Its amazing how fast 2016 went by, and here we are already a well into the new year.
As many of you know we scaled back at the farm quite a bit last year. This has been wonderful as we were able to spend more time with family and even go to the beach a few times. We love visiting with all of our family, especially these two young men. It is amazing how fast they grow!
Dean had a triple by-pass just a few weeks ago, and as you can see he is doing well. He is already walking up the Nisqually Hill, and we are looking forward to another beach trip soon.
We had an unfortunate and sad event a bit ago as well. A stray dog came onto the farm while we were away and destroyed our chicken coop and killed all of our chickens. This was a very sad sight to return home to! Currently we do not have any animals on the farm and are looking at how we want to house the chickens and other animals going forward.
This upcoming year we are looking at more changes still, but more information on that soon!
Hard to believe we are into August already, the summer is flying by! The biggest news this past month was the wonderful Farm to Table dinner that the Greater Olympia Slow Food group had at the farm in July. Absolutely amazing again! The food and company were fantastic, and the random light showers added a coziness to the event.
Wonderful and creative appetizers were followed by a tour of the farm lead by Jan. The tour included the history of the farm as well as visits to the animals, a lesson in composting and raspberry sampling.
After the tour we enjoyed amazing food which led to full bellies and happy faces.
These events are of course fun for us, but serve to raise funds for the Slow Food Group to do other things in the community. There is a community ice cream social and pizza bake coming up, and many opportunities to help educate the community about local foods. You can get more information about their events on their website, or at their info booth (with food sampling) at the Olympia Farmers Market.
Many thanks again to all that helped make this a wonderful event!
Now is the time to come pick delicious perfectly ripe raspberries. The plants are completely loaded - heaviest set Jan has seen! They are supper easy to pick and you can load up your flats in record time.
Our standard hours are 10-5 pm Mon-Fri, 10-6 on Saturday, 1-6 on Sunday. Check on Facebook to verify we are open (we close periodically to give the fruit time to re-ripen) or call the farm directly at 360-491-3276.
We anticipate Strawberry U-pick being open again later in the summer.
The farm is located at 10633 Steilacoom Rd.
We have been certified organic for over 20 years - although we did not re-certify this year so are not officially organic anymore none of our practices have changed. You can always be comfortable knowing that there are never any chemicals on any of your fruits or vegetables from our farm!
Oregano, Mint, Lemon Balm, Comfrey, Plantain, Nettles, Parsley We have an abundance of Herbs right now!
So we are offering YOU an unique opportunity -- for just $5 per person* come to the farm this Saturday the 30th at 10amto harvest your own fresh herbs!
You will even be able to dig your own starts to get plants of your own started at home!
Bring your own tools please! (a pair of clippers or scissors, a trowel if you are getting starts, something to take your treasures home in)
* This event is intended for individuals for personal use. If you are in need of large quantities or are a resale business we are happy to help you, but please contact us separate from this event. Thank you.
Apple Blossoms are the herald of spring for me. If only we had scented pictures so you could enjoy that sweet, subtle fragrance standing in the orchard brings. . . If you don't have allergies of course! Yes, well there is a bit of overwhelming pollen about now too, all part of the rush of spring. Everything is bursting to life with the fevered need to grow, prepare and produce. Once the early rush is past the wait for final growth and production will begin, but spring is like the starting leap of a race.
The cows came to the farm last week in a rush of a different sort of energy. They have been enjoying the lush grass and dappled shade of the old orchard, and this week will start wandering their way toward the back pastures by the barn. The waiting with them is a needed patience to win their trust, a timely process. They will eventually learn that we are bringers of treats and givers of head scratches, but for now they are wary of us. The lambs have started to learn though and head scratches are welcome in their pasture! The chickens are laying abundantly now and if you are interested in purchasing eggs just let us know, there are also still beef and lamb shares available as well, just call to make arrangements.
This last weekend was opening weekend of the Olympia Farmers market and it was a wonderful weekend. The planting has begun in earnest on the farm, now that it is dry enough to work the fields, and we look forward to bringing fresh delicious produce to you every week. Many have asked about signing up for our CSA - YES there is still time! Sign up now, before April 25th for the early sign up discount. Pickups will only be at the Farm on Fridays, but if you are set on pickup at the market stay tuned as we will have a different option available for you soon!
After last years drought we certainly needed some good winter rains, however we were quickly waterlogged this winter. Some of our fields have had standing water in them since November! All of the water you see was rain water - the water table and ground saturation simply couldn't cope with the 'wettest winter on record'. We are drying out now though and the farm is coming to life with flowers blooming, bees buzzing and birds busy nesting.
The lambs arrived at the farm this week, and the cows will be coming soon. We are looking forward to the Olympia Farmers market starting this week - we will be bringing lots of kale, chard, nettles and leeks among other items.
Don't forget that you can still sign up for our CSA now at the 'Early Bird' reduced price and partner with us for a whole season of great healthy vegetables! Pick up will be at the farm only this year, so you will have even more opportunities to see the animals and watch the changes on the farm.
Enjoying the sun and looking forward to another abundant season - Jan, Dean and Crew
Are you or someone you know a student interested in hands on farm training? We are currently seeking SPRING INTERNS to start on April 1st 2016. Internships must be coordinated with the students school so that they receive academic credit for their time. They also will receive a stipend for each day they are at the farm as well as a wealth of knowledge and hands on learning. Below is a list of all the different tasks that go on at our farm - interns participate in them all!
Direct seeding of field crops by hand or with manual seeder
Potting starts from trays to pots for market
Hand transplanting starts from trays to field
Irrigation set-up and maintenance including: Drip tape, Overhead sprinkler system
Trellising (mainly tomatoes, beans, peas)
Flaming for weed control
Harvesting (variety of fruit and vegetables)
Wash area work: Washing, Bunching, Packing, Quality control, Clean up and sanitation (including taking scraps to animals at days end)
Assist in all aspects of field preparation: Raking (all beds raked smooth prior to planting), Marking off rows, Applying fertilizer or soil amendments, Putting down weed block mats, Tilling with walk-behind tiller
Using backpack sprayer to apply supplements or organic pest control
Packing bags or boxes for CSA and assisting with setup
Tree pruning or orchard care
Specialized tasks: weed whacking, mowing, using tractor, basics of hot-wire setup, basic construction help as needed.
Assist with preparation for community events, assist public during events as needed
Other duties as requested
If you are interested please send a copy of your resume with a cover letter explaining your school status and availability to PigmansProduce@gmail.com.
This year will mark our 27th year of farming here in the Nisqually Valley. As most of you know we have been looking towards retirement for a few years now, and many of you have wondered if we were going to be back this year. We are happy to report that although there will be a few changes again this year we will still have a CSA and be growing the same great fruits and vegetables for you!
This has been a particularly wet winter with many of our fields in standing water which has given us some time to rest and to look forward to the coming season. We have decided to make a step toward retirement by scaling back how much we are doing. This last year we grew on about 6 acres of the farm; we had about 85 people in our CSA with 6 pickup locations; participated 4 days per week at the Olympia Farmers Market; hosted a farm stand once per week (mini market) at a state office building; sold produce to both Olympia Co-ops, the Yelm Co-op, Farm Fresh Produce and several restaurants.
This upcoming year we will be scaling back to about 2.5 acres; we will only be accepting 30 people into the CSA and pickup will only be at the farm; we will still be sending some produce to the Olympia Co-ops although not as much; we will still be at the Olympia Farmers market; we will continue to have U-pick Strawberries and Raspberries as well as the pumpkin patch in the fall. (Our CSA is open for signups now - head over to the CSA page for more info and to sign up today as space is limited!)
So, if we are only using half the land to grow produce what happens to the rest? We anticipate turning a good portion into additional pasture grazing for cows, which may mean additional beef shares will be available in the fall. We also have leased about a half-acre to a local non-profit group, Faith Harvest Helpers, to help them learn how to grow produce on a larger scale than back yard gardening. The food that they grow on their half-acre will be distributed via their local food bank.
Photo by Mary Ellen Psaltis 2015
Another change you may notice is the farm name will be changing from Pigmans Organic Produce Patch to Pigmans Produce. We assure you this will in no way change the way that we grow your food! Because of the rules and expense involved with organic certification we have decided (after being Certified Organic for 20 years) to not pursue recertification this year. Because we will not be going through the recertification process we will not be allowed to use the word Organic in our farm name or label our food as such. Please note however that we are not changing how we grow your food! We will still be using all the same methods and healthy amendments that we have used in prior years. Our food will still be ‘organic’, healthy and safe, we simply will not be paying to use the term. If you have any questions about how we grow your food we would be happy to answer them.
We want to thank all of you again for being a part of our extended farm family. Some of you have only been with us for a year, some since the beginning and we are so very grateful for your continued support. We love growing nutritious food for our community and are thankful that we are able to keep providing for so many.
Thank you for joining us for another abundant season!
Christine started off with the fairly well known plantain and dandelion. She showed the physical characteristics of broad leaf plantain and discussed the benefits/uses of both plants . . .and then looked at some of dandelions not-so-wonderful relatives!
Examining and explaining the characteristics and benefits of Plantain and Dandelion . . .
. . . and the not-so-wonderful relatives!
Narrow Leaf Plantain
Stinging Nettle vs Dead Nettle
Christine explaining about creeping buttercup (eat the roots only!); The group sampling dock; Christine finding plantain seeds for people to try.
Thistles love to grow in the raspberry field, so we looked for thistle blossoms and raspberries! We found that the bees love thistles too, and the kids noticed lots of different birds in the field.
Ended the morning with a great lunch of both 'wild' and 'domesticated' veggies and lots more! Many thanks to Christine for a wonderful morning.
Join us for a fun and hands-on event: why, what, when and if to forage for the wild edible plants that grow between our produce. The aspects of their nutritional and medicinal value will be addressed.
We'll wrap up the event with a potluck and foraged salad. Bring your favorite dish to share, your own silverware and plate, a blanket or chair to sit on. AND come prepared for the weather (bring a water bottle, hat etc).
$25 per adult, families $35, students $15
A bit about our Event Leader:
Christine Jarlik-Bell holds a Master's degree in botany and is passionate about foraging local plants (superfood) and mushrooms. She has come to know the nutritional as well as medicinal benefits of our local Superfood and enjoys sharing her ever-growing knowledge. She lives in the countryside between Yelm and Rainier.
Do you love your morning cup of tea? Well, our plants and soil here at Pigman’s Produce Patch does too! Now, we don’t give them black or oolong tea – no, we provide our plants with quality compost tea.
Yes, it is actually what it sounds like. For 24 hours, we soak a mixture of our farm’s compost, cured chicken manure, and some fungal microbes, with a splash of molasses, liquid kelp, or humic acid to create a liquid teaming with a healthy microbial community, or as we call them, “soil defenders.”
Photo by Rita: Gena & Jesse Fungus Hunting
Now, we are getting a little ahead of ourselves, why do we want to put microbes and fungus into our soils? It helps to think that compost tea is to the soil as probiotics are to humans. A team of bacteria and even yeast (fungus) helps us break down the food in our gut. Compost teas, teeming with microbial life, help break down what we feed to our soils. So, when we feed our soil cured compost, manure, or trace minerals, those microbes help unlock the nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in the soils and cycle these nutrients into a usable form for our crops. “Soil Gatekeepers” is starting to sound like a more appropriate name, no?
The compost tea we make on the farm comes in two forms: bacterial dominant teas and fungal dominant teas. The bacterial teas go on our annual crops – where fields will be tilled within the year. Fungal dominant teas go on our perennial crops – where fields will not be tilled in the foreseeable future. Fungal-dominant soils can’t withstand tilling because their ribosomal structure is lost. Bacterial microbes can withstand tilling. So for annual as opposed to perennial crops, we are creating different types of soil communities.
Photo by Jesse: Rita & Gena hard at work creating a fungal dominate compost pile
A few weeks ago, we made a fungal dominant compost pile so we can grab fungus on the go for brewing tea! By layering wood chips, sawdust, oatmeal, and fresh grass clippings dosed in a molasses based brewer’s barley malt, we started growing a robust population of fungus in just weeks!
Rest assured your farmers are feeding their soils the best elixir possible, as you sip your morning cup of tea. Here’s to compost tea!
We are so very grateful for all of our CSA members! Providing good food to the community is the reason why we do this every day. For some of you this is your first time ever having a CSA membership with us, for some this is your first time with any farm. I wanted to take a moment to explain how the CSA process works from our side - a little peak into the 'behind the scenes'!
First off you have made an investment - $599 for a full share, $365 for a small share. Over the course of a 22 week season that works out to $27.22 or $16.59 per week respectively. When we pack your shares our goal is to send home with you each week a bag with a market value of either $30 or $18 (about a 10% add-on value). Because we also look at many other factors some weeks are a bit under, some a bit over, but generally we hit right about on target!
Some of those other factors we look at? 1) How much of a given crop do we have available. We want everyone to have a sampling of each item we grow on the farm, sometimes we have an abundant crop (like our spinach right now!) and everyone can have a good amount for a few weeks. Other times we don't have as much and can maybe only include an item in a few shares at a time (like our strawberries right now). 2) Variety. We never want to send you home with only a few items, most weeks small shares have 6-8 different items, full shares have 7-9 items. We also try to not put the same item in week after week. If you have gotten spinach two weeks running you can be fairly confident you won't get any in your next bag. However, a CSA is a share of what is available on the farm so if spinach or squash or cucumbers are the 'in' crop you may receive it for several weeks. Chard and Kale are generally included, but alternate week by week. If you are at one of our 'choice' sites (the farm or farmers market) you may get to choose between the two rather than us choosing for you. 3) Roots vs Greens. During the spring this can be a bit of a hard one! Spring greens are abundant, while root crops are just getting started. Mid summer the opposite is sometimes true - while greens may be struggling in the heat, root crops are out producing. We try to balance the two. We'll send you greens pretty consistently (at least kale/chard) mainly various types of lettuce, but also purlane, cabbage or spinach. Root crops vary, and sometimes you may get a large amount of one type, sometimes smaller amounts of multiple items (i.e. 4 small bunches of beets, carrots, radishes and turnips rather than just 2 large bunches of beets & carrots).
This is all just the things we look at before we start to harvest! We use all of those factors to make our 'best estimate' of what we will need for each CSA day (we have 4 each week, and often they are each slightly different) and create a "Pick List". Once the actual harvesting begins our flexibility (and yours) sometimes gets tested!
Farming is so much about faith and trusting that there will be abundance, also about dealing with issues as they arise - preparing for a CSA is no different. Lets look at a few different crops as examples:
Root crops are a bit of a mystery to harvest - you can't really see what you are going to get! When we have pulled a few carrots or beets as 'test subjects' and think the crop is ready to be harvested then we add it to our 'pick list' for the week. Sometimes we are overjoyed that each and every carrot or beet is perfectly sized and looks beautiful (rare!), but more often than not there are some that we harvest that we feel are not good enough (too big/small, damaged in some way) for our customers. Without going into to much of food waste issues and what is 'good enough' (I'll go into that in a different post) we then have to look at how much is actually usable from the harvest and adjust our packing accordingly. This may mean that we intended to put a full sized bunch of carrots (6-7) in each share, but find they are just not big enough or some are damaged so that we can only do a 3-4 carrots per person.
Beans, Peas, Asparagus, Strawberries, Raspberries etc . . . again, very difficult to make an exact judgement on how much is available. It is easy enough to look at a row of pea plants and say 'Yes, there are peas ready to pick!' But a little harder to look and estimate how many pounds are ready per 150 foot row! So again - we harvest, with a goal in mind of how much we need for that day to give say . . . every small share member a half pound of peas and every full share member a pound. Once we have picked what is ready then we adjust and pack accordingly.
Greens are as I said generally abundant, however there can be challenges there as well! Most crops are continually replanted throughout the season, this is especially true with greens. The hope is that by replanting every couple of weeks that we will have a steady harvest. Generally that works fine. Many greens do not like it too hot, so extra hot may cause fast growth and a crop to be ready before its expected time. If it is too wet greens can get mushy or become havens for slugs. We have had an abundance of spinach this last couple of weeks because even though we spaced out our 3 plantings as warm as it was they were all ready to be harvested.
As for sizes of items that go into each bag or box: Small shares are meant for 1-2 people, large for 3-4 people. If you are a family of 2 but primarily eat veggies then a two person share may not be enough! For some 4 person families that don't eat a lot of veggies a large share is overwhelming. You have to look at what your family specifics are to make a choice. Small shares usually receive smaller bunches than what you see on our market stands, the bunches there are considered 'full sized' and are what is used in our Full shares. To the right is an example of bunch sizes for kale - small share on the left, full share on the right.
Below I have broken down the three samples pictured at the top of this post to give you a detailed example of what goes into an actual share.
Hope this helps everyone to better understand how CSA's work. And remember each week is different and if you ever have questions or concerns feel free to email or call!
Here is a example of the deliciousness that would have been in your CSA box this week.
We offer two CSA sizes - a small share (pictured) and a large share. We have six different options for where you can pick up your share, including our newest location in Dupont!
Everything that we grow is certified organic and grown by hand on our farm in the Nisqually Valley. You will receive a box of fresh picked fruits and veggies every week June 3rd- Oct 31st (22 weeks). By purchasing now you will receive about 10% extra value throughout the season. Our CSA members also receive an additional 5% off all purchases at our booth at the farmers market or at the farm.
Farm shares make a great gift for mom too, and prices go up after Mothers day, so give her the gift of scrumptious eating this year - Sign up today!
In order to give the largest number of people an opportunity to enjoy fresh weekly goodness we have extended our early signup deadline until May 10th! Happy Mothers Day! (a CSA makes a great gift too by the way).
Wait! What is Community Supported Agriculture? It is one of the best ways to be sure to enjoy a wide range of each seasons best produce. A CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is basically like buying a piece of the farm for the season - you get to enjoy the fruits of the farm with out growing your own! Each week, (starting June 3rd) for 22 weeks, you will receive a bag (or box depending on location) filled with whatever goodies are at the peak of ripeness that week. You will receive the tried and true: carrots, lettuce, radishes, onions, green beans, as well as items you may have never had before like purslane, kholrabi, bok choy, garlic scapes. Each week is a new adventure and will encourage you to not only eat well, but expand the types of vegetables on your plate, all while eating what is in season right here in Olympia.
This question was posed at the farm last week: "What crop are you most looking forward to?" Which was followed by a pause (longer than I expected) and then the options started coming: Strawberries! Garlic Scapes! Sugar Snap Peas! Cucumbers! The list goes on of course, but lets just say we are all super ready for summer to be in full swing. You can join us in enjoying all the fruits of the farm by being part of our CSA - our community.
Pick one of four delivery/pick up locations available Wed, Thurs, Fri or Saturday. Sign up is super easy.
Spring is fully here, along with sometimes crazy weather that keeps us on our toes. A couple weeks ago we were watching the rain clouds come down off the hills into the valley so we would have a bit of warning to run for the greenhouses before the heavy rain (or in the case of this picture- hail) came down. We know we need the rain though, so we keep busy up-potting starts, weeding or seeding inside, then head out again in between downpours. We are loving the beautiful weather we have had this week and are thrilled that we had a block of time to get some BIG planting projects done.
Of course with spring come all the new growth - all the hope put into each seed planted shows with an abundance of new green. This picture here shows artichoke starts ready to get transplanted to the field. There is also another new addition in the picture if you look close - a newly hatched Praying Mantid! These workhorses are 3rd generation born and raised on our farm, they love hunting the 'bad bugs' in the green houses. You can pick up your very own Mantid Egg case for your garden at our stand at the Market.
Our new lawn mowers have arrived as well! A sure sign it is spring. Each year we are host to three cows and three lambs that arrive in April and feast on our lush grass and organic produce until November. These gentlemen are one year old short horn bulls and are adapting well to their new space. The lambs will be arriving soon.
And finally for today we would like to give a HUGE thank you to Carter and Sylo. These two wonderful friends were instrumental in preparing the farm this winter for us to have a wonderful season this year. They willingly helped to do anything and everything (seen here cleaning the tractor) from weeding and planting to roof repair, storage room cleaning and digging out blackberries! We can not thank them enough for all their hard work and are sad to see them go. However, we wish them both the best in their new adventures and are truly grateful for their hard work this winter.
As you may already know, Jan and Dean have been farming in the Nisqually Valley for the last 26 years. Most of you know Jan and Dean but do you know the history of their lush little corner of the Valley?
Let us go back a few dozen years to see a young girl living in Southern California helping her parents with flowers and plants in their little yard. But what she really wanted was to grow something to eat! When the family would go on vacations she would look at the fields they were passing and try to figure out what was growing. One farm they passed had a sign that read: ‘From Field and Vine to Thee and Thine’, that saying stuck with her over the years. Her dad was able to get permission for her to have a garden on a vacant lot across from theirs, he helped her set up hoses for water and she was off and growing. At just 10 years old she would put the veggies she grew in her little red wagon and sell them to the neighbors to raise money to go to horse camp.
About this same time, in Colorado a young boy watched his father growing carnations for the flower industry. The greenhouses, long hours, and lots of chemicals used at the time cemented for this young boy ‘I never want to do anything like this’.
Look ahead a few years to a young newly married couple, one of their agreements was: his career for 20 years, then her career for 20 years. So a military family they were, Dean served in the Vietnam war, then was stationed in Korea, Germany, North Carolina, Texas, Arizona and Washington. Everywhere they went Jan planted a garden, grew food for her family and others when ever and where ever she could. Every time they were relocated she would start again, leaving behind a legacy of little garden plots. When they were stationed in Washington they would take their young children to Puyallup to the U-pick berry fields. Jan loved those outings and decided that this memory making experience was something she wanted to provide when she was able to have her own farm.
After Dean retired from the military they decided to settle in Olympia and start Jan’s farm. Looking for property was a difficult process for the realtors they worked with because the house was not the feature they we most concerned with. While they wanted a good location, the most important thing to Jan and Dean was not the house but the soil. Jan would take a small shovel with her and dig down into the soil around the property – she didn’t want rock or clay, but was looking for good workable soil. She found just that in the Nisqually Valley, nice river bottom sandy loam. The property was all in pasture at the time; it did have a barn, an old cement building and an irrigation well, but no house!
So, with their three children and a foster child (2 teens, Jr high & grade school) they bought the 10 acre property in 1989, bought a mobile home to live in and started building and growing. Dean says “I had never built anything bigger than a workbench” yet he found himself building a house. They built their home, raised the kids and taught themselves to farm. They laugh now about the year they decided to plant 10,000 strawberries. They ‘recruited’ their kids and friends over spring break one year to get them all planted, only to find later in the season that keeping up with picking that many berries and weeding them was a bit overwhelming. Regardless, Jan's wish for a U-Pick berry patch was fulfilled. These days it is more manageable, with 1,500 new strawberries planted each year. Jan and Dean host one of the states few certified organic U-Pick strawberry patches, open June-September. Their U-Pick Raspberries and Pumpkin Patch are also certified organic, as are all the other 150 varieties of vegetables they grow.
They have avoided all the chemical issues that Dean saw in the flower industry as a child by growing organically since the beginning, and their farm has been certified organic for all crops since 1994. They make their own compost and focus on feeding the soil. As Jan says “We feed the soil, that feeds the microbes, which feed the plants, that feed us!” They add trace minerals and natural nutrients to the soil to produce amazingly large vegetables. They encourage beneficial insects (did you know Jan is an entomologist?) and rotate crops to help minimize pests.
Jan and Dean have pretty much done it all, from a road side produce stand, to the Olympia Farmers Market, Co-Op, and a CSA program. Needless to say after nearly 50 years of working more than full time they are ready to slow down a bit. . .One of Jan's goals for the year is to only work 10 hour days!
Even as Jan and Dean look toward retirement again (it has been 26 years farming after all) they still want their land to continue producing lush food for the community. They are training up lots of younger folks and working with a local non-profit to devise a plan to have the farm still be productive and support the community even after they retire.
Jan has fulfilled her dream of having a farm and providing great wholesome food for her neighbors in a really big way. She could not have done this for all these years without your amazing support! Please continue to support this amazing family farm by signing up for the CSA program (5 different pickup options), buying produce at the Co-Op, Farm Fresh Market or the Olympia Farmers Market (starting in April).
Looking back with amazement and forward with anticipation - Celeste (for Jan, Dean and all the Crew)