(CSA Newsletter: Week 4)
Meet this week’s vegetables:
Last week, we took a break from harvesting to attend two annual events and talk, talk, talk about farming.
First, we went to Breitenbush Hot Springs, where we spent two nights and two days gabbing with other organic vegetable growers about everything we learned (or didn’t learn) in our last growing seasons. We picked up a few good new ideas this year, ranging from small details (a new and unexpected practical purpose for the ‘crowd counter’ clickers you see at big events — pin them to work clothes and use them to count bunches while harvesting in the field!) to the big picture (how to best retain CSA members year-after-year).
Since we were at a beautiful hot springs resort, we also simply enjoyed the relaxing nature of the place. For the first time, there was no snow at all at Breitenbush, and we were able to walk more freely through the beautiful woods. We also soaked in the tubs and enjoyed delicious organic food. We hadn’t been away from the farm since last year’s event, so simply being away for two nights was a treat (and we resolved to get away again before next February, because we really do need occasional holidays in order to keep perspective and stay sane!).
After we returned home refreshed and enthused, we spent two days focusing on farm work. Casey and Jeff weeded; we sowed more seeds into flats (eggplant! peppers!); and started preparing our new field hoophouse for planting later this spring.
Then on Saturday, we were off again — this time to the annual Small Farms Direct Marketing conference at OSU in Corvallis. This is one of our favorite farming conferences, because it is well organized, farmer focused and affordable. A record number of people attended this year: over 600!!! The space was packed, and the energy was invigorating.
David Mas Masamoto, author of Epitaph for a Peach and other books, was the keynote speaker. I (Katie) had the honor of sitting on a panel with Masamoto later in the day exploring the idea of “Farmers as writers.” The other panelists were my friends Zoë Bradbury and Josh Volk, who are also farmers who write and regularly publish articles and essays. We had a rousing conversation about why we write, how we write (how we make the time!), how writing affects our farming life, and more. This was a fun conversation for me, since my background is equally in writing and farming.
I personally didn’t have the opportunity to attend any other workshops this time around, because of course we now travel with Rusty in tow. He and I hung out in the hallway much of the day, nursing, sleeping, and chatting with the many friends we knew at the conference (it was like a ‘who’s who’ of local agriculture — it seemed that everyone was there!). Even though I didn’t attend many formal sessions, I definitely enjoyed these informal sessions with friends: we discussed everything from food safety to family dynamics on the farm.
As if all that weren’t enough, that evening we enjoyed a meal with other young farmer friends in Corvallis that evening. We spent the night eating delicious food (nettle pesto pasta, hardy winter greens salad) and sharing funny stories about our many experiences farming.
Through all these events, we were continually grateful for the thriving farmer community in Oregon. It is amazing how generous people are with their knowledge. Even though many of us farmers sell in the same markets, we are all willing to share our experiences freely. I think that the friendliness between competing businesses is completely unparalleled in other trades. We have learned so much from other farmers — more than we could ever learn from books or classes.
We have one more farmer event this upcoming Sunday — a meeting of the Portland Area CSA Coalition — and after that, we’re done with the intense talkity-talk-talk for this winter. Just in time too, because the weather is looking a lot like spring. We’re preparing to begin ground prep soon, followed by the first plantings of the year. After a winter of rest and hibernation, we’re ready to stop talking and start really farming again! Our heads are full of great ideas and knowledge that we’re ready to implement this season.
But while we prepare to plant our early spring crops, we’re still relishing the flavors of winter. If you haven’t before, be sure to try our ‘Cabbage & Egg Noodle’ recipe. Enjoy this week’s vegetables!
Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla