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Servings

How many servings of fruit and vegetables should we eat? Can we group potatoes and sweet potatoes in the vegetable category? I hope so because this is potato Salad week! Grilling and potato salad are going to be highlights for the 4th, and of course, no end to fireworks, especially for rural folk.  

We have just added USDA grass-fed hamburger to our meat offering, joining Sockeye salmon, chicken, tuna and cod. While the grill is still hot, toss on some Walla Walla sweets, zucchini, and red peppers. You can even sear some romaine hearts.  

And now the summer fruit is starting to show up on the menus. Watermelon, nectarines, cherries, berries, grapes… When the seasons change and the different crops make their annual appearance, I get excited. The flavors, the smells, the lack of dishes to wash. Ok the lack of dishes to wash has more to do with being outside and eating more raw foods.  

Nothing like biting into a nectarine or peach and having to take a quick step back because the juice is pouring down your chin ?. Oh my! The Black splendor plums right now are really good. 

I know some of you are thinking Salsa and Avocados for chips and dips. Salsa and Avocados will definitely, get the recommended fruit and veggie servings moving in the right direction.  Eating healthy, feeding your bodies with good food is more than doable. The challenge is training ourselves to say “yes” to more fruits and veggies, and learning to leave the packaged foods at the grocery store or at Amazon. Easier said than done.  

Our mission from day one: work with local organic farmers and other organic farmers to make eating healthy easier. Connecting the local consumer to the growers. It was important 21 years ago, and I would like to think that it is still important today. 

Enjoy the 4th and enjoy some really good food. 

Be safe, 

-Tristan

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Intense

Last week we had a good “drink” of water from Heaven and that evening we were treated to an intensely rich pink sunset. This world is a beautiful place if we take the time to be still. There is so much to see all around us, so much intricacy, delicacy, and grace. We are blessed.

I have been working with nature for what seems a lifetime, but it wasn’t until I began my organic journey that I realized how small I am in relation to the micro and macro ecosystems I inhabit.

Take the rain we were blessed with last week. We haven’t had meaningful water for a few weeks, but we didn’t have a lot of high temperatures either. When the rain comes, the plants are built to receive it, maximize it, and use it. Plants are amazing collectors of water. A lettuce plant will funnel untold amounts of water into its base and hydrate it leaves and roots, then it will trap the moisture under its canopy and hang on to it to extend its benefit.

The Pea plants are incredible. Their waxy leaves and tendrils shed water almost immediately and almost all of it makes it way to the roots. And as most of you can attest, Klesick Farm peas are especially sweet!

Rain can come at a bad time, too. Thankfully this spring was just hot enough, dry enough, and wet enough to not have a negative impact on our early crops. Even our Strawberries have “weathered” the weather fairly well. For sure they would have appreciated a little more heat, but then the peas and lettuce would have been a little less happy.

Have you ever noticed that the birds are always noisiest in early morning? At 5 a.m. this farm is anything but quiet. I believe that is by design, and I believe that the birds’ chirping is music to the “ears” of the plants. It is almost as if when the birds sing, the plant opens its stomata and takes in the dew that has collected all evening. And when the birds go quiet for the day, the plant closes its stomata and traps in the nutrients and moisture to tide itself till the evening. This also coincides with the sunrise, which the plant also uses as a signal to open its stomata. 

Knowing this, we spray a foliar kelp and micronutrient mix in the early mornings or late evenings and, when the plant opens up its stomata, we “bless” it with extra nutrition. When I refer to working with nature, this is one way that we do that.

The balancing act as a farmer can be dicey, especially on a mixed vegetable operation as ours. We have a good start with a few mishaps, but no more than usual, and what we have harvested has been beautiful on the outside and inside. And for me, as a farmer, the real joy comes from feeding your family and my family produce that is, yes beautiful, but most importantly produce that is brimming with flavor and nutrition. 

-Tristan

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Sugar Snap Peas

This is the best tasting crop, and it only lasts for only a few weeks! And we got them earlier than ever to boot! That incredible stretch in March is paying dividends now.  

For some reason, I remember picking peas on June 11th in 1999 when our farm was located in Machias. That is the earliest we have ever harvested this variety. We have tried to have peas for the box of good this early every year, but so much has to go “right” to get an early crop off and this year a dry March, wet April, and hot May was the right mix of weather. Go figure??!?!?!!? But this year, it happened!  

So, it will be Klesick Farm pea season for the next few weeks. You can order extra’s as well. If you love sweet, plump and juicy peas, now is the time to treat yourself! 

-Tristan

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Soil

Soil is critical to human health! Healthy food comes from healthy soils, and a healthy citizenry comes from healthy food. That means the health of our citizens is tied directly back to the health of our soil. 

And sadly, one doesn’t have to look very far from the farm to see that there is a burgeoning population of unhealthy folks today. In addition, any healthy food that is being grown is converted into a myriad of processed products which, I would contend, have substantially lowered the quality of food. 

And, sadly, sugar, fat, and alcohol are all the rage in the food scene, organic or otherwise. It is called “value added,” but overly processed foods, organic or otherwise, are not the solution to America’s health crisis. 

I am a huge fan of veggies and fruit staying as close to their original, recognizable self as possible. Eating foods grown in soils that are minimally processed is the only viable solution to curb America’s health crisis. Will eating more fruits and veggies, solve every disease problem? NO. But clearly the Standard American Diet (SAD) isn’t curbing anything either and, if anything, it is making us worse off. 

Almost all the treatment is just that, it is focused on treating the ailment instead of changing the underlying cause – poor nutrition. The hard part is that we need to attack these illnesses from a dietary perspective and treat the condition to provide some relief. Eventually, if our food policy could switch to more fruit and veggies and less of the current food system, there would be less need for the expensive and intrusive procedures we default to today. But for now, we mostly have a “treat the condition” model.  

I know that there are educational advocates and government programs encouraging the American population to eat a more balanced diet, all things in moderation. This is America, of course they are going to say that. Our political system guarantees us a diet that can never be healthy, because of lobbyist groups.  

So, the only choice we have to remain healthy or be healthier is to make the choice ourselves. At least for the moment we don’t have to buy “their” food, we can take charge of our health. It is at the fork or spoon where healthy food enters our bodies and, if we put good food on that fork or spoon, our bodies will absolutely put it to healing, nourishing, and cell-building work. 

For 21 years, Klesick Farms has been growing, sourcing, and delivering food that your body will be able to put to good use to nourish itself.  

Thanks for allowing our family to serve yours, 

-Tristan

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My Part, God’s Part

This is the hardest time of the year for me as a farmer. We are primarily vegetable farmers but also grow some fruit and hay. Vegetables are incredibly slow growing in the spring, and then all of the sudden – BAM! A little heat and little water with increasing day length equals growth. This time of year, everything is just getting started. 

As an organic farmer, I spend a lot of time thinking about how to get my soil as alive and healthy as possible. It is pretty simple for me. Take care of your soil, and it will take care of the plants. It is similar to: “you are what you eat.” If we as people choose to eat good food, our bodies will do the rest. Of course, just like the soil, our bodies have an incredible ability to absorb lots of toxicity and still function, but not thrive.

As a farmer, I know when a plant is starting to show signs of stress. It comes from knowing your crops. It is almost as if you are listening to what the plant is telling you. It is not mysterious. Good parents, doctors, counselors, farmers, you name it, are all good listeners. Paying attention to what the crop is telling you is what a farmer has to discern. Does it look piqued, why is it not growing, does it seem dry? And even if I have properly prepared the field, fertilized, planted and watered in the right time of year, some plants just aren’t feeling their best. But when I have done the right things at the right time, almost always, most of the crops do great. 

I consider myself a good listener, maybe I have always been or maybe raising 9 children (5 married so far) has further tuned my sense of hearing. Really, farming and parenting have taught me that you do your best. You try to prepare your fields and children for the next season, and then a lot of other factors, most out of your control, come into play. And yes, often the next seasons will keep you on your knees because so much is out of your hands.

Ironically, it is that part where we have influence, where we can lay the foundation is, also, critical. It is where diligence pays dividends. Equally important is recognizing that the process is bigger than any one person. Understanding what you control, and what is out of your control, is also freeing. 

I do believe that in farming, parenting, or eating, little decisions in the right direction and over long periods of time, lead to healthier crops, healthier children, and a healthier us. Our crops, our children, and our bodies will use the foundations we have laid to finish their race. And amazingly, as if it is a miracle, crops do get harvested, and people are healthier when they eat better food, and children can even navigate Seattle traffic when they are 16! 

Thanks for eating good food!

-Tristan

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Eating Local

We are getting so close to the local season exploding! The next few months are going to roll in like morning fog, and then heat up like hot summer day. The rain last week has hydrated the crops and added moisture to the fields. The moisture is especially helpful this time of year for 2 reasons.

The first is what you might expect, it waters the crops, and after that hot stretch, the peas and lettuce are happy for the cool weather and a drink! Plants are so amazing. When you look at a plant and study it’s leaf structure, you will notice how they have a center rib that funnels water towards the roots and/or the outer circumference of the plant. This is sometimes referred to as the drip zone. The leaves are accumulators of moisture and funnel it to where the plant needs it most.

Another interesting tidbit about leaves is that the leaves “open up” in the morning to capture the dew and then “close off” to conserve the moisture and nutrition. There is also really good evidence that the birds chirping away are one of the mechanisms that causes the plants to open up and take in the nutrition. Joelle and I have intentionally planted trees, all types, on the borders of our property to encourage a diverse ecosystem. 

Starting in the spring, and running throughout the summer, it can get really loud at sunrise with all the avian activity on our farm. I would venture that a rooster didn’t get the farmer up at the crack of dawn, it was all the wildlife singing to the plants!

Another use for moisture is to help breakdown the remaining residue from our winter crops that we plant to protect and nourish our soil. Moisture and heat are critical for the fungi and bacteria world to turn the fibrous plant material into nutrients. Which, in turn, build soil health and feed the plants. Making sure the crop is incorporated into the soil, and there is adequate moisture, speeds up the process and frees the nutrients to feed the plants. 

Feeding the soil bacteria and the other host of unseen workers is job one for an organic farmer. Without healthy soil you can’t have healthy food, and without healthy food you can’t have healthy people. If the national health trend is any indication, our nation’s soil is not producing very healthy crops. And to compound the issue, the agricultural crops are turned into a myriad of overly processed foods that are even more unhealthy.

Organically grown fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes consumed as close to their original state is the silver bullet to America’s health crisis. A simple solution, but one that eludes most.

Growing food for you.

-Tristan

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Small Things Matter

When I think about small things, I am thinking about the little decisions that can elevate a conversation to optimism or an argument. Or on the farm, getting ahead of the weather by a day or two can also have lasting impacts on the crops.

Last week, we saw temperatures climb from the low 60s to the high 70s/low 80s. This is the season where a small decision can really influence a June/July harvest. Ideal weather doesn’t exist. The weather is just what it is. Which means, as a farmer, I do my best and then move on. Farmers have an edge about them, it comes with the territory. Some crops do great, some not so great and others just don’t make it. 

Years of farming inform many decisions. A collective wisdom that has been passed down season by season and crop by crop, which means that the weather plays a big factor. But it is out of my control, and when a crop flourishes it probably has more to do with the weather than I give it credit. But the little things like depth of tillage, timely weeding, and timely watering can go long ways towards working with nature to help that crop flourish, too.

80s in May can have a lasting impact on cool weather crops, and the variability of weather can really mess with a plant’s internal clock. Cilantro is always looking for a reason to bolt or “go to seed,” as is spinach. We have chosen to focus on crops that are less temperamental like lettuces, cucumbers, tomatoes, winter squashes, and garlic. We have tree fruits and raspberries, too.

We no longer grow blackberries. We had two varieties of thorn less blackberries. One came on early; I mean a month before any wild blackberries were ready to harvest, but every bird within a few miles descended upon them and feasted away. The other challenge was that a warm March and cold April with a late frost, killed about a half of them. Their shoots for next year will be fine, but the combination of bird predation and frost susceptibility have made them less desirable to grow.

The other blackberry came on in late August and the birds had plenty of wild blackberries to feast on, but I didn’t like their flavor. They were prolific, big and juicy. I would always walk by them and look for the plumpest berries and eat one and think “meh”. Every time I always thought “meh” when I tasted them. So last fall, I took them out and took out their trellising. 

The beautiful thing about farming is that there are lots of choices when it comes to what crops to grow and every farmer gets to match the crop to their microclimate, their personality, and their temperament!

And with the weather changing, we have new opportunities to grow different crops. But the warmer weather has also come with new pests. I noticed new birds flying over the farm that are now in the valley. Changing weather patterns come with lots of new variabilities and that definitely keeps a farmer on their toes!

Growing good food for you that loves to grow in the Stillaguamish River Valley.

-Tristan

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Lilac Blooms

When your world revolves around the farming calendar, some memories are forever with you. It was 1994 and I had begun my career in the produce business. That was a long time ago! During these early years, before Joelle and I started Klesick Farms, I worked in specialty produce in Portland Oregon. It was here that I met my first organic farmers. Hard working folks that were working outside from sun up to sun down and making their own deliveries, because that was their only option. 

It was inspiring! We didn’t have any land, but we did have a beautiful Purple Lilac in the front yard. It was full of blooms, and I harvested some stems and sold them to my work. Lilac blooms were my first agricultural or floral sale! And every spring since 1994 I get to pause and smell the lilac flowers and reminisce about those early days. 

Last week Joelle harvested some white lilac blooms that beautifully adorned our table. Once again, lilacs will hold a special meaning for me. Our son Andrew and his wife Abby have decided that Pittsburgh is where they want to live. I am excited for them, but sad at the same time. Andrew wasn’t born, though he was in the “oven,” when Joelle and I started Klesick Farms. Now 21 years later he and Abby are finding their way. As our families gather to say good bye, pray for them and send them off, lilacs once again signify that a change has come to the Klesick Family.  

His older brother Micah lives in Michigan, and Abby’s grandmother also lives in Michigan, which is comforting. Technology softens the move with messenger or facetime, but the sadness will persist. So far, all the grandbabies still live near us, but that too will change. Not sure when we will have all nine of our children together again, probably weddings and funerals. I do know that when we see them again, the embraces will be long and teary, much like the night before they left. Tears filled with excitement and mixed with sadness as we will now watch from a far. 

Change is hard and it is good. Now every spring when the lilacs bloom purple I will remember how Klesick Farms began and when the white lilacs bloom, I will be reminded that another Klesick is making their way in this world. 

For many of you, our lives through a box of good have been intertwined for those same two decades. And for you, too, the agricultural calendar has created many memories. Spinach and peas, raspberries and cherries, nectarines and blueberries. We have a rhythm to our menu planning, and it is heavily tied to local food. And for the next several months, Klesick Farms and my local farming neighbors will begin to share our bounty with you. Stay tuned, the box of good is going to get a lot more local!  

-Tristan

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It Never Fails

Inevitably, we end up planting our 1st, 2nd, and possibly 3rd rotation of lettuce transplants all at once. This not a big deal, it just tends to stack up a lot of lettuce at one time. Thankfully, lettuce mostly matures at the same time. “Mostly” being the operative word. 

All crops have a range of maturity, and with lettuce we will be harvesting the over achievers first and letting the laggards mature for a later harvest date. For now, I am happy to report that 2500 red leaf, green leaf, and romaine lettuce starts are in the ground. And it is a good thing, because plantings 4 and 5 are close behind!

This weekend we are also driving T-posts and stringing the peas. The same weather that tossed a wrench in our transplant schedule also impacted our ability to cultivate the peas with the tractor. In a perfect situation, we would have been able to “hill” them and smother the weeds in the row and kill a bunch of weeds outside the rows. This year there wasn’t a dry enough window to do that and so now we are going to be hand hoeing. 

It isn’t a big deal, maybe an extra 3 hours compared to 10 minutes with the tractor. On the bright side, the peas look great! They just grew beyond the point where I was comfortable tractor weeding. Those peas are off to a great start! Think mid to late June for a harvest date.

And since we are talking about peas, next week we are harvesting Pea Vines and Tendrils. I know, you are thinking “fancy.” Actually, I am thinking that the cover crop I planted last fall to protect and nurture the soil is lush and green and ready to harvest. We didn’t plan to harvest these for food, but I am now. They taste absolutely amazing. The tops of pea plants are very tender and taste surprisingly like peas. They will make a great addition to salads or stir fries. Joanna and I just graze them like Peter Rabbit or Bambi might, helping ourselves to a top here and another there as we mosey along. 

Now to be clear, while pea vines are very tasty, I am not willing to harvest Pea Vines that will become SUPER SUGAR SNAP PEAS in the near future! Nope, nada, never. So, I essentially have two different varieties of peas, Austrian Winter Peas and Sugar Snap Peas. Both produce tasty pea vines and tendrils, but the Sugar Snap Peas produce those big, plump, juicy, green peas and it would be a culinary shame to eat those vines. That being said, the Austrian Winter Peas are ready to harvest and provide a splash of local farm goodness!  

Cheers to your health!

-Tristan

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Timely and Untimely Weather

Fitting in work here and there, we have been waiting. After such a great start to March, April showers have certainly put a damper on field work. It’s alright though, the fields were looking and feeling a little too dry for the start of the farm season. So, in many ways, I am grateful for the early start and the rainy April patch. 

And besides, if we hadn’t got the nice weather in March, I couldn’t have snuck in another unplanned planting of those tasty sugar snap peas! 

Now it is fruit blossom time. Our one cherry tree didn’t care that it was raining during blossom time, but I DID! On the brighter side, the Italian prunes have burst into full blossom, and the rain let up at the perfect time. We use Mason Bees for most of our pollination. Those little pollinators tend to work rain or shine, unlike Honey Bees. The Mason Bees do require a little more maintenance than do the other pollinators, like Bumble Bees. The Mason Bees need a water source nearby and a clayey mud puddle. With the rainy weather all of our tractor ruts serve as an excellent source of water and mud to make their nests. 

Another interesting fact about Mason Bees is that the males emerge first, and then the females a little later. And since each little nest has 5 eggs in it, it is really important that the female Mason Bee lays 2 female eggs in the back of the nest and 3 male eggs in the front. Nature is truly amazing. How does the female know that it is laying female eggs in the back and male eggs in the front? This is absolutely critical too, because the males emerge first, and if the female mason bee lays a male egg in the back of the nest it will wake up first and destroy the eggs in front of it. Now I am not an expert, but every year we see Mason Bees emerging and building nests, so something is working right. One thing for sure: no pollination, no fruit!  

Farming is a humbling and exhilarating adventure; you can do so many things right and then it can rain during pollination, and next thing you know you’re caring for trees for the whole year without a crop to harvest. Ouch. Thankfully that doesn’t happen very often, especially in our orchard. The reason that we usually have fruit to harvest is because, we haven’t “put all our eggs in one basket.” We have 3 varieties of Plums, 3 varieties of pears and 4 varieties of apples and they all bloom at slightly different times, essentially spreading out our risk over a few weeks. 

We have chosen to be small diversified fruit and vegetable farm. Focusing on a couple dozen crops that grow really well in our climate and on our farm and we grow them for you! 

-Tristan