Farmer John Writes: Organic Inspection Report and Our Fabulous Pack Volunteers

 In Farm News

Harvest Week 22, Week 2 of the Extended Season, November 2nd – 5th

Make Sure You are Supposed to Be Picking up a Box this Week
Log in to your membership at to confirm whether you are signed up for an extended season share.

If you have a half extended season share, this is an “even” delivery week as it is Week 2 of the extended season. If you have a half extended season share, you can find out if you are on the odd or even delivery schedule by logging in to your membership.

Your Box This Week – Saturday, November 5
Please note: this summary is written before we pack your box—be aware that some guesswork is involved. At times, a bit of improvisation is required for selecting the contents of your share. As always, be sure to thoroughly wash all of your vegetables.

  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Brussels Sprouts Tops
  • Broccoli Side Shoots
  • Mizuna (in bag)
  • Radishes
  • Potatoes (maybe)
  • Kale Tops
  • Lettuce
  • Pea Shoots
  • Thyme
  • Hot Peppers
  • Ornamental gourds (for decoration)

This Week’s Box
We have one of the loveliest crops of mizuna ever going into your box this week. The Brussels sprouts are valiant in their quest for maturity; I’m relieved to be able to give you Brussels sprouts, even the junior sizes. The kale tops are like bouquets. And it’s Halloween, so you’re receiving an ornamental gourd or two. Can you eat the gourd? Maybe it’s best just to admire it.


Brussels Sprouts Tops
This year, we are putting the Brussels sprouts tops into your box, an edible bunch of leaves sometimes accompanied by loosely formed Brussels sprouts. Brussels sprouts tops are gaining a reputation in culinary circles. Check out Why Brussels Sprouts Tops are Good for You, which states, “You’ll increasingly see sprout tops on growers’ stalls at farmers’ markets. They’re creeping into supermarkets too, albeit confined to the specialty veg shelves.”

Pea Shoots
We’re including pea shoots in this week’s box. Several shareholders have written that they will miss peas shoots next year. This is one of the mysteries of managing a CSA—how to please shareholders and how to avoid displeasing shareholders. Haidy and I sampled some of the pea shoots this past Saturday and labeled them yummy. 

Pea shoots

The Organic Inspector Wrote
In Farm News Week 19, I wrote about the Organic Inspection. The following are some of the notes that the inspector wrote in his report.

* Assess the adequacy of the Organic Search and provide comments on how organic seed use has increased over time.
“New seed table format clearly shows organic seed search for all seeds purchased this year, including cover crops as requested.”

* Additional comments [on soil fertility] “John has a …RTK GPS system on his tractor which guides his tractor and implements using GPS technology down to the scale of an inch. Thus, the wheel paths and implement paths are always the same, only creating compaction and tillage where it’s needed. Corps are never grown in the wheel paths, since the GPS system ensures that the tractors stay on on the established paths. This method has boosted yield by an estimate of 5%, John reports, reduced the need for extra tillage, and improved quality of crops. For example, John’s farm has thick clay soil, yet their carrots grow straight and long inside the chisel plow [and subsoiler] paths.”

* Describe any observations on soil conservation, wildlife habitat and biological diversity. Include observations on species and habitat diversity or lack thereof.
“The farm continues to adhere to a strict cover crop/manure/crop rotation. On the field walk, we observed many of the fields put into cover crops. Specifically, the forage pea stands were high and lush, with no weeds in the fields. Permanent oak savanna and pasture adjoined the production fields [and] pasture for the Angelic Organics Learning Center herds. Sole oak in middle of field “John couldn’t imagine removing this tree from the field.” Thick woodlot buffer on south side of farm.”

“…the forage pea stands were high and lush, with no weeds in the fields.”

* Provide a brief summary of what is noteworthy about the farming operation, the clients and their organic stewardship.
“John runs a large diversified vegetable farm. His dedication to organics and biodynamics is quickly apparent. The farm adheres to a disciplined use of manure, cover crops and crop rotations., as nearly half of the production fields are fallow and planted in cover [crops].”

Farmer John’s Note about the above manure references by the inspector: we pile the manure that we receive from nearby farms in windrows to create a composting process, but it must still be referred to as manure, unless it is composted according to extremely strict USDA standards. These standards are far beyond the farm’s capacity to administer and monitor. We typically refer to this fertility input as composted manure, to distinguish it from raw manure and also from officially certified compost. These windrows of composted manure are usually prepped with Biodynamic preparations, and the windrows are turned and re-mixed one or two times. It is then applied to the fields the year before we plant them to vegetables. As noted by the inspector, we are disciplined in adhering to the standards for manure application.  The composted manure is typically applied 9 months before a crop is harvested from the field.

Our Fabulous Pack Volunteers
You may be aware of our pack volunteer program. About 5 to 9 volunteers help with each of the three packs that we do per week during the main season. Generally, a person volunteers to help with one pack during the week, so we have quite an array of personalities volunteering over the course of a week.

To give you more of a feel for the box packing, here’s a video we shared on Facebook in early fall.  Some of the packers in the video are farm employees; some are volunteers.

We had a pack volunteer pizza party this past Tuesday. It was quite moving to hear the volunteers talk about their personal relationship to Angelic Organics and to the pack. Some of the volunteers said that helping to pack the boxes was their most sane or comforting or meditative part of the week.

Most of our volunteers live within 20 miles of the farm; however two of them drive 90 miles to the farm on separate days to help pack once a week. One brings her young son, who studies or writes poetry while we are packing.

I often offer the volunteers a field tour at the end of the pack, so that they can see where the crops are growing, and how they are progressing.

Overall, the volunteers are a spirited, enthusiastic group. They have been a joyous, gratifying part of this year’s season.

Perhaps you’d like to help with a pack next season. It’s a great way to learn more about your farm, the crops and how your boxes are created. Our pack program is designed to accommodate season-long volunteers, and also those who would like to help with just one or a few packs. Learn more about our pack volunteer program here.

Mingling gourds

Halloween Horror
In high school, in 1965, I took a lovely schoolmate on a date to watch the horror film Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte. I held up pretty well until the bloody head rolled down the staircase. I flinched, winced, and squirmed as it thudded down the steps. I didn’t quite jump into her lap in terror, but I came close. She subsequently made it clear that this would be our only date.

Let us Know
Let Shelly know anything you’d like to share about this week’s box at email hidden; JavaScript is required. Please note the week and day of delivery, your site, when you picked up your box, and any comments about your box.

More from Shareholders
Visit us often at, where we post exciting farm developments regularly, and shareholders post recipes, tips, and photos.

Please Fold Your Boxes Properly and Return Them, Especially if You have been Stockpiling Them
The farm re-uses the vegetable boxes. Flaps are easily torn when the boxes are dismantled improperly, and then the box bottom might later burst open with fresh, organic local produce heading towards the floor. Please carefully flatten your box and return it to your delivery site. If you receive home delivery, place it in the location where your box is delivered.

Farmer John


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