Hello to all returning and potential CSA members, neighbors, friends and family!
As I type this, Sadie is sitting on my lap, with her belly sticking out of her shirt so she can write “farm notes” too – on her belly. She is quite patient while momma finishes this letter and gets the mailing ready to go out. I think she will help draw on some of the envelopes with me. Sadie is now 2 and fully walking and talking and her own little person. She loves playing, painting, doing yoga, taking care of the sheep and chickens and riding on the hay wagon. This winter has been a great time for all of our planning, playing with Sadie, spending time with family and friends, some knitting and spinning, resting and more planning for the farm.
We feel very blessed for all the support we received from our CSA members and community from last growing season. Last year was like nothing that has ever occurred to us and to many other farmers, with the blight, wet cool summer, wet soils, poor yields – but from it we learned a lot. That we depend on earth to feed us and that we are all connected. That we were not alone. I will not go into last year’s growing season in depth but we are glad it is over and truly appreciate all the support mentally, physically, spiritually and financially that you all provided – we believe we have grown as farmers, as community members, since last summer. And because of this, we are continuing, because food still needs to be grown, because people still need to eat.
We have big plans for growing this year.
· We applied for a big grant through NRCS for fencing, water and grazing plans for our sheep and chickens. Also we applied for a 30’ x 72’ hoophouse. This program through the USDA has a 90/10 cost share with us putting in the 10% share.
· Christine took a very intensive soils course through NOFA-VT and will be putting a lot of that information she learned into practice, including applying for a soil mentor and enterprise analysis with the changes we will be putting on our farm. It was amazing to learn so much about our soil structure, everything that goes into our good growing soil and what we need to keep that soil structure healthy. Many more fields will be opened up and cover cropped so we have more room to add more green manures into the soil for all that great microbial activity that the soil loves.
· We will be putting up a yurt to house two apprentices/interns this growing season. We will be advertising for them in the next few weeks. Adam and Christine figure they have learned a lot over the last few years and could offer a lot of information to anyone who wants to be a farmer.
· We will be recovering the greenhouse with new plastic this spring. The plastic we put on is a 4 year plastic – happy birthday greenhouse – you get two new shiny, see through, expensive new pieces of clothing – plastic. We put two sheets on because with the added later and a blower inbetween the plastics it helps retain 25% more heat in our greenhouse.
· We will hopefully be adding an edition to the farmstand for CSA pickups, an earthen oven, and two shorter longer hoophouses to grow peppers and eggplants in.
· We have secured wholesale ordering with Healthy Living and will be selling at their Farmers Market every other Sunday starting in June. We will continue to sell at the Wednesday market in South Hero, not sure about the Saturday market yet. (there is only so much a little two year old can handleJ)
· We will be growing heirloom sweet corn again – exclusively for our CSAJ
· We will be growing Okra again and we will have the best heirloom tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers ever…. J J( we have praying to the veggie gods this winter and putting up some temporary hoophouses as our insurance policies)
· Sadie to be potty trained….oops not a farm goal but…could beJ
CSA: nitty gritty, work shares, drop offs, and Supported Shares
This year we are staying at 50 shares and making sure we have enough variety and quantity for all of you. After a very successful fourth year with the implementation of the sliding scale fee structure for the CSA, we will continue that this year. We want to continue to make organic produce affordable to all and be able to pay our costs. With members buying upfront their vegetables for the season, it helps our costs immensely and we can budget for the rest of the season. We would like to get payment by April 15th. If any of you can pay sooner than that, that would be great since most of our buying is right now through March (I know, I know I should have mailed this in January).
**We have a little incentive for those who pay by March 1st – will be entered to win 5 dozen egg and 6 jars total with a selection of apple jelly, bread and butter pickles, brown sugar pickles, and sweet relish.
**For those who pay by March 15th – you will be entered to win 5 dozen of eggs.
Also, we will be having a working option along with your share which can help with cost of the your share – more info in the brochure. We will also have CSA member work days scheduled once a month where you can come out to the farm and help us with big labor projects that are family friendly. Also, this year we will continue to work on and post on our farm blog www.blueheronfarm-vt.blogspot.com.
Also, we will be delivering to Fort Ethan Allen again and we have moved the Bebop Baby Shop drop off to Beth’s house (thanks so much Beth) in Essex right past 5 corners in Essex off of Rte 15 across from IBM. If you know anyone in that area that maybe interested please feel free to pass a brochure to them or give us their name and number and we will send them a brochure. There will be a small one time delivery drop off charge of $35 for the Colchester/Essex drop off sites (to cover out fuel and time costs).
We value your support and friendship. If these costs are a hardship, please call us and we can come up with a payment plan. We are also hoping to provide 3-4 supported shares for families who are in need of this. We have enclosed information on how to apply for a supported share and how to donate for the Farm Share program that supports our farms supported shares. Last year we were able to give financial support to 3 families from our community. Our goal is to raise $400 for supported shares so NOFA-VT will match it and make a share more affordable to families in our community. If you would like more info, please give us a call. You can send the donation in with your registration form or send it directly to NOFA-VT with “Blue Heron Farm supported share” in the memo.
Our Community Service:
Because of you, our CSA members, we are able to outreach to our community here in Grand Isle County with food and goodwill.
Last year, we had our second year with the Senior Shares at the Round Barn here in Grand Isle. We delivered fresh veggies to 20 residents at the barn and have had community dinners with them once a month since October. We are looking to expand this for this upcoming year and look forward to having them out at the farm with us. If you would like to join us for our monthly lunches, just let us know and we will let you know when they are.
Also, we donated and sold a bunch of food for the Food for Thought program last year, which fed 91 children in Grand Isle County for 12 weeks. This was started by Kaight Althoff (one of our CSA family members) and Melissa Hood and they are doing it again this year with the goal of feeding even more children countywide during the 10 – 12 weeks of summer vacation. Last year, they started a pickup spot in Alburgh at the Alburgh Fire Station as well as the pickup at the South Hero Congregational Church and a few deliveries directly to some children’s homes due to transportation issues. These are children who normally receive free/reduced breakfast or lunch at school. Last year, Sadie and Christine would go and help pack boxes on Sundays and bring leftover produce from market or extra veggies that CSA members donated while they were away on vacation. Each week, Blue Heron Farm was able to donate or sell (at a reduced rate) fresh veggies. Our farm plans to help out again with this year by donating veggies and if any of you would like to help with volunteering on those Sundays, delivering food to families, growing veggies here at our farm or your own place, buy a CSA share for this program or with financial support please call Kaight at 372-5843 or give us a call.
Chickens, Beef, Milk, Oh My…
We will have eggs for sale at pickup time or for presale. They are $5.00 dozen and they are still fed 100% certified organic feed and pasture. Our chickens get to go out everyday – and they have been enjoying the hoophouse this winter – its like Florida in there on really sunny days. We will be ordering new baby chicks soon – Araucana – the colored egg chickens – blues, greens, pink – and we will be getting organic pullets from Pennsylvania again.
There is a possibility of having chicken shares this year again this year and how many we would raise. It is always tricky because you don’t now how the market will be with grain prices – there is no crystal ball (After the year we had last year, I wish there wasJ). It looks like the prices of organic grain may go down. At this point we are still trying to pin down grain prices and when we would raise the chickens. We need to see if they would be economical or too much of a financial burden (due to the cost of organic grain). At last years organic grain prices, each bird ate about $10 worth of feed. We have also changed the kind of bird we are growing. It is a French heritage bird – it looks like a short, squat New Hampshire Red chicken – they graze much better and move a lot . We think they are much tastier then the Cornish cross that most farmers grow. Cornish Cross chickens were created for the chicken industry because they put on a lot of weight in their breasts and are ready in 6-8 weeks – or 50 days from egg to finished bird. After doing a bit of research last year, Christine found a hatchery in Pennsylvania that specializes in heritage breed bird, not the freaks of nature that the Cornish crosses are. We grew about 100 of them last year and they were amazing – it took about 10-11 weeks to get them to finished weight – but well worth it.
Also, in the fall there will be beef shares with a North Hero farmer who sells pastured, grass fed and finished beef. He will be selling them per half or whole cow. There may also be the opportunity to purchase raw goat milk from another farm. Also, we are gathering info on seeing what kind of interest there would be for a winter share. Please check that off if you want more information on these items. We will also be selling fresh bread, baked goods and canned food at the farmstand again this year.
We couldn’t do this without all of you. It is because of you, we made it through last year with the hope for this growing season. Adam, Sadie and I look forward to walking out to the chickens with you and your children, meeting our sheep in the pasture, picking sungold cherry tomatoes, uncovering treasures of potatoes and carrots from the earth, and enjoying that you know where your food comes from. When we sit and plan this year and reflect over the last 6 years – we are truly blessed to have this as our work. We our honored that we are your farmers and you are our community.
Whew – that’s a lot of writing – well, there was a lot to fill you in on tooJ Hope you are all well.
We have enclosed this year’s CSA brochure. We have also enclosed an extra one to pass to a friend. Thank you and we look forward to seeing you walking in the fields - smelling the basil, having tomato juice run down your cheeks and eating fresh lettuce again .
Christine Bourque, Adam Farris, & Sadie Farris