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Archive for March, 2016

Seeds, fertilizers and… Here are 10 things your CSA investment secures.

1. Diversified farming rotations: In the landscape of soy and corn, CSA provides a unique opportunity for organic farmers to experiment and diversify their crop rotations. Here at WSF, we have a six year rotation of vegetables, grains and grasses. A diversity of plant species in farming systems is critical to restoring the quality of our soils in Ohio.

2. Year-round employment for farmers: At Wayward Seed, we work year-round to grow, store, pack and deliver food. Our CSA helps with yearly startup costs and ensures ongoing production in the greenhouse and the packing house.

3. Access to capital for young farmers: Although I’m not so young anymore, it’s important to realize that there are over 8,000 CSA farms in the country today. Many of those are young farmers who are creating a new farming economy and are in search of stable markets to grow their businesses. CSA is the best way to interact with a farmer in the marketplace.

4. Lots of greens: Arby’s has the meats…we have the greens, from Broccoli Raab to Braising Mix. CSAs are unparalleled in the quality of their greens.

5. A sense of community: In a hectic world of technology and overbooked schedules, CSA brings you to a pick up location, a home, a farmers’ market. It’s a commitment to the farm, a commitment to the environment, and it’s a commitment to your health. We do CSA together!

6. Nutrient dense food: I test our soil multiple times each season to assess our farm’s health. We also text Brix values of our food for quality. I can taste the difference, I hope you can, too!

7. Unique varieties: We like interesting greens, roots and especially onion varieties. I still think the Rossa di Milano onion is the best product we grow on the farm. Onions are the unsung heroes of our foods flavor. They are the role player that never makes the All-Star team. Your cooking is only as good as your onions.

8. Freshness: You know that feeling you get when you cook that first broccoli of the fall season…it tastes so strong, so mustard like, so sweet. That’s because…it’s FRESH!

9. Inspiring creativity in the kitchen: What do I do with Rutabaga? I’ve never cooked Fennel. CSA is a support system for your new endeavors in the kitchen.

10. A future for farming: We want vibrancy in our future food system. We want more choices as consumers. We want more transparency and accountability for the safety of our food. CSA represents ALL of those things. The future is now. Our new farming economy is nascent, yet fragile. CSA is a bridge to a brighter food system–don’t forget its importance to “the movement.” If we lose CSAs, it won’t be just the farmers losing a market, we will all have lost. The future of CSA is in your hands.

Have you invested yet?

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This week, our 10th birthday has us thinking about the 10 things we’ve learned about local food. Here are 10 things that work, don’t work, and the things we love!

1. Love  Feeding mini humans local food. Since day one, we’ve experienced any number of births, birthdays, graduations, and college visits, many of which have included Wayward Seed Farm vegetables. My most memorable moment? The day a long-time member’s child (maybe 4 or 5 years old?) bit into the raw fennel bulb, munching on the bulb and frawns alternatively, and loving it!

2. Works – Farmers’ markets. It’s true that people really do want to know the person growing the food. We have had so many incredible, thought provoking, and sometimes idealistic conversations with people at market. Even today, those conversations inspire us.

3. Doesn’t work – Too many CSA options. Too many CSA options equal too many customers that don’t truly “buy in” to the CSA concept. There was a time when Wayward had more than six different options and managed them all by hand. During that time, we’d hear things like, “It’s cheaper at Kroger,” and “I don’t like any of the vegetables you’re growing.”

4. Love – Our chefs. We work with only a few, but the few we work with, we love. They happily take what we bring to them, and enjoy the quality and freshness we provide. And at the end of the year, when it’s time to celebrate, we take our team out for dinner and show them what those chefs are doing with the fruits of their labor. We have had incredible meals at Z. Cucina and Alana’s!

5. Works – CSA coordinators. Since the beginning, we’ve been lucky enough to have very supportive community drop point coordinators for our CSA. We have delivered to several of our homes for years, and without them, it would be difficult to get our CSA into the community like we do. Not only do they host our shares, but they take care of our members every week!

6. Doesn’t work – Sweet Potato Greens. (Big bummer here!) We thought through research and recipes that our CSA members might want to try these in stir fries and soups. Nope, perhaps the worst feedback of any single product I’ve put in my CSA. Love sweet potatoes, hate the greens.

7. Love – Carrots. We absolutely adore local, organic carrots. We know they are expensive compared to the grocery store but they are so worth the extra hand weeding. Sweet, strong, crunchy and sublime. They are one of the products that prove we are on to something with our quality and care. Our carrots make me smile every time.

8. Works – Raised beds. Without our commitment to building raised beds on our farm yearly, many of our crops would be washed away. Call it global weirding…the number of rain events over 2 inches including winds over 50 mph seems to be growing annually. We had one storm this season that dumped close to 5 inches of rain…..????!!!!! Our raised beds keep your food elevated and able to thrive in our changing climate. They also help to keep Farmer Adam’s blood pressure lower during these potentially catastrophic rain events.

9. Doesn’t work – False marketing. Sustainability is built with good farm and business practice. Cover cropping, mineralization and beneficial insect habit don’t happen through marketing slogans and BS website pledges. Local food is too rife with broken promises by restaurants and retail buyers. Farms carry the risk and the scrutiny of the buying public through their choices. We need a consumer campaign for transparency in the marketplace. Restaurants and retailers should have minimum purchasing percentages before being able to claim “farm to table.” Ask questions, be skeptical. Is what I’m eating really local? Or is it from Sysco? We need more ethics in the buyer community.

10. Love – Fermented foods! We think the growth of fermented pickles, krauts, sauces and condiments is especially exciting for local food. We all need to incorporate more preservation into our local food usage. Fermented vegetables are good for us and add that special mix of flavor and crunch to our meals. Pickled daikon or watermelon radish are our favorites on the farm.

Don’t forget, next week’s prize in the countdown to our 10th birthday is a $50 North Market gift certificate. Reserve your share today and give yourself a new chance at something fun each week!

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Let’s Celebrate!

We’ve mentioned a few times that we’re turning 10 this season, but haven’t really stressed how excited we are about it. WE’RE TURNING 10! We have finally hit the double digits. We have successfully outlasted the old saying, “Most businesses fail within…” Even so, we’re still climbing the ladder of success inch by inch…

We’ve been pondering ways to celebrate. How do we thank those who’ve stuck with us while still reaching those who have no idea we exist? How do we celebrate (in general) while still reminding people how critical their support is? How do we maintain relevancy when we’re no longer the new kids on the block (young, blurry-eyed, and full of hope), but rather, 35, feeling tired sometimes (but still hopeful) and certainly not today’s hipster? How do we appropriately celebrate how far we’ve come, yet emphasize how much farther we have to go?

It’s an ever-changing (and by ever-changing, we mean, by the minute) marketplace. There’s always a new business that “sources” it’s oh, always sustainable food, and delivers “hyper-local” food (what does that even mean?!) I know we’re biased, but for us, Wayward is a local food institution. It’s here to stay. The future is bright but the real legacy will be built through incremental growth in the scope, size and financial stability of the farms that drive this local food movement. Our farm has worked so incredibly hard to change, or at least affect the food culture and dialogue in the city, and yet we still have so far to go.

Enough of my annual rant. (Remember last year how I said, this is what happens when Adam asks me to be in charge of the blog for a week?!) Let’s celebrate those 10 years! And let’s make sure that farms like Wayward Seed and many of the others you know and love can sustain growth.

Over the next 10 weeks, we’ll countdown to the month where our little half-acre farmers’ market business started. Each week, we’ll randomly draw a name from members who are signed up for the 2016 CSA season for things like a FREE CSA share, a series of Wayward Seed Farm totes, gift certificates, and more. But you must be signed up for your share to be entered into our drawing. Here’s a list of what to expect:

March 28 – Let’s go back to where it all started! A $50 gift certificate to North Market.
April 4 – $25 in gift certificates to use at a Wayward Seed Farm market stand.
April 11 – A FREE CSA, all 25 weeks!
April 18 – We’ll drink to that! 2# of freshly roasted coffee from our favorite coffee roaster and friend, Cafe Brioso.
April 25 – You want farm-to-table? There’s only one option… Alana’s Food & Wine. A $50 gift certificate to Alana’s.
May 2 – Back to class! A cooking class in the most beautiful teaching facility in Columbus, The Seasoned Farmhouse.
May 9 – A FREE CSA share for 12 weeks!
May 16 – A series of Wayward Seed Farm totes from CSA over the years.
May 23 – $50 in gift certificates to use at a Wayward Seed Farm market stand.
May 30 – Get cooking! A copy of The Vegetable Butcher (when it’s released) written by our friend, Little Eater’s Cara Mangini and $20 in gift certificates to Little Eater Produce & Provisions.

So, what are you waiting for?! And just because we’re celebrating 10, here are 10 things you can do to help:

1. Reserve your CSA share today.
2. Then tell a friend about CSA.
3. Recruit a coworker to join the CSA.
4. Bring a friend to the farmers’ market stand.
5. Ask your favorite farm-to-table restaurant exactly what farms they buy from, and then ask your farmers if it’s true.
6. Consider investing in a multi-year CSA share.
7. Share information about the farm on your social media sites.
8. Offer to split a share with someone.
9. Buy a share for someone special.
10. Create a new delivery location with 10 of your friends.

And if none of this sounds appealing, email us and we’ll give you even more ideas!

Until next time…

Jaime

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For our 10th anniversary season we aren’t making any big changes to our operation or CSA. We welcomed many new challenges for 2015, including a return back to our hometown of Fremont and welcoming a whole new staff. I want to thank all of our farmers’ market patrons, CSA members, multi-year CSA members and investors. We could not have realized our goal of relocating back home without your commitment to the farm. I was very pleased with the production and CSA in 2015. We had some difficult conditions in June especially and lost our winter squash crop. Other than a few hiccups here and there, the season was quite plentiful. I’m sure many of you could see that represented weekly in the CSA box. Thinking back to last season, I drew a deep sigh of relief sometime in early September when I could see the fall crops developing beautifully in our South field. We had passed the test of moving the farm, continuity was intact. Now onward Wayward! Thanks again to all of you!

Our 2016 goals on the farm are pretty simple. Maintain existing and build new sales outlets, focus on food safety systems and continue to improve our farming practice. We believe CSA is and will be the cornerstone of our business for years to come. This theory is potentially under threat based on how many options families have to buy “local” and eat seasonally. 10 years ago there were very few options in Columbus for local, organic seasonal eating. We have many more farmers’ markets, natural groceries and CSA type options (Thank goodness!). Many of these options do not have the season long commitment like a real CSA. It is not for everyone. My mentor and CSA God, Richard De Wilde of Harmony Valley Farm in Viroqua, WI says that it takes about 3 seasons for his CSA members to become accustomed to the rigors of seasonal eating. What do I do with all of these peppers and eggplant? Can I eat another stir fry this week?!?! Yes, yes you can because your choice to eat this food is an alternative choice that pays dividends for your health, palate and agricultural system. Told through the infinite wisdom of Wendell Berry, “Eating is an agricultural act.” You are aware of your choice to eat and invest in this process. CSA has taken a hit in the last few years and I am fully aware that for many folks it was a trend that came and went. For us 7,000 CSA farms throughout the country, it’s our livelihood…I hope CSA survives its receding waters, it taught me how to farm and financially survive the rigors of that learning curve.

On the wholesale front, we will continue to grow slowly through new and existing relationships. Many of you in 2015 saw some of our products at Whole Foods Markets in Columbus. We sell to them through our co-op, Great River Organics. They really like our kale and bunched greens products on their wet rack. I’m hoping we can do more business with them this season. Also, Wayward Seed Farm and many of the farmers of Great River Organics will be working with Ohio State University to provide produce to their dining halls. We are so humbled and proud to be working with one of the most important institutions in our state to provide our local and organic produce to students and faculty alike. This opportunity is very spiritually and emotionally important to me. 10 years ago many of my friends, family and associates said I was crazy for attempting to grow organic food for a living. How about that? The Ohio State University issuing Great River Organics a contract is a real vote of confidence in our abilities as an organic farmer community. It’s important symbolically and fiscally. From the fringe to the mainstream, how things have changed. We are heading down the long road towards professionalism, and this is one of the next steps.

Additionally in 2016 we will be conducting a 3rd party food safety audit to strengthen systems on the farm. This will also open new markets for our food, especially in retail outlets and grocery stores. Food safety is at the cornerstone of our growth and will enable the farm to maintain business for years to come. Growing food for our community is a privilege, not a right. We understand the potential threat that a lapse in judgement on safety or lowering standards on the farm could be hazardous to the operation. We are improving our food safety plan all the time here on the farm and this is really, really important to us.

Lastly, I wanted to touch on our commitment to improving our organic management systems here at Wayward Seed Farm. We have adapted a 6 year rotation at the new farm to improve fertility, mitigate disease pressure on our crops and help to eliminate noxious weeds on the farm. We feel that crops like broccoli and cabbage are just too important for us to risk diseases like black rot or club foot by shortening the rotation. It’s really just risk management. If we had something like black rot on our brassicas, it might take up to ten years for our soil to sterilize. We can’t afford that catastrophe and good practice is the best prevention. Cover cropping improvements are continual. Right now we have over 90 percent of the farm covered in soil improving grasses and grains. Our glacial sand soils are very erosion prone and fall cover cropping with rye, oats and peas is essential. On windy days in the winter you can see blowing top soil in the township. We never want our precious soils to erode through mismanagement. Right now our organic matter is maintaining from levels around 3.6-4.1 percent. The goal is to maintain, and through good practice, have organic matter gains. Time will only tell. The soils of southern Sandusky County should be and need protected. Our food sovereignty might someday depend on it.

Thanks for your investment and commitment, I’m looking forward to the next 10 years!

Be well,

Farmer Adam

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