Thursday, February 25, 2010

Hoop House

The big news on the farm these days is the hoop house that's going up. This is a joint project between Yianni, who owns the land we're using, and the farm. We're putting in a bit of sweat equity and in return we'll have a warm, dry place to start some seeds and perhaps a bit of space to grow a few shoulder season crops out of the weather.

While the hoop house is consuming a significant portion of our time these days the rest of the farm activities still move forward. Most of the seeds for the season have been ordered and our planting plan is all in place. Sign ups for shares are rolling in and the overwintered crops are mostly looking good. Favas were the one predictable casualty of the winter freezes but we'll seed more of those soon.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Detailed information on 2010/11 Shares


I've finally posted our plans for the spring, summer, fall and winter shares. These are the files we use to plan out our plantings and to estimate prices for the shares. We also look at these files every week when we're harvesting to see what we planned and how the plan needs to change to match the conditions in the field on that particular week.

Last year's plan ended up being quite different from the actual if you look at any particular week. Some items we had more than expected, others we had less, or none at all. There were even a few items that we tossed in that weren't even on the original plan. This year will certainly be no different, but the plan should at least give you an idea of the basic quantity of items we're shooting for, as well as the mix we expect to have.

If you do end up with a share and you feel inspired to track the items in the share, your perceived value each week and any other details, we'd love to end up with those details at the end of the season. We also track these, but they're from our perspective and we love constructive feedback from members.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

New farmer in town!

Hello! I just wanted to introduce myself as a new member of the The Very Small Farm-farm team. For those of you who don't already know me, my name is Kji, pronounced Kai.
This is my eighth year of farming in my homeland of the Pacific Northwest.
I started my agricultural career as an apprentice at Whistling Duck Farm, a beautiful ten acre farm on the banks of a tributary to the Rogue River in Southern Oregon. At the end of my first season I was hooked on farming, but ready to head back North. After a brief stint volunteering in a school garden on the bluffs of the Columbia River, I took on a winter apprenticeship at Sauvie Island Organics. One season blended fluidly into the next, and I spent the following two years working alongside Josh, as well as other great farmers at SIO.

After gleaning an abundance of knowledge in small-scale organic vegetable production under the leadership of amazing growers I was ready to take on a project of my own. In 2006 I became the Educational Garden and Greenworks Coordinator as an AmeriCorps member for the Northwest Service Academy--Mt. Adams Center in Trout Lake, WA. This was a great opportunity to apply all of the growing knowledge I had obtained, without the financial pressure of running a for-profit agricultural business. Plus, I had an opportunity to develop curriculum and teach organic gardening principles to a wide range of age groups. At this point my confidence was bubbling and I was ready to get back to a larger scale, small-scale farm scene.

This was when I caught wind that a farm manager position was opening up at a farm on Orcas Island, in the San Juan archipelago. So I packed my bags and headed North. For the past three years I have been managing Morning Star Farm, a 2.5 acre diversified vegetable, herb, berry and flower operation. We sold our produce at the Eastsound Farmers Market, through a CSA program and to almost a dozen dedicated chefs. After a good taste of "Island Life" and a solid stint in a managerial role, I decided it was time to spread my wings and migrate back south to my hometown of Portland, OR. I am excited to be back in this great town. There is so much happening in the realm of urban agriculture and I am trying to get my hand into a bit of it all.
Besides having this great opportunity to work with Josh at The Very Small Farm, I will also be doing some edible landscaping, helping out the folks at Garden Fever, volunteering as a Tree Care Team Leader for the Portland Fruit Tree Project and initiating a Matching Program, called Fresh Exchange for the Buckman Portland Farmers Market. If you are interested in getting anymore information on any of these projects, don't hesitate to contact me. Until then, I hope you stay up to date on the happenings of The Very Small Farm. I look forward to growing for you this season.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Tips for being a good CSA member


Here are a few general tips for being a good CSA member:

  • To keep your share as fresh as possible pick it up as early as possible, remove all of the items from the bag, turn the bag inside out to make sure you got everything (this also helps us keep them clean), and if you don’t plan on using the items right away store them appropriately (more tips on that below).
  • If you can’t pick up your share let a friend pick it up for you, or let us know and we’ll donate it before it wilts.
  • Check the blog to find out what’s in the share and for tips on how to use it. Sometimes there are special stories and farm news there as well
  • Keep in touch and let us know about any problems, or even better, things you really like! We also take constructive criticism and new ideas with great interest.
  • Bring back your empty bag every week, or you can remove items from the bag when you pick them up and transfer them to your own bag, leaving the farm bag behind. This is an important one, otherwise we run out of bags to pack shares in.

Here are a few more options for our CSA members:

  • Come out and visit us on a work day. We’ll give you a tour of the farm and show you how your food is being grown.
  • We’ll send out announcements for on farm events during the season, such as open houses, potlucks, and possibly a cider pressing in the fall. Let us know if you’d like more of these kinds of events to get to know the farm, farmers, and other CSA members.

Tips on keeping produce fresh:

  • In general refrigerators dry out food, causing greens to wilt and fruit and roots to get rubbery. The cold is good, but keep the humidity high with damp cloth wraps inside plastic bags, or containers. A little water is ok, too much water will cause mildew and mold with longer storage.
  • There are a few vegetables that keep better flavor without cold, such as tomatoes, peppers and potatoes.
  • If you have questions on particular vegetables ask, we have lots of experience in this area.

How to Sign up for a Share


We have options for you: different numbers of shares, different seasons, and different places to pick up your share. There are also different ways to pay, all of these are outlined below, but if you have more questions please leave a comment and we'll try to answer soon...

First - Decide how many shares you want

Single Share - this is the option for individuals who don’t cook in large quantities, or folks who just want a sampler of what the farm offers

A Couple of Shares - If you’re two people, consider buying two shares, also appropriate for individuals who cook a lot

A Threesome or More - Add up as many shares as you can use in a week, or between delivery days.


Decide which seasons you want produce for

Spring - In many ways this is the most challenging season for us, starting as early as possible in April we’ll bring you baby greens and the few accompaniments we can coax from the ground early in the season.

Summer - This season starts with greens and the first truly warm season crops and grows to a crescendo with many types of fruiting vegetables and salad items.

Fall - A surprisingly bountiful time on the farm with the last remnants of summer crops, roots reaching their peak, and hearty greens sweetening with cold weather

Winter - Technically this will be distributed in 2011, but we’ll be planting the crops in 2010 and you’ll need to sign up then as well so we’ll consider it a part of that season.


Decide where you want to pick up your shares. Shares are packed in reusable, damp cotton bags that keep the vegetables cool and hydrated. We drop boxes of these bags filled with produce at different sites within our typical driving range, which extends from Sauvie Island, down into close in NE Portland. Last season we had a drop in SE Portland but that porch is no longer available to us. The list of current drop sites is below. We will consider adding sites to that list if there is enough demand, see the section on Creating a Drop Site below.

Current Drop sites and times:

Sauvie Island (at the farm), Monday and Thursday afternoons

St. Johns (near the library), Monday and Thursday evenings

Near East Yoga (NE 7th and Broadway), Monday and Thursday evenings

SE (near 17th and Alder) Thursday evenings only

note: for the spring we will likely only be delivering on Thursdays unless there is significant demand for Mondays

Shares are dropped at the above sites by 5:30 at the latest and are available for pick up for 24 hours before they are donated.

Creating a Drop Site

If you have a site that you think would be appropriate and popular let us know and we’ll consider adding it to our list. Our driving range is limited as this is a major expense we try to avoid, however if you’d like to arrange to pick up shares in bulk at one site and create another site somewhere else we’d love to have you do that. Potential sites to not need to be available both days, one day a week is enough. In order to add sites on our current routes we may be able to drop off shares along our way to other sites if there are at least 15 shares there.


Typically payment for all of the seasons is in the spring when most of our expenses are incurred (seed, soil amendments, bags, etc.) Shares are sold on a first come first served basis. This helps us concentrate on growing during the growing season, instead of marketing, book keeping and billing. We certainly understand that up front payment is not possible for everyone’s checkbook so we are happy to work with members who would prefer to create a payment plan as long as they are committed to the full length of the season(s) signed up for.


Single Spring Share - $57

Single Summer Share - $120

Single Fall Share - $75

Single Winter Share - $63

There is a 2% discount for signing up for two shares or two seasons at a time.

There is a 3% discount for signing up for three shares or three seasons at a time.

There is a 4% discount and our eternal gratitude for signing up for four or more seasons or four or more shares at a time.

Signing up for multiples helps reduce our administrative work which in turn helps reduce the cost of the share for you.

To Actually Sign Up:

We still use the US Postal Service and regular paper checks for sign ups. To reserve a spot e-mail (at the following information:

  • your name
  • your address (we don’t really need this but it’s nice to have)
  • your phone number (we do need this in case we need to contact you)
  • your e-mail address (the method we usually use for announcements
  • the seasons you are signing up for and the number of shares you would like
  • the site where you would like to pick up your share
  • the day you would prefer to pick up your produce (Monday or Thursday)

We'll send you an invoice and the address for submitting payment. If you need help with deciding what shares you would like, how much they cost, creating a payment plan, or any other questions please contact us by clicking on this link.

Once you are signed up for the CSA your payment is not refundable, however it is transferable, so you can find someone else to take over your share if you need to leave the CSA for any reason.

2010 CSA Information


Here at Slow Hand Farm we’ve sized our shares so that individuals can afford them, and use a full share in a reasonable amount of time. The shares are filled with varieties that we find special in one way or another, the vegetables are grown using hand scale methods, and we can always tell you exactly how something was grown, and how to best eat it!

Growing on Sauvie Island, just outside of Portland, Oregon, we deliver shares into town twice a week. Check out the site and if you still have questions feel free to leave a comment and we'll try to answer soon...

Basic Share Principles
  • We design our shares around individuals (if you’re buying for more than one eater, consider buying more than one share)
  • Large vegetables, like giant cabbages and pumpkins, are hard for individuals to eat in a week so we avoid growing them and concentrate on things that are more serving sized.
  • We grow things that can be harvested and distributed the same day
  • Crops that are normally cured or stored and distributed later we harvest and distribute immediately. This eliminates the need for redundant refrigeration and storage space on the farm when it already exists in our members kitchens. In many cases this also keeps the product fresher and more flavorful, and it reduces our ecological footprint significantly. In some cases it requires the members to treat the product slightly differently than they may be used to but we’ll always pass on any information you need.
  • We try to find unique and special varieties
  • Many of these varieties are more flavorful and nutritious than standard commercial varieties. Some have special stories and histories, are bred locally, or are crops we just really like to eat ourselves.
  • We primarily use hand scale methods
  • Because hand labor is more expensive than mechanical systems based on fossil fuel by a factor of 100 we concentrate on crops that are difficult to mechanize, and that take less space in the ground, like salad greens. When we do grow crops that are typically highly mechanized, like potatoes, we choose varieties that are uncommon and we give out small quantities.
Stay tuned for more information on the upcoming season in the next post on How to Sign up for a Share