December 8, 2007

Week 14

As you know one of the goals of Abundant Harvest Organics is to establish more of a connection between you and the farmers that grow our food. Today we have the pleasure of hearing from John France, an organic farmer from Porterville, whose citrus we have been enjoying. John writes:
As 2007 comes to a close, most of us involved in agriculture look back in awe and say to ourselves, “did that really happen?” Probably all of us have had that feeling at one time or another over the past few seasons. We recognize that major events, both positive and negative have occurred and those events become part of our character.
For me the season started off with the freeze of 2007 which took out most of our remaining citrus. This freeze was unique in that it occurred “later” in the citrus season. One of the characteristics of citrus is that the later in the season they go before being picked, the greater the soluble solids level, (sugars) and the “tougher” the rind. In short, if this even had occurred 1 month earlier, the devastation would have been huge. However, as a result, the fears that most growers and industry leaders had of a total loss for California citrus were not to be. We learned something about the hardiness of citrus, micro climates, durations and a whole bunch of other facts about citrus and cold weather that we thought we knew but did not. My visits to various growers fields in the early morning hours during those cold nights, simply did not lead me to believe that any viable fruit was left. I was wrong. Personally, we did lose what we had left on the unpicked trees. Fortunately we had already picked enough to cover our cultural costs for the year. Many other citrus growers were able to continue to pick fruit over the next months with the assistance of packing technology that helped cull out the damaged fruit and as such the industry damage was not near as severe as first thought.
However, the cold weather was not done with me. On Easter morning we had a light frost. Late in the year this is simply a minor worry blip on my radar and when I went to sleep that night I wasn’t worried. When I woke up and walked out of the house, I still wasn’t worried. Until that is, a phone call from my field staff that said we got some leaf burn in a block of grapes. While not unexpected, it again was not a point of worry. I know the weather on my farm like the back of my hand and I can pretty much tell the nightly and daily temps shortly after walking out of the door in the morning. There was no apparent frost on the ground and I was satisfied that no damage had occurred, either to the grapes or the stone fruit. I was wrong. What was remarkable about this little frost event is that it happened in the middle of the night. The pre-sunrise morning temps which are usually the lowest had actually risen by the time I got up. My low temp on my temp alarm did not lead me to believe that anything had been damaged. However, the temperature was just low enough, in that one particular block of grapes, for just a few minutes long enough, at just the right time in the growth stage, to freeze those cells in the young shoots and bunches. No neighbors were affected; no other widespread damage was reported by the farm advisors office. In fact, it seemed I was the “one” grower that got nailed.
Usually, the coldest areas in any block that is damaged by freeze are usually on the edges due to higher levels of radiational heat loss. This night, that was not the case. Apparently there were just enough heat units on the perimeter roads to affect the first two rows around the entire perimeter of the vineyard. Everything from those two to four rows from the edge of the vineyard to the center of the vineyard was lost. Again, what I assumed after 34 years of farming was once again proved wrong. The only constant in farming is change.
But as I told people at the beginning of the freeze event in January that what hurts citrus usually benefits deciduous plants. At least in that I was right. For the most part, the peaches, nectarines, walnuts, did fairly well. For that I am grateful. As an organic farmer who is looking to the future and trying to figure out what to do and when to do it; I will remember 2007. What we have known may be changed, what we assume may be wrong. What was before may not be now. What does stay the same is the love of the land, its ability to produce, and the quality of eating what the soil grows. In eating the citrus and Satsumas that we are now producing, I am grateful that we are harvesting a crop in light of last seasons freeze. I am amazed at the sizes of the fruit which are quite large. It is hard to think, or even remember back to those low 20’s temperatures just a few months ago and think here we are again with another crop.
The cycles of farming are remarkably static and yet at the same time, are never ever exactly the same. It is in finding those subtle differences that make farmers successful, sustainable, and have the impact on others with the products we grow. Not only that, but also to always remember that we are merely stewards of the land for a short time. The One who created the soil from which we derive our living is the one to be thanked and honored.

If you were at the delivery site this week you got to sample the newest add-on that is being made available to you. Olson Organics, from right here in Kingsburg, has bottled organic fruit based sauces, and apricot jam that you won’t want to miss. These sauces are perfect as glazes for your roasted and barbequed meats, as companions to cream cheese and crackers, and for dipping. The delicious taste of organic summer peaches; plums and apricots have been blended with sun-dried chili peppers for a wonderfully unique taste.
The jam, because it has lower sugar content, is of a thinner consistency than you are used to in jam. It is delicious on French toast and pancakes or drizzled over ice cream. All of these items are available individually or there is a gift pack that contains all three of the sauces. Think Christmas!

Unfortunately because, as evidenced by John France’s commentary, farming can be unpredictable there may be times that we will have offered fresh fruits or vegetables as an add-on and then find they are not available. Please be assured if you have ordered and been charged for an add-on that is not available for delivery you will be refunded those add on charges.

Here is what you will find in this week’s box.
-Satsuma Mandarin Oranges
John France, Porterville
-Fuji Apples
Ridder & Sons, Watsonville
Troy Huckabay, Kingsburg
-Russet Potatoes
Family Farm, Madera
-Red Onions
-Spaghetti Squash*
John Tobias, Hollister
-Nantes Carrots
-Red Milano Turnips
-Red Butterhead Lettuce
-Chioggia Beets
-Bulb Fennel*
T & D Willey, Madera
*Denotes Abundant Box Only
Contents may vary due to availability on date of delivery

  • Sautéed fennel and onions make a great side dish.
  • Combine sliced fennel with avocado and oranges for a delightful salad.

Broccoli Gratin
5-6 cups broccoli, or cauliflower, or combination
2 tbsp oil 1 onion thinly sliced
1 clove garlic minced ¼ cup flour
2 cups milk 1 tsp salt or to taste
¼ tsp pepper Pinch each ground nutmeg and ground red pepper
1 cup cheddar cheese shredded
Preheat oven to 350º
Steam vegetable just until crisp tender. Drain well and set aside. In a small saucepan sauté the onion and garlic in oil until fragrant and tender. Sprinkle flour on onion and garlic. Cook stirring constantly for about 3 min. without browning. Whisk in milk and bring to a boil. Add spices and cook 5 min. Stir in shredded cheddar cheese and remove from heat. Combine with broccoli and transfer to a 2 qt casserole or glass baking dish.

Broccoli Gratin Topping
1 cup bread crumbs 1 tbsp butter melted
¼ cup parmesan cheese grated 2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley

Combine ingredients and sprinkle on top of vegetable mixture. Bake in preheated oven for about 20 minutes.

Broccoli Salad
3 cups broccoli florets 1 cup raisins
10 slices bacon fried and crumbled, ½ cup red onion diced
or ½ cup bacon bits ½ cup sunflower seeds
½ cup shredded cheese optional 2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar ¾ cup plain yogurt or mayonnaise

Combine all ingredients except sugar, vinegar and yogurt. Combine sugar and vinegar and stir to dissolve. Stir in yogurt until well blended. Pour over broccoli mixture and stir together.

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