In the Winter, We Dream and We Organize

Until I was about 23, I absolutely hated winter. Call it seasonal depression, all it spring fever, call it what you will, but I would skip classes, blow off work and hunker down in my bed, reading the days away and re-watching our old VHS tapes.

But in the last few years I’ve come to embrace this season of hibernation. The farm body is ready for it, and by November and the ending of the CSA season I was collapsing in my bed before dark and sleeping twelve hours a night. It was glorious. As for the cold? I want it – give me more of it. Cold and snow kill pests and disease and weed seed – snow and snow and snow, Winter. I’m ready.

So it’s been great to be enveloped out here on the western edge of the county, if only for a couple of days. I even ventured out with the dogs today – who absolutely love the snow – and they expressed my happiness with hours of crazy dog snow playing antics. Followed by big naps, of course. Did I mention I love winter now?

arya-bed

I’ve been able to sleep, attempt a home brew for the first time in what feels like forever, and even sit down to work on some of the fiction writing I began back in 2015 with my Francesca Lia Block writing class. Big hugs to Taylor, my excellent cousin who has been reading and editing that particular project with me. I’ve been catching a yoga class, working on my emotional and spiritual health and awareness and, of course, catching up on my beloved kid animation series.  Miyazaki, anyone? Gundam Wing?

gundams-and-singing-bowls

Gundam Wing and singing bowls and dance records – this almost completely sums up November-February.

I even had the chance to road trip out to Illinois to see some of my favorite people, and unwind in a way I struggle to do when I’m in my home environment. Plus, there were great dinosaurs in Chicago. Can’t get enough of the dinosaurs.

It’s given me time to plan, as well. A few weeks ago I attended a Wholesale Success Workshop presented by Buy Fresh By Local Greater Lehigh Valley and taught by Atina Diffley – an extraordinary grower and woman who, with her husband, has run an incredible organic production since the ’70s AND won an eminent domain dispute with the Koch Brothers over her farm – and it reminded me of one very important facet of Crooked Row – the need to stay organized.

Even though I’m not producing on a wholesale scale (yet, anyway -cue the futuristic success music), the lessons Diffley shared were just as important to me as to someone producing for a grocery store – connect to your audience on an interpersonal level with your food, create beautiful, nutritious quality standards, and be consistent. Plan, plan, plan your successions and your schedules and your fields as meticulously as you can before your arms-deep in lettuce and wondering why you didn’t make a field map. Get your paperwork together. Stay organized.

Obviously, not my favorite part of farming. In fact, when I thought that becoming a grower meant I got to throw out all the stuffy, Type-A bits of my personality I felt made me a square, I railed against the organizational aspects, the specifics of planning to seed and plant and harvest.

Unfortunately, every time I work on a non-related farm task, I remember how good I am at all of those things. And, for the first time, I’m trying to embrace that.

It’s hard for me to really describe this disconnect – that I don’t deserve to spend this type of time and mental efforts on my own projects, or that I feel it’s some undesirable part of the farming field so I should disregard it. The previous distaste for ag-organization is something I’ve spent a lot of time reframing mentally mover the last few months, and I’m glad for that. I think all my projects benefit from me  thinking about them and planning for them.

One of these projects was filing some Pennsylvania Certified Organic paperwork for the first time. The paperwork was tedious, but not particularly hard, and I’ve been putting it off for years because my crowd and my customers seem to love my food whether there’s a sticker on it or not. But I am curious as to the benefits of being able to finally, legally be able to use the “O” word and, as previously stated, this allowed space for me to organize my fields and my life in a new way. A better way.

Because I want to grow the herb side of things, you see. And become a better, more responsible grower as a whole. Folks are asking for more – and I want to be able to give it to them without giving away all of myself in the process. I think I can, I think I can.

trexlertown-herb-shelves

The Trexlertown Winter Market has been bustling nicely. We brave flurries and cold feet to come out there on the first and third Saturdays of the month, and the crowd seems happy to have us. This season my herbs and teas will also be available at the Macungie Farmers’ Market on Thursdays – as well as a few other places to be revealed in the near future. 😉

I’ve also been forging new relationships with some also Lehigh Valley folks. This year we’ll be offering CSA pick-up points at the Vitality Natural Healthcare Center in Emmaus and at the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in downtown Allentown. Both centers strive to offer healthy and welcoming education and care to their communities, and I couldn’t be prouder to be partnering with them.

bradbury-sullivan

We are also hosting a pick-up at Lit Roastery and Bakeshop in Southside Bethlehem, run by our friends at Monocacy Coffee and Made By Lino.

lit

I’ve also been working with the Slatington Main Street Merchants Group to revitalize the town where I grew up. It’s not something that happens overnight, for sure, but the local organizations and the Greater Northern Lehigh Chamber of Commerce has been instrumental in taking these strides. The Blue Mountain Farm Market has run pop-up markets in conjunction with the area’s new First Friday initiative, and it’s been a blast to see so many people in town excited about the area again. Stay tuned for more in this department, and for some possible food collaborations with our dear Jason at Charlotte Fay’sCharlotte Fay’s Diner.

open-today-sign-first-friday

And National CSA Day is right around the corner! Get ready to check out all the amazing growers in this area and your opportunity to support their farms from the seedlings up. We’re partnered with some awesome folks again this season for share add-ons, and each year I tighten up my production a little more to grow more of what you want.

Click Here for All of the Crooked Row CSA Details!

  Egg Shares: – 22 or 11 weeks of delicious eggs from our pastured, soy-free fed, delightfully happy chickens. $105 for weekly delivery or $55 for every-other week delivery.
The Nesting Box hens live in the shadow of Hawk Mountain, so they are not pastured or they would be very often eaten, but Timi’s family grows their own non-GMO feed on site and is a spectacular chicken mom. Phil Kelly’s chickens roam free in his forested-property in Mertztown. Delicious eggs. And we hope to have our own flock at a new home in Orefield this season! Details TBA.

 Monocacy Coffee ($105) – 2lbs of locally-roasted flavors each month
https://www.facebook.com/monocacycoffeeco/

 Lehigh Valley Kombucha – (Half/$100 or $210, Full/$200 or $420) – a 750ml bottle or a gallon of local, healthy, flavored, freshly-bottled Kombucha.
https://www.facebook.com/LehighValleyKombucha/

 Cheese (Half/60 or Full/$110) 1 1⁄2 lb block from various local cheese-makers
http://kleinfarms.com/
http://www.valleymilkhouse.com/
And so many more!

 Wayfare Baker Bread (Half/$150 Full $300) 2 loaves of John’s unique and varied sourdough flavors. More can be ordered as needed via his website, to be delivered with your shares. Contact him directly for more details.
http://www.thewayfarebaker.com/

Fruit Shares and Meat Shares or a monthly meat buyer’s club from local, pastured sources are also available for CSA participants. Contact me for more info!

I hope you’ll consider joining Crooked Row’s adventure again this season.

csa-day

Because that’s what our local growing scene is here for, friends – to bring healthy food from our fields to your tables. To keep our economic dollars within the Lehigh Valley. To support other like-minded businesses. And to bring you closer to the people around you.

There’s some strife in the air right now, and a fair share of worry and tension. But here, there doesn’t have to be. Here is an open space to love each other and love the food we grow and make and share.

fenceland

 Because one day all of this will be lettuce and carrots and food for you.

Hugs and Kale,
Farmer Liz

kale-shirt

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