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Eating Local

We are getting so close to the local season exploding! The next few months are going to roll in like morning fog, and then heat up like hot summer day. The rain last week has hydrated the crops and added moisture to the fields. The moisture is especially helpful this time of year for 2 reasons.

The first is what you might expect, it waters the crops, and after that hot stretch, the peas and lettuce are happy for the cool weather and a drink! Plants are so amazing. When you look at a plant and study it’s leaf structure, you will notice how they have a center rib that funnels water towards the roots and/or the outer circumference of the plant. This is sometimes referred to as the drip zone. The leaves are accumulators of moisture and funnel it to where the plant needs it most.

Another interesting tidbit about leaves is that the leaves “open up” in the morning to capture the dew and then “close off” to conserve the moisture and nutrition. There is also really good evidence that the birds chirping away are one of the mechanisms that causes the plants to open up and take in the nutrition. Joelle and I have intentionally planted trees, all types, on the borders of our property to encourage a diverse ecosystem. 

Starting in the spring, and running throughout the summer, it can get really loud at sunrise with all the avian activity on our farm. I would venture that a rooster didn’t get the farmer up at the crack of dawn, it was all the wildlife singing to the plants!

Another use for moisture is to help breakdown the remaining residue from our winter crops that we plant to protect and nourish our soil. Moisture and heat are critical for the fungi and bacteria world to turn the fibrous plant material into nutrients. Which, in turn, build soil health and feed the plants. Making sure the crop is incorporated into the soil, and there is adequate moisture, speeds up the process and frees the nutrients to feed the plants. 

Feeding the soil bacteria and the other host of unseen workers is job one for an organic farmer. Without healthy soil you can’t have healthy food, and without healthy food you can’t have healthy people. If the national health trend is any indication, our nation’s soil is not producing very healthy crops. And to compound the issue, the agricultural crops are turned into a myriad of overly processed foods that are even more unhealthy.

Organically grown fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes consumed as close to their original state is the silver bullet to America’s health crisis. A simple solution, but one that eludes most.

Growing food for you.

-Tristan

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Small Things Matter

When I think about small things, I am thinking about the little decisions that can elevate a conversation to optimism or an argument. Or on the farm, getting ahead of the weather by a day or two can also have lasting impacts on the crops.

Last week, we saw temperatures climb from the low 60s to the high 70s/low 80s. This is the season where a small decision can really influence a June/July harvest. Ideal weather doesn’t exist. The weather is just what it is. Which means, as a farmer, I do my best and then move on. Farmers have an edge about them, it comes with the territory. Some crops do great, some not so great and others just don’t make it. 

Years of farming inform many decisions. A collective wisdom that has been passed down season by season and crop by crop, which means that the weather plays a big factor. But it is out of my control, and when a crop flourishes it probably has more to do with the weather than I give it credit. But the little things like depth of tillage, timely weeding, and timely watering can go long ways towards working with nature to help that crop flourish, too.

80s in May can have a lasting impact on cool weather crops, and the variability of weather can really mess with a plant’s internal clock. Cilantro is always looking for a reason to bolt or “go to seed,” as is spinach. We have chosen to focus on crops that are less temperamental like lettuces, cucumbers, tomatoes, winter squashes, and garlic. We have tree fruits and raspberries, too.

We no longer grow blackberries. We had two varieties of thorn less blackberries. One came on early; I mean a month before any wild blackberries were ready to harvest, but every bird within a few miles descended upon them and feasted away. The other challenge was that a warm March and cold April with a late frost, killed about a half of them. Their shoots for next year will be fine, but the combination of bird predation and frost susceptibility have made them less desirable to grow.

The other blackberry came on in late August and the birds had plenty of wild blackberries to feast on, but I didn’t like their flavor. They were prolific, big and juicy. I would always walk by them and look for the plumpest berries and eat one and think “meh”. Every time I always thought “meh” when I tasted them. So last fall, I took them out and took out their trellising. 

The beautiful thing about farming is that there are lots of choices when it comes to what crops to grow and every farmer gets to match the crop to their microclimate, their personality, and their temperament!

And with the weather changing, we have new opportunities to grow different crops. But the warmer weather has also come with new pests. I noticed new birds flying over the farm that are now in the valley. Changing weather patterns come with lots of new variabilities and that definitely keeps a farmer on their toes!

Growing good food for you that loves to grow in the Stillaguamish River Valley.

-Tristan

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Lilac Blooms

When your world revolves around the farming calendar, some memories are forever with you. It was 1994 and I had begun my career in the produce business. That was a long time ago! During these early years, before Joelle and I started Klesick Farms, I worked in specialty produce in Portland Oregon. It was here that I met my first organic farmers. Hard working folks that were working outside from sun up to sun down and making their own deliveries, because that was their only option. 

It was inspiring! We didn’t have any land, but we did have a beautiful Purple Lilac in the front yard. It was full of blooms, and I harvested some stems and sold them to my work. Lilac blooms were my first agricultural or floral sale! And every spring since 1994 I get to pause and smell the lilac flowers and reminisce about those early days. 

Last week Joelle harvested some white lilac blooms that beautifully adorned our table. Once again, lilacs will hold a special meaning for me. Our son Andrew and his wife Abby have decided that Pittsburgh is where they want to live. I am excited for them, but sad at the same time. Andrew wasn’t born, though he was in the “oven,” when Joelle and I started Klesick Farms. Now 21 years later he and Abby are finding their way. As our families gather to say good bye, pray for them and send them off, lilacs once again signify that a change has come to the Klesick Family.  

His older brother Micah lives in Michigan, and Abby’s grandmother also lives in Michigan, which is comforting. Technology softens the move with messenger or facetime, but the sadness will persist. So far, all the grandbabies still live near us, but that too will change. Not sure when we will have all nine of our children together again, probably weddings and funerals. I do know that when we see them again, the embraces will be long and teary, much like the night before they left. Tears filled with excitement and mixed with sadness as we will now watch from a far. 

Change is hard and it is good. Now every spring when the lilacs bloom purple I will remember how Klesick Farms began and when the white lilacs bloom, I will be reminded that another Klesick is making their way in this world. 

For many of you, our lives through a box of good have been intertwined for those same two decades. And for you, too, the agricultural calendar has created many memories. Spinach and peas, raspberries and cherries, nectarines and blueberries. We have a rhythm to our menu planning, and it is heavily tied to local food. And for the next several months, Klesick Farms and my local farming neighbors will begin to share our bounty with you. Stay tuned, the box of good is going to get a lot more local!  

-Tristan

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It Never Fails

Inevitably, we end up planting our 1st, 2nd, and possibly 3rd rotation of lettuce transplants all at once. This not a big deal, it just tends to stack up a lot of lettuce at one time. Thankfully, lettuce mostly matures at the same time. “Mostly” being the operative word. 

All crops have a range of maturity, and with lettuce we will be harvesting the over achievers first and letting the laggards mature for a later harvest date. For now, I am happy to report that 2500 red leaf, green leaf, and romaine lettuce starts are in the ground. And it is a good thing, because plantings 4 and 5 are close behind!

This weekend we are also driving T-posts and stringing the peas. The same weather that tossed a wrench in our transplant schedule also impacted our ability to cultivate the peas with the tractor. In a perfect situation, we would have been able to “hill” them and smother the weeds in the row and kill a bunch of weeds outside the rows. This year there wasn’t a dry enough window to do that and so now we are going to be hand hoeing. 

It isn’t a big deal, maybe an extra 3 hours compared to 10 minutes with the tractor. On the bright side, the peas look great! They just grew beyond the point where I was comfortable tractor weeding. Those peas are off to a great start! Think mid to late June for a harvest date.

And since we are talking about peas, next week we are harvesting Pea Vines and Tendrils. I know, you are thinking “fancy.” Actually, I am thinking that the cover crop I planted last fall to protect and nurture the soil is lush and green and ready to harvest. We didn’t plan to harvest these for food, but I am now. They taste absolutely amazing. The tops of pea plants are very tender and taste surprisingly like peas. They will make a great addition to salads or stir fries. Joanna and I just graze them like Peter Rabbit or Bambi might, helping ourselves to a top here and another there as we mosey along. 

Now to be clear, while pea vines are very tasty, I am not willing to harvest Pea Vines that will become SUPER SUGAR SNAP PEAS in the near future! Nope, nada, never. So, I essentially have two different varieties of peas, Austrian Winter Peas and Sugar Snap Peas. Both produce tasty pea vines and tendrils, but the Sugar Snap Peas produce those big, plump, juicy, green peas and it would be a culinary shame to eat those vines. That being said, the Austrian Winter Peas are ready to harvest and provide a splash of local farm goodness!  

Cheers to your health!

-Tristan

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Timely and Untimely Weather

Fitting in work here and there, we have been waiting. After such a great start to March, April showers have certainly put a damper on field work. It’s alright though, the fields were looking and feeling a little too dry for the start of the farm season. So, in many ways, I am grateful for the early start and the rainy April patch. 

And besides, if we hadn’t got the nice weather in March, I couldn’t have snuck in another unplanned planting of those tasty sugar snap peas! 

Now it is fruit blossom time. Our one cherry tree didn’t care that it was raining during blossom time, but I DID! On the brighter side, the Italian prunes have burst into full blossom, and the rain let up at the perfect time. We use Mason Bees for most of our pollination. Those little pollinators tend to work rain or shine, unlike Honey Bees. The Mason Bees do require a little more maintenance than do the other pollinators, like Bumble Bees. The Mason Bees need a water source nearby and a clayey mud puddle. With the rainy weather all of our tractor ruts serve as an excellent source of water and mud to make their nests. 

Another interesting fact about Mason Bees is that the males emerge first, and then the females a little later. And since each little nest has 5 eggs in it, it is really important that the female Mason Bee lays 2 female eggs in the back of the nest and 3 male eggs in the front. Nature is truly amazing. How does the female know that it is laying female eggs in the back and male eggs in the front? This is absolutely critical too, because the males emerge first, and if the female mason bee lays a male egg in the back of the nest it will wake up first and destroy the eggs in front of it. Now I am not an expert, but every year we see Mason Bees emerging and building nests, so something is working right. One thing for sure: no pollination, no fruit!  

Farming is a humbling and exhilarating adventure; you can do so many things right and then it can rain during pollination, and next thing you know you’re caring for trees for the whole year without a crop to harvest. Ouch. Thankfully that doesn’t happen very often, especially in our orchard. The reason that we usually have fruit to harvest is because, we haven’t “put all our eggs in one basket.” We have 3 varieties of Plums, 3 varieties of pears and 4 varieties of apples and they all bloom at slightly different times, essentially spreading out our risk over a few weeks. 

We have chosen to be small diversified fruit and vegetable farm. Focusing on a couple dozen crops that grow really well in our climate and on our farm and we grow them for you! 

-Tristan

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Chive On

It is officially farm season. Normally our first crop of every season is chives. This year we had garlic greens and kale from our farm earlier than chives, but for me and my “biological farming” clock, harvesting chives is when I think farming has begun. This culinary delight has been gracing tables for 5000 years. Of course, even though I am north of 50 years old, I am not able to verify exactly how many years it has been cultivated. I am good with 5000 though. 

Now, mind you, we grow around 400 linear row feet that we harvest several times throughout the growing season. We also weed it several times throughout the season. This year I wasn’t sure that the chives were going to come out of the winter very well.  

About a month ago, I was quietly lamenting the loss of the chive crop. It just didn’t look normal, but really how many of us were starving for a little warmth this last winter too. But like the champion of Spring they are, they came roaring back! These chives have been cultivated from one 4″ pot that we planted in 2003 in our herb garden.

Chives love to multiply; no, they EXCELL at multiplying. Every few years, when the weeds begin to take over and compete with the chives, and the grasses move in, we dig up the healthiest clumps and break them apart and replant one lonely single chive every six inches. And within a few months one has become 6. Last week I spoke about the miracle of seeds. Plants that propagate by multiplying are equally amazing.  

All this to share that for some of you who have been customers for over 15 years, we have been harvesting and tending this crop of chives for your health. It is rewarding to think that with a little attention, and intention, such a healthy allium can feed thousands of families in its life.  

All the onions/alliums are incredibly healthy and are off the charts as a health food. Scallions, leeks, red, yellow, white, and sweet onions, and shallots all have incredible cancer fighting components. I know that the saying is an apple a day keeps the doctor away, and that is true, but adding an onion or garlic to your daily plan will definitely keep you healthier than not.  

Chives, unlike its other onion relatives, are best added at the end of the cooking process. For soups or potato dishes cut them in into 1/8” sections and add them on top. For scrambled eggs and souffle’s add them at the end as well. And for a salad, mix them in.  

To keep your chives fresh, treat them like flowers and keep them in a vase.  

But mostly, eat them! 

Tristan

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It Happened

I am always in awe. We planted Super Sugar snap pea seeds two weeks ago and last Saturday, they emerged. The miracle reminds of a children’s book that we read to our kids. The book was called “Look What God Made.” Every page was filled with a natural wonder and the toddler exclaimed, “look what God made!” That deep “WOW” moment when a little one discovers something new is so precious. 

That is how I feel every time I see seedlings emerge. One would think that after a lifetime of growing vegetables, I would know what is about to happen. But something happens every spring. Every time I plant a seed, the excitement grows. The anticipation increases every day, and then it happens! Germination! 

I check every day; I know that the first few days the seeds are gathering moisture to burst and push through their coats. It is all happening, but nothing appears to be happening. I dig a few seeds and the once dry shriveled seeds are now plump and soft. A few more days and a tiny sprout is breaking through, and then a few more days, I gently brush back the soil and now there is a green shoot ready to emerge.   

It happened! I know, I know it is going to happen, but every year, every crop, they are so special. It doesn’t matter if it is peas, or cucumbers, or apples, or raspberries. The amount of simplicity, and complexity, and diversity that working with nature manifests every season of every year is a miracle.  

And even though I know what will happen every time I plant a seed. Even though the seed packet tells me when to plant, how deep to plant, and how long it will take to germinate, I feel like that little one in the book that Joelle and I read to our little ones, and I find myself saying, “WOW! Look what God made.” 

There is a whole bunch more work between emergence and harvest, especially with Sugar snap peas, but when you bite into a Klesick Farm hand planted, hand trellised, hand weeded, and hand harvested Super Sugar snap pea it is as if the world stops for a moment.  A pause where something so special, so beautiful, so nutritious has culminated at that moment. And at that moment, your farm team relishes in a job well done as your taste buds relish in the simple, sweet, and juicy organic goodness of the Sugar snap pea. 

-Tristan

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All You Get is 24 Hours!

That’s it, but it sure feels like more. It is more…productive hours. Our bodies adjust to the extra energy coming from the increased day length and we get more done. Or different things done, anyway. Now is the time to banish social media, cable, and electronics, and embrace Spring. There is so much to do and before you know it… well let’s not go there yet.  

Taking advantage of beautiful weather is such a gift. The warmth, the sunshine, and the outdoor chores! Now it is time to mow the lawn, weed the flower beds, add the compost, mow the lawn, go on a hike. Oh! I forgot sleeping and eating! We will need those two elements to maintain our strength. 

This time of year, eating outside is the best! less mess, and you are outside. We tend to gravitate towards salads and fruit. Eating raw veggies and fruit is so simple and can be a great strategy to maintain your health. Also, eating fruit and veggies is really good for our bodies, and eliminates a lot of packaging. Sadly, the packaging companies are the winners of the time crunch we experience during the nice weather, since many folks go for convenience and, convenience often means less healthy and more packaging.

The beautiful thing about our service is that you can tailor your order to your preferences. You can shift to veggie boxes or fruit boxes. You can add additional fruit or veggies to meet your families changing schedules and taste. You can even call us a few days before your delivery, and we will help you place an order. 

We have several families that routinely check in with our office team to add additional items to their order. If that sounds like something you might like, please don’t hesitate, call us and we will help you. Serving you and helping you reach your health goals is a privilege for us.  

Tis The Season

The first round of Super Sugar snap peas is in the ground! And the second round, which was our first round, is still in the greenhouse. But those transplants will be ready in a week or two to go in the ground. With this nice weather, we decided to direct seed an extra crop of peas. If things go well, we will have some, big, fat, juicy peas in early June. Peas have to be the most heralded crop of the spring. Carrots are awesome, cucumbers are incredible, but peas have such a short window that when they are ready for harvest, it is as if time stands still and everything magnificent is encapsulated in a little green pod full of sweetness! 

-Tristan

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Extremes

This kind of weather really messes with the farming community. Fortunately, we had a plan to start the season, so we are able to take advantage of the heat wave. I will confess that I have an uneasy feeling about the Spring, I’m not sure if it is going to stay hot from here on out or if it will moderate to intermittent warm and rainy.

I realize that the weather is out of my control so, as I have shared in earlier newsletters, we try and affect the margins and work with the weather. Everything is a little later this year. As of last Wednesday, the Asian pear trees have not blossomed yet. The Asian pears bloomed at early March last year. Which means that the harvest will be pushed back a little, too. Thankfully, the trees have lots of fruit buds. The Orchard is absolutely beautiful when it is in full bloom, which will be soon.

We are also taking advantage of the dry stretch to put compost down on the farm. Lenz Sand and Gravel in Stanwood is our supplier and the quality of their products are really good. We like to apply the compost in the spring and then “work” the soil. We have tried many different farming systems on our farm. It can take several years to factor in the variables and develop a cohesive plan.

The greenhouses are starting to fill up with lettuce plants and sugar snap peas. The cold weather set back the greenhouse transplant production, but I am fairly confident that those tender plants will catch right up.

Lastly, we planted a crop of garlic greens. We have been digging those the last few weeks as they have come ready. Hopefully, you enjoyed this early taste of garlic.

-Tristan

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21 Years

It is really hard to believe that our family has been serving our local community with organic goodness for that long. One crop of garlic leads to another and before you know it 21 years have snuck right up on us. Joelle and I have had the privilege of serving many of you for 2 decades. Some of you even remember us when we opened the Organic Produce Shoppe at Manna Mills in 1998.  

I met my first organic growers in Portland Oregon in 1994. Who knew that meeting a farmer selling lettuce would have such an impact on our life? We still buy vegetables from that farm today. Ironically, lettuce is my favorite crop to grow. Really, I just love to grow food and I love to serve people.  

It was hard to start our little farm business back in 1998. Home delivery was so new, only a few of us were doing it. We transitioned to home delivery in 1999 full time and started with just 50 customers, but I believed it would work. Absolutely crazy! Our first crops were garlic and sugar snap peas. We still grow those today plus lettuce. 

I remember one time when Andrew, who was 3 at the time, went missing. And so was Chaps, our golden retriever. At this time, we had a much smaller home and farm in Machias. When I look back on that first farm it was really just a big backyard, but we were farming! It must have been the end of June or so and the search was on! We wandered towards the pea patch and found him and Chaps. Chaps was laying down in front of him with his head up, crouching down, but ready to jump at a moment’s notice. And Andrew had not one but two handfuls of sugar snap peas, which he was sharing with his “babysitter.” 

Fast forward a few years and we had finally found our farm, 39 acres in the beautiful Stillaguamish River Valley. Chaps made the trip, of course, and while we were remodeling the old farm house he continued his babysitting duties. Like most dogs, he loved us, and we loved him. One day the kids were tired from throwing the ball for Chaps. Like any retriever, if you took the bait and started throwing the ball…Let’s just say you would wear out before he would. One time, Micah decided to put the ball in the Walnut tree out of jumping distance. Wouldn’t you know it, Chaps climbed that tree.  

A lot of life has happened in these last 21 years. When we started, we had 5 children. Now we have had 5 weddings and added 5 grandkids. We have been blessed to journey with so many of you for so many years.  

Thank you for allowing our family to serve yours,

Tristan