The Farm Blog

See You in September

Summer is already coming to an end -did you blink?
August was filled with rain. Over 11 inches to be exact.  We’ve got squash all over the place, watermelons are looking great, and sweet potatoes are right around the corner.  Also, our chickens are in full production mode and the eggs are as delicious as they are beautiful.

So fall is a couple weeks away and this time of year is wonderful.  Yes, it’s unfortunate that summer has to come to an end. Pools are closed, the state fair now a fond memory. However, now we’ve got cool mornings, pretty leaves, and football!
With those crisp mornings and a hot cup-a-joe, or hot chocolate, or tea -you need a really hearty meal to get you through the morning.  Well, we think we’ve got one for you. A no frills recipe that will fill you up and use some beautiful, seasonal ingredients.

Check out the recipe below and stop by The Cheese Shop tonight (Thursday) or the Farmers Market on Saturday to get your ingredients!

“Grade A Fall Skillet”
This really comes courtesy of Health-Bent, with a few adjustments.

  • 1 lbs. Breakfast Sausage (go local)
  • 1-2 cups of sweet potato, squash, or a combination.
  • 4-6 eggs. Whatever you have room for.
  • Cheese!
  • Salt and Pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Use a large cast iron skillet and brown the meat at medium heat.  Once it’s done remove it from the skillet with a slotted spoon and set aside.  Try to leave as much fat in the pan as possible.
Dice up the squash or sweet potato (we used delicata squash) and cook it in the sausage fat until they’re crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.
Once the squash/sweet potato is done add the sausage back in along with some salt and pepper, and make little pockets for your eggs.  Drop the eggs into their little nests, cover the whole thing with cheese (can be done before, during, or after the oven) , and put the skillet in your 400 degree oven. Keep an eye on the eggs and once they’re done to your liking, go ahead and pull it out.  You’re done!  That’s it.
For our cheese we used a grass fed cheddar.  Some sort of chevre would be good too, but I would wait until the skillet is out of the oven to add that.  For an added heartiness I highly recommend topping with diced avocado, as the original recipe indicates.
Pretty simple, but it’s a good “warm your belly” kind of breakfast.

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Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Lettucehead

The Cure

Hey all!
It’s been pretty busy around here, and in keeping with Iowa tradition; pretty much no rain.  For what we’ve got going on now at the farm though, no rain is actually kind of a good thing!
WHAT?  I know.  Stick with me here.

So, right now it’s all about the garlic and onions. You can bet that here at Grade A we are 100% vampire-free.
Specifically, we’re curing.  Curing, as in preservation.  We want your garlic and onions to last through the winter.

A couple weeks ago we harvested somewhere around 12,000 head of garlic.  Here’s step one of the garlic harvest for your viewing pleasure:

This week we’re on to the onions.  We know the onion harvest is getting near when the foliage is laying down and looking pretty…well, dead.  Which is all according to plan.  As they mature, they drop their tops and all the energy from the foliage drops down to the bulbs.  This means deliciousness for us!  We give them a few days in the ground like this and when the top portion of the onion starts to firm up, they’re ready to come out of the ground.
If it rains while these guys are finishing up in the field they could rot.  So, we keep a close eye on the forecast and if it looks like rain, we’ll pull them early.  Nothing major is lost by harvesting them a bit early; we’re simply leaving them in the field so they can get as big as possible.  No need to worry though, we started harvesting this week and they’re looking beautiful!10286880_10152213190130025_6585875602182559236_o

Once pulled, the onions (and garlic for that matter), spend two or three weeks in our new curing facility.  We weren’t so fortunate last year and had to be creative, but this year we have a building with plenty of room to hang garlic and lay onions.
Like I said, we currently have 12-15 thousand head of garlic hanging.  That leaves us with around 7,000 onions 15,000 garlic left to be cured.  And after today, the onions are on their way.photo 2 photo 1

The onions we’re working with right now are known as a storage variety.  We’ve got yellows and reds.  We don’t cure the Walla Wallas, as there’s too much sugar in them.

Interesting fact: in Mexico, they often pull the onions and let them lay and cure right there in the field.  Not recommended in our lovely corner of the world due to the chance for rain to come up without much notice.

So why is curing important?  If you want to store them and eat local year-round, they need to be dry.
After the onions camp out on the cool concrete for two to three weeks, we cut the brown, cut the tops, and clean up any straggling roots; then they’re ready for winter storage.  Put them in a bag in a cool, dry location and they’ll be good until late winter/early spring.

Curing has been going on for hundreds and hundreds of years, and it’s a great way to insure that you have some choice, Grade A produce throughout the year!

So now you’re on the up-and-up with the farm.  Hmmm, what else?
A couple teasers for ya; the hens are getting VERY close to laying and we’re really excited!  Look for them at the market real soon.  Also, we’re going to have our second installment of Grade A Chef’s Challenge coming up in the next week or two; we may feature those gorgeous eggs!

Happy August everyone!  Talk to you soon.

Lettucehead

Last train to Clarksville, passing a babbling brook

Hey All!
We have a special treat for you this time -welcome to the first recipe blog post!  We’re hoping there will be more of these.
We gave a local, professional chef this week’s CSA box and asked him to put a meal together, using as much or as little of the box as he wanted.  We supply a protein for the meal and they do the rest!
For this episode we’ve got Chef Austin Bailey.  Formally of The Cheese Shop, he is now Executive Chef at Wesley Acres.  He choose a whole chicken as the protein and we filmed him along the way.

We hope you enjoy the video and Chef Austin’s recipe below.  Don’t worry; if you’re not a CSA member you can still get your hands on these ingredients from us at the Farmers Market!

We’ll talk to you soon,

Lettucehead

Roasted Chicken with Braised Kale and Heirloom Green Beans
The Brooks and Clark Collaboration

For the Roasted Chicken and Potatoes

1 7-9 lb Organic Chicken
5 Baby Potatoes, washed
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bring Chicken out of fridge and allow to rest at room temp for 15 minutes. Rub chicken with EVOO to coat the outside and apply kosher salt liberally to both outside and inside of cavity.  Sprinkle with black pepper.  Place in roasting pan or cast iron skillet. Wash potatoes and dry.  Apply EVOO liberally and toss potatoes with salt and pepper.  Place in roasting pan with chicken.  Roast chicken and potatoes until an instant-read thermometer reads 165 degrees F and potatoes are easily pierced with a fork, about 1 1⁄2 hours.   Allow chicken to rest at least 10 minutes before carving.

For the Red Wine Braised Kale

2 Bell peppers, small dice
1 zucchini squash, chopped
1/2 onion, small dice
2 bulbs garlic, minced
1 bunch kale, roughly chopped
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 Tbsp Grass Fed Butter
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a medium sauté pan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Sauté peppers, onion, and garlic stirring occasionally until soft. Add kale and stir to ensure all kale is starting to cook and wilt. Add red wine and reduce heat to low. Allow to simmer until kale is soft and plyable. Add Salt and Pepper to taste.

For the Heirloom Green Beans and Shallots

1 shallot or onion, minced
3 cups heirloom green beans, trimmed
1 Tbsp Grass fed butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring a sauce pan full of salted water to boil and blanch green beans until almost tender. Once slightly cooked, drain beans and cool immediately to stop cooking. In a medium sauté pan, melt butter.  Add shallot to pan and cook until soft and translucent, about 2 minutes. Add beans and sauté until cooked through and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy!

Chef Austin Bailey

I think it was the Fourth of July

Hey hey!

Welcome to our blog!  We’ve been wanting to start one for quite some time, but we always find ourselves busy on the farm.  This time of year especially, but we wanted to give you a little more of a peek into Grade A Gardens.  Things we’ve got goin’ on, news, upcoming events, recipes, yummy pairings with some of our friends’ products (meat, cheese, wine, beer, etc), things like that.  It should be a good time!
Who knows how regularly we’re going to have a post for you, but you can bet it will be multiple times a season, as well as some in the off-season!

IMG_4736

Jordan tilling the melons. Happy melons on the right, MELONcholy melons on the left.

What’s been goin’ on.

Like I said; we’ve been mighty busy.  The massive amount of rains have been a farmer’s dream and really cuts down on our irrigation dependency (non-existent so far this season – woot!).  Along with the rain and wind, comes the weeds.  Oh, the weeds…  We’ve been busy pulling, tilling, trying to make things pretty, and the plants thriving.

We’ve also got plenty of projects in the works. One of which are the lovely ladies!  That’s right, we’ve got 124 beautiful hens out in IMG_4704the alfalfa field (certified organic -only the best for our gals!).  They’ve got a wonderful 10′ x 16′ coop on wheels that we move every other day to provide fresh grazing grounds.  There’s a large fenced in area that allows them that much-needed freedom. At night they huddle into the coop to roost.  Thomas is still working on the coop; getting laying boxes in, painting, and more roosting space. These are spring chickens (see what I did there?) and should start laying VERY soon.  We’re hoping to have some eggs available within the next 4-6 weeks!  mmmm, eggs.

In other news and things we like;

Our garlic harvest has begun!  Always a special time here at Grade A, and this year is no exception.  We pulled 2,500 garlic plants out of the soil, with over 20,000 left to go.  We’ll be harvesting all month!  Expect some garlicky goodness at the Farmers Market and in the CSA!  Also, our onions are doing amazingly this year! For you folks that were around last year, you may remember that our onions were… well, a bit lacking.  Not this year!

Along with the farm work, we’ve been getting out and visiting with folks.  We dropped by our very own Johnston Farmers Market on Tuesday!  We also stopped by the Urbandale Hy-Vee on Wednesday for the “Meet Your Farmer” event, and got to meet Kristin Porter of Iowa Girl Eats.  As you can see by the picture below, Jordan was starstruck!  It was a wonderful event and was another opportunity to talk about what we love to the people who love to eat it!

Jordan with Iowa Girl Eats

Well, I think that’s all for now.  Thanks for stopping by.  We’re hoping next week we’ll have a video and recipe to share with you!  Here’s hoping!!

Yours Truly,

Lettucehead

P.S.  Make sure to stop in and see us at the Downtown Farmers Market this Saturday!  We should have some things you haven’t seen yet this season!