Turning Soil at the Abbey
Crop Talk: April 14, 2014
The Newsletter of Great Country Farms
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U-Pick, U-Play, U-Grow
Word From Your Farmer
Holy Ground      
Discing the abbey field. Photo by Edward Leonard of Clarke Daily News.

Last week our friends helped us till the field we rent from Holy Cross Abbey, a hundred acres of bottom land along the western shore of the Shenandoah River. Jim Maple, from Maple Vista, loaned us his 150 horsepower tractor, which is bigger than anything we own, and Clay Hatcher of Premiere Turf Farms loaned us his chisel plow, and those tools allowed us to turn more soil in two days that we could have turned in two weeks without the help of our friends. Now that field is ready for plasticulture, a technique that blocks weed growth and holds moisture in the soil. This week the crew will transfer broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts, which we started from seed in greenhouses at Laying's Flower Farm in Aldie, to the abbey field.

Plasticulture in the abbey field. Photo by Gretchen R. Crowe of Free Republic.
Holy Cross Abbey is a Cistercian monastery where 14 Trappist monks follow the Rule of Saint Benedict, which combines worship with work. "We work to realize our own financial support, like the vast majority of persons who shoulder difficult conditions to earn a living," the abbey's website says. "For the monks of Holy Cross Abbey, this work includes the care of the land and the buildings and the service of the community and our guests, in addition to the operation of the Monastery bakery, our chief means of support." 
They also sell honey, raise beef cattle, and offer natural grave sites on their 1,200 beautiful acres. This will be the third year of their partnership with us, which helps stabilize their finances.

Spring greens are just around the corner
Robust leaf lettuce. Photo by Cary Magazine.
Lettuce is coming. According to nutritionist Sandi Busch, most of us eat 33 pounds of lettuce per year. Busch says that a serving of leaf lettuce, which will appear in CSA boxes several times this spring, provides 247% of your daily dose of vitamin A and 105% of your vitamin K. That means lettuce is good for your eyes, teeth, bones, muscles, heart, lungs, and kidneys. We grow several varieties in the spring -- pirate, red leaf, Roxy, and Optima -- and later in the season we'll also have butterhead lettuce, which food writer Ronnie Fein calls, "the aristocrat of the lettuce family," because it's delicate and rich on the tongue. Butterhead's nutritional numbers are a little lower than the numbers for leaf because it grows in a floppy head so the inner leaves get less sunlight, but its buttery texture and flavor can be extraordinary if you partner them with goat cheese, candied pecans, or roasted beets.
Here's a recipe suggestion from 101 Cookbooks:

1. Whisk 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil with the juice of half a lemon and half an orange, plus half a cup of chopped red onion and 1/8 teaspoon salt.
2. Peel another orange and cut it into segments, removing seeds.
3. Toss four handfuls of mixed spring greens with a generous splash of dressing. Add Orange segments and 1/2 cup of toasted walnuts. Taste, and add more dressing if needed.
4. Top with 1/3 cup black olives.

Peep Pick-up Tips
Young peeps throng their feeder.
Our thanks to all you eager new chick owners. 

You can pick up your chicks between 10:00 and 4:30 all week until Saturday, April 19. Our wagon ride driver will assist you, but please keep in mind he will be unavailable for 30 minute blocks beginning at 11:00, 1:00, and 3:00. And remember that we're closed on Easter Sunday.

Please print out our Farmer Bob's Chick Guide and Activity Packet to learn how to love and care of your little balls of fluff. We will provide you a small temporary box and a three-week supply of food. We recommend you get a larger box, bin, or cage so your chicks can grow. If you did not purchase your other supplies through us, we recommend you purchase the following in advance as chicks need to be under a heat lamp immediately:
  • 8 Hole Round Feeder
  • Mason Jar Poultry Water-er
  • Heat Lamp w/ 6' cord & 100W Bulb (We recommend a 250W Bulb if your chicks will be outside or in the garage)

You can find these items at Southern States or Tractor Supply Shops.


If you're not allowed to keep grown-up chickens in your backyard... NO WORRIES! Great Country Farms can take your peeps back and give them a good home after they are all grown up. Bring them back any time during regular farm hours in a card board box that we can keep in the market so we can release them with their buddies after hours.


Thanks again, and we look forward to seeing you for Spring Break before Easter!

Farm News
Upcoming Events
April 12 through 19
Come and spend Spring Break with us!

April 20
Easter Sunday

April 25
Paradise Springs Wine Dinner at Open Kitchen in Falls Church 

April 26
Members' Open House Pancake Breakfast at Great Country Farms

April 27
Spanish cooking class at Open Kitchen in Falls Church 

Learn How Your Business can Earn Points for Loudoun's Healthy Business Challenge!
The Healthy Business Challenge was created to recognize and honor businesses that have implemented innovative programs and policies to promote the wellness and productivity of their employees. Click Here to learn more about the challenge.

You can earn 3 points by having your business host a CSA group site! Contact us today to learn more about it.
Contact Us
Great Country Farms
18780 Foggy Bottom Rd.,
Bluemont, VA 20135
Know someone who is not a member but would like U-pick Availability Alerts?
Send them here.

Main Event: Members' Open-house Pancake Breakfast
Photo by Jo-Lynne Shane.

We invite CSA members, Friends of the Farm, and friends of friends to join us on Saturday, April 26 for a chance to get better acquainted with the farm, with us, and with each other. Farmer Mark will be on hand to answer questions about our crops and our growing practices, including plasticulture, integrated pest management, and his favorite topic: compost! Enjoy samples of products we feature in our farm store, such as sausages made by Steve Baker of Baker Pork, and hickory syrup made by Travis and Joice Miller of Wildwood Hickory Syrups, and enjoy pancakes in the Roosteraunt from 10:00 to 11:30. Admission to the event is free for CSA and Fan members, and $10 for others ($8 for children). If you buy a CSA share or a Fan membership this weekend, we'll credit your admission toward your purchase.

Here's the day's schedule:
10:00 to 11:30 -- Pancake Breakfast in the Roosteraunt
11:00 to 1:00 -- Farm Market -- Meet our partner farmers and local vendors
11:00 to 3:00 -- Wagon rides with Farmer Mark Zurschmeide
11:00 to 3:00 -- Bonfire and marshmallow roasting with Farmer Bob

For more information, visit our website.

Be sure to like our facebook and follow us on  Twitter  @TheFarmerSay and @ElmerThePig for the lastest news of the farm.  We appreciate it when you share our link on your page showing your friends how you support local. It helps keep our CSA running strong.

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