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Cancer

The last month and half has been a hard season for a dear friend. He started to not feel well in early June, was in and out of the ER, before finally being hospitalized. Ten days later, he was diagnosed with stage 3 Colon Cancer. I remember the call as if it were yesterday, “I have Colon Cancer.” He is in his early 40’s, well before the recommended colon screening phase. By all accounts he is a fit, healthy eating person, but now his whole life is turned upside down with surgery, pain meds, learning to eat again and so many decisions. Last month he was living a “normal” life and the next month he is hospitalized. He has had an amazing attitude for all the suffering he has endured. 

When I think about my friend, I can’t help but wonder, “Am I eating a cancer fighting diet right now? Am I eating enough fruits and vegetables and legumes to feed my body well?” Remembering also that health is a broad holistic concept that includes avoiding toxins, breathing and prayer, exercise and activity! The list of healthy habits is long. Our bodies are so resilient, that we often take them for granted. I have certainly been more mindful of my overall health choices and especially my food choices in the last month.  

I heard Dr. Amen share the first question we should ask ourselves before we eat, “Is this good for my brain?” It is good to be intentional and help our body fight even the unknown battles.  

Our relationship with food is complicated. We should eat to live and not live to eat. Most of the nutrients come from whole foods, minimally processed foods. Less ingredients are better and less packaged foods will eliminate a lot of empty calories. We have chosen as a company and farm to only offer wild or grass-fed meats or certified organic fruits, vegetables, and groceries. We believe that health starts with the food we eat and for the last 2 decades we have only delivered healthy foods to families like yours and ours.  

The freedom to choose what we eat is alive and well in America, the choice is ours. Cancer is cruel and it takes an army to fight it. If you find yourself in a cancer battle, please let us know. We will pray for you and then we will also put a “health” discount on your account. For others, you may know people with cancer; you can “sponsor” them and their family by creating a Box of Good account for them and funding it. We will put the “health” discount on that account, too. 

-Tristan and Joelle

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Water and Fire

Weather is one of the safest conversation topics unless you go deeper and then it is more like politics and religion. Whole systems are built around weather and its seasonality. Natural resource industries like farming or ranching or timber can be blessed or hampered by the weather. New industries can be created or shuttered based on the availability of water and temperature. 

I read a farming newspaper and right now the two main agricultural issues are wildfires and drought. They go hand in hand, no rain equals more fire, also no water equals no fish, no vegetables, no fruitt and no Watermelons!

There are some deep differences around water, water use and the shifting weather patterns. The amount of water used to fight forest fires is staggering and the need is increasing due to the fire season starting earlier. And to complicate matters more folks have moved into the fire zone and harm’s way. 

A side issue around fire season is Washington State L & I is proposing a new rule on air quality and worker health. Washington is proposing that when the Air Quality Index hits 69 outside workers will have to stop work, find work inside, be given more breaks and/ or masks. The Federal limit is 151. There is also a rule where at 85 degrees farmworkers must stop outdoor work. Keeping up on regulation is an unrelenting task for small businesses and farmers. I will keep monitoring the changes, but the increase in fires and droughts is going to be impacting a lot of natural resource industries.

For us as Western WA Farmers and in particular NW Washington farmers we do get a break from the excessive heat that our neighbors to the east experience. But we still have a need for water to irrigate our crops and pastures. For us, the weather is working for and against us. New pests have begun to arrive, and milder winters have helped with their ability to over winter and survive. We can also grow more crops reliably outside that have been staples for growers east and south. And the increase in fires and poor air quality are bringing with them new regulations.

I imagine one day, if the weather trend continues, I will be able to grow cantaloupes and watermelons. Ironically, if I can farm cantaloupes and watermelons in Stanwood, that will not bode well for California farmers or Eastern Washington farmers. I can only imagine how hot it will be in those regions.

Having water available for fish, farms and people is going to be where the battle lines are drawn. And will green lawns and forests have to be sacrificed for fish and food production. Our current food supply is based on a plentiful supply of water and consequently, so are our lives.

Managing the weather, the evolving climate changes and government regulation is a big part of my job now. Thankfully these changes are mostly gradual and hopefully, the natural resources community can gradually make the changes necessary to keep growing food.

-Tristan

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New Meal Kits

This past week we introduced a new category of meal kits. We are partnering with Kindred Kitchen to bring ready to make meals to your doorstep. We are starting with 3 and will be adding additional. Currently we are offering a Creamy Pesto Chicken, Sweet and Spicy Salmon with Parmesan Rice, and a Vegetable Rigatoni. Currently we are offering the meal kits for 4 –6 people, with generous portions. I have made them.  The recipes are easy to follow and ingredients are portioned. You can add an Assorted Salad bag, Salad kits, or an assorted Vegetable bag to complement your main dish. We love local partnerships and are excited to grow the Meal Kit category in the upcoming weeks. 

Organic Milk 

And since we are talking about local partnerships; we are getting back into the Milk Delivery business. Starting this week, we will be offering Fresh Breeze Organic milk (Whole, 2%, 1%, Fat-free), half and half and whole cream, plus their chocolate milk. Fresh Breeze is a local organic dairy in Lynden and we are excited about this new offering.  

These two products will have different delivery cut offs than your regular orders. When you place your orders, based on when you order, the meal kits or milk may be automatically pushed out to your next delivery. We are preordering these direct from Kindred Kitchen and Fresh Breeze to maximize freshness. 

Farm Updates 

We have been harvesting our first lettuces, radishes and a splash of pea vines. I recently had pea vines at Nell Thorn’s in La Conner and it was so flavorful. We are going to add those back into the rotation. This week we will be featuring our local lettuces, and the green and purple kohlrabi is really close; probably next week. Look for some fun ideas on how to use kohlrabi in next week’s newsletter.  

Our sugar snap peas are getting closer, too. This year we are experimenting with a bush type pea and a new trellis variety. Pumpkins, squash, cucumbers, beans, cabbage, tomatoes, onions are well established and growing.  

I think the garlic crop will be ready to harvest in early July. I cooked a bulb last week in a curry dish and the cloves haven’t fully developed yet, but it was still mighty tasty.  

Our farm is only one of many local PNW farms we work with during this season and we are really “over the moon” to be able to not only grow food for your family, but also be your local connection to organic goodness.   

If you haven’t tried one of our new meal kits or would like to set up a recurring order for local milk, call our office or login into your account and add them to your Box of Good. 

Have a great week, 

Tristan 

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Unwelcome Guests

I’m a first-generation farmer but have been at the game for 2+ decades, and I am still learning new things. Thanks to changes in climate, we are now able to grow a greater variety of warmer weather crops, but it has also allowed a new variety of pests to move further north.  

We have four major pests that I pay attention to. And, no, slugs are not one of them. The four worst offenders are Cabbage Loopers, Flea beetles, Symphylans and Western Cucumber beetles. There are a host of other pests, some beneficial or at least not harmful to crops. 

These four however can really make a farmer’s life miserable and for the most part I have learned to live with them and accept some loss. 

Flea Beetles, those little black critters can pepper broccoli or radish leaves with a million holes, but usually do not affect the crop. This week we are putting radishes in your boxes. The flea beetles have left their mark on the leaves, but the radishes are beautiful and tasty. To combat flea beetles, farmers can use row covers, but on a large scale they can be difficult to work with. I called another grower who raises radishes without any flea beetle damage and I asked him how he does it. He said, “We have a machine that lays out 1 acre of row cover at a time and it also picks it up when the crop is ready for harvest!” A machine that does 1 acre at a time! That would be like covering 10 houses in a new subdivision. INSANE. Needless to say, we won’t be growing radishes on that scale! 

Symphylans are ground dwelling critters who never see the light of day.  Their whole life is spent underground. We have “hot spots” where there are affected area. There are no organic treatments available to combat this critter and in wetter springs they tend to stay near the surface and eat the seed root hairs and stunt a crop. This year they have knocked back our peas in one section, which is disappointing but not a complete loss. For the most part we are usually able to coexist. But sadly, they thrive in organic farming systems. 

Cabbage Loopers lay an egg in the broccoli, kale and cabbage crops and then a caterpillar emerges and eats and eats and eats. We control this one with approved Certified Organic product called Pyganic. We don’t like to use it, but those critters definitely wreak havoc if left unchecked. 

So far this year our #1 pest is the Western Cucumber Beetle. This is a relatively new pest in our area. When I mention this pest to other organic growers, it strikes the fear of God into all of them. We are just learning how to work with this critter. Last year they were around but didn’t cause much harm, but this year they have destroyed our first bean crop and are taking a serious bite out of the next one as well. They are so darn cute too. They look like a ladybug; except they have a yellow/green colored shell with 12 black spots on them. 

We have had to resort to early morning and late evening walks when they are more dormant and then squishing them. Yuck! One of the most frustrating things about this bug is that the larvae eat the roots of a crop and then when they emerge, the adults eat the leaves. I think we are getting after them, but it is very labor intensive.  

If there is one advantage to our hands on approach to farming and working with nature, we get our “steps” in each day!

-Tristan  

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Planting and Weeding Time

This past week we planted more lettuces, cucumbers, zucchini, onions and lots of pumpkins and winter squash, and 1000 +/- tomatoes plants in the field and in the greenhouse.  

So to date, we have garlic, onions, radishes, cabbages, broccoli, kohlrabi, beets, beans, peas, cucumbers, winter and summer squash, and tomatoes all planted. And we are on our 2nd plantings of the cabbages and 4th plantings of the lettuces. 

We have brought back the Silver Slicer cucumbers for this season in addition to the classic Marketmore cucumbers we have always grown. The Silver Slicer cucumbers are more white than silver on the outside and have that crunch and juiciness that I love in a cucumber. They also tend towards the smaller size of 6 inches. They will be up and growing shortly and then probably around July 4th available for your Box of Good. 

As far as tomato land, we are planting two slicers, two Romas and an orange cherry tomato. We are growing the classic Early Girl and have added Galahad as a trial this year to the slicer category. Both produce medium size fruit that is juicy and great on a burger or in a salad. For the Romas, we are growing Plum Regal and the Italian favorite San Marzano’s. And lastly, we added Toronjina, an orange cherry to our mix. This year’s tomato planting is 4x what we have planted in the past. I am excited to see how the tomatoes do outside the greenhouse. If it is a sizzling summer, it could be spectacular. Wish us well! 

Now that we are planting more and more vegetables, it is time to kick the weeding into high gear. Labor has been an issue for so many businesses this year and we are no different. Thankfully, we made an investment in a Multivator. It is a tool that has several rototillers, 4 to be exact, attached to a tool bar. We plant everything on the same bed spacing and this has allowed us to weed more efficiently and use the hand and hoe weeding just around the plants and not have to weed the extra space. The challenge is planting straight rows and then driving straight. Because like any machine and especially a rototiller, it will rototill weeds 😊 or plants ☹ in its path. Thankfully, John has a steady hand while driving and our rows have been straight enough! 

-Tristan  

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Interconnected

In a bygone era, when a community was just beginning to form, the fabric of society was more intertwined by rivers, forests, and land and natural resources were the bedrock of a community. We are blessed to have the Skagit, Stillaguamish and Snohomish watersheds that tie us together.  

We live in a farmhouse that was built in 1892 and added onto in 1914. The old barn (which no longer exists) and our home had a unique presentation to the road. But when you think about when it was built and what the primary driver of the economy was, you can understand the logic. 

In most of our communities, the loggers came in first and cleared the land, but it was the dairy and crop farmers who followed in their footpaths that formed the base for sustainability. Old-timers talk about the “milk check” and how it anchored the entire farm and local economy. It was because that steady weekly check supported veterinarians, feed and fertilizer dealers, mechanics and multiple jobs, which in turn helped establish communities. The access to water like seaports and rivers also enabled the efficient transfer of goods and when coupled with good farmland, communities prospered. 

Our home and barns faced what use to be the Stillaguamish River. It makes sense when you think about the sternwheelers, barges or canoes going by your house, knowing you’d want to have efficient access to the markets. The Stillaguamish River shifted in 1912 and our farm now is located on the “old channel” which is a shadow of its once glory. 

A lot has changed since 1892 and now we have planes, trains and automobiles. Our rivers are not as important as they once were, but they continue to carry value in the preservation of farmland, providing habitat and flood water storage.  

Last week our dairy farming neighbor cut and harvested our pastures for silage (cow food), one of the most beautiful sites of spring is a freshly mowed field. In some ways that “milk check” is still prevalent and relevant to the success of our farming economy and our local communities.    

-Tristan  

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Green Beans Growing

We planted beans a few weeks back when the weather was unseasonably warm. I knew it was early and slightly risky. The reason it was risky is because we usually plant our first planting of beans in mid to late May when it’s predictably warmer and then every few weeks after that. But I could hardly wait with that amazing early stretch of weather to get a few rows planted at least. Okay, it was more than a few rows. The germination was good because the soil temperature was just right. They’re looking like they’d prefer a little warmer weather now, but doing pretty good. 

The funny/ironic thing is and what I did anticipate is that when they emerged it might be colder. And if those beans were able to roll their eyes like a teenager responding to one of my dad jokes, they would have surely said, “Really, you couldn’t have waited 2 more weeks so I wasn’t freezing my butt off when I came out of the ground!” Of course, my response would be to roll my eyes back and sheepishly apologize and then move onto the next crop, which happens to be more lettuce starts.  

Looks like the March 9th and the 27th plantings have stacked up and will be going out at about the same time. We plant on a schedule, but nature can speed things up or slow them down.  With the weather, in this case, the March 27th plantings got the benefit of that warm April weather and caught right up. The opposite can happen just as easily, or the plantings can come just as they are scheduled (NOT USUALLY!).  Lettuce plantings 2 and 3 will be going out together this week and planting #4 will be much later because the weather was cooler for those seedlings.  

A New Grandbaby! 

The newest farmhand was born to Alaina and Jordan on Saturday 4/24. Nolani is a beautiful little girl and joins her big sister, Hadlee, and big brother, Bazil. That brings the total grandkids to 5 roosters and 2 hens, ages 8 and under. When we all gather the energy is reminiscent of when Joelle and I first started this business and our children were little ones, except now all that energy gets to go home at the end of our visit! 😊. 

We are blessed to have had the opportunity to share our life and story with so many of you.  -Tristan

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They Need a Job

Early on in my farming adventure, or should I say career change with a huge learning curve, I learned that plants need a job. Nothing I have ever attempted has been as hard as farming. Even the simplest task of transplanting a little lettuce or cabbage start can go sideways. Is the ground temperature warm enough? Is the soil worked up enough? Did the plants get planted straight down or laid in sideways? Did they get firmed in enough when planted to reconnect capillary action? So many things that can be learned in a textbook, but really sink in when you have 3000 plants “talking to you.”

The last few weeks we have been in transplant mode with lots of lettuce, cabbages, kohlrabis and onions being transplanted out, plus peas and beans were directly seeded and thousands of more plants are getting seeded to be transplanted at a later date. I have learned over the years that once you “open the soil” the next few months are going to be anything but normal.

As an example, when we planted out those first transplants, we didn’t expect a mini heat wave. I have gotten more steps in a couple of days last week than I did all January. Those little plants went from a warm and coddled environment in the greenhouse, with daily watering, to being socially distanced and placed into soil. As hard as we try, those little plants rarely take off without some coddling. And coddling for us usually means filling up 2 gallon watering cans and walking up and down 200’ foot long rows watering every plant. Back and forth, back and forth, we could fire up the irritation (aka irrigation), but this early in the season it would be wasteful and efficient.

Joanna, our intrepid 11 year old, is a tireless worker. When she is not designing doll clothes, she can be found outside roller-blading or in the case of the last few weeks, walking alongside us watering little plants with those 2 gallon watering cans. She fills up 2, sets one down where she last stopped watering, empties the other and then gets the full one and empties it and heads back to the watering station. 20 trips later her row is finished. The other day I came home from the pack and she was out watering the newly planted cabbages.

At that moment, I smiled, she got it. Each of our children have had their own moment when farming became real. So I told Joanna that I have affectionately renamed these first few crops Jo-abbage, Jo-rabi and Jo-ettuce. And as we were walking by the onions and lettuce transplants, she asked if we needed to water these. I told her that just the onions needed water and that she could do the half row and then go play. She didn’t ask about why we weren’t going to water the lettuce, but I will tell you. Early on the lettuce plants struggled a bit and we were watering every other day, but when I looked at them, I knew that they were at the critical stage, where continued watering would actually set them back. They needed a job and that job was to begin to establish deeper roots.

-Tristan

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Growing and Changing

Tristan and I are grateful to get to live and work at such a beautiful place. 18 years ago we were looking for a place that we could live, farm, and run the business. Farm ground was the first priority because that’s the one thing that can’t really be changed or remodeled. When we stumbled upon this place it was “a tear down”.  It had good growing ground, an outbuilding we could work with and the house had good bones. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into! Through a lot of blood, sweat, and tears (and prayer), we made it our own! 

Klesick Family Farm grew from a vision to create a lifestyle of learning for us and our kids! We saw the value of both working hard and playing hard, of adventuring and creating! Over the years we’ve fueled our kids interests by helping them find resources to blossom in those areas. We’ve had kids take on chickens, honey bees, milk goats, a milking cow, beef cows, draft horses, dog training, flowers for fundraising, event planning, hay-baling, welding, restoring tractors and they’ve managed crops from start to finish. They’ve had great opportunities that have grown and stretched them. Over the years our farm has morphed and changed as much as our family has! Interests have come and gone and six of our nine children are grown and are writing the next chapter of their lives.  But we share memories and we’re enjoying the opportunity to share farm life with grandkids! 

During this season we’re focusing on growing vegetables and don’t have any animals on the farm except our family dog and cats. 

Farm life is a lot of hard work, commitment, and unpredictability! Neither of us grew up farming. We’ve had a lot of learning curves along the way! We’ve had both crop failures and bountiful harvests. We LOVE providing food that’s nutritious and healthy for our customers and the planet! But I think it’s the journey that really keeps farmers growing! Farming isn’t as much an occupation as it is a lifestyle. Our family has been shaped by it. It’s not for everyone. But farmers need people who appreciate their product in order to keep growing! We are thankful for each of you and that you’ve joined us in this journey! 

Follow us on Facebook or Instagram and watch our stories for extra glimpses into what’s happening on the farm this season! 

-Joelle

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Farming

Last week I mused that farming starts when we begin to rototill our fields. Of course, there is way more going on before any dirt is rototilled. Sometimes farming happens the season before like garlic or berries or pruning.

Farming is a catch all term. What does it mean to farm? Is planning farming??? Is ordering seed farming??? Is ordering fertilizer farming??? Is buying fuel or doing maintenance on your equipment farming??? Or are all the activities needed to support farming their own category???

For whatever reason, it FEELS like farming when the rototiller begins to till the ground, everything else is a warmup. But if truth be told all the warmup stuff is really important to growing food. Planning goes a long way to having a successful season and certainly, growing healthy, organically grown food benefits from the planning.

One thing that is really outside my control is the weather. I am able to flex my schedule a little, but sometimes the weather can really throw you a tough pitch to hit! Every year I think the weather is going to be perfect. It is my nature to be optimistic. The weather will be perfect for some crops like cabbages or tomatoes or cucumbers or garlic :). With a plan our farm team can flex as needed with whatever weather pattern shows up.

Last week, the weather turned cold and the soil didn’t warm up, but the first few thousand lettuce plants are ready to go and for our farm it is time to plant peas. The lettuce plants are ready and need to get from the transplant tray to the soil to avoid being root bound. But if the weather is as predicted, getting the pea seeds and lettuce plants into the ground last Saturday will have been a good decision. And with the weather warming, planting peas last Saturday will allow the seeds to gather moisture and the warmth of the soil will help them germinate sooner.

Warm weather is really important to growing crops and for these old joints, the warm weather is definitely a plus! 

The local season is well underway, and the bounty of our NW farmers will soon be a part of every delivery!

Thanks for supporting the Box of Good and it’s local network of farmers,

-Tristan & Joelle