Food, landscapes, people

Snack time!

Somewhat regularly, our kids go out to the fields to “graze” on whatever tender greens are growing out there — fennel tops, rapini, and chickweed are among their top hits. Grazing like that is pretty much their favorite way to eat greens. If we serve a salad at the table, one of them will eat it (most of the time), but the other will pass.

But nibbling greens fresh in the fields has a magic appeal that never seems to grow old for them. They also loving sharing their finds with friends.

Most kids seem to be up for the adventure of greens nibbling, even if they too might not love salad at other times. Over the years, Casey and I have been amazed at how open kids are to tasting new things in the context of a field walk. Some of these greens have very strong flavors (by kids standards), and yet when presented as an experience, kid palettes respond differently apparently.

I have to admit that it is a cool experience to realize that food can be part of our landscape. That we can walk around and nibble edible things, rather than just find them stacked tidily (and for sale) inside stores.

I remember years ago when my younger cousin came to visit us from Southern California during blackberry season. She spent the morning helping Casey and me weeding and then we all roads bicycles down to the river, stopping to pick blackberries on the way. I didn’t think she would be so impressed by our lifestyle given how much fun hers sounded, but she repeatedly exclaimed at the wonder of eating food just growing along the road.

The kids and I read a book about the Kalapuya people as part of school this year: The World of the Kalapuya. “Kalapuya” is actually a family of languages but is in the case of the book used to describe the linguistically connected people who lived in what we now call the Willamette Valley. Much of the book was interesting to the kids and me, but I think we were most intrigued by imagining how different this place where we live must have looked hundreds of years ago. When Europeans first began exploring North America, they concluded that native peoples did not practice agriculture, because the landscape did not resemble their conceptions of a tended, cultivated landscape. In Europe this would mean fences marking fields (in part because of domesticated food animals, something people in the Americas did not have) and tillage.

What we learned in the book about the Kalapuya is that people native to the Willamette very intentionally cultivated food crops but using tools unfamiliar to Europeans. Fire was a very important tool for the Kalapuya peoples, and was used to prepare land for planting, to maintain open grasslands for hunting, to harvest crops such as tarweed, and to rejuvenate other perennial crops (such as camas). Much of the landscape would have been productive for some form of food: wapato growing along the edges of waterways, berries growing in thickets, nettles growing under the shelter of forests, large fields of staple crops growing in other places.

As we learned about their food sources and how they tended, cultivated or promoted their production, the kids and I marveled at what all that must have looked like. I know that I have a instinctive response to the beauty of the Oak savannah grassland, an ecological feature most likely owing its original shaping to human activity. Conservationists today are working to reestablish such ecosystems, because they are historical to the place and because they are systems that can teem with all kinds of ecological diversity, clearly benefiting more than just people.

Later this year, we will enjoy eating the handfuls of salmonberry that grow along one of our favorite local trails. (They have already bloomed!) As the kids know so well, finding food in our landscape is a treat, and for me it is extra special to enjoy those foods that have been native to this place long before our arrival. Foods that would have nourished people who shaped this landscape over centuries and millennia with their own tending and cultivation.

There is, too, deep sadness to eat those berries and remember the very hard history of how those people came to dwindle in numbers (disease) and then be displaced (onto reservations) and then stripped of cultural memories (through forced schooling). I’d like to follow that statement up with some kind of “but …” statement that turns this around, but — no — there really is just sadness and grief mixed right in there with the sweet joy of finding a berry in the forest.

We talk a lot in our house about the future and responsibility and how do we live now, knowing the past that has come before us. It’s something we wrestle with as parents (especially as homeschooling parents), wanting our children to grow up with a rich, complicated understanding of this place where we live and the people who do and have inhabited it. Today we read Martin’s Big Words in order to observe the 50th anniversary of King’s assassination. History is important around here: the history of people and natural history too.

Whatever actions Rusty and Dottie choose to take in their life, to work for justice or to create or to just live kindly, they know the taste of these foods that make up our landscape. They know that there are stories in the fields and in the forests, that flavors can be found living and growing around us. It’s something.

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Apples — We’re almost done with apples for the season! Then we’ll have a fruit gap while we wait for the strawberries to come on in May.
  • Sunchoke & kale ferment — A small amount of this ferment left. Time to think of the next ferment possibility!
  • Bok choy — This is a tender Asian green, suitable for eating raw or quick cooking (such as in a wok). Pairs well with garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil/seeds, and ginger.
  • Radishes
  • Head lettuce — The first head lettuce of the year! Because these are the first, we’re going to limit them to 1/household for this week. Thank you for your understanding! Much more lettuce is on the way! (Trust me, spring is such a lettuce-filled season!)
  • Salad turnips — LIMITED as well for this week! These turnips are a spring treat. They are delicious to eat raw, resembling a smooth, mild radish. Eat the leaves, too!
  • Chard
  • Red russian kale rapini — Beautiful kale rapini! Still some leaves, but mostly just the tender stalk and buds
  • Carrots
  • Sunchokes
  • Marina di Chioggia
  • Butternut
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

Places near here

Outer loop trail at Miller Woods

One of the very cool (and unexpected) results of having someone in our family running for office is that we’re paying attention more to this place where we live. I mean, regular readers of these newsletters know that, in general, we like to pay attention. And paying attention, as the wise older nun in Lady Bird (the recent movie) pointed out, that maybe love and paying attention are the same thing.

But, a change in situation naturally puts a fresh focus on everything. I have to admit, spring also puts a fresh focus on our perspective too. As Casey and I have traveled around Yamhill County recently, we’re both struck (again!) by how awesome this place is where we live. And, it just seems to be getting more and more awesome as the years go by.

The kids spent two days early this week at an Outdoor Education Adventure camp at Miller Woods. Need I say that they had a total blast? Friends and newts and hiking and mud and all the good things. Yay! Both days that I dropped them off, I took advantage of the opportunity to hike the newly lengthened 4.5 mile outer loop at a brisk pace. It felt like a rare luxury in our full farming life to hike by myself both mornings (a chilly foggy luxury!). I also marveled at how Miller Woods did not even exist when we moved here in 2006. Certainly, the land and the woods were there, but they had not yet been developed into something open to the public, filled with well maintained trails and educational opportunities for all. I am grateful that, many years ago, people had the vision for what Miller Woods could be come. It’s a place our family enjoys visiting frequently now, and I’m so glad that it continues to be thoughtfully improved and maintained.

Checking out the views from above

This evening, our family had the opportunity to visit a newer addition to Yamhill County as the brand new Atticus Hotel invited the community for an open house. What a blast! The halls were packed with locals, all curious to see the hotel we’d been watching get built from the outside. It was certainly fun seeing the careful attention to detail in all the rooms, but we also just loved seeing so many people we know from our community in one place, everyone having fun as they explored the new hotel.

I could go on and on talking about the cool places we love or find interesting in our community. I’m sure you could too. And, given that both of these particular examples from this week are new since our moving to the area over a decade ago, I can’t help but feel excited about the future and what it holds too.

I like to think that our little farm also brings some of that same “I-love-this-place!” feeling to the people who buy our vegetables. That’s certainly been our goal since day one.

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

CSA payment due! Your next CSA payment is due to us by tomorrow, Thursday March 29. I emailed statements early last week. Please let me know if you have any questions!

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Apples
  • Sunchoke & kale ferment — This week’s ferment features a new twist: sunchokes and kale!
  • Radishes
  • Seasonal salad mix
  • Kale with rapini — The kale is beginning to form rapini, as well as putting out lots of new tender leaves. The bunches this week feature both: the tender leaves, the thicker tender stalks, and rapini buds.
  • Chard
  • Cabbage
  • Cabbage rapini
  • Marina di Chioggia
  • Butternut squash
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Sunchokes
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

Spring happenings

Spring green abounds!

Happy spring! The equinox was yesterday, bringing with it another glorious sunny day, befitting the wonder and enthusiasm of this season!

Spring brings a flurry of activity in our family. In addition to being a time to sow seeds and plants, we celebrate many occasions right around now. My birthday was last week (37! yay!), and then this weekend Casey and I celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary. Yes, we were very young when we got married. This year we went out for dinner by ourselves to Thistle and enjoyed eating the wonderful product of local farmers (us + others) and creative skilled chefs. It was a truly amazing meal. (Also, we know that we could have had amazing meals at many fine dining establishments both downtown McMinnville or in other parts of our county … how incredibly blessed are we as a community to be surrounded by so much good food?! Sometimes I am just overwhelmed by the awesomeness of our home.)

The new day of each season is also always a mini celebration in our family. When Rusty was younger, I made the “executive” decision that Casey and I wouldn’t give our kids presents on the typical occasions of birthdays and Christmas, since that’s when they typically receive presents from other family. Too many presents at once can be over-stimulating for children, so I decided to save Casey and my little presents for the first day of each season. Both Rusty and Dottie receive a couple of small tokens of the season — usually a book or something to help us explore the world — and they look forward to finding out what the new season has brought in more ways than one.

This year the kids both received new pairs of small hand pruners, because they love making bouquets all spring and summer long. They also got a big reference book about wildflowers and plants around the world and a flower press. So far, the flower selection in our immediate landscape are pretty limited, but Dottie and I enjoyed walking in the delicious warm March sunshine as we collected a few early specimens for pressing: rapini blossoms, grape hyacinth, speedwell, dead nettle, sheperd’s purse, and rosemary blossoms.

I would be remiss if at some point I didn’t also mention how much time has been consumed by working on Casey’s campaign for Yamhill County Commissioner. He and I have both been putting in extra hours every day, fitting them into spare moments we didn’t even realize we had in our existing farming, homeschooling, business-operating routine. Even though Casey’s been talking about running for office for a few years now, I always somewhat dreaded the experience of campaigning. But it’s been surprisingly fun for both of us, utilizing skills and activities that we both love: Casey, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, genuinely loves connecting with people and hearing their stories, and he’s getting to meet so many wonderful new people in the course of campaigning. I’ve been able to use the skills I’ve honed through running our business: writing for Casey’s website, setting up social media, and making simple graphics (my motto is “done is better than perfect,” which is of course a variation on the oldie but good aphorism: “perfect is the enemy of the good”).

Now that spring is really here and our family celebrations are behind us, it feels like go time around here in so many ways. Time to seed! Time to make sure we finish the school year strong (only 11.5 weeks left for us!). Go, go, go! Thankfully the energy of the season is so inspiring, with the increasing day length and the signs of growth every where. We are grateful to be at this point in the year. Spring always feels like the ultimate gift.

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

CSA payment due next week! I emailed our quarterly CSA statement and payment reminders this weekend. If you have any balance due, you should have received one with a note about your next payment amount. You can bring checks/cash to pick-up or mail us a check: Oakhill Organics, P.O. Box 1698, McMinnville OR 97128. Please let me know if you have any questions!

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Spicy sauerkraut
  • Apples
  • Radishes
  • Cabbage
  • Seasonal salad mix — Mostly rapini and arugula this week!
  • Kale/rapini — The kale is putting out tender rapini, and this week’s bunches are a mix of the tender new growth leaves, plus tender thick stalks and rapini buds. The kale is abundant, so it’s two bunches is an item this week!
  • Chard
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Sunchokes
  • Marina di Chioggia squash
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Pie pumpkins
  • Butternut squash
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

Buzzing in the trees

Plum blossoms!

Hasn’t the weather this last week been glorious? Here on the farm, we’ve been rejoicing in  all the sunshine, knowing how even just a few hours of warm direct sunlight can boost all the growth of our spring crops.

It also has meant that our earliest plums are getting pollinated! The challenge with early tree fruit is that in some years they bloom amidst heavy rain or frigid weather or wind storms … all of which inhibit the flight and work of pollinator insects. Every single plum you’ll eat this summer will have begun as a small blossom, and each of those small blossoms requires the helpful work of various kinds of bees, wasps and flies who travel from bloom to bloom spreading the pollen and turning blossoms into fruitlets.

March’s weather is variable by definition, so it’s true that some years we get beautiful bursts of warm weather like this week. But that weather might not correspond perfectly with bloom. Those are the years when we pick fewer than average plums.

This weekend, when the trees were in full bloom and the warm sun was shining down on the farm, Dottie and I walked from tree to tree, smelling the sweet blossoms and listening. The sound of pollination is a steady buzzing from above, and we heard it! The thrumming of insects at work! What a joyous early spring sound!

We still have months of spring ahead, with who knows what kind of weather. But this is a good start toward lots and lots of our favorite early, juicy, red plums! Much to look forward to, but of course this early spring sunshine is truly a gift all on its own, warming our bodies and souls.

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Apples
  • Mixed veggie ferment — This week’s ferment contains: cabbage, sunchokes, carrots, beets, and winter squash!
  • Radishes — Less baby-sized this week, still tender and perfect!
  • Cabbage rapini
  • Kale & kale rapini — 2 bunches is one item this week! The rapini is especially wonderful!
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Sunchokes
  • Beets
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Marina di Chioggia squash
  • Butternut squash
  • Pie pumpkins
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

Solar power on farms

Solar on our farm!

The above photo features the extent of our farm’s solar power at the moment. This panel and box are a former energizer for mobile electric fencing. During the five years that we had livestock on our farm, these energizers were what made it possible for us to pasture our animals in some very big fields, far from any immediate sources of electricity. We would hook one of these up to long sections of net fencing, and the sun itself would keep the interior battery charged and keep our fences nice and hot, keeping our livestock in and predator animals out.

Now, we’ve rigged this panel up for a different purpose. We keep it around for emergency purposes, when our home might lose electricity for a long period of time (always planning for “The Big One,” you know!). Casey purchased an inverter so that we can convert the DC power to AC, and we can plug in various devices. We could use this set-up to charge our cell phones and computer and (on a sunny day) even operate a crock pot!

But, we were recently contacted by a solar power company, ForeFront Power, about majorly upping the solar presence on our farm. Apparently, some of our land is a potentially suitable spot for a larger scale solar installation, and they wrote offering to rent the land from us for that purpose.

You may have heard of such installations, because they are a hot topic here in Yamhill County right now. On March 22, the Yamhill County Planning Commission will hear testimony on a proposed ban on solar generation facilities on prime farmland (parcels comprised of primarily Classes I-IV soils). We received notice of the proposed ban just a short time before receiving the rental offer, and we’ve been thinking and talking about the role of solar on the farm ever since. Is it a compatible use of farmland? How would such installations affect the long-term conservation of farmland for future use? What impacts would they have on farms and neighbors?

These are big questions! In my gut, I wasn’t feeling like an outright ban was the right answer, but I also didn’t feel like I had all the information about the installations either. Casey and I have worked hard on farmland conservation issues in the past, and so I wanted to listen to the voices supporting the ban, which includes many parties we’ve worked with closely on other land-use questions. I listened to their concerns carefully, which left me wanting more information.

As an environmentalist, I feel like I’ve been waiting my whole life for solar power to finally be affordable enough to become a real presence in the energy market. Oregon’s current sources of power are not considered renewable. The coal power plant at Boardman is scheduled to be closed in 2020. Oregon’s dams are aging and filling with silt and are increasingly seen as very problematic for key wildlife habitat. As someone who is relatively young and facing the reality of climate change well within in my lifetime, I feel so ready to embrace clean, renewable power for Oregon (and beyond!). So it’s been very confusing (and quite frankly upsetting) to see solar power arrive in Yamhill County in seeming conflict with farmland conservation … to see its arrival instill fear rather than a relieved hearty welcome, even by other environmentalists! I really needed to better understand the situation.

So, I decided to contact Forefront Power, the people who offered to rent our land. And, just so you know upfront, we are not renting any land to them. When they did their assessment, they didn’t take into account whether land is in the floodway — ours is, making it an unsuitable site. Nonetheless, I had their info on my desk, and I figured they could probably answer a lot of my questions as well as anyone. I spoke with Land Development Manager Nate Butler on the phone yesterday, and I wanted to share some of the information I learned from him.

The big caveat here is that of course Butler represents one of the companies hoping to build solar power generation facilities on farmland here in Yamhill County. So, he’s not an unbiased source of information if one is looking for opinions. But I figured that his intimate knowledge of the specifics was something I was lacking in my understanding of the situation.

The other limitation of this information is that it only represents the answers of one solar company, and there are others working in Yamhill County too. But, it’s a start, and I learned more than I knew beforehand.

So, with those caveats in mind, here are the questions I asked and a summary in my own words of Butler’s answers:

How are these solar panels installed? What is the physical set-up on the land?

Butler explained that part of ForeFront Power’s model is to keep costs down as much as possible for their installations. So, they look for land that is already cleared and relatively level to begin with. Topsoil is not graded or removed. Steel posts are driven into the ground in rows (no digging or concrete footings), onto which a rail is mounted. Solar panels are mounted onto those rails. In one style of installation, those solar panels would be mounted to rotate through the day to catch the sun (so facing east at sunrise and tracking the sun to the west at sunset). So that they don’t shade out other panels, the rows are spaced about 15 to 20 feet apart.

A fence is installed around the site for safety and security purposes. An inverter is also installed on the site to convert the electricity from DC power to AC for the grid. This equipment does require a concrete pad.

Alleyways are kept in a cover of some kind, such as grass or other vegetation easy to maintain. Butler pointed out that dust is bad for solar panels, so preventing bare soil is a priority for them. They also avoid using gravel because it costs much more than a vegetative cover (both to lay down initially and to remove after the installation).

The eventual removal of all parts of the installation at the end of the lease are included in the initial installation cost.

[I want to add: If you drive around Yamhill County today, you will see older existing installations that do not fit this particular model. There are some with aggregate on the ground, for example. Clearly not every company has worked from the same exact plan. However, it is also my understanding that Yamhill County is requiring all new installations to be more conservation minded through the use of conditions of approval.]

Is there any contamination risk to the soil?

Butler said that the panels themselves contain no liquid chemicals or other potential contaminants. The panels are made out of crystalline silicon—either monocrystalline or polycrystalline. The panels and inverters have electronics in them, which like all electronics (computers, phones, etc.) will have small amounts of metals and other components. However, all electronic components are sealed in the equipment. No other liquids are stored on site.

What is the typical lifespan of an installation?

Leases are typically for 20 years, because that is the typical length of an energy contract. The lifespan of the equipment can be a bit longer and leases have the potential to be extended. At the end of the lease, the company removes all parts of the installation so that the land can be farmed again.

Why install on farmland at all?

ForeFront Power looks for a few factors when selecting a site: relatively flat ground that is already clear. The site also needs to be adjacent to three-phase power lines, which are common near irrigated farmland (irrigation pumps are often three-phase).

Why not lower quality farmland?

Butler said that farmland classed lower than IV is often categorized that way in part because it is steeply sloped or very rocky or extremely wet — all of which pose burdens to an installation. Such land is rarely irrigated too, making it less likely to be adjacent to three-phase power.

Why not just put solar panels on roofs and along roadways and in abandoned industrial areas?

This question was a bit beyond the purview of Butler’s job since he works to develop a particular model.

However, we talked through the cost of different kinds of installations. Butler explained that rooftop installations are more expensive because there are certain fixed costs involved with any installation, and so the smaller the installation the more expensive it is for the power produced. He also explained that if a roof or roadway isn’t oriented toward south, the efficacy of the panels is decreased.

I did some of my own research on this question, curious about the energy potential of big box stores in particular. I found a publication about rooftop solar panels called “Solar on Superstores,” published in 2016 by Environment America. The publication makes the case for why big box stores themselves would benefit from installing solar panels. On average, according to the study, a big box store can offset its own electricity use by 42%.

Are these installations subsidized by the government?

Butler said that solar installations receive a 30% tax credit (the Investment Tax Credit), which will expire in 2020. Butler noted that all sectors of the energy industry receive some subsidies and public funding in some form.

Who owns ForeFront Power?

ForeFront Power is owned by a Japanese company, Mitsui.

Where will the electricity produced go?

Some people have expressed concern about energy produced in Yamhill County be used elsewhere. Butler said that because of limitations of the grid itself and the scale of the installations, the power would all be delivered locally. ForeFront Power works with a new program called the Community Solar Model that allows individual parties to choose to buy solar.

What’s to stop all of Yamhill County’s best farmland from being turned into solar installations?

[I want to add my own note here before sharing my summary of Butler’s answers. Right now the state of Oregon limits solar installations to 12 acres on Exclusive Farm Use zoned land. Also, already such installations have to go through a conditional use permit process with Yamhill County, which is an extensive process involving neighbor input. When Yamhill County approves such permits, they also have the ability to place additional conditions on the project in order to meet the county’s own conservation goals that might exceed those of individual companies. For example, requiring a company to use a vegetative cover rather than aggregate cover if that had been their plan. Butler offered further insight into existing limitations on these kinds of installations …]

Butler explained that the grid itself is a limitation of how many such installations can be built in Yamhill County. They need to be installed adjacent to lines with three-phase power, which does not exist in all parts of the county. Also, they need to be installed within two miles of a substation, and each of the existing substations in the county could probably handle one (or maybe two) such installations.

Because of their relatively small size (maxed at 12 acres), these installations do not produce enough electricity to justify upgrading such infrastructure. Butler estimated that, given these limitations, he didn’t expect there to be more than 300 acres of such installations in Yamhill County.

How much electricity do these installations produce?

A 12 acre installation would be 2 megawatts. In Oregon, Butler estimated that this amount of solar panel electricity potential would meet the energy needs of 200-400 homes.

I wanted to get a sense of the overall energy potential for Yamhill County if the solar companies maxed out the existing available land and infrastructure, so I used Butler’s 300 acre estimate to do some “ag math.” “Ag math” is what Casey and I call the math we use to estimate yields for certain plantings and then income potential. It’s always pie-in-the-sky, because actual yields inevitably vary, but it helps us envision our planning to some extent.

So, using ag math, I figured that 300 acres would equal about 25 2 megawatt installations, each producing the energy for 200-400 homes. So, 25 x 200-400 = 5,000-10,000 homes that could be powered by solar energy. According to the last census, there were 35,000 households living in Yamhill County. So, based on this rough “ag math,” 300 acres of Yamhill County land could produce up to one-quarter of the county’s households’ power.

That’s the extent of my Q & A with Butler. And, I just want to point out again that our family has no financial ties with ForeFront Power (or any solar company), nor do we intend to in the future. We have not financial stake in the outcome of the ban, either way. My purpose of pursuing this conversation was because of my own curiosity and my desire to better understand what feels like a surprisingly complex situation.

I’m still chewing on all of this, preparing for the March 22 hearing on the topic before the Yamhill County Planning Commission.

Given these answers, it does not seem to me as though installations (such as these) pose a threat to long-term farmland conservation in Yamhill County. None of the practices qualitatively differ from regular approved farming practices used throughout the county For example, pounding stakes for trellises, installing fencing, not using the native soil for production purposes, and pouring a concrete pad for some part of an operation or farm building are all normal farming practices seen throughout the county on farms of different kinds.

In the short-run, land put into solar installations will be removed from traditional agricultural production, which could be a concern for farmers who worry about increased competition for land access. However, if Butler is accurate about the limitations, we’re talking about potentially 300 acres, spread on parcels distributed throughout the county. To put this in perspective with other farmland conservation issues in Yamhill County, the gravel quarry that was approved on the south end of Grand Island (one of two approved on the island) represents 224 acres of farmland that would be permanently removed from production by the end of the quarry’s operation.

I should also address the question of aesthetics. I have heard that some people think solar installations are unsightly and sully the agricultural landscape. This is a highly subjective opinion, so a hard one to verify one way or the other. I do think that people unfamiliar with the agricultural industry can sometimes unknowingly foster a simplistic, romantic vision of what agriculture is. It’s important to remember that part of why “right to farm” laws exist in Oregon is because many normal, approved agricultural practices are semi-industrial and have affects that might be deemed unpleasant (noise and dust, for example). If you look closely as you drive along Yamhill County’s rural roads, you will see that semi-industrial nature present throughout our landscape: pole buildings, large equipment yards, packing sheds, security lighting, fences, and more. These non-pastoral scenes are an integral part of agriculture, necessary for supporting farm businesses, and therefore a real part of our landscape. The majority of our rural landscapes are beautiful too — so beautiful! But being beautiful is not the first purpose of farmland, just a side benefit of much of agricultural production.

That being said, because beauty is so subjective, I have to admit that I don’t find the existing installations in Yamhil County unsightly — aside from where I have seen the application of gravel on the ground. (And, I am a person who loves greenery and nature!). Aesthetically, I love the patchwork quilt of different patterns and colors that make up our rural landscape. To me, the tidy lines of panels fit right in next to tidy rows of trellised berries and lines of hazelnut trees. Plus, when I see them, I immediately think: Innovation! Sustainability! The future!

I remember hearing author and farmer Kristin Kimball talk once about the solar panels that she and her husband installed on their farm in New York. She said that she wanted them placed far away from their house and farmstead because she was sure she would find them hideous and ugly. Instead, she found them surprisingly beautiful and would intentionally walk to the installation to watch the meter run on sunny days.

To me, an outright ban seems like an out-sized solution when it’s possible there might not even be a problem to be solved at all. Because a ban is a strong approach to land-use, one that Yamhill County has not yet taken for other land uses that permanently remove larger tracts of farmland from production permanently (such as gravel quarries and the landfill). The argument for not having a ban for those is that they go through a rigorous process before being approved, and that ultimately they are resources that proponents say benefit our community too (in the form of aggregate for construction and road base and waste disposal). So, it seems that having some benefit in those situations has been seen as outweighing the permanent loss of farmland.

In the case of the solar installations, there is no evidence of permanent farmland loss, but is there benefit to our community? Enough electricity to power 5,000-10,000 home in Yamhill County seems like a significant benefit, especially in a county that currently has no significant power generation sources of its own. In the event of a disaster that takes out major transmission lines, decentralized sources of power generation could function much like our little solar panel at home — they wouldn’t fully replace the former power supply, but perhaps they could help get necessary functions up and running again before everything is back to normal.

Finally, I worry that passing a ban in our ordinances would send a powerful negative message to potential innovative businesses, both within and from without Yamhill County. Are we open to innovation and new ways of thinking about our economic possibilities? Are we excited about businesses that conserve farmland while also bringing new industries to our community? Do we want to participate in solutions for the coming reality of climate change? Or, what?

Meanwhile, yes, I think solar panels should be put up in many places besides prime farmland! Rooftops! Road sides! Yes! Yes! Yes! I’d love it if the county could even take the lead by installing solar panels on every county-owned building. Casey and I would love to install solar panels on our own roof now that the cost has made them more affordable, and we plan to do some research on whether this makes sense later this summer. (We have trees around our house, so we need to make sure our roof is really a good spot. Not every roof is created equal when it comes to solar energy generation!)

In closing, I want to say that I am publishing this newsletter with some level of trepidation. Right now the solar ban has such wide support among disparate people in Yamhill County that it feels like I’m really putting myself out there by proposing we look at it differently. Again, as I said earlier, the conflict being presented in this scenario (renewable energy vs. farmland!) makes the situation very complicated and pits two of my personal passions against one another. Ultimately, my information gathering on Yamhill County’s specific situation has led me to decide there is not a direct conflict at work in this case. If you’ve actually taken the time to read my entire newsletter, I wonder what you will think now too?

If you have concerns that I haven’t addressed here in my [very long!!!] newsletter, please let me know. I’m still chewing on all of this and am open to further conversation and hearing new evidence.

Meanwhile, we also use the sun to grow vegetables on our farm, and nobody can argue with how awesome that is! Yay for the sun! The original and best source of nuclear fusion energy! Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Apples
  • Spicy sauerkraut — The spicy version of Casey’s kraut has been so popular that he made it again!
  • Radishes — The first of the year! Sweet and tender out of the greenhouses. PLEASE LIMIT ONE BUNCH so that everyone can appreciate these! There will be more to come.
  • Cabbage rapini
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Cabbage
  • Winter squash — All the usual types!
  • Sunchokes
  • Beets
  • Carrots
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | 3 Comments

Rapini season begins

The kids gathered rapini in the fields this weekend.

As I was putting Rusty to sleep tonight, I asked him what I should write about in this week’s newsletter. He was half asleep already, but he said, “um … rapini.”

What is rapini you ask? It’s the delicious edible “bolts” (i.e. flower buds/stalks) that over-wintered brassicas and cole crops produce as spring approaches. Plants like turnips, cabbage, and kale are all “biennial,” which mean that they produce flowers and seeds after going through winter. In climates where winter kills everything green, that’s the end of the story. But here in the Willamette Valley, our winters are mild enough that many of these plants will live through the cold months and then begin their reproductive cycle as the days lengthen. The technical term for this plant process is “vernalize,” which essentially means the action of spring.

Rapini comes in many shapes and sizes, varying as much as the crops that produce it. Purple cabbage produce purple rapini; turnip produces bright green shoots and yellow flowers; dinosaur kale produces a deep green flower bud that closely resembles broccolini.

You can eat all parts of the rapini — the stalk, leaves, and flower buds. We harvest it with our fingers so that we can feel for the tender point where the stalk snaps, letting us know that everything above that point is tasty. You can eat rapini raw chopped into salad or cook it in the ways you might prepare kale or broccoli. It’s delicious roasted in a single layer in a pan, or you can chop it and sauté it with butter and garlic.

The kids, however, prefer to eat rapini in its native habitat. They are quick to spot the first yellow blossoms of the year and run out with delight to graze in the field. Rusty’s not much of a greens eater in the house at mealtime, but he loves eating raw rapini of all kinds plucked straight off the plant.

This week’s share has the first of the year’s rapini as a separate item (it’s been in the salad mix all year): cabbage rapini, which will be more firm than the turnip type pictured with the kids. In the coming weeks, you’ll get to try rapini of all kinds. If this is a new food to you, we encourage you to experiment with the variation in flavors and texture with different preparation techniques.

Another sign of spring’s [eventual] arrival: we have the first of the arugula this week! Because it’s just the first, we’re going to limit it this week to one bag per household. Thanks for your understand when we limit things; we want to make sure everyone who wants a taste gets it!

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s farmers:

  • Spicy cabbage sauerkraut
  • Apples
  • Cabbage rapini!
  • Arugula
  • Cabbage
  • Kale
  • Marina di Chioggia
  • Butternut
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Pie pumpkins
  • Sunchokes
  • Carrots
  • Beets

 

Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

In the news

Look who was in the paper!

There were two note-worthy items in the newspaper the last two days, both related to us but in different ways …

First, perhaps people saw the news in the News-Register that Casey has filed to run for Yamhill County Commissioner. Big news, eh? We’re not planning to make this website a campaign stop, since we won’t assume people who like eating our vegetables will inherently want to vote for Casey for Commissioner! But if folks are interested in learning more about Casey’s campaign, I’ll direct you to the official website: Vote Casey Kulla for Yamhill County Commissioner. He’s also on Instagram and Facebook.

But, I imagine people are wondering why he’s running, and I think that story is an appropriate one for our blog since we tell our personal stories here as well as farm stories. (But after this, you’ll have to get other news from the other sources!) Over the last 12+ years, Casey and I have both grown keenly aware of exactly how the daily lives of individuals are affected by political decisions. As rural residents of Yamhill County, we’ve paid close attention to the land-use process that determines some Big Things about life out here: who are neighbors are, what they do, who gets access to what opportunities. But we’ve also paid attention to how elected officials set the tone for how communities interact — is there a model of integrity and respect for everyone to follow?

I have to admit that about eight years ago, we felt fairly jaded about much of the political process. At the time, it felt like these Big Things were so out of our hands. We could submit testimony at the capitol or the planning department, and we could vote, but it didn’t feel like those things added up to much. But more recently, we’ve realized that if we feel passionately about the community we live in — the place and the people who inhabit it — then, we have to persist with our efforts. We have to keep caring and keep communicating about the values we want to see in place.

Even more recently, we’ve realized that our country as a whole is at the beginning of what will be a profound generational shift as so-called Baby Boomers retire from the workplace and civic life over the next 5-20 years. If there is to be any kind of smooth continuity, we realized that we cannot wait to be more directly involved in the political process — it is time now for younger generations to start stepping up, to work with the older generations for the next two decades. The older generations have hugely shaped our country and its agenda; they have experience in how the processes work or don’t work. Meanwhile, the younger generations have different perspectives to bring into the political process. So called Gen-Xers and Millennials came of age in a different world and will be living in this world for many decades to come. They are raising children in our community and are searching for solutions that will carry their children into a truly unknowable future. It seems like bringing these older and younger generations together now is critical to finding our way. Which will require Gen-Xers and Millennials to step up in a major way.

Which they are. Casey is part of a wave of people running for office this year from those younger generations (including the other two challengers for Yamhill County Commissioner positions). It is exciting to feel like we are a part of a bigger movement to bring that fresh energy into the leadership of our country and our local community. Not all of the Gen-Xers and Millennials (and record number of women) who run for office this year will be elected; but some will. And, based on what I am reading and hearing, they are bringing with them a strong desire for integrity, for positivity, for fairness. It will be an interesting year for elections around the country and here at home!

(What would Casey’s election mean for the farm? Oh goodness, friends, we have ideas about this, but really feel like this one is best described by the old say, “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.” Even though Casey feels like he has the experience, skills and positive connections to be elected, Yamhill County is still a big, diverse place. I think that any person running for elected office for the first time feels like they’re stretching toward Very Big Goals, and Casey is no exception.)

And, turning back toward the farm, another very interesting bit of news! I read in the The New York Times this morning about a fascinating new weight loss study (the article is here). They put study participants in two groups: low-carb and low-fat diets. But both groups were counseled to avoid refined sugars and grains, regardless of their carb or fat content (so no “fat free” brownies!). Instead, they were to seek out high quality, “nutrient-dense” foods (vegetables, pastured meats, etc.), cook and eat at home, and avoid junk food. Neither group was told to restrict calories at all, instead they were counseled to, again, pay attention to the quality of their food and eat to a comfortable feeling of fullness.

The results? Both groups lost weight! At about the same rate overall, although the results varied between individuals of course. The researchers were actually a bit disappointed about this, because they were hoping to finally answer the question of whether a low-carb or low-fat diet might be more effective, or at least more effective for certain categories of people (such as people who are insulin resistant). But, the results also demonstrated very clearly that the quality of food plays a significant role in weight loss. Here’s a great quote from the article:

“The bottom line: Diet quality is important for both weight control and long-term well-being,” he [Dr. Walter Willette] said.

Dr. Gardner said it is not that calories don’t matter. After all, both groups ultimately ended up consuming fewer calories on average by the end of the study, even though they were not conscious of it. The point is that they did this by focusing on nutritious whole foods that satisfied their hunger.

This feels like a big win for the local, whole foods movement! Clearly, for folks who make the lifestyle choice to eat quality whole foods, the “proof is in the pudding.” I don’t think many of us need to be convinced by a research study that our bodies feel better when we eat this way. But it’s always great to have scientific evidence to back up personal experience. And, I’m so excited to see the emphasis shifting away from counting calories or avoiding fat or carbs. One thing that study participants commented is that the experience transformed their relationships with food. To be told to eat dinner at home with their families (rather than to restrict calories) was a prescription that fundamentally improved their lives in infinite intangible ways beyond the weight loss.

The researchers remarked that most people regain the weight they lose from a “diet,” so the verdict is still out on whether participants will keep losing weight, maintain the weight loss, or gain it back. But it seems to me that the researchers have given the participants a very desirable, pleasurable option for eating — one that is sustainable in the long-run since it is focused on pleasure, quality, and satisfaction rather than restriction, avoidance, and hunger. I’m hopeful for those folks!

And, with that happy bit of science in mind, enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Sauerkraut — Plain old cabbage sauerkraut this week … yum!
  • Apples
  • Seasonal salad mix
  • Cabbage
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Marina di Chioggia squash
  • Pie pumpkins
  • Butternut squash — We’ve eaten a lot of roasted butternut this week. It’s unbelievably delicious — sweet, crispy outside, soft inside …
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Sunchokes
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

It’s not about the food …

Plum buds getting ready to bloom in the orchard. A green cover crop.

Many years ago, before we starting our farming venture, I helped operate the kitchen at a remote mountain retreat center called Holden Village. In the kitchen, we had a motto that guided our days: “It’s not about the food …” was posted visibly in our office, near our shelves full of cooking books (whose presence seemed to imply that maybe our jobs were about the food after all).

Obviously, food was our primary work. We cooked three meals a day for a community that ranged in size from 70 in the winter to 500+ in the summer! We would regularly chop ten gallons of onions for one meal. I know, because we’d do all the veggie prep the day before and measure and store them in five gallon buckets in our walk-in cooler. That’s a lot of onions. We even kept a pair of goggles around for the onion chopper to wear during his or her task.

But, even though our work was obviously to prepare food, we actively recognized that food isn’t about the food. Food is so much more than just some material stuff on a plate that we put into our bodies as fuel. Food is about pleasure. Aesthetics. Adventure. Politics. Culture. Family. And, perhaps most importantly to us, food is about connection. At that retreat center, we sat down together to pray and then eat three meals a day. One or two of those meals, every day, was served “family style,” with the dishes of food served in the middle of each table set for eight people. Each individual diner would take a portion and pass the contained, keeping in mind the importance of making sure everyone received a share, all the while making happy conversation about their day. That act of breaking bread together was a physical manifestation of the retreat center’s larger mission of connection, community, and faith. And, it was important as a kitchen staff for us to remember that our work was just as sacred as the pastor and worship team’s work — that by literally setting places at the table for our guests, we welcomed them into an experience with infinite layers of meaning. It was profound work to be doing, even if some days it felt like we were just chopping onions and laying spoons on tables and slicing bread.

In our work as farmers, I think we’ve carried over this philosophy. Certainly, our work is about the food — the CSA wouldn’t exist without the kale and carrots that Casey diligently harvests each week. And yet, our work is about so much more as well …

This afternoon we arrived back from two nights at Breitenbush Hot Springs, a different mountain retreat center that we visit every February for an annual gathering of farmers. We soak in the hot springs together, eat food over lively conversation, and sit on the floor to share all about the challenges and joys of the work we do — sometimes we discuss nitty gritty detail about fertilizer application and sometimes we ponder the bigger picture of why we do this work to begin with. Often we talk about our love for the work and for what it brings into our life. It’s a wonderful opportunity for us farmers to take stock, connect, and remember what brought us to these choices years ago.

What kept coming up in my mind when I thought about our work is all of you and the interactions we get to enjoy at our CSA pick-up. Can I just say that we love how we operate our CSA, with its self-serve pick-up style that allows people to meet and mingle with each other and us??? Obviously, we chose it intentionally all those years ago, deeply inspired by our experiences at Holden Village and its focus on community building. Never ever did we think we would enjoy packing up boxes to ship off to faceless customers. We wanted the farm to be a nexus for interactions. We wanted to meet the people who would eat our food! The relationships that have flowed from that choice have exceeded our dreams, especially as they continue to grow in depth year-after-year.

What these relationships lack in depth, they make up for in breadth, in repetition, in time. After watching our customers’ children grow over the last decade, there is a different kind of connection that grows. There is a care that comes from simply seeing each other in person each week. In that way, growing these vegetables and harvesting them feels a bit like a little prayer for our community each and every week. We can’t help but think of you all as we go about our work, calling to mind who will be especially excited about a new crop or remembering another CSA member who might be struggling with life that week.

In 2006, when we started this whole business, I’m not sure I fully anticipated the unique role the pick-up itself would come to play in our farming experience. I also could never have anticipated the way society would change around us. A common topic of conversation among people these days seems to be how physical in-person interactions with our community appears to be declining. Certainly people still see their good friends or their family, but many people have decreasing numbers of community interactions that are less intimate — that bring them into contact with people they might not otherwise visit with. Schools can still serve this role for many people who are parents, but other former such institutions are waning: churches, clubs, and other social activities. A friend who has been involved on Linfield’s campus since 2007 has noticed a marked drop in student participation and leadership in activities corresponding to what appears to be a big increase in cell phone and social media use. This tracks national and generational trends.

At our farmer gathering, a farmer from tiny little Waldron Island in the San Juans reported a similar trend. On that island (year-round population of 100 people), residents used to make a gathering event out of going to the post office to check mail the three times a week it was delivered. Now, with email and easier communication options for residents, getting mail has become less of a priority. A natural community meeting occasion has slowly slipped away, and she reported that the older residents feel the loss most keenly, remembering well what it used to be like in that remote community.

Overall, I actually feel like the greater McMinnville community as a whole works hard to sustain these kinds of connections. I love how many opportunities there are here to connect in person. But it does feel like we have to choose to connect because social media can dangerously “fill” that social need without actually filling it. We can become friends with people who don’t live in our community or we can dangerously find ourselves frustrated with people who do live in our community. The on-screen aspect of communicating can strip people of their humanity and make it harder to forgive or move on from arguments in the same way we often have to do in real-life communities (ideally, anyway!).

Anyhow, as a person who genuinely loves people and finds their stories and experiences fascinating and inspiring, I am continually grateful for the opportunity to interact with you all. Most of you we wouldn’t otherwise know or have regular interactions with, and our life would be less rich as a result! If all we do is connect with people who we immediately like or who have lots in common with us or do the same things all the time, we have fewer opportunities to grow and to learn.

All this from some vegetables! And more! Which is why we always said, “it’s not about the food … ”

That being said, enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Nettle sauerkraut — We picked the first of the nettles this weekend! They are just coming up, so we didn’t go crazy, but we were very excited about that unique smell and flavor. Every year, we fall even deeper in love with this wild plant. Casey wanted to do something significant with the first of it, and he thought he’d experiment with adding it to a larger ferment. We haven’t taste-tested it yet, but we’re excited!
  • Apples — Goldrush and Fuji
  • Seasonal salad mix
  • Cabbage
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Marina di Chioggia squash
  • Butternut — We want you to know a little cool thing about butternut … as they store over the winter in our special “squash room” (which we keep at room temperature — their preference), butternut start to shrivel a little. This is a natural part of the extended curing process and it means the squash is getting sweeter. So, don’t be afraid of a little shrivel on your butternut! That is a sign that it will be tasty!
  • Pie pumpkins
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Sunchokes
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

Cultivating empathy

Kale! Growing happily in the field.

Here we are, at the beginning of February, but my senses tell me that spring has arrived. The cover crop is deep spring green and growing so quickly now. The field grown kale is putting on new leaves. In town, I hear lawnmowers in the distance. The sun is warm on my skin. Frogs sing their mating songs in the night. Birds sing their dawn songs in the morning. Flowers put forth buds all around.

It’s hard to not just rejoice in these things! And, we do! Without reservation, to be honest. Although it’s arrived earlier than we sometimes anticipate, the sensory experience of spring is just so full of bliss, especially for us farmers.

It’s wonderful to watch recently sown seeds germinate and grow rapidly in the greenhouses, bringing us the knowledge that in not too long we’ll be harvesting treats like tender arugula and the first of the radishes. So soon! So early! Such a contrast to last winter, which felt like it would never.ever.end. (It did, obviously, but in April we were doubting that we’d ever have a dry spell long enough to work our ground.)

On weeks like this, when we are treated with truly some of the most glorious weather for being outside in the entire year (much more comfortable than hot summer days!), I find that thoughts drift away, carried on emotions of contentment. Some days, this is just wholly enough — that gentle warm winter sun on my skin.

I’ve also been keenly aware lately of how much privilege provides that feeling of simple enough-ness — that I can feel those eternal moments of simple bliss because my basic needs have been met. Because I am not worrying about where I will sleep tomorrow night or how I will feed my children.

So many people in our immediate community, and in our global community, live with insecurity that eats away at any possibility of peaceful reverie. For whatever reason, my personal reading list has included several excellent recent non-fiction works that share, in detail, the stories of people living in different kinds of insecurity. The books document the daily struggles and huge sacrifices people make in order to find something resembling security, in order to eventually (hopefully) experience the full breadth of the human experience, including its joys. A theme of these newsletters in the last year has been the importance of empathy in our journeys together on this planet. Reading about real human stories helps me stay reminded of our inter-connections, our similarities, our differences … it helps me experience the breadth of my own humanity, including my ability to think beyond my own immediate perspective.

I highly recommend all three books; they are each incredibly detailed, well documented, and thoroughly researched. They are also all highly compelling narratives (page turners!), put together by very skilled authors. (For your convenience, I’ve provided Amazon links here for more information, but all these books are available in our local library system and could be ordered by your local book seller.)

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration ~ Isabel Wilkerson weaves together the history of the 20th century migration of African Americans out of the south with specific stories of individuals who left in different decades and landed in different regions. The book is heart-breaking and inspiring and eye-opening.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity ~ Katherine Boo follows the lives of many different people all sharing life in a makeshift settlement (i.e. “slum”) in Mumbai. Through their experiences, the reader gets a glimpse of the modern politics and situation of India, which affects everyone living in the country, even those who have no permanent address and live on the streets.

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea ~ Barbara Demick tells the story of several North Korean defectors from one city, beginning well before they ever dreamed of leaving their home country. Their accounts of life in North Korea reads like a dystopian novel.

Reading is of course only one way we can begin to connect other people and the world we live in. Spending time outside feels like another crucial one too, as our connection to the other plants and animals that share this planet feels equally important to cultivate. What do you do to cultivate that understanding of people and beings beyond yourself? If it is not something you work on, I recommend finding a practice that will help you feel regularly humbled, connected, in awe. Meditating on the vastness of the universe. Community service. Listening to young children learning to read. Gardening. Prayer. A faith community full of flawed people to learn how to love. We need these practices as much as ever in the course of human history. It seems that it is only through an understand of our connections that we can ever find our way to true love and true peace.

And, also enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Reminder to extend your CSA season! In last week’s newsletter, we announced that our CSA season will now extend through October 18, but we want to hear directly from folks that they want to stay with us through all of those 40 weeks of delicious local eating. If you’re currently only signed up for the winter/spring season and want to extend through summer/fall, you can do so right now by filling out this simple form:


Yes! I want to extend my CSA season through October 18!


Or, you can extend in person at pick-up by signing your name on a paper form. Whichever is easiest for you!

If you haven’t signed up yet at all for 2018 and still want to, we are taking new members at any time! You can sign up online here, and we will prorate your price for the remaining weeks in the season.

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Sauerkraut [plain] — A new batch of ferment this week! This week’s is a more traditional plain sauerkraut made (of course!) with good organic cabbage from the farm. If you’d like some, bring a clean jar with you to pick-up or we can serve it to you in a bag.
  • Seasonal salad mix
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Butternut squash
  • Marina di Chioggia squash
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Pip pumpkins
  • Sunchokes — In our first newsletter of the year, I included a basic roasting preparation for sunchokes. That is one of our favorite ways to eat them, but we also often eat them raw. Their fresh texture is crispy like a carrot but with the pop of jicama (no relation! … just similar texture). You can literally just eat them (which our kids enjoy), but Casey and I often will chop them up fine, or even pulse in the food processor, and add them to cole slaw-like salads in the winter. We like to chop up fine cabbage, sunchokes, carrots (and maybe even some kale or chard) and mix it with a mayonnaise like dressing. To make it more of a filling salad, we’ll sometimes add chopped leftover chicken or raw tuna. These salads make a great meal for when we’re out and about, but they’re also yummy at home too.
  • Beets
  • Carrots
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

CSA season update!

The mild weather has been great for early greens in the greenhouse! Direct-sown greens are coming up already!

Time for a big update for this year’s CSA! We have figured out the rest of the year’s season details, and we are adding another 20 weeks on to the end of the 20 weeks we’ve already signed everyone up for!

As we shared in last season’s final newsletter, Casey has been accepted to Willamette Law School for the fall. He’ll be starting in their part-time program, because he’d like to continue farming as well. We’re so grateful that this wonderful option exists so close to our home and farm! But even though we knew technically the part-time program will provide time for him to farm, we wanted to get more details before extending the season that long — specifically, would any of his necessary classes conflict with CSA pick-up? He got in touch with the school recently and learned that he will have several options for his schedule, so we now feel comfortable that it will indeed work, and we are feeling very enthusiastic about the next 38 weeks of CSA veggies.

We hope that you feel excited about this news too! For our existing CSA members, we’ll have a easy form for you to fill out at pick up, or here’s a quick and easy way to extend your season through the end of the year right now:


Yes, I want to extend my current CSA season through Oct 18 (40 weeks total)!


Since the season will now be twice as long, your total price will be twice as large as the winter/spring season you originally committed to. If you are making ongoing payments, the subsequent payments will be the same cost as your first one, and they will be due on March 29, June 7, and August 16. As usual, I will email everyone a payment reminder and statement about two weeks before each payment is due.

If you are not yet signed up for this year’s season at all, you can also do that now via the slightly more extensive sign-up form found here.

As we work through the season, we are going to make one change to how pick-up works to help better accommodate the changes in our family’s commitments. We are going to change the CSA pick-up window of time back to our previous 3:30-6:30 pm on Thursdays. We had extended it a few years back because we were doing a lot of other sales of meat and eggs at pick-up and thought having a longer window would help us handle the volume of transactions we were doing. At this point, it seems like most people can make it in that slightly more narrow window of time.

We’ve already changed the time on the website so that new members will have that in mind, but will officially make the change at the halfway point of the season (June 7) so that current members have time to adjust their Thursday rhythms if needed. Please talk with us if you have a schedule conflict so that we can brainstorm possible solutions. We’ve been known to be creatively flexible in surprising ways in the past.

As I said, we are filled with enthusiasm for these coming weeks and months of delicious locally grown organic produce! Recently sown early crops are already coming up in the greenhouses (as seen in the photos above), and it feels like spring is just around the corner. We’re finalizing our crop planning for the season and beginning to order seeds. This is always a very exciting time in the season, when we are refreshed from our winter rest and looking forward to the fun work of sowing and planting. Every year, it feels like a gift to be direct witnesses and participants in the miracle of spring and summer’s growth. It is with joy that we grow and harvest for you, our community of eaters. Thank you for your continued support and eager cooking and eating!

Let us know if you have any questions about the season! And, enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables: Remember to check the last two week’s newsletters for lots more winter recipes and serving suggestions!

  • Apples
  • Spicy sauerkraut — Casey made a big batch of his famous seasonal ferment! This one has cabbage, chili peppers, beets, sunchokes, garlic, kale, winter squash, and carrots. To make sure everyone gets a taste, it will be limited to one item per household. If you want some, please bring a clean jar to take it home in! Or, else we can serve it to you in a doubled up plastic bag. Refrigerate!
  • Seasonal salad mix
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Cabbage
  • Sunchokes
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Spaghetti squash — We have fallen in love with spaghetti squash over the last two years, ever since we found a foolproof delicious way to prepare it (thanks to CSA members! You all give the best cooking suggestions!). Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Remove seeds and pulp (they are easy to scoop out with a spoon) and put in a baking pan cut side up. Drizzle the squash flesh with olive oil and salt and then bake at 350° until it’s soft all the way through. Cooked this way, the spaghetti squash should be cooked but easy to pull out with a fork in the long “threads” that make it a perfect substitute for pasta spaghetti. We like to add more butter while it’s hot and then salt it and either eat it as a side dish or top it with more cooked veggies and/or meat or whatever! Red sauce is great too, of course!
  • Marina di Chioggia winter squash
  • Butternut squash
  • Pie pumpkins
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment