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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 

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Here Be Lions

The name is derived from an old mapping tradition in which explorers marked unknown, dangerous territory with a symbol and the phrase “Here Be Lions.” I have also heard the term “Here BDragons.” 

Maybe I remember the phrase from the Pirates of the Caribbean. Regardless, I have been thinking about it for several weeks. It’s like the whole COVID19 is a big map with lions and the phrase “Here Be Lions” boldly stamped all over it.  

For most of the young and healthy and even the older healthy, COVID19 seems mostly manageable and the map is less dotted with the “Here Be Lions.” For those with underlying health conditions the COVID19 map has a lot more “Here Be Lions” on it.  Just as in the days of old, some of the markings were just unknown territories, places yet uncharted. Others were charted and known to be areas to respect. Each of us has our own map and depending on your underlying health, your map will look different than your neighbor, parents, and children. It is impossible to know what everyone’s health map looks like which is why we need to, more than ever, be kind and mindful of others, while also being proactive in our own personal choices. 

FIBER  

I am fascinated with the subject of fiber and nutrition. We love how organic home delivery of fruit and vegetables provides people with easy access to quality organic produce, with amazing sources of critical fiber!  We believe that fruit and vegetables are integral to the health of every person and access to them is so important, especially during this season!  

I am reading a book called Fiber Fueled: The Plant-Based Gut Health Program for Losing Weight, Restoring Your Health, and Optimizing Your Microbiome by Will Bulsiewicz, MD.  I have been ruminating (sorry couldn’t resist a farming analogy) on some things I’ve read recently.  In essence, the author says that it’s of the utmost importance that we feed the good bacteria in our microbiome with fiber rich foods, in order to help them (the good bacteria) fight off the bad bacteria. It’s a way of being proactive in the “battle” if you will.   Eating as much nutritious and clean food as possible will give your body the nutrients it needs to enhance your immunity.   

There are of 30 trillion bacteria living inside our colon alone. That is equivalent to looking at all the stars in the Milky Way and times it by 100! Dr. Bulsiewiscz also shares that an argument could be made that we are 10% human and 90% bacteria. Which means that what we eat, those critters are eating, too!  With every bite we can affect our gut health, by encouraging/feeding our bodies and theirs a diet rich in foods that are high in fiber. Fiber is absolutely critical to our health! 

During this season where we don’t really know where the Lions and Dragons are, a few mindful choices of what we eat can be life impacting. 

Thank you for inviting us to partner with you in good health. 

-Tristan Klesick

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Human Foosball

I subscribe to an email that comes monthly called Non-Obvious Insights. Rohit Bhargava curates an amazing assortment of information that is bubbling underneath the radar. This last week he highlighted how the Argentines are adapting to a world without soccer or football. If you are from anywhere else other than the USA you may wonder how the NFL got the name football when the rest of the world is using the same word for soccer??? Diving into that would be beyond our scope here! ?

Having a need is the inspiration for all invention and finding solutions becomes the driving force. As you may or may not know, life without sports for a whole bunch of people, is unbearable and for Latin America life without football/soccer is devastating.

Personally, I have found the break from sports to be somewhat refreshing as it frees our schedule.  I wouldn’t wish it for long, but it has served as a reminder how busy life is when the calendar is full of practices and games. 

Getting back to the Non-Obvious Insights newsletter, Rohit shared a story. I will quote his commentary and you can look up the link at your own convenience. 

Like the child’s game of Four Square, this reinvented version of soccer (creatively described as “human foosball” in the article) is the perfect pastime for Argentines desperate to get back to the sport they love. The rules are simple … no tackling and you have to stay inside your box or else you get a penalty. This is absolutely better than nothing – and a beautiful example of people finding a way to keep themselves sane in a time when that feels harder and harder to accomplish.

https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/inpictures/pictures-argentines-play-human-foosball-pandemic-200703063648353.html

It is nice to have a positive story about how everyday folks are pivoting to safely engage in community and find ways to connect.

This time in history will be one filled with stories, many sad, but if we look and are open to seeing the silver lining during this season, there are glimmers of hope and optimism.

On to dinner. I have resorted to roasting vegetables in the Schlemmertopf clay pot, since it seems like winter! And I might add…the summer garden vegetables like TOMATOES, GREEN BEANS AND CUCUMBERS think so, too!  We could all use more summer sunshine!  But in the meantime, let’s get creative with our activities, enjoy roasted veggies, and find the silver lining!

Be well and stay safe.  

Tristan Klesick

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Why I Weed

The primary reason I weed is to make sure I don’t lose a crop. It would be fair to say that I am a weed tolerant farmer.  A few weeds don’t bother me, but I prefer they don’t go to seed and repopulate! Too many weeds can smother a crop and keep it from maturing.

This year has been a challenge. Six inches of rain in June is a lot and it has delayed us from working in the field more than once. The rain did NOT delay the weeds from growing though! It’s going to take a herculean effort this week to get caught up and hopefully stay ahead of the weeds for the rest of the summer and fall.

Speaking of weeds, right now the corn in the valley is about 3–6 inches tall and weedy. In a few weeks, when the weather is dry enough, the dairy farmers will fire up the sprayers and spray the entire field with glyphosate and kill everything but the corn that has been genetically altered to survive the chemical onslaught. 

My neighbors grow a lot of corn for silage. Silage is akin to Kimchi for cows. Most of the local corn seed planted is GMO seed and is injected with glyphosate to create a Roundup-ready resistant corn crop (aka Genetically Engineered or Genetically Modified). They will spray hundreds of acres in the same time it will take me to hoe and hand weed a ¼ acre of vegetables. They are busy spraying 60 feet at a time, and I am busy hoeing 6 inches at a time. Before the days of GE/GMO crops, farmers spent a lot of time mechanically weeding their fields. When GMO corn hit the market, many farmers felt liberated from the sweat and toil of weeding and their per acre expenses dropped significantly. But some farmers were skeptical, despite the efficiencies. 

The USDA told farmers that it was safe, and the biotechnology should be trusted.  Some farmers bucked the system and became GMO-free or organic and many consumers responded by supporting those farmers and their crops. The GMO-free farmers still use pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers, but they don’t use GMO seeds. I want to be clear GMO-free or non-GMO labels are not the same as ORGANIC. Organic farmers do not use GMO seed AND do not use synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides. GMO-free is good, but organic is better, better for the environment and for the health of the general public, and the consumer.

Americans have applied 1.8 million TONS of glyphosate since its introduction in 1974.  Scientists have linked glyphosate to cancer.  We’d rather weed by hand, hoe or mechanical tillage.  It’s harder work and more time consuming, but that’s okay.  We feel good about it!

Thank you for joining us on a healthier journey for you and the environment.

Tristan Klesick