**This post is from 2020 and contains COVID-19 veggie distribution details that are no longer applicable.**
Hello Friends and Family of Little Pond!!!
Hello from springtime at the farm, hello from our tents to your cars, hello from the fields to those of you working the essential jobs in post offices, in custodial roles, in hospitals. Hello to those of you working essential jobs at home as teachers working remotely, as parents caring for your children, as data scientists. Hello to those of you who are retired and to those of you who are staying home to protect others or yourselves. It is a strange time to be so far away from those of you we see each and every week and we want you to know you are all in our thoughts as we continue to wish for your health and safety.
As our world outside changes dramatically, we keep our minds and hearts focused on doing what we can to ensure the health and safety of those close to us. This is our letter to you and a peak into the world of our little 30-acre farm during this global pandemic.
It was just a few weeks ago that we were set to have our annual Farm Day, on March 15th. We had spent weeks and months of preparation getting ready for a great open-house at the farm. The Thursday before the event, Cole turned to me and said “should we cancel?” I knew the pandemic was looking grim but I hadn’t even considered canceling. There were just a few cases of the virus in Florida at that time and I was in a mindset of working towards this event with all our energy. In fact, I had just moments before finished putting up signs around the farm like “watch your step” and “no smoking.”
From that moment on we read all we could. We went back and forth weighing everything out. We strategized how we could change our business to absorb the financial hit. We counseled with tens of our trusted friends and family (thanks y’all!). We canceled. Then we spent the next 48 hours figuring out how to save the farm.
The months of March through May are the heaviest harvest months here in Florida. In some cases, we spend four or more months preparing plantings, only to bring them to the market now. We had and still have no idea what will happen day to day or week to week. But we had been talking about a box model as soon as cases of COVID-19 appeared in the U.S. We’d done it before, in the earlier years of the farm, and we knew we could purchase and pack bushel boxes fairly easily. The only catch was that our crop plan was designed for market and not for veggie boxes. This meant we had to quickly asses everything in the field and make snap decisions. Seeding a whole row of one variety instead of seeding four varieties. Ditching whole plantings of spring flowers in favor of food. Letting whole greenhouses of flowers blow out and wither away since there was nowhere to sell them.
On a day to day basis, work is surprisingly the same as it always has been. As we watch our friends post on social media from indoors, cooped up and sharing ideas of what to do if you’re stuck inside, we continue to conduct our morning meetings, starting work with the sunrise and ending our outside chores in time for dinner. We continue to fine tune our online store in the night hours or margins of the day. We are working out the kinks in every moment. But during the day, work goes on as usual, digging in the dirt and managing the crops in the sunshine. We started taking the temperatures of all our crew – at the farm and at the market as well. We have worked hard reading about guidelines and passing on that information to our staff, as we create new safety protocols.
And the crops – they continue on like nothing is happening. Growing ever taller, bigger, plumper as the days warm and sunlight pours in. The wild animals have been showing signs of spring for a month now. Red-tailed hawks flying their mating dances overhead. Sandhill crane babies foraging. Coyotes howling their mating calls in the night. The first firefly danced in the green grass. I remember how dry spring always is as the cars tumbling down our dirt road kick up dirt and the coat of our beloved white-as-snow hound dog becomes a shade of gray, from the dry soil.
And then there is you – our community. As we shifted everything to a pre-order pre-boxed system, thinking that was the safest most responsible thing to do, we acknowledged the risk with changing from a market farm to a veggie box farm overnight. Who knew if folks would want a pre-packed box? Would they be able to easily purchase online and go the extra mile versus going to the store for pick-up? But something amazing happened. We saw an overpouring of support take root! After we sold out of boxes the first week, we loved seeing all of the beautiful photos, kind words, personal messages, recipes, and other inspiration. The support was flowing from everywhere! Cole and I have always known we’re not in this alone, but the feeling of support from this incredible community has given us a new faith and determination in the work that we do. We hope our food has lifted you up and nourished you, as all of your support has done for us.
We want to thank you for choosing to support us, your farmers, at a time when many of our normal outlets are radically changed or discontinued. Your support has helped us maintain our daily operations which will not only provide food in the following months but food security for the seasons to follow since we are wholly dependent on the market. Your support will keep our employees working when many are losing their jobs and income. Your support helps strengthen the bond between producer and consumer, which hopefully is a lifetime bond.
Thank you!!!! It means the world to us.
If you are looking to further support the farm, you can do so by purchasing flowers with your veggie boxes. Flowers are one of our specialty crops – we grow a huge variety and think they will brighten your home and warm your heart. The seeds we planted and tended months ago are now blooming in mass as spring arrives – it is the season of the flower! You can help keep our farmer hands busy picking all that is blooming and enjoy them in your home to boot.
And finally, we have gotten a lot of questions about how to use the various veggies in your veggie boxes from folks eager to start experimenting! Here are a few recipes and then tips on flower keeping, and vegetable storage as well.
Our Favorite 10-Minute Pasta Sauce
Slice garlic in long strips and fry on low with olive oil for five minutes. Chop tomatoes in half, squeeze juice in to pan and toss in halves one by one. Fill pan and stir. Cook on medium till tomatoes are wilted then add fresh basil leaves. Serve over your favorite grain!
*Add chopped dandelion for an extra nutrient kick for a few minutes just before adding basil (it somehow loses it’s bitterness when mixed with tomato sauce we discovered).
** Spiralize squash as a substitution for noodles!
Vegetable Curry with Chef Massimo Bottura in his YouTube special “Kitchen Quarantine”
We made it and it’s delicious! Use your whole box up and eat all week including turmeric. Substitute scallions for onions. Serve over rice.
Comfort Greens and Grains
An old recipe from a grain farm in NYC- we make it by memory now.
Sautee an onion or scallion in 1 Tbs butter (or oil of your choice) till translucent on medium heat. Add faro or risotto and stir a few minutes till fragrant. Then add your broth of choice one ladle at a time. Each time you add a bit of broth, still and wait a few minutes until absorbed. Then add more. (Great if you’re doing something else in the kitchen). After about 20 minutes of this taste and cook until al dente (firm but not hard not mushy). Then add one bunch chopped kale and sauté with grains for a few minutes until wilted. Add parmesan, salt and pepper to taste and serve hot!
Best Practices for Flower Keeping
Here are a few tips for longer lived cut flowers. First, use and bleach your vase before each usage. Keep the vase out of direct sunlight. This will stop any bacteria from growing on the stems. Then cut stems at an angle if you can under running water every few days and change water out. That’s about it!
Best Practices for Produce Keeping
For bunched greens, lettuce and herbs, the easiest way to keep them fresh is place them in a sealed bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator unwashed. If you wash greens, make sure you spin them or pat dry before storage. For longer-term storage, cut stems and place in about 1” of water in a jar then cover with a bag and place in fridge. They should keep 1-2 weeks this way. Turmeric is best stored on the counter. Spinach and strawberries are best consumed within 2-3 days due to tenderness. Green garlic can be kept in fridge for months, but best if placed in a bag to keep some humidity for longer term storage. Sweet potatoes, eggplant, squash, beans and peppers in crisper drawer. Washed, dried and placed in a bag is best for longer-term storage. We pre-chop lots of vegetables for easy access to cook during the week as well. Basil is best stored outside of fridge in just a glass with a bit of water or eaten right away, it may get cold damage in the fridge.
Notice your strawberries and basil have a little sand? Due to the tenderness of these crops we do not wash them. Not washing them extends their shelf life, so please do rinse before enjoying.
P.S. – Cole and I got married last Sunday! It’s official! We met when we both started farming in 2013. Seven years later, and we got to tie the knot under the oak trees where we dreamt of everything the farm was and would be! We invited just parents and siblings and sat on hay bales six feet apart. We feel so lucky and fortunate to have been able to get married right now. Cole’s dad is licensed to perform ceremonies and we already had the certificate of marriage that was about to expire. Guess the stars aligned! We’re pleased as peas to be able to get married with our family there and on a beautiful day at the farm.
P.S.S. – Some articles we were featured in recently about our response to COVID-19. Check ‘em out.
Acres USA “FARMERS RESILIENT AS CORONAVIRUS HALTS ECONOMY”