Farm News


Farmer John Writes: I Learned it in Spain

Harvest Week 16, Deliveries of October 3rd – 7th, 2023

The Cover Crops and the Weather

The fall peas are growing nicely in this warm weather after a few rains. They are adding to the fertility and soil life for next year’s crops.

field after field of fall peas

Community Supported Agriculture Confronts Consumerism

We got behind in customer service, way behind, due to understaffing and an astounding volume of customer emails. Nathan, Haidy and I are trying to slog our way out of this predicament. It’s tough, though, because every day many, many more emails arrive from shareholders. Sometimes a shareholder will even write daily for an answer, even though our automatic reply pleads for mercy. We process the current ones first, because once a ticket (customer email) ages, it becomes more and more cumbersome and time-consuming to process it. The aged ones, for the most part, have to wait, even though this might seem counterintuitive. We plan to be current with the backlog by the end of October. 

Customer service requires a range of skills and aptitudes from data management to communication skills to being deeply familiar with our shareholder management platform CSAware and our customer service platform Freshdesk. And, the person doing our customer service needs to know a lot about how our CSA program works, and how the farm works. Even the most seemingly simple administrative task for managing customer service can send me into a tailspin (and I already know a considerable amount about all of it and can type without looking at the keys), so it’s not something we can easily transfer to even a highly qualified candidate without proper and extensive ongoing training, which we are unable to offer until the season winds down.

You know that I am fanatical about timeliness with our crops. Get them in on time! The most important standard that one can apply to farming is timeliness, because that has the most chance of anything a farmer can do of creating bounty. Due to circumstances, we (and some of our shareholders) have suffered from lack of timeliness in our office. 

I have become the dispatcher of the emails. I assign them to Nathan, Haidy or myself. I see all the emails that come to email hidden; JavaScript is required. I am too busy to do this, but we have to catch up, so I am doing it. It’s good that I am doing it, because I see the types of concerns/requests that our shareholders have. Many of these are understandable and appreciated. Some make me realize that certain shareholders do not read Farm News, do not read anything that has to do with their CSA membership, and that would include the Shareholder Agreement, which includes: 

“I will read all emails from the farm and I will thoroughly read the popular weekly Farm News that is both emailed to me and included with each vegetable box that I receive.

If I don’t read all of my correspondence from the farm and if I don’t read the weekly Farm News, I am not fully participating in the Angelic Organics Community Supported Agriculture program. I will make sure to read Farm News so as not to burden the farm office with extraneous questions.”

Of course, many of the culpable shareholders will never read this issue of Farm News. 

The Shareholder Agreement also includes:

“Constructive criticism, tactfully presented, is welcomed by the farm, as the farm is always striving to improve its services to shareholders. I will only offer constructive criticism if I am current in reading farm communications, as my concerns are likely to already be addressed by the farm in its correspondence. 

The farm conducts all communications to shareholders with respect. I promise to also conduct all communications to the farm with respect. I know that the farm is on my side and wants the best possible outcome for my CSA experience. I will not be rude, mean or hostile in my communications with the farm.”

I have been informed by a few shareholders that they do not like to encounter negativity in Farm News (such as this commentary on customer service). Understood. However, I struggle with the volume of communication from shareholders that make it clear they are not playing their part in Community Supported Agriculture. I should not have to explain again and again in correspondence that we substitute crops if we have to, that there is a deadline for putting a hold on a box, that it is not the farm’s responsibility if a shareholder forgets to pick up their box, etc. 

It is an enormous task to deal with shareholders holding us to an impossibly high standard while they are not being the least bit accountable to their agreement as shareholders. If we grew crops without accountability, there would be no farm. If shareholders engage no accountability to their agreement for joining our CSA…well, I am not sure how to handle it. I suppose I should just freely cancel them, but then we have already used their money to put in the crops for their share. Cancel them with no refund, I suppose, as they agreed to uphold their agreement and they didn’t. 

Maybe this is the answer, just cancel shareholders who don’t keep their agreement and offer no refund. Maybe one warning. Maybe none. I would rather be growing your crops than spending my precious time placating unaccountable shareholders. I’m sure it does not sit well with those many of you who are fabulous, responsible, respectful, and appreciative members of our CSA that I am way too diverted in my focus and emotions into correspondence with shareholders who are not properly engaging our CSA—not keeping their agreement.

Here is an example of the kind of situation that might populate shareholder emails to the farm: Lettuce—we had to substitute lettuce mix for head lettuce last week because of weather circumstances. It turns out that some of our shareholders simply do not want lettuce mix, and this registers in customer service as complaints. However, we had no head lettuce to offer, the sort of situation that occurs from time to time because we are a farm, not a store. If you don’t want to accept, even embrace, substitutions, you should not be part of our CSA, as occasional substitutions are unavoidable.

I’ll close this section with an ironic observation: Here at the farm, we live hour after hour, week after week, season after season into planning and growing and safeguarding your crops. It is our way of being in life—committed and engaged. Some of our shareholders clearly do not invest in the slightest in their agreement to read the updates about their CSA, yet they hold us to an impossibly high standard, demanding services that we never agreed to and cannot possibly provide. Hmph! to that. 

A sincere thanks to the majority of you shareholders who love and honor our CSA.

The Crops

This week, it seems that we will be blessed with warm dry weather through Wednesday. Beyond our regular harvesting, we hope to get our potatoes, daikon radishes, and carrots out of the ground. Later, the fields don’t really dry after rain, which makes the harvesting of root crops somewhere from challenging to impossible.

Faster than a disgruntled shareholder can reach for her phone to submit a blistering complaint, we will mobilize the crew and the equipment to extricate tens of thousands of pounds of your beloved fall crops to safety.

Spinach—if you ordered spinach this week, it probably has weeds in it—some, not a lot. However, it was taking our crew too long to get the weeds out, so I decided to ask our shareholders to sort out the weeds. Is that a little like volunteering? 

Bok Choy—splendid.

Mayra and Maythe wash bok choy

Brussels Sprouts tops—wow, very popular with our shareholders. One person wrote and said, “I ordered Brussels sprouts and got something else, some leafy things. I don’t want them. They’re only good for the compost.” Well, this sort of thing unfortunately happens, in spite of there being a photo of Brussels Sprouts tops in the customization section plus the descriptive word Tops. Topping the Brussels sprouts should result in bigger sprouts for you soon.

This week, we don’t have enough Brussels sprouts tops to satisfy all the customization orders. We will therefore substitute actual sprouts on the stalks for some of you—a picturesque, sort of primitive presentation. Normally, we don’t give Brussels sprouts until they experience a few sweetening frosts, but in this case, because we substitute with a like crop as best we can, we will substitute with actual sprouts.

Peppers—lots of peppers to give this week; some of them have turned color—unusual to have peppers in early October, but not unprecedented.

columns of sweet peppers

Eggplant in October—huh? Is that the name of a song? 


Kohlrabi—lots of them and lovely.

Not yet: fall beets and lettuce—went in the ground late, so we are covering these crops with row cover to capture heat. This will trick them into thinking they are 200 miles south of here with correspondingly higher temperatures.

Will this lettuce make heads by frost? Might, if covered.

Soon: More potatoes. Carrots. Daikon radishes—looks like a great yield for the Daikons…might even offer the tops, though they are looking a bit frayed, so that decision will come later. 

There’s more not mentioned above for this week and, of course, more to come in future weeks.

Tall Table Tapas Tip

A woman volunteered to help us pack last Thursday—her first time. She had spent maybe 10 years in Spain, I found out, because I am curious and blunt. She had decided to track down a farm where she could volunteer. She had never been on a farm before, so I really didn’t know what to make of this impulse to be on a farm, her never having been on a farm. It did seem exotic to have a woman from Spain on a farm for the first time.

I was thrown back to my time in the Mediterranean countries, the passion, the drama, the night life, tears, hugs, the hospitality, the emphasis on living over working.

Farmer John: “I presented a film about my life and the farm, The Real Dirt on Farmer John in Valladolid—beautiful old city, a former capital of Spain, crumbling a bit now.”

Volunteer: “Ah, yes, a wonderful old city.”

Back story: I was assigned a personal handler in Valladolid, which didn’t often happen at film festivals, and I think the director of the film, Taggart Siegel, got his own handler too. Or maybe we shared a handler. I can’t quite remember. Anyway, this handler showed us the night life in Valladolid, which of course included visiting a tapas bar. (For those unfamiliar with the term, a tapas bar is a place where snacks or appetizers are served, especially with drinks.)


Farmer John: “I loved it in Valladolid, even though I was only there for a couple days—incredibly friendly people. We were flooded with hospitality, drinks, food, and questions. I learned something very important at the tapas bar I went to: no sitting on chairs at tables, only standing at the tall tables—that’s the way to mingle. You can’t mingle sitting down. You meet a ton of people while standing and mingling, hardly anyone when sitting.”

I’d kind of realized this earlier, when I would invite members of the film audience to a nearby bar, where especially the ones who were too bashful to raise their hands in the Q&A at the theater would say (sometimes whisper) what they needed to say at the bar. But, since I was the subject of the film, I was always invited to sit at a table, which meant no mingling. Sitting is not mingling. I usually wouldn’t sit; I would stand at the bar and let people come up to me.

In Valladolid it crystallized—the importance of the tall tables and standing at one. Vibrant social life revolves a bit around tall tables. It’s important to always have the option to remain in conversation at a table or graciously excuse oneself and go stand at another table, then another. (Sometimes, there are stools at the tall tables, but it is also easy to mobilize from a tall stool, vs a chair.) 

Why might I leave a table, you might ask? Too opinionated, too dogmatic, too loud. (I mean the others at the table, not me, of course.) I would also leave if we didn’t share a language, or if there were people at other tall tables looking my way wistfully, or if they were just plainly beckoning me.

tapas bar conviviality: stock image of standing in Valladolid tapas bar

At my recent class reunion at Beloit College, there were a few tall tables where people mingled, and many regular tables where people sat for the whole evening, inattentive to their former classmates plunked at other tables. Of course, sitting at tables for dining can be the perfect way to socialize around food; these things always depend.

If airlines adopted the tapas bar model—imagine all the people you could meet (or graciously avoid) on a flight until the plane hit turbulence.

Is this tall table tip about food? Sort of. It’s a socializing tip around food, and food is about socializing.

Farmer John


Farmer John Writes: A Day of Heart

Harvest Week 15, Deliveries of September 26th – 30th, 2023

I normally wouldn’t share a timeline such as below in Farm News. It’s a little like what a person might write to their relatives on the back a huge postcard about their trip to the Grand Canyon, but I am nevertheless recounting it, because the end of last week was a spectacle unfurling in both slow and rapid motion. This was due to an immense harvest to manage, setting up for the Field Day and hosting it, and the whirlwind of the Patterson contingent visiting. Sara Patterson in particular is a force of nature that I can barely fathom.

(Unfortunately, my wife Haidy was ill this past weekend, so that is why you don’t see her in this issue of Farm News.)

Sara and Farmer John

Last Thursday

Early afternoon, Sara and Symbria Patterson and their growing manager TK arrived at Angelic Organics. Sara’s terms shared before the visit: they will make all the meals; they will get a tour of our equipment; they get to work in the fields. 

They watched the pack for a little bit. Then I showed them around the farmstead, keeping TK especially in mind, since this was his first visit to the farm.

Sara made potato leek celeriac soup, biscuits and cookies for supper that evening.


On the Friday before the Field Day, Sara and TK, with the crew, harvested radishes, kale, celeriac, thyme, lettuce mix, chard, pumpkins, and gourds, then washed pumpkins. 

“You let us gringos work with the crew!” Sara exclaimed. “I hope we didn’t slow them down.”

“You didn’t,” I reassured Sara.

At noon that Friday, Sara, Symbria, TK, and our spirited crew enjoyed a meal of tacos with horchata, made by H-2A crew members Ruben, Mayra and Maythe.  

The meal was followed by a gathering in our barn theater, where Sara shared the history of Red Acre Farm along with strong images of its metamorphosis since she started it up 14 years ago when she was 14. (It’s worth clicking on the Red Acre link and poking around their earthly and otherworldly farm.) 

Sara narrates from the back of the theater as our crew learns about Red Acre Farm

I showed video clips of the crew working throughout the season (and partying one night). TK projected pastoral photos of H-2A worker Maythe’s family farm in southern Oaxaca.

As dusk arrived, Sara and TK set out to harvest flowers, cornstalks and squash for decorating the buildings for the Field Day. TK helped for a while, then retired to bed, and Sara characteristically kept going until 1 on the morning, harvesting and decorating with a flashlight. (Was the flashlight strapped to her head? I’m not sure. Phone taped to her head? Not sure.)


decorated barn stage (not decorated in the dark)

Next morning, we woke up to a beautifully decorated farmstead, and peach pies for everybody made by Sara with peaches from a tree in Pollo’s yard that he planted years ago.

The Field Day, Saturday

Some of the crew scrambled to harvest crops for the upcoming pack, and everyone else, including Sara and TK, scrambled to get ready for the big event.

Sara later recounted, “you wouldn’t let TK and me harvest on Saturday. You said we had to help set up.” (Setting up that morning was a very big project before guests started arriving at 10:45.)

Longtime pack volunteers Liza and Mary came out early to make even more bouquets, beyond those that Sara had fashioned the previous night.

Our Field Day was fabulous. We had a wonderful turnout on a warm sunny day—a huge surge of shareholders compared to Field Days in recent years.

Great food for the potluck. Delicious desserts.

a sprawl of shareholders at tables under the maple tree and on blankets

Learn more about the now stately maple tree by clicking on What Are You Going to Do with that Stick?, a story which I first wrote for Farm News in September, 1994.

Farmer John expresses himself

2 haywagons leave the farmstead, 2nd one pulled by Don Glasenapp

Pack volunteer coordinator Don Glasenapp and I did 4 hayrides.

Community singing led by shareholder Megan Eberhardt was most energizing and bonding. It permeated our guests with joy and a feeling of togetherness. 

Megan meets the music

As the stage presentation was starting, spirited pack volunteers Bill and Cathy took kids out to the field to look for potato treasures—exciting time for the kids, digging in the dirt.

practicing for digging potatoes

Bill (right) teaches potato digging

On the stage, charismatic Sara Patterson presented beautifully about her farm in Southern Utah. Sara’s mother Symbria moderated the ensuing discussion between Sara and me with grace and wit. And…it was a bit of a comedy show—unrehearsed, lively and rambunctious. 

Symbria, Sara and Farmer John entertain/educate on the barn stage

Shareholders in the audience were most attentive, and there wers many questions and comments from the audience, such as:

“It’s been great to see the farm grow and unfold during the 30 years I have been a shareholder.”

“How can we help the farm?”

“What is organic farming?”

“What about plastic mulch?”

“Why do you do this?”

“What’s your least favorite thing about farming?”

Sara and Farmer John: too hard, finding shareholders, keeping people happy, dealing with complaints, discounting shares. 

“What is your most favorite thing?”

Sara: building community.

Farmer John: dealing with infinity.

As the Field Day was winding down, Jonathan, a new shareholder this year, approached me to discuss Rudolf Steiner, a topic dear to my heart (as you may have noticed). Jonathan encountered Steiner a year or so ago. Jonathan and I marveled at the extraordinary impact that Steiner’s work has had on our lives. This engagement with the focus on Steiner led to an even more glorious ending to the Field Day, as we and Jonathan’s partner and a longtime shareholder Chris discussed the importance of bringing people together, of building community, of people feeling seen, and of seeing the other.

The Field Day was a Day of Heart.


German pancake breakfast artistry by Sara

On Sunday, after the joy of breakfast, I showed TK and the Pattersons the farm equipment. They mostly do their farm work with hand tools and muscle power. 

TK drove a tractor for the first time ever.

TK, Farmer John, Symbria and Sara say “Goodbye…it was fun!”

Snickerdoodles left behind by the Pattersons for starting the week.(The stack started out a lot higher.)

The Crops

Radishes—the radishes sized up fast. They’ll do that.

radish rapture

Lettuce—last week, we had to substitute head lettuce for lettuce mix, because the fields were so wet and we could not harvest the lettuce mix. This week, by dodging the rain, we are luckily able to harvest the lettuce mix to substitute for the head lettuce we offered.

Spinach—we were fortunate to be able to harvest a beautiful spinach crop with our greens machine, by dodging the rain.

Brussels Sprouts Tops—more sprouts tops were ordered this week than spinach or lettuce. Wow.

Next week—broccoli, bok choy, kohlrabi, pie pumpkins and more, of course, but these itemized crops seem so distinctly transitional to fall.

Upcoming Weather

Late September often brings rains. Our crops that are embedded in the earth are carrots, daikon radishes and potatoes. We will jump at the first opportunity to harvest these precious crops. Now it’s a race with weather.

Of course, there is another weather event that will likely arrive in the next couple weeks. Most of our crops still in the field can withstand at least a mild frost…


After the Q&A on the stage, an Angelic Organics shareholder couple said to Sara and Symbria, “When we retire, we would like to come to Cedar City to live and become part of your farm.” 

Is that poaching? Maybe not, since the Pattersons say they didn’t instigate it.

I sort of playfully offered TK a job here.

Is that poaching? 

I said I did it playfully.

Farmer John


Farmer John Writes: The Art of Growing

Harvest Week 14, Deliveries of September 19th – 23rd, 2023

Upon reviewing the crops that are scheduled for this week’s shares, I thought I would highlight the Art of Growing. It’s a collaborative art, requiring the efforts of many people, long-term planning, daily planning, good equipment, good soil, adequate infrastructure, and receptive shareholders. 

This issue is a tribute to the many at Angelic Organics who feed you, and what they bring forth from the fields.

The Art of Growing

For this week’s shares, we offered selections from 14 different crops. Below, I offer profiles/photos of all 14: celeriac, leeks, potatoes, cilantro, heirloom tomatoes, regular tomatoes, parsley, baby lettuce, arugula, radishes, kale, thyme, delicata squash, and Brussels sprouts tops.  

In presenting this list above, I was taken back to the creation of Farmer John’s Cookbook, now out of print, which was originally going to be full color. Every one of the 36 crops elaborated with recipes and overviews in the book was to have five photos accompanying it, photos that showed the crop from early growth stage to fruiting through harvest and washing. The idea was to impart the Anthroposophical/Goethean emphasis on metamorphosis. It was a tremendous project to document all these crops in their various stages of growth, harvest, and post-harvest. That photo documentation would have enhanced the cookbook immensely. The publisher promised a hard cover coffee table book in full color, then reneged. Things don’t always turn out as planned.

If this edition of Farm News were a movie, the crops profiled below would receive acting credits. Our field workers would be the production team. The cover crops would be the caterers, since they feed the soiI. Haidy would be publicist and administrator. I suppose I would be the director. Shareholders would get credit as the executive producers, since they are the source of money.

The 14 Crops Available this Week

Celeriac—it has been several years since we grew such a nice crop of celeriac. This year, some of the leaves are finally starting to fray, so we have decided to start harvesting it, even though some of the bulbs could probably get bigger (but not if the leaves are withering).

We have a similar condition with celeriac’s leafy cousin, celery. Before the celery is fully grown, it starts to spoil in the field, so we tend to harvest it early when it is still mid-sized.

rustic celeriac

I noticed that a rather small percentage of our shareholders chose to receive celeriac this week. About half as many shareholders ordered celeriac compared to potatoes and leeks. I am also remembering that some shareholders love celeriac and have lamented the failed or sparse crops of recent years.

Maythe transfers trimmed celeriac for washing and storage

Leeks—beautiful crop this year.

leek loveliness

Potatoes—not a bountiful crop of potatoes this season. And weirdly, some of the potatoes spoiled in the ground. With the dry summer, this perplexes me. The crew does their best grading potatoes before bagging them, but I’m sure they miss a few.

Potato Hygiene—our shipment of paper potato bags did not arrive in time, so some of your potatoes went into plastic bags and some into biodegradable, more porous non-paper bags. I suggest, if  your potatoes are in the plastic bag especially, but maybe also if they are in the biodegradable non-paper bags, that you remove and inspect the potatoes and then transfer them to a paper bag. 

Here is a recipe for leek and potato soup with celeriac. For those of you who study the recipe and then regret not choosing celeriac, there will be another chance to pair celeriac with potatoes.

Cilantro—a very popular crop.

Concepcion harvests cilantro

Heirloom Tomatoes—almost done. Many heirlooms spoil on the vine, and they require more care for harvest and transport. It’s understandable why they command significantly higher prices than regular tomatoes. 

This is probably the last week for heirloom tomatoes. I am tired of thinking the ones left will ripen, and they rot instead, and I have been continually over-estimating their availability.

Pollo stacks heirlooms

Regular Tomatoes—they took forever to ripen and suddenly, most of them ripened at once. We’ll probably offer regular tomatoes for one more week.

Maythe harvests regular tomatoes

Parsley grows back again a few weeks after harvesting.

flatleaf parsley

Baby Lettuce—we harvested our lettuce mix a bit on the small side, because we had offered it for this week. Due to the cooler, shorter days, it was slow to grow. The bags will be smaller than usual. Your lettuce should be delectable. 

lettuce mix

Fabulous Arugula—we have some of the nicest arugula ever this week. The most destructive enemy of arugula, the flea beetles, are in remission. Let’s hope they stay that way through the week’s harvest.

Victor examines the arugula he seeded 4 weeks ago

Ruben stacks columns of the most bountiful arugula ever

It is the best arugula crop ever. We normally split up a crate into 12 to 15 bags for your culinary pleasure, depending on the size of the harvest. We will divvy up each crate this week into 8 bags. (We can’t hold arugula over in the field for another week—it will bolt.) This arugula took 4 weeks to grow to maturity—4 weeks!

This Week’s Arugula Bag

Doing the math, at 8 bags per crate, the volume of a bag will be a little less than 1/4 bushel. Your CSA box is 3/4 bushel, so one bag of arugula willl take up a little less than 1/3 of your box. Of course, the bag compresses a bit, so it’s more likely that your bag of arugula will take up about 1/4 of your box. If you ordered 2 bags of arugula, they would come close to filling 1/2 of your box. 

I just did a reality check and put two bags of this week’s arugula into a CSA box. It seems the arugula compresses more when bagged than what I anticipated. Still, the two bags took up over 1/3 of the box volume.

2 bags of arugula in a CSA box

Radishes—grow fast, are the right size for just a few days, and then they split, especially if it rains.

Antonio (foreground), Victor and Ruben harvest radishes

washed and iced radish bunches

Kale—we offer kale most weeks, a super popular crop.


Thyme—we harvest thyme and a few weeks later, it’s back.


Brussels sprouts tops—very popular with our shareholders.

Brussels sprouts tops

Winter Squash—we have many fields of winter squash to harvest. Also, we have ripe pumpkins and gourds for you if you attend our Field Day on Saturday.

a carpet of ripe delicata squash for you this week; ripe pumpkins in background

Cover crop of fall peas feeds the soil—the catering team, remember?

Fall peas are benefitting from recent rains

Careful With Those Box Tabs

We get a lot of boxes back with ripped tabs.

The farm has to replace those boxes that have been made flimsy due to ripped tabs. Without ripping the tabs, a box should last the whole season. A box that is not flattened properly will only hold up for maybe 6 or 7 deliveries. We probably replace 2,000 damaged boxes per season at a cost of about $5,000 to the farm.  

Please watch this video of how to properly flatten your boxes

Next year, I plan to put a label on the bottom of the boxes to remind shareholders not to rip the tabs. That will probably reduce our replacement box expenses.

ripped; unusable

Please Return Your Vegetable Boxes

Most shareholders who pick up at a community site flatten their box and take their vegetables home in the liner. Home delivery shareholders get the box itself plus contents, and are asked to put it outside their door on the day of home delivery, so the Metrobi driver can pick it up and start its journey back to the farm. These boxes are often not returned to the farm. I am guessing that about $5,000 worth of boxes  are not returned. Please put your flattened box where the Metrobi driver will see it and recycle it to the farm.

Box Liners

The compostable box liners help to keep the temperature of your box contents stable. They also keep the inside of the box clean. I thought that the cost of the box liners of $300 per week would be offset by not having to replace so many boxes, since the boxes are kept so much cleaner due to the liners. Also, typically the boxes are flattened at the site upon pickup and left there, so they aren’t as likely to be stockpiled in someone’s garage and go out of circulation. The box liners have not saved us much money in box replacements, however, because so many of the boxes are rendered unusable due to the ripped tabs.

Box Liners This Week

Our box liners didn’t come on time this week, so some of the boxes in the early part of the week will not have box liners. Worse things can happen…

Field Day This Saturday, September 23rd

Come have fun with us: pick flowers, ride on the hay wagon, get your pumpkins, sing songs with Megan shareholder Eberhardt, dine, meet our farmer friends from Utah…. learn more about the upcoming Field Day

Not Junk

Your emails aren’t junk. They are supposed to go to our customer service platform Freshdesk, where we are admittedly behind in answering them. But if they land in Freshdesk, we will eventually see them and answer them. 

For some reason, our email delivery provider was GoDaddy and then it one day became Microsoft Office. Your email might end up in Freshdesk, where it is supposed to land, but your next email might end up in an obscure junk folder in Microsoft Office. This is tremendously hard to manage, and we have not figured out how to train Microsoft to stop randomly depositing your emails in junk. We might be waiting for an email reply from you, and then still waiting, but your reply was re-directed to a junk folder off yonder in Microsoft Office.

On this junk note, our CSA management platform, CSAware, has a service that lets us efficiently send bulk emails to you, but for some reason, these emails are sometimes vaporized by the provider—not just emails from our farm but from many other farms that are trying to be in contact with their customers. If we send you an email through the CSAware system, and you don’t get it, and it’s not in your junk folder, it was probably vaporized by the provider. Imagine this: we send you an email; you don’t receive it; you don’t know we sent it; we don’t know you didn’t get it. 

CSAware is trying to fix this problem. It seems it is a highly technical, very fussy issue, because CSAware farms are not supposed to use the CSAware system for promotions, but our notice to you, for instance, for our Field Day is hardly a promotion, but maybe some algorithm decides it’s a promotion. Or maybe other farms are using the system for clearcut promotions and then all the farms using the system are held suspect for promoting.

Sorry about Missing Items

Occasionally, a pack volunteer, lovely and dedicated as they are, neglects to put the item(s) called for on the label as the box comes down the line. I have brought this up to our pack volunteers numerous times, and it’s clear that they all think that putting in the number of items that correspond to the box label is a good idea. However, agreeing that it is a good idea is not the same as putting the right number of items in the box.

For instance, last Friday, a shareholder got none of the 6 leeks she was expecting in her share. 

We do random audits of boxes as they come off the line. We didn’t catch this oversight. 

Haidy said, “imagine this shareholder who was so looking forward to her 6 leeks and none of them came.”

We are sorry about items missing from your box. I welcome every complaint about missing items and we guiltily offer credits for the shortfall. The best way to report a missing item is to fill out the Report an Issue form. (We are behind in processing these credits, but have a plan to catch up soon.)

We dramatically upgraded our vegetable and herb inventory system this season. In the aftermath of that upgrade, I planned to track which pack volunteer was supposed to put which item into your box, so that I could create an accountability system for tracking who neglected to put in items. I didn’t create that accountability system yet. I simply don’t get to all the things I want to do. Sorry.

Pack Volunteers and Our Neighbor Ole

Our neighbor David Olafsen (Ole) baked cinnamon molasses cookies for our lovely pack volunteers last Thursday. David and I have known each other forever.

David offers a cookie to longtime pack volunteer Liza

The H-2A Crew Likes Walmart

The H-2A crew likes to shop at Walmart. I avoid Walmart, partly due to its immensity. I feel lost when I go there. 

Antonio and Bonifacio at Walmart

Farmer John: Why do you like to go to Walmart?

Crew: It’s big and it has everything.

Farmer John: That’s it? 

Crew: We like to watch the people.

Farmer John: Do you know where things are, like where the toys are and the engine oil and the clothes?

Crew: Si.

Farmer John: Do you get to know the staff? 

Crew: No.

Farmer John: Do you talk to them? Are they happy to see you?

Crew: No.

Farmer John: So, if I go to Walmart and say “Hi” from you guys, no one will know who I am talking about?

Crew: No one.

Farmer John: Well, you should get to know the staff, if you are going in there so often. You should call ahead and tell them when you are coming so they will be expecting you. I have been there once in maybe the last 5 years. It’s just too big for me. I used to raise corn where that Walmart now sits. I’d rather walk through rows of corn than down those aisles of Walmart; the colors are terrible.

Last Week’s Farm News: The C in CSA

We received an outpouring of love and support after last week’s publication of Farm News, The C in CSAI wonder if the demanding, rude shareholders who write us will even read it, and if they do, if it will make any difference in their approach or attitude. Those ways of behavior are not easy to soften.

Here is one of my favorite replies to the issue:

“Lest you think that only 5 or 6 shareholders are joyous about their boxes, I will add my name to the list, for at least one more shoutout of joy! I have enjoyed every single bite of everything, but especially the lettuces, tomatoes, and corn. I don’t think that I will ever forget this year’s first bite into the lettuces and the arugula! Never in my 80 plus years have I ever tasted greens such as your Farm produces. And a special recognition to the fennel that has been beyond outstanding. The 1 rotted pepper is almost forgotten. I feel badly for its never achieving its life-fulfilling purpose of passing my lips en route to nourishing my body, mind and soul. But it did try. And the Farm did try. And yes, I felt just a tiny tinge of something like “guilt,” when I asked for a vegie credit. I do feel blessed that the abundance this year has resulted in vegie credits. Such abundance is surely Heaven’s reward for something very Good.”

– Mae

(Just so you know, some of Mae’s emails to us ended up in the Microsoft Office junk folder.)

Later, Mae added:

“I LOVE YOUR STAGING ROOM AND all the stories it already tells!”

She also added in another note:

“In how many universes are how many possibilities/probabilities, the mysteries within the mysteries … and all we can do is … the best we can…”

And then this from Mae:

“Haidy, NO problem.  Also, I just read your darling’s newsletter for this week, where it was clear that you’ve also been traveling back, and all the emails you get, etc etc.  Please realize that any inquiries from me are just that, inquires.  I really admire the jobs that all of you on the farm are involved in, doing your humanly very best every day.  I find it totally amazing what Farmer John is accomplishing in the creation, growth, and quality of the farm.  Hundreds of variables with more lurking.  So I may want my basil, peppers, or whatever, but I also just want to thank you ALL!”

To which Haidy responded:

“Thank you so much, Mae! What a wonderful, supportive message from you. It gave me a boost.

We are grateful to have you in our farm community. Hopefully you can come and see the farm next weekend at our Field Day.

Angelic Organics”

I wish that Mae could be the farm’s resident poet.

55 Years Ago, Farmer John and His Mom at Breakfast Before Milking

Farmer John: We need a load of crushed rock for our driveway.

John’s Mom: Okay, I’ll call Porters’ right away.

Farmer John: It’s 4:30 in the morning. You can’t call them this early.

John’s Mom: Oh, Grover is up. 

John’s Mom called Grover during breakfast.

John’s Mom to Farmer John; He’ll bring the rock out as soon as it gets light. We went to Hononegah High School together, you know. That was in the 30’s.

Grover brought out the load of rock when it got light. A couple of weeks later, Grover proposed to my Mom. Imagine if he had forgotten to put the load of rock in his truck, like what occurs occasionally with a pack volunteer.

They had more than 20 glorious years together.

Motivated? Single? Order rock early in the morning.

Farmer John


Farmer John Writes: The C in CSA

Harvest Week 13, Deliveries of September 12th – 16th, 2023

With all the things there are not to believe these days, I never disbelieve the harvest week we are in. No amount of scientific research, math abracadabra, government intrusion, or passage of time will get me to believe this is other than week 13.

The Weather

We had a little cloudburst last week; it seems we were about the only location in the area that received any rain at all. It was enough to germinate our fall peas which had been laying in the dust. Without rain to get the peas going, they are about as dormant in the field as they are in the bag. We continue to irrigate our vegetables and herbs, as the recent rain was just a teaser.

August dust and sky before the little cloudburst

Farm Field Day Coming Up on Saturday, September 23rd

We will be hosting our Fall Field Day for shareholders on Saturday, September 23rd.

The pumpkins are already turning orange. There are still lots of flowers in the U-Pick Garden, and we have some super entertainment lined up for after our potluck lunch: illustrious guests Sara and Symbria Patterson and their farm manager TK will be visiting then from Red Acre Farm in Utah.

Young Farmer Sara Patterson and elder Farmer John will spar/commiserate/giggle on the barn stage, with Sara’s mom Symbria moderating/refereeing. Shareholder Megan Eberhardt will lead group singing before and after the Patterson/Peterson entertainment.

Check out our Field Day web page for the schedule and all the details.

The Crops


tomato torrent

Potatoes and Leeks

We have a nice crop of leeks, so I decided this week to offer up our first harvest of potatoes with a side of leeks. 

first potato harvest

Potatoes get scuffed a bit by the harvester. We minimize this as much as possible.

Fall is approaching, and you are eating seasonally, so consider this combination as a segue into fall. Potato leek soup is perhaps in order.

splendid leeks; last transplanting of the season—lettuce


We have nice fall carrots for you this week. The carrot ground was very hard from drought, and the carrots (oddly, in light of the drought) were the longest we have ever raised. Our carrot lifter could not go as deep as we wanted, so the tips of some of the carrots were cut off. We included a judicious amount of cut carrots in your box if you ordered carrots, as they are eminently edible. Also, the carrot fronds were not suitable for bunching—they were brittle and flimsy—so we bagged the carrots.


The sweet corn last week and this week is advanced. Some actually prefer it that way, some don’t. To mitigate the anticipated corn complaints, I am including a free bag of lovely lettuce mix for those who ordered corn—this in addition to the corn for the people who customized their boxes with corn. We have a surplus of mixed lettuce this week; it grew breathtakingly fast. I didn’t want the surplus to go to waste, so I added it as a consolation prize for those who ordered corn that might disappoint them, again to hopefully avoid a slew of complaints about overdone corn. 

Those who work on the farm who like advanced corn (which is most of the people who work here) say to grill it or roast it. It’s more like the corn, elote, that you can buy from street vendors in Mexico. In order to finish with the corn this week, I will sometimes be adding an extra ear of corn to your share beyond the number of ears that you ordered.


Green bell peppers are considered sweet peppers (although a shareholder recently disputed this). We used to leave parts of our green pepper crop to mature further into multi-colored peppers, but we suspended this practice years ago, since letting peppers mature on the vine stopped the growth of additional peppers. I’m going to try it again in a small patch, though, just to evaluate the process. 

If you want your green peppers to turn red, leave them on a counter in a sunny location in a warm room for a few days. The peppers will sweeten as they turn color.

We also have some Carmen peppers turning red on their vines. Several inches long and triangular in shape, Carmen peppers look hot, but they are not; they are sweet.

On Crop Estimates (Again)

Since we have many shareholders who receive a share every other week, I am addressing the crop estimates challenge in Farm News a second week in a row, with somewhat different wording.

I’ve been having to face the problem of inaccurate crop estimates a lot the past few weeks. I know that we offer boxes customized to your preferences, but my crop estimates sometimes border on guesses. Sometimes they don’t border on guesses; they simply are guesses.

Eggplant will yield an abundant crop, but they will often rot as they mature. Same with heirloom tomatoes. A worm might invade them; the sun might scald them. Same with regular tomatoes. Remember, we do the crop projection on the Tuesday of the week before we deliver those vegetables. Vegetables are a moving target. They can look splendid on that Tuesday and become unacceptable by the following week. The (non-) basil last week was a good example of that, especially in late summer; the leaves just quickly went bad. 

For this week, I simply made an error in offering eggplant. I knew not to offer it, but somehow it got by me and it got into the offering of this week’s crops. Sorry for that. To make up for the eggplant shortfall, I will add two regular tomatoes for every missing eggplant.

The heirloom tomatoes are subsiding. If we are short this week, I will offer two regular tomatoes to substitute for any missing heirloom tomato.

Usually, there is more demand for the sweet corn from the very beginning of sweet corn season, but this year, demand was mild. Of course, one can argue that the sweet corn crop can be tailored to the demand with advance planning, but this is not really the case. We can’t anticipate the number of late signups for our CSA, nor the weather that matures the sweet corn, nor the demand from week to week. This year especially, because the crops have been so plentiful, we have often been offering 14 crops with which to customize your box, whereas in previous years, we were likely to offer 12. With more crops to choose from, the demand for corn was diluted. Another way to express it is that the extra crop varieties we offered this season somewhat competed with our corn demand, as shareholders had more options for other crops than usual. 

I never try to trick myself into thinking we have more of a crop than we have. I do the most accurate projection that I can do. But eggplant hides under the leaves, as do the peppers. I can’t count every eggplant, every pepper. Again, some of these might go bad after that Tuesday crop projection; some might look like they’ll be ready the next week, but they don’t mature fast enough.

It’s also interesting to consider the salad greens, such as the arugula or the baby lettuce. They might look too small to harvest the upcoming week, but then they might be too big if we wait an additional week.

So, recently I have been offering a lot of substitutions for crops that I thought we would have. I can’t get overwrought about this; I just have to flow with it—and be happy that I have crops to substitute. It’s just one of hundreds of things I have to manage throughout the week. Hundreds? Probably. (More on this below.)

We Are a Farm, Not a Store: A Short Review of Community Supported Agriculture

This review might be more information than some of my readers would prefer, but the whole topic of CSA is quite interesting as a social/economic model/experiment, so I invite you to read and ponder. If it’s not enough information, learn more about Community Supported Agriculture at the United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Library.

People join our CSA for myriad reasons. Some want to support a local farm. Some want to support a farm that is dedicated to nurturing the soil. Some like the prospect of truly farm fresh vegetables and herbs. Some believe our food will be cheaper than Amazon’s food. Of course, there are more reasons and combinations of reasons. 

The CSA model ideally represents a synergy between farmer and consumer, providing mutual trust and respect, where the farmer is making a living doing their best to provide food for the shareholder and the shareholder is benefitting from the farmers’ best work possible. The CSA model is supposed to offer the farmer a buffer of security against crop failure or other setbacks. 

If you think about the model outlined in the previous paragraph, and compare it to how it now exists at Angelic Organics (and many other CSA farms), you will notice flaws or drawbacks in the current model:

  • Some shareholders end their shares during the season. The farm has undertaken the expenses to grow crops for them, but they request a refund. 
    • Some quit because they can’t stand the program, the variety, the quality, the quantity or because they move away.
    • Some we encourage to quit because they are so nasty, demanding, and critical that they completely darken our spirits. We then offer them a pro-rated refund for a season’s share that we have already invested in growing.
  • Although shareholders agree to read Farm News in the Shareholder Agreement, many don’t read it, so they don’t have a relationship to the goings-on at the farm, which include updates on crop conditions and weather. (You, on the other hand, I will wager, are actually reading this edition of Farm News.) These people are not really participating in the CSA model. They might write a scathing critique of a marginal crop which we included in the box with a condition that has already been addressed in Farm News.
    • (I will note here that there is a glitch with CSAware which causes some of our shareholders not to receive our emails, so the problem of not reading our correspondence from the farm is not necessarily indifference or disinterest on the part of our shareholders.)
    • Of course, it can happen that an anticipated vegetable is not in the box, because a distracted pack volunteer neglected to put it in the box. Our pack volunteers are very conscientious (and generous), but distractions happen. We always make up for missing items with a credit. 
  • The CSAware share customizing system is brazenly transactional. We price the crops you order and fill your box with these crops until your box has reached its $45 threshold. This gets (some) shareholders thinking that a tomato is worth this much, a melon that much, etc., and customizing becomes a bit like shopping prices at the supermarket. 
    • This is a most unfortunate aspect of the customization platform, even though it is necessary and understandable as a kind of regulatory or organizing force. It turns the farm into a sort of store and the shareholder into a consumer. Every week, we are committed to fill the box with $45 worth of crops. This is not the original CSA model, which apportioned a share of the harvest to each shareholder. This has no space in it for a shortfall; it’s a box with $45 worth of contents. It’s highly transactional; it’s not based on the farm’s output, the weather, etc. According to this system, you are always entitled to a box containing $45 of crops.
    • Fortunately, your farm is very experienced in growing crops, so a shortage in your box is unlikely, but we notice that many shareholders have a high standard for what goes into the box. If the farm provides a crop that is marginal, because that is what the farm and the weather provided and we thought it was too good to compost, some shareholders will want credits—the transactional system. (I realize that many shareholders give us slack, because they are keenly aware that they are receiving their crops from a farm, not a store.)
      • It happens on occasion that a shareholder will demand a credit for a bad tomato, for instance, then write again the next day asking why the credit has not yet been posted, and then write again demanding prompt action in ALL CAPS. Bad tomatoes belong to the shareholders, as do good tomatoes. Our crew just strives to insulate our shareholders from marginal tomatoes and other vegetables. 
  • Traditionally, if a CSA farm has a crop failure, such as our basil that turned yellow in the field last week, the farm is not obligated to make it up to the shareholder. That loss would be absorbed by the shareholder, because the farm used the shareholder’s money to grow that crop. However, we don’t subject our shareholders to this sort of shortfall, because we are a highly productive farm and we substitute for crops that fail. This is an aspect of Angelic Organics which I would prefer that shareholders recognize and celebrate—that we compensate for missing crops by substituting other crops. (Of course, the farm spends money growing these other crops that become substitutions.)
    • Some shareholders resent that we substitute crops for missing crops. They don’t celebrate and marvel that we are such a productive, robust farm that we absorb the cost of crop losses and provide alternative crops to complete the box. Our substitutions interfere with their meal planning and taste preferences, etc. For the most part, we don’t often need to substitute—it’s a small or a non-issue (with the glaring exception of recent weeks). But when we do substitute, some shareholders will complain strenuously, as opposed to acknowledging us for having surplus available to make up for the shortfall.
    • Last week, I re-priced our regular tomatoes from $2 to $1 each, because we had so many tomatoes and I wanted to move them. I am sure you know that lowering the price 50% did not mean that suddenly it had cost us 50% less to grow and harvest the tomatoes. I just wanted the tomatoes more widely shared with our shareholders, because we had a surplus. Because our basil crop was unsuitable to give, I offered two tomatoes in exchange for the missing bag of basil. I realized that a person steeped in the transactional model will likely want 5 one-dollar tomatoes in exchange for the missing bag of basil (which is of course what a shareholder requested). However, there were so many tomatoes that were already going into many of the boxes—tomatoes that were ordered and also tomatoes to make up for other shortfalls—that I didn’t want to overwhelm the box with tomatoes. So I offered two tomatoes to substitute for the missing basil, tomatoes normally priced at $2 but last week were discounted to $1. A person can argue that this is a non-equitable swap. A CSA farmer might say, “well, we can offer something, some gesture, to make up for that missing basil—let’s put in some tomatoes, but not too many. I don’t want to overwhelm people.” I suppose this takes us back to where the shareholder is trusting the farmer’s judgment and not her calculator’s screen.

We have many shareholders who have been with us for a long time, some for decades. And many are recent subscribers. Some recent subscribers are ecstatic that they found us; some are disappointed. Some rave about the same box contents that others disparage. 

Yesterday, I read many scathing, reprimanding, unkind emails from shareholders, mostly about the dissatisfaction with substitutions. Yikes. I will therefore include an excerpt from a lovely letter from a shareholder yesterday, which softened the blows:

“Dear John,

I am writing to thank you for the fantastic veggie box that I received today. The tomatoes are truly outstanding, the leaks are gorgeous, the eggplant is nice and firm, and the sage is beautifully fragrant! 

I feel truly blessed by the bounty of this year’s harvest. Thank you for all your hard work and the work of everyone at the farm.

Thank you again!
Have a restful Sunday


Thanks to those many of you who are gladly a part of Angelic Organics Community Supported Agriculture Farm, who enthusiastically and graciously receive our vegetables and herbs and regularly read Farm News. You are an essential part of our farm, just like the trees and the soil and the barns and the crops. 

Farmer John


Farmer John Writes: A Peek into the Backstage

Harvest Week 12, Deliveries of September 5th – 9th, 2023

Diversification on the Farm 

Is a farm with crop diversity more resilient, or more brittle? Too diversified, and the myriad details might cave a farm in; too specialized, and it is vulnerable to the dangers of market whipsaws and disease disaster. This issue of Farm News conveys slightly the immense range of tasks and responsibilities that characterize the ongoingness of Angelic Organics. 

The Crew

The crew is fun and hard-working. Every morning at 6:30 I lead a meeting to outline the day. The meeting often meanders into frivolity, even hysterics, ebulliently propelling the crew into their morning work.

The Work

Some mornings are complicated. We might need to transplant a couple of beds in a field, and right after that we need to irrigate the field. But maybe there is a crop of kale in that field that needs to be harvested before we irrigate. But the kale can’t be harvested yet, because it’s too soon before we pack the boxes.

This is just one tiny scenario amongst many that characterize this often glorified/romanticized picture of diversification on a farm. The complexity can threaten to paralyze a plan. Interesting how people who come to pick flowers in our U-Pick garden or who come to pick up their shares in our cooler mention how peaceful it is out here. 

Thanks to Our Pack Volunteers

Every Monday and Thursday afternoon, about 20 volunteers show up to pack your boxes, coordinated/organized by energetic and charismatic Don Glasenapp. The volunteers are mostly different for the Monday pack versus the Thursday pack, so we have maybe 40 volunteers each week who help with the pack. In exchange for helping, each volunteer gets to pack their own box of vegetables.

The pack is a festival of camaraderie and movement—quite the joyous occasion, and of immense support of the farm, as it allows (on most pack days) for our crew to continue working in the fields.

pack volunteers and farm employees packing your boxes (farm employee Concepcion in foreground)

A Small Example of the Work Backstage

I suppose it’s easy to imagine what we do here at Angelic Organics as tending and harvesting crops, but there is continually much more going on that is similar to something like back stage.

For our pack line, the boxes go on to a conveyor about 60 ft long and are filled with your order by the time they reach the other end. Our pack line had a major breakdown with the drive system, which had to be rebuilt. 

Pollo rebuilds the drive system of the conveyor

Upon evaluating the conveyor rebuild, we decided to do another ambitious upgrade that was probably 20 years overdue—eliminate the chains that suspended the very heavy conveyor by having Victor build stands upon which the conveyor can rest. Eliminating the chains provides more freedom of movement for our pack volunteers.

awkward chain suspension system for conveyor that was in place for 20 years, now replaced (see photo below)

heavy duty floor stand welded by Victor that replaced the chain suspension system for the conveyor

the chains are gone

Victor re-wires the conveyor

This conveyor project is just a little taste of what we do here day after day, beyond tending the crops. There are hundreds—no, thousands—of moving parts that have to harmonize to bring you a box of vegetables on schedule throughout the season. 

As you may realize, our farm is staffed by extraordinary people with extraordinary skills. They can make about anything happen in a timely and graceful way.

The Weather

We have had perfect growing weather, though it’s getting a bit dry, which is why we are irrigating. The fall cover crops are almost completely seeded. Temperatures have been mostly mild.

The Vegetables and Herbs

Tomatoes are ripening weeks later than usual. We have many.

heirloom tomatoes

Alas, the basil yellowed quite suddenly, so we will likely substitute tomatoes for basil. This has been a good year for basil, providing about three harvests per planting. More typical are two harvests in a season, even one. Still, I lament that we cannot fulfill this week’s basil customizing commitment. Glad we have extra tomatoes.

Unfortunate detail about basil quality—we keep two of our coolers at 34 degrees, and one at 50 degrees. The system went out on the 50 degree cooler. No technicians have been able to repair it, so we have kept things in the cold coolers that normally would be stored in the warmer cooler, such as your packed boxes. Basil in some of your boxes could not tolerate that cold temperature. I just figured out this basil problem yesterday. I still have lots to learn about life.

We have had a lag in lettuce availability. There should be lots of beautiful lettuce mix available to you week the after this week. Maybe head lettuce, also, but that will probably not be available for yet another week.

Sweet corn will probably end next week. The corn this week is rather mature, with just a few kernels beginning to dent. It is still succulent, but not as sweet as earlier harvests. Boiled and salted, or grilled, it will still taste great. Next week’s corn, the final harvest, will be a bit more mature. If that type of sweet corn is not to your liking, don’t customize your box with it. This is part of the adventure of eating seasonally.

The Fall Cover Crop

Pollo fills the seeder with fall peas

Pollo seeds fall peas on schedule

Email Mystery

Some shareholders do not receive our emails. We have been trying to figure this out, as these shareholders are not even getting the share customization emails. Upon careful communications with some of these shareholders, we know that our emails are not even going into their spam folders.

Of course, this is a very challenging  problem, because we often don’t even know that certain shareholders are not receiving their emails, so how can we address the problem? But how do we address the problem, anyway? We have discussed this with CSAware, and they have been trying to figure it out—very complicated and labyrinthian…and very frustrating, because communication is a cornerstone of our CSA.

Sometimes we even discover that some shareholders’ emails have been going into an obscure junk folder, even if that shareholder’s previous emails have landed in our inbox. Oh, technology…

As mentioned in Week 10 Farm News, even if you do not receive your share customization email, you can log in to your membership account on Tuesdays (usually after 2 pm) to customize your share for the following week by clicking on the following week’s delivery day (in green) on your delivery calendar.

Customer Service Backlog

We are sorry if you emailed the farm a while ago and are still waiting for a reply. As a reminder, my wife Haidy is filling in for the role of customer service in addition to her many other responsibilities on the farm. Haidy is doing the job of two people, even while visiting her home country of Finland recently. She has just now returned from Finland, and will be better able to catch up with the email backlog. 

(In Finland, she prioritized which customer service emails to answer from the daily deluge; otherwise, she wouldn’t have set foot outside her door. The email volume this time of year is a veritable swarm.)

Haidy won’t get caught up right away on her return, but will chip away at the backlog.

For a more thorough explanation of the email backlog situation, check out Week 10 Farm News from a few weeks ago.

If you have a question, please consult our new FAQ’s page before emailing the farm, as chances are good that we have a thorough help article that can answer your question.

Vegetable Substitutions

For your share customization, I need to project what crops we will have a week or more in advance of your delivery. I do the best crop projections I can, and there is always some guesswork involved. The crop availability is determined (guessed at) the Tuesday prior to the upcoming week of harvests and deliveries. Some items will be harvested 9 days after that Tuesday projection.

Vegetables and herbs being vegetables and herbs, we sometimes don’t get what we think we will get. Then we substitute with a similar crop, if possible, or a not-so-similar crop, if necessary. Sometimes after we do a substitution, we get an email from a shareholder demanding a different substitution. We are unable to be that granular here. That is what concierges do, or maître d’s—not hard-pressed farmers.

Please Stay Current with Farm News

Shareholders agree to read Farm News in our Shareholder Agreement. Farm News is where I post updates on crop conditions and crop availability. We are a farm and we grow seasonally. We occasionally get stringent complaints/accusations about crops not being offered, when Farm News explains/announces crop slowness or quickness or degradation. I suppose that the people who write such inflammatory emails don’t read Farm News. They simply should not be shareholders.

We are quick to offer refunds to cruel shareholders, but then we are left with the expense of the crops that we grew for them. I wonder what commitments such people have to their fellow humans in general. 

I used to say to an acquaintance “Why are we here on earth if not to be there for our fellow human beings?” This question consistently elicited a blank look.

We Can’t Re-Customize Your Box

If you don’t get an item that you ordered, or if you received a substandard item, we’ll give you a veggie credit. We can’t add an item that is missing into your next box. We can just provide you with a credit for you to choose a replacement vegetable in a future delivery.

We can’t do a lot of handholding here; we’re too busy every day making the big things happen.

A Perfect Example of How to Approach Customer Service

“Hi Angelic Organics Team,

I’m enjoying my first season of receiving your produce! 

I have a question about two items received this week that didn’t seem up to par with the rest of your beautiful produce: 
– A very small, not too fresh looking yellow summer zuchinni squash. I ordered two — the other was green, fresh and a nice medium size. 
– A kind of droopy small head of lettuce. I ordered three — the others were large and fresh.

Is it part of the protocol (and “etiquette”) of subscribers to let you know if an item didn’t meet expectations? If it’s possible to get replacements in my next box that would be great. I get my deliveries every other week.

Thank you and best wishes”

Note: The shareholder who wrote this above is civic minded and delightfully civil. Back when such things collectively mattered, students were graded on comportment. Comportment is dignity, poise, or social grace.

Replies to Last Week’s Farm News, It Was Either a Cow or it Wasn’t

About Our Corn and More:

“I simply cannot conceive anyone not liking the sweet corn (unless s/he simply doesn’t like corn, period)! Especially this year’s, which has probably been the best of the four summers we’ve been farm members. Even last week’s “overdone” ears were delectably sweet. And this year’s melons were definitely the best we’ve had yet.

Each of the past three summers we’ve remarked that the farm produce simply couldn’t be better than the past year’s, and each year we’ve been happily wrong. Thanks to you and your crew for all the hard work! Can’t wait to see what the autumn will bring.”


“This farm news had me in stitches! I genuinely love your writing and your humor. I feel so much better learning about face blindness. I have always said “I dont remember names or faces.” It may just be my inattentive adhd,  but I have no memory capacity for either. Thank you so much for the updates on the beautiful farmland, and the much needed belly laughs. We have met, but it’s okay if neither of us could pick each other out of a lineup. 

As a chef, your farm and everything it represents makes my heart happy. Thank you to you and all your amazing crew for all the hard work. I adore the green tomatoes and the corn is just splendid.”


I suppose that with all the lengthy and multi-faceted backgrounding I have shared above, the strategic thing to do for this edition of Farm News is to offer up a story that I have already written.

One Cannot Understand Russia with the Mind

I published this long story in Farm News in April of 2022, One Cannot Understand Russia with the Mind, so many of you have perhaps already read it. For those of you who haven’t read it—it generated a lot of responses when first published. I actually wrote most of it twenty years earlier after returning from a winter stay in Russia, then decided two winters ago it was time to finish it.

Bloomingdale’s and Produce

First published in Farm News in 1994, Bloomingdale’s and Produce still seems relevant today (and New York is still my favorited city). I suspect that we have a few shareholders who remember reading it back when.

The Front Stage

I have many stories from the past three decades of Farm News, plus other stories that I have written since the 80’s. In my mind, they are more performative than just words on a page. In the 80’s, I actually performed a lot of my long short stories in various venues in Mexico and the States, and had quite a following.

I now have a stage in the loft of our big barn, and am considering bringing my stories back to life via this venue and broadcasting them. I’m kind of busy with other things. We’ll see if I find time for that.

barn stage, designed by me and constructed by my crew two winters ago—same crew, Pollo and Victor, who just rebuilt our conveyor system. Renaissance guys.

Come see our stage in action at our upcoming Field Day on Saturday, September 23rd. More details to come soon.

Farmer John


Farmer John Writes: It Was Either a Cow or it Wasn’t

Harvest Week 11, Deliveries of August 29th – September 2nd, 2023

The Crops

The melons are done. Now on to the tomatoes and the peak pepper harvests, and of course, more—a bewildering array of more, such as fennel, basil, and lettuce mix this week. On the topic of tomatoes—fabulous heirloom tomatoes are coming on now.

Pollo inspects the first harvest of heirloom tomatoes

We are thrilled with this season’s sweet corn. 

Interesting that a shareholder wrote us about how much she dislikes our sweet corn and not just this season’s but also that of past seasons. I’m not saying that she should like it, just that it’s interesting that she doesn’t like it, when so many other shareholders rave about it.

trophies of corn

Concepcion and Maythe harvest our biggest fennel ever

Most of the spinach, baby lettuce, cilantro, dill, radishes and arugula we seeded last week are already up, thanks to a timely rain. This bodes well for mid- and late September bounty.

The Soil and the Future

Pollo prepares next year’s sweet corn ground for seeding fall peas

We have had beautiful weather for preparing our fields for next year. We will most likely meet the goal of seeding all 30 fields with forage peas by the end of August. The peas will be knee-to-thigh-high by early October, making for more nutritious and abundant vegetables and herbs next year.

fall peas for soil life, soon in the ground

The Crew and the Weather

It was hot some days last week, very hot. The crew starts at 6:30. If the afternoon is sweltering, they are free to luxuriate in their air-conditioned home on the farmstead, and then put in some field time after dinner. Or we turn on the air conditioning in our shop where they can clean onions and garlic.

Shareholder Reply to Why Did It Happen?

(Note: I loved this from a shareholder—a brilliant distillation of last week’s Farm News.)

“This is a very interesting topic.  I realized long ago that I can think for a long time about doing something (e.g getting up from a chair.)  Sometimes I do it after having thought about it for a while and sometimes I do it without ever really having thought about it.  The other day I was sitting in a chair and I knew I should get up but I didn’t know how to actually do it instead of just thinking about it.  After a while I decided to just stop trying to make mysef do it.  Instead I decided to just sit there and see what would happen.  It only took a few seconds and then I got up.”

How Pretty, Their Herd

I recently met an amiable neighbor, Sarah Borchardt, who is a dairy farmer along with her other family members at AF-AYR Farm. They breed Ayrshire cattle and milk about 160 Ayrshire cows twice a day. I have read stellar write-ups about the farm in farm magazines, and I have heard from other neighbors that the family treats their cows like treasures. Check out their website and Facebook page to see their beautiful cattle.

I learned today that one of Sarah’s jobs related to dairying is clipping the hair on cows—making them even more beautiful, more sculpted for the show competitions that occur throughout the country. I had forgotten all about clipping cows until Sarah’s role with it was introduced to me. 

I then remembered back to when, besides clipping our own cows, my dad used to go around and clip cows for hire in the community. He also grew seed oats and sold them to the local farmers, and painted silo roofs for hire, but these two side jobs are extraneous to the story. I just thought you would find this broader picture of my dad interesting, as it reflects how the community used to flourish in a synergy of social life and odd jobbing. Remembering further, he also used to sell HandyMan Jacks on the side. We would pick them up at the long-since-demolished train station in Beloit, wrapped in burlap. I’ll add here that many people told me that my dad really just liked to go around and visit with his neighbors, and the odd jobs were opportunities to get to know them better.

Now back to my thoughts about clipping cows. My mom gave us haircuts in the 50’s, but with clippers that were designed for giving people haircuts. In my grade school class, several of the boys got haircuts with cow clippers. This was a matter of some interest to my classmates and me, what sort of clipper cut our hair, though it was never divisive the way grooming or fashion clothing can create competing cliques in school today. We didn’t hold it against the boys who got their hair cut with cow clippers—we just found it interesting.

I was excited to learn that Sarah clips cows professionally. Imagine prettying up those cows for show time. I will ask to see the clippers that she uses; they are probably special.

I admire people who can look at a cow and make an assessment of its value or innate cowness. The internet says the points to consider include:

  • Straightness of top-line
  • Balance between body width, body depth, and body length
  • Smoothness and angularity of front
  • Blending of the shoulder, ribs, and hip

I never mastered any of that kind of discernment. I just didn’t have it. For me, it was either a cow or it wasn’t. I was in 4-H and sometimes the 4-H meeting topic would be judging cattle, and that was like a foreign language to me. Even when I was in the county fair ring showing a calf with other calves, I could never figure out why my calf came in last, and another calf was better than all the others and would win first prize.

I didn’t want to show cattle at the fair; I simply wanted to be at the fair every day of fair week so that I could visit the carnival—the Midway. You might already sense my affinity for theatricality and drama, and the carnival offered heaps of these. I would sleep at the fair in the cattle barn, wake up, feed my calf, and then head to the carnival where the gambling stands and rides were just starting to open up. Then I would ask the carnival people if I could help them bring in customers (I served as a barker) and, if I got in extra good with them, I asked them about their lives.

“Your folks got a farm? Don’t run off and join us, kid, stay where you are.”

My family found out that there was a big cash prize given for the best chickens. I could have a pass to stay overnight at the fair even if I was just showing chickens. 

I also had no chicken discernment. If it was a certain shape and it had feathers, I could tell that it was a chicken, but as far as what made a chicken worthy of a prize, I had no idea. 

for sure a chicken

We won first prize for the first couple of years the cash prize was offered, because it seems that other people in the county with chickens hadn’t found out about the $50 prize yet, so we had no competition. I was happy that, unlike my tending to the calf, I hardly had to fuss over the chickens when I got up from my bed of straw. I could make a beeline for the carnival, beckon customers to spend their money, and discuss life with my new carny friends.

I suppose I should add here that I have a condition called face blindness or prosopagnosia (also known as facial agnosia), considered a neurological disorder characterized by the inability to recognize faces. I can encounter a person at a party three times the same night and each time think I am encountering someone new. 

I do not know if face blindness also applies to cattle and chickens, since prosopagnosia seems like an upscale disorder, not a rustic disorder. Brad Pitt has it, also legendary primatologist Jane Goodall, and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. Brad Pitt supposedly is reluctant to attend  parties for fear thathis inability to even recognize friends and co-workers will be interpreted as aloofness.

I’m a little leery to go over to Sarah’s farm and find myself having to discuss features of her prize-winning cattle, but I’ll go and wing it. When a young, amiable woman at the farm greets me, I’ll assume she is Sarah.


(Excerpt from my true story “Did You Kill Anyone Up Here?” written in the early 90’s.)

      “I’m horrible with animals.  I can’t tell ’em apart, never could, no matter how much I stared at ’em.  But I love to look at ’em and hear their noises.”

      “Can you tell a cow from a pig?” she laughed.

      “I can tell by colors, or if the sizes are real different. When we had pigs here, I knew I should improve the herd’s genes. There are many things you can look at to evaluate a pig—amount of backfat, rate of gain, feed conversion ratio. The only trait I could identify was length. I bred only for length. In the beginning at the packing house, they’d say “nice hogs”. After a few years, “nice hogs, John, they got some nice length on ‘em”. Eventually the hogs looked like immense wiener dogs. At the packing plant, they’d just look at ’em from one end to the other. Sometimes they’d say “they sure are long”. Sometimes they just shook their heads.”

Farmer John


Farmer John Writes: Why Did It Happen?

Harvest Week 10, Deliveries of August 22nd – 26th, 2023

The Weather and the Crops

Last week was mild—good for the crew and crops. The weekend heated up—not so good for the mature sweet corn in the field. Some shareholders like the corn fully plumped up and advanced; some don’t.

Most of the corn we have offered so far has been just right, I feel, but matching up the harvest maturities exactly to the customization schedule is a combination of skill, art and luck.

Tomatoes are tarrying. Someday soon, they will be red with readiness.

The Crew

The H-2A workers (Meet them in Farm News, Week One: A Murder, a Baby, and a Ghost) and Victor came to Haidy’s and my home at 4:30 last Friday afternoon to further celebrate my birthday, and to tour our home, which was inspired by my travels to Mexico in the 70’s. (Haidy is still visiting family in Finland, so she wasn’t at the party.)

It was one of the funniest/funnest parties I have ever attended. The last guests went home at 10 pm, exhausted and stoked by non-stop shrieking laughter. Did alcohol cause this, you might wonder? Very little alcohol was consumed.

Gracious hostess Mayra scoops ice cream, as her be-wigged comedian cousin Antonio beams. Background, left to right: Jesus, Ruben, Victor, Bonifacio, and Gabriel. Also present at party but not in photo: Concepcion and Maythe (to the right of the photo)

Maythe parties with Darleney the Doughnut Elder

Come Pick Flowers

The flowers in our U-Pick Garden are swaying and floating in luminosity. They are a bit other-worldly this summer, as though designed to manifest radiance from the heavens.

Check out our U-Pick Garden web page before coming out.

The beans are overdone. I plan to mow them soon. Next year, we will plant the beans in three installments to spread out their maturity.

Down the Hill

There’s a long hill south of the farm that drains runoff into our farmstead. Back in the 70’s, I had a waterway carved into the side of the hill just south of the farmstead to divert much of the runoff more directly to the Mississippi. But there was still a big portion of the hill’s runoff left that we could not divert with a waterway.

waterway constructed in the 70’s sends runoff to the Gulf of Mexico

The runoff ran right through the length of the greenhouse for 25 years, until I finally bermed a diversion and sunk a trough inside to completely end the problem.

diversion berm of steel pipe upslope from greenhouse

diversion trench in greenhouse catches any water that gets by the diversion berm

Until this past week, our farm shop has been similarly afflicted with runoff. We would often run our equipment through mud to get it into the shop, and then release copious amount of mud onto our cement floor. I pondered a solution on and off for years. Water is tricky, and not at all tricky: it runs downhill; all you have to do is divert it. But how? A deep ditch; a shallow ditch; a swale; a trench; a berm… 

Oh, that’s a good idea, but will it work? Will it hold up, or do I just think it will hold up? Will it cause other problems? 

The solution requires imaginative time travel into the future, and watching the idea there, in the future, and wondering about it. After this time travel, there is still guesswork involved.

Victor fashions the berm in front of the farm shop

Last Saturday, we constructed a berm of well-pipe and crushed rock to divert the water from the shop. I am not sure if it will solve the problem, or just stop the runoff a bit sooner, creating a mud hole just a few feet further away from the shop. The next rain will be the test.

Finishing the berm. The barely visible embedded steel pipe is three inches above the grade of the concrete apron. Think Speed Bump.

Why Did It Happen?

There are myriad things to do on the farm, an inexhaustible list. Some are discretionary, at least for a while, such as diverting the water away from the shop entrance or re-painting a building, oiling a door hinge, trimming a bush. Some are not discretionary for even a little while, such as harvesting your sweet corn or delivering your box. In a way, we cause the discretionary things, and the non-discretionary things cause us.

I have wanted to fix the shop runoff problem for years, ever since the shop was built. I only recently got to it. Why did I finally get to it? 

There is a mysterious force within us known as will. People generally talk about what they think. More rarely do people talk about what they feel. Seldom do people talk about what they will. Will, of course, is related to what people do. People talk about what they dobut not so often do they talk about what gets them to do it, the will.

How do we activate or mobilize the will? How do we go from wanting to write a book to writing it, from imagining a song to composing it?

The few old farmers left in this area are astonishing in their will forces. If something needs to be done, they do it. They accomplish extraordinary feats with endurance and resolve. They won’t consult a manual on what’s fair, what’s healthy, what’s just, what’s compliant, or what they deserve—they will just get the thing done that needs to be done. The end.

What begot the will forces in these rustic folks?

Rudolf Steiner said that rhythmic activities when children are young will help to strengthen their will forces when they are adults. (You might think that is a leap, but that doesn’t mean it’s untrue.) Imagine how these old farmers grew up—regular chore times, rhythmic milking of the cows, seasonal harvests and plantings, meals often on a schedule. You might argue that discipline and rigor and even deprivations are the foundation for these later behaviors on the part of farmers. Of course, many things early on influence these farmers’ will forces later in life, but consider that rhythm might play a role.

Rhythmic exercises such as knitting, kneading bread, and playing music are practiced by students today in Waldorf schools. (Waldorf education was founded by Rudolf Steiner.) The intention is in part to strengthen their will forces later in life, or, to be more poetic—to help their dreams to come true.

Listen to the song Temple of the Heart about thinking, feeling and doing by performer friends Lucien Dante Lazar and Ultra-Violet Archer of Velsum, a duo influenced by Rudolf Steiner’s work. (Velsum premiered Temple of the Heart at Angelic Organics in 2022.)

While listening to this music, remember that doing is closely related to willing.

Click here to listen to Temple of the Heart by Velsum.

Artwork for Temple of the Heart by Lucien Dante lazar

Steiner also said that the forces in food had so diminished by the end of the 1800’s, that the connection between people’s intentions and their actions had become scrambled, that realizing one’s dreams was much harder than it had previously been. This is part of why he introduced Biodynamic farming, to begin to restore those forces that had once been present in food. Learn more about Biodynamics here.

Long before I encountered Rudolf Steiner, I had a persistent question, a mystery that taunted me: How do I move my arm? I wondered at this for years in my twenties. How is it possible to move my arm? What is the bridge between wanting to move my arm, and then moving it? Of course, one can espouse all kinds of smartness about nerves and chemicals and electrical impulses and on and on, until the mystery is buried in intellectualism, but I considered it miraculous and mysterious that I could move my arm (and still do consider it miraculous and mysterious).

I suppose that if a person were to consciously master all the processes that need to occur to raise one’s arm, it would take perhaps a whole lifetime of training to get the arm lifted just once, if ever. So, we have will, but Steiner said the will is for the most part asleep. It does something—it raises the arm—but how? 

I will disclose here that, even though I have read many references by Steiner to the will, I still don’t know how the will really manifests. However, it rounds out a three-fold picture of the human being as someone who thinks, feels, and wills. If in doubt, listen again to Temple of the Heart above.

I built a berm to divert water from the shop. I had other things to do, important things, necessary things, but I built a berm. What coursed through me to make this berm happen when it did? 

Many people will say this is all about priorities and lists and rankings and on and on. There are all sorts of apps for determining what to do, what maybe to do, what not to do, what to do later, maybe, maybe not. But what about that book to write, really?  That confession of love or remorse? That overdue apology? That berm? What causes these things, or thwarts them?

What do I do and why? What do I plan to do and then don’t do? What do I do that I don’t plan to do?

Life, what we do with it, and what we don’t do with it are mysterious.

Farmer John


Farmer John Writes: You Changed the Factory Settings?

Harvest Week 9, Deliveries of August 15th – 19th, 2023

The Crops

The crops keep spilling out of the fields. The summer has been unusually cool, which has slowed down the maturity of the peppers, eggplant, tomatoes and corn. This slowdown has served us well, as we want to pace the crops to match the needs of our shareholders.

Concepcion and Jesus wash muskmelons

The U-Pick Garden

Come pick flowers, beans and herbs soon in our U-Pick garden. The flowers are in glorious bloom.


We have heard from some shareholders that they haven’t been receiving their share customization emails. If you are a current Angelic Organics shareholder, we send you a share customization email every Tuesday the week before each scheduled delivery.

If you are a current shareholder and are not receiving your share customization emails, search your junk folder and “promotions” folder if you have a Gmail account, for emails from email hidden; JavaScript is required. You can also add email hidden; JavaScript is required to your “safe sender list” in your email program to ensure that our emails reach your inbox.

If you still don’t receive the share customization emails, you can always log in to your membership account on Tuesdays to customize your share for the following week by clicking on your next delivery day on your delivery calendar.

The Deliveries—Thanks, Metrobi! Thanks, Zdenek!

We love Metrobi and their drivers, who have been diligently handling our home deliveries. Your work makes it easier for us to pay attention to farming. Thank you, Metrobi!

And we love Zdenek, who makes the deliveries to our community delivery sites five days a week in our refrigerated farm truck. Zdenek is a charismatic character who seems straight from the Old World. It seems that everyone loves Zdenek.


The Weather

When the morning temperatures are in the 60’s and the afternoon temperatures stay in the 80’s, life for our field workers stays comfortable. Field work is more fun.

Bartolo, Gabriel, Maythe, Concepcion, and Mayra enjoy/endure a morning nip

The Crew

Some of our H-2A workers are gradually learning English. Lovely bilingual Mayra is generous in helping others with English. The crew is mostly too shy to speak English yet, but on occasion one of them will burst forth with a phrase or a sentence. One of the workers likes to often say, “I love you to the moon and back,” and then laugh.

The farm crew received a sweet, appreciative letter from a shareholder’s daughter named Maya.

English translation:

“Dear Jesus, Maythe, Mayra, Antonio, Concepcion, Ruben and Gabriel. 

Thank you for working on our farm. 

I can see from your interviews that all of you are very helpful to the farm and you also made a great sacrifice to be here. 

Thank you for all your hard work. I really appreciate it. From a shareholder and bilingual student.


Our workers wrote her back with the following message:

English translation:

“Juan Antonio Guerrero Luna:
Thank you for your words.

Hi Maya,
This is Concepcion. It’s really nice to know about you. I send you a big hug. Take care.

Ruben Carmona:
Thank you for your thoughts.  It’s really important and motivating for us. Thank you so much.

Thank you. I really appreciate your thoughts.

Gabriel Ojeda Jimenez:
Thank you so much.

Jesus Alberto:
Thank you so much for writing to us. Since you can’t come to take some flowers, I will draw you one.

Thank you so much for your words, for letting us know that you appreciate our work.”

Customer Service

I suspect that customer service is the hardest job on the farm. Imagine growing and harvesting and packing all the crops, maintaining the machinery and buildings, delivering the vegetables…and customer service is the hardest job on the farm.

We are just a farm, but I guess many people assume that we are just another company like Walmart that has a huge returns section where customers stand in line to bring back toys that are the wrong color or hot dogs that are too flimsy. Yes, we like taking care of our shareholders and making things right, but, Dude, I found an insect egg in my lettuce, cancel my share

Office Backlog

If you have emailed the farm and have not received a timely reply, we sincerely apologize for this. 

My wife Haidy has graciously stepped up to manage customer service until we can find a full time replacement. She has taken on this role in addition to her many other responsibilities with the farm. During this time of the year, the customer service job is full time. Haidy can’t keep up with all the requests, complaints, suggestions, but please know that she is diligently working to keep up and to catch up with the flood of correspondence.

(As a side note, Haidy is visiting her home country of Finland while working remotely for the farm—the trip was planned before she knew she needed to take on the role of customer service. It’s quite the challenging situation for her. )

Overall, the correspondence from shareholders is considerate, but too much of it is not considerate. 

Have mercy on Haidy if she is late getting back to you. We can assure you that we will get back to you and take care of your needs; you might just have to wait a while.

We plan to eventually hire a new customer service representative so that we can provide timely responses to our shareholders, but the reality is that it’s not possible for us to hire and train a new employee in the middle of the busy season. There simply isn’t time for the process of hiring and training during the growing season.

Thank you to all of you who have been patiently waiting for a reply. 

And remember, before writing us, there might be an answer to your question or concern in our FAQ’s.

Customers Can Be Problematic. So Can Customer Service Representatives.

Overheard last week on the phone between a farmer (me) and a U.S. Cellular representative (a bot?):

(The actual exchange was much worse than you read below.)

Farmer to U.S. Cellular Rep: We used to have good coverage with U.S. Cellular. Now we don’t. 

U.S. Cellular Rep: We have upgraded our towers to 5G. You are benefitting from the enhancements.

Farmer: Calls are dropped, texts come 3 hours late, calls go right to voice mail—my phone doesn’t even ring.

U.S. Cellular Rep: Those are enhancements due to our upgrade.

Farmer: It’s not an upgrade. Those aren’t enhancements.

U.S. Cellular Rep: Those are enhancements due to the upgrade. Please submit a report of all dropped calls, all late texts, all calls that go straight to voicemail—dates and times.

Farmer: This is the report. It’s all you need to know. I have a problem and so do many other people who work for me whose phones are on my farm account. This is the report.

U.S. Cellular Rep: I want a written report.

Farmer: You are not getting one. My crew thinks I am napping all day, because I don’t answer my phone, because it doesn’t ring. That’s the report!

U.S. Cellular Rep: Yes, these are all enhancements due to the upgrade.

Farmer: How can you call your terrible phone coverage enhancements?  It was great for years; now it is impossible.

U.S. Cellular Rep: They are enhancements due to the upgrade.

Farmer: I will have to look for another provider. You are absurd and I am hanging up on you. Click.

Note: Was I talking to a bot, or are people just becoming bots? If I was actually talking to a human U.S. Cellular rep, would a bot have done a better job? If we hired a bot to do customer service for the farm, is there a minimum wage for that? Other compliance issues? Do bots snack on data when they are bored?

Is This Farming?

After profiling Goethe, Zarathustra and Taylor Swift’s vicarious rival in the last three issues of Farm News, you might wonder how we go about farming, or if we even go about farming.

This silvery conveyance might make you think of the Himar rocket launchers that have been sent to Ukraine, but it is really an instrument of peace on the farm. 

Victor (foreground) and Ruben rebuilt the trailer last week

rebuilt trailer

Factory Settings

We recently had a clutch go out on our Allis G seeding tractor. When a tractor goes down, it’s not about the tractor; it’s about what won’t get done without the tractor. In this case, the baby greens, cilantro and dill wouldn’t get seeded. If we were a little later in the season, it would also be spinach, radishes, and turnips that wouldn’t get seeded. Of course, we would never let these things not get seeded, so we had to fix the tractor. 

Our seeding G on left, with its friend, our weeding G, both built in the 50’s. (The weeding G is not really suited for seeding.)

A guy named Art came out about this time to work on our irrigation system. He had spent many years dismantling farm equipment to part out to farmers, so we showed him the lifeless G. He said, “that clutch will be yellow when you get it out. Maybe blue, depending.”

I was impressed with Art’s color projections, and felt that his name was most appropriate.

front and back of bad clutch. Art sadly got the color wrong. (However, I think Art was referring to a burned clutch, and the G had a broken clutch.)

Victor lifted the engine to get to the drive train that hosts the clutch. He installed a new clutch, put the engine back in place, started up the engine, and the clutch wouldn’t work. He lifted the engine again. 

Of course, Victor doesn’t have time to lift the engine even the first time, let alone the second time. It takes time to lift a G engine, time to re-install it. Victor is already managing numerous projects, plus often supervising the crew…but do our shareholders want their baby greens, cilantro and dill in a timely way?

Victor watched videos on replacing G clutches. Normally, these sorts of videos are useful, but in this case they were too hard to understand, requiring precise measurements that were awkward to perform with tools we didn’t have. (He also consulted our G manual for this project, but it too was making suggestions that we could not understand, similar to the videos.)

By this time, I had decided to get involved in the project. I know very little about installing clutches, but I have an inclination (yearning) towards mechanics. I have a long history of working with mechanical things. I’m not one of those people who shows up at the shop espousing impractical ideas, causing people to flinch and grimace when I’m not looking (at least, I think this is so). I always feel welcome there, and I sometimes even sense relief when I show up when there is a particularly vexing problem.

I’m not sure why, but I decided the factory settings for the clutch were wrong. Remember that I know almost nothing about clutches, so deciding that the factory settings were wrong seemed like arrogance. I am for the most part a trust-the-factory-settings sort of guy. 

I had an almost clairvoyant vision (okay, we’ll call it a hunch) of that clutch being manufactured by someone who didn’t care about the settings. I was trying to figure out in my imagination if the person making the clutch settings was stoned, hung over, mad at his station in life—if he thought he was more suited to be in a band or in the movies. This person had no pride in what he was doing, I felt, or his supervisor was the one who hated life and was inflicting it onto G clutches.

I instructed Victor on how to re-set the settings. 

Then we tracked down Charles, an independent tractor mechanic, thinking we could maybe get him to come out and help us. (That’s a rare bird today, a maverick roving mechanic.)

“Charles, can you help us put a clutch into our G?” I asked.

“You got a new clutch?”

“Yes. We already installed it once, and it didn’t work, so I changed the settings.”

“You changed the factory settings?”


“You never change the factory settings,” he admonished.

“I know, but I did.”

“Why would you change the factory settings?”

“I was desperate. We have crops to seed.”

I was surprised that I could persuade Charles to come out that very afternoon. He seemed trepidatious about coming to a farm where people mess with factory settings. 

Victor and I sensed a bit of condescension upon his arrival, but once he realized that we were also wrench-turners and smell-of-oil lovers, he warmed up to us. 

Charles took out his calipers and proceeded to measure the settings that I had instructed Victor to make.

“Pretty good,” the traveling mechanic said. “Pretty good. You got really close to the right settings.” He was demonstrating considerably more awe, I thought, than he was used to demonstrating.

“Why trust the factory today?” I asked. “There was a time when factory settings were sacred. Still is that way sometimes. Sometimes not.”

Victor and Charles installed the clutch, re-installed the engine. 

Next day, Victor seeded with the G.

About early September, you will be enjoying that lettuce, cilantro and dill.

Farmer John


Farmer John Writes: Zarathustra and Roundup

Harvest Week 8, August 8th – 12th, 2023

The Crops

The sweet corn and melons are mirroring the lofty days of peak summer.

melon harvest…scarecrows protected the melons from crows

The carrots are fragrant and sweet.

The onions are larger than usual and more plentiful than ever.

storage onion harvest—now curing

The basil is dreamy.

And here comes the eggplant, and soon the peppers and tomatoes.

Summer is here in its full glory.

Learn about Love in our U-Pick Garden

The esoteric mystery of love is that the more you give, the more there is (unlike money, perhaps, or pencils).

The U-Pick Garden flourishes more as you pick more. The flowers self-refresh, the beans rejuvenate, and the herbs grow faster when harvested (to a point).

Our U-Pick Garden is bursting with beans, flowers and herbs. Come pick some. No need to call ahead.

Check out our U-Pick web page for more information before visiting.

The Weather

The weather is perfect, sunny, mild, and dry, until it’s supposed to rain, and then, usually, this season, it rains. Those of you who have been with Angelic Organics for years know that the weather is not always so kind.

Our Shareholders

Most of our shareholders are pleasant, supportive, and encouraging. Some are rude. We had one who was so mean-spirited, so critical, so rude, we cancelled her share. What else can we do in a situation like that? 

The customer is not always right, I say—it’s an insane saying, anyway. Who learns anything from always being right? I run from people who have to always be right.

I will refrain from including this ex-shareholder’s cruel correspondence in Farm News (and that of too many other rude ones). Just know that we have to deal with rude people, until we cancel their shares.


Phone Representative: “A guy came in to dispute a monthly charge that he said was 6 cents too high. We went round and round about it. I finally gave him a quarter and told him this should take care of the next four months. He called the phone company and filed a complaint about me.”

Our Fall Field Day, Saturday, September 23rd—Singing, Performing, and Pumpkin Picking

Our Fall Field Day will be held on the fourth Saturday in September—Saturday, September 23rd. Besides picking pumpkins and a lovely potluck meal, we will be graced by three fabulous visitors from Red Acre Farm in Utah, Sara and Symbria Patterson and their steadfast farm helper TK.

Sara and I are going to provide The Sara and John Show on the barn stage, with Sara’s quick witted mom Symbria moderating—maybe something ageist, since Sara is a young’n and I am an elder; maybe something scale related, since Red Acre Farm is petite at two acres and Angelic Organics is sprawling. (Both are robust.)

A few years back, Haidy and I invited the Pattersons to come farm with us and help build up the social and cultural life on the farm. They said no. Oh, well—we still love them. (At the Field Day, let’s put it to a vote if they should stay here and farm with us or continue with Red Acre Farm—maybe a binding vote.)

Sara started Red Acre Farm when she was 14. Now she’s twice that, but she won’t catch up to me. I’m way too fast for her.

Sara and I will perform/present at the Biodynamic Conference in Boulder, Colorado, later in the fall. Maybe our performance/banter/fun on our stage at the Field Day will help us prepare for the Biodynamic Conference.

Years back, Farmer John and Sara view the windswept Red Acre Farm in Utah

Click on this Red Acre Farm link—really. Their farm is like a storybook (well, like a hard-working storybook, like a theynever-stop-working storybook).

Another lovely addition to the Field Day: Shareholder Megan Eberhardt has offered to lead off and close the stage event with some kid-friendly group songs. Megan is currently leading monthly community singing at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago.

The Sara and John Show will likely not be very entertaining for kids, so we will provide child care for 30 or 40 minutes while we are being grown-ups on the stage.

Going to be a fun day!

Zarathustra and The Sun

Science is the modern religion, I suppose, with people quoting scientists today the way they might have quoted their priests or the Bible in years bygone.

You have probably heard of Roundup, or glyphosate, and if you have studied it very closely, you will have learned that it does not disturb the soil, that it prevents erosion, requires less fuel to make a crop. It is touted as the miracle solution to traditional farming practices of tillage and weed control (this is, if you ignore the myriad claims that it pollutes our air, our ground water, and causes cancer).

Let’s go back a few thousand years.

But first, let’s get present with the song from the musical Hair.

You can make all sorts of arguments for (and against) Roundup, but I assure you that Roundup does not let the sun shine in—into the earth that grows our food. Is this a problem?

8,000 years before Christ (some historians dispute this timeframe), the great Persian initiate Zarathustra, saw this as a problem—not the use of Roundup, but the absence of the Sun shining into the earth, so said Rudolf Steiner. Steiner said that it was Zarathustra’s great task to provide a radical shift in the consciousness of humanity. As the heralded Father of Modern Agriculture, Zarathustra did this by introducing the cultivation of grains. 

Zarathustra’s spiritual guide, Ahura Mazda, said that “he who sows grain sows holiness; he makes the law of Mazda grow higher and higher,”

Zarathustra asked Ahura Mazda, “Where does the Earth feel most happy?”

Ahura Mazda answered, “It is the place where…the faithful cultivate most grain, grass and fruit. Where he waters ground that is dry, or dries ground that is too wet.”

Priest King Zarathustra knew that cosmic forces of the sun rayed into the grains and were able to work within the human being. He taught that “the sun will rise in you when you enjoy the fruits of the field.”

sun and corn

I can’t provide you with a scholar’s quote here—my apologies—but somewhere I encountered a claim—probably by Steiner—that Zarathustra introduced the plow, a plow for turning the soil, for holding the dark soil up to the light. His mission was so much about the sun, the flow of the sun into the grains, so turning the soil up to the light seems a natural expression of that impulse. (Besides, from a practical standpoint, grain would have been sown into tilled soil, to assure germination.)

John Deere is credited for introducing the moldboard plow, an implement that did much to turn under the grasses and flowers of the prairies and unleash the massive fertility that resided in that soil. I’m not implying here that the purpose of the John Deere plow was to spiritualize the soil with sunlight; John Deere was not Zarathustra. John Deere today is disparaged by some for the vast ecological destruction wrought by his invention. 

The herbicide Roundup is hailed as the remedy to the plow, to tillage, though Zarathustra, I suspect, would not have approved of growing grains in soil drenched in Roundup and permeated by darkness.

The corporation Syngenta now owns the rights to Roundup. I would think they would want to buy up all the rights to all the Sun worship songs of today and bury them in darkness, while glorifying crops with roots growing in lightless soil with the backing of musicless science.

The Persians back in Zarathustra’s time must have sung some fabulous light-filled songs when plowing with their curved sticks or whatever they might have used to bring in the light.

Would Zarathustra have liked this song by the Doors?

Waiting for the Sun

Then there is this contemporary sun worship song by the Beatles:

Here Comes the Sun

Like Zarathustra’s people, we at Angelic Organics turn the soil. My heart sings the songs of earth meeting the sun.

The fragrance of freshly plowed soil, the feel of soil under my feet, the upturned soil’s first shimmer in the light go back thousands of years, binds us to the ancient Persians, to grain, to the light-filled forces of the sun.

These forces stream through the food that we provide for you.

Farmer John


Farmer John Writes: What Would Goethe Do?

Harvest Week 7, Deliveries of August 1st – 5th, 2023


Another week of bounty at Angelic Organics, though we had to dance a bit with the storms.

Please, Before Emailing the Farm for Customer Service…

I mentioned this in last week’s issue of Farm News, but I want to make sure as many people as possible see it.  

Growing the crops is a manageable challenge. Delivering them is a manageable challenge. Customer service is a challenge that is hard to manage.

My wife Haidy has been managing customer service until we find a suitable candidate to take on this role. Haidy is already fulfilling many other administrative tasks on the farm, so customer service is a stretch for her.

In addition, she is now away for a month’s stay in her home country of Finland, from where she will work remotely as needed. Please be judicious in contacting our office for customer service, as Haidy has other things to do in Finland than work full time for the farm. 

Thanks to our FAQ’s, there are fewer emails that come in than in former years, but there we still receive a lot of emails—a lot. Consult our FAQ’s.You might find you don’t even need to push that Send button for customer service.

The U-Pick Garden is Open

Shareholders, come pick treasures in our U-Pick Garden. We have lots of string beans and flowers, also herbs—anise hyssop, sage, summer savory and thyme. Come any time between dusk and dawn, any day. No need to let us know when you are coming. The garden is just west of our barns, easy to get to by foot.

Before you come to the U-Pick Garden, please visit our U-Pick Garden web page for more details.

What’ll it Be Next Week?

Every Tuesday morning, Victor and I visit the fields to make a projection of what will be available for our shareholders the following week. This requires projecting the crops into the future. For instance, we have to fast forward the sweet corn, when we look at the ears on Tuesday, to the harvest before the pack on the following Monday. Those kernels that are smallish on Tuesday—will they be full and succulent in 6 days? What sort of heat are we expecting? What about rain? What about humidity?

2 1/2 days before the corn harvest; kernels still filling out—almost there

And the cucumbers—will they be ready in 6 days? What if we delay their harvest for another week? Will the tips shrivel? Will they get spongy, fibrous?

Arugula can go from small on Tuesday to the right size on Friday to flowering the following Tuesday. You might think this could not be the case, but it is. (No arugula to consider for this week.)

So, we not only have to project when the crop will be ready, but also project by when it will be beyond ready. (In addition, we have the challenge of forecasting the amounts available.)

The melons are starting to turn. I doubt they will be ready on Saturday. Will they ripen enough by Monday, a pack day? If we don’t harvest them by Monday, will the crows eat them? Will shareholders complain, because we didn’t put melons into their boxes, because they were not quite ready, and instead we added a substitute crop? (Most shareholders take substitutions in stride. Some don’t. Hey, it’s a farm, not Amazon.)

crows beware

We had to harvest the head lettuce two days earlier than we wanted. If it is a trifle smaller than you wish, know that we were unable to harvest it two days later, due to other harvest demands on that later day. Those two days might have increased the size of the heads by 15 to 25%—might have. Or it might have rotted with the heat and humidity.

lettuce harvest two days earlier than ideal

This projection of crops into the future is an unfolding, metamorphic development. It is not jumpy, like what screen editing strives for today, notably advertisements vying for your attention. It’s not rigid and formulaic, the way many conversations take place today. It’s not automatic and fixed, the way opinions are often held today. It is an evolving process. I can only achieve it by entering into it, merging with it, becoming it.

I like to credit Johann Wolfgang von Goethe a bit for my ability to look at our crops and mature or metamorphose them in my imagination.

I am not an authority on Goethe. I googled him and was bewildered at the number of far-ranging articles about him. In addition, Farm News is seldom a definitive treatise on any topic (except perhaps the art of how to get bumped by Taylor Swift). I will therefore just impart some indications about Goethe. It does warrant saying, though, that Rudolf Steiner, who in his 20’s was professionally immersed in documenting and critiquing Goethe’s work, was very inspired and informed by Goethe as Steiner developed his body of work known as Anthroposophy. Some of these inspirations and practices lie at the heart of Biodynamic farming, which Steiner founded and which we practice at Angelic Organics.

Readers of Farm News know that I seldom saturate my issues with quotes and long excerpts by other writers. I prefer to tell my own stories from my own point of view. However, in this case, I am basically relying on others for the main content of this issue.

What Would Goethe Do?

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is mostly thought of as a poet, author and playwright, but he was also a frontrunner as a scientist. He advocated for a type of observation that did not distance the observer, but caused the observer to be part of the process of observation. Of course, contemporary scientific method does not embrace this partial departure from objectivity, but I must tell you that my projection of how your plants will grow in the next few days requires that I merge with the plants—not just think about them, but somehow become one with them, grow with them.

Goethe felt that studying plants should not be so much an observation as a conversation. 

A conversation with plants? To ease the reader into this picture, I will first introduce the idea of conversation in a way that conversation is more commonly thought about—conversation between human beings. This brings me back to Goethe, Goethean conversation. 

More Glorious than Gold

Let’s ponder this type of conversation through excerpts from an article by Marjorie Spock. Marjorie Spock, you might know, was very influential in providing the impetus to Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, though allegedly she was never given much credit for her influence, since she was a follower and advocate of Rudolf Steiner’s work, which might have tainted Silent Spring as a sort of crackpot exposé, instead of a science-based exposé.

From The Art of Goethean Conversation by Marjorie Spock, 1983:

“Conversing, as Goethe conceived it, is the art of arts. 

The very place in his works where the subject finds mention lets us glimpse its singular rank in his esteem. This is in a key scene of his fairy tale, The Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily. There, the four kings enthroned in the subterranean mystery temple are roused to the dawning of a new Age of Man when the serpent, made luminous by the gold she had swallowed, penetrates with her light into their dark sanctuary, and the following dialogue takes place:

 “Whence came you hither?” asked the golden king. 

“Out of the clefts where gold dwells,” replied the serpent. 

“What is more glorious than gold?” “Light!” 

“What is more quickening than Light?”


Unless one understands what Goethe meant one can feel disappointed at the serpent’s answer, which scarcely seems the revelation one expected. For is conversation as we know it in the Twentieth Century really more glorious than gold, more quickening than light? Hardly! 

We attach the term to every casual exchange, to the most idle, inconsequential chit-chat. Surely, we feel, the term must have come down in the world since Goethe’s day, suffering severest diminution in its slide. That this is indeed the case becomes apparent when we recall the salons of earlier centuries where great minds came together for significant talk. 

These occasions were of a wholly different order from our social happenings. They were disciplined, where ours are chaotic, built around a common purpose, mutually enriching rather than depleting. 

It is impossible to picture the participants in a salon all talking at once, babbling away on as many subjects as there were pairs of conversationalists present. No! 

The star of a theme hung over the assemblage as over a pool studded with crystals, and the responsively scintillating crystal intellects took turns voicing the reflections awakened in them. 

Goethean conversations differ at least as much again from those of the salon as did the salon from today’s cocktail party. Their purpose is to call forth a fullness of spiritual life, not to stage displays of intellectual fireworks. They have nothing in common with the salon’s formal play of light-points sparkling in cold starlit glitter. Instead, they strive to enter the sun-warm realm of living thoughts where a thinker uses all himself as a tool of knowledge, where – in the manner of his thinking – he takes part as a creative spirit in the ongoing creative process…”

There is much more to ponder in Spock’s reflections on The Art of Goethean Conversation. I highly recommend that you read it all, but this issue of Farm News encourages you to at least consider the art of conversation with people as we enter into this idea or exercise of conversation with plants.

Do Plants Talk?

What might a Goethean conversation with a plant be like? Am I engaging in such when I project your crops into the future? Somewhat, I suppose…

Goethe in Italy by Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein

From The Nature Institute:

“In Goethe’s view science entails “mutual interaction” with the phenomena. Engaging in this process we discover the “limitless” nature of connections and relationships in the world but at the same time our potential to continually grow and adapt ourselves to new, more adequate ways of knowing. Doing Goethean science means treading a path of conscious development. The question accompanying every aspect of the work is, “How can I make myself into a better, more transparent instrument of knowing?” In traditional science, we are much more likely to ask, “How can I find ways of adapting the phenomena to my specific approach so that I can answer my question?”

Bringing it back to projecting the quantities and maturity of your vegetables and herbs several days into the future, I somehow, in part, become one with them. Somehow, they enter into me and unfold into their future with me and I see them arrive in a time that is not here yet.

Do they converse with me? Something like that.

From a Waldorf Library PDF by Dana Pauly:

“Goethean Science and Phenomenology 

The most basic tenet of Goethe’s scientific method is that we enter into the experience of the phenomenon itself, remaining with it throughout our research, rather than speculating beyond it or replacing the phenomenon with an abstract concept or mathematical model. By dwelling in the phenomenon itself, Goethe maintained that one could come to “see” the unity and lawfulness of the natural world. In his scientific studies, he was seeking to explain nature by laws of development lying within nature itself, not external forces located outside nature. 

Biodynamic Agriculture as a Practice of Goethean Phenomenology 

The Biodynamic agricultural method, as an extension of Anthroposophy, Rudolf Steiner’s spiritual science, is Goethean in its vision and efforts to create a farm as a self-contained individuality. The farm is seen as a living and evolving individual organism within which the farmer lives and works. The subject/object (farmer/farm) distinction dissolves into a relationship in which the farm and its components (soil, plants, domestic animals, wildlife, water, etc.) are interdependent and necessary parts of a whole, rather than a mechanism for production, as is often the case in conventional and even organic farming. With this view, the relationship between the farmer and her farm is phenomenological. The unique wholeness of the farm is expressed in every part, and the farmer strives to experience and understand the system as a whole in order to work intimately and effectively with the landscape.”

Metamorphosis of this Newsletter

I started with an account of how I do harvest estimates for your share customization needs. This morphed into conversation with people. This morphed into conversation with plants. This morphed into how a farmer and his/her farm co-create one another, resulting in the Biodynamic farm organism. 

It has to do with giving oneself over to the other—to the plants, to people, to the farm. It’s listening, paying attention. With the right approach, the people listen back, the plants listen back, the farm listens back. And the people reveal themselves, the plants reveal themselves, the farm reveals itself.

Rudolf Steiner noted, “It is a striking and pertinent fact that Goethe, when he looked out of a window, could often predict, hours in advance, what kind of weather was in store.”

“Hire that man!” I would have said.

Farmer John