CSA, farm tasks, high tunnels, rotovator, Spring, Summer, time

Farm Time

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Below is an entry from last week’s newsletter for the CSA (Week #3; May 7, 2012). Read on if you’d like to know more about what Ben and I have been up to out here. 
Farm Time

The habit of looking to the future and thinking that the whole meaning of the present lies in what it will bring forth is a pernicious one. There can be no value in the whole unless there is value in the parts.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, Conquest of Happiness
Whew! It feels great to have received some good, drenching (and cooling!) rains! Last week was quite the hot and humid time. Tuesday and Wednesday in particular, I had to give up working outside much past 10am. Instead I chose to do paperwork inside and run errands with the car (which, unlike the truck, has air conditioning).
This week we broke down and transported the high tunnels we originally built in October last year for use for the fall and winter crops to the spring and summer fields. We’ll re-build the tunnels to use for some of our summer crops – especially tomatoes. Monday, CSA member, Charlotte, came out and helped us transplant tomatoes and peppers. Ben direct seeded green beans, dill, and radishes and cultivated the spring garden. In the process of prepping a bed for tomatoes, he managed to get some row fabric (which he used to cover the closest crops to the tractor to keep them protected from thrown soil) caught in the tractor implement (the rotovator). Not only did we lose about 250 feet of row cover, we spent quite a lot of time working to get that stuff out of the rotovator so Ben could finish prepping beds. After quite a lot of frustration, we triumphed over the mangled row cover and high-fived each other for getting through it! 
Last week, we also managed to keep ourselves pretty busy with our daily chores and weekly harvest, wash, and CSA drop/market days. If you came out to the farm today, you’d see that our “lawn” is in desperate need of being mowed and we have every intention of getting to that task someday – it’s just such a low level item on our already lengthy regular daily and weekly chores list. Our spare time is spent working on the tasks on our weekly to-do quadrant. This week we have a TON of transplanting to do. Also, the weeds are catching up on us and we need to get out there and hand weed and cultivate (with the wheel hoe and the tractor, depending on the crop). We also need to go ahead and thin the green beans and stake the tomatoes. I don’t know about y’all, but we can see July just over the horizon! We’re also going to finish the transport of the high tunnels and re-construct them this week. And Ben needs to get on that tractor and put in the cover crop on our fall/winter field as well as the new, big field we added on this year. It’s going to be another whirlwind of a week! See you soon!

Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.

DOUGLAS ADAMS, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
baby birds, blueberries, farm news, Mother's Day, peppers, potatoes, sour cherries, Spring, tomatillos, tomatoes

Full of Life


Hi folks! I have a few pictures from the farm this week and I thought I’d go ahead and share them with you. Spring is in full force and the farm is a microcosm of all of the rejuvenation and new life that comes with the season. Enjoy!

It’s hard to tell here, but these are baby birds in the weeping cherry. Their momma or daddy did not like me peeking through to photograph them, so I didn’t get any good shots. They sure did open their little yellow mouths for some food though.

Snow pea flowers are beauty-FULL! And the peas taste amazing too (we have some from our first round of planting already)!
This is Beth’s sour cherry tree. Ben and I are hoping we get to try a slice of her infamous sour cherry pie. 

The peaches are already getting pretty big!

The first round of zucchini, squash and cucumbers (we planted 400 of each!)
I have no idea of what this flower on the vine is called, but it’s gorgeous! It’s on our front porch with kiwi and grape vines. 

These are in the ground now.

These too. I’m so excited about tomatillos!

Here’s a shot of one of the sections. Most of what you can see is peas and oats (and the yellow stuff, well, that’s wild radish – we don’t care for it much but the bees and the chickens sure do!).

Can you believe there are already blueberries on the bushes?!
Poor Ben planted all of these tomatoes without me – since I’m still spending most of my time studying for prelims. I’ll be out there picking them with him all summer though!!! 

Well, I guess that’s it for now. Have a very Happy Mother’s Day!

green onions, lettuce, planting party, scallions, Spring, Sunday, sweet potatoes

Planting Party This Sunday, the First Day of SPRING!

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Hello all! We are having folks out to the farm this Sunday. We’ll be getting started around 1pm. We’ll be planting onions, scallions, and lettuce. Since our taters didn’t get in until a couple of days ago, the seed isn’t ready. However, if we have enough folks out here, we’ll also be cutting our seed potatoes to get them started and ready for next week. Please come out and join us. The more folks we have out here to work, the less it will feel like work and the sooner we’ll be finished and ready to socialize – and most importantly, eat yummy food! We’ll likely be making a vegetarian chili and salad.

If you do plan on coming out, there are a few things you might (but don’t have to) bring with you:
– chairs (for hanging out and eating)
– water bottle/container
– sunscreen
– hat
– good comfy shoes (and wear work clothes)

For directions, click here.

Here are a couple pictures of our friends helping us plant onions last week.

chickens, Spring

Chicken Sitting 101

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We have so many things to share with you, but time is short right now. Until we get a chance to give you all a farm update, I thought I’d share the chicken care taking instructions I made for Beth and the kids – and our neighbors, Andy, Amanda and Duffie.

Chicken Sitting 101
1.      In the morning, open the little door inside the barn to let the chick-a-dees out. There is a little hook and latch to hold open the little door. NOTE: When you first open the barn door, those chickens will be standing right at the door looking at you. Shoo them away and step through them to get to the little door. Even though they’re looking at you in the big door, what they really want is to go through the little one.
2.     Once most of them go outside, check the water buckets. Be sure the water is clean and accessible. If there is straw in the water, clean it out and dump out a little water until the trough is clean.
3.     If there are any eggs in the nest boxes, take them out (take them home, scrub them clean with a brush or a scrubby sponge and put them in your fridge – then eat and enjoy!).
4.      Toss a few heads and leaves of cabbage into the pen outside (open the door to the pen – it’s a latch to toss them in).  
— They’ll be fine through the day. They’ll lay eggs throughout the day too. At some point, either in the morning when you let the chickens out – or sometime in the afternoon – or later in the evening when you close them up for the night – their water needs to be changed out. You don’t need to change out all the waterers everyday. We usually rotate them and do one or two – depending on how they’re looking/doing. —
5.        Sometime around dusk, or even after dark (but with a flashlight), go back to the chickens to give them their pellets and to shut the little door up for the night. Be sure you turn the little wooden slat so the door is secure and some critter can just push the door open to get in.
6.       Gather more eggs if they’re in there. Good night! 
Oh, and one more thing! Spring is almost here! 
Thanks for stopping by!
2011 CSA, awesome, CSA, share, Spring, subscribe, subscription, Summer, vegetables

Announcing Summer 2011 CSA!

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Ben’s Produce offers vegetables, strawberries & flowers of the highest quality and taste in the Triangle. Our mission is to strive for healthier people, community, agriculture and planet by growing and sharing the best tasting food we can. Our farming practices may surpass organic guidelines but we choose not to be certified because we are confident the quality and taste of our produce, as well as our direct relationship with you, speak to our commitment to healthy food and holistic agriculture. 2011 will be our second year farming as Ben’s Produce, though we have been farming with family and friends for many years.

Community Supported Agriculture
CSA is a mutually beneficial relationship between us. By making a seasonal investment in our farm with a CSA share, you become a seasonal farm member who shares the rewards and risks of the harvest season with us, your farmers. Your investment allows us to afford annual start-up costs, to pay ourselves fair wages, and to share the many risks in growing food. In return, we provide you and your family with abundant, fresh, healthy and local food. Our food not only tastes better and lasts longer, it’s also helps us all nourish local agriculture, economy and environment.  Taste the difference!
Is CSA right for your family?
It is good to be aware of the rewards and challenges involved in CSA. If you and your family want to explore the wonderful tastes of our farm-fresh food by eating it straight from your CSA pickup bag or transformed in a wonder dish you cooked, CSA is for you! If you want to expand your taste-bud horizons and strengthen your skills at cooking and preparing fresh food, CSA is for you! If you want to be surprised with new vegetables, CSA is for you! If you want to eat healthily and enjoy eating, CSA is for you!

Please understand that nature’s abundance varies. What you receive is based on our harvest schedule which is subject to the weather, pests, disease and a large myriad of influences. Some weeks your CSA share may be less than the retail farmers market value we try to maintain. However, we usually provide more bounty than you could buy at market value. If you find yourself with too many items, do not despair, share the bounty with others! .

How It Works
Join Ben’s Produce CSA by purchasing a CSA share at the beginning of the season. You then visit the weekly pickup site to pack your own vegetables from the harvest table. We will post a guide at the stand explaining what each share contains that week. The CSA harvest season runs for 20 weeks from late-April through September.
We shortened the length of our Summer 2011 CSA to 20 weeks because we found 23 weeks too long and fatiguing, for both you and us. We are also experiencing higher fuel prices as well as the need for livable salaries. Last year, we worked for minimal wages (in the case of Ben) to no wages (in the case of Patricia). Shortening the length of our CSA is our best solution to these challenges we faced in 2010.
Pickup Sites & Times: We have two weekly CSA pickup sites. Our main pickup is Tuesday evenings from 4pm to 7pm at the Raleigh Five Points CSA site, 1911 Bernard St., Raleigh 27608.  We also offer limited pickup every Saturday morning from 8am to 12pm at the Western Wake Farmers Market, 1225 Morrisville Carpenter Rd, Cary 27519. Please consider signing up with the Raleigh Five Points CSA Yahoo Group through the link above, to access information regarding the pickup site and opportunities to support the other farmers who attend as well as local food events and information.
Sharing with others: Some members find it enjoyable to split CSA shares with other families and friends. We also like to share food and enjoy such arrangements. If you choose to split a share, please let us know on your registration so we may avoid confusion.  
Flexibility: We know you may miss pickup for many reasons. We prefer 24 hours notice, if possible. You may send friends or family in your place to pickup if you wish. Missed pickup is forfeit of that weeks share but we will try to make other accommodations if possible.
Communication: Our main mode of communication is email. We will send all members weekly emails usually a day or two before pickup. Our emails are meant as pickup reminders and usually include farm updates, a list of that weeks veggies, a link to our latest blog entry and any notifications regarding pickup. Our blog functions as our farm newsletter that includes farm news, anecdotes, reflections, recipes, photographs and more.
Feedback: Your satisfaction is very important to us and our business. Please give us your feedback! Please give us your suggestions and tell us your concerns. We want our CSA to be fulfilling and pleasing for everybody!
Refunds: We will make no refunds after shares are paid in full. Shareholders are welcome to sell or give away their shares to others. We can provide assistance in transferring shares to others.
Weekly Share Contents
The available produce will change as the season progresses. Regular Shares will contain about 5 to 8 items each week and Full Shares will contain about 8 to 12 items each week.  Ben’s Produce determines the contents of each weeks share. We will try to include all the veggies listed to the best of our abilities.
Vegetable Availability
April:  Arugula, Asian Greens, Green Onions, Kale, Kohlrabi, Lettuce, Peas, Radish, Rutabaga, Salad Greens, Spinach, Strawberries, Swiss chard, Turnips.
May/June: Arugula, Asian Greens, Beets, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Cherry Tomatoes, Sweet Corn, Flowers, Green Onions, Herbs, Kale, Kohlrabi, Leeks, Lettuce, Peas, Radish, Rutabaga, Salad Greens, Spinach, Strawberries, Summer Squash, Swiss Chard, Turnips.
July/August: Beans, Cherry Tomatoes, Sweet Corn, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Flowers, Herbs, Okra, Onions, Potatoes,  Summer Squash, Tomatoes, Tomatillo, Assorted Melons, Hot Peppers, Sweet Peppers, Special Hot Weather Greens.
September: Arugula, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Flowers, Green Onions, Herbs, Lettuce, Okra, Potatoes, Summer Squash, Tomatoes, Tomatillo, Assorted Melons, Hot Peppers, Sweet Peppers, Radish, Salad Greens, Sweet Potatoes, Winter Squash.
Regular Share – $400
 Our Regular Share is a suitable amount of produce for a small household of 1 to 3 people, or one well eating vegetarian to eat for one week. 
Large Share – $600
Our Large Share is a suitable amount of produce for a large household of 4+ people, or a couple of well-eating vegetarians to eat for one week.
Payment Options
Our CSA is first come, first serve. You must send payment to secure a share. We prefer you send us Full Payment but our Payment Plan of a deposit and consecutive payments are accepted for your flexibility.
Full Payment – Enclose a check for the total due.
Payment Plan – Enclose a deposit to secure your share. Please send the amounts listed below 30 days and 60 days after the date of your deposit.
Due Date
Regular Share
Large Share
30 days
60 days

You can find our Summer 2011 CSA Brochure here. Please use the brochure to sign up with us. Please enclose a copy with your information and payment. We hope you will afford us the honor of being your farmers in 2011 and we are looking forward to a great year. We wouldn’t be able to be farmers without you and your support!
Benjamin Shields & Patricia Parker

arugula, blue skies, mizuna, radishes, Spring, tatsoi

Blue Skies

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Spring is surely here and ol’ man winter has gone away! Sure, we may get a few more frosty nights but spring is here. Daffodils and flowering trees are blooming, the cover crops are shooting up and the earth is coming to life! Spiders and bees are out too…as are the weeds.Our first crops in the greenhouse are ready to harvest. We have new arugula, tatsoi, mizuna, lettuce and radishes. Look for them on our store. Coming soon are broccoli rabe and turnips.

Sign up for our CSA if you haven’t yet…thank you if you have! See our CSA through our links on the right and down some.

Patricia and I spent the afternoon working. We went to the greenhouse to check on our plants and bring seedlings to the farm. Here’s some of our afternoon…


me and our first spring radish…

chard, lettuce and broccoli seedlings in soil blocks…

the house…

Patricia peeking through rosemary…

strawberry flowers growing into strawberries…

Seen here, common vetch (the plant) and mycorrhiza (white nodes on the tiny roots), symbiotically related. Vetch supplies nutrients to the mycorrhizae which fixes nitrogen from atmospheric nitrogen which in turn is released into the soil when the plant dies and decomposes. A positive feedback cycle…

Lettuce mesclun growing in the greenhouse…

Scallion seedlings crowned with their dyed seed hulls…

preparing a bed for radishes, turnips and flowers…

Blue skies…

Winter harvest is nearly done and the spring harvest is starting to roll in…We’ll have carrots for another week or two and that will be it until May. No more Chinese cabbage, vitamin green, collards and brussels sprouts. See our store for availability.

This coming Tuesday, March 16th, we plan to have produce pickup at our house, 604 Sasser St., between 4:00 to 7:30 pm. No NCSU delivery this week, spring break. Remember to have your orders placed by Monday evening.

A few of you occasionally may have trouble placing orders. Please make sure you receive an automated confirmation email a few minutes after you place your order. If you do not receive this email your order was not placed and we will not receive it. Please try again or email us your order to shields.ben@gmail.com or call Ben @ 919-800-8898. Also, we do not accept online payments, e.g. PayPal. We only accept payment of cash or checks at pickup.

Purchase of vegetables is made through our online store-

Newly available vegetables:
Easter Egg Radish
Lettuce Mesclun
Mixed Mesclun (all the above except radish)

Current vegetable availability includes:
baby beets
brussels sprouts
sweet potatoes

Late winter /early spring vegetables will include:
broccoli raab
swiss chard

Be good and eat well,
Ben & Patricia