What's Growin' On at the Farm

Posted 6/18/2013 11:35am by Amber Stenson.


What’s in your box?
arugula (1st Karen Farm)

green garlic (Cala Farm
pea shoots(Karen Family Farm)
radishes (Chickenhead Farm)
chard (Chickenhead Farm)

Next week get ready for:

green onions
and more... 

Get creative with your CSA box…try out our recipes!

Fresh Radish Chips

Arugula, Carrot, and Chickpea Salad  

Red Salad with Champagne Vinegrette 

Chow Mein Noodles with Pea Shoots  


Things to remember

1. When you arrive to pick up your box, remember to check your name off of the appropriate roster. There will be one each for Summer's Best & Fruitshare members. If you are picking up both, you will need to check your name off of both lists.

2. Please bring a bag or other container to transfer your veggies into & follow the instructions for breaking down your box found in the CSA bin.  The waxed cardboard boxes will need to stay at your site so that we may pick them up the following week for reuse.

3. In the spirit of community, please do not open or go through other boxes. Boxes are packed identically each week and there is no need to look for a better one.  If you are concerned with the contents of your box, or something is missing, please let me know as soon as you can & I'll do my darndest to remedy the situation.

4. Planning a vacation this summer? You've got some options. Invite a friend or neighbor to pick up in your stead while you're away. OR, you can contact me at least 24 hours in advance to donate your box to Minneapolis Market (a foodshelf with dignity).  All donations are tax deductible.  We are unable to prorate or credit you for canceled or forgotten boxes.




Notes from the Field

Happy first box from all of us here at Big River Farms!

This spring has been a challenge to be sure.  We had snow in early May and a late frost on May 20th!  When it has not been cold, it has been grey and rainy way too often.  Well I guess that is life in Minnesota.  You never know what you are going to get.  

We provide you this first CSA box humbly and with grace.  In my five years of farming here at BRF it is by far our smallest box we have ever delivered.  So small that we decided to use a smaller box so that your veggies wouldn't roll around too much.  Our regular size boxes will be coming soon I promise. 

This really is an unprecedented year in terms of the slow start to summer.  We have struggled all spring to get into the ground and then to get things growing in the cold.  The good news is we have kept up on our planting schedule and things are beginning to grow.  My guess is the first two to three weeks will be a bit slimmer than what we have had in the past but looking forward beyond that we should be all set for a fantastic season!  The boxes will be overflowing soon and we will go as long into the fall as we can to make sure that you get your value from our veggies.      
Big River Farms (BRF) is more than just a vegetable farm.  Our main work is to train new immigrant and historically under-served farmers to grow organically.  One feature of our newsletters this year will be personal stories about some of the many farmers here at the farm.  Each week your CSA boxes are a mix of produce grown by BRF staff and by farmers in our training program. If you look at the "What's in the box?" column on the left you will see a list of all the crops that we have for you.  If there is a farm name next to the vegetable, then that vegetable was grown by a farmer in the training program. If the farm name is in purple then it will take you to our webpage where you can read the farms' story. 
In the next few weeks, we will share some of their stories in this newsletter so you can get to know your farmers better.

Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns regarding this week's box.

ablyth@mnfoodassociation.org or 651-433-3676 

Happy Eating!     


This N That

This year we have two great recipe writers who will be providing you with great ways to prepare and eat your veggies.  This first week's recipes and information will be brought to you by Helena Pikus Li a long time CSA member.  Check out her great recipes!

Helena Pikus Li is a marketing consultant, foodie, and food scientist. She has championed some of the world’s most popular brands, and brought dozens of “packaged” food products to market. She has also been a barista, a food service manager, a chemist, and a national recipe contest judge.  You could call her a professional taste tester.  

Helena is pleased to be writing “What’s in the Box” recipes for the Big River Farms newsletter and website, helping you make the best use of each week’s lovely, fresh, organic ingredients.  As a CSA member for six years, she has persevered through the Cherry-Pa-Looza of 2010, Squashmania of 2011, and the Cherry Tomato and Scallion Storm of 2012.  She once forgot a stuffed animal bunny, “Spike,” in a row of green peppers at a Farmer’s Market stand. Helena understands the challenges and delights of seasonal eating, and the juggling act that is fueling an active, young child and a meat-and-potatoes husband.

Helena enjoys cooking with fresh ingredients, dining on regional and ethnic cuisine, and aspires toward a clean eating diet. Helena has an MBA in Marketing and Strategic Management and a BS in Food Science from the University of Minnesota.  She and her family live in Minneapolis.

All about radishes. My favorite way of eating these flavorful and nutrient-dense veggies is adding raw, thin slices to a fresh salad and drizzling them with olive oil, freshly grated parmesan cheese, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Broadly speaking, radishes can be categorized into four main types (summer, fall, winter, and spring) and a variety of shapes lengths, colors, and sizes, such as red, pink, white, gray-black or yellow radishes, with round or elongated roots that can grow longer than a parsnip.  Red cherry radishes are a bright red-skinned round variety with a white interior, great for snacking, especially in the spring and summer when they are at their sweetest and best. Cooked radishes add a bright, earthy element to any spring dinner.  Radishes provide a good amount of Vitamin C, as well as folate, and potassium.  Vitamin C is an important nutrient involved in protein synthesis, immune function, and also has antioxidant activity.  Folate and potassium are important for DNA synthesis and cell function respectively. 

Peas are a quick and easy crop, but you have to plant a lot of peas to ensure a good size pea harvest once they’re shelled. One way to extend your pea-growing season is to harvest and eat some of the young pea shoots and tendrils.  Pea shoots and tendrils are tender enough to serve with little or no cooking. They are often tossed into salads or added on top of soups. You can always add a few curls as an edible garnish. Their delicate crunch and sweet flavor make a snappy addition to pretty much anything and they are packed with vitamins A and C.

As always, we welcome your own creative recipes. If you have something to contribute, email me. Happy eating!





©2012 Minnesota Food Association, 14220 B Ostlund Trail North, Marine on St. Croix, MN 55047 

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Posted 5/14/2013 3:29pm by Minnesota Food Association.

I read, and delete, a lot of listserve items, but this one caught my attention this morning. Exemplifying the sense of community around farming, the sense of urgency and trust, and then the prompt help from three of our senior farmers in the region, this is great networking I love the reach out by Melissa and the three experienced quick answers. 


 Hello everyone—

 I had some major damage to my transplanted brassicas due to Saturday night’s frost.  I’m wondering if anyone out there has extra cauliflower, cabbage or red cabbage seedlings that they could sell.  We’re relatively small, so I’m looking for 4 flats of cauliflower (72 size), 2 flats of red cabbage, and perhaps 2 flats of green cabbage, depending on how they recover.

 Which leads me to my second question:  If brassica seedlings get frosted, and then recover, will they still produce well, or should I just consider them a loss and replant everything?  Some of them look like they could spring back, and some of them don’t.  The broccoli look better than the other, but they had been planted a couple of days earlier and were a bit more established. 

 Thanks for your advice!


CSA Coordinator

Gale Woods Farm




Hi Melissa,

 I think that your brassicas will come back. I don't do summer cauliflower, so I don't know about that one, but we have routinely set out broccoli, cabbage, and kale before last frost and they have been fine.


 Greg Reynolds

Riverbend Farm



 Dear Melissa:  It is surprising how much nature can help plants recover.  However, with the extreme heat we have in the forecast for tomorrow, I am not sure what to say.  I would give them some time while you look for other plants and then evaluate.  (Are you aware that Gardens of Eagan is a source of bedding plants?)  We have had things recover just fine after frost.  If you decide to toss them, save a few in any case, so you can observe for yourself what happens as the season unfolds.

 In the Maria Thun BD calendar, she referred to "cold weather after April 17" as part of the April forecast.  For May, she suggests the constellations provide a warm influence for the first two weeks of May and that this might be followed by cooler weather and "frosts".  Personally, I have always taken these predictions with a healthy grain of salt.  However, it was amazing to see snow on the ground here for the first three days of May. (Osceola, WI)  I am holding some things still that I might normally want out by now, due to still being cautious about this season.

 Best of luck!

 Verna Kragnes

Philadelphia Community Farm



 Hi all, Some spring huh?  

I have found that broccoli that frosts badly does not make very nice heads. This is especially true if it gets hot soon afterwards.  You may want to buy some more plants for insurance.


North Creek Community Farm



Glen Hill

MN Food Association

May 13, 2013



Posted 5/7/2013 1:53pm by Minnesota Food Association.

Spring Open House Flyer 2013

Posted 4/17/2013 12:35pm by Minnesota Food Association.

Cooked: An Evening with Michael Pollan

Thursday, May 2, 2013 at 7 pm at Beth El Synagogue,  5224 West 26th Street, Saint Louis Park, MN 55416

 Just in time for Spring and inspiration, Michael Pollan will be here in the Twin Cities on May 2nd.  Minnesota Food Association and Slow Food MN are happy to be partnering as sponsors for this event. Tickets are available now for Cooked: An Evening with Michael Pollan on May 2, 2013 at www.besyn.org/pollan or by calling 952-873-7300

 You’ve seen Food Inc. and you’ve read Food Rules.  And now, one of the most eloquent and inspiring people of our modern food movement is coming to the Twin Cities. There are still tickets, please sign up today!  Presented as part of Beth El’s “Inspiring Minds” Series, Minnesota Food Association and Slow Food MN are is pleased to partner on this once-in-a-lifetime experience with Michael.  A portion of the proceeds of this event will go to benefit Appetite for Change, a north Minneapolis non-profit working to build individual, family, and community capacity to use growing, cooking and eating food as vehicles for social change … as we all aim to do.




Posted 4/17/2013 12:34pm by Minnesota Food Association.

Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) started in 2008 and has gone through 4 rounds of granting funds to farmers and ranchers, organizations that work for and with beginning farmers and universities and other institutions to promote and build a new generation of farmers and farming in America. This relatively small portion of the budget has assisted hundreds of organizations and thousands of farmers and ranchers. But like 37 other farm bill programs that don’t have a baseline beyond the 2008 Farm Bill, the BFRDP is currently frozen.   Funding was not included in the short-term farm bill extension passed in January or in the Continuing Resolution passed in March to keep the government funded. 

 It appears that the BFRDP will not get funding in time for a 5th round in 2013. Previous awards are respected but we could miss a full year of funding that could help up to 40 programs and operations across the country. It's not for sure, but it would be very challenging for NIFA to develop an RFA, accept applications, complete the review process and award projects before Sept. 30, 2013 – the end of the fiscal year.

 A relatively small proportion of the Farm Bill goes to beginning and small farmers programs that have shown their effectiveness and these should be maintained as a long –term commitment to our future food system. If these programs are eventually cut for our nation's fiscal health, then I hope it has the result we are looking for. Because on the side of the new food and farming movement, a decrease in effectiveness and capacity will be felt and there will be hurt. MFA has received a 3-year grant from the NIFA BFRDP for Oct 2013 – Sept 2015 to conduct training and education for underserved beginning farmers, increase capacity in developing markets and filling some basic infrastructure needs. This project is on-going and going well. We hope for the sake of our future farming and food systems that this nation-wide Program continues. Call or write your Reps and tell them you support beginning farmer programs.




Glen Hill

Executive Director

Minnesota Food Association

Email: glenhill@mnfoodassociation.org


April 15, 2013

Posted 4/17/2013 12:33pm by Minnesota Food Association.

Yes, we love to talk about the weather and follow the weather intently. We sort of laugh or shrug about it as part of Minnesota, but MN is blessed with being very deep inland, in the more northern middle part of a large land mass, and this is where you can get huge and spectacular and devastating and destructive weather events any season of the year. But for farmers and farming, weather matters significantly. It affects your livelihood not just your comfort. In fact, it is this blessing or curse that can make or break your season and livelihood, and you have no control over it. Would someone enter a business venture with having absolutely no control over a totally significant factor that could make or break it? That's why lawyers and insurance people work to take out the risk. But the weather does not have lawyers. Many of us can do our jobs on a snowy day in mid-April, and many farmers are working in the greenhouse, making plans, setting up markets. The extended forecast looks to be more cool and wet, yet the farmers go forward almost like on an equinox type of clock. How does this affect farmers at Big River Farms and other vegetable growers?

It's timing.

 Ideally you work from what markets you have and what you would like to produce by when in what quantities. Then you determine what and how much and what time frame you are going to plant. Then you count back and plan a day or week when you want to plant in the greenhouse and the day or week you want to direct seed in the fields. Then you hope that the fields are dry enough that the tractor can get in to till your initial plots within one or two days of when you plan to plant. This way you hope to know that, say, in the first week of August you will have 10 cases of green peppers for this market.  But if it is too cold or wet to get in the fields in the time frame you planned for, this can delay the harvest. The soil has to be warm enough as well. It is also not good to hold transplants in small cell trays past a certain growth stage when they should go in the ground; they can stunt. Farmers are clever and they see what is coming. Some say a cold Spring leads to great Summer yields. I imagine that others are making adjustments and plans.

 The next 10 days foreshadow 7 nights below freezing and daytime highs in the mid-40s (after the few inches of snow today). We'll be fine, but we could use a little more sun and warmth for the ground.



 Glen Hill

Executive Director

Minnesota Food Association

Email: glenhill@mnfoodassociation.org


April 11, 2013

Posted 4/17/2013 12:32pm by Minnesota Food Association.

By referral from the MN Commissioner of Agriculture, Governor Mark Dayton has appointed Minnesota Food Association's Executive Director, Glen Hill, to the State of Minnesota Food Safety and Defense Task Force for a 4-year term. This is a great honor and public service opportunity.

 This Commission of 15 – 20 volunteers, including representatives from Universities, Department of Agriculture, the food industry, nonprofits and farmers, provides public input to the Department of Agriculture on food safety related issues and assists with public awareness and outreach activities.

 It is a humble honor to be requested to participate in this Task Force. The experience at the table is huge in scope and depth. MFA can bring a perspective from the small-scale, beginning or family farm in what food safety means to them and how they manage their operations. Through MFA's Big River Farms Training Program, MFA has accumulated quite a bit of knowledge and experience in food safety for beginning farmers on a small organic vegetable farm. We developed our Standard Procedures Manual in 2007 and were officially GAP certified for green peppers we were selling to Chipotle at the time. We continue to provide food safety training and follow food safety and cleanliness protocols. We continue to provide in-field training in post harvest handling as well.  Food safety procedures on our farm aim to become just basic routine in how you handle your produce. After all, it's all our names on that product and we are quite proud of the quality.

 I hope over the next four years, I can contribute to improved food safety and awareness in our MN food economy.



Glen Hill

Executive Director

Minnesota Food Association

Email: glenhill@mnfoodassociation.org


March 29, 2013

Posted 4/17/2013 12:31pm by Minnesota Food Association.

For those of you who remember All in the Family, John Belushi on SNL, The 6 Million Dollar Man, how often did you eat out as a kid?  In our family, we ate out on New Year's Eve, Mother's Day, maybe once or twice when on a 2-week vacation and then maybe 2 or 3 times a year when something special happened for my Mom or Dad. So all-in-all, about 6 – 8 times per year, and all of them were special, very exciting events. We all felt that brief moment of guilt when Dad pulled out his wallet to pay at the end of the meal, but then we got over it quickly. They were always at a sit-down type of restaurant. I can't remember eating at a fast food place. I do remember going to a local sub sandwich shop for absolutely great subs. They had 2 sizes – huge and ½ of huge. Piled with anything you wanted, they were the real deal. I remember my Dad helping me calculate (i.e. realize) that the one sub equaled 1 ½ - 2 hours of my wages working as a janitor at the local college. I brought a packed lunch to school almost every day through High School and had the cafeteria lunch about twice a year. Why all this? I am not sure, but I think it was financially more cost-effective and it was just the way it was done in working families with 4 kids. I remember my Home Economics teacher helping us calculate our average calorie intake over the course of the term. I averaged 3,500 – 5,000 calories/day and weighed 112 pounds at 14 years old. Go figure …

 So what has happened to change this in the past 20-30 years? I don't have the answers, it is probably a very complex mix of factors. I think quality, quantity, convenience and price balance in different proportions. Processed food and food fillers have become much cheaper, in both price and quality.  Good food that you purchase in a store and make at home has increased in price. Restaurants and food services have been able to keep prices down and began to make them seemingly more competitive with the cost of eating at home (when you include time, cost of preparation, electricity, water, etc.).  Large advances in productivity in industrial agriculture, especially in corn and soybeans and massive feedlot operations, together with large government subsidies, keeps the price down enough so that restaurants can offer low-priced, low-quality, but filling and attractive looking, menu items. Another aspect is who has time to cook at home and when? With parents working, or in school, or other activities, or shuttling kids, it becomes a very tight schedule. The value of a family sit-down dinner at home is invaluable and enduring. But fresh vegetables take time to prepare, so you have to plan and prepare. Sometimes this works, other weeks it doesn't.

 I think it is a shift in balance where quality has diminished, quantity has increased, convenience has increased, and price differences are diminishing where restaurants are holding their prices with numerous specials and the prices in the grocery stores are slowly, progressively inching up every year.

 There are local farmers in the area that you live, in the Twin Cities Metro or anywhere, that have produce and likely other farm products for sale. You'd be surprised, look them up.  When we look to increasing the quality (including freshness, local economy, production, etc), lowering the quantity (either per meal or seasonal expectations), adjusting the convenience (maybe to try to work it into our weekly routine), and accepting a respectable price, we can influence the local food and farming system and community. You, me, our families and friends, all as consumers can send a message. Eating better is a family and public health issue.

 So …  from a local farmer, buy a ¼ or ½ hog, or get free-range eggs, or sign up for a CSA share. Visit your farmers market, stop at road side stands and buy produce, spend a morning at a pick-your-own place … bring it all up on vacation (or save it at home).


Think Spring!




Glen Hill

Executive Director

Minnesota Food Association

Email: glenhill@mnfoodassociation.org


April 3, 2013

Posted 4/17/2013 12:30pm by Minnesota Food Association.

The wealth and security of a nation and people depends on its food supply and security and what we feed our children. Where does the future food supply and security lie? If you believe that it is in a vast array of local and regional sustainable farms and farmers, then Minnesota Food Association and its Big River Farms stands with you. Over the past 15 – 20 years, the USDA has developed a variety of excellent programs that support new and beginning farmers in different ways. Risk Management Agency's Community Outreach and Assistance Program. Ag Marketing Service's Farmers Market Promotion Program. National Institute for Food and Agriculture's Outreach and Assistance to Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.  The State Ag Departments' Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and so on. These programs support hundreds of organizations and institutions and thousands of farmers and consumers. They have struggled to establish themselves and have proved the impact through years of solid partnerships. They have had to fight hard to get the minimal budget allocation that they get. With relatively small budgets within the overall Farm Bill, the impact reaches thousands or people and towns and cities. Call your Senator or House Rep and let them know you want to maintain and grow the programs that are building our future farmers because it is essential to our food and national security.



Glen Hill

Executive Director

Minnesota Food Association

Email: glenhill@mnfoodassociation.org


March 29, 2013

Posted 4/17/2013 12:28pm by Minnesota Food Association.

The other day I got a call from the ag marketing service of the USDA. Many provisions in the new Farm Bill that support new and beginning farmers in education, training and marketing are  under consideration for cuts or elimination. These excellent programs with relatively very small budget allocations support hundreds of organizations and institutions and thousands of farmers and the future food producers of our nation. These USDA departments and programs are making every effort to develop reports that show Congress what value they are for their money. Recently, one program that had supported Minnesota Food Association from 2009-2011 in assisting new farmers in developing new markets and marketing approaches selected MFA as a case study in this research.  That is an honor we sincerely appreciate.

 The challenge is finding the balance between quantifiable and qualitative methods and impacts. What was the average increased income per farmer during the period of this grant as a result of the funding from this grant provided? Very good question. And very difficult to get an accurate answer. To increase income from farming, for a beginning farmer, from year #1 to #2 to #3, is definitely possible, but is the result of numerous interacting factors. The previous year's experience is freshest in the mind. Dreaming, entrepreneurial ideas are definitely worth experimenting with.  Cover Cropping, spreading compost on the fields, field and crop rotations and a new extensive irrigation system all add to the annual increase in soil health and productivity. You get increasingly interested in marketing because of the increasing confidence in your farming and your product. You like it so much, you want to make it financially viable.  Our experience shows that with MFA assistance in purchasing and in connecting directly to their own markets, beginning farmers progressively increased their sales each year while in our program.  Sustaining this in transition to your own place is a challenge.

 We wrapped up our phone conversation. I tried to put some numbers on sales and yields, etc.

 So Friday afternoon after that, it's time to get out of the office and see. I saw May Lee arrive and go to the greenhouse. She is a graduate of BRF Training Program and is conducting training classes and mentoring individual farmers in greenhouse propagation and management as part of a pilot initiative in Mentoring Farmers.  Kano, originally from Ethiopia, arrived a little later and went to the greenhouse with his arms full. This is Kano's first year, first time planting in a greenhouse, first one-on-one lesson. So I went to see. May Lee operates her own greenhouse, all certified organic, and knows her farming. Kano is an interpreter for Hennepin and Ramsey Counties, specifically in health. May Lee's daughter Mhonpaj is a health interpreter for Ramsey County. And bingo, they are preparing trays, planting seeds, and talking about which places that need interpretation that they both know and so on.  And it just flowed from there for the next 2 hours. He got all his trays planted for that day, and he has been back two more times since to finish up the rest of his trays. May Lee continues her mentoring work with Kano when needed and with all the other farmers as well.

 What is the value of that? In my opinion, priceless ….

 This is what you support. New farmers and new leaders, with new skills and dreams, and building incredible new relationships for our future. Thank you all for your support.




Glen Hill

Executive Director

Minnesota Food Association

Email: glenhill@mnfoodassociation.org


March 26, 2013