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Chief Foodie and…

As I finish out another year on this planet, it is a good time to reflect. I have so much to be thankful for and one of them is for the opportunity to serve so many families in NW Washington. My role has changed as I have “matured” and I find myself managing more and doing less. It is the natural evolution of a family business and the aging process.

A decade ago, I watched the seamless transition of a family farm happen from dad to son. I am sure there were a few rough patches, but from the outside looking in, the transition was a success. I think it had a lot to do with, in this case, a dad knowing when it was time and not hanging on and a son ready to take on the farming operation. The dad in this case is still helping, just not responsible for the day to day.

But much like my farming neighbor, I also recognized that our family business would be better able to serve you if Alaina, one of our daughters, was at the helm. For the last 23 years our business model has revolved around the seasonality of produce and delivering quality ultra-fresh produce with excellent customer service. Anytime a new team member joins our company, I could hardly wait to see what talents they were going to bring with them and how Box of Good would become an even better company. 

In many ways, having Alaina assume much of the day to day as the general manager was me just being me, recognizing that Box of Good would benefit (really it needed) her management style and talents to tackle the Amazons and Walmarts of the world, but also integrate new technologies and products. 

Some of you probably haven’t noticed much change. She has been at the helm for a couple of years, and I have been supporting her. 

As I have gotten older, I find myself in a similar role as my neighbor. I still step in to trim the lettuce or make a delivery and I still pay attention to the quality and the seasonality of produce. It is hard to not do what you have been doing for almost 3 decades.  In many ways, I am a fully integrated foodie, not only do I love to grow vegetables I also love to buy them and build menus. I am as much at home in the kitchen as I am in the fields.

In addition to my role as chief foodie at Box of Good, I have also started a software company that helps other small businesses with online sales and fulfillment using the same system you use to order your produce from us. It is an important work for me, because small businesses and non-profits need better tools to compete and serve their customers. For me serving and helping others achieve their goals is important. 

I still have a lot left in the tank and look forward to growing two companies. I can hardly wait to see what team members are going to join our “companies of good” and how we will continue to evolve and serve the Box of Good community and other small businesses. 

Tristan for Joelle, Alaina, and the Box of Good Crew  

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The Depth and Richness of Relationships 

We hosted another weekend of pumpkin hunting, and it was great to both meet and reconnect with so many of our customers. We had hundreds of you come by and say, “Hello”! Three families, who made the trek to Stanwood, started buying food from us back when Joelle and I started our family business as the Organic Produce Shoppe inside Manna Mills in 1998. I remembered those smiles, but the names alluded me for a moment, and then it was as if time had stood still, laughing, reminiscing and catching up. Many things have changed over the past 24 years. But, connecting local families with our organically grown fruits and vegetables and the farmers who grow them has remained steadfast.  

The months, years and now 2+ decades of growing organic fruits and vegetables have flown by. Because of each family’s willingness to partner with a small organic farming family, together we have impacted hundreds of smaller farms, helped the organic industry become stable and mature, and have delivered thousands of Boxes of Good to local food banks. Those early families that joined in the vision that this world can be a better place, our food systems can be better, our environment can be better, were those early adopters!  

And we couldn’t have done it without those first few customers that aligned with our mission and said, “We want fresh organic produce delivered and we want to support smaller organic farms.” Together, we established a footing and a niche to serve the North Puget Sound region with an all-organic home delivery service. 

It was such a crazy season of life! Our family trying to establish an organic farm and using home delivery as our distribution model was no small feat. And when we started this journey, we had 4 little ones and the baby was Alaina, and now she is the general manager at Box of Good and just so happens to have 3 little ones herself. This past weekend, we have had 3 generations running around the farm, pulling sleds of pumpkins and establishing new relationships with you.  

As I saw our grandchildren connecting with our customers, I realized that time is marching on, Joelle and I have matured and now with 7 grandchildren and one more coming in February, it feels even more important that the next generation has, not only access to organically grown food, but a connection to the folks that grow it. Our mission of creating a healthier food system based on organically grown foods is still the same. 

It is hard to believe that the seeds of wanting to become farmers in 1994 have germinated into the Box of Good and what it is today. You have helped us and so many other smaller organic farmers keep farming – THANK YOU! 

Forever grateful, 

Tristan, Joelle, Alaina and the Box of Good Crew 

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In 23 years of business…

This weather has been amazing. What has not been amazing is the labor market. I knew it was going to be tight, but I never imagined this tight. Back in July John and I had a meeting to discuss our fall planting schedule. July and early August are when we plant another round of cabbages, broccoli, lettuces, beets etc. for the September- November harvest window. With school starting up and the difficulty finding help, we kicked the dirt, and discussed our options. We tip-toed around the obvious decision. 

We love to grow food and we knew if we planted, we would have to up our irrigation, weeding and harvesting commitments. We do not have a crystal ball, but with it being so dry, no foreseeable help and the Delta variant rearing its ugly impacts, we decided not to plant late fall crops. In hindsight, it was the right decision, but did not make it any easier at the time. Since then, we have had to bring our farm crew inside to cover packing boxes and making deliveries. By not planting, we created the capacity and the sanity to keep going. We are still growing out the winter squash, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, and cabbages from our early plantings, but those are mostly in maintenance and harvest mode. We are beyond thankful for the quality farms we work with, both local and abroad, that have worked hard, long hours to keep fresh, organic produce available to us, and in turn our customers. 

I was talking with another business owner and we were comparing “notes”. Most small businesses are running so lean that a similar strategy can be applied to about any industry and business at this time. Our strategy is to be diligent, prepare and hope for the best. Really, we can only do so much, developing contingency plans and being nimble to make decisions on the fly, the rest is out of our control. 

All things considered, we are cautiously optimistic and are pleased that we have been able to complete all of our deliveries. We would love to have another driver on board to even out the workload and cover deliveries as necessary, but for now we are working it out. We have a good crew and they have been stepping up to make it happen. Our team is cross trained and can work longer hours if needed. However, we are running so lean that if anyone gets sick, Covid or not, it is going to be tough to manage. So far, and I am knocking on everything that is wood, we will get through this season and the health of our communities will begin to stabilize. 

Thank you for your patience, as we continue to do our best every day to serve you and your family.

Be well and stay well.

-Tristan, Joelle, and the Box of Good crew

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Fog

Feels like Fall is coming early, I am hoping for an Indian Summer. Time will tell. Early last week, I woke up at 3:30am and drifting off to sleep again was eluding me. Thankfully, I rarely wake up 1.5 hours before my usual start to the day, maybe 10 minutes early, but rarely 90 minutes. After a few minutes of tossing, turning, and fluffing the pillow, it was time to get up. 

As I descended the stairs and at the bottom, as is my habit, I turned to the left and looked out over the vegetable crops. Peering out into the blue black of a moonlit sky through eyes that were still adjusting, my heart was heavy. Heavy for the pain in our communities, in our world. I now knew why I was awake. As dawn grew closer the fog descended on the valley to the point where the crops were less visible, but the mountain tops were exposed. I realized that for many of us and the many in leadership tasked with solving big problems, probably feel lost in the fog. 

Fog is temporary, but the lack of visibility causes you to slow down, to look for the white or yellow lines to make sure you are on the right path. Albeit this year it seems like the lines are less defined and often intersecting. Oh, for a dose of grace and kindness in the form of hand reaching out to clasp and travel together.

As the morning inched closer the fog, unlike a heavy Fall fog, began to dissipate and reveal the beautiful sunrise outlining the Three Fingers and Mt Pilchuck. Toss in the sounds of Canada Geese flying overhead and the drip, drip, drip of a pour over coffee and I was reminded to pause, reflect and pray. 

Praying for Covid to be tamed, for the families battling it and the health care community caring for them, for my friend battling Cancer, for flood victims in the Southeast and the sad story of the Afghanistan people. 

I must keep reminding myself, even though this season is filled with so much worry and uncertainty, I know that one day this season we find ourselves in will pass and the sun and its sunrise will be revealed. Fittingly as I was going through my morning devotion the topic was on JOY and the acronym JOY was used as reminder to align my priorities- Jesus, Others, Yourself. 

Thank you for journeying with us and for allowing me to share a little of my heart with you this week.

-Tristan  

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Hot August Nights

Those hot August nights came in June and July. If you are a gardener or have flower beds, your plants are a little stressed. And/or you have had a second job watering around the clock. Pay attention to your soil moisture, cooler days do not necessarily lead to no watering, but less watering.

Managing soil moisture is one of the hardest parts of farming. There are so many factors to consider. When to water, how to water, what stage the plant is in; seedling, young, mature, near harvest. Some plants do not like overhead irrigation, others love it. Some plants like a little water and others love to be wetter.

This time of year, watering the salad crops pays dividends.  They really benefit from more water than less. Tomatoes on the other hand, love to have their roots watered via a soaker hose or drip irrigation. A disease called “blight” can impact the nightshade crops and is often activated by overhead irrigation, which is why so many growers opt to grow tomatoes indoors. Outdoor or indoor tomatoes both have their challenges, but either way, watering the roots is the preferred method.

Since we are talking tomatoes, if your plants look anything like mine, they have a ton of green fruit and a few colored ones coming. Oh my, we are going to have a lot of tomatoes soon. Note to self, grow 500 plants next year instead of 1000! This year is a little tricky to manage the tomato crops, sunburn has been harder than normal. We usually combat this by leaving more foliage, but when you leave more foliage, you also produce more fruit. And more fruit means smaller tomatoes, but at least the sunburn is limited. However, harvest is delayed, and you must fertilize them more heavily and more often because the plants are bigger and full of more fruit. But it takes labor to thin 1000 tomato plants, and labor has been in short supply this year. 

Who would have thought that you must spend so much time thinking about growing tomatoes? However, the original point I was going to make is that at some point soon, it will be important to water the tomatoes less and also pick off any new blossoms that will not ripen before it turns cold.

Tomato plants are trying to produce as much fruit and seeds as possible so that their progeny can grow next year. As a farmer, I need them to produce fruit and then ripen it. Here lies the challenge. I need to decide when to introduce stress and send the plant a signal to focus on ripening the fruit on the vine and spend less time growing more leaves to produce more fruit. 

If this were after Labor Day, I would encourage all of you to cut back on watering and pick off some blossoms, but this year is anything but normal. 

What am I going to do? I am going to water less and encourage the plants to focus on ripening the tomatoes that have set fruit. 

Never a dull moment around here,

–Tristan, Joelle, and Box of Good Crew

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Crispy Potatoes with Green Beans & Eggs

Crispy Potatoes with Green Beans & Eggs

Cook Time 40 mins
Total Time 40 mins
Servings 4

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup fresh or cooked green beans cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 pounds boiling potatoes peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 pinch paprika optional

Instructions
 

  • If using fresh green beans, cook in a large saucepan of boiling water until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain and refresh under cold running water.
  • Heat oil in a large nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium heat until hot enough to sizzle a piece of potato. Spread potatoes in an even layer and cook, turning every few minutes with a wide spatula, until tender and browned, 15 to 20minutes for raw potatoes, 10 to 12 minutes for cooked. Stir in the green beans, garlic, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper.
  • Crack each egg into a small bowl and slip them one at a time into the pan on top of the vegetables, spacing evenly. Cover and cook over medium heat until the whites are set and the yolks are cooked to your taste, 3 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle the eggs with paprika, if desired, and serve immediately.
Keyword Eggs, Garlic, green beans, Potatoes
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Baked Creamy Corn Casserole

Baked Creamy Corn Casserole

Cook Time 1 min
Total Time 1 min

Ingredients
  

  • 1/2 cup milk divided
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp. butter unsalted
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tbsp. flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 4-5 cups corn kernels fresh or frozen (thawed) – well drained
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4-1/2 cup shredded Asiago optional
  • Chives for garnish

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 400F, rack in the middle. Lightly spray a 2 quart baking dish.
  • In a medium-to-large saucepan over medium heat add in the cream, 1/4 cup milk, sugar and butter. Bring to a boil. While the cream mixture is heating up make a slurry of the flour and remaining 1/4 cup milk by whisking together until well combined.
  • Whisk together the eggs until well beaten. Once the milk comes to a boil, add in the flour slurry and whisk until thickened slightly – ~30 seconds to a minute. Remove from the heat and add in the corn and salt mixing to combine. Slowly add in the eggs while mixing the entire time– you do not want the eggs to curdle. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.
  • Bake for 30 minutes or until the top is puffy and golden brown.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before serving so it can firm up and set.
Keyword Chives, Corn, Eggs
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Garlic Potato Spinach Stir fry (Lasooni Aloo Palak)

Garlic Potato Spinach Stir fry (Lasooni Aloo Palak)

Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Total Time 35 mins
Servings 4

Ingredients
  

  • 1 tsp. oil
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. coriander or mustard seeds
  • 1 green chili thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 3 medium potatoes peeled and cubed
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 medium tomato chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 cup water
  • 5 oz. spinach baby or chopped
  • cayenne or pepper flakes for garnish
  • lemon juice for garnish

Instructions
 

  • Heat oil over medium heat. Add seeds and cook until well toasted. (For oil free, dry roast the seeds over medium heat until fragrant, then add 2 tbsp water or broth and proceed).
  • Add the chili and garlic and reduce heat to medium low. Cook until golden, you can also add in1/4 cup cooked onion here.
  • Add the turmeric and paprika and mix in. Add the potatoes and toss well for a few seconds.
  • Add tomatoes, cilantro, salt and 1 cup water. Mix well, cover and cook for 12 to 14 mins or until potatoes are tender.( You can add some cooked chickpeas at this point to make it into a meal).
  • Add in the spinach in2 batches, cover and wilt. then mix in, add a dash of salt and cover and cook for another minute. Taste and adjust salt and flavor. You can also add in some garam masala or curry powder.
  • Serve with flatbread or rice.
Keyword Cilantro, Garlic, Green Chili, Lemon, Potatoes, Spinach, Tomatoes
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Stone Fruit Skillet Cobbler

Stone Fruit Skillet Cobbler

Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Total Time 1 hr
Servings 6

Ingredients
  

For the Filling:

  • 2 pounds cored stone fruit peaches, plums, nectarines, cherries, etc…
  • 1/2 – 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch salt

For the Topping

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp. cornmeal
  • 3 tbsp. sugar
  • 11/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 5 tbsp. unsalted butter cold and chopped
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • extract sugar for sprinkling
  • vanilla ice cream for serving

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 375 and prep the filling. Core and chop fruit into 1/2” pieces and be sure that any peaches have been peeled. You can keep the skin on plums, cherries, and nectarines. Toss the fruit with the remaining filling ingredients and sugar to taste. I like to start with ½ cup sugar for ripe, sweet fruit. If you’re using any tart or not fully ripened fruit, you’ll likely need about ¾ cup of sugar instead. Only add the full cup of sugar for really sour fruit. Dump the fruit mixture into a 1-1/2 quart baking dish and set aside while you prep the topping.
  • Combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Use a pastry cutter or the backs of two forks to cut the butter into the dry ingredients until pea-sized clumps form. Add the heavy whipping cream and stir together until a dry dough comes together. Use a medium cookie scoop or your hands to make little flat rounds of dough to place directly on top of the fruit in the baking dish. Sprinkle with a little extract sugar and baking in the preheat oven for about 35 minutes, or until the topping is golden and the fruit underneath is bubbling. Allow to cool slightly before serving with a scoop of ice cream.
Keyword Cherries, Nectarines, Peaches, Plums
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Weeds

This is the time of year when the weeds start to win out. Early in the Spring and Summer we have a lot of pent-up energy to get outside and get growing food. We spend hours planning during the fall and eventually that translates to hours of planting and then weeding and then harvesting. 

But when August rolls around, let us just say that the desire to weed has left the barn. Thankfully, we had a good stretch of weed free vegetables this year, but now the veggie patch, well I dare say, is a healthy mix of many different plants. 😊

I am not overly concerned about it, because at this point the weeds are not going to impact the growth of the vegetables since they were established, and most will be harvested soon. Weeding is important early when a crop is getting established, and the earlier the better! Thankfully both the weeds and the vegetables look healthy.

We are moving into our fall type crops at this point. In a more normal season, we would have planted a lot of winter vegetables, but with heat and lack of rain, we had to cut back on what to plant and focus our energies on nurturing existing plants. Thankfully, we have a large network of local farmers to supplement the Box of Good.

The Box of Good network is the backbone of what our family has created for the last 23 years. We love working with our neighboring farms and have built some great relationships. The beauty of it all is that each of the farms we work with excel at growing different crops. It often comes down to soil type and passion. We grow great beets, cucumbers lettuces and winter squash and another farm grows awesome leeks and kales or blueberries. Which means your Box of Good has the best of each of the farmers we work with.

It is at this point that my attention begins to switch from 2021 to 2022. Of course, our team is keeping an eye on all the crops still in the ground, but I am beginning to think about garlic plantings, compost and what types and where to plant our cover crops for the winter.

Farming is more akin to a merry go round, hopping on here and exiting there and getting back on here and as the seasons changes so does the work and its rhythms.

I am sure that I will look back on this year’s farm season and smile, while I am leaning on a hoe and wiping the sweat off my brow.

Thank you for supporting our mission to deliver food that nourishes your body and feeds your family.

–Tristan, Joelle, and Box of Good Crew