Three Farm Summer: Hawkins Family Farm

Bringing in the fresh picked vegetables for the CSA shares at Hawkins Family Farm. 

Hawkins is a diversified family farm a couple miles south and east of North Manchester, Indiana.  The red brick farm house is flanked by the pizza oven, farm store, high tunnel green house, vegetable gardens, pasture and barn.

Most days when I turn off the county road and bump down the gravel lane to the farm store, I look to see if the hen house been rotated and if the sides of the movable green houses are rolled up to let air through, usually there is more than one person to greet with a wave.

Hawkin's has two movable, unheated, high tunnel houses to extending the growing season.  
This spring there are more folks around then in years previous.  When I drive in, it seems there isn't an obvious place to park.  I don't want to block the garage; in front of the pizza oven is already full, so I choose the least obtrusive place in front of the barn, trying to leave enough space for another car, truck or tractor to get through.

The farm store is self serve.  Up until this year, the store shared space in the prep kitchen.  This year the building, which also has a workshop type space, has been extended to create more work area and a little room as a dedicated store.  There is a refrigerator with eggs, cheese and lard, a chest freezer of poultry, and a second standing freezer of pork and beef, as well as, honey and syrup on a narrow shelf.   Everything but the syrup is a product of the farm.

A view from a section of the garden back to the barn and the cattle.  Row covers are used for frost and insect protection. 

Part of what makes Hawkins an exciting farm, is how many different things are happening all with the intention of rejuvenating the land while producing wholesome food for the community.  Jeff and Zach Hawkins (father and son) are actively trying out new ideas.  I should ask them how they classify their farm - diversified family farm is how I am billing them.

The CSA is integral to the farm.  The Hawkins have been selling CSA (community supported agriculture) shares where a family commits to buying a season worth of vegetables and/or meat.  Each share holder receives a weekly bag of the harvest.  They have a pickup location on the farm, as well as, four neighboring town locations.  They also sell meat, eggs and produce to local restaurants and coffee shops.

Sausage pizza from our very first trip to Hawkin's Farm back in 2011.  

During the summer months, when school is out, the farm hosts Fridays on the Farm.  People come from far but mostly near to buy their locally sourced, brick oven pizza and gather on the lawn of the farm house for a picnic.  The cars park along the lane and often when the weather is nicest, a Sold Out sign will be hung at the end of the drive.

When we first started going to pizza on the farm, we didn't know anyone.  Now we spread our blanket on the grass connecting it to a raft of friends' blankets.  We pass side dishes and ask if anyone remembered to bring a bottle opener.  Fern, who was two years old last summer, insisted on seeing the pigs and turkeys before we gathered our things to head home.  We are looking forward to June 5th when pizza season starts again.

From the end of the first full season I helped on the farm. That's me on the far right.

The past couple of years I have worked on the farm in exchange for a half veggie share.   Early this spring I asked if I could work in exchange for a full share including meat.  We agreed I would work 12 weeks over the summer helping pack shares, working in the garden and making lunch once a week for the farm crew.  I am looking forward to learning more about the day to day operations, see how they use a new walking tractor and how they have expanded from last year.

Hawkins Family Farm is one of the three farms I will be working for the summer 2015.  I will profile the other two farms in the coming blog posts.  To read more about what I am up to here is the introductory post:  Internship Plans: Three Farm Summer


Annual Vegetable Garden Plans for 2015

Home Vegetable Garden Plans- Doubling the size of our vegetable garden to grow more of our own food. From FoyUpdate.blogspot.com

When we bought our house in 2012, I was excited about the big side yard in full sun.  The next year we cut in three beds for our vegetable garden totally 264 square feet of bed space.  This year with the goal of feeding our family locally we are adding a fourth bed and extending the existing beds to give ourselves 480 square feet.  I'm so excited to have almost doubled our annual vegetable space.

Three simple dug vegetable garden beds 22x4 feet each - FoyUpdate

Above is last year's vegetable garden.  To expand we are adding eight feet to each of the three existing beds and adding a fourth bed over on the right.

Jeff measured the beds out Sunday afternoon so we are ready to cut the sod.  In the brief time when both babes were napping Monday I managed to cut the edges of two of the extended beds using a flat shovel.  I had just started pulling up sod chunks when Sunny woke up.  

While I was working with my shovel the neighbors across the way were using a small tractor to level and spread manure on part of their yard.  Machines are faster, they are also expensive and require fuel.  I had to give myself at little pep talk while I worked, "Hand tools will work just fine; and if we keep plugging our little garden plot will get finished same as theirs."  

The 'Kennebec' and 'Red Adirondack' potatoes arrived in the mail from Johnny's Selected Seeds on Saturday.  (Read how I selected my potatoes in this blog post.)  With the seed potatoes sitting in the mudroom sprouting their eyes, now there is an urgency to getting the garden expansion finished.  And I want to have the veggie garden completely started by the time my farm internship starts the last week of May.  

I did plant the 'Kennebec' potatoes on Easter Sunday.  JuneBug, two and a half years old,  helped plant the "tatoes".  I dug the holes and she put the seed potato in and covered it up with her little trowel.  She told me they would be yummy and she would "eat them all up."  

When I sat down to do the garden plan a week or so ago, I realized even with the garden expansion I won't have room for all the vegetables I am planning to grow.  I have a couple options here:  
  1. Make the garden even bigger
  2. Plant less
  3. Plant some of the veggies in the perennial flower bed.  
Right now, I think planting less and putting some of the lettuce mix and other greens in the flower beds makes the most sense.  There might also be a fourth option, succession planting.  I do some succession planting now, but there could be more.  Maybe I'll learn more about that from the farms.  

After sitting down with my garden map I have decided I do not have enough room to grow sweet potatoes.  I just called Johnny's and canceled my order.  I'm a little sad, but also relieved.  Everything else I wanted to grow now fits in the garden.  This will be the year of the potato for us!

Here's the plan:  

Home Vegetable Garden Plan for 2015 - FoyUpdate

Bed 1:
  • 'All Blue' Potatoes
  • 'Adirondack Red' Potatoes
Bed 2: 
  • 'Dukat' Dill
  • 'Kennebec' Potatoes
  • Garlic (from RiverRidge Farm)
  • 'Candy' Onions
  • 'Zeppelin' Onions
  • Basil 'Genovese'
Bed 3: 
  • 'Harmony' Cucumber
  • 'Travoli' Spaghetti Squash
  • 'Metro' Butternut Squash
Bed 4:
  • 'Piasano' San Marzano type paste tomatoes
  • 'Tiren' San Marzano type paste tomatoes
  • 'Jasper' Red cherry tomato
  • 'Five Star' Red grape tomato
  • 'Sun Gold' Yellow cherry tomato
  • 'German Butterball' Potato
  • 'Calypso' Cilantro
  • 'Renegade' Spinach
  • 'Rhubarb Red' Swiss Chard
Now to finish digging out the expansion and additional bed. 


Internship Plans: Three Farm Summer

My Three Farm Summer Internship in Local Food Producers - FoyUpdate
Packing shares at Hawkin's Family Farm.  I've helped with the CSA since the fall of 2011. 

There are three family farms less than ten miles from our house: RiverRidge Farm, Hawkins Family Farm and Joy Field Farm.  Over the three years we have lived here in northwest Indiana their meat, eggs and produce have made their way into our pantry and onto our table.

They are a friendly bunch of farmers. Whenever I get the chance I corner them with my pressing garden questions including but not limited to: how they store root crops for winter, build their soil and extend the growing season. 

There are many commonalities between these farms beyond their location.  All three are family farms with strong faith, and deep ties to their community.  I have a reading list that will take me years to finish from their recommendations.

They are scholarly agrarians.  Not quite in the way the professors we hang out with are scholarly.  Professors tend to be interested in how to teach a foundation of information for their specialization.  These local food producers are seeking knowledge for practical application: How can we protect the environment through local food production?  How do we feed our community body and soul?  How does working the land put people in greater connection with nature and god?  How do we get good quality food to the people most at risk for food insecurity in our community?  

Last summer I was sitting out on Hawkin's Farm enjoying a pizza from their brick oven, hanging out with family and friends, when I saw a trio over at a neighboring picnic table.  I put together what I knew about each of them and realized two of them worked with Joyfield Farm and the other worked over at RiverRidge Farm.  I imagined them sharing gardening tales and discussing the merits of different harvesting techniques.  One of the things I miss most about working at public gardens is talking plants.  My kids are great, but their agriculture conversation could use some work.  The little group of farm girls made me smile.

RiverRidge Farm lettuce mix in covered rows spring #3farmsummer FoyUpdate
Nathan at RiverRidge Farm shows his mixed lettuce growing under row covers at his 5-acre family farm. This photo is from the first time I met him on a farm tour in March 2012.  

I didn't think about it too much at the time, but later when I saw a Help Wanted sign at one of the farm stores, I considered I could get some first hand experience too.  Somewhere along the way that evolved into maybe I could work one summer at each farm.  The more I thought about it, the more I like it.  But I also realized taking three summers to learn when I could be using that time to earn money for the other things a family needs and wants didn't seem practical. I mentally condensed my three summers into just one. Then over the winter, I folded in the goal of feeding my family locally produced or home grown food for a whole year.   (Here's the goal setting blog post.)

In early March I drafted a letter proposing I work one day a week at each farm in exchange for food for 12-weeks over the summer.  A couple weeks later, I visited with each farm and found all of them very willing and even excited about the idea.  We talked about how they could best use me and the potential things I could learn and I put together a schedule.

It's going to happen!  It's going to be a three farm summer.  I will get to learn by doing, observing and experiencing what it takes to make a living on a diversified, organic, family farm.  Part of my plan is to share the experience here on this blog (and on social media using #3FarmSummer).  I will start working the last week of May and go through mid-August 2015.

In April, I'm going to write a little about each farm as I understand them now.  I'm curious to see how my views change as I get to know them better and gain first hand experience working on these farms.

It's going to be an exciting #3farmsummer!  


Selecting Blue, Red and White Potatoes for the Home Vegetable Garden

How to select potato varieties for the home garden and how much seed potato to buy to grow enough to store for winter. From Foy Update

It happened again.  I haven’t ordered my potatoes and it is late March which means places are selling out!

Potatoes have gotten a bad reputation because they are made into processed foods like french fries and chips then packaged into crinkly bags and marketed heavily.  However, if you are cooking at home roasting, baking, grilling and boiling are all healthy ways to enjoy a potato.  There is lots of good nutrition in a potato, don't be fooled!

Buying seed potatoes online - how to select a variety and how much to buy for your home garden
The five pounds of 'Adirondack Blue' potatoes I bought from Johnny's Selected Seeds. I was excited to get them and a little apprehensive because I had never grown potatoes before.

Last year I bought five pounds of ‘Adirondack Blue’ seed potatoes.  We had a nice harvest and we ate our lovely potatoes until they ran out in the beginning of November.  This year I am determined to grow even more; two times more so we will have more for the winter.

As I work towards feeding my family locally year-round, we will be eating fewer grains and relying on winter squash, pumpkins, potatoes and sweet potatoes for the starchy components of our meals.  I estimate we eat five pounds of potatoes a week; roughly a half pound of potatoes per adult per day.  Yes, that seems like a lot of potatoes.  If I wanted to have enough to store for nine months (September through May), we would have to grow 126 pounds of potatoes (assuming we lose none to spoilage or low yields).

*** Warning Math Ahead ***

According to Ohio State Extension, "A good yield would be 150 to 175 pounds of usable potatoes from 100 feet of row" or about 1.5-1.75 pound per foot of row.   For standard size potatoes one pound of seed potatoes are needed for every ten feet of row; approximately 1/10th a pound per foot of row.  (Fingerling and specialty potatoes are usually more.)  Now I am going to do some math.  

Here's how to figure out how much potato you should grow, how much garden space you will need, and how much seed potato to buy:

How many potatoes should you grow to feed your family through the winter?  
(number of pounds potatoes eaten in a week) * 36 weeks = number of pounds you should grow
5 pounds of potatoes a week * 36 weeks = 126 pounds of potatoes 

How many feet of row should you plant of potatoes?  
(The number of pounds you should grow) / 1.625 pounds per foot of row = number of feet of row you should plant
126 pound of potatoes / 1.625 pounds per foot of row = 77 feet of row needed

How many pounds of seed potato do you need to buy?
(The number of feet of row you should plant) / 10 = number of pounds of seed potato needed
77 feet of row / 10 = 7.7 pounds of seed potatoes needed  

Where to shop for seed potatoes?  

To get the interesting and organically grown varieties, I look online.
  1.          Johnny’s Selected Seeds (JSS)
  2.          Seed Savers Exchange (SSE)
  3.          The Maine Potato Lady (MPL)
  4.          High Mowing Seeds (HMS)

Yummy breakfast: Pan fried blue potatoes, over easy egg, avocado and salsa
The 'Adirondack Blue' potatoes fried up nicely for breakfast with some avocado, egg and salsa.  #yummy

I consider my options.  I know I want a blue or red potato.  The seed companies who sell the ‘Blue Adirondack’ variety I grew last year are sold out, I consider what’s in stock (as of 2/24/2015).

Blue or Red Colored Flesh Potatoes

  • ‘Red Adirondack’ the red version of my aforementioned blue, early set and good storage (JSS)
  • ‘All Blue’ respectable yields, stores well (MPL, HMS)
  • ‘Magic Molly’ a deep blue waxy fingerling (JSS, MPL)
  • ‘Papa Caco’ Peruvian fingerling potato with pink flesh, roasting (MPL)

I would also like a good all around white potato that stores well.

Good All Around White Potatoes:

  • ‘German Butterball’ noted for its taste as well as long storage, late-season (SSE, HMS)
  • ‘Kennebeck’ good all around potato coming from a strong bread for resistance to lots of potato problems, mid-season (JSS, MPL)
  • ‘Yukon Gold’ excellent yield, great keeper, slightly dry flesh, early-season (JSS, SSE, MPL, HMS)
  • ‘Russet’ excellent flavor, long storage (there are several different varieties)
  • ‘Purple Viking’ early blue skin, white flesh variety with excellent yields (HMS, SSE)
As I make my choices, I am also looking for an early and a late season potato so that I have some available to eat in the summer through fall and then some to store for winter and hopefully into the spring. 

I will probably regret how many seed potatoes I ordered when I have to dig all the extra bed space this spring, but I am excited to try new varieties and see how storing large quantities of potatoes goes. 

Home Vegetable Garden in June - Potato Patch
Here's my little patch of potatoes from last year in early June. I had two rows each 10 feet long.

In the end, I ordered four varieties in two purchases; one from Johnny's Select Seeds and one from High Mowing Seeds:
‘Red Adirondack’ 5 pounds - The red version of my aforementioned blue, early set and good storage   
‘All Blue’ 2.5 pounds - Respectable yields, stores well 
‘German Butterball’ 2.5 pounds - noted for its taste as well as long storage, late-season  
‘Kennebeck’ 5 pounds - good all around potato, bred for resistance to lots of potato problems, mid-season
I also ordered some sweet potatoes.  I've never grown those before.  I got the only variety that was still available from Johnny's or High Mowing, one called 'Beauregard'.  

What potatoes will you be growing this year and where do you buy them?  


Strawberry Lemon Marmalade - All You'll Ever Need to Know About Making Marmalade Recipe

Strawberry Lemon Marmalade - a shot of summer to get you through the cold winter

Here is a lovely taste of spring when it seems like the snow is hanging on forever!  Sweet summer strawberries meet tart lemon juice and the slightly bitter zest in this Strawberry Lemon Marmalade.

Last winter we hosted a friend who was on her way cross country.  Indiana was a nice way point.  She left a thank you jar of homemade ginger marmalade.  It was divine.  I didn't even try to convince  Junebug to try it again when she didn't like it because of the "sticks" in it.  More for me!
Then summer came around and we found ourselves in the happy position of taking care of a neighbor's strawberry patch in the middle of the strawberry harvest.  We ate as much as we could hold and I froze three big bags of berries for winter jam making.  While looking up strawberry jam recipes I came across this one for Strawberry and Meyer Lemon Marmalade.  I pinned the recipe knowing I would have to wait until December to find organic citrus because that's when Florida and California are harvesting.

Since the peel is used in marmalade and regular lemons are treated with fungicides and other chemicals to keep them looking good in the grocery store, I knew organic would taste better and be healthier.  
December rolled around and it was busy so I figured I could put off marmalade making until January.  Then in January the grocers were constantly sold out of organic lemons.  Finally in February, I found a 2-pound bag, hallelujah!  Thank you California citrus growers.  It was jam making time.

Lemon and Strawberries make a tart and sweet strawberry lemonade marmalade

I went back and reread the recipe I had pinned only to realize I needed more information.  I wanted to know more about the time and temperature which thickened the marmalade; and how much peel to soak; and how to do the cold plate test to check to see if there is enough jell happening.

First I tried my cookbooks and the only one I found a marmalade recipe in was my Ball Blue Book of Canning and it was a very brief recipe and did not answer any of my questions.  Next I did the internet search, hunting down marmalade recipes with lots of detail.  
  • This Williams Sonoma orange marmalade recipe told me more about the cold plate test.
  • This BBC Good Food orange marmalade recipe had even more information about the cold plate test as well how to know when the zest was cooked enough and descriptions of what the marmalade should look like as it cooks.
  • This Ina Garten's orange marmalade recipe included temperatures and what to do if the marmalade gets over cooked.
  • This Alton Brown's orange marmalade recipe said to use a candy or deep fry thermometer to reach the very specific 222-223 degrees F.  
  • And lastly I followed Love and Olive Oil's link to find the original recipe at Simple Bites which was a guest post by Food in Jars.  
Then I set about making my strawberry lemon marmalade.  First thing you need to know is it takes two days.

When making marmalade create a bundle of the seeds and rinds to soak in the juice.  This draws out the pectin that will help jell the preserves.

Day 1:

On day one zest the lemons and then juice them.  Then put the zest in the juice along with a bag full of any seeds and some of the leftover rinds.  You put them in a bag so you can take them out easily since they won't be in the final marmalade.  The soaking does two things:
  1. Softens the zest so the cook time is reduced
  2. Releases pectin from the rind and seeds so that a firm jell happens when you reach the magical 222-223 degrees F. 
How to zest for marmalades - use a vegetable peeler and a paring knife to make ribbons rather than a micro-plane grater.
The micro-plane grater (left) created too fine zest that did not produce the right consistency for traditional marmalade.  I found my vegetable peeler plus paring knife (right) allowed me to make nice small ribbons of zest.  If I had a zester tool I would have used that instead.  

Also, on Day One macerate the strawberries by mixing them with half the sugar and let them sit covered overnight.  I learned from Sauver that macerating does some useful things:
  • The sugar breaks down the fruit so cooking takes less time,
  • The sugar draws the water out of the strawberries making a syrup,
  • The sugar makes the pectin stronger, and
  • The longer the fruit macerates the richer and stronger the flavors become
If you want to do everything in one day, instead of letting the juice/zest and macerated strawberries sit overnight in the fridge you can do just three hours at room temperature.

Macerated strawberries and lemon juice and zest create a sweet and tart marmalade

Day 2:

The next day make and bottle the marmalade.  First, take the bag of seeds and pith out of the lemon juice and discard them into the compost.

Before cooking started here is the mixture of the strawberries, sugar, lemon juice and zest to make Strawberry Lemon Marmalade

Then add, macerated strawberries, the remaining sugar, lemon juice and zest to a wide, heavy bottomed pot on the stove.  (A wide pot increases the surface area to speed evaporation and a heavy bottom heats evenly; in case you were wondering why that specific kind of pot.)

Cook it all together until enough water evaporates, the color darkens and it reaches the magical 222-223 degrees F.

The marmalade recipes I had open all suggested that it should only take 15-30 minutes to cook the marmalade.  Well it took me a little more than an hour.  I suspect it had something to do with the slow to heat nature of the enameled, cast-iron pot I used and the extra water in the strawberries.  Traditionally marmalade is just citrus fruit.

As my marmalade cooked, I used the Cold Plate Test and a thermometer to check progress.  Once I had a nice jell, I bottled and processed the jars in a boiling-water canner.

My only regret is that this recipe just makes four half-pints.  Here's how you can make it too: 

Strawberry Marmalade AKA Strawberry Lemonade Jam

1 pound of strawberries fresh or frozen 
2 pounds of organic lemons (9 small or 5-6 large lemons)
3 cups of sugar

 Day 1:

  1. Zest all the lemons.  You can either use a zester (not a micro-plane grater) to create small ribbons of zest.  Or use a vegetable peeler to shave off the top layer of rind and then use a sharp knife to cut the shaved peel into fine ribbons.  
  2.  Juice enough of the lemons to yield one cup.  Wrap any seeds and at least a third of the rinds into a small linen or cheese-cloth sack to create a bundle; preventing any of the rind or seeds from escaping.  
  3. In a large bowl add 1 cup lemon juice, zest, and 2 cups of water.  Then submerge the bundle with the seeds and rinds in the bowl.  Cover and let set at room temperature for 3 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.  
  4. In another large bowl, macerate the strawberries in 1 1/2 cups sugar.  Add the sugar to the strawberries and stir to coat.  Cover, then allow to set for the same amount of time as the lemon juice and zest.  You do not need to chop the strawberries, let the sugar do the work for you.  

Day 2:

  1. Sanitize your canning jars and lids.  You will need 5 half-pints or the equivalent jars.  
  2. Heat a boiling-water canner to just about boiling and keep the water levels up while the marmalade cooks so you are ready to start canning when the marmalade is ready. 
  3. Take the bundle of seeds and rinds out of the lemon juice bowl and discard them (hopefully into your compost).  In a wide, large, heavy bottomed pot combine the lemon juice, zest, macerated strawberries, and the remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar.  
  4. Over medium heat bring the marmalade up to a simmer.  Reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Stir every 5-10 minutes.  Once a simmer is reached cooking should take 40-60 minutes.  Use a thermometer to watch the temperature. As it approaches 222 degrees try the cold plate test to check the texture of your marmalade.  Also, visually the mixture will darken in color and the bubbles will become thicker and gloppier when the 222-223 degrees F is reached.  Here's what mine looked like when it was done cooking:
    Strawberry lemon marmalade cooked and ready to ladle into jars
  5. When you have the marmalade cooked, bring the water-bath canner up to a boil and fill the prepared jars leaving 1/4 inch head space, wipe the rims of the jars with a clean cloth before putting on the sanitized lids.  Then promptly process in the water-bath canner.  If you are using half-pints, process for 10 minutes at a boil.  
  6.  Remove the jars from the canner, let set on a towel over-night to completely cool.  Check the seals.  Any jars that have not sealed should be refrigerated and eaten in the next 3-4 weeks.  Store your sealed marmalade in a cool, dark, dry location.  
Strawberry Lemon Marmalade Recipe at FoyUpdate.blogspot.com