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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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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

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Refreshing

That brief rain we had last weekend was welcomed. We could use more, but I am still grateful for what we did get. 

I have to confess, I had resigned myself to warmer weather and no rain till September, so I haven’t been really paying attention to weather. I was thankful for the cooling trend over the last few weeks, though. As I look back on the days leading up to the weekend rain, I do remember thinking to myself, “My neighbors who are seed and hay farming had a sense of urgency about their work.” Now I know why. 😊

Rain can be helpful or not helpful and each of us farmers have different needs for rain than the others. There are times in the harvest season when rain could really help vegetable farmers like us, but seriously impact hay or seed farmers. I have mostly adopted an attitude of making the best of the weather we have, because I have a hard time praying for rain when it may adversely impact my neighbors. 

Last week Joelle captured this beautiful picture on the farm as the sun was rising. It is also on our FB and IG feeds. Follow us on social media and check it out in color and enjoy following along our farm happenings. I purposely parked the 1936 John Deere AR out in the field (when the squash plants were small) for a fun photo op and a reminder of how far farming has come in the last 85 years. 

-Tristan, Joelle, and the Box of Good crew

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50 Days…and Counting

For those of us who live in NW Washington, we know that the summers can be dry. It is not unusual to have 3 or 4 weeks without rain. In fact, if you mentioned how dry it has been to family and friends in say, Virginia, they would think you are joking. Their belief is that it always rains in WA. Of course, this sentiment totally disrespects our fellow Eastern WA neighbors!

The fact of the matter is summers in the PNW are downright beautiful, fairly dry and comfortable. But summer, we are pushing 8 weeks (about 2 months) without any measurable precipitation. I guess I am not really “built” to live in California or Arizona, I prefer it a little wetter. 😊

The challenge for us is the management of the dry weather and soil moisture. We were able to get a good amount of water on most of the crops before that super-hot stretch and our late fall crops have really enjoyed the heat. But the more sensitive salad crops were not as happy. 

We have had to change our planting plans again. This is mostly a normal occurrence for us, but the length of this dry spell has really shifted our fall schedule.

This year we did make some decisions that depended on hot weather, especially when it came to growing tomatoes outside rather than the greenhouse. We have so many happy tomato plants. They love the heat! We are using drip tape to irrigate with to keep their roots watered. Tomatoes do not like to have their leaves get wet and overhead irrigating can lead to “blight”. And blight is no Bueno for tomatoes or potatoes.

I wish it were possible to outfit the entire farm with drip tape, but that is hard to accomplish and manage given the variety of crops we grow, the length to harvest on those different crops and the weeding we need to do. Drip tape is hard to weed around, and don’t forget weeds are getting watered, too. 

Overall, the weather has been a challenge, but not insurmountable. We have had to cut back on our fall plantings, because there is not enough field moisture to germinate seeds and keep them going without a lot of irrigating. The summer loving crops that are established are happy and healthy, a little thirsty, but with their big canopies shading the ground they can conserve moisture. 

And if we do get a little rain in the next few weeks, oh boy, those plants are going to be reminiscent of Jack and the Bean Stalk!

Thanks for supporting our farm, other farms, and the healthy farming everywhere!

-Tristan, Joelle, and the Box of Good crew

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Local Farm Highlight

We are excited to be able to offer local blueberries from Hazel Blue Acres for the next few weeks. This week they are featured in some of the boxes as well as being sold as add-ons! You can purchase extra blueberries by the clamshell or by the 1/2 flat. Just email us or add them online via boxofgood.com. We love being able to support the local farms around us! 

A Quick Storage Tip for Your Blueberries!

Hold off on washing your blueberries until you are ready to eat them. If you wash them and then let them sit in the fridge they will get mushy fast! So be sure to put them in your fridge, unwashed and then wash them off with cold water before you enjoy! 

A Quick Storage Tip for Your Chard!

The chard in your box this week is right out of Klesick Family Farm’s field! Do not wash your chard until you are ready to use it. Store it in an airtight container or bag. When you are ready to use it, run it under cold water, but do not let it sit in the water, as that will result in the loss of water-soluble nutrients!

Meal Kits – Kindred Kitchens

We have worked with Kindred Kitchens to bring you four more meal kits! Our new meal kits are Chicken Enchiladas with Spicy Black Beans, Chicken and Mozzarella Ravioli with Alfredo Sauce, and two types of Spaghetti, one with Gruyere and Garlic Sausage and one with Apple Chicken Sausage. The meal kits come with four generous serving, easy to put together and work great for a busy day! My kiddo’s favorites are the Creamy Chicken Pesto and the Chicken Enchiladas. It always takes the edge off a busy day when we come home to a simple meal kit! You can add one on to your existing order or just order a meal kit by itself!

Issues With Your Order?

Just a reminder that if you happen to have any issues with the way your order was packed or delivered, we want to know! Please call 360-652-4663 or email us at [email protected] Sammy, Kelsey, and I are more than happy to help resolve any issues. If you receive  an item that is poor quality sending us a quick pic of the product will help us with quality control. Of course, we also love all your kudos! We appreciate ALL feedback and we believe it makes us a better company!

If we can assist in making your ordering process easier, help you create a custom order, assist with substitutions, just let us know!

We are here to help!

-Alaina

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Where is the Grass Greener?

My neighbor has a beautiful lawn. My car isn’t as nice as my coworkers. I wish I had _____________ (fill in the blank). Others may have better health. Why do we compare and what is gained from it? If you allow it to inspire you to greater achievements or cause you to change a poor habit that can be a good thing!  If it’s simply jealousy then comparison can drive us to flat out discontentment!

I have been watching my neighbors irrigate. Some of my neighbors have water rights and use big water cannons to water 200 x 100-foot swaths of crops or pasture in minutes. I have watering cans and a small irrigation reel that waters 60 x 20 feet of plants at a time. It does use less water but it takes hours to finish a 200-foot-long run. And I buy every drop of water from the city of Stanwood ($$$$). He has a river to pull from. But what good does it really do for me to wish I had water rights, when I do not. Absolutely no benefit! So, I use the resources I have available and keep going, because thinking about that big irrigation cannon next door, will not get my crops watered 😊

The other day I attended a one-day business seminar. I learned a few things, but one thing that caught my attention was when the speaker asked the audience, “Where is the grass greener?” 

What do you think? Where is the grass greener? Is it on the other side of the fence, in different neighborhood, in another state? We all have unique situations with unique answers. At the conference the speaker encouraged us to consider the, perhaps obvious, answer… 

“The grass is always greener where you water it!”

Most of us have at least a few areas in our lives that if we watered them, they would be greener. Some of us have cannons to water with and some of us work hard with an irrigation reel and a watering can. So, with that reminder from the seminar speaker, I pivoted on my thinking and started to “reframe” a few areas in my life to make sure I water them one way or another. Sometimes we end up watering areas that we don’t want to grow! It’s equally important to refrain from watering those areas! No farmer I know purposely waters a weed patch! 

I would encourage all of us to be contemplative about the longings we may have. Whether it’s a desire for deeper, meaningful relationships, more rewarding work, opportunities to relax and enjoy, or achieving greater health all usually take intentionality for change or growth, a little bit of hard work, and also some contentment in the process. 

Cultivating positive growth can be hard and there will always be factors that you can’t change or control and seasons that feel like a drought! Whatever our unique circumstances are, we can all fill a watering can and choose to water those areas that will make a positive impact on our life and the lives of those around us!

-Tristan