Saturday, April 22, 2017

Words to Live By

I admit to being a bit of an introvert.  Ok, I am very much an introvert.  Someone sent me a series of sayings that many introverts could relate to and I found one in particular that stood out with me:
"When you are an introvert and try to say anything in a group of extroverts - 'Please be quiet, I'm really very interesting.'"

I find that one a bit humorous and a bit sad at the same time.  But, another thing that rang true was a recurring theme that many persons who exhibit introversion tendencies will contemplate things that were said far longer than many who are extroverted in nature.  Maybe it is a function of the nature of many introverts to say less and listen more, all I know is that I have a number of things running through my head that have become 'words to live by.'

A "Happy Little Tree"
I know I am not the only person who still thinks fondly of Bob Ross and his Joy of Painting episodes that appeared (and still appear) frequently on Iowa Public Television.

Bob would talk about 'happy little trees,' 'happy little clouds' and he would encourage people to be creative ('this is your world').  The most important part for me was the tone of these shows.  I always started to relax, no matter what was going on, as soon as Mr. Ross loaded up his brush and started painting.  I am not sure I ever fully realized how much the serenity this man exhibited in his shows affected me until recently.  A pretty nasty cold/flu bug was making it impossible for me to sleep, so I flipped through some of our limited TV channels and found Joy of Painting on IPTV.  I fell asleep for the first time in a couple of days almost as soon as the words 'happy little tree' left his lips.
Our new-ish horse chestnut in the front yard appears to be happy
Why did I finally fall asleep?  It isn't that I think his painting is boring.  In fact, I usually can't help but be riveted by the process.  But, I needed some serenity.  Some sense that things could and would be ok.  And, how can you be without hope when the trees are happy?

You Meant Well
Sometimes a little backstory is necessary - so I will give a bit of one here.  I was very frightened of talking in front of people (introvert - remember?) and was absolutely appalled by the choice I would have to make for 9th grade... Speech or Debate.  There was no getting around it, you had to take one or the other.  So, I opted for Debate.  Why?  Because I knew it wasn't very popular and there would be fewer people in the class.  Then, a strange thing happened.  I showed an aptitude for public speaking - and took Debate all four years of high school.... as an elective!

For three of those years, Mr. Kruse was our debate coach and one of his pet sayings was "you meant well."  Initially, I don't think those of us in his class fully understood all of the nuances this phrase could hold and I suspect most of us thought he used the phrase to console us when things didn't go as planned.  But, as we gained some experience, we started to understand that the context of the conversation and the situation had as much or more to do with the meaning of "you meant well."
Helicopter spraying a field a half mile west of our farm - I'm sure they meant well.
Of course, Mr. Kruse was not the sort of teacher who would spell everything out in the simplest terms.  He took joy in challenging us to consider meaning and variations in meaning.  "You meant well" could imply that you did your best with the resources you had and there wasn't much more that could have been done in your situation.  It could also imply that someone else did not "mean well" by exclusion from the comment.  And, of course, it could imply that you were operating on false assumptions and the harm that had occurred as a result wasn't what you were working towards.

In the end, the biggest lesson I took from Mr. Kruse and this saying was that good intentions do NOT always carry the day.  You may have "meant well," but your failure to do your work properly or your unwillingness to think through your actions and consider the fallout can result in a bad situation regardless of the results you envisioned.   

Do or Die!
That's a "do or die" weeding job if I ever saw one!
I learned a year ago that Coach Rowry had passed away and it reminded me of the single year he served as baseball coach on the JV Newton High School baseball team.  Playing on that particular team with that particular person as coach was one of my more positive experiences in baseball.  I may not have appreciated all of the 'pole to pole' running he made us do at the time, but I always appreciated his fair and balanced approach to handling the diverse personalities and talents on the team.

Baseball practice often consisted of 'situational drills' where the players trained to respond to given scenarios.  One of Coach Rowry's favorite was the "Do or Die!" drill, which was focused primarily on the outfielders (yes, I was one of them).  With the bases loaded and less than 2 out, the outfielders were trained to charge a ground ball that gets through the infield as hard as they could.  They must pick up the ball cleanly and get the ball to home plate as quickly and accurately as possible.

If you could get there quickly, pick it up, throw it accurately (and low enough so it could be 'cut off'), you were able to "Do" and if you didn't... well... you get the point.  I guess I was particularly good at this drill since he would say "watch Faux do or die!" during practice and then make me do three in a row.

But, the moment I remember most is when the scenario actually occurred in a game.  I charged the ball, picked it up and...
Threw a strike to the catcher standing on home plate.  We very nearly caught the guy coming home from third.  Coach Rowry jumped out of the dugout and yelled "THAT's the way to DO or DIE!!!"

While I don't walk around telling myself or others to "do or die" this memory reminds me that preparation to succeed is part of success itself.  And, I learned from Coach Rowry that sometimes success isn't flashy like a home run, a diving catch or a pitcher striking out the side.  Success is doing the right things in the right way and doing it even when the situation is difficult and maybe even in situations where it didn't seem to make a difference at the time.

I Like You Just the Way You Are
This last one may also ring true with a number of people who read this blog.  Are you feeling a little beat-up?  Maybe a little depressed by things that are going on?  Maybe you feel like you've messed up or you aren't what you're supposed to be?

Listen to Mr. Rogers for a second or two:

A simple show teaching important concepts - among them is self-acceptance and acceptance of others.  I watched this video and instantly felt better about myself and the world I live in.  And, I was reminded that if a person I've never met and only seen on Iowa Public Television (or Youtube) can make me feel this way by saying "I like you just the way you are," just imagine how much power this statement might have if you tell someone you know the very same thing.

A picture of two Dr's in one GFF field - cool!
And, I like them both - just the way they are.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Busy Week

How do you know you've had a busy week?  Well, if you finally write the blog for it a week or so later, you can guess you've had a busy week.  And, perhaps, you are still busy?  That means it must be April on the farm!

The first order of business is to wish the Inspector a happy birthday.  And, since he is a cat and he can't stop me from doing it, I'm going to show off a baby picture from last year.  Inspector's brother, Sparrow, was injured while he was a kitten and was later adopted by a family who could care for him.  Inspector, on the other hand, has taken Cubbie's spot as the 'friendliest feline on the farm' - that's FFF at GFF to you and me.

Inspector and Sparrow
"The ladies," on the other hand, are enjoying Spring very much right now.  As a result, we have lots and LOTS of eggs.  If you want them, we have them.  And every once in a while...
...we get a pterodactyl egg
Getting back on topic - April is the time of year where things can change on the farm very rapidly.  At the beginning of April, we only had the laying hens.  Now, we have a batch of hen chicks (arrived Apr 5) and a batch of broiler chicks (arrived Apr 13).  There are chicks here and chicks there.  As long as there aren't chicks EVERYWHERE we should be fine.  If they are everywhere, we should probably make sure the doors are closed and latched next time.

Chicks get extra shelter and heat until they grow in some feathers.
The arrival of chicks means we have to consider what we have for food on the farm.  We were running low, so we took a trip with the trusty feed bin to Earl Canfield by Dunkerton.  The grains and soybeans in the feed mix come from Earl's farm, so we are happy to give this a trial run. 

I suppose a trip to get feed doesn't seem like that big of a deal, but it's not like we can drive super fast with that thing behind the truck.  And, the first major feed purchase of the year is a sort of signpost for the season.  By the time we get to August it will all be just part of the blur.

We had a service trip group from Wartburg College come out to the farm on Saturday (the 8th) and lend a hand with some projects that would have been mighty tedious if it were just Rob and Tammy.  There were eleven people in attendance and they came with positive attitudes and a willingness to do what was needed.  They helped clean up several fields by rolling up drip tape, pulling down fencing used for pole beans last year, yanking old corn stalks and visiting baby chicks.  Ok, I think that last item was just because it sounded like fun to most of them.
If any of the participants in this group read this blog post, let the others know that we have already done additional work to prepare the fields you worked in.  As a result, we are on target to get potatoes, peas and carrots in on schedule - and maybe a bit ahead of schedule?  Wow.  Thanks for the help.

We also had another group come out to the farm for a tour and a little bit of farm work so they could get out of the classroom.  Dr. McCullough's group were pleasant to be around and we managed to get some good things done - some of which was actually out of the cool wind that was blowing that day.

Mixed into the week was a trip to Webster City for the IOA board meeting, a GFF CSA meeting with the Bandsaw Man (Jeff Sage) and lots of seedling tray dancing (as we move trays from one step of development to the next).

On top of that, farm unpacking has been going on in earnest.

What is 'farm unpacking?'  I'm glad you asked!  Every Winter we go through the process of putting things away after their last use for that year's growing season.  We try to get as much of our tools and supplies under cover as we are able to with the knowledge that some things are going to be placed in a back corner and be hard to access until we unpack.  March and April see us removing things from our buildings so that we can begin to use them all.  Sure, it might be nice to have a nice big building that wouldn't necessitate some the 'packing' we have to do now.  But, the reality is that we have to work within the constraints of our current building configurations.  Hence, we unpack every Spring.

And, whether we are ready or not - Spring is here.

Friday, April 7, 2017

GFF April Newsletter

Ok, so our prior April newsletter was a little bit um...  Well look, it was April Fools, we HAD to do something.  Didn't we?  Maybe I should seriously start that Kickstopper campaign.  I am getting the feeling there might be some real money to be had there.

April Calendar of Events
  • April 5: Hen Chicks arrive at the farm
  • April 6: Wartburg ID Class at GFF
  • April 6: Cedar Falls Egg Delivery 
  • April 8: Wartburg Service Trip at GFF
  • April 11: Waverly Egg Delivery
  • April 13: Broiler Chicks (Flock 1) Arrive
  • April 22: Health Fair at the W (Wartburg College)
  • April 27: Anticipated Delivery 1 Cedar Falls 
Babies at the Genuine Faux Farm
It has begun.

Wednesday saw the arrival of 85 hen chicks at the farm.  These little ladies will form the backbone of our flock for the next two years, joining last year's new additions after they've grown up a bit.  Typically, we do not integrate the flock until October, when we feel the new hens are big enough to hold their own with the older birds.  We picked up Americauna (blue/green eggs), Barred Rock (brown egg), California White (white egg) and Isa Brown (brown eggs) this time around.  

Best Laid Plans
It has begun.

Hey, I started the last feature with that same statement.  What could I possibly getting at here?

Every season, things happen - and they happen in ways we didn't plan for them to go.  Some who have worked with us in the past are very aware of how many adjustments we end up making on the farm every day of the growing season.  Case in point, those cute little baby birds arrived on Wednesday, but we had anticipated a Thursday arrival.  What's the issue?  Well, when baby birds arrive, you have to deal with baby birds - period.  Never mind what you had planned for Wednesday, Thursday is upon you - even if it is really Wednesday.

Maybe that was the jolt we needed to remind us to be prepared to have our plans changed. 

CSA Signup 2017

It has begun - and it continues.  We are in the midst of our 2017 CSA sign up.  We have several CSA options this year.  There are STILL plenty of spots open!  If you need convincing - please consider the value you get with our programs.

Contact us if you have interest and we'll get you started.

Plant Starting 2017
It has begun.

The seedling tray dance is beginning to take on some steam.  The tomato seedlings are beginning to look a bit like tomatoes - they certainly have added the fragrance that tomato plants have!  The pepper plants are showing signs of wanting to grow up some day and we've got onions popping up in the trays everywhere.  And, the next HUGE seeding session is coming up in the next few days.

For those who are interested in plants - things will be different this year.  For details, please view this prior blog post.

Volunteer Groups and Tours at GFF
It has begun.

It is Spring, which means groups from schools are beginning to show interest in coming out to the farm and seeing what we do here.  We are very happy to host this sort of event and have often had these groups lend a hand with a task for two.  It's all part of trying to be a positive part of the community and fulfilling our desire to make a connection between people and the systems that grow the food they eat.

There are some issues with this, of course.  First, it is April.  There isn't a whole lot to see in the fields at this time.  Second, it is April.  It can be a bit chilly and windy out here!  But, for the most part, people seem to enjoy their time out here.

Song of the Month
A song titled Spring.  In April.  By our favorite band.  Life is good.

Recipe of the Month
kale quiche

 kale, spinach or collard greens
spices of your choice
 pastry shell
 shredded cheese
1 cup sour cream
3 eggs
Chop kale or other greens and saute with onion and spices. into pastry shell layer shredded cheese, then vegetable matter. whip sour cream with eggs and pour over vegetables. Bake at 350 f 'til set.

Field Report
We are very much looking forward to a big planting push in the high tunnel buildings right now.  The time is right.  The early spinach planting FINALLY set it's first true leaves and the komatsuna and tatsoi are beginning to look like real plants.  The start was extremely slow with the high percentage of cloud cover for the past six weeks.  If there's no sun, they won't grow.  We have a batch of nice kale seedlings we need to spread out as well.  Instead of starting these plants in trays, we decided to try direct seeding in the high tunnel.  The idea is that we would dig up seedlings and spread them out to proper distances once they got big enough.  It looks like they are very nearly ready.

The rhubarb is coming up and looking very strong.  We managed to get the last of our plants moved to their permanent location (most were moved last Fall) and we are hopeful this will work out well for us.  One of our three asparagus plantings have been cleaned up in anticipation of harvest starting late April.   The other two are on the docket if weather allows.

We have our seed taters and we plan to put them in at the end of the month.  Late April and early May is also when we typically seed out field carrots, peas and beets.  Onions will go in the ground as soon as the field conditions allow AND the onions are big enough to put in.  Now that they are up, it shouldn't take too long.

Picture of the Month
Sometimes, the chicken decides it wants to lay an egg NOT built for an egg carton.

Farm News Shorts
  • We are trying a new feed supplier for our hens.  Earl Canfield of Canfield Farms in the Dunkerton area uses his own field crops to create various field mixes.  He is closer to us than our other options and we like the model he and his family use for their farm.
  • It's amazing how much happens in one week.  We usually tell people things start to really get rolling in April.  The truest test we know for this is when Tammy and I look at each other and say, "that was only yesterday."  It's a testament to the number of things going on that time seems to both stretch AND compress all at the same time. 
Time to Have Pun
Rob is considering whether or not he should continue to shower on a regular basis.  We figure the combination of his penchant for wordplay added to an increased likelihood of body odor would make him a....

Ya, ya.  I had to stretch a bit for it.  Maybe I'll go take a shower now.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Better Late than Never

We made a goal to come up with a decent blog post on the first of each month as a sort of news letter to all who have interest.  So, here is the installment for the first of this month! 

Pre-Wilting Technique for Greens
Your farmers spend some time reading up on the newest techniques for production and harvest during the cold months of the year.  One of the hot topics recently has been finding the best ways to deal with post-harvest handling of greens.  Our farm has used hydro-cooling since 2007 in an effort to make it possible for lettuce and other similar veggies to last longer in your refrigerator and we feel we've been very successful with this process.

Note the successful wilting in the row to the right.
Apparently, one of the newer techniques is to stop watering the target plants long enough for the leaves to wilt.  Once wilt is achieved, they are re-hydrated with a heavy irrigation pass prior to harvest. 
The logic here is that those leaves that return to their prior picture of health were the ones most likely to last longer after cutting.  In short, this removes any of the weaker leaves from harvest, resulting in the customer getting the best quality leaves from the plant.

This process may be akin to the recent trends towards removing irrigation from tomato plants for a period of time prior to harvest to encourage more sugar set in the fruit. However, the articles we have read thus far do not discuss the taste quality of the produce in question.

Given the picture above, we can manage the wilting part.  We're not sure if we've got the timing down for the rest.

Music to Tame the Wild... um... Vegetation
The Genuine Faux Farm is in the process of finalizing the trials (and maybe some of the tribulations) that will be held during this year's growing season.  Among those trials will be an experiment testing the best ways to expose vegetable plants to music.
Portable music machines work well to target specific crops

Our experience has shown that plants in fields where music has been playing for the farmers over longer periods of time seem to have higher yields than those that are exposed to less music.  We will admit that we have done no controlled experiments up to this point nor have we collected anything more than anecdotal evidence.  But, we are curious souls and are certainly up to the challenge of designing research to test the hypothesis.

The difficulty with the experiment will be placing ear muffs over the control plants so we can determine what difference, if any, exposure to music might have.  While we are not entirely sure what to expect for results from our studies, we do know for certain that Pachelbel's Canon in D will NOT be on the playlist.  After all, there are TWO CELLISTS who own and operate this farm and the reactions THEY might exhibit to repeated exposure to that piece may result in no yields whatsoever from the farm.

The Sandman Speaks Out Against Wild Weather Swings
 Recent weather events have been enough to get the Genuine Faux Farm Spokescat, the Sandman, to issue the following statement: "I am not in favor of climate change.  I, the Sandman, have spoken."
The Sandman surveys his domain.
While the Sandman refused to comment further, it was clear to us what prompted him to come to this conclusion.  We refer you to events in November where there were wild swings in weather conditions, with lows in the upper 20's and highs in upper 140's.   The high for the following day was only 43, but the prediction for warmer temperatures the next day had everyone, including the Sandman, just a bit nervous.
No, really, look at the bottom left for "yesterday's high and low" (click on the image for a bigger picture)
Cucumber Frog Re-applies for Clemency
The Genuine Faux Farm Cucumber Frog applied for and apparently received approval from someone other than Farmer Rob to move indoors during the cold Winter months.  This latest comes on the heels of Mr. Frog's prior application for clemency with regard to prior 'wrongdoing' on his part.

Mr. Frog is known for his tendency to find ways to startle Farmer Rob during cucumber harvest times.  The timing of his 'surprise appearances' can be good enough to cause the farmer to drop freshly picked produce and/or jump backwards quickly while saying something that sounds like "Gaaaah!"  The farmer is quoted as saying "that frog is a menace and hazard in the field. I am just glad I don't have to deal with him at other times of the year." 

Apparently, the Cucumber Frog has been given access to warmer places on the farm this Winter.  And, what could be warmer than the farmhouse itself? Now, with Mr. Frog enjoying these warmer environs during some of those "other times of the year," the farmer has dropped the laundry basket, a pile of books, a stitch and a line or two.   

"Look," said the farmer, "I appreciate all Mr. Frog does to keep down some of the pests in our cucumber field and I don't want him to leave the farm.  I can tolerate his shenanigans during cucumber harvest.  But, I just don't feel I should have to worry about him jumping out from behind the shower curtain when I'm trying to use the loo."

In later news: Yes, the Farmer Did Say "Use the Loo."

Egg Filming In Progress
Iowa Public Television was once again at the Genuine Faux Farm to record supplemental footage for an upcoming Iowa Ingredient show.  GFF will already appear on a show that features the use of duck for this season and next season they will use footage for a show focusing on the use of eggs.
Awaiting the hatch with baited breath
IPTV staff contacted us in hopes that we might have some fertilized eggs that could eventually hatch.  Of course, we do have roosters in our flock, so we responded in the positive.  After all, the operative word in their request was "could."  Or, maybe they could have if they hadn't already been put in the refrigerator - but they don't need to know that - so don't tell them.

The filming crew has been at the farm for the past four weeks, taking turns keeping the camera running just in case the eggs should begin to show signs of hatching.  We suppose we should tell them at some point that these eggs needed to be in a warm environment for them to hatch, but when they aren't filming they've been pretty useful around the farm and we hate to lose the extra help.

Special Organization Technique (Don't try this at home)
Past meets the present
Many of you may remember that Farmer Rob was a Computer Scientist in a former life.  Yes, he did things like work on algorithms to solve things like the "Bin Packing" problem.  Just type "bin packing problem" into Google or your favorite search engine and you'll find out what it is.

What?  You didn't go look it up?  Trying to avoid learning are you?   Well, you can't get off that easy, I'll just tell you about it myself.

The basic idea is to find a way to put a batch of objects of varying sizes into the absolute fewest possible number of bins.  What better place to attempt to find a practical application than a farm that has a finite number of bins and lots of different sized objects to put in them?

So, what's the problem with that you ask?  Well, the bin packing problem is one that is an NP-Hard problem.  In other words, you cannot hope to find an optimal solution in a reasonable amount of time.  And by reasonable, I mean in my lifetime...

We may want to pack it up so it's "good enough" and not worry about the "optimal" solution, what do you think?

One Phobia Beats Another
The Bandsaw Man is not too fond of heights.  But...

All I said was, "Look! A snake!"
New Pepper Variety
Our farm has continued to work on breeding some of its own vegetable varieties.  Some breeders work to improve taste, others work on storage qualities or uniformity in size and shape.  Us?  Well, we like vegetables that have faces.

We were able to develop this variety by pollinating a pepper plant that had been listening to music by Kiss and watching video of Michael Jordan's best dunks with another variety that we had tried the "Pre-wilting technique" during the week prior.  I'm pretty sure that peppers with varying shapes such as this will only make bin packing on the farm harder and they may introduce the Bandsaw Man to a new phobia.

Fear of peppers with faces - what would that be?  We know that the fear of vegetables is lachanophobia.  Maybe lachcapsicumophobia or something like that?

Prior successes would be Carrotman, Mr Aubergine and Bullwinkle the Tater.  We look forward to another successful year of growing with the possibility of many more veggies with faces.  Until then, we'd like you to consider supporting GFF in a new way.

Genuine Faux Farm Kickstarter Campaign
If you haven't noticed or figured it out yet, today's date is April 2, which is only one day away from April 1.  And, if you've seen some of our prior attempts at April Fool's posts, you would realize any date between April 1 and 5 is FAIR GAME.  This brings us to the new Kickstarter Campaign!

Are you tired of Rob being unable to maintain a timely post schedule for things like the April Fool's post?  Well, prepare to sign up for a Kickstarter campaign to fund timely posting by Rob on this blog!  After all - what would you give to see posts like this on the day they were intended for?

Wait? What was that?

Ok, let's amend the above.  What would you give to get Rob to STOP writing these silly blog posts.  Perhaps we need a KickStopper campaign?

If you'd like to see prior year installments, here they are!
2016 April Fool Post
2015 April Fool Post
2014 April Fool Post
2013 April Fool Post
2012 April Fool Post

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The GFF CSA is a Good Value

I recently had a couple of people mention to me that they felt like they were saving money by purchasing one of our shares for the coming season.  All I can say is that I was immensely pleased to hear this.  After all, we want to provide a good product for a fair price.  Every year, I check on the value our CSA members are receiving in their shares.  But, one of the things I often neglect to do is point out how we are doing for others to see.  These comments have encouraged me to finish a post I started some time ago.

Most years, we acquit our selves quite well.  (notice how I got to use two "Q's" in that sentence - neat, eh?)  In fact, a typical season sees us providing much more value for a share than was paid to us.  We feel that additional value is a fair compensation for the investment provided by our members.

Experience Leads to Strong Shares Throughout the Season
The last three years have been slightly different from our earlier history in that we've added much stronger starts to our season, making it less critical to have super strong second halves to make up the difference.  That doesn't mean we don't still provide strong second half shares, but it does mean we've been able to give a more consistent value throughout the season.  An example of some of the things we have done to make our farm more consistently productive is our second high tunnel structure.  Every year we strive to do better than the one before and we keep building towards better.
Seeded trays ready to go to cold frames or high tunnels

We Think Hard About Fair Pricing
We take pricing very seriously.  We need to earn enough to pay us fairly while still keeping share prices reasonable for the many participants we know are working on a budget.  Each season, we spend significant planning hours reassessing our costs and determining what we should do to meet both of those goals.  A standard share cost $400 in 2016 (and the same share type will cost that same amount in 2017).  For a 20 week delivery season, that comes to $20 per delivery.  While this post is not about how our share costs compare to other Iowa CSA's, I think you will find that over time, we've kept our costs and prices under control.  It is not uncommon to find similar programs that cost between $400 and $600 in the state. 

White onions harvested and being taken in to be made ready for CSA members
Shareholders Get 30-40% More Value Than They Pay For
In 2015, we had only two weeks where the share value dipped below the $20 mark.  Weeks 1 and 2 had $15 values with asparagus and spinach providing the most value.  Since that point, every week met or exceeded the $20 value for a standard share.  Week 9, for example, exceeded $30 in value and week 3 was $25 in value (just to show you we could provide value early in the season too!).  So, by the end of August, we are sitting at a 25% value increase over the amount 'paid' through that point of the season.  With some high value crops at the tail end of the season, we provided 35% more value than was paid by our subscribers!
Young Australian Yellow Leaf lettuce plant
We Don't Ride on Only One Veggie
By the August checkpoint, we provided 28 different vegetable types to our subscribers.  While we realize we could get into an argument about how we split things up to get the count, we tried to stay conservative.  For example, we aren't counting snack/cherry tomatoes and slicing tomatoes separately.  Nor are we separating out sweet peppers and bell peppers, even though we usually give them separate trays at a distribution.  But, we are counting cabbage and napa cabbage separately, because they really are different things!  By the end of the season, we had provided 35 different vegetable types to our shareholders.
trays of lettuce ready for transplant

Why Does This Matter?
We get the feeling that the price tag of a CSA share scares many people away.  We certainly understand that a three-digit check can strain many budgets.  That's why we offer the option of setting a payment plan with us that fits you best.  But, the reality is that this is a very good buy for healthy veggies for your family.

Tomato harvest at dusk

How Many Meals Does $20 Buy in a Week?
Take your family to a 'cheap' fast food restaurant for dinner.  If you get meal packages in order to save money, your family of four will typically spend $25 for a SINGLE meal.  No leftovers.  Nothing to help build another meal.  Very little nutritional value.  And, you've already spent more than the $20 for a WEEK of CSA veggies from the Genuine Faux Farm.

We are not trying to tell you that our veggies fill each meal out entirely.  But, what you get from us will be a part of many meals during a week.  From a pure monetary perspective, the CSA is a better deal than many things you will find out there.

So, there must be other reasons why you feel it is too expensive.  Perhaps it is because...
Pepper transplants lined up to be put in

It's Okay If You Don't Eat it All
Certainly, we'll accept that as a reasonable premise.  After all, Rob grew up as one of the PICKIEST eaters in the world and is continuing to work on eating a wider variety of things.  We certainly get this issue - perhaps better than you know.

But, when you get over 30 types of veggies, you have a great number of chances to get things you will like.  And, when you receive nearly a third more produce than you pay for with a share, that essentially means you can FAIL TO EAT 1/3 of your share during a season and still have a good deal. And, don't forget, there are people who like some of the veggies you don't like.  Some of those people might be in the house right across the street from you!  Hmmmmm.
Why is this farmer smiling?
The Genuine Faux Farm CSA will work for you IF you want to make it work for you!
I think we have made a reasonable case that our farm has the experience, ability and drive to provide a good product.  But, the biggest variable here is YOU! 

Are you motivated to make this deal work for you?  If you are, please contact us and we'll get you set up with a share this season!

Friday, March 24, 2017

More of This

The problem with having a blog is... you have to write blog posts to actually have a blog.  As you can see, it has been a few days since our last post - and really, we need to be posting to promote our CSA program!  We still have openings!  (there it is, the obligatory promotional plug - you can now get to your blog reading)

As I've been doing work, I've been thinking about the things I want to see more of during the 2017 growing season on our farm.  Farmer Delusional Syndrome is still in force - though it is dwindling rapidly as the reality of the work we have to do begins to set in. 

One thing I really believe we can have more of is THIS:

Does he mean the flowers, the tomatoes or the butterfly?
The answer to the question that is the caption of the picture above is an emphatic YES.  We are very much committed to growing even more flower strips in 2017 than we did in 2016.  In fact, we are getting better each year at doing this.  The rewards have been several.  First, we enjoy the flowers - as do those who work with us and those who visit us.  Second, our pollinator workers seem to agree that the flowers are a good thing.  While we still think our beneficial insect and animal numbers are lower than they should be, they are better than they have been.  And finally, we are convinced that any of our crops that need pollination services will be improved if we plant more flowers.  How cool is that?

More flowers seems to lead to more of this!
A fresh melon out of the fields - YUM
We have shown over the past two years that we can increase our production by improving pollinator habitat.  In fact, we reduced the number of melon plants we put in the ground to make room for the flowers.  As a result, you might think our overall melon production would decrease.  Nope, it actually went up.  I like it.

Even though he startles the farmer, we'd also like more of THIS:
Ah Cucumber Frog, the bane of my cucumber picking existence.
If we continue to work on the habitat, we expect to see more frogs and toads in our fields.  More frogs and toads means fewer of the pests that cause our crops problems.  It also means the farmer may be less likely to be started when they jump into his leg because it will be a common occurrence (or so we hope).

Maybe even more of THIS (or not):
Carrotman just can't get out of the kitchen, even if it is hot.
Ok, we do not purposely want to grow LOTS of odd shaped veggies.  But, we do enjoy seeing a few strange fruit once in a while.  We are actually hoping to feel (and maybe even be) a bit more creative this year.  The great thing about creativity is that I don't have to plan it all out.  A little creativity can help balance all of the planning I have to work with during the year.

Did we mention more of THIS?
Borage... we LOVE borage.
Yes, I think I mentioned the flower thing.  Notice the row of zinnias in the background?

And, we would really like more of THESE:
Nebraska Wedding
And, we don't mean we want just Nebraska Wedding tomatoes - though we do like them very much.  We felt like our production of tomatoes was pretty poor last season and we are taking steps to rectify the situation.  Some of the issues were weather related and some were of other origins.  There is only so much we can do about such things, but we sure are going to give it our best shot to build this crop back up to its former glory.

And, we've got the space in the field this year so we can have more of THIS:
Watermelons are hard to deliver with the CSA, but we sure will try anyway
We've had a couple of down years for watermelon because we were working on the melon field production in general.  Watermelons vine like crazy and take up a lot of space.  That made them a less than idea product to grow as we were working on our field design in the smaller plots of our farm.  This year, the melons move to one of the larger plots.  Here's hoping!

Here's to Peas and Prosperity!
Yes, yes.  those are peas. 
And, perhaps, we'll have more puns in the blog too this year?

Monday, March 6, 2017

Ordering Plants 2017

We have decided to limit our plant sales in 2017. For more of an explanation, go to the bottom of this post.

If you want specific heirloom plants from us, you will need to ORDER THEM in advance and we will grow them specifically for you. They will be made available to you when they are ready and they could be picked up at the Waverly Farmers' Market or during one of our CSA pick up locations (see the calendar page).

Orders will need to be received in the month of March - the earlier, the better - so we can get your plants started and ready for optimal planting times.

If you do not order plants, you will take your chances that we will happen to have extras of the varieties you want.  For more explanation, see the end of the post.

$3.00 for 3-4" pots.
Smaller pots will be priced as appropriate.

Available Plants:
Tomatoes: Italian Heirloom, German Pink, Trophy, Speckled Roman, Amish Paste, Silvery Fir Tree, Nebraska Wedding, Moonglow, Black Krim, Green Zebra, Red Zebra, Tommy Toe, Hartmann's Gooseberry, Jaune Flamme, Wapsipinicon Peach, Black Cherry, Paul Robeson, Hungarian Heart, Gold Medal, Tasty Evergreen, Wisconsin 55, Rutgers, Cosmonaut Volkov, John Baer, Opalka
Peppers: Wisconsin Lakes, Jimmy Nardello's Frying Pepper, Tolli Sweet, Alma Papricka, Golden Treasure, Purple Beauty, Quadrato asti Giallo, Early Jalapeno, Wenk's Yellow Hot, Joe's Long Cayenne, King of the North, Napolean Sweet, Garden Sunshine, Marconi Red, Chervena Chushka
Eggplant: Pintung Long, Rosa Bianca, Casper, Diamond, Florida Highbush
Basil: Sweet Genovese, Thai, Mrs Burns' Lemon, Dark Opal and Lime
Cucumber: Marketmore 76, Boothby's Blonde, A and C Pickling, Green Finger, Lemon

Others: ask

Why Are We Scaling Back on Plant Sales?
We feel that our supportive customers deserve some explanation - so here it is.  For the past seven years, we have entered the season starting anywhere from 750 to 1500 ADDITIONAL plants (typically tomato, pepper, eggplant) beyond what we need for production on the farm.  We have had plant sales at the Saturday Waverly Farmers' Market, at Hansen's Outlet and other places. 

Essentially, we tried to create a situation for success and growth each year and simply did not find it.  Sales have been largely static, with no growth in sales shown even last year when two growers at the Waverly Market stopped selling after the 2015 season.  It is no exaggeration to say that we regularly composted 500 plants each season.   The reality is, if we wanted to sell that many plants, we probably needed to go farther afield to find markets.  Our desire to sell direct to consumer locally did not apparently have a large enough pool of potential customers to support the endeavor.

The main reason we are no longer operating in this fashion is actually a function of labor.  The number of hours required to transplant all of these plants, sort them out, move them around, load them, unload them, etc etc put the labor cost at a point where we were not making money with the previous model.  Perhaps the most telling point was the fact that some of our Spring field work was sometimes delayed because we were too busy just trying to get a plant sale ready to go.

So, How Are We Addressing The Problem?
We will plant only as many of each variety as we need PLUS whatever orders we have for those plants.  Invariably, we will plan to seed only a few extra of each variety in case there is a problem with germination or some other issue.  That means we will likely have some extra plants, but not the numbers we've shown in prior years.

For example, we knew Italian Heirloom would be popular because we do talk them up.  We need 85 of these for our own growing operation and we would typically grow another 85 for sales.  Once transplanting occurred, we would often have about our 85 plants plus 100 more.  After all, if you have extra seedlings that look good, why would you kill them?  Now, we will target 85 Italian Heirlooms plus whatever is ordered plus maybe 5% extra to cover possible problems.  If they all do well, we would have maybe 5-8 extra plants that are not spoken for.  These will come to our Saturday Waverly Farmers' Markets.  And, once we get tired of hauling these around, we will simply stop doing so.

We will not be holding any additional plant sales beyond the Saturday markets this year.  We will, however, deliver pre-ordered plants during our CSA distributions as arranged.

What Do We Hope This Change Will Accomplish?
It's not just about money.  In fact, it isn't really as much about the money as it is about time.  Spring is packed full with activity on the farm and there is only so much of us to go around.  Most of our workers do not start on the farm until school is out, which occurs after most/all of the transplanting into pots is done.  If we do not spend so much time on plant sales, there are a number of things that can and will take the place of tasks centering around these sales.

We expect that we will have more seed starting space and transplant space so we can push more of our seed starting for the field up a couple of weeks.  As it was before, some of our plantings were pushed back until space was freed up.  This model was fine for a while, but we are increasing the numbers of things we transplant, so space is at a premium.  We are also noticing that our start dates for things like melons and squash are moving up with changing weather patterns - this allows us to make that adjustment.

We are hoping to get more of our annual flowering plants going in trays so they can begin producing flowers sooner in our fields.  The better we are at providing food for our pollinators for a longer season, the more effective their labor will be for us.  This change will free up seed starting space and seed starting time to do this.

Valhalla is scheduled to be moved in late April to early May.  That did not happen last year in large part because we were trying to keep plant sales going.  We would like to hit the schedule on that this season  and in future seasons.  This is only once example of farm growing tasks for April/May that we hope we can pay attention to instead of plant sales.

Will You Change Your Mind and Reintroduce Plant Sales?
Never say never.

However, there will need to be some major changes for us to accomplish this.  First, we would need to change our facilities so that we have a dedicated space for starting plants for sales.  We need to improve efficiency of the processes that lead to growing these plants.  Second, we would need to evaluate when and where the market is and then we would have to aggressively market the product so we could have sufficient sales.  In short, it will take a serious bit of work before we go back to what we were doing in previous years.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

It is NOT This Day

Tammy and I have been regular attendees of the Practical Farmers of Iowa Cooperators Meeting for the past several years.  The two-day meeting features discussion and presentations on how research and projects fared during the previous year and then on designing new projects for the upcoming season.

Tammy was asked to give the closing remarks for the 2016 Cooperator's Meeting and she was a bit uncertain as to whether she should agree to do so or not.  I strongly encouraged her to do this and I think she came up with a winner.  In fact, it was liked well enough that PFI put it out on YouTube.  That's a compliment.  And I will continue with the compliment by including the video here and the text she based her closing remarks on.

While this was all presented in a light-hearted fashion, there is a great deal of meat to what is being said here.  Take a moment and enjoy.

JRR Tolkein wrote a good story.  Is that an understatement, or what?!  For those of you who are not familiar with his work, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, is an author and linguistic scholar, best known for his high-fantasy novels The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He is also known for his intense attention to detail. I have long loved Tolkein’s stories and grown to appreciate the importance he placed on detail and accuracy.  “Close enough” was just not good enough.  

I see a lot of Tolkein’s dedication to detail and knowledge in PFI farmers and our dedication to detailed research.  Rob has convinced me, despite my admitted preference for “I think” to move to “I know” on the farm.  Count it, measure it, record it, then plan it.  And, repeat - Count it, measure it, record it, then plan it.  

Tolkein’s writings offer so much timeless wisdom including this exchange early in the “Rings” journey:
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

There are many things farmers struggle with including increasingly extreme weather and uncertain economics and changing policies.  What we CAN do is decide what WE want to do with what we have – not just “Go along”.

At one point, one of the HEROES in the Ring Trilogy, Aragon, inspires his troops before a seemingly hopeless battle:
"Hold your ground, hold your ground! Sons of Gondor, of Rohan, my brothers! I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields, when the age of men comes crashing down! But it is not this day! This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good Earth, I bid you stand, Men of the West!"

I hope our farming does not seem “hopeless”, though we certainly face challenges.  So, with thanks to Tolkein and assistance from Dick Thompson:
Hold your ground,  Protect your ground!  Farmers of Iowa, Row Crop, Grazer and Hort.  I see in your eyes that same passion for farm and soil that inspires me.  A day may come when the courage of farmers fails, when we forsake our passion for sustainable, well managed farms and break all bonds with our history of smart farming, but that is not this day.  An hour of weeds, pests and disease, a day of intense pressure to conform, to “go along”, when the age of “thinking farmers” on diverse farms come crashing down.  But, it is NOT this day!  This day we research!  By all the you hold dear for the good of this earth, I bid you, RESEARCH and LEARN, Farmers of the Land!

Friday, March 3, 2017

GFF March Newsletter

The month of March is here - and so is our monthly newsletter on the blog.  Without further ado - let's just get right to it!

March Calendar of Events

March 6: New Hampton Seed Starting Workshop (cancelled)
March 7: Practical Farmers of Iowa Farminar - Variety Selection
March 8: Seminar at Wartburg College
March 9: Cedar Falls Egg Delivery 5:00-5:30 Hansen's Outlet
March 14: Waverly Egg Delivery and CSA Signup 4:30-6:00
March 23: Cedar Falls Egg Delivery and CSA Signup 5:00-6:00
March 28: Waverly Egg Delivery

CSA Signup 2017

We are in the midst of our 2017 CSA sign up.  We have several CSA options this year.

Traditional 20produce> June-October (20 deliveries) $400
Traveler 20 produce> May-early Jun,late Aug-Dec (20 deliveries) $500
Whole Enchilada produce> May-December (28 deliveries) $600
Alternating Delivery produce> May - December (14 deliveries) $350
My Garden is Dead produce> October-December (8 deliveries) $250
Group Share produce> June-October (16 deliveries) $800
Moving On produce> Start or End of Season variable inquire
Poultry Share Small Bird meat> March - December (20 deliveries) $325
Poultry Share Large Bird meat> March - December (20 deliveries) $400

As of this post, we have plenty of spaces available in our programs.  Contact us if you have interest and we'll get you started.

Plant Sales 2017
We have decided to limit our plant sales in 2017. We are finding that we are losing money with our previous model. So, here is how it will be this season. If you want specific heirloom plants from us, you will need to ORDER THEM in advance and we will grow them specifically for you. They will be made available to you when they are ready and they could be picked up at the Waverly Farmers' Market or during one of our CSA pick up locations.
As always, there will be SOME extra plants, but it will not be the hundreds of plants we have brought to market in the past. We'll bring what we have and there will be no guarantee how much we will have or what varieties UNLESS you pre-order. Thank you for your understanding as we make this adjustment.
$3.00 for 3 1/2" pots.

Website Updated
Our website has been updated and everything should be current at this time.  Please feel free to visit.  If you see a problem, we appreciate notes that point such things out to us.  If you want to learn more about our CSA programs, our farm and how we do things there, this is a good resource.

Song of the Month
It's our (Tammy's and Rob's) anniversary month.  We can get a little sappy if we want to - so there.

Recipe of the Month
Spinach Frittata
Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large heavy skillet. Saute 1 clove minced garlic and a
few chopped scallions. Add 1 pound washed spinach and cook until wilted. Remove veggies from pan; lightly beat 6 eggs and add to pan along with spinach mixture, 3/4 c parmesan or feta cheese, and some parsley. Stir all together and cook over low heat until frittata is set. Allow to cool slightly and cut into wedges to serve.

Planting Report
We have a couple of beds planted in Valhalla (the newer/larger high tunnel) with komatsuna, kale, tatsoi, lettuce and spinach.  Otherwise, things are really just getting started right now.  Soon we'll have a large number of trays to keep watered.

Picture of the Month
Look closely - do you see what I see?
Farm News Shorts
  • GFF will be involved in a few Practical Farmers of Iowa Cooperators projects this year.  One involves continued work with pollinators on the farm.
  • We will also be working with the Xerces Society to attempt to increase habitat on our farm with annual and perennial plantings.
  • We expect to have two returning workers this Summer (Caleb and Emma) and one new worker (Jocelyn).  We hope you will join us in welcoming them as their schedules on the farm begin in May/June.
Time to Have Pun
If a thesaurus were a dinosaur, it would have to eat.  And, if a thesaurus were to eat anything, I suspect it would be a synonym roll.

Monday, February 27, 2017

GFF CSA Farm Share Options 2017

We have offered vegetable farm shares (CSA) since 2005 and we will be offering meat poultry shares for the first time in 2017.  The sign up season for 2017 is open now!  We would be honored to be your personal farmers for the growing season.

Why should Rob and Tammy Faux of the Genuine Faux Farm be your personal farmers?

  • Experienced - our farm and CSA has been in operation since 2005 and we actively seek to improve how our farm performs each and every year.
    Sign up! I, the Sandman, have spoken.
  • Responsive - you will see at least one of your farmers at every delivery and we are happy to converse with you about things you would like to see happen with your share and on the farm.
  • Reliable - we grow a wide range of crops and varieties to provide our own version of crop insurance on your behalf.
  • Responsible - we work to keep all three legs of our sustainable farm strong.  We strive to work with nature and we are active in the community - all while maintaining a reasonable bottom line.
  • Accountable - we have maintained organic certification for our vegetable production since 2007 and we are pleased to answer any questions you might have about how we grow.
  • Traceable - 95% of the produce you will receive is grown on our farm Northwest of Tripoli, Iowa.  The remaining 5% is clearly labeled so you know who grows your food.  Jeff Sage grows beets, carrots and heirloom sweet potatoes for our program.
  • Flexible - there are now many ways you can participate.  Take a look and see what fits you best.
  • A Good Buy - in all years except 2012, we have provided our share holders with produce value that exceeds the share price by 20 to 40 percent.
Veggie CSA Options for 2017

Traditional 20 Share
Comfortable with how things have been?  Well, this is the schedule we've maintained since the our CSA program's inception in 2005.  Twenty deliveries of delicious goodies from June through October.  If you see no reason to change what has been a good thing so far - here it is!
Deliveries 4 through 23 on the calendar
Price: $400

Traveler 20 Share
So, you are traveling this Summer and you think that means you can't get our veggies?  Think again!  We will have 20 deliveries of veggies split between the early and late season, but no deliveries for this share from mid June to mid-August.  Not only can you be some of the first people in the area with fresh veggies, you can partake of the bounty at the end of the season.  Who wouldn't want fresh produce for Thanksgiving and Christmas?
Deliveries 1 - 6 and 15-28 on the calendar
Price: $500

Whole Enchilada Share
You get a nice price and you get ALL the CSA Veggie deliveries we will offer from April to December.  You won't have to worry about signing up for an extended season - you just come and get the delicious veggies for all 28 deliveries.  Your best value is here.
Deliveries 1 through 28 on the calendar
Price: $600

Alternating Week Share
Proof that the farmers do listen!  Some of our members reported difficulty getting through all of the goodies before the next week's delivery.  The alternating week share is a viable option if you are worried about having too much, but you really do want some delicious, certified organic produce.
Deliveries 14 deliveries (you will be assigned odd or even delivery numbers)
Price: $350

My Garden is Dead! Share
So, you garden.  Fantastic!  But, do you feel its loss once you get to October?  Let us get that Fall produce to you for 8 deliveries this Fall into the Winter!  You can get some fresh greens, root crops and much more after your garden has decided it has finished for the year.  You might even get a few peppers and tomatoes if you talk to us nicely!  If you're missing produce in the Spring as well, see if the Traveler 20 fits you.
Deliveries 21 - 28 on the calendar
Price: $250

Group Share
This is intended for an office/group that might like to dip their toes into the CSA idea.  There will be 16 deliveries that will match up with our highest production weeks.  Each share will have less vegetable variety and more duplication in anticipation that there will be multiple family units receiving the share.
Deliveries 16 dates TBA
Price: $800

Poultry CSA Options for 2017
We have raised broiler chickens and turkeys on our farm since 2006 and we are finding that people would like the convenience of purchasing a single bird at a time rather than buying several at one time.  We hope you find this to be a reasonable response to that request.

Give Me the Smaller Birds Share
Twenty deliveries that will occur roughly every other week (you will receive a schedule once you sign up).  Each delivery, for 19 deliveries, each share holder will receive a broiler chicken that falls on the smaller side (typically 4 to 5 pounds).  For the 20th delivery, each share receives two stewing hens, perfect for pressure cooking, crock-potting and making broth.  In addition, each share holder receives a $25 credit towards a turkey!  That's 21 deliveries of quality poultry from our farm.
Deliveries 20 + the Great Turkey Pickup
Price: $325
Available Slots: 8

Give Me the Bigger Birds Share
Ok, you have a bigger family and you want more meat on your chickens?  Here they are.  You will get the biggest broiler chickens we have from our day-range flocks.  Sizes average 5.5 pounds, though you'll land some over 6 pounds and some just over 5. We will provide you 20 deliveries of broilers roughly every other week AND you receive $25 credit towards a turkey - tell us you want a big turkey and we'll reserve it for you.
Deliveries 20 + the Great Turkey Pickup
Price $400
Available Slots:

I Want Poultry, but Not A Poultry Share
We've got you covered there as well!  We will continue to have broiler chickens and turkeys available beyond those offered here in share packages.  Broilers are processed in early July, September and early November most years.  Turkeys are processed at the end of October.  Some years, we have also had Muscovey ducks available.

Pick Up Locations
Waverly:  Waverly Farmers' Market during market season on Tuesdays, 3:30-6:00 pm.  St Andrew's Church parking lot during market off-season. 
Cedar Falls: Hansen's Outlet, outside the East side of the building on Thursdays, 4:00-6:00pm.
Tripoli: at the farm on Wednesdays.

How Do I Sign Up?
Send us an email at and tell us which share type you want and which delivery location you would prefer.

Want to Know More?
If you want to learn more about what a Genuine Faux Farm CSA Farm Share is, please visit our website!  Of course, we welcome any questions you may have, please send them to our email address shown above.