Farms & Gardens

Farm to Fork, a CSA Series: Taking the Easy Way Out...Broccoli, Cheese and Quick Pickles

This is part 3 of a summer long series about our CSA boxes and what we do with them. Recipes for Broccoli Cheese Soup and Instructions for Quick Pickles follow.

Suddenly I hated broccoli.  


I used to boast that I’ve liked every vegetable I have ever tasted. But when I kept pulling bunches of broccoli from the depths of my CSA box, I found myself filled with dread.  


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Farm to Fork, a CSA Series: On Turnip Greens And Mandu

This is part 2 of a summer long series about our CSA boxes and what we do with them. Recipes for Mandu (Korean egg rolls), Simple Turnip Greens and Marinated Cucumbers are below.


We are a month deep into our first CSA box adventure. While June’s first box contained mostly salad greens and green onions, the following boxes grow larger by the week and deliver an ever-diversifying selection of vegetables. Many of the vegetables are new to us. For two, fleeting weeks, garlic scapes graced our boxes. I added them to everything, from bulgogi marinade to salads to cream cheese wontons.  


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Farm to Fork, a CSA Series: Fattoush Salad Recipe

This is the first part in a bi-monthly series featuring the CSA vegetables we receive on a weekly basis.


It is sort of like getting a care package from your best friend...who happens to be a farmer. In February, my fiancée and I signed-up with Bluebird Gardens of Fergus Falls, MN to receive weekly half-bushel share boxes. We paid just $395 for the whole season!


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Six Acres of Asparagus

If you are like me, you get excited during those warming days when displays of fresh asparagus start appearing in your local markets, and if you happen to stumble upon J & S Produce you might just think you’ve found a little piece of vegetable heaven. J & S Produce is a little farm fifteen minutes west of Spooner, WI, on highway 70, where farmer Joe Strenke has six beautiful acres of organic asparagus. I stopped there a week ago with my mom on the way up to our cabin near Hayward, WI and between the two of us we bought nine pounds of asparagus at $3.00 a pound. While Joe washed and bundled up our asparagus, which he had picked that very morning, I chatted with him a bit and took a look around. 


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Can too many farmers markets be a bad thing?

Linden Hills Farmers Market

Sometimes things take you by surprise. When I found out that indeed, a farmers market was coming to my neighborhood, mere steps from my house, I was excited. However, the response to the Linden Hills Farmers Market was anything but unanimous. Call it naivite or what have you, but I could not believe how many folks were arguing about how this market would take from that market, blowing the "it isn't fair" horn, or living in some unrealized or unknown fear. So, I want to simply ask the question, "Can too many farmers markets be a bad thing?"


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Straw Bale Gardening, Part 2: The Plot Thickens

Starting a new project begins with great, lofty imaginings…in this case, the vision is of a perfect garden. Then the unanticipated variables creep in. The straw bale garden has triggered a few surprises, some serendipitous, some not. As a follow up to Part 1 of this series, I’ll share in this report on this planting, watering and watching a straw bale garden grow.


The bale set-up was actually a thrill. Maybe it’s an unfulfilled interest in engineering, but I really enjoyed the challenge of locating and grouping the bales in full sun, amongst a system of north-south lines between posts that I drove into the ground myself with a post pounder. I enjoyed stringing an espalier wire system (trellis) between the posts, as I imagined great climbing cucumbers, beans and tomatoes. 

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Spring, Sheep, and Responsible Husbandry

Spring is a time of never ending chores, but also a season of re-awakening as daylight hours lengthen and temperatures climb. The darkness of winter is washed away in the spring rains and as new life emerges, so does the fresh hope of the season. Hope, faith, and trust in the earth are what encourage farmers to continue a risky business in which a bout of inclement weather can bust a season and wash profits down the drain.

Farming is also an incredibly sensory experience. The rich aroma of soil ready to be planted, the sun kissed, fertile earth opening to accept seed, the cool breezes carrying calls of returning flocks of birds, all of these beckon in spring. I am enveloped by “the peace of wild things” and “for a time, I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.” (Wendell Berry) 


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A Return to the Fields: Immigrant and Refugee Farmers Find Refuge at Big River Farms

Big River Farms Farmer in Training

 My most recent local food discovery commences at the Wilder Forest located in the Marine on St. Croix. From within the forest, one will find a quaint non-profit organization known as the Minnesota Food Association (MFA).

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Straw Bale Gardening: The Promise of a New Spring

Every spring I imagine my ideal garden: weed free, self-tilling, self-watering, disease-resistant, a garden safe from hungry, pesky bugs and critters. Every spring for the past seven years I set out to my little strip of trucked-in topsoil behind the garage of our Lanesboro farm house, determined to coax the ideal garden out of the ground this time, at last! And every midsummer about the time a good dry spell sets in, I am humbled by the many troubles that have cropped up in my perfect little garden. The weeds have somehow managed to out-strip everything – many as tall as I am (granted, I’m short). Still, it’s sobering to realize how entirely I’ve lost my focus on weeding and watering, how compacted the soil has become, how cabbage moths and tomato blight have taken a harsh toll. 


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Adventures in Sugaring: Making your own Maple Syrup

After a long winter, it was finally time to make maple syrup—otherwise known as "sugaring". So on a strangely warm Thursday, my friend and I jumped into our car and drove north and then east to my family's cabin near Hayward, Wisconsin. This year did not look too promising with the weather being so balmy and not getting below freezing at night, even in northern Wisconsin...but hey, you never know.


A few minutes drive from our cabin is the Sugarbush, 60 acres of beautiful, thickly wooded land where we tap 35 maple trees. It is a small, family operation but has definitely come a long way through the years. It hasn't necessarily grown but over time, it has become more functional, with the exception of the old logging road that goes onto our land. It is too over-grown to really be considered a road so we park and walk the half mile to where we tap the trees. 


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