Thursday, July 31, 2014

How to Freeze French Fillet Green Beans

There is nothing more delicious than freshly frozen green beans on a frosty winter day (except maybe the fresh ones). I especially like the french fillet bean variety we use, which are long, pencil thin and never have any strings.
These are the beautiful Beans we freeze. Credit: Reed Petersen

This post is about how to freeze these delicious morsels. It is really quite easy.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

How to Make Your Community One of the Most Fertile Places in the World

In yesterday's post we said fertility from a home perspective is the ability to sustain life, to prosper, to achieve and to be a place of refuge. We can all work towards these goals in our families, but it is only when we make them part of the communities we live in that our communities become a "fertile place".
Compost Bed. Photo cred: Reed Petersen

Here is a list of 10 things that make our communities a fertile place...

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Home, One of the Most Fertile Places in the World

Compost Bed. Photo cred: Reed Petersen
The idea of fertility is the ability to reproduce and sustain life. Being able to produce abundant growth or crops. The home on our farm has been a good place to grow children. Fertile places support strong families and grow strong children.

Here are 10 ideas for how your home can grow a strong family and strong children.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Most Fertile Place in the World

When you think about the most fertile place in the world you might think of:
  1. The Amazon Rain Forest.
  2. The Mississippi river delta.
  3. A virgin prairie.
  4. The Garden of Eden
All would be a good guess and would make my top ten list.

But when I think about the most fertile place in the world I think of...

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Focus on Being Your Farmer

You know the organization with the name and radio show called "Focus on the Family". Whether you agreed with everything they do or not, you at least know their focus. Farming is like that, you need to know your focus.

About 90 percent of farmers today have no idea who their customer is. Even the language they use supports this. Listen to the lingo, "Farmer Jim sells his commodity corn to the local elevator who piles it in a million bushel pile until it is loaded on trains and then barges to go to a bulk processing plant run by computers who belong to a faceless mega corporation. They turn his corn into feed stock for making plastic bags, or ethanol or one of 1000 other things." Farmer Jim is doing a great job for who? Who knows.

Our slogan is "We want to be your farmer!"

You mean you want to be everyone in the whole world's farmer? I wish that were possible, I would definitely do some things differently, but that is not what our slogan says. Let me explain...

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Willing to be Weird...No Fear, Only Wonder

I have talked about being weird in our previous posts. A worldview of principled non-conformity is essential to advancing the leading edge of any field.

Agriculture is replete with farmers that conform to the status quo. They never achieve any more than their farmer buddies that drink coffee at the "round table" in the town cafe every morning. There is nothing wrong about that, except you will not stand out, you will never leave the boundaries of the tribe, you will not be weird!

Here are 10 principles for being weird, whether you are a farmer or not.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Market Menu July, 26, 2014

After a nice shower last night it was a nice morning to get our market prep started. The garlic is starting, finally, it is about three weeks later, than normal.

Jenna's guest post on chocolate mint hints, tips and recipes can be seen to the right.

We sold out an hour early on Walla Walla onions last week so we are going to bring another 100 lb mores this week. Reed won "best of show' at the Olmsted county fair this week with these same onions. They are beautiful, and have amazing mild flavor. For those that like things a little zippier, we have chipolini onnions and sweet red onions.

Time to freeze or can beans. We will have seven bushels of these amazing french filet beans.

We will have raspberries for freezing or jam this week too.

Reed has been diligently making charcoal from waste wood around the farm. We will have 50 pounds available. I wrote a series of posts this week for an explanation of why we are making charcoal and the exciting possibilities for the farm.

We will have the following items at the Farmers Market for Saturday, July 26, 2014 (New items are in Bold Print)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Servant's Heart

Service is at the core of our farm and business philosophy.

Service permeates all that we do.

It gets a little personal, but here is our top ten list of how we serve:

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Commitment to Quality

Quality on our vegetable farm starts with the soil.

When we moved to our farm about 12 years ago the farm had been farmed conventionally with corn and beans. Nothing unusual about that, the farm had not been abused, it wasn't over grown to weeds or highly eroded. I'm sure they had been using the typical agricultural chemicals, fertilizers and GMO corn and bean varieties. We had good soil types to work with. The soil types were, way better in fact than at our previous home where the top soil had been sold and all that was left was red clay (we rebuilt this soil with compost over 7 years and when we were done it was some of the best soil I have ever seen).

However, the soil on our new farm was "biologically DEAD". Maybe It would be more politically correct to say the soil was biologically suppressed, the biology was there it was just sleeping and had to be awakened.

So what to do?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Value to Our Customers

I think of customer value as the ability to delight our customers with everything we do.

The value proposition for great vegetables goes far beyond price.

Value embraces nutrition, flavor, convenience, purity and how our customers feel about their market experience, and more.

Let's explore some of the attributes of value...

Monday, July 21, 2014

A Passion for Farming

Our passion is farming and we love to grow great vegetables for our customers. You cannot be a leader in your field without a passion for that activity, its technologies, and the result. Passion causes us to move towards our goals and it creates leverage or a force multiplier to our efforts. It keep us going when the days are long.

We care deeply about what we grow, how we grow it and who we grow it for. For example:

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Vegetable Freak Playbook

The Vegetable Freak playbook has developed over many years of trying new ideas, following our passions and bringing value to our customers. You see the end product when you come to our market stand at the Rochester, Minnesota, Downtown Farmers Market.

But behind each item we bring to market there is a philosophy of implementation developed over nearly two decades of passion, commitment and hard work by our family.

There are six core elements to our playbook, which permeate everything we do...

Friday, July 18, 2014

Market Menu for Saturday, July 19, 2014

It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood after a week of uncommonly cool weather. Good for weeding, planting and harvest. All of which were seen in abundance at the Petersen's this week.

Jenna's guest post on chocolate mint hints, tips and recipes can be seen to the right.

We now have a good supply of baby zucchini and patty pan squash.. We also have a maxi-big quantity of squash blossoms (and some good tips on the blog for how to prepare them).

The Walla Walla Sweet onions looked so nice last week that several of our customers wondered if they were "real".  Yep, very real and full of flavor. Who says onions have to be grungy looking.

Radishes are one of the highlight of this week. Andrea gets the honor of picking the crunchy sweet beauties.

We picked 5 bushels of french fillet green beans this week. Come and get them.

Reed has been diligently making charcoal all week from waste wood around the farm. We will have 40 pounds available. I wrote a series of posts this week for an explanation of why we are making charcoal and the exciting possibilities for the farm.

We will have the following items at the Farmers Market for Saturday, July 19, 2014 (New items are in Bold Print)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Baby Kale - Quatro Kale

We have been going bonkers with baby kale in our market garden this year. We started variety experimentation last year and have refined our selections to the best of the best. We are growing four different varieties and will be putting together a mix I am calling "Quattro Kale" for the summer and fall.

The four baby kale varieties are...

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Biochar - Cation Exchange Capacity

Without getting into the chemistry of Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC). CEC is effectively the measure of how big the bucket is for the soil to hold nutrients.

The amount of clay in a soil is typically directly related to the CEC capacity of the agricultural soils. The other significant contribution is organic matter, humus and pyrolized carbon, or bio char.

So what is the typical CEC of a good soil near Rochester, Minnesota?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Biochar in Your Soil

Did you know that there is pyrolytic carbon or biochar in all of the temperate soils of earth. I had heard of the Terra Preta a black, anthropogenic soil found in South America in the Amazon Basin. This was a soil made by the Amazons from a combination of charcoal, bone and compost. Terra Preta is persistant for thousands of years.

But did you know there is a significant amount of biochar in your soil. Here is how it works...

Monday, July 14, 2014

Biochar - Creating A Coral Reef In Your Garden

One of the cool characteristics of a tropical coral reef is the huge surface area that hosts many living sea creatures and a whole ecosystem.

Did you know you can build a coral reef "like" structure in your garden by using pyrogenic carbon.

What is pyrogenic carbon?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

1491 - America Before Columbus

Last week we had several history lessons, we are transitioning from the history of several world changing plants to considering how several civilizations "bio-engineered" their soils. Charles Mann in his book 1491 talks about what America was like before Columbus. It is a very interesting read and has much food for thought. He says the Native American populations were vast. To feed their civilization they were able to grow massive crops through highly advanced agriculture.

At the same time that the North American Natives were building their civilization with temperate soils the cultures of the central Amazon were building their civilization in rain forest soils with extremely low fertility. Thousands of years later the soils they engineered are some of the most fertile in the world. These soils are so persistent that they actually grow back when the top layer is removed.

Both civilizations sustained hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions with their ancient growing techniques. I think there is a lot to learn from what they did.

So how does this apply to Market Gardening in Minnesota?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

My Watermelon Was Developed in South Africa

There is nothing better than watermelon in the heat of summer. Watermelon thrive in hot dry climates and like to grow in loose sandy soil. We had an amazing crop last summer and have an encore planned for this year.

Did you know that watermelon originated in southern Africa, where it grow wild. We all know the stories of the Israelites lamenting the eating of watermelon from the Nile Valley when they were wandering in the wilderness. The delightful melon migrated quickly to China, Europe and the Americas in the 16th Century.

Many of our modern watermelons grown commercially have the variety called...

Friday, July 11, 2014

Market Menu for July 12, 2014

After a rainy Friday morning we are just finishing up the harvesting for the Saturday market. With just a few boxes of French Filet green beans last week, Andrea and Reed picked two bushels this morning and they are "dewy fresh"!

Jenna's guest post on chocolate mint hints, tips and recipes in last Thursday's blog post has been very popular and is on our Popular Posts list in th right side of the front page on our blog. You might want to check it out.

We sold out of baby zucchini and patty pan squash last Saturday, but we have another row starting this week so we will have many more of these little beauties this week. We also have a great supply of squash blossoms (and some good tips on the blog for how to prepare them).

We have more baby potatoes and Walla Walla Sweet onions, both of these crops love the summer warmth and showers, so are responding with abundance.
Our customers sometimes assume great radishes are only available in the spring. Reed picked a whole bushel of the nicest radishes this afternoon. Reed is our root expert and he says they are the best of the season so far.
Reed has been diligently making charcoal all week from waste wood around the farm, so we will bring some to market this week. I will have a series of posts next week for an explanation of why we are making charcoal and the exciting possibilities for the farm.

We will have the following items at the Farmers Market for Saturday, July 12, 2014 (New items are in Bold Print)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Three Sisters

When Europeans came to America the local peoples were growing corn, squash and beans together. These became known as the "three sisters".

They had plenty of space and resources, so why did they do this?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

My Sweet Corn and the Aztec Empire

Did you know we owe the delights of modern sweet corn to Aztec Empire about a thousand years ago. They developed a wild grass species with an ear on top into the modern multi-ears maize stalk we have today.

Corn was a staple of the Aztec people located in central Mexico and is still popular with peoples in this region today.

So why did corn get such a prominent place in the Aztec empire instead of watermelon, cabbage, or broccoli?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

My New Baby Potatoes and the Ancient Incas

This week we are talking about some historical events that affect the plants we grow in our gardens today. So it might feel like a bit of a time warp for the next few posts. But I think you'll be interested in a bit of historic facts and how they affect us today.

"Whooo Doggie", we dug some new baby potatoes this week and they were amazing. I think it is the compost we plant them in but those spuds always taste way better than the commercially grown ones. I wonder if the ancient Incas looked forward with anticipation to their first harvest as much as we do.

The potato in all of its hundreds of varieties originated in the Andes mountains and was bred and refined by the Incas. The ancestors of these peoples in the Peruvian Anes still grow them today.

So why did the Incas grow potatoes and why is that significant to us.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Have You Considered Music Camp for Your Student?

Like other skills, a student's music theory and training can loose their edge over the summer. To keep these skills honed razor sharp, Honors Choirs of SE Minnesota is offer a series of summer work shops for skill level appropriate music theory training. The seminars would be appropriate for choral singers, orchestral musicians or students taking music lessons.

Andrea Petersen our oldest daughter is the teacher. She is a music education major at Northwestern University in St.Paul, Minnesota.

Through fun exercise and activities your student will develop a deeper understanding of the rules and structure of music. This knowledge will help them be a better performer and build their musical foundation.

The seminar is sponsored by Honors Choirs, but is open to grade school, middle school and high school students from across the region.

Contact Honors Choirs for the time and place.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Schrodinger's Carrot

While we are thinking about paradoxes, there is a famous thought experiment in quantum mechanics called Schrodinger's cat, in which a cat is sealed in a steel box and through a random atomic decay is either killed or spared. In this theoretical experience the cat is purported to be simultaneously alive and dead. Not to worry, no cats are killed, this is just a hypothetical discussion that very smart atomic physicists have.

Well I think there is a garden phenomenon that is equally as random to think about. I call it Schrodinger's Carrot. It goes like this..

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Zucchini Paradox

A paradox is a statement which apparently contradicts itself and yet might be true.

For example, consider the circumstance in which a father and son are driving down the highway. The car leaves the road and crashes into a tree and the father is killed. The boy is rushed to the nearest hospital where he is prepared for emergency surgery. On entering the surgery suite, the surgeon says, "I can't operate on this boy. He is my son."  Think about this for a minute and we will come back to the resolution at the end of this post.

One paradox we all know in the garden is the fact that summer squash or zucchini is one of the most productive of the garden plants and just a few plants can produce hundreds of pounds of zucchini in just a few days. Yet we plant several rows 300 feet long, roughly 1000 row feet of zucchini (enough to fill my pick-up several times a week) and we sometimes barely have enough to serve our customers. and this week ran out about half way through the farmers market. That is the paradox.

I will explain the paradox by first telling a story.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Market Menu for July 5, 2014

Happy July 4th!  Reed says the Walla Walla onions are experiencing explosive growth and we will be bringing 50% more of these babies to market this week than last. Walla Walla, wonderful.

Jenna wrote a great guest post on chocolate mint hints, tips and recipes in yesterday's blog post.

Jenna and Amberle picked 20 pounds of baby zucchini and patty pan this week. One of the first signs of summer in our garden. Don't forget the blossums.

Brian and Reed dug some great baby potatoes today and will have them at market for the first time this week. Nothing like fresh baby potatoes.

We will have the following items at the Farmers Market for Saturday, July 5, 2014 (New items are in Bold Print)

What is the 4th of July All About?

Did you know that 65% of fourth graders have no idea why we celebrate the 4th of July. When asked by a polling organization they gave answers like:

  1. We have fireworks or go to fireworks.
  2. We have picnics and friends or family visit.
  3. Mom and Dad don't have to go to work.
All of these things are true, so they were accurate as far as they knew.

So if July 4th isn't about these things, what is it all about?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

A Little Love for Chocolate Mint - Guest Post by Jenna Petersen

Hello, VegetableFreak community! I hope to be able to give you some tips for incorporating fresh herbs into your cooking, since my Dad affectionately calls me the “herb expert” of the family. I wasn’t always such a foliage specialist, but I do remember the day that I wandered over to Dad and found him picking something green and incredibly fragrant in the field. I quickly learned that this was an herb called basil, and that if I wanted to join him in picking it, I needed to carefully pinch off the leaves to avoid bruising them. This was the beginning of a long relationship of herb cultivation that has only flourished in recent years. While basil remains a staple in our garden and at our Farmer’s Market booth, we have added a variety of other culinary plants. These include parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, and many others, one being mint. We sell seven (!) varieties of it as plants: Spearmint, Peppermint, Mint Julep, Mojito Mint, Orange Mint, Chocolate Mint, and Pineapple Mint. Of these, my favorite by far is Chocolate Mint. It has a unique taste, beautiful purple stem, and smooth leaves. Compared to the typical spearmint, I think it has a cooler, stronger taste. It also grows vigorously, a stereotypical trait of most mints. Chocolate mint is amazing, and I have a few suggestions for using this tasty plant.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Last Night I Planted Spinach, Swiss Chard and Beets

As an example of a summer planting for fall, last night I planted Spinach, Swiss Chard and Beets. Each has its own characteristics for successful germination.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

How to get Lettuce and Spinach to Germinate in the Summer

Lettuce Bed are very difficult to germinate in the summer. Find out how to here! Photo: Reed Petersen
I have had many people tell me they have tried to start a second crop of lettuce or spinach in the hot summer soils of June, July and August. But have had a crop failure.

What happens is the seeds go dormant in the soil temps above 85 degrees and only a few seeds or no seeds germinate.

Here is a solution...