Posted on

Thankfulness

Any reason to be reminded to give thanks is a good reason and our whole country will have the opportunity to be intentionally thankful. That sentence was a mouthful. 😊 

Every Thanksgiving is new and yet the same. Who is at the table changes and the menu can flex, but the reason to gather is to connect with family and friends. I know that our table has gotten smaller since the older 6 children have moved out, gotten married and have move away or are spending time with the other family in their life.  

Sometimes when I sit at our dinner table with only 5 dinner places set, I pause for a moment. I know all too soon there will be only 4 dinner places, then 3, and then it will be just 2, the love of my life and myself. During that pause i look at the other half of the table that is empty. I reflect on those days a decade ago when all our children were still at home and the farm table was filled elbow to elbow.  

It was also during those years that our Thanksgiving and holiday celebrations filled our home. During that season, our parents were younger and travelling to the farm was easier for them. We would have the “Card” tables attached here and there and have quite the full house. And as the kiddos moved out and got married and grandkids got added to the family our home got a little fuller, a little noisier and a lot more active! 

As more of our children have moved out and moved away 🙁 it is not as easy to gather our tribe into one spot. It is also not as easy for our parents to join us. Life is always changing and so is our dinner plans and who will be at the table this year. We had a thanksgiving meal two weeks ago with two of our children and their families, because it was the only day, they were available. This week we will be hosting another 2 sets of our adult children and the grandkids on Thursday, and be connecting with our parents at their homes, too. 

It might be a different year, but we are thankful that we can gather with the family that is available and connect with the others via facetime or messenger and tell them all how much we love them and are thankful for them. 

We wish you the happiest of moments with your family and friends this Thanksgiving. 

Tristan, Joelle, and the box of good crew

Posted on

Time Stamps

In its truest sense, a time stamp records when an event happened. I have been thinking about how the Time Stamps of my life have shaped who I am today. There are lots of things that have shaped me, genetics, family dynamics, outside relationships access to opportunities through all of these. And within in all those external and internal factors there are those moments that have been burned into our Psyche.

I find it interesting that I am now 56 (how did that happen?). And so much has happened on this journey. I have been thinking a lot about the next 25 years, and if I am being completely honest, the aging process is not something I am looking forward to. However, with every season of life I have learned to lean into the opportunities. The time stamps that are yet to come are important and while I cannot control the ones that will happen to me, things that I cannot control.

Those are the times stamps that I cannot control. While I can insulate myself from other’s or events, I recognize I must accept some of them and process my response to them. World events and political posturing are outside of my control. 

 I would venture to say that we can all agree that the pictures of Wuhan, BLM rallies, border crisis, or Afghanistan have left indelible marks. Some of you have said goodbye to a loved one when you dropped them off at a hospital wondering if you would see them again and some of you did not get to see them again. It has been a hard and difficult season, and harder for some than others.

 Many of us reading this newsletter, have never lived through a season like these last 18 months. The outcomes of a lot of these external events have worked their way to our local communities and it is at this point where we, our families, our collective efforts can make a difference. The holidays are the time of year that many time stamps will be created in our lives. We can make this holiday better for some local families, which is why we have partnered with so many local food banks. The food banks exist because a community member, recognized a need and did something. We can partner with those on the front lines of serving at the food banks and make this holiday not only better, but also healthier.

Please consider purchasing one of our Holiday Donation boxes and partnering with local hunger relief organizations. Just call or email the office and we can add a Holiday Donation box to your account and deliver it just in time for Thanksgiving.

Thank you,

-Tristan

Posted on

Thanksgiving

We’ve got you covered. For those of you newer to our service, we plan a box specifically for Thanksgiving called the Holiday box and it is filled with your traditional fixings for all of your side dishes. We aren’t able to provide the turkey though, but everything else is available to make this day a cooking and hosting success. 

And for those of you hosting Thanksgiving early or later, we will make this box available the week before Thanksgiving and the week after. And if you are not hosting this year, don’t be bashful, order one anyway! 😊

Of course, all of our standard menus will be available during the Thanksgiving week, as well. And as always, you can add on to your order just the Thanksgiving items you would like to buy, like one of Wild Crow Apple pies, or order some Granny smith apples to make your own. Look for an email highlighting all of the options soon.

For those of you ordering a Holiday box, let us know if you would like the Holiday box and YOUR REGULAR ORDER or the Holiday box ONLY. We just want to make sure you get the right order.

Lastly, we work with several food banks and provide them with tons of fresh veggies and fruits throughout the year and we have a special opportunity at Thanksgiving and Christmas. If you would like to join us in our cause to feed families facing hunger in our communities, please consider buying a Holiday Donation box and will delivering them to several of our local food banks. With your help we have donated thousands of these Holiday boxes over the last 23 years. 

I absolutely love being a giver and I love being able to make someone’s day a little brighter!  The Holiday donation boxes allow us (your family and ours) to partner with those volunteers who are on the frontline week in and week out. They get to give out and extend care with quality organic fruits and vegetables and those on the receiving end are so grateful.

Thank you for joining us in serving our local communities and thank you for supporting local farms and businesses.

-Tristan for Joelle, Alaina and Box of Good crew.  

Posted on

If Trees Could Talk

I have been thinking a lot about trees lately, probably because we are in the throes of harvesting walnuts. As near as I can tell our walnut trees were planted sometime after 1914, because I have a photograph from that year and they are not present. I believe they were planted in the late 1940’s and there are quite a few walnut trees of the same variety and size on several of the neighbor’s farms. I suspect that it was a trend coming out of WWII. All the trees that I can think of in the valley were more akin to homestead plantings as opposed to production or grove style plantings. Our valley does not grow many nut trees, although there are a few Filberts in production now. 

Where the walnut trees are planted belies their intention as a multi-purpose tree for shade, firewood, and food. Our trees are English walnuts and were probably grafted onto a Black walnut rootstock. These trees must have some amazing stories to tell over the last 80 or so years. 

I know in the brief time (18 years) we have lived and farmed here we have added to its memories. One memory is Chaps, our beloved Golden Retriever who moved with us to the farm. And as you would anticipate, he was a ball loving and undeterred retrieving machine. He would pester you till you threw the ball, which was a mistake, but it was the only way to get any work done. Chaps had us right where he wanted us. The children figured out that if they put the ball a few branches up in the walnut tree, it would keep him busy for a while. The operative phrase being “a while.” Doggone if he did not figure out how to climb that tree and retrieve that ball. From that time on it was just fun to see Chaps climb the tree. 

It was also common for the kiddos to wave down at Joelle from perches 30 or 40 feet up. I tried to discourage this practice, but some trees are meant for climbing.  

One of the most precious memories that these trees offer us is the wedding of our oldest son, marrying the love of his life in front of our home nestled under her majestic branches. Ironically, when they asked if they could get married on the farm and began to make plans all the branches were high off the ground. But by the time August rolled around those branches had moved several feet lower with the weight of the leaves, new branches, and walnuts. It was as if she wanted a closer look at all the festivities. And of course, all the groomsmen and our son had to have a picture suspended off the ground hanging from one of “her” branches.  

Not only did that tree greet us and our six kiddos when we moved to our farm, it has since looked over the 3 more that were added to our ranks under her tenure. And now the 3rd generation is climbing those same branches, and swinging from the tree swings, just as their parents did. The pure joy on a child’s face when they greet you from her branches is so precious. 

The only thing strangely missing from these old trees are some initials with a heart surrounding them. I am sure she has seen a quiet kiss or playful game of tag under her watch. 

…And then I would be remised to not mention the years of enjoying their fruit! Nothing compares to freshly harvested nuts!  

I look forward to continued enjoyment and more memories being made every season and every year. 

Tristan for Joelle, Alaina and the Box of Good crew 

Posted on

Gravity is Real

“Legend has it that Isaac Newton came up with gravitational theory in 1665, or 1666, after watching an apple fall. He asked why the apple fell straight down, rather than sideways or even upward.” (Excerpted from National Geographic)

This time of year, our attention turns to the nutty side of the farm – WALNUT HARVEST! This is probably the least desirable job on the farm, and to be totally honest, I can’t think of a single family member who looks forward to the walnut harvest. With all of the windy weather the trees have been giving up their nuts and the ground is littered with them. I am estimating 70 five-gallon buckets of walnuts on the ground and probably that much still in the trees.

Over the last 18 years we have learned a few lessons about harvesting walnuts. 

  1. There really isn’t a way to automate this harvest. The size of our 75-year-old trees makes any mechanical harvesting impossible, and some sort of roller that picks up nuts doesn’t work with the grass under our trees. A roller could potentially work if we were willing to kill the grass, but we aren’t!
  2. Start early. The walnut tree harvest favors the diligent. Initially, the husks begin to split open and then the walnuts fall to the ground. It is during this time that you can easily see and find the nuts. Next the husks will fall and then the leaves. Waiting to hunt for walnuts after the husks and leaves have fallen is time consuming and MESSY! 
  3. When you get a sunny day, pick up as many walnuts as you can. Windy days are less desirable as the law of gravity, during the thud, thud, thud of walnuts hitting the ground, is constantly on your mind as you are harvesting.
  4. Walnut stain is real! We always wear farm clothes and gloves. Early on in our “get it done” early years, it would take a few months for the walnut-colored stain to fade. Always wear gloves!
  5. It takes almost 2 months of drying them in the greenhouse before they are ready. 
  6. Diligence is always rewarded, especially during the walnut harvest!

Our walnut trees serve several purposes. Their primary purpose is to shade our farmhouse from the morning and evening sun during the summer months; especially appreciated this last summer. It also provides a place to hang our tree swing. And lastly, they produce copious amounts of nuts. 

Look for the hand harvested, slow dried Klesick Family Farm walnuts to be available towards the end of November and then through February. 

Growing food,

 Tristan for Joelle, and the Box of Good Crew  

Posted on

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  

Posted on

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 

Posted on

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

Posted on

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  

Posted on

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