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Restoration volunteer day 2015Our restoration volunteer day last Saturday was very productive and fun. Thanks to those of you who came out to help! We got a lot of mulch spread in a short amount of time. Laura Kummerer turned her spotting scope on the osprey nest, so we got a great view of the 2 chicks and their parents, and took a walk through the grassland to identify the different native and invasive species. Thanks to intern Clare Peabody for organizing a successful volunteer day!

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strawbalesWanted: several willing people to help spread mulch in our habitat restoration area by Harkins Slough. The ospreys and turkey vultures will be supervising this fun work day event from 10 am to 1 pm this Saturday. Laura Kummerer (habitat restorationist) and Clare Peabody (restoration intern) will teach you about the native plants that we are trying to reestablish in the grassland habitat as we spread straw over the weedy areas to prevent weed seeds from sprouting.

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Strawberry u-pick June 2015It’s hard to believe it’s the middle of July already! We have a couple opportunities for you to come out to the farm this summer. First, we’ll hold Strawberry U-Picks the next three Saturdays – July 18th, July 25th, and August 1st. Picking time is between 10 AM and 2 PM, so please try to arrive on time to finish up your picking by 2. Now’s the time to make that jam or stock up the freezer with berries for smoothies! Berries cost $2 per pound. Bring your own containers if you can.

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pumpkin plants June 2015 2 compressedThe initial spring frenzy has passed and things have calmed down a little around here. The winter squash and pumpkins are up and growing quickly and the heat loving crops like tomatoes, peppers, beans and basil have really taken off. After a very cool spring, it’s finally starting to feel like summer.

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Clare WeedwackingBy Restoration Intern Clare Peabody

High Ground Organics’ home farm is protected by two easements, an agricultural easement and a conservation easement. This summer we are lucky to have Brown University student Clare Peabody working as an intern to help our restoration efforts on the half of the property under the conservation easement. This part of the property is a thriving (if weedy) coastal prairie grassland adjacent to one of the few remaining fresh water wetlands in central California. Clare contributes this week’s article, giving you a glimpse of the grassland habitat through her eyes.

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green tomatoes on vineI’ve been getting some questions about tomatoes already so I guess people are getting in the mood for summer vegetables and fruits. It certainly feels like summer with these long days, kids out of school, and the solstice just around the corner. The thing about summer vegetables is that they need those long warm days to grow! Our tomatoes are shaping up to come in earlier than we’ve ever had them before, but they still need a few more weeks.

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elkhorn sloughLast Tuesday I went to the Elkhorn Slough Water Quality Workshop at the Moss Landing Marine Labs. I had signed up for it months ago when things were less busy, so when I received an e-mail reminder a few days before the event, my first reaction was that I could never afford to take half a day off. After thinking it over, however, I decided that it would be a welcome chance to get off the farm for a while—Moss Landing Marine Labs are located atop a sand dune with expansive views of the Monterey Bay, and the subject was one that is near and dear to my heart. I’m glad I went.

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blueberry u-pick kids 3We’ve been enjoying meeting a lot of you at our u-picks!  One more to come this Saturday, and then stay tuned – we’ll probably do some more in the summer. We should have both strawberries and blueberries for you to pick this weekend.

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Bob - loaves and fishesFor at least the past decade, we (and CSA members) have been donating vegetables and fruit each week to a local food pantry called Pajaro Valley Loaves and Fishes. For years, Loaves and Fishes volunteer Bob Montague was the face of the food pantry program for us. He would arrive every Thursday with an old Ford pick-up truck and load up the CSA vegetables donated by members who were on vacation that week or had even paid to provide a donation share weekly. Since the old truck gave up the ghost, we’ve been delivering the vegetables directly to the food pantry ourselves.

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blueberries ripenThe blueberry bushes are in full swing! You’re invited to come out and pick your own blueberries on May 23rd, May 30th, or June 6th between 10 am and 2 pm. Please bring your own containers if possible. Friends and family are welcome too. No charge for entry. Blueberries cost $5/lb. You do not need to be a current CSA subscriber to come to the u-pick. We recommend close-toed shoes and long pants. Please come only during the designated days times and plan to arrive in plenty of time to wrap up your picking by 2:00. Find directions here.

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squash tunnelThe activity level on the farm has been ratcheted up these last few weeks. This time of year finding time to do anything other than harvesting is difficult. We have three crops—strawberries, blueberries and squash—that have to be picked 2-3 times a week and when you throw in all of the other crops we are harvesting there is very little time left for all of the planting, weeding, pruning and other activities that have to happen to keep the farm going.

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We ran into a little glitch on Wednesday when we tried to irrigate a new planting of lettuce—the sprinklers never came up to pressure. The well at our home farm is very shallow and very old and we’ve known for the past year or so that it was failing. We are on the waiting list to have a deeper well dug, but with the high demand for wells right now, we’ve got another 6-7 months before that happens. We were hoping to squeak through the year, but apparently that’s not going to happen.

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blueberries flatIt’s a berry bonanza! The addition of strawberries and blueberries both in the box AND available for special order in the web store in bulk quantities this week has led to a frenzy of berry-related activity. If you have never ordered from the web store before, all you have to do is:

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blueberries spring 2015This week we got the netting over the blueberry patch–just in time, as the fruit is ripening fast. If we left the patch uncovered the birds would get more berries than we would. We picked the first ripening berries this week, so a few of you will find blueberries as your mystery item. We have four different blueberry varieties planted, and theoretically they should ripen sequentially.

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lettuce transplantsThe unusually warm spring has produced favorable conditions for us to get our cover crops mowed down and lots of transplanting already done here at our home farmland. This is the first year we are not farming the land we used to lease around the Redman house, but with our 18 acres at Lewis Road and the similar size here at home we have plenty of good ground available.

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lasioglossum sisymbriiWhen we agree to participate in research studies, we often are too busy to pay much attention to what the researchers are doing at the time. But the results can be fascinating when they come out!

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allis chalmers tractor in workshopAmong the very best improvements we have ever made on our farm is building an enclosed workshop in 2007. By most standards it is quite modest—30×30 feet, with unfinished walls and a bare concrete floor. But it does have workbenches, lots of shelf space, good lighting and enough floor space to work on two trucks or tractors at once if need be. And most importantly, it has a place for everything—(although everything isn’t always in its place).

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cover crop with blackbirdsIt feels like the end of May around here. The flowers on the Ceanothus in front of our house, which is usually just starting to bloom at this time, have largely faded and been scattered onto our walkways and yard. I can’t remember a winter where I have been in shirt-sleeves more often.

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strawberries 1st csa weekThe strawberries are giving us a warm welcome this spring, with the earliest crop we’ve ever had! The warm winter has prompted early blooms of plants of all sorts. Our habitat restorationist Laura Kummerer tells me that the annual wildflower count on April 15th may be too late this year to catch many of the wildflowers—they’ve already bloomed and will be done by that date!

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stormy skies2I love winter skies. Even though this “storm” didn’t ever pan out, the stormy-looking sky was a lovely consolation. We’re still hoping to get some rain the end of this week. On my walk around the farm I came across dozens of ladybugs in all stages. This picture shows a pupa on the left, and on the right is a ladybug freshly emerged from its empty pupa case. It’s good to see the ladybugs gearing up for the season!

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cover cropThe weekend rain has been very welcome on the farm. The long dry spell was starting to worry us, but the cover crops in the farm fields and the grasses in the restoration area have all hung on and should now take off again with new growth.  Another storm system coming in the next week or so will help to keep things growing.

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Thomas Susty photoJanuary has been a busy month for us in regards to farm related meetings and social gatherings. As part of my duties as President of the Central Coast Chapter of California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) I helped to organize our annual meeting which was held in nearby Aromas on Monday the 12th. Three wonderful presenters agreed to speak on topics that are very relevant to growers here on the Central Coast. Lisa Bunin from The Center for Food Safety spoke about efforts to get the organic strawberry industry to transition to organically produced starter plants.

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Happy New Year to everybody. With 2014 gone, it’s time to look ahead to the 2015 farm season (March 18/19 to November 18/19), even while we harvest for the winter shares. This is a good time for us to be reminded of why Community Supported Agriculture is such a helpful model for small farmers, as well as for those who crave local fresh produce.

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str rowsAt the end of the road where we farm in Monterey County, there are two shallow ponds in the shady bottom of a small valley. In the thirty-plus years that he has lived there, our neighbor Keith, the beekeeper, had never seen the ponds dry up. But last year, dry up they did, and with all of the rain we have gotten so far this season, dried up they remain. For me this serves as a useful gauge of just what a serious drought we remain in. The rain so far has been great–but much more is needed.

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strawberry plugThose of you who are long time newsletter readers will recall that we have been involved in the effort to transition organic strawberry growers into using organically grown starts. The problem we are facing now is that virtually no organically grown planting stock is currently available and the standards allow growers to use non-organic plants when their organic counterparts aren’t available. To make a long story short, there was an organic plant nursery (Prather Ranch) that grew beautiful plants for a four year period between 2005-2009.

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3carrotsWe hope you all enjoyed your Thanksgiving!

Welcome to the winter season of every other week deliveries. During the last harvest the crew found these three carrots intertwined, which we are taking as a good omen for the season ahead (displayed here by our packing shed manager Aquileo at our harvest party.)

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It’s hard to believe another CSA season has come to an end. This week we’ll deliver the final boxes for the regular season. Next week we’ll celebrate Thanksgiving and then we’ll take some trips to visit colleges with our eldest daughter. (This is quite a milestone. We leased our first few acres and started farming the year she was born. The kid and the farm are both growing up!)

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catmodelThe National Weather Service is calling for some substantial rainfall during the early part of next week—which we are delighted to hear about. It’s been just about a perfect fall so far. We’ve had enough rain so that we haven’t had to irrigate much during the last few weeks, and out on the grassland, things are greening up fast. At the same time, the storms so far have been spaced far enough apart to allow us to get in with the tractors and do the things that need doing—cultivating, preparing ground for cover crops and planting a few last vegetable crops.

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cowpumpkin“Severe Drought, Heavy Rains Hamper Pumpkin Crop,” read the headline in one of the ag papers we get. Steve pointed it out to me, “That about sums up farming right there.” Our pumpkin crop did fine here, though, and the cows and goats are now enjoying what’s left of the jack o’lantern pumpkins. The rain we did have last week was about perfect – a nice soaking to help our cover crops and the pasture grasses along, but not a gulley washer. Now we just need it to continue to rain like that once a week or so through the winter.

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winterThis is the time of year when the scheduling details for the CSA get a little confusing, so I’ll try to clarify how the logistics work for deliveries, sign-ups, and payments this fall.

There are four more weeks of regular season deliveries — these continue until the week before Thanksgiving. November 19 and 20th are the final delivery days for the regular weekly season. There will be no deliveries Thanksgiving week.

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SIGN UP FOR CSA PROGRAM

When you join our CSA, you sign up with the farm to receive a share of the harvest during our 36 week season from mid-March to mid-November. In return, you get a weekly box of organic vegetables and fruit (and optional flowers) delivered straight from our farm to a pick-up site in your neighborhood.

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View our CSA Members Page

This is where you can go to find out what's coming in your box each week, find recipes, identify your vegetables with pictures, and view or print the current and past newsletters. Check here for the information you need to use your box to the fullest.

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