2017 CSA Week 3

A great big Thank You to all our users who are bravely testing our online systems. We're working hard to make sure the “site-switch” and “vacation hold” features are working right. Thank you for your patience. Also, thanks to our intrepid customers who tested the “extras pickup” feature, which works like an online store for picking up extra produce at the farm. That went well, and we hope everyone finds it convenient. It was a little late coming up this week, but we'll try and have the following week's list ready by Friday PM. Also, thank you all so much for your positive feedback about the information about how to clean and store your produce.

This year, you might have noticed an intruder in some of your vegetables. The above-average amounts of spring rain have created an unprecedented amount of water around the baseboards of our hoop-house. Due to the amount of compost and the minimal tillage we use on our farm, we are happy to report absolutely zero standing water in our vegetable fields. However, the soggy soil at the baseboards of the hoop-house coupled with our usual heavily hay mulched walking paths has created a slug issue in the hoop-house this spring. After this spring, we'll be reevaluating our heavy use of hay mulch in the hoop-house!

We don't like there to be bugs in your produce. Not only do we want the produce to be 'clean' of dirt, but clean of bugs as well. Your baby romaine, salad turnips, and Napa cabbage this week are all coming out of the hoop-house, and though we will be soaking them once after they are harvested, you should also soak them in cold water as you're prepping them for your table just to make sure there isn't a slug hiding away in the leafy greens of those veggies. Our standard for what passes as high quality enough to sell is different from what you may get from 'California organic' produce from the grocery store. There is a cost to produce the “perfect” look (and by “perfect” I mean exactly uniform and free of bug damage) of those bags and bundles of veggies. They lack in flavor and don't hold for a whole week in the fridge. I know one part of those bug free leaves is a huge amount of produce being left in the field or in the packing house, due to aesthetic damage. Our produce has better fresh vital flavor and will last longer in the fridge….and this spring...until next week when all the produce is coming from the field instead of the hoop-house...it may have a slug in it.

Now, in other exciting hoop-house news, last week we flipped the beds where the earliest bok choi, radishes, and arugula had been and planted the first of the summer crops! Peppers, basil, cherry tomatoes, and cucumbers are in the ground. People are often surprised to hear that late May is one of the busiest times on the farm. With our intense short season there is an incredible push in late May to get the warm season vegetable crops in; we have a small window of time to do this after the soil has warmed up but soon enough that the crops will mature and produce before we get a hard frost in mid-September. (Gah!) This week, we are planting more tomatoes, eggplant, summer squash, winter squash, and sweet corn. We are also continuing with our normal weekly plantings of herbs, bi-weekly seeding of salad greens, and regular schedule of every 3-4 weeks planting successions of beets, carrots, green onions, and heading kohl crops (broccoli, romanesco, cabbage, and cauliflower).

We are going into this 'busy week' a bit behind from last week's Wind Event. Sustained 20-35 mile an hour winds from 3 am until 8 pm last Wednesday doesn't just mean we lost a day of field work but also that we spend time Tuesday getting ready for it and now this week when we go to flip beds, lift row cover to harvest and weed we will be removing the hundreds of extra sandbags we laid down to get ready for the epic gales. The extra prep time is worth it though, as we are really happy that we came out of the wind store with Zero Damage; just some very thirsty plants that got extra irrigating Thursday. Tired farmers got extra ice cream!

Arugula - partial bag 
Baby Romaine -- one 
Radish - partial bundle
Pea Shoots - partial bag 
Napa Cabbage - 1 small or ½ large
Tatsoi - small bundle
Collard Greens - partial bundle

Arugula - regular bag
Baby Romaine - two
Radish - regular bundle
Pea Shoots - regular bag
Napa Cabbage - 1 medium
Tatsoi - bundle
Collard Greens - bundle

Arugula-we are loving arugula right now paired with a creamy homemade dressing and topped with chopped pea shoots and radishes; it's such a fresh combination of lovely spring flavors.

General Salad Making Tips
Making dinner is a whole lot less daunting if I have a big salad all ready to go in the fridge and put it on the table; look! Dinner is half way there and all I did was take a bowl out of the fridge .
~4 quart Pyrex bowl with lid ~ The 4 quart size perfectly fit this weeks arugula and chopped baby romaine. I like chopping the greens as more greens will fit on a plate when chopped.
~ zyliss 'salad knife'~ I'm not into kitchen gadgets but I love these weird plastic serrated knives; you cut greens with them and they don't wilt or get brown on the edges….magic?
~I like to keep some salad toppings stored in smaller containers (early spring that's radishes, salad turnips, cilantro, and dill) chopped up and ready to top the salad.
~We eat salad after every meal with lunch and dinner this time of year; no extra plate, no extra bowl. I also like that as I don't want my salad to fill me up; I want the other stuff and then the salad is like the most satisfying lovely thing to eat after a meal. That must be a lot of salad you may be thinking...yes, we go through about 5 lbs of salad greens/week! So I like to make salad prep easy.

Baby Romaine - We love these little romaine lettuces and will often make some ground beef or beans for lunch and use them to stack other good food on; ground beef topped with braised radish tops, topped with homemade herb dressing and wrapped up in romaine. It's good stuff!

Napa Cabbage - This is one of our favorite spring vegetables and my go to is always to make a lovely peanut sauce stir fry. Last year we also made Tracy's napa cabbage slaw with raw napa and LOVE it!

Tatsoi - Sometimes called 'Asian spinach' this lovely tiny Asian green is one of my favorites. Like bok choi, you can eat it stem and all finely chopped and sauteed. You may also like the leaves raw in a salad as they are very tender.

~Have a great week!~

2017 CSA Week 2

It was so nice to meet our new customers and see familiar faces last week at CSA pickup.

We have had so many changes to the farm this year it's hard to pick just a few things to talk about in the newsletter. We want to tell you about ALL of the wonderful things that are happening. But let's start one at a time.

Placing special orders
We now have an online store where you can order extra veggies to be picked up alongside your CSA share. Log in to your member account. Here's the link:

Digital versions of this newsletters will have clickable links, and you can find this link on our website navigation bar. Log in, and shop!

***You must place orders for the coming week by 8pm Monday of the week you wish to pick up your veggies.***

The online store will be disabled at 8pm Monday, and come up again the weekend before the next week when we know what will be available. As we roll this feature out, we ask for your feedback so we can make it better.

Clean and Store Your Produce
In short, in the state of Montana we cannot sell ANYTHING as “ready to eat” without a commercial kitchen. We actually like this law as it also protects us. We grow over 80 crops for CSA and this year we are expanding our culinary herbs, micro greens and salad greens to sell to local restaurants and small local grocery stores. We are always extremely careful and diligent about food safety and perhaps even more so because we are carving out a specialty in the market for greens. So, yes, your produce is harvested with care, with clean hands and knives, it is cooled in our walk in and then 'hydro-cooled' in cold well water and spun dry in our greens spinner, packed immediately, and put back under refrigeration. Feel free to ask us if you have any further questions about washing and cleaning your produce.

In addition to being physically clean of dirt the produce is 'clean' of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers AND this year we are in the process of getting certified organic. We are currently on step 2 of 3 in the process. We have used organic practices from the beginning and we are happy to further support our organic farming community by officially joining the seal of approval national organic standards.

We keep your veggies cool and out of the sun when harvesting, packing, and delivering them to you. Then it's up to you to store them well until you use them. When people ask 'how long will this lettuce last' I know it should/could last two weeks, but who keeps it that long? Fresh is best! Also, your veggies will keep really well if you get them home and put them in your fridge. If you forget them in your car with the windows rolled up...they are only going to last a few hours. If you know you are running errands or going out after CSA pickup it's a good idea to have a cooler or insulated bag for your veggies.

Produce Bags
Your fridge will QUICKLY dry your veggies out leaving them wilted and sad. A bok choi in the fridge crisper without a bag will stay crisp a day or two; in a bag it will be fresh for weeks.

One of the things we love about CSA is that we can use less produce packaging than at market. In our home we really love re-usable produce bags. If you purchase some of these you can keep them in your insulated bag and take your beautiful bok choi straight out of our csa box and into a bag to take home and put in your fridge. You can also re-use plastic produce bags to keep your veggies in.

Removing Tops from Roots
Another tip for keeping awesome veggies awesome is to remove the greens from root vegetables if you aren’t eating them right away. We highly encourage you to eat the tops of your radishes, beets, turnips, and (even) carrots (don't worry we'll have a recipe!). You are paying for high quality organically grown produce and you can eat every bit of it. Both the root and the greens will last longer if you cut the green tops off. The root continues to pull water from the tops even after it has been harvested leaving the tops wilted and dried out. Also, if you don't want to eat the tops...that is fine too :)

Partial Full
Over wintered Spinach - partial bag
Lettuce Mix - partial bag
Salad Turnip - partial bundle
Sun Shoots - partial bag
Bok Choi - 1 small
Butter Lettuce - 1 head
Dill - partial bundle

Over wintered Spinach - regular bag
Lettuce Mix - regular bag
Salad Turnip - regular bundle
Sun Shoots - regular bag
Bok Choi - 2 small
Butter Lettuce - 1 head
Dill -  bundle

Salad Turnips – These tasty little Turnips are such a treat to eat. Just slice them up and eat them like a radish. You can also lightly saute or roast them; we like them best raw. They are simply delicious.

Turnip Greens – These just happen to be the most beautiful turnip greens I've ever seen. If you've had them before and didn't like them give them a try! Our favorite way to cook bitter greens is to chop them up very small, saute an onion in a hot skillet with plenty of cooking fat, add the finely chopped greens, cook for about 3 minutes and add balsamic vinegar for another minute or two. Great as a side dish. It looks like a lot of greens but they will cook down leaving you wishing there was more.

Butter Lettuce – This is hands down the best lettuce of the year. The big leaves are perfect for wraps. We ate three heads for lunch today using the butter lettuce in place of taco shells with ground beef, cilantro, shredded radishes, and sun shoots….delicious!

Bok Choi- this is OFFICIALLY our first time ever putting bok choi in the shares two weeks in a row. “the plan” was to have tatsoi last week, bok choi this week, and napa cabbage next week. Slugs ate the first round of tatsoi and the napa is going to be a while; things don't always go as planned. It's a great chance to try another recipe from https://www.earlymorningfarm.com/bok-choy/!

Dill-we love using dill for salad dressing. 1 cup yogurt, 1T apple cider vinegar, salt, and dill. Blend.

Hope you all have a great week and enjoy the sunshine!

Battle for Braveheart

We're excited to support the Battle for Braveheart event at CrossFit Flathead this Saturday, May 20th.  It's an awesome organization that provides support and care for all manner of First-Responders and their families in times of trauma.
Here's what's happening:  "Come battle a 5k run/walk at 9am, Give traditional CrossFit workout “Fran” your best shot (21-15-9 thrusters and pull-ups for time) at 12pm, or test your skills during the deadlift ladder at 3pm."

We'll be donating a full CSA share to the raffle supporting the event.  Visit the website for more information:

CSA Week 1

May 15, 2017 

We are so excited to have you as a part of our community this year!

2017 has kept us on our toes with an unprecedentedly cool and wet spring.

This year we had ground covered in snow through mid-March! When all that snow melted we were left with some really cold wet earth. Despite so many gray days in March and April we kept on schedule with all our seeding and planting dates. We have been getting garden beds ready to plant and steadily planting in the field now for the last 7 weeks. Despite OUR schedule this year we have found that plants without any warmth or any sun will grow Really Really Really Slowly.

We have fewer crops than we usually do this time of year but we are so excited that we have enough to start CSA in mid May.

This week your box is full of spring green veggies perfect for sauteing, stir frying, and making beautiful salads.

Partial Share

Spinach - partial bag
Arugula - partial bag
Radishes - partial bundle
Pea Shoots - double partial bag 
Bok Choi - 1 each 
Lacinato Kale - partial bundle

Full Share

Spinach -  regular bag
Arugula -  regular bag
Radishes -  regular bundle
Pea Shoots -  double regular bag
Bok Choi  - 2 each
Lacinato Kale -regular bundle

Spinach- we know the leaves of this spinach are HUGE! You may be surprised by the thickness and sweetness of the leaves. This is our really special overwintered spinach that was planted last fall for early spring spinach. This is a variety we love that grows huge leaves. They are perfect chopped for a salad, to make wraps, or chopped and sauteed. It doesn't cook down as much as regular spinach and keeps a wonderful sweet crunchy texture after being cooked.

Arugula- arugula is a spring and fall crop. The early spring arugula is often the best of the year. It's so tender with just a little bit of that peppery kick that makes arugula so amazing. If arugula flavor is just too much for you on it's own in a salad try substituting arugula in your favorite basil pesto recipe for a tasty Arugula Pesto treat! We also love arugula finely chopped and sauteed with eggs.

Radishes- We love radishes chopped up to top a salad and we also love them thinly sliced on a platter to dip in salt as a tasty kid friendly side dish. We also like roasting and grilling them! The tops on these radishes are simply gorgeous and miraculously free of any bug damage (bugs love radish tops!). Did you know you can eat radish tops? They are really good! We chop the radish tops and saute them to add to stir fry or for our weekly breakfast egg bake.

Pea Shoots-These are a new crop for us this year and !Oh Man! The little people in our house are in love with them. We are always super big fans of veggies that kids love :). These taste just like peas and as such they are good on their own. We are enjoying topping our salads with them for a tasty treat.

Bok Choi-this year we found out what grows really well without warmth...or sun…? Bok Choi! I know they look big...okay...they are big. AND they cook down ALOT when sauteed, braised, or stir fried. I love these for a quick weeknight stir fry. For copious bok choi recipes : https://www.earlymorningfarm.com/bok-choy/

Lacinato Kale- this kale was seeded in February, planted in early April, and this is the Very First Cutting of the year in Mid May! This early kale is as tender and as sweet as kale gets. The frosty nights have served it well; simply lovely stuff. We love classic kale chips and also like using kale in stir fry, stews, and soup. The secret with using any bitter green when cooking it is 1. Use lots of good fat 2. Lots of garlic 3. Chop the greens up really small. You'll probably find our greens don't need to be cooked as long as grocery store greens. I have no idea why...it must be because they are

Our hearts are so full knowing we are growing nutritious and delicious food for you and your family.
Wishing you a wonderful week,
Jay and Mandy

CSA Starts Soon!

Hello and happy May Day!

We hope you all are doing well and that you are looking forward to the sun in the seven day forecast as much as we are.

 *** CSA starts the week of May 15 ***


 We are doubling our CSA this year and still have about 20 spaces available. If you know anyone who may be interested in joining we still have two weeks left for them to get in to our CSA program.

 Can you believe this season we have already gone through as much potting soil by May 1st as we did all year last year?! We have set out hundreds of flats of transplants and are running the seeder over the beds weekly to keep a season's worth of fresh produce coming from our farm to your home for the year.

It has been an exceptionally cold and wet spring and as such our first field crops are further behind than we would like; we are trying really hard not to compare the pictures of our farm this year to the farm in previous years. Despite the cool wet spring, everything on the farm is running more smoothly than it ever has before and we are excited to share more information with you about changes in our production system in our weekly CSA newsletters. Until then, you can follow the farm on instagram and facebook for farm photos. We use facebook for a weekly 'farm update' and instagram for little snippets of farm production.

 We have kept all our planting dates the same this year and miraculously we haven't had any crop loss due to either rain, wind, or cold (24 degrees on Easter weekend?!). Everything is growing - it is just growing really, really, really slowly! We will be sending out an email with an attachment with more information about vacation holds, switching sites, and CSA pickup next week. Be on the lookout in your inbox for “Lower Valley Farm 2017 CSA Customer Information” We will also have it as an attachment for you to easily print off as a reference. We want to do everything we can to make CSA pickup something you look forward to each week.

 Here are the pickup sites:

 East Side Kalispell Tuesday May 16th – 5pm – 7:30pm

 On Farm Thursday May 18th – 5pm – 7pm

 Crossfit Flathead Friday May 19th – 5:30am – 9am

It is an honor and a blessing to us to grow food for you and we look forward to working with you this season!