Open Books

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Marshall and Dakota learning about how to convert an air conditioner into to a refrigerator unit on the delivery van using a farmer-invention called the cool-bot.

This week in the farm share, we will have a selection of garlic, spinach, salad mix, radish, summer squash, carrots, green onions, chard, beets, kale, bok choi, thyme, basil, and parsley.  We will likely have a combination of strawberries and cherries (conventional, not from Abundant Acres).  **Victoria Park customers, please remember the pick up will be at the other end of the park, by the fountain.**  Recipes are at the end of this post.

Very early this spring, a few organic farmers got together to share financial information.  It was a raw experience, and so worth it.  A pattern emerged that the smaller, more specialized farms are making a good profit.  They are focused on high-end, high-priced products sold at a vibrant farmers’ market.  Sharing information like this was helpful in drawing us all closer together.  I found it liberating to end assumptions about our farm, and stop assuming things about other farms.  We have a lot more to learn from these farmers and I hope we will have another gathering like this next year.  I was really impressed with one farm’s transparency about the hard decisions and the good decisions.  It was emotional.  What an amazing learning experience!  It made us into a group of peers rather than a group of competitors.

In an informal chat with two growers in the fall, one added up the costs of selling eggs and decided to charge a pretty high price that more truly reflected these costs.  For the most part, once customers were aware of the costs, they continued to buy the eggs.  Wow!  Another grower was shocked at the high price and expressed a fairly typical cultural perspective that he couldn’t possibly raise his price.

At Abundant Acres, we have been investing heavily in the farm by adding infrastructure like irrigation (lines, pumps, ponds); machinery (tractors & implements); greenhouses (mobile hoop houses, and double-inflated permanent, heated greenhouses); and upgrades to the barn.  These have all been expensive, but ultimately will help us to produce food in an uncertain climate.  We have also invested heavily in the soil (compost and cover crops) and in people (training and trust).  I am shocked at the amount we’ve spent this year bringing compost on to the farm to supplement our own farm-generated compost.  Even though it is a long-term investment, we are already seeing the benefits in the vitality of the crops.  We also raised the amount paid to our farm’s crew.  We still don’t pay them nearly as much as we want to, but we can see clearly that it makes a difference.  We are also offering a bonus at the end of the season if the farm exceeds budget targets.  Time will tell which investments pay off in the end.

Which brings us to our next point.  We want to share all our farm’s financial information with our crew.  The first quarter report wasn’t very interesting for them, but this quarter they’ve been after me for it.  They should know how we make financial decisions, how we get loans, and what mistakes we’ve made in the past.  We want them to be part of the financial decision-making process.  Hopefully this will help prepare them to run their own operations.

Here are a few photos from the last 7 days on the farm:

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David on the phone after preparing land for cover crops

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Ingredients

SERVINGS: 4

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 large bunches Swiss chard, ribs and stems removed and reserved, leaves torn into 2” pieces (about 12 cups)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
 Preparation
  • Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook garlic, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Add red pepper flakes and half of Swiss chard, season with salt and pepper, and cook, tossing often, until wilted, about 4 minutes. Add lemon juice and remaining chard and cook, tossing, just until all chard is wilted, about 1 minute; season with salt and pepper.

Hummus (David’s favourite): Recipe Link

This is a great protein-rich snack that it great to have as a spread on sandwiches, a side with veggies, or as a dip.  So healthy too!  We use more garlic than what is called for in the recipe.

 

And for something a little different…

Beetroot and Cashew Hummus:  Recipe link

 

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