News and Events

  • May 10th, 2012

“You got another Farm Boy!”, exclaimed Dr. Basham.  The thought of those words announcing the gender of our beautiful new baby will forever be special to me—a highlight of my life to say the least!  We welcomed Boyd McCain Courtney into our family on May 1st.  We weighed 9.65 pounds and was 21 inches long.  Head full of hair, little rolls on his arms, and is much loved by big brother and sister!

It probably does seem like I’ve been Missing in Action lately.  To some degree I have been.  I spent the weeks leading up to his birth in the midst of doing what I had to do for the vegetables and other pieces of our farm while feeling about 10 months pregnant!  (It’s nice to be able to see your ankles again!)  I had an extended stay in the hospital and it’s taken me longer to get back in the “swing of things” than I had expected.  We are so gracious that we had Luke and Joe to oversee all kinds of activity while we were away and recovering!  Luke continued on with our planting schedule, irrigation, crop scouting, overseeing the workers drag moss out of the pond, take down fencing, plant and seed.  Joe continued planting corn, watched it rain and he worked on equipment in the shop, helped keep the mowing customers satisfied, etc., etc., etc.!  I have to say, I’m thrilled to be back on board, have a healthy baby, and looking forward to being able to be engaged in the outside activity more and more each day.  

With the unusually warm weather we had back in late winter/early spring, many folks (including Shane and I) were hoping that we’d have a jump start on the vegetable harvest.  With the humbling humor of mother nature, the long dry-spell hit at the wrong time for the vegetables that we seeded in the field (which are primarily the early crops).  It’s up to the weather far more than a seed catalog’s timetable for a plant’s maturity!!  Many of those little seeds sat there far longer than we hoped. We went in and re-seeded several types, then were blessed with abundant rain (be careful what you wish for, right?!) and now we have beautiful rows of young plants in the field.  We are now praying for dry weather so we can get in and cultivate the carpet of weeds cropping up, get in the field to plant many other seedlings that have extended their stay in the greenhouse, and keeping an eye out for disease that often comes with wet/warm weather.  With all that being said, we are now anticipating beginning harvest/deliveries towards the end of May. The beauty here is you will surely receive the best of spring, summer, and fall plantings!  We will keep you posted —now that I’m back in full-swing (well, not quite, but soon hopefully!!!). 

 

From the farm, with another “Farm Boy”,

Mary


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  • March 12th, 2012

It feels SO nice outside!!  And what am I doing in here at the computer?!  Unfortunately, more of what I’ve spent lots of time over winter doing….production records, seeding/planting details, insurance details, seed selection, loan applications, migrant worker contracts, price shopping, on and on….  The office chair is becoming less and less attractive as spring is nearing!!

 

Two pieces of office work that I have really enjoyed lately are 1) seed variety selection and 2) lining up the final plans for this years’ CSA / seeing the subscriptions come our way!

 

Lucas and Elly and I enjoyed watching Shane plow yesterday—the kids each got to ride with him for a while and loved every second of it.  When Elly hopped out her comment was “I a farm girl” with a big smile on her face and Lucas’s response was “Mama, I like helping Daddy.”  Comments like these melt my heart!  Walking across a plowed field is one of those things that I never grow tired of.  I remember my dad loving to plow and we’d look for worms and neat things the tractor turns over.  Plowing a field is a true sign that planting is nearing, tilling is evident, and harvest is in the horizon.  

 

It’s an exciting time on the farm.  Today in the greenhouse we are seeding 12 heirloom tomato varieties, 3 cherries, 2 romas, and 1 good slicing tomato variety.  These are joining the teeny-tiny collard, cabbage, kale, and lettuce plants that are growing more with each watering.  Yesterday the kids and I walked through the garlic trial to see which varieties don’t mind cooler temps—after this winter they all look great! Speaking of winter, it’s really weird to realize that just last week we were sleigh riding in about 6 inches of snow!  Weather in KY….gotta love it (or adjust!).

 

This is spring on a farm that raises mostly plants….on the livestock farms, I know Jeneen is anxiously awaiting the arrival of a bunch of little chicks and Melissa and Josh are in the middle of calving season.  My mom mentioned yesterday that my dad and a few of my brothers were absolutely shot from Saturday’s attempts of lassoing a few newly purchased calves that decided to explore the farm upon arrival.  Every season has it’s joys…(and days you’d like to forget!)…and it’s all part of Farmers Feeding Families.

 

CSA plans for this season are coming together!  We are excited to let you know that we will have more delivery/pick-up options around Louisville this year in Middletown, Hurstbourne Plaza, off of Outer Loop, and Iroquois Manor. We are thrilled to be able to offer more convenience.  In advance, thanks for continuing to spread the word.

 

Off to more desk-time for a few hours—–it’s an unfortunate reality of farming….you gotta keep that pencil sharp in order for the tractors to run, and paychecks to be written, and to keep feeding families!

 

Thanks for being a part of what we do…it’s an honor!

 

From the farm,

Mary


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  • December 03rd, 2011

I have been flying high all day long, walking around with an extra bounce in my step today because I am bursting with pride over an accomplishment of my older brother and his family.  Michael Will is two years older than me, so I’ve obviously known him for a long time, and he never has wanted to do anything other than farm. Michael Will was discouraged by many to follow his dreams; due to his persistance and determination, he chose to not only follow his dream, but he gave his childhood dream wings.  Like I, Michael Will grew up helping our parents on the farm every single day, whether that was picking blueberries, feeding cattle, breaking ice in the ponds, cutting hay, housing tobacco, mending fence, he was there.  I’m thinking he was about 14 years old when he bought his first “crop” of hogs.  That was a short-lived venture as many times would we be in school and Mama and Papa would have to try to chase down hogs that rooted their way out of the pens after they swore they’d never own a hog again after the farm crisis of the early ’80’s.  But what those hogs did (in my mind) was they gave MW a taste of what being not only a farmer, but a manager and caretaker of the components of farming and how rewarding it can be beyond the day-to-day tasks.  Shortly thereafter Michael Will began expanding his enterprises and possibilities he determined would be endless. Look at him now!

Our family has been blessed with Michael Will’s choice of a bride.  Nora was also raised being surrounded with challenges and rewards of a family business, although it wasn’t farming.  Her family’s grocery store instilled in her the same values my parents’ farm instilled in Michael Will.  Together with their work ethic, foundation of servanthood to feed others through the work of their hands, deterimination, foresight of what may evolve with persistance and good decision making, they were honored yesterday at the Kentucky Farm Bureau State Convention.  Michael Will, Nora, Claire (3 years), and Will (20 months) were selected as Kentucky’s Outstanding Young Farm Family.

Success is no way measured by the plaques on one’s office walls, but their success that was recognized yesterday is sentimental to me.  As a little girl, teenager, college student, and now parent and farmer, I look up to my brother.  Through Michael Will’s past, present, and future farming endeavors, he feeds so many people.  He understands that if we take care of our land, it will take care of us.  He implements Good Agriculture Practices on their farm because it is the right thing to do.  He minimizes crop inputs where he can, while focuses on the opportunity to eventually feed as many as he can off of the resources he utilizes.  Too often agriculture, specifically modern agriculture gets a bad-wrap.  Most of the time it’s due to mis-information.  If you ever doubt the creditials of today’s young farmers, or their practicies, I hope you get to meet farmers like them.  Michael Will and Nora will continue to care for the growing operation not just for them, or the mouths they will feed, but for the children.  Our parents instilled a passion for nature, hard work, soil, water, the miracles of life on a farm, that all five of us kids (now adults) incorporate in our professions.  We all love farming.  It’s that simple.  Yesterday’s recognition of Michael Will and Nora has provided a time of reflection on life and how fortunate I am to grow up with and in a family that instilled characteristics that have brought us each to where we are.

I’m so fortunate to have fallen in love with someone who also loves farming.  It may have been a challenge for me to follow my dreams, if I’d married a man who didn’t share that understanding.  As Shane and I are wrapping up 2011’s year and making our plans for this coming year, we can be reminded that life’s a journey, and so is farming.   Michael Will and Nora didn’t get to where they are overnight, and he’d be the first to tell you it hasn’t been easy.  But if you ask him if it’s worth it, with no hesitation he’d say “absolutely, without a doubt”.  It is so encouraging to see where they are, knowing where they came from.  As we finish our second vegetable season, second grain season, forth tobacco season, it’s exciting to allow our dreams to grow wings.  I know Michael Will nor Nora are on Facebook and probably don’t read my blogs, so they won’t ever see this….but I chose to share it with you because they won’t toot their own horn, but you wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t interested in food farmers—and here’s a food producer worth learning from.  I hope you take a minute and read the news release www.kyfb.com/federation/news-room/news-releases/Annual-Meeting-2011/Michael-and-Nora-McCain-named-KFBs-2011-Outstanding-Young-Farm-Family-10331/

 


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  • November 10th, 2011

“Venduras en Novembre, Maria?”, asked Luis yesterday as we packed up some collards greens to take into Louisville.  “Si”, I said with a smile.  Other than going out to pick lettuce for a fresh salad of the evening, we hadn’t picked much since our CSA’s ended at the end of October.  This weather has been too amazing lately…for some reason I can’t get myself to sit in the office chair too long.

We are still watching the weather like crazy!  We need rain so it will get the tobacco “in case” (soft enough to get out of the barn without it being crunchy and crumbling), we don’t need it to rain because we have a lot of corn that needs to “dry down” so that we can harvest it (too much moisture will result in price discounts at the point of sale), we need the soil to dry out so we can work the ground to plant garlic.  In other words, the weather is going to dictate what we can do and when we can do it….time is of the essence for working the soil….winter is near!

I must take a minute to reach out and thank all those who helped elect our new Commissioner of Agriculture.  I didn’t think the ag community ourself could elect him, but I did think that if we reached out to those who enjoy the fruits of our labor and helped educate, we as Kentuckians would make the right decision.  Regardless of political lines, or nice people, I am confident Mr. Comer will do a fantastic job for all of Kentucky.  As a farmer himself, he understands many of the underlying issues our profession faces, the need for opportunities, and on and on.  We really are blessed to be able to come together as a state and elect our leaders—whether we agree or not on the outcome, it’s wonderful we can have an opinion that matters! All too often we take the “little things” for granted.

I had an amazing opportunity last week to speak at a class at U of L.  It was such an uplifting experience to see college “kids” wide-eyed and interested in learning of how we raise food for people and then market it– or market it then raise the food….  They seemed interested in learning of how we sell “real food to real people” through our CSA and to schools, and groceries, and fascinated that we can harvest 1000 bushels of soybeans at once and deliver it at once that will be added to our food system to aid in feeding thousands of people.  They found it interesting that I saw a watermelon grown on our farm sitting on the produce bench at Kroger 12 miles away, but many days later.  They were intrigued to learn that I have choices to choose seeds that will produce a delicious, sweet, juicy fruit on one that is semi-orange and hard like what you can get on a taco at Taco Bell that will be considered “good” for several weeks once picked.  They found it interesting as I shared with them what motivates people to purchase food from whom and where they do.  I really think I was able to add to their lives.  As for one gal, I really do think it was the first time she “thought about the work that goes into getting food to her plate”. WOW.

Most of the time I only share events and occurrences of our farm workers and what goes on here.  Since the vegetable season has slowed I’ve taken the kids to do some “much needed things”….like helping Shane when we can move equipment and visit my parents.  Often times people ask “why do you do what you do?” Two quick stories of stopping to “smell the roses” of life that I had the pleasure of enjoying.  It was a recent Saturday and I took the kids to Washington County where my parents live and farm on the farm where I grew up.  They love it there, as do I.  Papa was having a pond being repaired—lots and lots of sludge had accumulated and needed removed.  (His plans are to fence it off and rig up a self-watering system for the cattle so they can drink without tearing up the banks of the pond).  While we were there, the dozer operator called to tell him he needed to take out part of his existing fence at the bottom of hill because this sludge was heading down there at a quick pace and he feared it tearing up his fence.  Being a nice daughter who really misses farming with her dad on a daily basis, I offered to help.  Mama gave me some old clothes and I borrowed a pair of my brother’s muck boots….well we were making progress when I went to lift my right leg up to learn my boot wasn’t going anywhere, but I was—as I grabbed the woven fence wire to hold me up I realized we had already cut that piece…and I landed in the  mud.  One side of my body—totally covered!  As some would have gotten mad, Papa and I laughed—as too did the kids when they saw me.  Life is too short to not experience things like that with people you love, doing things you love. Often times I realize I take our farming too serious because of the financial stresses, future planning, etc.  I hope Shane and I can create an farm that Elly will want to come back to and not mind accidentally falling in the mud with Shane when she’s 30!!

The other experience was one that was so precious and quickly became a highlight.  The kids and I went over to a farm in Clay Village (about 8 miles from our home farm) to help move some grain equipment.  The landlord there has a small herd of sheep.  As I drove into the farm I noticed what I thought was a plastic bag out in the pasture.  I made a mental note that when we came back through to hop out and pick-it-up. As we were leaving, we stopped to open the gate and saw a teeny-tiny lamb that hadn’t been born for more than a few hours.  Then we saw more.  They were absolutely precious.  I pulled the truck up and got out walking over to the “plastic bag” to realize it was a tiny lamb also.  Looking at it and showing the kids I noticed far off there was a mother lamb baa-ing—-obviously upset and frantically looking for something.  I scooped up the white ball and carried it to it’s mother—as they were both crying, it brought tears to my own eyes.   New life is amazing.  On our farm we get to see it with seeds, but watching the emotions come to life in this mother and baby was special.  Thank you to our landlord for allowing us to farm your farm, and accidentally show our children another miracle of farm-life!

Well, I hope this week finds you enjoying the many beauties of the seasons.  During the day working outside you are likely to have broken a sweat to wake up to frost covered lawns.  Even though most of the harvests from our farm are finished, we are going to enjoy some meatloaf tonight  made with ground beef from my parent’s farm, peppers and tomatoes from here, with a side of winter squash….and pumpkin muffins for dessert—to be drizzled with honey.  Hope you are already enjoying the items you stashed away for the cooler months!

 

From our Family to Yours,
Mary


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  • October 30th, 2011

This week has been bitter-sweet as we’ve concluded the CSA for the season, we are in the process of preparing the fields for next year, which consists of removing all plant debris from this year to sow cover crops.  We have cleaned out the vegetable barn out and have begun stripping tobacco.  This week we’ve had a beautiful rainbow over the farm one morning and the very next morning, everything was white from a freeze.  We are making slow progress with harvesting the grain because of the rains, but it’s enjoyable when equipment is working right, regardless. I’m trying to figure how I need to go about “tackling” my mounds of paper-work that I’m behind on.  The kids are enjoying taking lunch over to Daddy and Joe and running around in the soybean stubble and taste testing the beans—-I think they think that if they keep tasting they will taste better eventually.  I had the pleasure of attending the KY Women in Agriculture Conference this week and was ignited by the contagious attitudes of farm women across the state.  KY’s agriculture is so unique—from farm to farm, folks are doing different things….and like our farm, folks are feeding locally and globally.  It was pretty special to be in a place celebrating how if we support one-another as an industry we can do so much….and how if we get to know our customers, engage them in conversations about food and farming we can learn so much.  The conference was a good ending to our second CSA season as it will fuel me for massive planning over the next few months…and hopefully help me focus on the dreaded bookwork so that I can begin the “fun stuff” again soon!

As our thank you card said, from our crew to your families, we can’t thank you enough for all your participation.  For those of you who are reading and were not a part of our extended family this year, we hope you will consider it for 2012!  This year has been amazing in so many ways and it’s a large part because of folks like you—-interested in what’s going on on a working farm…working to feed families like yours and ours.  That’s something to celebrate….on to another season!

Happy Fall,

Mary and Crew

 


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  • October 14th, 2011

The sound of welcomed rain is nice, except for the kids are going a little stir-crazy in the house.  I simply can’t imagine what the long days of winter will be like when they are used to being outside or in their second home “the packing barn” all summer long.  “Touch the Dirt Day” was wonderful in so many ways.  For the CSA members and families who were unable to attend, you were greatly missed.  For those of you whom were here, it was a true pleasure!  Of course, just like everything that’s new—we now have a list of some changes for next year (convenient port-a-potty, earlier/second hay-ride, and more food).  For those of you who unfortunately weren’t able to take a hay ride, I really do apologize!  Guess I should stick to farming and not event planning, huh?!  It was an honor to watch children’s excitement (and adults) over things that are part of our typical day.  It was an honor to share the beauties of nature with our extended farm-families.

Fun times learning!

I guess it’s obvious from the last few shares as far as what we’ve been harvesting on the farm—-late-season summer squashes, winter squashes, beginning to harvest radishes and fall lettuce.  We had a beautiful first picking of late-season green beans; it’s amazing to see how the decrease in insect pressure has made.  We haven’t had to do a single thing other than give these plants water and they are producing beautifully!

Last week was a lot of farm clean-up.  Guess that’s a special perk to having CSA members to the farm—it makes us stop to clean-up the farm before winter sets in.  Something else it does is helps us to slow down and enjoy what we have here.  Folks travel miles and miles to see beauty; it was so nice to enjoy the beauty of nature’s changing colors that are right here!  As our migrant workers were tickled to death to finish housing all the tobacco last week, they jumped at the opportunity to chip in a help a friend of ours for a few hours since his  workers abandoned the farm with a few acres left to harvest.  We know they have needed to recouperate, but they have been chomping-at-the-bit for some work lately.  These men come to America simply to work—they don’t want to be bored.  We went ahead and removed the tomato stakes, irrigation in areas of the field we are finished with, and odd-and-ends.

We were able to begin combining corn this week.  That is such an amazing thing to watch.  If any of your families have never seen that and are interested, let me know and we can figure out a time for a “field trip”.  According to our workers, in Mexico all field corn is harvested by hand; here because of the economics and needed food production, it is all harvested with large combines, then moved to a grain cart that will go to meet the combine in the field and then dump into the trailer that the semi will pull to the grainary.  {Side note: the other day, one of our CSA members made a comment that the combine was larger than her first apartment—they are massive machines, but truly feed the world}.  It really is a large production and the fulfilling or dishearting time as you learn how your yields are (which means final production, which also equals how many people you will feed off of that acre/farm).  For those of you who were on the hayride learned that in 1960 each American farmer produced enough food to feed 45 people. Today’s American farmers must produce enough to feed 155 people just to keep up with the world demand. America’s farmers have increased this production using less land, water and energy, at the same time cutting wind and water erosion—we must take care of the land or it won’t take care of us!  There is a lot to think about when watching how the planting, tilling and harvesting of grain crops differs from our vegetable production and it is all directed by the types of food, advancements in equipment, and development of markets and local infrastructure.

Our "field trip" as Daddy unloads!

It really is an amazing place to be to have the opportunity to feed so many people locally, but then within our operation have the opportunity to feed globally.  Just like the multitude of crops we grow in the vegetables, the diversity of production and crop characteristics gives farm families security; security of our profession is something that our farms that are family owned and operated need.

So many of our crops we have been proud of this year; however, I guess we should expect some crop failures here and there.  The butternut squash and spaghetti squash plants we raised didn’t get bigger than a basketball for whatever reason, so our butternut squash were tiny and the spaghetti squash were non-existant.  We weren’t able to locate any spaghetti squash, but obviously lucked out on the butternut.  Small world—some men from an Amish community who were working on one of our tobacco barns a few weeks ago told me about their friends who had an unexpected bumper crop of butternut squash, so we decided to “help them out” and purchase some from them for our CSA.  Lucas and Elly really enjoyed going to help us pick them up because they had a little pony that was wondering around the barnlot that amused them for quite a while.  Speaking of winter squashes, I think we are going to have plenty acorn-style squashes to offer if anyone would like “extras” we can deliver with your CSA share either this week or next.  They will keep for quite sometime!

A little trick I learned this week—-if you are trying to peel a butternut or pumpkin to dice up for a recipe, stick it in the microwave for a minute or so and it will loosen the skin to where it will peel off easier.  You may need to zap it for another 30 seconds or so after that.  A trick taught to me by my mom’s cousin whose been around raising vegetables longer than I’ve been alive probably.

Well hopefully everyone in the area enjoyed a rainy fall day—we know all the crops needed it—-and I know many of the farmers who have been harvesting around the clock needed a rain day, too!  Get excited….Saturday we get to extract honey from our hives—so pictures to follow….and hopefully little samplings from your vegetables’ blooms!!

What a great week,

Mary


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  • October 01st, 2011

We hope all our CSA members can come to the farm next Sunday, October 9th for an afternoon of “farmlife”!  We are planning to eat around 5:00, but will have activities before and after dinner.  We hope it will be a relaxing, enjoyable afternoon/evening of fishing, hiking, picking, and lots of learning!  Feel free to come anytime after 2:00 and stay as long as your heart desires.  We are going to have a hay ride around the farm, escorted by Jim (our famous delivery driver!) with lots of farm lessons along the way.  In the “spirit” of Community Supported Agriculture, one of our own CSA members, Chef Lee Ashbrook is smoking a hog that was raised by the neice of another CSA member through their 4-H project!  We will have a great spread of other local farmers’ items for you to enjoy and a chance for you to put faces to us farmers.  Please prepare by dressing according to the weather and bring a lawn chair if you’d like that over a bale of hay.  For meal preparation, please email me your intentions by Thursday so I can let our cooks know.  Feel free to invite any of your friends that may find our farm interesting.  Also, I must stress that you need to come with understanding….the vegetables are now weedy and many are puttering out, but hey, that’s part of it!

As I write this, I’m wondering if I should gather all the sheets up that are in the homes of Bagdad to protect the crops tonight….gonna get cold!!  Realistically, tonights temperatures could potentially do some damage, so keep your fingers crossed!

Creating ownership at a young age!

I had a great experience this afternoon.  A gal called me yesterday and shared with me that they are thinking about getting into raising a large garden for others to enjoy also.  She seemed super nice and we have a great mutual friend who I think dearly of, so it seemed fitting to invite them out to take a walk through our fields so she and her husband could learn a bit for what we’ve done right and what we’ve done wrong.  I wished I had had that opportunity…may have saved me lots of frustration and mess-ups.  They were super nice and had a beautiful son that Lucas and Elly enjoyed until nap time started creeping up on the kids and a long walk stood between point A and B.   Some may say I’m crazy for sharing “tools of the trade” with someone else whose interested in beginning a business like this.  But in the end….isn’t that part of Community Supported Agriculture?  I really think that each family and each farm has our own personalities and characteristics to find matches.  We wouldn’t be where we are if it weren’t for people who chose to mentor us along the way….so hopefully we can “pass the baton”, so to speak.  It will be exciting to see what they decide to do (or if I scared the living day-lights out of them).

Another fun little note of the week—-we contributed to a philanthropy event on the campus of U of L.  The fraternity Lamba Chi Alpha came to the farm to pick old, sunburn, or rotten left-over watermelons to have a Watermelon Bust….Oh how I remember the fun ways of raising money in college!!  It was really neat to witness their excitement of coming to a farm….one car and small truck after another to load up melons to throw at other people!

preparing for a Watermelon Bust!

I guess this week was full of rare occurances—-on Thursday we had a video crew out to the farm.  Commonground, a volunteer organization of farm women, is helping provide footage for a video series of different segments of agriculture to help educate third through sixth graders.  We got to be a part of it!  My eyes were really opened to what all goes into making a video—-for ten minutes of air time, the crew was here for about 6 hours—wow—to learn the behind the scenes of things we take for granted is an education all its own!

So when someone asks me what goes on on the farm….everyday of every week is different.  It never gets boring around here.  I have to admit that boring sounds pretty good right now.  Things are starting to slow, and maybe more if we get a frost tonight.  We have high hopes for the last few weeks of the CSA, so hope you can take time out and enjoy life on the farm with us this Sunday afternoon!!


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  • September 22nd, 2011

It’s been a bit since I have sat down to “journal” the happenings of Courtney Farms.  We are still plugging away at housing tobacco…in between the rain showers and trying to interpret what the meteorologists are predicting.  I wish we could have had some of this rain during the height of growing season rather than during harvest…but that’s not for me to decide.

Deanna and I have been anxiously watching the growth of our new crops—think we will be able to begin harvesting radishes and loose lettuces the week after next!  And I’m so excited because the young spinach looks wonderful.  I tasted a few leaves today (about the size of a quarter) and…amazing!   Our early crop of spinach bolted on us and we didn’t even get to have one salad with it here, so I’m really excited to know it’s doing well.  You will have to take a look at the picture—we are going to have to be “pulling beans”.  I had to show this.

"green bean weeds"

This area of the field was planted in green beans back in May.  I got so hot there wasn’t enough blooms to produce enough beans to be able to harvest.  They were disappointing.  Well….a few weeks ago when Joe disked the bean patch up so that we could work on re-seeding, I noticed hundreds of black-birds—I was worried that they were finding the new seeds.  Then I got thinking that maybe when we disked it tore open those tough green bean pods that were actually did form on the plants…well, that was right—there are thousands of green bean plants now….which equals weeds amongst our beets—they are taking over; when it dries we will cultivate, then have to manually pull the ones right in beside the baby beets.  We have to laugh about it.  But really, beans are great for the soil as they will naturally add nitrogen to it.  We’ll chalk it up as a lesson learned!

I hope you really enjoy the seedless watermelon this week.  This year was the first time we had ever grown “seedless” melons.  As there is not really such a thing, they are interesting.  The seeds are very difficult to germinate and raise to seedlings—very sensitive to water and heat.  You must plant them along with “pollinators” which are seeded watermelons so that the seedless melon plants will have the opportunity to bear fruit—then we have our bee hives near by to do their work.  You must make sure your pollinators are different in appearance, or you won’t know what your getting until you crack it open!   We had the opportunity to raise seedless watermelons for the students and staff of Jefferson County Public Schools—as it was great, it wasn’t the right year to do it with the heat.  The heat caused alot of our blooms to abort which means you loose the number of fruit a plant will produce.  So long story short, we have a few melons still coming in, but probably not enough to feed one of the many, many schools in the system, so we are sharing them with you.  We weren’t able to deliver what we had hoped to the schools, but we are all in this together, learning.  As much as I love to eat seeded watermelons (think alot of it is the memory of spitting seeds with my Papaw when little), these are great to cut up, put in a bowl and eat as a great snack or easy side dish.

As Friday is the first day of Autumn, we thought it most appropriate for the timing of the beautiful acorn squashes.  You can use them as decor before eating or eat them right away.  They are multi-purpose and will last for quite sometime. If you want them to last a long time, something you can do (done a lot for commercial sales) is to wipe them down with water that has a “splash of chlorine” to kill any potential fungus from beginning to grow and make it go bad early.

I had the pleasure of spending the day at a wellness fair Wednesday at the Judicial Center downtown.  It was wonderful to see so many of our CSA members and meet folks who are interested in gearing up with us next spring.

In each of your CSA shares this week you hopefully noticed the invitation to Touch the Dirt Day here at the farm.  We hope you can join us to celebrate a season of good tastes and community.  Your participation on our farm makes a huge difference.  Sometimes we get so busy we don’t take the time to “stop and smell the roses” much less offer the invite for others to come and do the same.  Just as Lucas was mesmerized by his first view as “Superman” from a high-rise office building in downtown Louisville back in April, we think your children and grandchildren would enjoy finding a turkey feather alongside the woods, spotting a deer eating the tops of soybeans (ugh!), catching a fish, pulling some green bean weeds, picking a cucumber, or splashing in a mud-puddle.  We hope you can join us!

Last one and this week one day we had a crew of volunteers who came to the farm to pick “left over” vegetables to donate to “feed the hungry” of Louisville.  Talk about an awesome thing.  How much better is to to know that blemished vegetables are going to help the less fortunate than disking down at the end of our season??!!  This is an effort led by the AmericCorps VISTA program and it’s wonderful.  They were troopers.  I wasn’t here on Wednesday when 7 volunteers came (was at wellness fair), and it rained and rained and the ground was too muddy to drive to the field, so they (like our workers who harvested the melons for the CSA’s this week) hauled them from the field to the barn.  The difference was that our workers received a paycheck for lugging them and the volunteers “just did it” to feed others.  If any of our members are feeling spunky and want to come pick for a few hours to donate, let me know and we can help it happen.  If there is a specific soup kitchen that’s fine; if not between Blain and us we can find a home for it!

We know you are going to enjoy this week’s harvests.  I found lots of recipes to share.  If ever you come across a great one, I’d love to post it for you on the website.  It’s a great way to “share” and really support our partnership and common bond.

Signing off for the week,
Mary


Posted in Growing Together   Print This Post
  • September 07th, 2011

From one extreme to the other—whether you are working outside each day, or just walking to and from your car, you’ve realized the extremes in temperature and moisture in the air…

Saturday morning had to have been one of my favorite few hours of this summer.  This might sound strange, but as much as I enjoy my time spent writing, answering the phone with orders, packaging, etc., sometimes I really miss just having time alone in the field.  Praying for rain and trying to “beat the heat” I started planting seeds with the sun came up Saturday morning.

We needed to get some lettuce, spinach, peas, turnips, radishes and beet seeds planted so I took my like seeder out there and before the kids got up, had several hours to myself back and forth across the field.  I had the most beautiful view of a sunrise, with each pass it got warmer and warmer.  When Lucas woke up he hollered for me off the back porch, so drove the 4-wheeler to the barn to get him and he “helped” for my last few passes.  ….the joys of working outside….

Despite my enjoyment, I was heart-broke at the same time.  I was seeding next to the edamame plants.  We really try to pair up what we are raising with particular markets (stating the obvious, I know), so like everything else, much of these “edible soybeans” were being raised for Grasshoppers Distribution (a company in Louisville who distributes many locally grown items through a CSA and we are “one of their farmers”).  With this being the first time we had raised this particular crop, we were watching closely, early last week we realized we were nearing harvest and we began mid-week with your CSA shares.  These beans are supposed to be able to be picked over a three- week period. Well, Saturday morning, I realized the heat had totally dried up (aka “killed”) the beans in a two-day period.  Talk about devastating!  Irrigation can only do so much, but like I said last year, “too bad we can’t air condition the field”!  It’s hard to believe that was only Saturday, and since Monday I haven’t been outside without a jacket on!

One thing is for sure, we can plan all we want to, but in the end it’s not up to us.  We have to be willing to be flexible with what Mother Nature provides.  We were going to be cutting tobacco this week, but good thing we held off or we’d have nasty, muddy tobacco going to the barn.  We are so thankful for the needed rains, especially since it has been gentle and has soaked in.

Shane and I both serve as Directors on our local Farm Bureau Board.  Last night prior to our monthly Advisory meeting we had the privilege of meeting with Whitney Meadows who is the Agriculture Liaison for Senator Rand Paul about a few “hot topics” effecting our farm.  Last night we focused on immigration, unemployment and the need to reform the guest-worker program (H2A).  We realize that we can complain about the “local” workforce challenges, but if we don’t channel our voice, we won’t be productive in trying to seek reform. As scary as it is, labor issues are handicapping the sustainability of American farmers continuing to produce a safe, affordable food and fiber supply to domestically take care of our country.  Just in the past year alone, the hourly cost of our dependable labor source has increased by more than 30%—that’s tough to overcome.  These are a concern and a real threat to all American families, not just ours.

At the FB meeting, we had the opportunity to hear from the candidates for Commissioner of Agriculture.  Unfortunately, Bob Farmer didn’t attend the meeting, but I had the pleasure of meeting James Comer.  I’ve kinda watched him in admiration as he is a full-time farmer taking his passions and concerns to the needed leadership of our industry.  I admire his view points in many ways.  He seems to grasp growth of all of KY’s needs—-from protecting our food production, turning vacant lands into cropland, certifying more organic production, minimizing unneeded regulations from government, phasing out crop subsidies, improving infrastructure to help more efficiently utilize locally grown fruits and vegetables, so on and so on.  Comer’s excitement and passion is contagious as he focuses on bio-fuels, embracing young farmers, farmers of all sizes, ag literacy, joining hands of all commodity groups within our state increasing exporting markets, while growing local markets—he seems to share many of the same viewpoints as both Shane and I—-I guess equally deep rooted in our lives-on-the-farm.  As a previous intern for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, I have to say that James Comer got me really excited to see how innovating and level-headed the next leadership could be for our industry and Kentucky.  He also got me curious about his opponent.  I came home and watched their debate that was aired the other night on KET.  In any way I don’t want to push any of our political views on any reader or CSA member, but I invite you to view the debate so that you can go to the polls educated and do your part for securing a bright future for sustaining Kentucky’s farm families and crops. Here’s the link: http://www.ket.org/election/, then click on “Candidates for Commissioner of Agriculture”.

If you’ve been reading our blogs for a while now, you know that we have grown quite fond of our workers—every last one of them.  From Jim’s pride, Joe’s long hours, Deanna’s attention to detail, the ninos’ endurance and ownership—they are just a great crew.  However, whether speaking English or Spanish, we sometimes mis-communicate.   This past weekend, I had added to the picking list “total calabaza” which all summer long has meant, “pick all the yellow squash and zucchini that is ready”.  I did the same thing for Tuesday’s work….happen to look outside to see our crew going through the field of winter squash (acorn, butternut, etc) with crates in-hand.  I ran outside and hollered, but it was too late.  The boys were sad, especially Agustin, who has done an amazing job this year helping everyone understand what needs picked—-he even offered to pay for the mess up—bless his heart!  With that being said, notice in your CSA share you have some beautiful winter squashes, just immature.  With the mind-set of not wanting to waste anything, I looked it up and yes, you can eat immature winter squash—cook it just as you would summer squash and it’s supposed to be quite lovely.  So, enjoy and hope you can join in our humor here on the farm.

Enjoy this week’s share and as always, I hope you have enjoyed “living vicariously” on the farm this week—-sweat to goose-bumps, dust to mud— it’s been a good week!  You will each get a selection of mixed beautiful hot peppers, heirloom tomatoes, cabbage, honeydew, striped eggplant, okra, cherry tomatoes, and immature winter squash.

 

Blessings from our farm to your table,
The Courtney’s


Posted in Growing Together   Print This Post
  • September 01st, 2011

When time flies, I guess we’re having fun, right!?  When I was pulling home a wagon of cover-crop wheat on Tuesday, it hit me that the end of summer is nearing.  Then, I’m starting to realize, even though I’m in denial, that many of the plants that we’ve been harvesting from for months are beginning to die. Where has this summer gone?

It’s all part of what we do here on the farm is work with the beauty of nature and the cycles of life.  Whether it’s harvesting tobacco and following up by disking the soil, to sow winter wheat to protect the earth from erosion and contribute back some organic matter (we take care of our land and it will take care of it), or watching an eggplant that has been very prolific all season long, begin to breakdown and loose it’s leaves, or walking through the watermelon patch to find nothing but a few sunburn melons laying above the dried up vines, knowing the enjoyment it gave to a young child this summer.  Farming is challenging, but it is rewarding.  With the onset of September upon us, it reminds us of the new life we helped establish in the Spring that has fed many, many people that is now slowly coming to an end…and the planning of next seasons crops will be rolling around soon.  On the other hand, it’s interesting to watch our later crops “coming on”….yesterday Deanna brought a zephyr squash up that was ready to be picked—-the new life of some younger plants as we will extend our seasons on some items.  And watching the little lettuce and mustard seedlings has been fun….kinda like a ray of sunshine in the process of many things beginning to taper off.

winter squash plants

lettuce seeds have germinated!

The last couple days Shane and Joe have been avidly working on preparing the grain equipment to get ready to harvest in a few weeks.  It’s exciting to know that here in a few weeks we will get to see the work of their efforts come to fruition as they harvest corn and soybeans.  These crops will contribute to the big picture of “feeding the world” whereas our vegetables, “feed local”.  It’s neat for us because as we diversify our farming operation, we are diversifying what we do with the work of our hands.   As important as I think that it is to support local, reality is that I’d like a bag of tortilla chips to go with my homemade salsa, and those chips originated from a grain farmer out there—so when you are driving on a county road here over the next few weeks and get behind slow moving equipment, take a minute to throw your hand up and wave to “thank a farmer” rather than some other signs we often get when moving slowly.

I hope you each really enjoy the diversity of the CSA share this week.  It is an awkward one for sure.  This week’s tomatoes aren’t going to win a beauty contest (oh, but the taste), and we hope and pray that all of your honeydew are actually ripe (outside signs of maturity aren’t error-proof), and the edamame may make a bit of a mess if you strip the pods at your counter, and you will want to wash (and wash) your kale simply because worms have nibbled quite a bit on them….but we hope that you will each realize the beauty in the bag. We hope you will look at picking and cleaning edible soybeans as a treat rather than a hassle. The beauty is not that it would win a contest for appearance, but it’s the beauty (and reality) of farming and/or gardening.

As part of this education process, I think we would be robbing you of much if we chose to only include blemish-free tomatoes, greens with no holes, or potatoes of all one size.  With last year being our first year, I was awestruck with the learning of how America could likely “feed our own hungry families” if we could figure out a way to utilize what “society” has deemed as inappropriate to purchase.    Some of the best tasting tomatoes are the ugliest!  Some of the best tasting corn is going to have worm damage, and what’s the damage in cutting out a “bad spot” in a pepper to eat the other 97% of it?  To me this is a beauty of the CSA relationship we share.  No, you don’t always get to have the beauty of what’s offered at the most up-scale farmers’ market in Louisville, but you do get to eat real food from a real farm….and with that a farm that looks at your food with common-sense, not one tainted with “societal standards”.  We try to allow you to experience the farm/garden as if you really did have one in your back yard….so dicing and freezing some green peppers would be the natural thing to do, when it’s watermelon time you eat lots of watermelon, the end-of-the-season tomatoes look like end-of-the-season tomatoes…so on and so forth!

picking watermelons for Labor Day

As the bulk of our “wholesale” season is nearing an end, we are finally getting the process smoother and life hasn’t been quite as hectic the last few days….which has been wonderful!  At naptime (then again before bed) the kids are absolutely covered it dirt from playing so hard, I’ve been able to take more time to enjoy our produce in our kitchen.  We’ve had some simple, yet lovely meals lately.  I have the luxury of getting to pair our vegetables with meat from my parents’ farm, or some of the farmers we work with nearby.  It’s such a treat.  Here real soon, we are going to offer some meat packages that would allow you to purchase ground beef or hamburger patties—so it’s something to think about if you like to have some local meat in your freezer for upcoming months.

One last note, we hope you enjoy the peaches very much. They are from our friends, Matt and Amanda, who recently began Mulberry Orchard, just down the road from us.  They are great people and offer amazing fruits (and our vegetables).  As we had planned to offer their peaches “a la carte” that didn’t come to be, so before the end of peach season, we wanted to get some in your mouths!  If you can take the time to visit them this fall—-you should.  Beginning this weekend, they will have apple cider and I know that Fall will be their big time!  Them, like us, are trying to diversify their family farm to stay a viable family farm for generations—-an orchard makes sense.   Enjoy those peaches!

A real quick chuckle for you—never a boring day on the farm!  Just a few minutes ago, I had to detour my writing because Bersael (one of the H2A workers) came running up to report a cow was in the vegetables.  He can’t speak a lick of English, so he was telling Deanna by moving his arm in the air as if swirling a lasso with urgency.  He knew that would be detrimental since she was over in the young squashes and cucumber plants.   So, Shane’s been a herdsman and eventually was able to get her back over to where she belongs.

From our farm to your home—have a blessed weekend and we hope you get to celebrate American’s who take pride in their work…whether it’s a farmer, a doctor, a secretary, a writer, a teacher, or factory worker—it takes a dedicated work force to make things tick the way they do.  We each depend on other’s professions.  Our hats off to you and together, let’s work in unison to teach our children a strong work ethic to improve tomorrow’s labor force.  If you ever feel you don’t have a place for them to “practice” hard work, there’s always some weeds here that need chopped!

Thanks for your commitment and enjoy these 95 degree days!

 


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