LEF logo (small)
Live Earth Farm (Com)Post
24th Harvest Week, Season 15
September 6th - 12th, 2010
in this issue
What's in the box this week
Apples are ripe! Where has Summer gone?
Can we be Greener? Plastic, Paper or none at all?
Notes from Debbie's Kitchen [Recipes!]
2010 Calendar

"  Is it summer yet? The apples are ripe to pick! "
 -  Tom (Labor Day 2010)

What's in the box this week
Content differences between Family and Small shares are in red; items with a "+" in one size share are more in quantity than in the other. For any items not from our farm, we will identify the source in parentheses. Occasionally content will differ from this list (typically we make a substitution), but we do our best to give you an accurate projection.

Family Share
Apples (Sommerfeld)+
Collard Greens
Dinosaur Kale
Green Beans+
Spring Onions
Sweet Peppers
Tomatoes (dry-farmed)

Small Share
Apples (Sommerfeld)
Dinosaur Kale
Green Beans
Spring Onions
Sweet Peppers
Tomatoes (dry-farmed)

Extra Fruit

Cherry Tomatoes (Sungold)
please go by what's listed next to your name on the checklist. Sometimes there are last-minute changes - thanks!

Bread Option
This week's bread will be 3-seed whole wheat

The Apples are ripe, but where has Summer gone?
Kids are going back to school, but where did our summer go? Although we are accustomed to fog clothed summer days, the usual pattern where the marine layer hugging the coast rolls back by midday to leave us with warm and sunny afternoons never really materialized with any regularity.  Except for a freakish heatwave a couple of weeks ago, we've been shivering under a gray, cool, and moist fog cover, patiently coaxing our heat loving crops to maturity.  Last week when I woke to a rare clear and sunny morning, I noticed the light had a crisp, clean, almost brilliant quality, the first faint signs of seasonal transition. The first red leaves appear on the plum trees, the apples start blushing and the trees are straining from the weight of the fruit and some of the  sunflowers are bending their magnificent large bright heads accepting that summer isn't going to last forever.

Squashes and Spinach, growing in the field are affected by downy mildew, a common fungus favored at this time of year. The situation is particularly challenging in the greenhouse where wet humid conditions with little dry-out periods seem to favor the fungus, infecting the seedlings at an early stage, stunting their growth.
Seasons don't fit into neat little boxes. Looking at the harvest this week, with tomatoes, peppers, green beans, and basil making up the bulk of the shares, one wouldn't guess that the Fall Equinox is only a couple of weeks away. The only outlier in this weeks harvest, giving signs of transition in the seasonal cycle, are the early varieties of Sommerfeld and Gala Apples.  

Driving through the Pajaro Valley today one wouldn't think that this was once one of the largest apple growing districts in the country.  Most of the apple orchards have been pushed over by bulldozers, replaced by more lucrative berry, vegetable and flower crops. The predominant variety then was the Newtown Pippin, a variety originally from New York, introduced by settlers in the 1850's.  Today it is still the trademark apple in Martinelli's popular apple juice, processed here in Watsonville and  probably the reason why Newton Pippins are still grown commercially in this area.

An apple orchard needs year-round attention and the perennial cycle is very different from the annual and season focused vegetable crops we grow. Here on the farm we grow aproximately 5 acres of apples, mostly Fuji's, Galas, Sommerfeld and Newton Pippins. Typically starting in winter, the dormant season, trees first have to be pruned, and then sprayed with oils or sulphur before and after budbreak to fend of insect and fungal diseases. Pheromone wires have to be tied to the trees at a precise time in the spring to confuse the mating cycle of codling moths which will greatly reduce worms from hatching and burrowing into the apples. Once the soil dries the orchard needs to be cultivated, both to control weed competition and trap valuable winter moisture in the ground. In April, Bee hives are brought in to ensure good pollination and after a successful fruitset, the entire months of May and part of June is spent hand thinning trees to ensure fruit will develop into a marketable size.  The first seasonal watering happens sometime in June and propping up branches to support the increasing weight load of the fruit is critical during the early summer months.

Then it's time to prepare for harvest, bins needs to be placed among the trees in the orchard rows and from early September until late October we hope to be rewarded with a high percentage of beautiful fruit. As soon as the fruit is harvested and windfalls are picked off the ground, it's a race against time to prepare the orchard for the wet winter months ahead, i.e. spreading lime, gypsum and compost, collect the propping stakes and tie them to the trees, and sow a covercrop of barley and vetch.
By Thanksgiving, we bake apple pies, give thanks for the harvest and with the arrival of winter, its time to prune and start the cycle all over again.

Few experiences are more satisfying to me than biting into a fully tree-ripened apple. It is the pleasure of experiencing our relationship with the nourishing cycle of nature. Suddenly that tempting bite into a seductively flavorful apple doesn't turn into a fearful banishment from paradise but rather, an invitation to understand how to live  in harmony with nature.  The repetitive cycles of field work are more of a conversation, understanding nature's ways through the eyes of an apple tree.

Can we be Greener? Plastic or Paper or none at all?

Let me address a subject several members have inquired about and I always wanted to discuss via the newsletter.  Why do we use plastic for packaging your shares? Why can't we adopt a greener approach? Here is a representative comment we received recently (edited) from a member:

"This week we came home with amazingly wonderful produce, (thanks to you), yet there was a small pile of plastic on my counter after everything was put away in its place at home.... I really want to avoid unneeded trash,...  so... is there some way we can avoid bringing home weekly plastic, and also keep getting food in a box (which i really like, other than the plastic)?? If we leave the bags there will they be reused? If we return them, will they be reused?  Is there a way to just really stop using unwholesome plastic in your wholesome operation? I would like to think that you have thought this out already and there is some reason that you use plastic that you just can't seem to get around... or perhaps your bags are biodegradable... I love farmers and veggies and fruits and such... just not plastic."

It is an issue we've been grappling with ever since we started farming.  We tried using durable returnable boxes, more paper, biodegradable, even compostable bags, or no bags at all, by packing items loose in the box. 
In an ideal situation we would want to use as little packaging material as possible, using only reusable containers.  Although we can always improve our current approach the challange we are all facing is that of trying to balance convenience, quality (freshness, food safety), cost and  environmental concerns all at the same time.

Below I have listed some of the main reasons why we're packaging the shares the way we do.

A. Boxes which in the wholesale trade only get one use, with us they have a lifespan of over 15 even 20 uses. This boils down to about 1.5 boxes per member per season (34 weeks).  Currently reusing boxes this way represents both the most cost effective and most benign (environmentally speaking) approach . To further improve this statistic it is important that boxes are not broken in the disassembly and always left at each drop-off site.  In the longterm we may consider again a plastic crate which will carry a deposit  and potentially have a longer reusable life.  

B. From our point of view Plastic Liner bags are the reason why the lifespan of our current boxes is so high. Members generally find it convenient to grab the bag and leave the box at the pick-up site. In addition, liner bags have greatly improved the freshness of the produce we send you, minimizing dehydration and exposure to high temperatures.
We might want to explore how we could reuse these bags either here on the farm or in our respective households before they get recycled.

C. Why regular Plastic Bags and not biodegradable or compostable Bags, ?

1.  Paper bags and cardboard, even if recycled and made from recycled paper, unfortunately have a substantially higher carbon footprint than the equivalent oil-based plastic bag.  Paper bags result in two to three times the level of emissions of the equivalent plastic bags.  Paper and cardboard manufacture, even if from recycled paper, uses huge amounts of energy and certainly are no substitute for genuine reduction and reuse of packaging.

2. Biodegradable plastics: These are normally simply conventional oil based plastic with the addition of an additive which helps them to break down faster under certain conditions. The claimed environmental benefits have turned out to be far from the truth because they cannot be recycled; indeed if even a small amount of these bags contaminate a load of normal plastic it will mean that the end product of recycling becomes useless.  

3. Starch based, compostable plastics also has questionable credentials.
One would think that if we must use plastic this must be the answer; they will not cause lasting pollution and use renewable resources rather than oil as a raw material. Unfortunately it takes a huge amount of energy to extract the starch and convert it to plastic with the end result that a starch based plastic bag will normally use significantly more energy and hence cause higher emissions than an oil based one, even after accounting for the oil used as a raw material. Additionally, if the oil based plastic is recycled about half the embedded energy can be reclaimed. Starch crops like maize and potatoes require land to grow them and often involve the use of GM crops.
There is the additional problem that if compostable plastic gets mixed with other plastic it renders all of them un-recyclable for the same reasons as other degradable bags.

For the time being we will continue using regular recyclable plastic bags, maybe some that are thinner than the current ones we are using.
We will always try to minimize the use of bags by consolidating produce into one bag or see if they can be packaged loose inside the liner bag. We hope you can reuse any of the plastic we use for packaging your box and then recycle it when it has outlived it's usefulness. At the same time we will reduce as much as possible without compromising the quality of your produce.
Having said this, I welcome all and everyone's input. Last year we sent out a survey to get more feedback on whether to change the current distribution/packaging system. The results overwhelmingly favored the current system. I am interested in the process of evaluating and piloting different approaches and welcome interested members to help us develop them. Please contact me directly at thomas@baymoon.com for suggestions and comments.

Notes from Debbie's Kitchen
Click here to go to the recipe database.     

I am out of town for a bit, so no recipes here this week or next unless Farmer Tom (who is doing the newsletter while I'm away!) receives some from members and puts them here. ;-)  To get you by in the meantime, please visit my recipe database... there are literally hundreds of recipes for inspiration!

If you haven't had your fill of what to do with tomatoes, consider going to one of Jordan Champagne's Happy Girl Kitchen workshops this weekend (see calendar, below)! These are always chock full of info, as well as loads of fun.

- Debbie

Visit our website's calendar page for more details, including photos and videos of past events. This is a great way to get the flavor of what it is like visiting the farm!

Live Earth Farm Discovery Program for WEE ONES
3rd Tuesday of every month, 10:30am - Noon [year-round]
(free for children 0 - 3 yrs; $10 - $15 per adult)
LEF Discovery Program logoMothers, fathers, grandparents, caretakers of any kind... bring the babe in your arms to experience the diversity of our beautiful organic farm here in Watsonville. We will use our five senses to get to know the natural world around us. The farm is home to over 50 different fruits and vegetables, chicks, chickens, goats, piglets, and the many wild members of the Pajaro watershed.

For more information, contact Jessica at the LEFDP office: (831) 728-2032 or email her at lefeducation@baymoon.com.

Happy Girl Kitchen's 2010 Workshop Schedule at LEF
(all workshops are from 10am to 3pm and include an organic lunch, as well as take-home items from what is made that day!)
March 6 (Saturday) - Fermentation (sauerkraut, kimchee and kombucha)
April 10 (Saturday) - Cheese and kefir
June 6 (Sunday) - Cherries and Spring Berries
July 10 (Saturday) - Apricots, Strawberries and Blackberries
September 11 (Saturday) - Heirloom tomatoes JUST ADDED!
September 12 (Sunday) - Heirloom tomatoes SOLD OUT
October 2 (Saturday) - Pickles

Contact Jordan if you have any questions

Community Farm Days and Events Schedule

(All Community Farm Days are Saturdays unless otherwise noted.)
March 20 - Sheep to Shawl
May 29 - Three sisters planting in the field! Help sow pumpkins, corn, and beans (update 5/24: see Event Schedule in Week 9 newsletter)
June 19 - Summer Solstice Celebration and Strawberry U-pick
July 3 - Apricot and Strawberry U-pick CANCELLED.
July 12 thru 16 - Summer Celebration Art on the Farm Day Camp!
Aug 28 - Totally tomatoes. From farm to fork, cooking with tomatoes and making farm-fresh cheese. Also U-pick raspberry and tomato day!
Sept 25 - LEFDP Second Annual Fundraiser (see below)
Oct 23 - Harvest Celebration and Apple U-pick

LEFDP Second Annual Fundraiser - "Taste of the Fields"
Wine, Hors d'oeuvres, and silent auction on the farm
Saturday September 25th, 3 - 6pm
some awesome local chefs:
· The Butcher, The Baker, The Wedding Cake Maker
· Happy Girl Kitchen Co
· Cafe Ella
· Vibrant Foods (Rebecca Mastoris and Karen Haralson)
some great wine:
· Storrs Winery
· Alfaro Family Vineyards & Winery
· Chronic Cellars
· Peachy Canyon Winery
· Savannah Chanelle Vineyards
and some beautiful art and music:
· Ashley Lloyd
· Groove Grass
· Josh Kimball Photography
Tickets are not available at the door and space is limited, so please get your tickets today! All proceeds benefit the Live Earth Farm Discovery Program 501(c)(3)
To order tickets, contact LEFDP at 831-728-2032, lefeducation@baymoon.com

Medicinal Herb Walk on the farm
Hidden in amongst the veges, lurking below the fruit trees, at home in the oak woodlands, and planted in the hedgerows, Live Earth Farm is chock-full of medicinal plants.  With literally hundreds of plants useful for treating common maladies and maintaining vital health, Live Earth Farm is an incredible place to go for an herbal adventure.  Come join herbalist Darren Huckle L.Ac for a fun, informative, and applicable tour.  We will identify, taste and learn how to safely and effectively use medicinal plants common in Northern California.  This is a stand alone class or a great entry to the monthly herbal series being planned for the 2011 season.  Bring a sun hat, water bottle, notebook and your questions for this fun filled class.

When: Saturday October 9
Time: 10:30 am - 3 pm
Cost: $45 per person

To RSVP or for more information contact Darren Huckle at rootsofwellness@gmail.com or 831.334.5177

In the spring of 2011, Darren will be teaching a series on identifying, preparing, and using herbal medicines. Feel free to contact Darren for details.

Contact Information
farm phone: (831) 763-2448
education programs/school field trips: (831) 728-2032