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Types of Greens - Image borrowed from http://redfirefarm.com

Types of Greens – Image borrowed from http://redfirefarm.com

Getting produce from all over the world means that we can easily forget how the weather can impact the rates that plants grow… Not so with a CSA. That said, we received the following update this week from the farm:

Due to this unusually cold Spring, we cannot confirm at this time a starting date. We are looking at the second or third week in June. Warmer weather could make it the 2nd week and continued cold weather could move it to the 3rd week. We should have a better idea by the end of this month and will let you know as soon as we can so you can plan.

Considering the targeted start is the second week of June anyway, this is not so much news as a reminder – local weather impacts local produce. Last season started a week earlier than anticipated – this year we won’t be so lucky.

We will keep you updated as we get more news from the farm, in the mean time keep your fingers crossed for a season that starts right on time.

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We have gathered up the details and 2013 Season Applications are ready! Anyone interested in joining us this season, please send us an e-mail at: ozoneparkcsa@gmail.com

A CSA is definitely an economical way to purchase produce, however one of the most common hurdles for new members is the fact that with a CSA you pay for the whole season up front. In general we think of food as a weekly expense, not a seasonal one. No doubt $370 can be a daunting sum to come up with if you haven’t planned ahead, but when broken down that is less than $18 per week. Simply put, a CSA is a terrific investment.

There are also some people who just prefer to do things on-line. It is simple and convenient. With hectic schedules, getting to the post office or a bank for a money order can be difficult. (Does anyone even know what a stamp costs these days?)

With these things in mind we asked the farm if they could set up an option for payment on-line AND THEY HAVE!

This payment option is only available for Veggies and fruit.

The share cost is a little more to cover the processing.

The early bird discount ($40 off if paid by 3/31) IS honored.

In order for organizers to process memberships paid in this manner, proof of payment will be submitted to Angel with all orders.

If you would like to pay on-line the link to the Norwich Meadow CSA Payment page is here.

I’m back from my trip for about a week now. It is good to be home; with one exception and that is the 1.5′ of snow on the ground here.

The farm is under its winter cover and it has not been warm enough to harvest any greens. We hope by March to have some greens in the share. We thank all those who took advantage of the discount and sent in payments. (We also want to thank both old and new members for signing up earlier.) That will pave the way for getting up and running smoothly.

In our travels to find workers we went to Turkey and Bulgaria and found some candidates but none with the experience of the Egyptians. There are possibilities but much more needs to be done for recruiting. Our last stop was in Egypt and we were there during the first two days of the revolution. It was exciting to witness history unfolding and see first hand what happened on the ground. We hope there fervor becomes contagious and affects all people to pay more attention to what their governments are up to—because almost none has the best interest of the average person at heart.

Our deepest concern this time is for the people of Egypt and for their aspirations to be free from dictators. Please contact your representative and urge them not to support Mid East dictators. In the long run this will only create hatred and animosity towards America.

As you know our farm relies on the guys from Egypt. We had a scare earlier in the year when Immigration asked for more information for the application to bring them back. We had to hire a lawyer and finally received notice last Friday that the case was approved! However, the uncertainty lies in whether they can get interviews at the US consulate in Cairo.

Last but not least, mark March 5th on your calendar for the Just Food event. Hope to see you there!

Note: We’ll be posting info on the Just Foods conference very soon.

– Zaid

(Note: It’s been a while since we received last farm update but we’re glad to find this in our mailbox today!)

The farm is much quieter now with the Egyptians home in 80-degree weather. The crew is a lot smaller and by next week there will only be three or four people helping out over the winter.

We’re still harvesting things like greens and Brussels sprouts mainly from the fields in NJ, but also some here in upstate NY. And we’re already getting ready for next year, filling visa forms, planning crops and, of course, doing taxes before we leave.

Haifa and I will be going to visit relatives in Jordan but will also go to Turkey and Bulgaria to recruit new employees, as we cannot do so from Egypt under the new regulations.

– Zaid

Fall is here and leaves are turning and dropping upstate. The season has gone by so quickly….

Four of our Egyptians workers are scheduled to leave in next two weeks, a sign of the end of the season. We’re already planning for next year and to have all ready, I need to work on their visas now. The Department of Labor rep we work with will be here tomorrow to start the process.

We have not had our frost yet but the forecast shows a possibility on Sunday and overcast rainy weather for the rest of the week. On the other hand, NJ farm will not have a frost but sun after Thursday, this contrasts the difference that 150 miles makes.

We’re still looking for volunteers for this Sunday, to pick squash at our NJ farm. Email me or contact your CSA coordinator if you are interested.

– Zaid

Fall has set in with temps in the 50s, what an abrupt end to summer! I hope we get another week of warm weather next week. The frost can happen for us as early as 9/20 or as late as 10/10.

We’ll begin planting garlic for next year within the next few weeks but things are winding down and crops are on the verge of running out. So enjoy tomatoes for a little while longer! Melons are gone and many of the summer crops like peppers and eggplants peaked weeks ago, and did not do as well as we wanted due to the heat. We’re already thinking about next years crops and all the related issues.

Regarding the October farm visit: It would be best done on a Sunday at the new location in NJ. So if you are interested, contact your CSA coordinator.

If any one wishes to come help on the farm they can come to the NJ farm on Sunday and help us there contact me for more info.

– Zaid

Week number 12 is already upon us… today I want to explain some of what goes on on the farm so members have a better understanding of how things work day-to day.

THE EMPLOYEES: Almost weekly we have to hire new people as some people don’t show up, quit, get fired. The staff that packs is constantly changing and even some of our more senior staff that have been with us for years are leaving. It is very difficult to find quality workers that want to do this kind of work. Even if you pay well, people are not used to the long hours and physical nature of farm work. In addition, the seasonal nature of produce farming does not offer employees stability so they are always looking for another job. Winter CSAs have helped a little bit but only enough to keep 2-4 out of 25 or so employees.

THE WEATHER: Never predictable. Always changing. This stresses the plants, animals, and humans on the farm. This year we have had many extremes. Very hot weather which caused otherwise staggered plantings—such as melons, greens, peppers, eggplants—to mature at once. Now we are in a cool wet spell which has caused late blight again and has spread to our tomatoes and potatoes. Even though the hot dry weather was intialy good to mature crops early, it also destroyed some of most sensitive and stressed the surrounding vegetation which caused all the wildlife to eat at the local smorgasbord (Norwich Meadows Oasis of course). So we are battling the deer, raccoons, woodchucks, rabbits, and bugs.

THE FARMERS: we are under constant pressure to keep an even keel on ship that has direction but cannot predict the seas and is at the mercy of all the unexpected circumstances. Agriculture is subject to biological functions that cannot be controlled easily. Unlike widget making that is under a roof and can be produced in an industrial fashion, we are constantly guessing, praying, hoping, that things turn out OK. There are not a lot of aspiring farmers and there is a shortage of trained people in agriculture. The price structure and perishable nature of our product do not allow us to wait for a better price or store for later.

An example of what we deal with on a daily basis:
The ugly: Yesterday we came back with half a truck load of produce because it rained both Sunday and Monday (less cash flow and more compost) This same truck needed to be unloaded, washed, and loaded for Wed CSAs. It took 3 people until 11PM to load it and deal with the returned vegetables. This morning, a water line ruptured and delayed chicken and vegetable processing.

The good: The bright side is that we love what we do and have a great loyal following amongst our CSA members and farmers market customers. We have had a not so bad crop this year, despite the losses and we are hoping for a good fall crop. One of our tomatoes placed second in a taste testing.

Other points that need to be conveyed to members: Good tasting heirloom tomatoes must be picked ripe which means they will have splits and can be soft. People must refrain from squeezing and over handling the produce especially these tomatoes as they will be damaged. For example, at the farmers market despite all our efforts we compost and or sample of each market day anywhere from 200-400 lbs of mostly heirloom tomatoes that are soft or bruised from handling!

The value of a share containing 3-4 lbs of heirloom tomatoes only is way more than what people pay and if we have a shortfall in produce due to a compressed season we will take the increased value into consideration.

– Zaid

Is mid August already and we are still planting a few items for fall and winter. Everybody is working hard to harvest and prep (drying and cleaning onions and garlic) and starting to make pickles and other value added products.

We are at peak harvest now and things like watermelons and melons will be done soon. The heat compressed the melon season from our normal 6 weeks to about 3-4 weeks. Other affected crops are eggplants, peppers, and greens.

Enjoy the variety while it lasts!

Farm visit
We are getting requests for farm visits, please talk among yourselves and see if we can agree on a date. Mid October is a suggested date.

– Zaid

The heat wave has shifted our peak season by about two weeks, so CSAs will be getting melons now instead of in late August. In fact, some of our melon varieties will be done this week.

Every week and every season brings on new challenges and nothing is the same. Last week, we got a message from cooperative extension that late blight was found in Chenango Count. Ramadan started today and the Egyptian crew is both happy and anxious as they will have to work in this heat.

It looks like it will cool down for us somehow. Fordham will be joining us for the fall and Farmshare will be advertising the winter share already. What happened to summer?!

– Zaid

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