooler so things like soup and using the oven seem appealing again. I love making soups. Squash soup, roasted carrot soup, vegetable soup, cauliflower soup, or my favorite potato leek soup. My wife usually gets tired of eating all the soup long before I do, but I could eat it all winter if I could. However, I could see how there are only so many times you could eat potato leek soup in one week.

It is also great to be cold again. It feels great to come in early on a harvest day bundled up with several layers with a coat and rain pants then by noon it has warmed up enough to get down to a t-shirt and pants. When I worked at Trillium and we had a crew of 10 or so the pile of clothes that would accumulate in the harvest vehicle would be enough to start a thrift shop (most items of clothing were not worth much more than thrift shop quality anyway). I will say that sometimes it does get a little too cold, but I would take it over the heat. Generally you can prepare with the proper gear for the cold, but you cannot do anything about humidity and 90 degrees.

I also enjoy going through all the storage crops we’ve brought in and rationing them out for the end of the season and into the winter. I will set aside everything we need for the end of the summer CSA then the winter CSA then what is left gets to go to the market. So with our onions and garlic, I knew that I wanted everyone to get a certain amount for the summer and winter CSAs and now what we have left we can bring to market until they run out. Unfortunately, the onions didn’t do quite as good and we are almost out of red onions already, but we do have some nice garlic to last for a while. I think I like this process because it is fun to see just how good these crops did and to be able to store them for when I need them.

I hope that you enjoy this time of the year as much as I do. Fall is a pretty season and if you don’t work with vegetables every day I’m sure there are a lot of other reasons to enjoy the season.

Thinking about 2017

It is 2017 budget planning time for the farm and Blandford. This means I get to think about what we want to do next year in terms of projects on the farm and how we want to grow. It is always a little tricky making the numbers work. Most of our expenses go toward paying for labor then we have all the costs needed to make the farm work like potting soil, seeds, repairs, and everything else, however, there is sometimes money we can put toward new capital investments. I don’t always get all that I request in my budget, but I do enjoy dreaming about some cool things for the farm.

As I mentioned, labor is the most expensive part of the farm budget. It is generally around 75% of our expenses, which means every time we want to be able to add people to the farm we need to be able to generate a lot of extra income for the farm. We are also trying to get over the hurdle of being able to have another farm person be around all year. This would help me with admin and communication that often get pushed aside when farming happens. We also have discussed doing more ed programs on the farm, which could be stimulated by having a year round farm staff. So we’ve had a few ideas, but getting over the hurdle of affording that person is a challenge.

One thing that is in my dream list in the budget is more winter growing capacity. So putting up for high tunnels to grow crops year round. We’d be able to expand our winter CSA and go to the market longer. This would help generate more revenue for additional people and help us increase our presence at the farmer’s market.

I’ve also been looking into upgrading and expanding our wash station. It can be a little cramped and we often end up having a big mud pit when we are washing our produce. I am hoping to expand our cement pad, put up some more permanent roofing, and organize it to be a little more efficient.

Building a portable chicken coop is another item I’ve wanted for a while. It would be great to let chickens run through the pasture or the crop field. This way they can eat bugs and weeds. They would also fertilize the ground right where we need it rather than hauling their manure there from their coop. I also am hoping to get some more fencing and try to run the goats in the crop field as well. This does make me a little nervous with the risk of them getting out and eating vegetable, but they didn’t ever get out of their fencing this past year.

Other projects are more functional like redoing the loft in the CSA barn. While we are working on that I’ve wanted to make that space more focused on being a CSA produce pick up area rather than a storage area for all our farm needs.

As you can see we have lots of ideas. I didn’t even go into other ideas like more fruit plants like raspberries or a bigger playscape and children’s garden. We most likely won’t be able to afford or tackle all these projects, but prioritizing is what we do on the farm all the time. Everyday I have to prioritize what needs to be done with our time and resources. Plus if we cannot get it done, then there is always next year.