Friday, September 19, 2008

Employee of the Year Awards

The following is a transcript from the first-ever Half Pint Farm Employee Award ceremony held Friday September 19th. Speech given by an Acting Management Representative.
I would first like to thank everyone for being here today for our first ever ceremony in recognition of the hard work and dedication of our staff. A couple of things make this a good time to hold this important event. First, the folks over in the bookkeeping department let me know that today we succeeded in meeting our annual revenue goals, putting us about 6 weeks ahead of schedule. I would first like to thank our dedicated customers and partners for helping us to reach this goal in so short a time. I also want to recognize that this would not have been possible without the careful attention and care from our great staff. This benchmark is especially nice to surpass for the second reason for this event today, the threat of the first frost last night. While we were not yet affected, the cold temperatures are a reminder that the end of the season is nearing and our efforts will soon turn to focusing on preparations for next year. Before we look to 2009, it is appropriate to recognize the hard work of 2008. A conversation with one of the staff today reminded me that we need to make sure to give positive feedback and reinforcement to our workers. So without further ado, let me introduce the Half Pint Farm Employee of the Year for 2008.
Many of you will know immediately of whom I am speaking. This worker, in addition to her normal duties of weeding, planting, washing, harvesting and general grounds maintenance, has continually gone above and beyond the call of duty. She has been diligent in updating the blog on an almost weekly basis, has handled email correspondence and consistently produced recipe cards for the weekly food club pick up. She has been in constant contact by phone with our chef partners and accounts, as well as performing the twice weekly deliveries, often including additional errands along the way. She has been the primary caretaker of our secret flocks of chickens both at home and at the farm. Additionally, I am reminded from off stage, she almost single-handedly maintained the microgreens seeding all year, as well as many weeks of onion cleaning. Add on to all this, the fact that the farm staff has often enjoyed the fresh baked scones she prepares before work three days a week. For all these reasons and so much more, I am proud to present the 2008 Employee of the year, Mara Welton! Thanks for all your hard work!The runner up for the employee of the year award was a very close second and I am sorry that this hard worker can't be here at the ceremony. In fact, this employee is still hard at work, keeping weeds at bay, helping crops such as tomatoes, peppers, artichokes, chard and squash to grow strong and with minimal disease. This worker helped out every harvest day in aiding a smooth transport of the crops will helping to keep the produce clean. I am, of course, talking about Lumite the Landscape Fabric. He had many names and we never quite called it the same thing, often leading to confusion, but without you, Weed Barrier, this year would have been a lot harder and weedier. Thanks so much!
Finally, an honorable mention. No one we talked to quite knew exactly what you do around here all day, but when pressed it was decided that you do help in maintaining the seeding plan and schedule and are a help with the harvest. To Spencer Welton, better luck next year and thanks for whatever it is you do.
To the others on the Half Pint payroll, Mr. Smeems is a frog-catcher and crop-stomper and his little brother, Bullet is a snake-barker and a chicken-hassler and both often antagonize Lumite the Weed Fabric. They both seem unclear on what the actual purpose of the farm is and how they can best serve goals of the company. Perhaps they will have a shot at an award next year.
Thank you for coming today, keep up the good work and help yourself to some pizza.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Cool nights, cool crops

While working today at the farm, we were noticing just how amazingly fall-like it felt. The wind smelled like decaying leaves, the dying leaves on the tomatoes rattled in the breeze, the air was cool while the sun was warm and we didn't feel rushed today - a sure sign that we're slowing down! As I cruised around the farm today, I was able to just appreciate the coolness of some of our crops - the artichoke flowers that opened up today, the myriad of dry beans that I love shelling, pocketing and fondling all day; periodically taking out a handful to admire before resuming my sensory fun-time. Remember that movie Amelie? There was one scene in that movie where she shared her favorite feeling being to plunge her hand into a barrel of dry beans, or rice or lentils or something like that. The beans in my pocket are my Amelie-moment. Mmmmm. I'll post some pics of them below - they are soooooooooo beautiful and photogenic!

I was inspired by the swirls on all the speckled roman tomatoes today - I took about 10 pictures of them, they are mesmerizing! These tomatoes are pretty good eating, too, actually. I think they'd make a great sauce, though there are never enough around to make into sauce - we eat them all fresh. These guys could inspire a few paintings this winter.
The other cool crop that should be cropping up this fall is the cardoon! We love this artichoke relative - you don't eat the flowers like artichokes, but you eat the mid-ribs of the leaves. I'll do an exclusive post on those guys complete with recipes!

Yesterday I harvested 200 pounds of purple viking potatoes. These beauties are gorgeous! Purple with pink swirls on the outside and snow white on the inside. A great all-purpose potato, it mashes beautifully, it fries and boils like a pro! Definitely a fantastic potato that has become a favorite. Okay, fun with beans!

Pocket full o' beauty

Jacob's cattle

Tiger's eye

Painted pony

Calypso, aka Yin Yang, aka Orca

Cherokee Trail of Tears
Hidatsa Shield Figure
As I learn more about these awesome beans, we will be sharing recipes and the beans themselves!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

In praise of tomatoes!!

So, here we are at the beginning of September with the summertime weather we've been longing for all season! Dry, 70+ degree weather, sunshine, and happy crops. What more could a farmer ask for? One of those super-happy crops happens to be the tomatoes this year! We can hardly believe how wonderful they are doing after all that wet dreary weather we have had. In fact, we just took note today that we are still really harvesting from the lower limbs of our tomato plants - where they ripen first. That means, there's all those limbs up higher that still are burgeoning with fruit that we have yet to tap! Could be a super-long tomato season, folks - and you know what that means! Canning and cooking with tomatoes will be the norm for at least another month, maybe two! I actually did my first canning run last night with some red slicers that we had sitting around. We are now the proud owners of 15 quarts of tomatoes and am beginning to feel secure in our tomato bank for the winter. Last year, we canned about 50 quarts of tomatoes and made it through the winter without buying a single can! We actually didn't finish all the tomatoes yet, and still have several jars, but the lion's share were definitely consumed in the cold months - baked eggplant, lasagna, pasta sauces, pizzas, we use tomatoes in so many things; this is definitely one late-summer task we always do no matter how tired we are!

This year, we have so many tomatoes - around 60 varieties - that I feel compelled to showcase a few of the most popular types here for posterity. Paul Robeson, Aunt Ruby's German Green, Persimmon, Yellow Brandywine, Garden Peach, Pineapple and Costoluto Genovese for starters.

Paul Robeson, african-american communist activist in the 1950s, singer, actor, and more. The Russians loved him, and so named a black tomato after him. I don't know about all his political leanings, but this is one FABULOUS tomato. It has the full rich flavor black tomatoes are known for - probably our favorite one year to year.

Garden Peach tomato. It belongs to a class of peach tomatoes - all of which are fuzzy and fruity. We love this heavy bearer. A great snack tomato - I actually want to try baking with it...

Aunt Ruby's German Green tomato. OK. This is our favorite tomato right now. This beauty is an endangered variety that is on the Slow Food Ark of Taste - to be saved in perpetuity because of it's amazing flavor. This is one tomato that you harvest by touch and not sight. Some, but not all get a pink blushing like the one here. Harvest by softness. Delicious full-flavored tomato!

Brandywine, Platfoot strain. HUGE tomatoes - 2 pounders are not uncommon. Fantastic flavor similar to the persimmon tomato - all meat and few seeds. These make incredible sauce!

Then there's the classic Italian heirloom - Costoluto Genovese. Not only strikingly beautiful, but satisfying ripe tomato flavor! Great for salads, and the scalloped edges make for some beautiful slicing.

Seeing those yellow tomatoes got me hungry for one of my favorite all-time summer dinners, Yellow Tomato Shrimp fra Diavolo. I'm so excited about it, I'm going to share the recipe here! People rarely think of using yellow tomatoes for sauce, but you absolutely must try it! Their textures and flavors lend them particularly nicely to seafood. In this case, shrimp.

Yellow Tomato Shrimp fra Diavolo
Serves 4

2 T. olive oil
3/4 pound peeled, deveined shrimp
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 T. fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp. crushed red pepper
2 T. chopped basil leaves (pistou used here)
2-3 large yellow tomatoes, chopped (pineapple used here)
salt and pepper to taste
1 pound fun-shaped pasta

  1. Prepare the water for boiling the pasta. If the pasta takes 8 minutes to cook, begin when you start the tomato sauce.

  2. Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp, the garlic cloves and the crushed red pepper flakes. Cook until the shrimp begins to turn bright orange - about 1 minute. Remove the shrimp from the pan.

  3. To the hot and garlicky pan, add the chopped tomatoes and cook on high until the tomatoes have cooked down a bit and are a nice chunky sauce consistency - about 8 minutes. Sauce may be a little soupy, but this is fine. Add garlicky shrimp and chopped parsley and basil to tomatoes. Stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

  4. Drain al dente pasta, divide amongst the bowls and top with the tomato sauce. A little shaving of parmesan cheese also goes nicely with this, as does a really oaky red wine. Enjoy!