News and blog
Tis the season for roadside vegetable stands to open. Calls to the office are daily, and the voice on the opposite end is so excited when told that opening day for all vegetable stands is June 26th. This marks the beginning of summer for some people, but for everyone on the farm, it marks the ability to get our wonderful customers fresh and local produce on a daily basis!
This year you will be able to find Untiedt’s stands at an expanded capacity throughout the Twin Cities Metro area. During the off season, we were approached by the Sever Peterson operation to buy their vegetable stand business. Over the years, we have worked closely with the team at Sever’s to provide their business with a wide variety of produce they sold at their stands. So, if you have purchased from Sever’s in the past, you have likely purchased some produce grown by Untiedt’s as well.
Sever’s has been a fine competitor of ours for many years, one that everyone at Untiedt’s respected with the utmost respect. The time had come for Sever’s to allocate their resources in the most practical manor, which meant the divestiture of their roadside stand business. Because we have worked with the Sever operation for many years, our company was a natural fit as the buyer of the roadside stand business. We have worked hard throughout the off-season to make this possible and hope to continue to serve Sever’s customers with the highest quality, locally grown produce.
The acquisition of roadside stands added a significant number of locations to operate for the 2015 season. With much thought, our team decided to only operate a portion of the Sever stands this season with the hopes of expansion for the 2016 season. You can find a list of all our roadside vegetable stands here.
Everyone is excited for this new endeavor and the opportunity to serve more of our customers on a daily basis. For the former Sever’s customers, we hope you give Untiedt’s the opportunity to grow farm fresh produce for you!
The widely anticipated day is here, the start of the CSA program. At Untiedt's we opened registration for the 2015 season last October and spent much of our winter season planning what crops to grow, ordering seeds, planting seeds, and visiting with customers at a variety of events. Many people think we take the winter off, but in truth, our winter is just as busy as we prepare for the upcoming season. Today, June 16th marks the start of our 5th CSA season, and we could not be more excited.
A typical CSA morning starts at 2:30am. Our crew of 12-14 people start packing the shares and then load the trucks for delivery. We carefully pack each box with fresh produce that was harvested and prepared for the shares on Mondays. As soon as the shares are packed, the trucks are off for delivery! We have six delivery routes to ensure that all of our member receive their shares in a timely manner. The logistics of delivery is perhaps the most stressful part of the program, but over five years we have learned many tips and tricks to make the process go as smoothly as possible. At the end of the day, our goal is to make sure that each and every one of our 1000+ shareholders receive their share each week.
Once the shares are out for delivery, we move onto planning for the following week. Farmer Jerry is constantly checking crops, evaluating what will potentially be ready, and making and remaking plans for the next box. It is a never ending guessing game of what will be ready when!
As Farmer Jerry scouts crops for the shares, Megan and Jenna make sure that all of the members are taken care of. They develop the routes, correct any issues, find recipes, and interact with the customers on a weekly basis. There are countless other employees on the farm who truly make the program happen. From the harvesters to the packers to all of the delivery drivers, we could not make this program happen without them.
So, there it is. A glimpse of how our CSA program works. Thank you to all of our shareholders. We are truly looking forward to a successful season and cannot wait to hear what you have to say! As you are cooking your share each week, please feel free to tag us in your photos with #Untiedts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. We would love to see how you all use your produce each week.
Contents of Week 1 CSA Box:
Herbs: Basil, Cilantro, Parsley, Chives
Although the CSA season has not started quite yet, we wanted to share with you the progress of our crops. Jenna was able to get out and snap some pictures at a few of our fields to show how things are looking so far. Take a few minutes and enjoy!
After an unusually early start with warmer and dryer conditions than normal, the weather has reversed itself to a wetter and cooler pattern tracking the 2014 season.
Our field crops such as rye, wheat, field corn, and soybeans were all planted earlier than normal and in general seem to be faring ok. Of course, the rye and wheat look the best since they love the cool and damp.
Our other outside crops are growing slower than normal, but will certainly mature faster as we receive warmer temperatures. Inside the tunnels, the crops have never looked better. Tomatoes are 2-3 inches in diameter, the cucumbers and melons are blossoming, zucchini (green and yellow) now have small fruits and all are continuing to grow and will soon be ready for our first and second CSA shares.
We have had many calls with regards to the apple orchard after the massive hailstorm we encountered last September 3rd. Our trees were damaged there is no doubt, but even after removing a large number of broken and damaged limbs, our bloom was substantial this spring.
It is our feeling that we will be able to supply all of you with many beautiful apples of several varieties if we can only avoid the hail storms that we have experienced the last couple of years.
I will continue to update you all weekly from now on as our season matures.
As always, we sincerely appreciate your support with our CSA program, at the Farmer's Market, through our vegetable stands and by your support of the retailers who handle the Untiedt's products.
Back to winter for a while. It's a greeting I received from one of the guys moving a little snow we received last night. I thought to myself, winter in a way-but spring in another. We now have over 10 hours of daylight. The heaters rarely run during the daytime in the greenhouses on sunny days. More and more early migrating birds are arriving including more red tail hawks, sparrow hawks, horned larks, and bald eagles. I can't convey the amusement of watching the eagles flying over the mostly frozen Crow River executing their mating flights. Tumbling, falling, and grasping each other all in the name of eagle romance.
In the greenhouses, the earthy smell of fresh earth permeates the air. Newly emerging plants and plugs are showing new leaves daily and the black earth surfaces of our pots and flats are yielding to the color green as our plants continue to grow.
On the heated germination benches our onion, leeks, and shallots are delivering fine hairlike leaves which soon will become sturdy plants ready for a chance to continue growth in the high tunnels. Tomato plants have undergone the grafting process and healing of the "graft union" is taking place. On and on we go- faster and faster that transition from deep winter to shallow spring, all part of the growth cycle.
I encourage you all to spend a few minutes outside each day-the changes may be subtle, but adding a few days together yields large change. Enjoy them all!
Our supper was delightful, consisting of a couple of hard shell tacos filled with a spicy ground turkey mix, black olives, black beans, and less than appealing California iceberg lettuce. From the table to my chair in front of a cheerful fire in the fireplace was only a few feet. The fire warmed and comforted me so well with the crackling sounds and heavy heat generated by the white oak logs that it seemed a chore to get up after 15 minutes and begin my daily evening walk.
Slipping on my less than loose fitting parka, checking for my warm mitts and my balaclava for face protection, I ventured outside. Carefully stepping and testing the footing on the nearly 1 1/2 inches of new icy precipitation that fell yesterday, I headed first to the barn to check the cattle. Often times, I can silently walk across the yard and surprise them, but this evening the crunch, crunch, crunch of my boots on the snow gave me away. The cattle all focused on me as I approached, but refused to come to the gate and greet me. I guess the fluffed straw bedding offered them more comfort than a few of my kind words would. The steam was rising off of their warm bodies and the sweet smell of the still green summer cut hay permeated the barn. Their water troughs were open with no ice on them do to embedded heating coils in the water tanks. They had no worries and so I had none either.
Walking southward across the farm yard before turning West, I could feel the strong Northwest wind delivering the windchill of about 18 below. I silently asked myself, do I need the balaclava tonight? I decided to try walking straight West with the wind in my face for a mile. Stinging and numbing were great adjectives to describe the feeling across my forehead. The crunching sounds of my size 12's on the icy road were nearly drowned out by the howl of the winds. I thought for a moment- no hooting of great horned owls now sitting on eggs, in their nest, in the tall Hackberry trees to the South, no coyotes howling on the river bluffs to my North, and no dashing whitetail deer that I usually surprise as they feed on last falls corn stubble and cauliflower remains. In lieu of my coveted sounds, I had to settle for one roaring sound, nearly the same as the roaring surf we've enjoyed while visiting an angry Lake Superior.
Certainly not bored, as I had the stinging pain of the cold wind and I was engaged by the February sky. A sky clear, cold and possessing about a million stars to view. No moon tonight, just the stars and me. As I turned around at the mile marker, I put the wind to my back, let my face thaw a bit and walked East. There to my left was the Big Dipper and following the two stars on the outer edge I could locate the North Star. Up in the heavens to my right was Orion, those three bright starts of his belt glowing as I always remembered in the February sky. Further to the East, was the glow of lights from Minneapolis, where you all were taking shelter for the evening.
As I neared home and the shelter of the yard I could not help but wonder if I had just passed the most beautiful hour of the day. Smells of the sweet hay and warm cattle to sooth my sense of smell, crunching and crackling ice and snow to soothe my hearing, and of course the feel of the biting wind on my face and body to test my sense of feeling.
Yes, it's winter and we are in Minnesota so we need to truly live it and enjoy!
Here it is already the first week of February and it really feels like February with the winds and below zero cold. Gratefully, the winter seems to be totally different than last years prolonged sub-zero episodes and of course, we are gaining 1-2 minutes of daylight each and every day. In the greenhouses it is not uncommon to experience 50-60 degrees on a sunny afternoon solely based on the sunshine. In other houses, we have fired up the heaters as we are currently seeding our onions, shallots and leeks.
Outside we are preparing our pruning program for the orchard, which is going to be extensive this spring due to the hail damage which fractured many limbs during the storm last September 3rd. We are also marking rows for a new "block" of Honeycrisp apple trees which we will be planting in April while removing a "block" of trees of another variety.
Outside, the chickadees are singing their Phoebe Phoebe songs, the male cardinals vocalizing more and more, a few bald eagles are beginning to return southerly areas and the sparrow and red-tail hawks are again hunting our fields in search of moles, voles, and field mice.
Yes, it's cold outside, but the Spring she is a coming.....
It seems that everywhere we go this time of year we need to respond to the questions, "What do you guys do all winter? and Do you go to someplace warm with all of that time off?"
Now for the 'real truth,' we no longer have much time off due to the fact that there are so many things that need to be done. For instance, we are now and have been for the last two weeks, engaged in recovering acres and acres of plastic greenhouse coverings that were all destroyed during the infamous September 3rd hailstorm that so cruelly punished our crops and structures. Hopefully, we'll have this project wrapped up in the next 10 days or so.
Additionally in our maintenance shop we are extremely busy repairing and servicing the long list of tractors, planters, soil working equipment, and more, as well as configuring new equipment types that we so often invent for special projects on the farm- be the planting, harvesting, training or sorting.
In another area, our office staff spends substantial time checking on seed availability, new government regulations and permits, updating CSA materials, and attending educational courses as they appear.
Finally, if there is a finality, which there very seldom is, we are beginning seeding- especially tomatoes where we will need thousands of seedlings shortly to begin the grafting process which has helped our farm produce those wonderfully red and sweet tomatoes which would taste so good right now!
On this same note, so many of you have asked for us to again put a regular blog formatted as an information tool on our site. We plan to implement this "News Blog" weekly and would delight in addressing any subjects you have a particular interest in.
Good Winter Resting to you All,