Eaters' Guild

  (Bangor, Michigan)
A farm we eat from
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Newsletter July 25

Sun through silo.

Greetings

Storm split over Eater's.Well, things are heating up. One of the good things about the heat is that the tomatoes are ripening quickly! Brad and I took a short reprieve from the sun (not the heat, though) in the greenhouse where our tomatoes have been growing widlly. As you can see in the photo at the bottom of the article, it will take quite a lot of agility to harvest them as they come to readiness over the next few weeks. Other plants, like peppers and squashes, are ripening rapidly, too.

We've also been glad for the preciptation, despite that it is as challengeing work under tearing skies as it is to work in sweltering feilds. The rain keeps the soils mosit, so the plants are strong and remain productive. And though sunny days are long and blistering, we havn't needed to use the irrigation because the soil contains a high volume of organic matter, does not become very compacted (as our tractors are light), and have "crop cover" (or weeds that help hold moisture down).

Together, the heat and percipitation represent the quantitaty of energy stored up in the atmosphere this summer. I've spent many of my hours of harvesting awestruck by the tormented skies. Clouds releasing sheets slate gray rain, bolts of white lightning, and emmitting sharp cracks of thunder. Pictured to the right, a storm passes the crest of the barn, revealing the sun above.

Sad Salad Greens
While many plants in our garden have enjoyed the heatwave, not all have thrived. I am sorry to announce that our salad greens have largely perished and it will be many weeks before we can harvest them again.

Orders
If you need orders for chicken or produce filled, contact Laurie and Lee at eatersguildfarm@gmail.com! James@eatersguild.com is not certified to handle these kinds of requests!

Sleep Asparagus

Asparagus gone to seed.Asparagus is a perennial. It's seeds are planted in the spring, but for the first two or three years, the plant can not be harvested. This is because the plant needs to develop a complex root system known as the “crown,” which stores the nutrients that the plant uses to push the asparagus spears up through the soil. Once the crown is developed fully enough, it is alright to harvest the spears of asparagus that push up during the first months of spring. At Eater's, we harvest the asparagus for six weeks. After that time, we let the plant fern out, grow woody, and store the energy that is generated during July's heat.

I said before that asparagus is a tenacious plant. It grows so vehemently in the spring because it has stored up energy to use from the previous summer. Botanically speaking, it has evolved to operate this way because having stored energy and speedily growing stalks means it can outcompete other plants during the early spring, when sunlight is still spare and chills still stunt growth.

Tomatoes... and really, everything else.

Factory farmed tomatoes, ripened inorganically, delivered to your local supermarket.On June 28th, NPR reported that industrial farming “destroyed” the tasty tomato and discussed the book that author Trent Campbell has published that deals with the subject. The problems that the report reveal, however, are not limited to the flavor of the food. They extend through the ecological sustainability of the practice, the nutrition of the food, and the working conditions of the harvesters.

Ecology

Most tomatoes are grown in Florida, despite that Florida is not really suitable for the crop. Campbell argued that most land in Florida that is used for agriculture is sandy, which means there are not natural nutrients in the soil, and so (petroleum based) fertilizers are a must. We know ecosystems, particularly aquatic systems, can not handle fertilizer runoff.

Secondly, the humidity of the state results in a higher volume of insects and therefore compels farmers to use a higher volume of pesticides. The official Florida handbook for tomato growing recommends 110 pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides, many of which are “what the Pesticide Action Network calls 'bad actors'... the worst of the worst.”

Nutrition

Fertilizers do not make a plant nutritious. Campbell said that his “mother, in the '60s could buy a tomato in the supermarket that had 30 to 40 percent more vitamin C and way more niacin and calcium. The only area that the modern industrial tomato beats its Kennedy-administration counterpart is in sodium."

Tomatoes the way they should be; heirloom, organic, wildly lolling all over each other.Working Conditions

Tomato harvesters have been known to be enslaved. Campbell said that “there have been seven [legal cases] in the last 10 or 15 years ... successfully brought to justice in Florida involving slavery. And 1,200 people have been freed. The U.S. Attorney for the district in Southern Florida claims that that just represents a tiny, tiny tip of an iceberg because it's extraordinarily difficult to prosecute a modern-day slavery case."

Just to make the situation of the enslaved clear, Campbell described some details on the kind of slavery that he'd uncovered in his research. You can see those details in the report. Because of the severity of the situations that he relates, I will not quote those words here.

The Bottom Line

Industrial agriculture endeavors to generate a higher yield at the expense of flavor. Here, yield translates to “net weight,” the number of pounds that make it to the supermarket.

 

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Potatoes

Potatoes

Patrono Lee demonstrating demonstrative potato harvesting techniques.Potatoes are the fourth most popular crop on Earth (bested by rice, wheat, and maize). They can be cultivated by planting seeds or vegetatively, buy planting potatoes, or cut portions of potato that contain at least two eyes.

I can't say with complete authority how potatoes spread across Michigan, but I can say that Kalamazoo was one of the first places to have potatoes as we know it. A man named Titus Bronson (the founder of Kalamazoo) brought potatoes to the land in 1824, according to the book A Fine Place for a City by Nick Kekic. Kekic reports that Henery Osterhout, another turn-of the century pioneer, wrote of Titus' arrival in Ann Arbor: “[Titus] was the first man who brought potatoes to Ann Arbor – you could not get them from Detroit or anywhere...and although he had eighty bushels...you could not buy of him; he was going to plant them and make money out of them.”

Light Potato Salad

Red potatoes resting in the trough.Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds unpeeled red potatoes, cooked and cubed (5 cups)
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup chopped dill pickle
  • 2 tablespoons chopped sweet red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons snipped fresh mint or 1/2 teaspoon dried mint
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-fat plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon snipped fresh basil or 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

In bowl, combine potatoes, celery, pickle, red pepper, onion, parsley and mint. Combine all remaining ingredients; pour over salad and mix gently. Cover and chill for several hours. Yield: 10 servings.

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Green Beans

Beans

Foggy morning at the weir of the heat wave.There are over 130 cultivars of “green bean.” Despite, or perhaps because of this diversity, the origin of green beans has been hard to isolate, but it is likely that green beans originated in Central and South America in BCE times and was moved to Europe by Columbus in the 1500s.

Simmered Summer Beans

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

In a saucepan, combine all ingredients. Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes. The vegetables will all be tender when they are done cooking. To make this a main dish, add a cup of your favored protein source (cheese, legumes, or meat).

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Summer Squash

Summer Squash

Like zucchini, summer squash are a fruit (the ovary of a flower). Summer squash are a cultivar that is harvested immature, while the rind is still tender and edible. Summer squash have a long history in the Americas. It is thought that Lewis and Clark were introduced to “simnel,” the southern word for summer squash, by the Arikara tribe during October of 1804. Scientists have found summer squash seeds that have been preserved in caves in Mexico for more than 10,000 years.

Summer squash is rich in manganese, vitamin C, magnesium, vitamin A, fiber, potassium, and copper (from 20% to 10% DRV at one cup, cooked and sliced). One of the most significant health contributions that summer squash offers is it's abundance of antioxidants.

Zucchini and Summer Squash in a Black Bucket.Summer Squash Casserole

Ingredients

  • 6 yellow or pattypan summer squash
  • 1 cup onions, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 2 slices white bread
  • 1 medium bowl ice water
  • 1 egg
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup cracker crumbs, or enough to cover casserole

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

If desired, peel squash. Then, cut squash into cubes. Steam until tender (about 7 minutes). Carmelize onion, garlic, and parsley in two tablespoons of butter (or olive oil) seasoned with salt and pepper. Soak bread in ice water and wring out; chop fine. Add to onion and garlic mixture. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add steamed squash and cook 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove from heat. Beat egg and add, allowing it to absorb into the mixture.

Place in casserole dish or baking pan. Cover up with cracker crumbs and dot with remaining butter. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until crumbs brown.

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June 29 Newsletter

A tiny frog perches on a leaf of Kale.

Greetings!

I heard that the Farm Gathering was a delight. Unfortunately, overbooked-I was unable to see it for myself. Hopefully I will meet you all at the next one! We will announce the date soon.

Your CSA's are going to change radically over the next few weeks. Lee spent a few moments touring me through the bounty that is beginning to bear on Monday while we sharpened our hoes. We were clearing weeds from the pepper fields.

Reigned by Rain

Rainy morning over yellow flowers.

This spring, high volumes of rain have put corn and soy farmers behind schedule. The crops are beginning to catch up, but according to the USDA, 20% less corn and 30% less soy have sprouted this year as compared to last years mark.

When did rain become a nuisance? More importantly, why did it? To answer these questions, we'll have to think about what things have changed since rain was a reason to rejoice.

The first thing to look at is the tools that are being used. “Traditional” farming happens on a very large scale and (the variety of farming that has become standard over the last 100 years) relies MAMMOTH machines. As I drive by corn fields on my way to Eater's Guild, my eyes mount combines that are larger than many houses and trip over tractors with fifty foot wingspans. These weapons weigh tons. And they are one of the biggest barriers to farming during the rainy season. The Kalamazoo Gazette, reports that large equipment can compact soil, hampering root development in young plants.

Hoed onions.The second thing to look at is methodology. “Traditional” farming relies on herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides (new in the last seventy five years), which prohibit diverse, organic matter from being churned into the earth, creating a soil that has very little ability to retain water. When big rains and spring thaw flows run onto the landscape, water puddles and ponds, making planting impossible. Standing water patches can create “short spots” or drown out plants, and wet spots can cause disease to occur, especially with soy.

Unlike “traditional” farming, organic farming happens at a small or medium scale (ideally) and does not require intensely large machinery. At Eater's Guild, we use small and medium size tractors to till the soil and sow our plants. We use small rigs and hoes to cultivate our crops. We can get in the field when conditions are not ideal because we weigh less. We move more numbly. We can use more moments being productive when others are waiting for the right time to get started.

Organic farming also offers physical benefits because of the methodological process. It allows a diverse assemblage of life forms, both within and without the plant class, to live and parish on the land. The material left behind by these lifeforms degrades variously, on the surface of and under the surface of the soil. These differing materials create a soil structure that retains water deeply, not at the surface, so it is more able to absorb the deluges of spring and work as a more effective reservoir in the heat of the summer.

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Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi

KohlrobiKohlrabi is a member of the brassica (cabbage) family. It is sometimes known as a German Turnip. Broken down the word means cabbage (kohl) turnip (rabi). Indeed, the swollen stem resembles a turnip. Kohlrabi grows virtually anywhere. It is among the first of the brassica plants to come to maturity, taking only 55-60 to develop after sowing. 

Kohlrabi is similar in flavor and texture to broccoli stems or cabbage heart, but is more mild and sweet. Kohlrabi can be eaten raw as well as cooked. The only real rule is that they should be peeled. Young stems can be eaten much like an apple or shredded to top a salad. To cook, cube the Kohlrabi and fry or bake.

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Collards

Collards

Collards are a tough, savory green. They go well in stir-fry's, soups, and can make your salad more robust. Another great way to use them is to make a wrap. The leaves can be used raw, like for potato salad, or cooked, like a burrito. One of my favorite ways to stuff them is to make a paste of rice, beans, and mushrooms.
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Garlic

Garlic

Freshly pulled garlic.Garlic has been used as a food and medicine by many cultures for thousands of years. Herbalists have long argued that garlic can fight colds and sore throats. Contemporary studies have found that garlic has antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial properties. It is also said to help prevent heart disease and cancer due to it's properties as an antioxidant.

Garlic is stored at room temperature and at low humidity. Ideally, garlic would be stored around 65 degrees. Garlic stays good longer when the tops remain attached.

My favorite way to prepare garlic is to roast it. To try, simply cut off the bottom of the whole head of garlic, place the cut side down on an oiled baking sheet, and roast it in the oven until tender. This often works out well if you are using the oven anyway. When the garlic cools, you can use it for anything. It is a thickening agent for your salad dressings, a rub for your poultry, or, as I often do, a butter for your bread.

Spanish Garlic Soup

Spanish Garlic Soup.Ingredients:

10 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
5 cups of broth
1 cup of dry sherry
¼ cup of olive oil
French bread, sliced and toasted
Grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper

Instructions:

  1. Sauté the garlic in the olive oil until it turns golden.
  2. Heat the beef broth with sherry. When the broth reaches the boiling point, add garlic and the olive oil.
  3. Season with salt and pepper to taste; then simmer for about 30 minutes.
  4. Strain out the garlic and reheat.
  5. Sprinkle toasted French bread slices generously with Parmesan cheese, then place them in a 425°F (220°C) oven for about 3-4 minutes.
  6. Put the hot toast in the bottom of soup dishes; then pour the soup over top.


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Zucchinni

Zucchini 

Zucchini Flower

Zucchini is treated like a vegetable by cooks; however, a botanist considers it to be an immature fruit, the “swollen ovary of the female zucchini flower.”

Zucchini, like other squash, is sensitive to alternations in ecological exchange systems. In areas where pollinators have declined from natural levels due to lost habitat or high pesticide use, zucchini plants often abort their fruit. That is, a zucchini begins to grow, but long before reaching a harvestable size, the fruit perishes and decays.

Zucchini are prone to damage when they are let to come to room temperature after chilling in the refrigerator. This shows as shadowy, sunken pits in the fruits surface.

Ratatouille

Ratatouille is a french dish. It is a stew of summer fruits and vegetables prepared in olive oil and simmered over hours of low heat. Ratatouille is traditionally served with bread as a lunch.

RatatoulliYield: Makes 4 to 5 main dish servings
Active time: 50 minutes
Total time: 2 hours

Ingredients:

4 large tomatoes
8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
10 fresh basil leaves, torn in half
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 lb eggplant, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 large onions, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
2 assorted bel peppers (green, red, and/or yellow) cut into one inch pieces
4 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut crosswise into ¾ inch pieces
½ teaspoon black pepper

Preparation:

Cut an X in bottom of each tomato with a sharp paring knife and blanch together in a 4-quart pot of boiling water 1 minute. Transfer tomatoes with a slotted spoon to a cutting board and, when cool enough to handle, peel off skin, beginning from scored end, with paring knife. Rough cut tomatoes and transfer to a large pot with garlic, parsley, basil, and 1/3 cup of oil. Simmer, slightly covered, occasionally stirring.

While sauce is simmering, toss eggplant with 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large colander and let stand in sink 30 minutes.

While the sauce cooks, caramelize onion with add 3 tablespoons of oil and ¼ teaspoon of salt in a large pan. Once done, set aside in a large bowl and repeat with bell peppers. Repeat again with zucchini.

While the zucchini are cooking, , pat eggplant dry with paper towels. Add remaining oil (about 1/4 cup) to skillet and cook eggplant over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 10 to12 minutes.

Add vegetables, remaining teaspoon salt, and black pepper to tomato sauce and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very tender, about 1 hour. Cool, uncovered, and serve warm or at room temperature.

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Basil

Basil

Basil is in the mint family. It originates from the East, particularly India, where it has been cultivated for 5,000 years. My favorite thing about basil is that it is toxic to mosquitoes, which is a specie that can be very deadly in the dewy morning hours on the farm.

Basil can be stored for up to a week in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator. If storing for a longer time length, it is best to blanch and freeze. Drying basil tends to diminish and alter the flavor.

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July 11 Newsletter

Greetings!

I hope you've been well since I wrote you last. Did you think that you missed last weeks newsletter? Don't fear, there were no mistakes. The newsletter is now bi-weekly. We're making this change so that I can develop the content more fully for your enjoyment. Now, let's do the announcements.

Chickens in the morning.Eater's Chickens

First off, please allow me to apologies for a mistake that I made. Last week, I sent an e-mail to let you know that Eater's Guild will be holding an On Farm Chicken Sale. I said that the sale would occur every Tuesday for the rest of the summer when, in fact, the sale will not become regular until a few weeks from now. I'll let you know when it starts up again.

Now I would like to tell you more about Eater's Chickens. The chickens will be dead and de-feathered. They will be whole, fresh, and wrapped. Sometimes, boneless, skinless breasts will be available. The chickens are wrapped in a thick, vacuum sealed bag. They will be ready to freeze. The market price for the chicken is $4.25 per pound. The farm price is $4 dollars per pound.

Travis Meier (the main caregiver) told me that his favorite way to prepare the birds is to put them in a brine for 6-12 hours. Then, he will stuff them with lemon wedges, garlic cloves, and fresh thyme and rub the outside with oil, salt, pepper, and dry thyme. He advised that ranged chicken may need a little more time in the oven to tender. Perhaps you'll want to roast them at a lower heat (350) for longer (2 hours).Brad Baughman


Brad's Bequeathment

Brad Baughman, one of the fine Eater's Guild interns, critiqued my article Reigned by Rain in the last newsletter by saying. "You wrote 'traditional' farming. I might instead use the word "industrial" there, or "conventional," since the type of agriculture you were referring to is altogether a-traditional, and destroys traditions. Only a semantic point."

Transplanting

Water tank in green house. Serves to store thermal energy, increase humidity, protect plants from animals, and house fish.Organic farming is a sanctum of unique experience during this time of high industrialization. We have the gall to participate in the magic of growth without clinical, scientific controls and regulations.

Seeds to Plants

We sow thousands of seeds. Thousands of smooth-skinned pumpkins seeds, of rippling dried pea seeds, of translucent sweet corn kernels, of clustered, brown pepper seeds, of tear shaped lettuce seeds. We sow all together, in friendly little stations, in the green house, on afternoons, likely when it's raining.

In the greenhouse the seeds germinate. They grow abundantly in their seed flats, which are a kind of tray comprised by little cups, or cells. They shooting tall, vying with each other for the sunlight. Once they are old enough, we move them outdoors, to the enclave between the greenhouses, to where they are protected and still exposed, so they may be hardened by the pushes of the passing breezes.

Plants to the Field

We snatch up the flats by fours, two bound up in a hand each, and walk. We step through and over and on, marching forward to the double-wide palate that the cobalt blue tractor holds with spaded hands.

Marcellino comienza el tractor, y conduce a los campos. El resto de nosotros caminar detrás. We are talking, and laughing, and watching the farm features as we pass them by. When we catch up, Marcelino has the transplanter set up. We hope that these plants are going to pull from the flats good, or else it will be a long day of filling missed holes.

Travis Meier on the transplanter.

The transplanter is like a wagon on the back of the tractor. The transplanter has a two hundred gallon drum that feeds water down to two hollow steel wheels that have hollow steel spikes. They turn with the motion of the tractor over the earth, punching holes to fill with water, which we riders fill with plants.

Yes, we're riders. The transplanter has two seats on two iron arms that each often drag along the ground. We sit with our legs forward, braced up on a small steel bar set for that purpose. We each sit behind a tray that's like a music stand, which hold two flats of plants in our reach. We pinching the plants and checking how loose they are. They are coming out smooth today.

The engine is running. Marcelino engages the water flow by turning a valve on the transplanter. He hurries to start the motion as it begins to pool around the steel wheels. The clutch engages. The tractor tugs us forward. We pull our first plants, hold them forward, and begin to plug the holes. After a few yards of clumsy reaching, missing, reaching, and speeding up, we catch a groove, make smooth motions, and sink the plants into the cool, fresh fluid, row by row in the field. We know these ones are going to make it. We don't hardly need to look now.

A crew cultivating pepper plants.We talk about ourselves to each other. We share our stories, ideas, and dreams. We make jokes, suggesting things like, “let's all order matching Eater's Guild jumpsuits sometime” or “we should dress as zombies each day and chase the passing Amtrak.”

We wait. Week after week, we protect the plants.

People to the Plants

We all think we're people who've introduced vegetable plants to a space. But who has introduced who? Our farm is a bilayer orchestra. On one hand, farmers conduct the plants from seed to maturity and harvest the surplus. On the other hand, the plants conduct the farmers from thaw until snowfall, day until night. The plants drew, and draw us, from Flint, Mexico, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, and other lands and times afar, to the same fields, to the living soil, to have community, and to grow together through the summer season.

Washing out the harvest.Plants to People

The second part of our work began in late May, early June, when we began pulling the first radishes. Things are really speeding up now as we bring in kale, garlic, summer squash, collards, kohlrabi, basil, potatoes, and see on the horizon many other vegetables. Our transplants grew up from timid, tiny flecks of verdigris in expansive, bare, bronze fields to a most-desired aspect of a weedy, green ground cover.

Now our days are filled harvesting. Picking, bunching, boxing. Lifting, washing, stacking. Shipping. Transporting the plants one final time, that they might live one final life and create one more community of consumers.  

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Green Onions

Green Onions

A Savory, Egg-biscuit dish:

Preheat oven to 300. Mix two cups flower with a teaspoon of salt and one tablespoon of baking soda and baking powder each. Then add two eggs, one quarter cup of olive oil, and one cup of water. You should have a heavy batter. If it is dry, keep adding water, perhaps at an eight cup increments, until the texture is thick and sticky. Scoop batter into cup-cake pans, filling half way. Place in oven.

Now, chop up as many onions as you think you can stand. Crack five eggs (about an egg per cup-cake cup) into a large mixing bowl. Shred one eighth pound of cheese. Mix all together.

Check on your biscuits. Are they mostly firm?  (They should be after twenty minutes.) If they are, pull the pan out and dish the egg mixture into the cups. It's fine to fill them all the way up. Return the pan to the oven and let bake until a fork or toothpick pulls out clean (about 20 minutes)

Perhaps we could share some other ideas together, too? Send me what you're doing. 

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Strawberries

StrawberriesStrawberries
This season's crop of strawberries is the first crop of strawberries that Eater's Guild has produced. Lee and Laurie planted the strawberries in the sandy soil on the hill three years ago, but the plants did not turn out much fruit on the second year. They chose a June-bearing cultivar that is sweet, and tends to mature at a medium size. We use the strawberries regularly in the field. They are situated between the beds of asparagus, and on hot days, the strawberries serve as a wonderful reprieve. The Romans, too, considered strawberries to be a remedy for fainting, and melancholy generally. 

Storing fresh strawberries is challenging. Our strawberries tend to go through different "phases" as they age in our fridge. No, they are not all stages of decomposition. The way we start off is by placing the strawberries in a sturdy tupperware container that is lined with cloth. Any cloth will do. Take a strip off an old tee shirt if there's nothing better handy. This storage technique protects strawberries from their two greatest enemies, moisture (the fabric whisks it away) and pressure (which ruptures the cells, releasing moisture). You can almost get a week out of strawberries in this way, but at some point, they begin to soften. That's when we bake a shortcake and chop the strawberries down. Chopped, the strawberries can stand another three days or so before they start to get questionable. Of course, you can make preserves, too, but perhaps some of you would be better suited to share the best technique for that with me than I would be with you?
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June 21 Newsletter

Greetings!

Thanks all that have complemented this newsletter. I'm glad to be a part of the campaign. After receiving the last issue, many of you requested more photos. I can try to meet that request with each letter.

Farm Gathering

Time and Things to Bring
The first farm gathering of this season will be on June 26th! The gathering will begin at 2:00 pm. After the potluck, attendees will be invited to tour the farm. Please bring your own table setting, cup, and an entree or desert to share. If it's possible, bring a folding chair as well!

Directions

This link will show you Eater's Guild on on google maps, just put your location in the "from" field to get directions. Do beware, google puts the Eater's compound almost a quarter mile further North than it is in reality. The actual location is much closer to Hastings road. If you prefer to do your own search, their address is: 26041 County Road 681, Bangor Michigan.

Notes from the Field

Dusters
Every few days we hear helicopters and airplanes droning in the distance. We can't see, but do imagine that over the vast blueberry, corn, and soy fields that neighbor our oasis, these mechanical insects release a misty tempest of noxious fluids. One site tells that about 350 million acres of the continental United States are used for cropland. According to the USDA, only 5 million acres of the US are used for organic cropland. It's just over one percent of farmland land that is wholly free of pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides...that means it's also just over one percent of food that's pure. 

As we're kneeling in the radish row, wriggling our hands through the plants to find the right leaves, to pinch, to pull, to evaluate, and to bunch, we talk about the engines we hear. Lee notes that the whole bed of radishes we're working through would be "considered a total loss by conventional farming standards." If a real person even needs to come out and look at it, it's not worth harvesting. Who'll have these skills later when they are needed if no one practices them now?

Is that so? I can't imagine. I brush the soil off of a radish now and again, as the hours go by, and enjoy the burst of peppery fluid. The poisons that the drones are releasing, Lee informs us, are so dangerous that people are restricted from entering the fields sometimes for days after. Moreover, for fruits like blueberries, farmers call in for extra doses of fungicide right before the harvest. If not for the extra air-strikes, the crop would never last through the complicated, time consuming shipping and shelving system on which our big-chain groceries rely. For what reason are we unable to share the land with other species?

I'm grateful for the support of CSA members like you, who make the healthful farming that we do a possibility. 

Cornish Crosses

Eater's Guild presents ORGANICALLY RAISED CHICKEN
Travis Meier and Lee and Laurie Arboreal have teamed up this year to raise chickens. I interviewed Travis, the principal caregiver, to learn more about the operation.

What variety of chicken are they?

They are known as Cornish Crosses. That's an F-2 hybrid for anyone who remembers their lessons on Mendel's genetics. Cornish Crosses are the “standard American” chicken. They are one of the best at growing breeds, maturing in eight to nine weeks, and also converting feed into meat very efficiently. Chicken was not really a popular source of meat until these birds came into the scene.

Mobile Pasture UnitWhat kind of housing do your chickens live in?

The housing can be referred to by many different names; I use “mobile pasture pens”. They look like small greenhouses but have tarped roofs to create shade. They have an open area of pasture that is enclosed by electric poultry fencing, which is a screened wire fence that is intended to keep them in. It gives them a lot of space to run around, and frequently, they run out, too.

Do you move the mobile pasture often?

Oh, yes. Many times during the course of the chickens lives. How often they move varies with the weather and the way that the chicken are acting, but basically, when I see that the ground has been nicely spread with manure, it's time to move them.

Chickens in the Mobile Pasture UnitA lot of the moving that's done within the electrified fencing is done simply by moving their feeders around and that kind of changes where the gravitate. Once I've run out of area to move the feeders to, and the whole area is well spread with manure, I just shift them down one more unit.

So the chickens have a symbiotic relationship with the plants?

Yes, their principal relationship with the plants is to spread manure. The whole of the topsoil and the plants in it get to respond to that huge boost of manure, making the ground more fertile in future times for vegetable farming.

They also eat some plants. Some of their feed sprouts little protein shoots, which puts more nutrients into the bird that are returned to the end user, humans.

Chickens are their not like a rabbit or a cow, sole source of food for which is salad like items. The plants that they eat are considered “low calorie feed”, which helps them digest other food and helps them be more nutritious.

Chicks in the hot house.What are some cool things about the chicks?

I don't know. They're just really cute. For me, the amusement of watching three hundred chicks in a sort of small area must be similar to what other people feel when watching fish in tanks. It's kind of exciting watching them all chase a fly or have staring contests with each other. I probably do too much watching them, but I call it “observation” to make myself feel better.

What would you tell a potential customer that is not accustomed to free range chickens?

Well, I would say that, because my chickens are let in the field and ingest a feed that is heterogeneous, that is, made up of many kids of seed, they are more healthy to consume. Generally speaking, the more diverse the nutrients a chicken eats, the more healthful it is for a human to eat. In factory farm situations, the food type is whatever is cheapest, which means that it's also usually all the same type.

Travis converts the "honeyhouse" to a home for a new batch of chicks.Also, I've noticed that the chickens taste great. They taste more “chicken-y” than the average, factory farmed animal. I'm not saying that they are more “game-y” like wild animals, they simply have a richer chicken flavor. They are even more moist than a big-chain chicken. I grow the best tasting chickens I that know of.

Where can people expect to find your chickens?

That's a good question. Right now they are at the Holland Market, South Haven Market, Texas Township Market, People's Food Cooperative, and Salt of the Earth. The more I can expand that list, the better. I'd like to arrange to a few more wholesale accounts. Serving a few restaurants really appeals to me right now. 

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June 15 Newsletter

Greetings!

And welcome to the first CSA newsletter of the 2011 growing season. If you'll permit me a quick aside, I'd be flattered to introduce myself to you. My name is James. I am enjoying my second season as an employee of the Eater's Guild farm. This summer, Lee and Laurie have privileged me with the responsibility of orchestrating the production of the Eater's Guild newsletter.  I shall act as the Eater's Guild herald, the compound crier, master of ceremonies, a vocalist for hire, narrating the seasons unfurling events, introducing the voices of my compatriots, and serving as a resource for you on how to prepare or preserve the contents of your shares. I will be pleased to take your comments and suggestions over the coming months so I may become a better performer. For now, I'll relinquish the spotlight.

Farm Gathering

The first farm gathering of this season will be on June 26th! The gathering will begin at 2:00 pm. After the potluck, attendees will be invited to tour the farm. Please bring your own table setting, cup, and an entree or desert to share. 

Notes from the Field


You've probably noticed that the weather has been volatile. Last week on the fields, we endured ninety degree days with cloudless skies and afternoons that felt like the evening due to tempests  overhead. Amusing as the spring swings are, most of us in the field will be glad for the smooth summer sailing to come along. Abrupt changes are what makes our bodies ache.
Strawberries
The plants on the other hand are rejoicing in the hot and cold again spring. We see intrepid growth day after day. We've sown the first tomatoes of the season. When the seedlings went in, they averaged four three inches in height. By the middle of the week, they'll likely have pushed up past five. 

We are harvesting the first strawberry crops in Eater's Guild's history. The volume is a little on the low side this year, but next season, the plants will be far more veracious and we will be able to put more pints on the table. One wonderful happenstance that we've found is that bales of mesquite (a variety of legume), which "fixes" nitrogen in the soil has growth throughout the strawberries, replenishing the soil they grow in even as the produce.

"Free Them"

Have you heard the names Rachel and Nancy Goodrich before? How about Regalo? If not, you may hear of them soon. This spectacular mother and daughter team is traveling from Hopkins, Michigan to California to raise awareness on a challenging subject, human trafficking. Rachel is making the trip on horseback. You may have guessed, Regalo is her horse.

The women, who travel by the name "Free Them," sold their home and possessions in order to make the trip. They will be traveling in 30 mile increments, stopping of in towns along the way to deliver literature and speeches on the subject of human trafficking. According to this story about the Goodrich family, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services asserts that human trafficking is a 32 billion dollar industry, accounting for more financial flow than "Nike, Google, and Starbucks combined." Eighty percent of people who are trafficked are women and children. Of that, seventy percent are trafficked for "the purpose of sexual exploitation."

Free Them began their journey last week. They spent three nights at Eater's Guild, enjoying the sun, space, and an attentive audience. Here's a video report on the team. Keep your eyes open, I'm sure that you'll hear of the Goodrich family again. Let us know when you do!
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