Thursday, January 24, 2013

More on the Veg You Want

We are continuing to ask for input on what you would like to see more of from us in 2013.

 Here is what we have heard so far:
JanMarie: Broccoli
Nevin: Tomatoes, early and often
Nancy: Baby carrots
Kory: can I just cross my fingers for a good squash year? at your place and ours?
Nick: Broccoli or carrots
Rachel: Broccoli
Ryan: Asparagus
Jennie: chocolate caramel (we understand the appeal, but please don't ask us to grow it!)
Anne: carrots
Stephanie: Tromboncino squash, winter squash, peas
Jeff and Susan: Steak!  (ummmm)  and peas.
Marianne: Spinach 

Alli: More spinach would be great!

Left for us to address are requests for more spinach and more carrots!  We'll happily take other suggestions as well.  Either way, we're happy to tell you what our plans are for each of our crops.

We love our spinach at GFF!  If you are like us, you grew up thinking spinach was the slimy stuff that came out of a can.  Simply put, getting Rob to eat spinach was going to take a miracle.  That miracle came in the form of a late season planting several years ago that didn't get picked in the Fall - but managed to survive the Winter and started to grow well in early Spring.  Now, a big pile of freshly picked spinach with a little bit of dressing to dip it in is a real treat!

Spinach is particularly sweet during cooler weather and has a tendency to bolt (grow stalks and put on flowers/seeds) in warmer weather.  As a result, we tend to have more spinach in our Spring and Fall extended season shares.  Otherwise, we might have spinach in the first 2 weeks of the regular season (early June) and the last couple weeks of the regular season in October.

The great news about spinach is that it is a good companion as an early crop before warm season crops such as peppers and eggplant.  They are usually finishing about the time we put those plants in (May 31-Jun 5) and tilling in the residue is good for the soil.  But, that doesn't help us with the regular season CSA.  So, what can we do?

1. If you want spinach, you might want to consider joining us with an extended season share (this holds true for asparagus as well).  Or, if that doesn't work for you, maybe you should encourage us to grow a higher volume and visit us at farmers' market where we sell plants in May.  If we know lots of people are going to come buy spinach as well, we might just work to have more of it!
2. Hansen's Outlet and Moo Roo are both willing to carry and retail our spinach.  If the demand is there, perhaps we can make sure to stock their stores with reasonable amounts.
3. We will consider extending our Spring production deeper into June by purchasing some shade cloth, this may help prevent spinach from bolting so quickly.  We have never done this before, but it may be worth the effort.
4. Increasing Fall production of spinach for the regular season share is very difficult.  We are usually down to one worker (Rob) and spinach takes a great deal of time to pick, clean and pack.  We are hopeful that the walk in cooler addition will provide flexibility in harvest that will allow us to do more with spinach.  However - it is possible that we may ask for a little volunteer help to allow this to happen.

What does it take to grow spinach at GFF?

We direct seed spinach - which means we use a seeder and plant directly into the ground where it will grow until it is done.  We have tried transplants and likely will not do that again.  We use our six row seeder (we call the seeder "Ed"), which requires a very clean and smooth seedbed to operate.
Winter spinach usually doesn't need a weeding before it is done.  Spring spinach will need one or two weedings and Fall spinach may take one weeding. 
The real effort comes at harvest time.  One approach is to 'clear cut' a row, but then we have to pull out any bad leaves or weeds that might be in that mix.  Rob's method of choice is to pick leaf by leaf.  Thus, the sorting is done up front.  This also allows us to harvest sooner out of the same area as it takes less time for leaves to reach the size we prefer.  One tote of spinach would provide us with about 5 pounds.  If everyone gets a quarter pound bag in the CSA, we would need 25 to 30 pounds (5 to 6 totes). 
Once picked, the spinach is hydrocooled (placed in well water) for washing and to get any field heat out of the leaves.  After washing, they are put in a spinner to get most of the water off of them.  They are then placed in the vegetable bags and then in coolers for storage until delivery.

Anyone feel handy?
We have an idea for building a tool to aid in cleaning greens.  We'll see if it makes it to our top ten list of projects for the year.

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Thank you for your input! We appreciate hearing what you have to say.