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Another Momentous Week!


It's been another really crazy week, and one again I'm pushing to get an 'ish out.  I think I'll just barely make the 11:00 delivery schedule this time.  But I probably won't have a chance to proofread.  So be gentle :)

In this week's 'ish, we celebrate: Also, we're figuring out how to organize and manage volunteer opportunities around our invasive species removal project.  We'll probably have several gatherings throughout the summer and fall, but don't quite know how we'll manage scheduling yet. 

Are you interested in helping out?  Let us know when and how works best for you.  We'll try to match things up with the most interested folks as best we can.

 

Order Deadlines

Delivery Option     Deadline
Pickup @ Culver Farmers' Market | Saturday     Monday, 10pm*
Home delivery | Thursday     Tuesday, 10pm*
Pickup @ Culver Farmers' Market | Saturday     Thursday, 10pm
Pickup @ Mishawaka Farmers' Market | Sunday     Thursday, 10pm
*Sourdough orders for delivery require an additional 24 hours
Shop Now

Memorial Day Musings


After a decade and a half teaching at Culver Academies, it still is a bit strange to not have classes and an extra ceremony on Memorial Day.  And, really, on  Memorial Day, it's odd not to be surrounded by military families, for whom the day is unfortunately very personal and important.

Even so, this memorial day leaves me pondering a friend from long past (yes, college was a long time ago, on a campus far, far away...).  She recently lost her husband entirely too early to cancer.  He was a huge car enthusiast, and a long time volunteer at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

In honor of both his military and volunteer service, his young son was given the opportunity to ride in the Navy's truck during the military appreciation lap.  He was amazed that, during the police escort to the speedway, they were able to run through red lights!  He went on to make it through the entire race on his first time watching it live!

For all of my friends, colleagues, and former students who serve or have served, their families, and especially for those who we have lost, thank you for your service.  May your Memorial Day be blessed.

Tuesday Evening Market Returns!


Tomorrow marks the return of the Tuesday Evening Culver Farmers' Market!  The Tuesday market runs from 5:00-7:00, Memorial Day to Labor Day, in the Culver Town Park.  It's a slower paced, smaller market than the frenetic Saturdays, making it a favorite place for year 'round residents to hang out with their favorite farmers, get a bite to eat, and spend some quality time building community together.

I'm not sure when it will first show up, but Philipe's Las Palmas Taco Truck is always a big draw, as is the beautiful view and the cool evening breezes.

If you want to pre-order from us for pick up at the Tuesday market, the order deadline is Monday evening.  Deadlines for Thursday delivery, or Saturday/Sunday market pickups remain unchanged.  Be aware that our online shopping software is not particularly well suited to the frequency of pickup/delivery options and growth cycles we have.  We have to update our inventory for folks ordering for Thursday delivery or the two weekend markets, but much of that inventory has not yet grown (particularly in the case of microgreens) or been harvest yet by the time Tuesday rolls around.  Most things should be safe to order, but microgreens may incur some cancellations or substitutions.

We'll see you in the park Tomorrow!

Baby Watch is Over!


Our first round of lambing finished while we were at the Culver Farmers' Market Saturday!  Ewenice, whom I thought would be the first one to give birth, finally let go of her babies!  She was so huge, and had been lactating for so long, I feared she either had triplets or a giant baby that would only come with much difficulty.  But, as with her sisters, she gave birth easily and unassisted to (rather large) twins, one of each gender.

So, Rachel went first with twin girls. An agonizing week and a half later,  May, the smallest whom I thought would be last, had her twin girls.  Ewela had twins, one of each gender, a couple of days later, then finally Ewenice's pair Saturday.  All four trouble-free labors, of healthy bouncy lamb twins.  Each bonded with mom easily (despite Ewenice's nursing a few of the early babies occasionally) and are doing well.  We couldn't have asked for better results for our first intentional farm babies!

Maiden Voyage


Our new (to us) truck made its maiden voyage this weekend! 

This is a major upgrade for the farm.  It's refrigerated, so we will be able to keep our produce cold on trips to and from farmers' markets.  This was particularly challenging for the Mishawaka Farmers' Market.  The trip takes almost an hour, and as the market is a mid-day market, the sun is up and blasting that whole time.  Then, the trip back with any remaining product is in the heat of the day.  Now, our food can chill at a nice 38 degrees that whole time!

It will also allow us to carry more product to market.  For the past several years, we have had to use two vehicles to carry enough inventory to the Culver Farmers' Market.  We could not justify doing this on the long trip to Mishawaka, so we were often limited to how much product we could fit into one truck.  The new truck can haul more than the two vehicles combined!

The new truck is also more maneuverable. It can make a u-turn in the space the pickup truck would need to make a 5 point turn.  It isn't as long overall, and has a much shorter wheelbase.  It is, however, taller and wider, making some maneuvers a little more challenging.  We also need to prune back the driveway!

It has a lift gate, which allows us to move heavier items in and out with ease.  It takes longer, though, and moving smaller items is a bit more challenging.  This means a major change to our loading strategy.  With the old truck, we used many small containers, so they could fit into every nook and cranny like a giant game of three-dimensional Tetris.  With the new one, we need fewer, larger containers that we can load with a dolly and the lift gate and secure easily.  This will be particularly beneficial for the winter market, where we have to move a considerable distance indoors.  Fewer trips will save many minutes!

Finally, it is securable.  This means we can simply leave the tables, tents, banners, and other display-building items in the truck between markets.  Loading and unloading on market days should go from over 2 hours each, to probably less than 45 minutes once we get our system refined.

Chilling With the Power of the Sun!


We grow a lot of salad greens, at far higher quality than you can get at the grocery.  This is mostly because they are fresh: rather than shipping from California or Arizona (where almost all of the salad greens consumed in the US come from), spending as much as two weeks in transit before arriving on the grocery shelf, we typically harvest within a day or two before market, chill them immediately, then rinse and pack the next day.  When we can keep them cold all the way to our customers, the freshness is unparalleled.  We have had restaurant chefs comment that our greens look and taste better three weeks after we deliver them than what the big distributors look like coming off their truck!

But, that cold part is important.  Just a few hours sitting at room temperature reduces their shelf life considerably, often to as little as a week.  Then, the only thing making them better than grocery greens is the better tasting and looking, more nutrient-dense varieties we grow (and the ecological and local economic benefits, of course!).  That is one reason I really like home delivery: we can keep the produce cold all the way to your door, rather than having it sit at a market in the heat for an extended period of time.  Of course, the new truck is refrigerated, and that will help by allowing us to transport our produce cold, and hold back stock for the market in refrigeration as well.

Another way we have tried to address this challenge is by using a display refrigerator for bagged greens.  This allows us to display the greens where customers can see and grab them, while keeping them safely cool.  On the other hand, because it is less visible than greens sitting on the table, it reduces our sales by about 50%.  It also adds another challenge: it needs electricity.

We have electricity available at the Culver Farmers' Market.  At Mishawaka, we have to choose: if our booth faces south, electricity is available.  If our booth faces north, we get shade, but no electricity.  We chose the electricity option last year, but found the sun flooding our booth damaged even more heat tolerant produce, and the refrigerator couldn't keep up with the sun hitting it anyway.  So this year, we opted for shade. 

I brought along a small lithium iron phosphate battery and a power inverter to run the refrigerator, cash register, and scale.  Alas, even with the new, highly-efficient, deep-discharge-safe battery technology, we found that we ran out of power about 2 1/2 hours into the market (I did not have power consumption specifications available for the refrigerator to calculate our needs).  I calculated our average power use at 240 watts.  Just to get through the four hours of market with no buffer and no use before the market opens or after it closes (which you need to chill the fridge before loading), we would need an 80 ah battery, and only have a 50 ah one currently.  Realistically, we'd need at minimum of a 100 ah LiFePo4 battery to get through a market on a relatively cool day.  But they're expensive and, while much lighter than lead acid (for which we'd also need considerably greater capacity, since you can only discharge them to 50% safely, vs 80% for LiFePo4), I don't really want to lug a larger battery.

However, we do have a stack of used solar panels in the barn, waiting for the next phase of our off-grid irrigation and wash/pack shed project.  They're 220 watt panels, and the Mishawaka market is in the middle of the day (11-3).  So, we should be able to get good power production, at least on sunny days when we most need it, if we lug a panel.  And, the new truck is capable of hauling one safely. 

Under ideal conditions, the panel should provide about 90% of the power we need at the market, making the battery more than sufficient to provide the rest.  An inexpensive charge controller to prevent overcharging and match the voltage of the solar panels to the needs of the battery is all that is needed. 

This setup made its debut this weekend, and worked splendidly!  It was about 90 minutes into the market before I was able to get it connected, but the conditions were perfect.  The battery survived for the whole market, still showing 78% usable charge remaining!  Woohoo!  The added benefit, of course, is it helps propel us on our journey to being a carbon neutral farm by 2025, and thereafter becoming a net carbon sequesterer!

 

Order Deadlines

Delivery Option     Deadline
Pickup @ Culver Farmers' Market | Saturday     Monday, 10pm*
Home delivery | Thursday     Tuesday, 10pm*
Pickup @ Culver Farmers' Market | Saturday     Thursday, 10pm
Pickup @ Mishawaka Farmers' Market | Sunday     Thursday, 10pm
*Sourdough orders for delivery require an additional 24 hours
Shop Now
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