Blogs are a funny thing.  When there is time for thoughtful sharing they are a great outlet, but when spare time is a precious commodity, they get very neglected.  This is what happened to us.  Market season is certainly all consuming and we just ran out of time and brain power.  So now here we are at the beginning of a new year and ready to start the season all over again.

Not that we haven’t been busy this winter.  We’ve been working on a few things like retro fitting our barn to be our new post-harvest handling area, cleaning up the high tunnel and preparing it for planting (which has already begun), making new shelters for the poultry, cleaning out the old seed area, working outdoor beds (as weather allows), planning for 2014, buying seeds, chopping firewood, doing taxes, working on our organic certification, and now taking care of 2 dozen new baby ducks and soon to be taking care of 3 dozen new heritage breed chicks.

Its also conference season.  We had the pleasure of attending the Great Plains Growers Conference in St. Joseph, Mo and we will be heading to Springfield next week for the Missouri Organic Association’s conference as well.

We are excited for 2014, as we have submitted our paperwork and will become certified organic this year.  This will open new market for us and help us increase sales.  Our new year’s resolution was to make more posts on the website.  Lets see how well we can follow that!  Happy new year!

Here at Green Gate Family Farm, we are big fans of rhubarb (crazy name!)!  It is one of our first crops to be ready for harvest in the spring, and is one of the first “green” signs of Life we see, telling us it is time to really get moving. Currently, we have 4 “beds” (about 150 feet) of very young rhubarb (most of which is about 3 years old), and our farm plan includes a couple more years of establishing new rhubarb beds.  Rhubarb is a perennial and emerges each spring from an underground root-like structure called a “crown”. The crown hangs out dormant all winter and then starts sending out its large, wrinkled leaves in the spring.  The part to the rhubarb that is eaten is the stem of the leaf (which is actually called a “petiole” when attached to the leaf, and is usually referred to as a “stalk”).  We cut the stem (petiole) away from the plant just next to the crown, and the remove the leaf (which is poisonous if eaten).  Older stalks are bigger and become much more fibrous as they age.

There are many varieties of rhubarb, many of them preferring a cool climate.  The variety we grow on the farm does well in our Mizzurah climate, but many people are thrown off by the fact that it is a mostly green stalk, rather than red like the rhubarb sold in the store. The truth is they taste the same. (The red pigment is mostly cooked off and adds no taste content.) In fact, I would argue that our rhubarb tastes much better, because it is freshly picked for market on Friday, and we can pick the more tender stalks that you would never find in the store because of their shorter shelf-life and longer transportation times.

Speaking of tasty, how does one cook rhubarb?  Well there are many ways, most of them sweet preparations.  I always ask the customers what they plan to do with the rhubarb when they buy it and have received some interesting answers.  There are some of the things our customers do with it: Rhubarb salsa, used for making a cocktail, pickled, chutney to have with pork, spicy compote, cake, jam, and of course, pie.  Here is a great place to go for 16 different recipes for preparing Rhubarb:

You can also check out Kanasas City’s own Tyler Fox who feathered rhubarb in his May 17th column “Chow Town”

My favorite way to prepare it is also the easiest.  I trim the ends, cut it up (like celery), put it in a stewing pot with a small amount of water and a bit of sugar, and cook it down for 10 minutes.  While it is cooking, I make the French toast or Pancakes.  We have the stewed rhubarb over these with some real Maple syrup. . . it is our favorite way to spend Sunday morning.  And if Ken is lucky, we have some bacon with it as well.

Rhubarb in the feild

Rhubarb in our central garden, growing happily and ready for a harvest.

Rhubarb at market

This is our rhubarb on display at the Brookside Farmers’ Market.

This is a Tortella Spader attached to a L2250 Kubota 27hp tractor.  The tractor is old, but the spader is new.  We purchased it from Redexim in Fenton, Missouri, a Tortella Dealer.  This Spader is considered a conservation agriculture tool.  Instead of rotating in a circle like a rototiller it chops and lifts to terminate the ground cover and aerate the soil.  This causes less disturbance to the soil and eliminates the worry of creating a hard pan.  This field has been cover cropped in winter rye and buckwheat for two years (self seeded the second year).  We are strip tilling and will be planting potatoes in the spaded rows.  The pass you see in the video is the third pass on this bed.  It has been REALLY wet so working it has been very challenging and the soil has tended to be very clumpy requiring multiple passes with the spader.

Spader blades

The spades of the spader that turn the soil

May Snow on Blossom

This little blossom is hanging in there. May you thaw and bare fruit!

Well it is supposedly May but it certianly does not feel like it.  It snowed all day and all night and now we are off to the Farmers Market with snow as a companion in the bed of the pick-up truck.  This is something like the second snow ever recorded in May. . .lucky us!  Seems warm enough that most of our plants will make it.  Keep your fingers crossed and say a little prayer that the fairies of the fruit blossoms (aka our pollinators) can still work their magic on the blooms and we get fruit this year!

Grape cluster in the snow

I hope this little grape cluster will survive this snowy May day

We have been working hard to get our beds made and planted for the spring.  It has not been easy to find enough dry time to do all the work necessary though.  Don’t get us wrong we are very thankful for the water that has fallen from the sky (the ducks and geese are loving it), but it does make it hard to work the soil. If it is too wet, we will damage the soil structure and it is hard on machinery and our backs! A shovel full of soil that is saturated with moisture is about three time as heavy as a shovel full that is fairy dry!  We still have lots to do and many plants to get in the ground yet, but we persevere, because that is what farmers do!

Our first market of the season is on Saturday (April 20th).  Unfortunately, the weather has not been ideal for an early harvest, so we may only have eggs and a few pounds of rhubarb, but we will be there none-the-less!

Unworked Ground

This is one of our growing areas that we work by hand. This photo is of the section we have not been able to work yet.

Worked Ground

This is the part of the growing area we have whipped into shape, but only after blood, sweat, and lots of shoveling!

OK now it feels like spring.  The trees are in bloom and are they beautiful?  Well you can judge for yourself.  The pictures below were taken today. I think this will make the bees happy; I know it make us happy!

It is quite incredible that in a few months there will be ripe fruits in place of the flowers. Mother nature is amazing.

Peach Tree blossom

Blossom on one of our peach trees

Asian Pear Blossom

A branch of an Asian pear in bloom

Thanks to all who came out for the Eat Local Expo this weekend in Kansas City, which was organized by the KC Food Circle.  We had a great time and it was the perfect event to get us ready for the farmers market season.  It was wonderful to see some of our faithful Brookside customers at the event.  Duck eggs were by far the most popular item we brought.  Who knew!  The following chart will help you plan for great cuisine throughout the summer. I know Gazpacho is always one of the first things I like to make when tomatoes are ready!  I am making my mouth water as I type.

Opening day for the Brookside Market (at 63rd and Wornall KCMO) is April 20th.  Hope to see you there.

You can click on the chart to see a larger version of it.

Seasonal Chart

A seasonal sampling of what we grow at Green Gate Family Farm in 2013

We are ready to get our spring planting started, but Mother Nature had something else in mind this weekend!
March Snow 2013 2 March snow 2013

wedding day

Ken and Katie in the Mt. Baker Snoqualmie National Forest right after we said “I do”

On December 7th farmer Ken married farmer Kate!  We got married in the cascade mountains in Washington state, a place Katie worked for the forest service and also went to college.  Under the canopy of firs and cedars, with the music of the Nooksack river, we committed to living a life together.

Those of you who would like to see more photos can see them here:

Thanks to all who have supported us, including family and friends, who refused to accept we were going to elope and came to Washington with us!  And Big thanks to family that looked after the farm while we were gone. Those chickens definitely do not take care of themselves!

Our turkeys have all been raised on the farm from chicks on certified organic feed from Midwest Organic Farmers Cooperative, and then were free ranged as soon as they were old enough.  In addition to the food they forage themselves, they continue to receive the organic feed. The Royal Palms were hatched from our own Green Gate flock, and the Narragansett and the Black Spanish turkeys were day old chicks bought from a Missouri hatchery. They are all young birds, about 6-7 months, and will be between 12 and 18 pounds.  Special cooking instructions should be followed for heritage bird meal preparations (recipe coming soon).  We are selling whole unfrozen birds and will be able to deliver them to you two days before Thanksgiving.  They will be $5.50/lb and a $25 deposit if required up front.

To reserve your bird please send your $25 check (paid to Green Gate Family Farm) and what size bird you desire (between 12-18 lbs) along with your contact information.  You can also call or email us with questions 304.807.0336

We raise three types of turkeys on the farm.

Royal Palm Heritage Turkey

Royal Palm Heritage Turkey

The Royal Palm Turkey breed is considered a rare breed of Turkey, a heritage Turkey and admitted into the American Standard of Perfection in 1977.  The Royal Palm is a little smaller than other heritage turkeys. They have a nice color pattern and have been very useful around the farm as insect eaters. We are planning on maintaining a breeding flock of Royal Palms, and they have proven to breed well naturally so far.

Royal Palm Turkey Facts:

  • Weights– Hen: 10 lbs; Tom: 16 lbs.
  • The Royal Palm is considered a sustainable heritage turkey breed.
Black Spanish Heritage Turkey

Black Spanish Heritage Turkey

The Black Spanish Turkey Breed is also considered a rare breed of Turkey, and as a heritage Turkey it was admitted into the American Standard of Perfection in 1874.  This breed can be traced back to when explorers in the 1500’s carried this Mexican Turkey breed back to Spain and Europe, and then later carried it back to the Americas!  They are also one of the naturally reproducing breeds of turkeys and we will attempt to breed a small flock of these birds.

Black Spanish Turkey Facts:

  • Weights- Hen: 14 lbs; Tom: 23 lbs.
  • The Black Spanish is also considered a sustainable heritage breed.
Narragansett Heritage Turkey

Narragansett Heritage Turkey

The Narragansett Turkey is also considered a rare, heritage breed Turkey, and was admitted into the American Standard of Perfection in 1874. This Turkey was derived from European strains and the American Wild Turkey around Narragansett, Rhode Island in the 19th century with earlier bloodlines as far back as the 1600’s.  They make an excellent backyard and farm turkey and are very good with insect population.

Narragansett Turkey Facts:

  • Weights- Hen: 14 lbs; Tom: 23 lbs.
  • The Narragansett is considered a sustainable heritage turkey breed.

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