For the first time, I hesitated to reflect on the year. Do I really want to look back on this one? Or should we just leave it behind and look forward? Despite the unique challenges, there have been bright spots and moments of learning and growth.
Farming is conducive to social distancing and we were grateful to be able to continue our work and feel safe doing so. Our first major challenge was school closure. Like so many parents, our workday suddenly went from something resembling eight hours to basically zero. Maxwell and Flora’s teachers graciously worked with me to allow them to come to the farm and do some paper work while David and I tried to continue with the spring rush of planting, cultivating, greenhouse work, and transitioning to harvest and CSA deliveries. We found a groove. As soon as we went through the large yellow gate and entered the farm property, the kids would unbuckle, roll down the windows, and stick their heads out to feel the wind.
They spent hours in the garden each day, reading under a tent, doing their school work, helping to hoe or plant, entertaining the staff, watching us work and growing. If there was time, we would take them to play in the creek or the river at the end of the day. They may not have been learning much by academic standards, but they more than made up for it in life experience.
Once I had researched the proper COVID protocol and come up with what we felt were safe measures for CSA deliveries, the second challenge came. The farm flooded back-to-back the first two weeks of CSA deliveries.
We rearranged the dates and used canoes to make sure those first weeks of harvest were not lost. The produce was in the field after all, above the flood. It was only the roads that were a problem. Thankfully, we resumed the normal, predictable schedule after those initial weeks.
June brought two employees needing to leave and one learning about and dealing with serious medical issues. It also brought ripening fruit on the tomato vines we had cared for over the course of several months. With the first harvested heirloom tomato came a reckoning in our country and across the globe. We listened, we read, we donated, we protested peacefully. We struggled with ways to make deep, long-lasting change and not simply a statement that made us feel better. We continue to work on this and towards this.
By the end of summer, we had eaten our weight in squash and cucumbers, brought on new staff members, planned for virtual school by hiring someone to help with that at home, and felt some sort of balance and acceptance with our life, different as it was from how we thought the year would be. I laugh at my February self, making a calendar of CSA events, one for each month.
In fall, we missed the hustle of preparation for the Harvest Party. It was the first time in 15 years that we did not host this event on the farm.
Now we start anew; new seeds, new soil, new dreams.
Here is to 2021 and being ready for the joys, challenges, and good food that it brings.
From Six Seasons by Joshua McFadden
About 2 pounds pumpkin, unpeeled, cut into wedges, seeds scraped out
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ground beef chuck
½ pound ground pork
1 cup finely chopped onion
½ cup finely chopped celery
½ cup finely chopped carrot
1 cup dry, unoaked white wine
1 cup whole milk
Cooked pasta of your choice (any short or long shape will be nice)
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for serving
Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
Brush the pumpkin wedges with olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Arrange on a baking sheet and roast, turning once, until fully tender, about 25 minutes.
Let the pumpkin cool, then scrape the flesh into a food processor. Blend until you have a smooth puree. Transfer the puree to a saucepan or large skillet and cook over medium-high heat, scraping frequently with a spatula, until the puree has lost a lot of its water and the pumpkin is thick and concentrated in flavor-like tomato paste, but with pumpkin. This could take 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the moisture level of your pumpkin.
Heat a glug of olive oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef and pork, breaking up any big chunks, and cook until the meats are no longer pink, another 5 to 10 minutes. Take care to not brown the meat; you don’t want crusty bits. Remove the meat.
Add the onion, celery, and carrot. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and lots of twists of pepper. As soon as the vegetables begin to sizzle, reduce the heat to medium-low. Keep cooking, stirring frequently, until they are soft and fragrant, but not browned at all, about 10 minutes.
Return the meat to the pan, then add the wine. Simmer until the wine has reduced to just a small amount of liquid, about 10 minutes.
Fold in the pumpkin mixture and the milk. Season with salt and pepper, and adjust the heat to a very low simmer, cover, and simmer the sauce until the flavors are all nicely married, another hour or so. Check on the sauce during cooking to be sure it’s not drying out; if so, add a bit more water. You want the meat to be in very small bits and the meat fat should have separated out a bit. Taste the sauce and adjust with more salt and lots of pepper, if needed.
Serve with cooked pasta and lots of grated Parmigiano.
Avocado and Radish Mini-Tartines
From The French Market Cookbook
By Clotide Dusoulier
4 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Hot sauce (optional)
1 slim baguette
A bunch or two of radishes, trimmed
Scoop the avocado flesh into a bowl. Add the lemon juice, cumin, and salt and season with pepper and hot sauce (if using). Mash the avocado roughly to get a slightly chunky texture. Taste and adjust the seasoning; it should be so zesty you have to resist eating the whole bowl with a spoon.
Slice the baguette at an angle into ½-inch slices and spread the slices with the mashed avocado.
Using a mandolin slicer or very sharp knife, slice the radishes crosswise into paper-thin rounds. Scatter on top of the avocado, sprinkle with a touch more salt, and serve.
Stuffed Eggplant with Lamb and Pine Nuts
From Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi
Serves 4 generously
“These are deliciously hearty and best served with some bread or simple rice and come pickled beets on the side.”
4 medium eggplants, halved lengthwise
6 tbsp olive oil
1 ½ tsp ground cumin
1 ½ tbsp sweet paprika
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 lb ground lamb
7 tbsp pine nuts
2/3 ounce flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 tsp tomato paste
3 tsp superfine sugar
2/3 cup water
1 ½ tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp tamarind paste
4 cinnamon sticks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Place the eggplant halves, skin side down in a roasting pan large enough to accommodate them snugly. Brush the flesh with 4 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with 1 teaspoon salt and plenty of black pepper. Roast for about 20 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
While the eggplants are cooking, you can start making the stuffing by heating the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large frying pan. Mix together the cumin, paprika, and ground cinnamon and add half of this spice mix to the pan, along with the onions. Cook over medium-high heat for about 8 minutes, stirring often, before adding the lamb, pine nuts, parsley, tomato paste, 1 teaspoon of the sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, and some black pepper. Continue to cook and stir for another 8 minutes, until the meat is cooked.
Place the remaining spice mix in a bowl and add the water, lemon juice, tamarind, the remaining 2 teaspoons sugar, the cinnamon sticks, and ½ teaspoon salt; mix well.
Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees. Pour the spice mix into the bottom of the eggplant roasting pan. Spoon the lamb mixture on top of each eggplant. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil, return to the oven, and roast for 1 ½ hours, by which point the eggplants should be completely soft and the sauce thick; twice during the cooking, remove the foil and baste the eggplants with the sauce, adding some water if the sauce dries out. Serve warm, not hot, or at room temperature.
Sweet Potato Gnocchi
(milk mustache optional)
Flora made this sweet potato gnocchi from a recipe included in a monthly kids cooking subscription that she receives (raddishkids.com), which I recommend!
Here is a link to the sweet potato gnocchi I most often use:
But here is the one that I want to try next, because it calls for broccoli raab, which is rapini after flowering. The rapini we grow on the farm will be perfect!
Or this one:
Birdsong Farmers Market is a FARMER-RUN market!
We feel that, as farmers, we succeed when we work together and connect directly to our customers.
Currently, the market is held every Saturday morning from 7 am to noon at Automatic Seafood and Oysters.
Learn more on the website
Follow the market on social media
SPREAD THE WORD!
And, thank you.
Celebrate the Fourth of July with us and gather the best ingredients for a celebratory meal.
This season is full of flavor and a visit to the farmers market will reward you with produce that doesn't require much effort to create something special.
quick cucumber pickles, lettuce, and tomatoes for your burgers; crisp cabbage and carrot slaw; sweet wedges of melon
There is so much happening in the world, it is difficult for me to concentrate on our small life on the farm. What seemed important yesterday, last week, last year; seems less so today. There are worms in the cabbage, but our children are safe and our problems are those of privilege. There are weeds in the tomatoes, but none of us are sick. We find solace in what formerly felt out of our control.
We go about our work, though our minds are distracted and want to contribute more to the betterment of humankind.
Nature and the garden take no notice.
Low humidity levels are keeping the warm, sunny days enjoyable. Ginger is being planted in the high tunnels, along with winter squash in the field this week, both for fall harvest. There are early summer lettuces ready for transplant and to be covered with a shade cloth as an experiment in late spring salad growing. Succession plantings of basil, sunflowers, melons, squash, and cukes are all going into the field soon and a final seeding of tomatoes is just beginning to germinate.
Farming keeps our bodies busy, even as our minds are free to contemplate how to focus our resources to improve the lives of everyone in our community.
I am often asked the question “What do you do with Bok Choy?”
My favorite recipes are on our website (Bok Choy recipes), but I am always looking for new ways to enjoy this nutritious, delicious, and relatively easy to grow vegetable.
We are launching a Bok Choy Recipe Contest to help us find new ways to enjoy it!
It can be one you have developed or one you found in a cookbook or online (be sure to give credit where credit is due!).
We’ll take recipes through next Monday, May 11th, and announce the winner on Monday, May 18th.
The winner will receive a Snow’s Bend Farm t-shirt and custom hat made by Vero, The Traveling Artist.
Well, it has been a rough start in a strange year in general, but I’d rather not dwell on that.
I’d rather tell you what the garden looks and feels like right now.
Each week brings new growth and what was bare soil not that long ago is now a lush, green garden.
March 20th April 20th
There are as many as 6 Great Egrets that I sometimes see soaring against the backdrop of the many shades of spring green the tree leaves hold right now. I try to take pictures, but when I look at them, they do not do the scene justice.
They are an excellent reminder of why we chose to farm and why, against all odds, we continue to do it. Our love of the natural world and residing in it has always been a strong motivator for our work.
In the garden this time of year, there is an overlap of spring crops being harvested and some succession plantings being tended to for later harvest, as well as summer crops that we are regularly planting and tending to. In the span of two days, I transplanted cucumber and squash plants into the field and seeded a succession of them in the greenhouse.
potatoes with lettuce and radishes behind and spring flowers beyond those
Maxwell and Flora helping to seed a succession planting of cucumbers, squash, and zucchini
Over the winter we assembled a third high tunnel, which allows us to plant even more early tomato plants. In the newest and largest high tunnel, we will experiment with a ‘lower and lean’ trellising system.
newest high tunnel full of tomato plants, April 5th
Growing in a high tunnel sometimes feels like a bit of agricultural magic in an occupation filled with things that seem out of our control. The plants are planted directly into the soil, but the greenhouse-like plastic covering keeps the soil from becoming compacted by heavy rains, protects the plants from strong winds, and gives us a bit of control over temperature. It creates an ideal growing environment in which plants thrive.
our resident tomato whisperer
More tomato plants are going into the field as well, along with flowers, peppers, and eggplant.
We are choosing to keep our focus on the positive things sure to come out of the garden this season!
Everyone’s life looks much different than it did a month or so ago.
Instead of rushing our kids out the door with hugs, backpacks, and wishes for a great day, we all ride out to the farm together. I pop up a tent for shade and lay out a quilt underneath on the soft, green grass near where I plan to work for the day.
After a few worksheets, a snack, and a game, Maxwell and Flora will wander over to me and ‘help’ with a farm job for a while. Some days this will lead to them wandering around the garden, playing in the soil, digging deep into their imaginations, or regaling the staff with their stories. Other days they begin asking to go home early.
I am not accomplishing as much as I usually would, or as much as I would like to, but on Saturdays and Sundays I wake up before anyone else, pour a thermos full of coffee, and sneak off to the farm alone. It has been years since I have been able to enjoy sunrise in the garden. It is completely quiet, except for the bird song. The day is full of promise.
I would be remiss to leave you with that idyllic image of farming, which if I were to read would leave me screaming at my computer screen “That is not what it is like!” The truth is, some days are perfectly pastoral and others are a mess.
On the morning of our scheduled first CSA harvest of the season, we awoke to a flooded farm road and the river on the rise after over 5 ½ inches of rain fell overnight. Strong winds left trees down across the road and the power out at our packing shed, meaning we had no access to water and no refrigeration. Hail had torn through tender salad leaves leaving them looking battered.
Everything will not be perfect this year, it never is. We will do our best and we will all likely eat very well this year, but there will be a bad strawberry in the batch one day, a squashed tomato, some beetle bites out of a bunch of greens. There will be ups and downs. There will be beauty and frustration in each day.
For now, I will simply say how tremendously thankful we are to those of you trusting us to be your farmers!
Eat better, live better!
The food is our main reason for farming. Once you begin to regularly cook meals at home and eat truly fresh produce, it is nearly impossible to settle for less. It does take time, but the return is grand!
You’ll feel better physically and mentally, plus you’ll spend more time around a table with the people you love.
Everything that we sell is grown by us on Snow’s Bend! We know everything that has happened from seed to your kitchen.
It is all grown using organic practices, but more importantly we let our young children graze straight from the field with the full confidence of its clean and pure goodness!
Join today and enjoy the benefits of eating well all year!
A FARM TO CALL YOUR OWN
Forming a strong connection between the people eating the produce grown on Snow’s Bend and the farmers growing it, as well as between eaters and the land the food is grown upon, is one of the most important (and enjoyable) aspects of our job!
CSA members are invited to the farm for our annual Harvest Party, for occasional work days, discounted farm tours and tastings, as well as new events planned for this coming year.
Last year we hosted multiple CSA events in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, including a Tomato Tasting and a Watermelon Seed Spitting Contest!
When you join our CSA, you are joining a strong community of people that give thought to the food they are eating, the people that are doing the work, and the care of the land.
GROWN WITH CARE
We put a great deal of thought and effort into our growing practices, which include hand weeding, cover cropping, Integrated Pest Management, hoeing, soil science, and crop rotation to name a few.
With confidence, we can answer any and all questions about the produce in your CSA box and how it was grown.
Snow’s Bend is a little piece of the planet we strive to protect. We are strongly connected to this place, so take seriously our responsibility to leave it better than we found it.
Wendell Berry ends his poem Prayers and Sayings of a Mad Farmer with the words “Make the world a better piece of ground.” That is what we strive for everyday!
SHARE IN AN AGRICULTURAL HISTORY
We are not the first to farm Snow’s Bend and, hopefully, will not be the last.
The first people that we know of were associated with Moundville and their time here dates back to sometime around the 1500s. There is a mound located on the farm (see the photo of our son standing on top of it) and many pieces of pottery were found here in the 1930s. Maize was their main crop, but there were others. Currently, more archeological research is being done on Snow’s Bend!
This land has seen many iterations of agriculture; from sharecroppers and sugarcane to cattle and row crops. Once, in the 1970s, the entire acreage (almost 200 acres) was planted in turnip and mustard greens. Pictured is the conveyor used to harvest those greens and men packing them down into a container.
And then there is us...we are still writing our story.
I am on a personal journey to connect the dots and the people that have farmed this land.
Follow along with us!
PRESERVING THE SMALL FAMILY FARM
Before we began our farming endeavor, David’s family land was leased to other farmers. In 2004, we took over the lease and were the first generation to be the ones actually working the land.
We have two young children and feel all too well the struggle to balance farm and family, but realize the importance of raising the next generation with a knowledge of food and what it takes to produce it.
This is our full-time, and only, job. If we do not succeed, we do not get paid.
We could not do it without our incredible staff! They work harder than you can imagine, and they do so with care, for the land and for our customers.
It is critical to us that every person working on Snow’s Bend is paid well, takes time off, and has a good life!
Feel good about the food you eat, not just the health benefits and deliciousness of it, but also the people behind it!
From Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi
2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for brushing the pastry
1 large onion, diced
1 bunch chard, stems and leaves finely shredded but kept separate
5 ounces celery, thinly sliced
1 ¾ green onion, chopped
1 ¾ ounce arugula
1 ounce flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 ounce mint, chopped
2/3 ounce dill, chopped
4 ounces anari or ricotta cheese, crumbled
3 ½ ounces aged Cheddar cheese, grated
2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 large free-range eggs
1/3 tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp superfine sugar
9 ounces filo pastry
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Pour the olive oil into a large, deep frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for 8 minutes without browning. Add the chard stems and the celery and continue cooking for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chard leaves, increase the heat to medium-high, and stir as you cook for 4 minutes, until the leaves wilt. Add the green onion, arugula, and herbs and cook for 2 minutes more. Remove from the heat and transfer to a colander to cool.
Once the mixture is cool, squeeze out as much water as you can and transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the three cheeses, lemon zest, eggs, salt, pepper, and sugar and mix well.
Lay out a sheet of filo pastry and brush it with some olive oil. Cover with another sheet and continue in the same manner until you have 5 layers of filo brushed with oil, all covering an area large enough to line the sides and bottom of a 8 ½-inch pie dish, plus extra to hang over the rim. Line the pie dish with the pastry, fill with the herb mix, and fold the excess pastry over the edge of the filling, trimming the pastry as necessary to create a ¾-inch border.
Make another set of 5 filo layers brushed with oil and place them over the pie. Scrunch up the pastry a little to create a wavy, uneven top and trim the edges so it just covers the pie. Brush generously with olive oil and bake for 40 minutes, until the filo turns a nice golden brown. Remove from the oven and serve warm or at room temperature.
NEWS FROM THE BEND
From planting time to the growing and harvesting seasons,