Sometimes we need to all step back and remind ourselves of the big picture. Our farm is unique in terms of our country’s agricultural system and it is easy to forget (or never know) exactly why it is that we exist, and why we operate the way that we do. Thank you in advance for engaging with us for the next few minutes to re-orient to what it really is that we are about.
Plain and simple: Our farm exists to provide the best food possible for our community. What does that mean? It means we believe that the produce we grow is better – more nourishing and life-giving – than the options from farms that aren’t like ours. What exactly are we? We are a small-scale farm, we do not use any chemical fertilizer, pesticides, fungicides, or herbicides, we sell all of our produce within 35 miles of our farm, and we only sell what we grow. We believe these qualities have benefits over farms that are large, use chemicals, are far away, and re-sell produce. What are those benefits?
By being small, we can focus on quality and nutritional content in a way that large farms can not. We grow on less than 2 acres but still we soil test samples from up to 7 different areas of our micro-farm so that we can know what is in the soil in each area where we grow plants. People eat for enjoyment, but biology dictates that first we eat to nourish our body. To fuel our body and our health. In order to build or maintain health in our body, we need nutrients: vitamins and minerals. For plants to contain nutrients, they must access them from the soil. Therefore, we add a whole host of macro and micro nutrients to our soil, according to the soil test results, in order to grow produce as high in nutritional content as we can. More nutritious produce also tastes better! We don’t believe large farms can achieve this double-win.
In order for the nutrients to be accessible to the plants, the soil biology must be alive. Chemical fertilizer and pesticides/herbicides/fungicides kill soil biology. And they harm the health of farm workers, wildlife, and the watershed. Therefore, we don’t use any chemical inputs. Anything we use (to build soil fertility or to address bug or fungal problems) comes from a plant, animal, or mineral source. 99% of agriculture in Virginia uses chemical inputs. If a farm isn’t certified to be free from such, assume that they aren’t. We are Certified Naturally Grown for this reason.
Let’s quickly re-cap: We have so far addressed the benefits of us being small and being chemical free. The final characteristics that make us unique are that we are close by and we only sell what we grow. What are the benefits of being a local farm? The food you get from us has been harvested very recently and does not need to be transported a far distance. Freshness and nutrition diminish over time and across miles of transport. So does resiliency, in our opinion. Most produce in our country right now is grown in California. It does not seem likely that transporting produce 3,000 miles across the country to get to the eaters is going to get easier over time in terms of resources required to do so. It seems easier to grow the produce closer to the consumers. Again – a double-win!
What about this business of selling only what we grow? This way you, the eater, get to know and trust the growing practices used with your food. Re-selling is common in the produce world and it builds a barrier between the grower and the eater. You can ask us questions, take a tour, tell us which varieties and way of harvesting that you prefer. There is also an intangible benefit from being more closely tied to your vegetable sustenance. We celebrate this value.
The benefits are clear, eh? Thanks for humoring us by reading this review. To round out the picture, we have to point out that tied to those benefits are the costs. In order to achieve the above advantages, the consumer needs to shop outside of the most convenient way of shopping: large grocery stores. We can’t sell our vegetables through Kroger or Martins. We sell some at farmers’ markets, which are somewhat inconvenient for most people. However, the shopping there is volatile and lends unpredictability and waste, of which a business like ours can handle only so much. In order to be sustainable, we need to know in advance that some or most of the vegetables we are growing have a home. Thus, we sell shares of our farm (through our CSA) in advance of the harvest. Providing shareholders with the produce we grow also allows us to focus more on farming – on growing a better product for our shareholders. The alternative is spending significant energy convincing people to buy vegetables at a farmers’ market, trying to anticipate how many vegetables may sell at a weekend farmers’ market, and/or figuring out how to handle the unsold veggies. (One way to address waste is to raise prices to absorb the difference. We don’t want to do this!) This is why we operate as a Community Supported farm – selling shares in advance of the harvest.
We also have to sell enough vegetables to make this a business that pays us a full time, living wage. In order to do this, we have to grow veggies that grow well here and grow 9 months out of the year. This means we can’t just grow things that are most familiar to eaters. If so, we would just grow carrots, broccoli, potatoes, tomatoes, salad greens. Instead we also grow turnips. Radishes. Bok choy. Escarole. Tat soi. Microgreens. Tokyo Bekana. Kale! But this is also a win-win because with this diverse list of vegetables comes the added benefits of diverse diet: a diversity of flavors and nutritional content! Thanks for being willing to sometimes eat outside of your comfort zone.
Remember: Vegetables should be the largest portion of your daily food. A health eating goal is to cover three-fourths of your plate with vegetables at every meal. No one disagrees that a diverse array of fresh vegetables is the best route to vibrant health. We hope we have convinced you to agree with us that organic vegetables from a small, local farm are the best foundation for health. There is a significant problem in that vegetables grown in this way are not accessible to everyone (financially, logistically…) and we don’t have the answer to that. But we are doing what we can, here in our little niche, for our community, motivated by a passion for health and integrity. Thank you for caring and prioritizing you and your family’s health by investing in the produce that we grow. It’s risky and barely profitable for most farms like ours. We are appreciative of and humbled by our role in this community.
Coming down from the big picture, here’s the scoop on the minutia here: Last weekend’s early frosts (two weeks before average) have taken out or damaged numerous crops. Meanwhile, a number of our other crops are still recovering from the week of hard rain we experienced in early October. So we have some loss on both fronts: an early end of the summer crops and retarded growth of fall crops. Thanks for being with us through thick and thin, abundance and frustration. There is still plenty of delicious and nourishing options. Thank you in advance for enjoying it!
Sunday’s Farm Share (picked up at First UU of Richmond) will most likely include:
Chinese/Napa Cabbage, Broccoli, Scallions, Salad Mix, Sweet White Turnips, Kale, and hopefully a tomato or two and some peppers (these both have been damaged by this early frost but we are doing our best to save them for you).
This week’s harvest includes:
Bok Choy, Tokyo Bekana, Cabbage, Hearty Greens Mix, Kale, Microgreens, Sweet Peppers, Jalapenos, Radishes, Salad Mix (limited), Tomatoes, Turnips…and our Organic, Naturally Leavened Bread.
Recipe Suggestions: see these and others cataloged on our Recipe Page
– Portugese Kale Soup is one of our favorite ways to enjoy our turnips as well as kale.
– Our Turnips are really, really good eaten raw. Whole or sliced, plain or dipped in hummus or other dip. Or if you took us up on the suggestion to mix diced radishes with cream cheese and salt, our turnips are also great with that dip spread on slices.
– Kale is wonderful as a side dish when prepared as Kale with Caramelized Onions and Garlic
– Napa Cabbage is a fall staple for us and we hope you are enjoying it as much as we are. It serves as a raw salad with any dressing but especially as an American Cole Slaw, this Asian Slaw, or this Asian Slaw.
– Scallions make any vegetables even better. If you love them raw (like Dan does) add them to the slaw recipe above. If you love them cooked (like both Dan and Janet do) then saute them in butter with salt and incorporate in any meal. With kale, cabbage, turnips, etc…
– Peppers are wonderful sliced raw and then topped with the above-mentioned radish-cream cheese dip. Or make Baked, Stuffed Sweet Peppers – with small peppers they are Poppers or with large peppers they are ready to be served and then cut to bite-sized.
Vegetables not ordered by our Market Share CSA members will join us at the Brandermill Green Market or the South of the James market this Saturday. Anyone may order available goods from us through Fall Line Farms, Richmond’s online farmers’ market. You can use discount code “broadfork” to earn a complimentary 6 month subscription.
Janet (who is still a young farmer), Dan (who is no longer a young farmer), and the whole Broadfork crew (a mix of young-farmers and no-longer-young-farmers)