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The Farm Bill and oh so much more!

Posted 8/8/2017 11:04am by Amber Stenson.

Greetings Folks,

Its the time of year when we settle into the wealth of the fields and load our plates with the first tastes of the Solanaceae. Also known as the nightshade family, this group of vegetables embodies the flavor of waning August sunsets when you can sit on the porch eating chip after chip of fresh salsa. 

Most of the farmers have harvested their garlic crops and it hangs in the barn curing. Onions will come next and the mesh tables that once held tiny seedlings in the greenhouse mere months ago, will carry the weight and the stink of red and yellow onions as they too cure in the barn.

Its hard to believe we are halfway done with the CSA, and yet with each passing week, there are small signs of fall in the air. I've already seen the red of sumac peeking out from the lower branches.





This week we have spent time thinking about farming on a national scale having attended a Farm Bill listening session with representatives from the House Agricultural Committee. Almost every corn and soy grower emphasized the need for crop insurance. Cattle and poultry producers were concerned about the need for prevention and mitigation of potential  disease outbreaks and there was a small but mighty representation of organic family farmers, most of whom are members of Land Stewardship Project. Their message was clear: Organic is a growing trend in agriculture, and small farmers need more support across the board. It felt good to be part of a positive movement in agriculture and to see so many farmers advocate for small, local solutions to feeding our community. Lets keep sending that message to all our representatives in hopes that the 2018 Farm Bill can be OUR farm bill not only providing assistance and support to small-scale agriculture, but helping grow the market and access to local and organic food for all consumers, no matter their income.  

Emily, Laura, Molly Lori and Lebo at Farm Fest after the listening session


Send Naima to Cuba!

Naima with her husband and farm partner, Fagas and their two sons

Second Year farmer Naima Dhore is hoping to participate in a 10-day farmer to farmer exchange with Witness for Peace in Cuba this September. She is currently asking for support through her Go Fund Me page.

Donate Here: https://www.gofundme.com/invest-in-naima-dhore

"Cuba is one of my favorite places to visit in terms of learning about farming. My goal is to learn about their food and practice of farming. In addition, skills that I could bring back to America to help and grow my farming business as well as share with other farmers." - Naima Dhore



Farmer of the Week

Written by an MFA volunteer with Photos by Laurie Schneider

Porfirio came to Big River Farms with a lot of experience in agriculture and food processing. He is originally from Guatemala, where he grew coffee, corn, and beans. “We were always working in the fields,” he said, and he was involved in all the many steps of coffee production, from preparing the land, planting and caring for trees, harvesting, washing, drying, processing, bagging, and bringing the crop to market.

When Porfirio first came to the US, he found a job in a meat processing plant in Iowa, where he lived for seven years. When fewer and fewer hours were available, he found a job with a construction company that operated all over the Midwest, including Minnesota. Eventually he moved permanently to Minnesota, after spending a year driving back and forth from Iowa for work. Porfirio has been in the Twin Cities for thirteen years now, and has been with Big River Farms for seven of them.

Porfirio hadn’t heard the term organic until he started working with Big River Farms, although he had farmed without chemicals in Guatemala. He values comida saludable - healthy food - and saw that the organic method focused on producing food that is good for people to eat. Today in Guatemala, he says, there are people that can’t produce crops without pesticides, because there are too many insects that eat the plants.

“If they don’t spray, bugs will destroy the crop in one day, and the next day there will be nothing. The seeds are coated with chemicals, when the plant emerges they release them. Then every week, chemicals, chemicals, until the pests are gone. This is why the plants are not healthy; we too, are consuming the chemicals. But if we didn’t do it this way, we wouldn’t produce anything. The system works like this.”

But it wasn’t always like this, so many chemicals, so many pests. “Before, we grew café, natural. Maíz, natural. Frijoles, natural. There were no chemicals.” But now, he says, “we ourselves, the workers, don’t know how to protect the earth.” Big River Farms is where Porfirio “discovered that we are killing the earth, and that we ourselves can give life to the earth. There, [in Guatemala] the earth is dead. It’s dead. If we plant things, we have to take good care of the earth, so that the earth has strength. If we don’t, it will not produce anything.”

And does he think Big River Farms teaches new farmers how to take care of the earth? “Sí. Sí. That is how I noticed, how I discovered this. This is where I learned to maintain the land, so that it produces.”

Without Big River Farms, Porfirio doesn’t think he would be growing plants today. “For us, for immigrants, we’re working in the cities, and we can’t see any of the countryside. It’s not easy to enter, to start. Big River Farms has helped many people discover how to get out of the city and get access to land.” There are other immigrants who would like to have access to a plot of farmland, he thinks, but many do not want to work two jobs – farming requires a lot of work! And if you don’t take good care of your crops, you’ll lose them. Porfirio works full time in construction, and comes to the farm after work and on weekends to ensure the success of his crops.

When he started at Big River Farms, he lost a lot of produce due to lack of experience. But today, he sells half his vegetables to BRF, including sweet corn, several kinds of tomatoes, unique dry beans like Black Turtle, jalapenos, cabbage, and squash, and has enough left over to sell at the Lyndale and West Side Farmers Markets. “I have learned a lot from [the instructors]” he says, starting with how to cultivate land organically, and in the process other things too, like how to bring the produce to market. “Me siento bien para estar trabajando con ellos…I feel good to be working with them.”

A note on the boxes: We had hoped for Cilantro for everyone and cherry tomatoes for Full Share members. Instead of Cilantro, everyone received cucumbers and instead of tomatoes, full share members received sweet corn! Hopefully, tomatoes and more corn will drop next week! 

Full Share

Beets from Mhonpaj's Garden

Tomatillos and Jalapeño from Sebra Farm

Corn, Broccoli, Zucchini, Cucumbers, Cabbage and Green Beans from The Early Birds

Zucchini from 1st Karen Farm

Garlic from Bhutanese Farm

Half Share

Tomatillos and Jalapeño from Sebra Farm

Zucchini, Cucumbers, Cabbage and Green Beans from The Early Birds

Zucchini from 1st Karen Farm

Garlic from Bhutanese Farm


In the Kitchen

We are so thrilled to send out the first of the seasons garlic and tomatillos and hot peppers in this weeks box. The jalapeño are one of our specialty hot peppers being grown on the farm this year and they are absolutely lovely to look at. 

What better way to use all three than in a simple salsa. Break out your chips!

Tomatillo Salsa

adapted from The New York Times Cooking and Rick Bayless

Photo courtesy of Epicurious.com


  • 1 pound tomatillos, husked and rinsed
  • 2 to 4 jalapeño, seeded for a milder salsa, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ cup chopped onion, soaked for 5 minutes in cold water, drained and rinsed 
  • ¼ to ½ cup coarsely chopped cilantro (to taste)
  •  Salt to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon)
  • ¼ to ½ cup water, as needed


  1. Place the tomatillos in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, flipping them over halfway through, until softened and olive green. Remove from the heat. Transfer to a blender. Add the jalapeño, onion, cilantro, and 1/4 cup water to the blender and blend to a coarse puree. Transfer to a bowl, add salt, and thin out as desired with water. Taste and adjust salt, and set aside for at least 30 minutes before serving, to allow the flavors to develop.
Instead of boiling, you could also husk, rinse and cut the tomatillos in half and then roast them in the oven under the broiler with some olive oil and salt. Watch as they turn from bright green to a more olive shade and begin to get soft, about 5 minutes on each side. This will give the salsa a smokier flavor. 
Try-out the tasty Pesto-Green Bean Recipe on the card this week as well and let us know how it goes!

Lebo Moore

Food Hub Manager

Minnesota Food Association/Big River Farms

651-433-3676 ext.21