I found signs of spring’s fast approach all over the farm these past two weeks. One of the clearest came from some regular seasonal visitors, whose loud honking could be heard throughout the farm:
Canadian geese return annually to enjoy the temporary ponds left in the fields by snow melt. The wind has been vicious this past week, especially on the Thursday of my visit, and the geese were clearly struggling to hold formation as they descended to join their buddies on the ground. Happily, unlike the domesticated geese that were permanent residents of the farm (they were re-homed last year) these geese don’t take any destructive trips through the greenhouses. Unfortunately, however, the wind has done more damage to the greenhouses than the old geese ever did with their indiscriminate munching:
This now makes two greenhouses that will require a full recovering, in addition to some carpentry touch ups. This was a particularly tough sight to encounter, as the erection and covering of this greenhouse was the very first project I sank my teeth into upon arrival at the farm two years ago. Jen and I casually discussed the prospect of creating a windbreak by transplanting some of the arborvitae leftover from the tree farm that preceded Brookford’s tenure on the land, but as an experienced landscaper, she was skeptical about surmounting the hefty rental cost of the equipment that would be required. In any event, the crew is going to be pros at resetting greenhouse film when they’re finished with these two houses…
Inside the packhouse, Jen was wrapping up a wholesale order for more than a ton of carrots:
Her diligence in maintaining the accuracy and quality of the produce allotted for the order was evident, which is vital to achieving the consistency required to maintain successful relationships with all of the farm’s customers, but particularly wholesale accounts, which must adhere to very strict grading standards.
The previous week I had found the crew sterilizing seed trays. A thorough wash ensures that any plant diseases that may have been acquired during germination last year don’t get carried over to this year. Luckily the veg washing machines help make this relatively short work.
This past week these freshly sterilized trays were already being put to use, with seeding well under way.
This is Sadiqi’s third year with Brookford, and in addition to being one of the farm’s key polyglots, he is the seeding maestro, as evidenced by the stacks of onions behind him. Sadiqi introduced the nickname ‘buffalo’ to farm workers whose efforts and ethics he admires, a reference to the water buffalo so central to agriculture in much of Africa. This is because, as he puts it, “they crush everything and they never die!” While this is no place to share the details of his own harrowing survival story, take my word for it, he is quite the buffalo himself.
As the livestock crew continues to plan their revised approach to caring for these lovely ladies, they are beginning to prepare for the arrival of the next generation of birds, whose adorable little chirps will be gracing this hoop house in just a few weeks.
Spring also means the influx of many new heifers, which provides a chance to get creative with names. I’m particularly excited to meet Pequot, who Paul tells me is the most wee little bovine lady he’s yet encountered.
The farm kitchen housed a most industrious Irina during my visit, who was busy turning the last of the year’s cabbage into sauerkraut. Irina hails from Russia, where she worked as a fuel chemist in the Russian space program. While it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to preserve vegetables, it certainly doesn’t hurt! She also brings some traditional Russian recipes with her such as adjiika, which is an absolute delight to lovers of garlic and spice like myself.
The fruits of her labor are available in the farm store, and will be gaining wider wholesale distribution soon.
The farm kitchen was put to use for more social purposes this past Tuesday, as the site of a farewell potluck for Brady (left):
This gave me the opportunity to meet two of the newest employees on the farm: Pendleton (center) who had just arrived all the way from California (quite a road trip), and will be apprenticing on the whole farm, starting with the veg crew, and Jo (right), who is a very experienced dairy farmer originally from the Boston area. This photo serves as a nice little summary of the changing of the guard.
In my own kitchen, I have recently enjoyed one of the newest additions to the farm’s inventory: chorizo. I uncased the sausage to saute and roll into some simple burritos with rice, beans, smoked cheddar, and some salsa I had made and frozen during our tomato harvest. The four sausages yielded ample leftovers with which to repeat the meal. They were delicious. Available in the farm store, Luke tells me that the chorizo has been flying off the shelves.
I’ve noticed that the waning supply of storage veggies comprising the CSA shares still include large quantities of daikon and other large radishes, which always remind me of my favorite sandwich, Bahn Mi. For those not familiar, Bahn Mi is arguably the best thing (probably one of the few unequivocally good things) to ever result from French colonialism. A marriage of staples from both Vietnamese and French cuisines--such as baguettes, mayonnaise, pickled root vegetables, heavily marinated grilled meats, etc, the sandwiches have a unique flavor profile. They were an addiction in which I regularly indulged when I lived in NYC and Philly. So to offer up a hopefully new and exciting use for the radishes and carrots that regularly appear in CSA shares this time of year, I took my first plunge into creating Bahn Mi at home.
While there are many variations of the sandwiches (I understand ‘Bahn Mi’ to translate simply to ‘bread’), I opted for my old favorite built around grilled chicken. Using this recipe, I was very pleased with the end result; and though it didn’t quite match the taste of those Bahn Mi from my favorite Vietnamese joints in the big cities, or the hyperbolic introduction in the recipe, it more than scratched the itch. I used the chicken thighs we already had instead of the breast meat suggested in the recipe, and was happy that I did. Foregoing the pate that is typical to the sandwiches, I opted to lean harder on the mayo, as did the above recipe. Our household never has mayo on hand, so I used Alton Brown’s mayonnaise recipe, but substituted lime for lemon, as it was what we had and it matched the flavors of the marinade. The chicken was great, and the mayo didn’t disappoint, but the real stars of the show were the quick-pickled carrots and purple daikon:
On more than one occasion I have caught my wife huddled by the fridge forking these yummies straight out of the jar.
Much like you, dear reader, we try to eat as locally as possible, making regular exceptions for less perishable items like sauces, grains, oils, and spices. But I must admit that there were four notable departures from these ideals made for these sandwiches: cucumber, cilantro, jalapeno and lime. The recipe could be followed without their addition, but as we had all four leftover from a previous meal for which we had slackened our consumptive standards, I was happy to use them here. Dried cilantro or the farm’s own cilantro pesto would be a viable substitute, as would mildly pickled cucumbers, and a hot sauce like sriracha to supplant the jalapenos. And if you’re as lucky as we are, you’ll have your own dwarf lime tree in your sun room this year from which to source future citrus.
This scrumptious handsome devil hit the spot as I wrapped up my seed order for the coming season. Should you find yourself in NYC or Philadelphia anytime soon, I highly recommend you find out how high the bar can be set at Saigon Bahn Mi on Grand St in the heart of Manhattan’s Little Italy, or Fu Wah Deli on Baltimore Ave in West Philly. I used to live across the street from Fu Wah--a privelege which was calorically and financially dangerous. If anyone has a recommendation for great Vietnamese spots here in NH or greater New England, please share!
That’s all for now, I’ll be back in a few weeks with more. Once again, on behalf of the whole farm, thank you so much for your business, and the values that brought it to us!