Thank You 2013

2013 turned our to be a pretty good year.  We wound up donating 2500lbs of food to the 2nd harvest food bank this fall along with another 1000lbs to our local religious charities.  We are not a big farm (yet), but we try to give back to our community when we can.

We are very thankful at this time of year for our customers, the good harvests that God provides to us and for our friends and family.  Without everyone we could not make the farm the success it is.  We wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a successful new year!

CSA Shares-June 13th, 2013

The 2nd week of CSA shares is here for the senior and Full Shares.  Listed below is what is included in this weeks box.
Pac Choi – Joi Choi
Pac Choi – Mei Quing Choi
Strawberries
Green Garlic
Garlic Scapes
Radishes
Salanova Lettuce - Red Incised
Fresh Basil – Full Shares Only
Asparagus - Full Shares Only

The cold, wet start to the season is FINALLY starting to seem like it is ending, although we still have a LOT of transplanting to do yet.  Any volunteers this weekend?  :)

Potato Planting 2013

It has finally dried out enough for us to get into the field and plant our 450lbs of seed potatoes this year.  We had some friends stop over and help out.  We had a combined total of 11 children today all wanting to help in some way.

Red Norland, Yukon Gold, Carola, Colorado Rose, Purple Majesty and German Butterball were all planted today.  They will get ready in the order listed above.  Planting of other crops continues as well.  The early cold weather and now the week of heat and wet weather sure is making it interesting getting everything in the fields.

May 15th

Today we got all Pak Choi in the ground with some kohlrabi, and chard also. We had to take the leafy plants out of the greenhouse yesterday because of the increased air temp. outside. It was 98 degrees F (in the greenhouse.)

The greenhouse is filling up

We have 28,000 onions up in the greenhouse.  Red, White and Spanish yellow.  In 2013-greenhouse-onions addition the following are either up or coming up:
- Kale
- Collards
- Broccoli
- Cauliflower
- Savoy and Nappa Cabbage
- Pac Choi: Mei Quing and Joi Choi
- Lettuce
- Kohl Rabi

3000 peppers planted already this week with another 2000 to go.  We will have 5000 pepper plants this year!  We are hoping for a lot of variety this year.  Tomato plants are going in this week too.  We will have nearly 1000 tomato plants this year.  Cherry, Grape, Roma, Beesteak, Salad and Slicing tomatoes.

Herbs are being planted this week in the greenhouse as well.

Radishes, Carrots, Beets, Turnips and other cold season veggies will be going in later this month.  We have 6000 strawberry plants coming at the end of the month.  April will be a big planting month!  The season is starting!

Healthcare rebates

I have received a few calls from CSA members asking about Health Care rebates for purchasing a CSA share.  Most of the local health insurance companies offer an incentive/rebate for eating healthy local food by joining a CSA.  There is a hitch though.  Almost all of them require the farm to be a member of the Fair Share CSA coalition.

Fairshare was originally started as a way to bring consumers and farmers together.  It made it much easier to know which farms were offering CSA shares and some background on the farm.  After a few years Fairshare decided to impose an requirement for the farm to be certified organic or they would no longer/can not be listed as a Fairshare CSA farm.

Becker Family Farms is not certified organic and we do not intend at this time to be certified.  There are several reasons for this decision.  First, we always try to use organic methods, but if there is an insect problem we cannot control we would prefer to be able to fall back on conventional sprays vs. losing an entire crop.  Second, certification requires that we must be inspected each year and this has between a $600 and $1000 cost.  Finally, we do use some conventional fertilizer and feel that this allows us to maximize crop yield and health.

All of that being said, most of the health insurance companies are attracted to Fairshare as it removes the requirement for health insurance companies to deal directly with farms to determine if they are truely running a CSA.  It is a simple paperwork burden that they offload.  Please see below for a list of health plans in the Dane County area and whether they will reimburse you for being a member of our CSA:

Dean Care
If you have Dean Care insurance you qualify for the WIN – Healthy Food Focus program rebate for being a CSA member at Becker Family Farms.  The rebate is $100 for single person coverage and $200 for family health insurance coverage.  All that is required is that you fill out the WIN form and submit a receipt from the farm or a canceled check.  Please contact the farm if you need a receipt.

WPS Health Insurance
WPS will reimburse CSA membership up to $200 for MATC members.  For non-MATC member, please check your benefits to determine what amount will be re-imbursed.  The Healthsense Claim Form must be filled out and submitted.  Please contact the farm if you need a receipt.

GHC
Members qualify for a rebate for purchasing a fruit, vegetable or meat share as part of the GHC Healthy Eating program.  The total allowable reimbursement is $100 per person with a maximum reimbursement of $200 per household. If you have family coverage, you may submit for reimbursement under one GHC-SCW family member’s GHCMyChartSM account.

Details about the program are available on the GHC CSA Wellness Rebate site.

Unity, Physicians Plus, GHC
Our farm is not currently covered as we are not certified organic.  If you have Unity, Physicians Plus or GHC health insurance and you would like to be able to take advantage of the CSA reimbursement, please call and tell them you would like them to cover Becker Family Farms.

Learning about Biological Pesticides

We are always looking for safer and better approaches to insect management.  It is very challanging each year to decide if and when to treat a crop for insect damage.  We rely on research from the University, independent studies and manufacturer sponsored studies to help us learn which products will provide the best control with the least amount of risk.

We use BT’s at Becker Family Farms, but we do NOT use GMO seeds that have been artificially engineered to create the BT toxin.  Rather we spray the BT insecticide ON the outside of the crop.  The effect is the same, but without the BT insecticide being embedded inside every cell of the plant and the food you eat.  BT’s have a very short life in the field and on the crop so repeat spraying is necessary if pest pressure remains high.  This may cost us a little more time and money, but we believe it provides you with safer food.

Late Fall Greens

It was a little chilly today, but we were able to harvest some of our late fall greens.  We have Romaine Lettuce and Pac Choi.  We were also able to find some collard greens.  Who would have guessed we would be harvesting greens in November?

Next week we hope to harvest the last of the greens.  Then we can turn out focus to putting up another greenhouse and finish removing drip lines from the field.

Garlic planting and fall veggies

Well here are a few photos of us planting garlic.  We used our plastic mulch layer, without the plastic to lay a double drip line and make a nice smooth surface to plant the garlic.  We then used our water wheel transplanter to punch the holes where the garlic will be planted.  The last step is to get as many people out planting garlic as we can so the job  goes quickly. 

As you can see in the image to your right, we have the two of three rows covered after being planted.  I snapped this image so you can get an idea of what the prepared and planted rows look like from a distance.  

We still have some fall veggies growing under row cover.   Lettuce, Pac Choi and Broccoli are still happily growing under the row cover.  These cold hardy veggies can handle some sub freezing temps, but row cover helps trap the heat of the day and raise the night temps by 6-8 degrees.  This will be enough for us to finish the crops out until mid-november.  After that we will roll the row cover up and store for early spring crops.

Wire hoops under the row cover help to hold it away from the plants.  Heat is more efficiently trapped under the row cover when there is a raised “roof”.  This creates a small greenhouse effect.  We also are using some of the winter firewood to hold the row cover on.  It is amazing how easily this stuff will blow off if it not properly secured. 

As a final order of business for the day the two youngest boys along decided it would be great fun to use a jump rope as a tow cord.  The little plastic car came rumbling around the corner as Joe and I were covering the last of today’s transplanted garlic.  In the car was Johann squealing in excitement as Jake pulled him behind his bike.  I was just waiting for the thing to flip over, loose a wheel, etc.  I remember when I was that age.  Absolutely no fear.