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The Ag World is Beginning to Reset From the Many Wildfires

In addition to growing food at Klesick Family Farm, we also source organically grown food from eastern and western Washington, Oregon and California and beyond. Our food supply is a network of local, regional, national and international. While there is a local farm system, our community will always choose to supplement from other regions.

This year has it has been made very clear that America needs to have a more geographically diverse food producing system to feed its people. This was never more obvious than this spring when Covid descended upon communities and hoarding ensued. Our farmers were dialed into the rhythms of growing food for a normal spring season, but Covid flipped the script and food scarcity became a reality.

Making matters more challenging was the spring rains in California and Arizona. At that same time Covid was wreaking havoc in our lives, the weather was wreaking havoc on the “salad bowl” of America, making it impossible to harvest and in some cases destroying crops, at a time when we needed that food more than ever.

Thankfully, the American farmers and food producers weathered that season, and we got our bearings to prepare for farming with Covid in our planning. I will confess that I have no idea what is in store for this upcoming winter flu/Covid season, but our farmers and food producers are, weather permitting, better ready to serve the American public. 

Another Wrinkle

The wildfire season seems to be becoming an annual event that the farming community and other food producers need to plan for. Especially, because Eastern WA, OR and CA have increasing exposure to wildfires.

Wildfires not only destroy communities, jobs, homes, and thousands of acres of wild land, they seriously impact farms and our food supply. In many ways the last few weeks for Klesick’s were very similar to early April when food selection and variety were drastically reduced due to a rainy spring and Covid. With so much of CA and OR on fire, sourcing food from those regions was challenging because available trucking was reduced, many farms were on fire or near fires, and extreme smoke made it impossible to plant, cultivate or harvest. 

As farmers, staying inside is not an option when air quality rises to unsafe levels, we work outside.  Our work is outside.  Another interesting, but often overlooked by the media, wrinkle is that a thick layer of smoke and the ash particulates can ruin fruit, berries and vegetables as it falls to the ground causing crop losses. And do you remember how cold it was during the heaviest times of the poor air quality? A subtle, but real impact to our food supply was the weather change and those cool temperatures really slowed down the growth of vegetables and even caused some to “bolt” due to the sudden change, making the crop unusable.

Because here at Klesick’s we have deep and long-standing relationships in the food industry, and because of the hard work of our awesome team, we have been able to navigate these unforeseen events and keep your Box of Good supplied and on schedule!  We are thankful to be able to provide continued quality food, value and peace of mind to our customers during this tumultuous time.

May this upcoming season bring a breath of fresh air, hope and healing to all of us!

-Tristan Klesick

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Rain Never Felt Better

I am so thankful for the rain to help clear up smoke and put a damper on a lot wildfires.  A few decades ago, a decision to manage the forest more minimalistic and allow nature to manage itself, has led to a really tumultuous period in our history. With a less hands on approach to managing our forests combined with global warming causing drier summers, more wildfires were to be expected. In essence we got what we planned for and then some. 

We see the same thing with reintroducing wolves into areas they once roamed. And if you combine them with Grazing permits for cattle or sheep ranching in an open range grazing environment one should expect wolves to eat cattle and sheep and deer and elk.  

Wildfires and wolves are more interconnected than we would think. Less intensive harvest of trees and less grazing permits has allowed the forests to grow an underbrush. Reintroducing wolves creates tension between the farming community and the natural resource community which has led to less grazing permits on public lands to allow the forests to act more naturally and wolves are a part of helping a forest to act more naturally as an apex predator. These two decisions are really an urban versus rural debate. 

In addition to the choices we have made as a society, we have also allowed people to move into these or closer to these wild areas. Now we have added a human life and a political issue to this policy. The clash between let nature be nature and managing nature will be really intense for years to come.  Ironically with Covid19 more urban folks are moving to rural areas and working from home. They will have a new perspective on living in “wild” areas that many of them were in favor of when they lived in the urban core. 

I am not advocating either way that the policies to let nature or reintroduce wolves are bad or good. I am saying that the current outcomes are what we should expect from those decisions. Allowing a forest to act more wildly is a good decision for a lot of natural processes. All that “tinder” and dying material feeds into a lot of biological processes. It could very well be that a wild forest will be healthier as it develops a cycle of fire and rebuilding itself. Mount St. Helens is an excellent example of nature rebuilding itself. 

The question now becomes will we (America) say, “enough is enough” and stop this experiment after a few decades of a policy change.  Will the potential good that comes after this tumultuous period be allowed to play out? Or could it better to go back to a more managed forest solution? 

As always, the answer is somewhere between, there are a few hard and fast rules in life, but this isn’t one of them. While I do not like wildfires and the harm they cause, I have to acknowledge that this is the expected outcome. What we (America) decide going forward will have an expected outcome as well. 

-Tristan Klesick

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There is Always Time for Pie

We are rolling out the Sugar Pie Pumpkins this week. Almost all our squash is ready, but we are starting with our pie pumpkins. I know a few of you are wondering if we sell pies and the answer is nope. It would be fun to add a bakery someday, but we are plenty busy growing and sourcing good food for your Family.  

Before I forget, you can now add Kombucha Town Kombuchas and Seltzers to your orders.  

Back to pies, any squash, except Spaghetti squash, will make really good pies, but pumpkin carried the day. And just to be transparent, a lot of pumpkin pie is actually made with Hubbard squash. Shocking I know, but to be even more transparent, I am pretty sure there is no pumpkin in a pumpkin spice latte either.  

This year’s squash patch has Sugar Loaf (a Delicata variety) Acorn, Butternut and Sugar Pie pumpkins. Winter squash is an important crop for farmers like us. It allows us to extend our farm goodness well past the growing season. In a few weeks most of the winter squash will be ready for harvest and we will be selling our Mixed squash box with all the varieties inside it. They will keep for quite a while and just need to be stored in a cool place like a garage floor.  

Joelle was commenting on how she was going to make a chill pie the other evening and, though I am not sure how to make it, I will be more than happy to eat it. Many of you know that I love to cook, but baking is not that exciting to me. When I get home from the office and there is a pile of vegetables on the counter, I grab my apron, wash up and get to creating, but if there are a bunch of apples or berries, I would rather eat them than make a dessert.  

But squash season is win for all cooks! Squash is so versatile and healthy. You can roast it, make savory or creamy soups, and incredible curries. And then when it comes to baking you can make deliciously moist pumpkin bars, cookies, breads and pies. Winter squash Is easily steamed or roasted and then frozen for future uses.  

This week cook the whole pumpkin and plan to save a portion for later in the week or freeze (with the date on the bag) and plan to use it later. Send us a photo or tag us on FB or IG with your culinary creation. 

Be well, 

-Tristan

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Fall

Every season has its own flavor or nuisances. The fall on the farm is about harvest and putting things to bed. We have had a good summer; the winter storage crops are looking great and our fall plantings are solidly on their way. Now it is time to prep the farm for a winters rest, because, dare I say, the winds of change are noticeable! 

Without all the chauffeuring between school, practices and games, the fall also seems strangely quiet. I even went fly-fishing the other day, mostly just clearing my head, but it was with another dad who I would normally be busy coaching his son on the soccer field. We both had a few extra minutes to take a break from our businesses and get out on the water. That would be a real luxury in most years, but now it is at least plausible. 

The river for me is the nexus for a lot of my work, relationships and hobbies. When I am not running a farm and helping with the home delivery company (Alaina is doing a great job doing that) I am thinking about ways to improve farming and habitat on the Stillaguamish River. For me it is even bigger, because I believe that we are called to be stewards. As a steward, my farm goals are to live with nature, work with nature and when it is time to move on, to leave this farm in better condition for the next generation of farmers. 

One of my latest endeavors on the Habitat/Farming spectrum is to work on a better solution. In a nutshell, the natural resource community are developers. They don’t build houses for people, but they do build and engineer habitat. We have the Shoreline Management act, the Growth Management act, Critical Area Ordinances and EPA buffers, but these tools are not easily enforced and still rely on a landowner to engage in the process.  

Another factor limiting restoring some important habitat is that the public has an affinity for farmers, and it makes it politically hard for an agency to implement changes – good, bad or neutral, if it will impact the farming community. I have led and sat in hundreds of hours of meetings with lots of talking and little action. Given the political realities, I have been thinking about a different solution to the Salmon/Habitat/Farming conundrum.  

Zoning! I think zoning is the solution. Instead of regulating mandatory buffers or implementing habitat plans on farms, let’s just create a “riparian short plat” concept on the rivers and streams that mirror the intended buffers. By creating these narrow natural resource lots we could accomplish more and save taxpayers a lot of money. 

Here would be the outcomes. The landowner would have a new lot that they could sell, lease or farm. The new lots would be less expensive to purchase for the natural resource community because they would not have to buy the entire farm to get control of the buffer. It would protect farmland from being purchased because the most valuable part to the natural resource community is now a separate lot and as mentioned earlier could be sold, leased or farmed. This solution in essence could remove the unfavorable climate around regulating farmers and make available valuable habitat pieces and save farmland. Wish me luck as I try and move this idea forward. 

-Tristan

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Rhythm

There is a circadian rhythm to how I have adapted to farming over the years.  For me farming is part science, part feel and part relationship with nature. All three are intermixed into a foray of alchemy that draws me into the wonder of nature and growing food. The whole system is interconnected, yet strangely independent.  

For the past decade or so our farming system has been about rotation and staggering the plantings. For a lot of market gardeners or truck farmers, like us, they are continually cropping the same crops because they are growing for wholesale markets or farmers markets. For me, I am growing for you and while I can grow green beans to be in your Box of Good from June till September, I have chosen not to.  

With that said if you love green beans you can add them to your order every week, they just won’t show up in our standard boxes every week, but you can add them on to your order. It is the beauty of our system; you can order what you like to eat every week or get a preplanned menu or do both. We are happy to help your family eat healthy! 

Some of you love green beans and would eat them every week, but that is some of you. I purposely plan to “gap” on green beans to create a break in our menus. It is just how I have adapted to create variety in your Box of Good. Yes, you do see some popular staples like bananas or potatoes or Ralph’s Greenhouse Carrots, but for the most part, we mix up the variety and seasonality on a weekly basis. And no, I do not grow bananas or mangos, although I do confess it would be nice to live where those grow from November to April every year! 

Speaking of Ralph’s Greenhouse carrots, I don’t even try to grow carrots anymore, because his carrots are so sweet and STRAIGHT!  Mostly he has a steady supply of irrigation and sandy soil, two ingredients that carrots love. I have the water, but not the sandy soil. I also happen to love growing garlic, lettuce, cucumbers, winter squash and those just happen to be crops that Ralph’s doesn’t prefer to grow. 

Each farm and farmer must figure out their customers and their microclimate and marry the two together. Neither of us are growing wine grapes! 😊 

Farming is like each of us, a unique expression of our version of life and how we get to interact, but also impact the world we work and live in.  

Together we impact and make our communities better and when you purchase your box of good it directly impacts the farmers who supply your organic fruits and vegetables, but also your health.  

We appreciate you! 

-Tristan

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I Have Work To Do…

The other day my daughter called and asked, “Can we go to Craft Island?” Craft island is a beautiful NW gem located in Skagit County. The turn off is right next to another gem Snow Goose Produce, Gifts and Ice Cream. It was one of those hot days last week and the water certainly sounded refreshing!

My answer to spontaneous play during the summer is typically, “There is so much work to do!” But this time, I chose a different path. Craft island while beautiful, is a bit of slog to get out there and you need to time the tides to maximize your visit. Worth it, but at 2:30pm, I pivoted and offered Oso and the Stillaguamish river. She accepted! And off we went with a few friends in tow for a couple of hours on the river.

Oso is where my dad is from and my aunts, uncles and cousins still call home. I have been making that drive up Hwy 530 for 5 decades, essentially my whole life. Off to grandma Opal’s and Granpa Dick’s. Summer after summer and year after year our family would return to the farm and river property. Grandma had 12 brothers and sisters, and pretty much all of them made their way up to the river property annually. The gatherings were huge, wall to wall tents. What memories!

Well time has marched on and the gatherings have gotten less frequent and quite a bit smaller. I am grateful to have moved closer and just downstream in Stanwood. But for some reason, proximity doesn’t always mean connection. So, combining play and an Oso visit to see Aunt Linda, Aunt Addie and Uncle Terry, was the perfect combination.  Maleah and her friends enjoyed a lazy afternoon on the water as did my youngest, Joanna and me, but I also got to connect with family.

The farm work, the home maintenance projects, the laundry… all still needed to be done, but there will always be work to do and making time for some spontaneous family fun with family was the right call. 

There won’t always be time. My dad’s generation has now become the old guard and somehow Joelle and I and my cousins, (who I swear just yesterday) were teenagers, became the middle guard and our children and grandchildren will carry the mantel forward. 

We had a good time and 5 hours later we hopped back into the car, tired, but connected to something bigger, something that is now going on 5 generations on a small piece of ground with a river running next to it. 

-Tristan Klesick

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Fall-ish

When I think about August, it is the season where a plethora of things collide. It is the season where I feel like the days are getting shorter and I have less time to plant, harvest and button up the last of those summer projects. And of course, try and get away before the school season kicks into high gear. 

Although this year, with school online and sports on hold, I think there may be a little more flexibility this fall. Last week, there were a few days where it felt cold, like turn the heaters on cold, but by midday everything was plenty warm. I don’t know about you, but I would surely welcome an extended summer. 

This year has been a touch cool and many crops took a while to get going, especially TOMATOES and CUKES. And we just didn’t even bother with Zucchini this year. Thankfully, we planted one of the greenhouses to cucumbers and it has gone gang busters, the outside cukes, let’s just say they go off to a slow start. 

We didn’t plant any tomatoes in the greenhouse this year and this was the year we should have, but last year was plenty warm and the greenhouse tomatoes weren’t as happy. With that said we decided to plant outside this year and… Well they are going now. We only grow Early Girls and only 100 plants. This year we also decided to not sucker the plants, which means the plants are big, full and loaded with lots of smaller tomatoes.  

The reason we did this was were trying to avoid that leathery yellow spot that happens on the crown of the tomatoes. I think it is caused by too much sun exposure. (We see this a lot in Yakima tomatoes). As opposed to the black spot on the bottom of the fruit which is a calcium deficiency. By not suckering the tomato plants we eliminated the sun burn issue and with a good fertilizer mix the fruit is healthy. 

The challenge for tomatoes this year is that it has been cool and wet, also known as a banner year for plant growth, fruit set and lots of green tomatoes that are taking their sweet time to ripen! Years ago, I was talking with a plant scientist, before I was a farmer, maybe 1995 and I was bemoaning how my tomato plants were still producing lots of green tomatoes in September. He asked me, “Are you still watering them?” My answer, “Of course”. That question has impacted my farming in untold ways. In a summer like this most plants have gotten ample water. 

Tomato plants will keep putting their energy into making more and more tomatoes and less into making ripe tomatoes. So, what’s the solution. STRESS! As a farmer, I need to encourage the plant to switch from growth to preservation. All plants are trying to reproduce and with tomatoes, if I cut back on watering, start pruning, or the weather gets colder the tomato plant will switch from growing more tomatoes to ripening the next generation. 

Bottom line as painful as it might be, it might be time to introduce a little stress into your tomato’s world, by removing blossoms/fruit that won’t have time to ripen or cutting the tops, or watering less. Watering less may not be as easy this summer, but if you want more ripe tomatoes help your plants switch to preservation mode.  

-Tristan Klesick

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August

August is one of the hardest months on the farm for me. Early in the spring there is so much optimism and hope. Nothing has been planted, but you’re ready for the fresh start!  You start watching for those windows of dry enough weather to get out and put your farm plan into action.  

Of course, this year has been anything but normal, in more ways than one!  The weather didn’t really break until mid-July, but the last few weeks have been glorious with lots of sunshine and just enough rain. It is unusual to not have had to irrigate much at all this year. On the farm, irrigation is referred to as IRRITATION! Seems like you are always chasing a leak here and fitting there, and water pressure, but when it all comes together, there are few things as beautiful as a working sprinkler system. Although, nature is the most efficient irrigator of all, and as much as we try to imitate a rain event, our efforts are a mere distant second to a good rain event. 

August can present as a tough month because the farm is in so much transition. As I walk the fields, there are big gaping spaces where a crop used to be but has been harvested. I walk by places where lettuce, beets, peas, beans, and garlic have been planted, cultivated and harvested. Months of work finally ready for your Box of Good. Interspersed among these newly created spaces where vegetables once inhabited are newer plantings of lettuce, cabbages, kales intermixed with more beans and a very healthy winter squash crop. 

Literally a few weeks ago the farm was feeling near capacity with not much open ground and now as if one flipped a switch, it starts heading back to more open and less planted. It is what is supposed to happen, it happens every year, but the most rewarding time for me on the farm is when most things are just about ready to harvest and the farm looks full.  

Much of the spring plantings are finished and we are busy planting our fall crops. The season has been good and even with bare spots where veggies once inhabited there lingers the memories of rows and rows of crops. . .  

As we march forward, I am simultaneously, looking back and looking forward. We have made the decision to change our farming methods and to streamline our beds. We are placing stakes where beds will begin and end reconfiguring our “blocks” for next year’s vegetables. The biggest change will be the complete work up of all our beds making them all 200 feet long with ample headlands to turn a tractor. This will make everything more uniform from our plantings, to irrigation and yes, even weeding. It is so much easier on your mind when you only must hoe 200 feet instead 260 or 240 or 300-foot-long beds. Making all the beds uniform is long overdue and the process has already begun, because all the fall plantings and garlic are being planted at the new 200-foot length. 

That’s all for now, 

-Tristan Klesick

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Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi is an amazing vegetable that has really never caught on in the States. It is in the Brassica family and derives its name from the German word Kohl meaning cabbage and Rabi meaning turnip. It is often referred to as a German Turnip. It has the shape, feel and look of a turnip, but its flavor is all its own.

I have been reading the book Fiber Fueled and the author shares that in order to have good gut health we need to be eating plants and conversely getting a lot of fiber into our diets. I tend towards a plant-based diet with a little protein, but Dr. Bulsiewicz (@theguthealthmd) shared in his book that no matter what diet you eat, adding around 30+ different kinds of plants weekly to your eating regime has an incredible impact on your gut health.  I know this intuitively, but it’s always good to be reminded and affirmed. 

Kohlrabi is such a versatile plant that can be used like a turnip, a cabbage or like a radish. It can be eaten raw, cooked or fermented. It makes wonderful additions to soups, stews, salads or added to your favorite roasted vegetables.  Salads, soups, roasted veggies are excellent strategies to get more plants and variety into your diet. 

Our weekly menus are built every week around the familiar and seasonal fruits and vegetables and we try to incorporate a little bit of the unfamiliar. Because, just like @theguthealthmd, we believe that diet filled with plants and eating a variety of vegetables will make us healthier.  Plants alone feed the 30 trillion bacteria that live inside our bodies. And if you feed the good guys lots of plants, they will out compete the bad guys. 

We try to have lots of ingredients on hand to pretty much whip up a healthy “fast food” of stir-fry, soup, salad, steamed vegetables or even just some cut up fruit and veggies to graze on while we play! If you offer lots of healthy variety, more variety will be consumed!

No matter how you slice it, eating heathy is going to take some planning and a full larder (refrigerator) filled with fruit, vegetables and legumes.

This is a long-winded way of saying, no matter how you choose to eat, if you try and eat 30 different types of plants a week you will probably be healthier for it. 

This week we are harvesting green and purple Kohlrabi. Turn the page to find a few ideas on how to incorporate this not so common nutritional powerhouse into your next meal!

-Tristan Klesick

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Summer’s Song

Joelle and I are raising our last 3 children still at home and are often blessed with an assortment of grand kiddos at any given time. The farm is so different through the eyes of a child. What do they see? What do they hear? What excites their imaginations? Where did they go?!?! 

Each year the farm season unfolds from the winter’s rest into several mini scores of lyrical geniuses, some ominous or foreboding, others dancing on the clouds, and some making their final push to the crescendo. Let’s be honest, Disney wouldn’t be Disney without music. And given the season of life with 6 grand kiddos under 8, a Disney anything is only a couple clicks away!  

And lest you think that I am being a nice grandpa, I also happen to like Disney, too. As I typed the title, I hear Olaf singing, “In Summmmmmmer!” 

A musical score is an apt way to capture the farm season and to capture life. Every crop is its own instrument playing to its own sheet of music written exclusively for it. Some of the moody opening pieces are like peas and spinach where the spring weather is similar; moody and unpredictable. And as we march from March to June their scores come to an end.  

And if by magic, the beans, cucumbers and tomatoes chime-in, overlaying and adding complexity to the changing landscape, with warm notes much like the weather (usually). These heat-loving summer crops thrive on increasing day length and heat units. Heat units vary for each crop and help a grower determine harvest dates. We don’t rely on technical heat units, but we do rely on HEAT to help these crops flourish. 

Every week we add new plantings till mid-August and from the end of April till October we are harvesting something. And if you happen to be waxing poetic with me and dreaming of farming, let me bring you back to earth! We weed something, somewhere, every week from April to October.  

Some people say, “a dog is a man’s best friend”, but as an organic farmer, a Hulu hoe is a close second! Weeding is hard work, but it is also very rewarding, it was one of the few chores when you are done you get immediate feedback! One of our summer weeders shared that, “it is so rewarding when you get the whole root.” Yes, it is! 

And now we are midway through this year’s musical and it has been a unique rendition. 2020 will be a year for the record books, but not because of the crops; because of the weather and the extenuating circumstances. 

And just like any live performance, once the show has begun, the conductor/director must make decisions in real time. Which just may be why farming has always kept my attention.  It is never the same score from year to year. 

-Tristan