Delivery #19, Week of October 15, 2012
Every month at about this time I log onto my online federal tax page to deposit the taxes I’ve withheld from my employees’ paychecks and, of course, to contribute my employer’s share. Wages are the single biggest cost of production on our farm, accounting for about a third of the cost of your shares. The chief reason non-organic vegetables cost less to produce is because conventional farmers have substituted workers with pesticides. An application of weed killer can save hours of hand weeding. On our organic farm, we too try to find technologies to reduce our work burden, but our solutions are usually mechanical instead of chemical, and their impact on labor is less dramatic. Over the years we have employed about one person for every 100 shares we grow and deliver to NYC, which is similar to the experience of other CSA farmers, and despite our investments in machinery, we have only seen modest improvements in that ratio.
The monthly exercise of paying taxes often makes me take a look at where we are going as a farm. As odd or shortsighted as it might appear, I don’t think I’ve met a farmer who anticipated with any clarity how important employees would be to their success or how complicated the relationships with their workers would become. We start farms because we love to grow things. I started knowing nothing about payroll taxes, benefit plans or job descriptions, let alone organizing and motivating employees. And the idea that as our farm goes, so goes the livelihood of someone besides me is still sometimes daunting. But I’ve come to enjoy having people around what would otherwise be a quiet landscape, and I certainly need their help. In recent years I have actually found being an employer to be rewarding. A photographer was visiting here recently and he said that he was struck by how happy our workforce appeared to be. There are many of us who love to grow things. It reminds me that a sustainable farm is not just about its decision to forgo pesticides and to grow cover crops, it’s also about its relationship to its workers. It gives me real pleasure that our workers keep coming back to us, year after year, and that they are happy to do so. As a shareholder, I think you too might justifiably feel proud: your decision to buy a share of our farm’s harvest results in good work for more than a dozen people.
Rain, rain, rain, and a hard, killing frost on Friday finally brought the growing season to a close for warm weather crops. In anticipation of the frost we harvested all of our peppers, which you’ll be getting this week. It’s too early to say if there are any tomatoes left, but I suspect not. This week you’ll also get potatoes and Rosemary, carrots, Crimson Queen turnips, winter squash, Lettuce, spinach, “broccolini,” and a variety of cooking greens to choose from. You’ll have apples in your fruit share, some of which you should consider combining in a dish with your turnips (see the recipe below).
Have a great week, Ted
MY BEST TURNIPS
FROM THE HILLBILLY HOUSEWIFE
- 2 pounds fresh turnips
- 1 fresh apple (optional)
- 2 or 3 tablespoons margarine
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- Salt and pepper to taste
First peel the turnips with a vegetable peeler. Peel the apple too if you like, but it isn’t necessary, unless he skin is really ugly. Chop or slice the turnips, (and the apple) into the chunks the right size for eating. Fill a big pot half full of water. Add the turnips, apple (if you’re using it), the margarine, sugar and salt and pepper as you like. Cover the pot and simmer on the back of the stove for about 20 minutes, or until the turnip chunks are tender to your preference. Serve hot. Serves six.