The Carrot That Started It All

April 17, 2013


I have been asked on occasion about how or what on my life path led me to become a farmer.  The full answer is probably too long winded  but there is one moment that stands out the most on our journey.   Many moons ago, Kristin and I were on a retreat in the picturesque town of Stanfordville, NY and as part of our time we visited a one-acre CSA farm called Sisters Hill Farm.  It was my first ever trip to a farm (apart from childhood blueberry picking) and the rows and rows of vibrant and meticulously cared for veggies enthralled us.  Its hard to remember all the ways I was moved as we  were shown around the enormous garden, but I knew I was being exposed to wonderful things that I never really considered, and I was quite sure that if I had considered them that I wouldn’t have believed they could be so wonderful. Among the things that were most amazing were the farmer, Dave, who showed us around his farm with a joy and pride that was infectious. (“Excuse me, but are you really THAT happy?  Seriously?”) But of all the wonders that Farmer Dave showed us, the moment that he pulled a gleaming carrot out of the dirt  I was spellbound.  We were in a small group, but I had no shame in asking if I could have the single carrot that he  magically pulled out of the ground.  After a thorough 3 second cleansing on my pants, I munched on what might as well have been the first carrot I ever ate.  In fact I think it may not be too overstated to say  that simple organic carrot fed and nourished me for about five years before we planted our first seeds at Down to Earth Farm.  Imagell

Whether You Weather the Weather

April 17, 2013


I try not to use this weekly message to talk too much about the weather, as it is not the most riveting of topics.  But truth be told, I sure do think about it a lot.  And while there is (as of yet!) nothing I can do to change it, there are a number of little things we can do to prepare for extreme weather.   The cold snap that we felt last weekend actually went all the  way down to 22 degrees out here on the Westside.  In anticipation  we ran around and covered everything we could, even putting two layers of cloth on some of our most sensitive plants.  We also  ran a little heater in our greenhouse (where our baby tomato plants are), and we ran our irrigation to keep the ground as moist as possible, which holds slightly more warmth than dry soil.   Come Monday morning we were able to see that much of our work paid off, as some of our early spring crops, like squash and sunflowers, survived.  Others, like our Swiss chard and long stemmed marigolds shriveled  like a summer snowman.   These unnecessary deaths (and future boring emails about the weather) can all be avoided if everyone pitches in to build that 2.5 acre biodome I’ve always wanted.  Make checks payable to Olivia Lapinski……….


Worm Tales

April 17, 2013


I think that it is often surprising to  discover what will bring joy as a parent.  Of course seeing my eldest daughter Olivia as the cutest pony in her school’s dance recital made me ecstatic (she was so believable!).  But I was less prepared for the marvel of little Abigail running to me, exclaiming, “Daddy, see my new friend!”.  And who was this kind soul that built a relationship with my three-year-old?   An earthworm!  Abigail was helping Kristin plant a decorative palm by our greenhouse when “Wormy” wiggled out of the dirt right into Abigail’s heart (figuratively, of course!).  Although it was love at first sight, their BFF  status was at times uncertain because Abigail kept screaming and dropping Wormy because she perceived him as “slimy”.  In fact, the periods of blissful communing between girl and worm only lasted for increments of  five seconds….”I love him….EEEEEEEEK….I dropped him!”   Followed by, “Daddy, will you pick him up?”  “Sure, just let me get my camera first”  (Abigail and Wormy are posing below:)Imagetale

April 17, 2013
Since starting with us in September, our intern Terry has become the best friend to our 28 hens and one strutting rooster.   She is exceedingly attentive to their needs and especially quick to bring them a tasty morsel from the garden.  While we all enjoy watching the endless quirkiness of our birds, from their almost ridiculous manner of running (a clumsy, wobbly, yet graceful burst of  beak-first  momentum) to the earnestness with which they take dirt baths.  But Terry takes her appreciation a bit further with her evening coop sit-ins.  For a few minutes at the end of almost every workday Terry (aka St. Francis of the Hens) lays out a clean cloth and sits  serenely as the girls (and boy) investigate the creature that has wandered into their territory.   Terry says that she simply enjoys their fun nature and genuinely enjoys being in their company.   Based on the photo below, I think that they have happily accepted her into the flock :)


Turnip the Volume!

April 17, 2013


Recently I have been considering the turnip.  To many people, the poor, lowly turnip is like the red-headed stepchild of the potato.  They are certainly not well known in the modern American kitchen, but as a small-scale turnip farmer, I ask that we pause and reconsider why this versatile and nutritious veggie has been unceremoniously banished from most of our diets.  Well it can’t be because it is hard to prepare.  These under-appreciated roots are easily roastedsautéedboiled and mashedor even eaten raw with a side of hummus.   Could it be their appearance?  Well with a striking purple top and gleaming white underside this seems unlikely– I mean, geez, your average potato looks like a warty football  and yet we Americans eat them by the ton.  Could it be something in their history that has kept us away from this veggie outcast?  Well the esteemed website  claims that before we carved pumpkins as jack-o-lanters we used to carve  scary faces into turnips.   That’s it!  We think turnips are haunted!    Well, never fear,  we have found the antidote to the turnip poltergeist : butter and cream.  (check out recipe below).   Don’t give up on the turnip, its a lovely vegetable!

olden Gratin Of Carrots And Turnips

Recipe By : Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, Deborah Madison, page 280
Serving Size : 4 

Amount Measure Ingredient — Preparation Method
——– ———— ——————————–
Butter for the dish
2 cups cream or for more flavor prepare a Thin Béchamel Sauce for Gratins
(click link for that recipe)
Salt and freshly milled pepper
1 small onion — finely diced
1 tablespoon butter
24 ounces turnip
peeled and julienned
8 ounces carrots
peeled and julienned
1 cup  bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 375F. Lightly butter a 2-quart gratin dish.  Cook the onion in the butter in a small skillet over medium heat,
about 8 minutes; then combine with the rest of the vegetables. Season with
salt and pepper and transfer to the gratin dish. Pour the sauce or cream over the
top, cover with the bread crumbs, and bake until bubbling and golden on
top, about 45 minutes.

There’s a First Time for Everything

April 17, 2013


There are a handful of milestones that are simply universal in their significance:  births, baby’s first time walking, baby’s first words, graduations, college graduate’s first time moving back in with his parents (Ha!)
Well, on a really wonderful stroll around the farm a couple days ago, the Lapinski Family was witness to a rather heartwarming ‘first’:  our rooster’s debut “cock-a-doodle-doo”!  Actually, his first words were far from cock-a-doodle-do and were more like the sound of an 93 year old doing an Axl Rose impersonation.  Mr. Rooster was a fast learner though, as it took him only about seven or 8  very strained “Cockles” before he successfully (if not harmoniously) forced out the “doodle-do”. And it bears mentioning that Mr. Rooster was a “happy accident”so it is a particular gift that we get to hear his song.  By accident  I mean that we ordered a dozen Buff Orphington hens one of them seemed to be growing twice as fast and sprouting a particularly elaborate comb on its head.  Check out the picture below and see if you can figure out which of these birds is not a little lady……..


A Visit to Growing Power

January 17, 2013


I had a wonderful opportunity last week to visit an innovative urban called Growing Power.  I’ve wanted to see Growing Power for years and was blessed by my lovely bride who made this trip possible for me. The farm (just like Down to Earth) is 2.5 acres in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  The name of the farm, I think, has multiple meanings, but most of the “growing power” comes from the millions and millions of worms that are constantly eating and eating (and pooping and pooping) to create the amazingly rich soil that is the foundation of their farm.  But beyond the many amazing ventures that this farm embarks on (fish farming, mushroom culture, chickens,  goats, bees, micro greens and more), the most impressive value they provide is their position in the community.  They are in a depressed neighborhood and from the farm’s beginning owner Will Allen has worked to create an oasis of fresh healthy food and honest gainful employment.   The movement to  create a truly sustainable food system takes on many forms and Growing Power seems like one great example.  Check out what they are up to here!

Keep it Interesting…

December 23, 2012


I have been asked a few times recently if I am trying anything “new” or “exciting” at the farm this season. It is a great question and it always comes up in my own mind as I drool over the sensuously colorful seed catalogues that show up this time of year. Each season we try at least a handful of new varieties to add a little (extra) spice to our farm life. This season we had the luxury of growing the rather space intensive delight, snow peas, for the first time thanks to a neighbor’s kindness in letting us use his land. We are also giving purple cauliflower a shot as well as a headlong and foolhardy attempt at our first winter cut flowers (snap dragons). Just watch our market table to measure our success on those endeavors. Intern and herbal guru, Nicole, has been advocating for expanding our offerings of medicinal and culinary herbs. She is educating me as we go, as I know very little about these more exotic herbs. In fact, I keep asking her to repeat the plant names as she’s extolling their virtues: “what’s it called, gerbil?” “no, its chervil,” she patiently replies, “and its great for your digestive system” “Well,then” I respond, “rock on!” Needless to say, I’m convinced. But now I have a question for you, gentle reader, what would you like to see Down to Earth grow? This is not a rhetorical exercise– it would be great to hear from you folks what (legal) offerings you would like to see at market. Respond via email or that up and coming social networking site: Facebook

“No thank you daddy, you go ahead.”

December 2, 2012

Rain-drizzled and cool Fall Greetings!

I am forever trying coax my girls out into the field to enjoy that fact that they live on a farm.  While that fact would not be interesting or unique over most of U.S. history (Over 30% of the population lived on farms up until 1930),  saying that you live on a farm these days is on statistical par with having naturally red hair or being able to stick your ankles behind your ears (Ouch!)   In fact the farm population of our once overwhelmingly rural nation is now less than 2%.     Unfortunately,  citing population statistics for my girls doesn’t  often convince them how special their circumstance is (and how really cool their farmer dad is!).  What I did discover is that the right incentive is needed to get them out there.  Up until recently in the season my only option to entice them into the garden was the opportunity to pull weeds or water the greenhouse.  (Its surprisingly cute  when my two year old shoots me down with a  “No thank you, Daddy, you go ahead” or “I’ll be fine in here” when I suggest that we should go out into the garden).  But when garden delights like sungold tomatoes start to ripen or that zesty sorrel patch gets full, my little ladies are all about the farm.   So, it is finally harvest season and my girls are at least slightly more interested in the plants (and potential snacks) growing outside–they will happily leave all the weeding and watering to dad.

The Fall Season Begins!!

November 17, 2012

Hello Folks!

Wow, summer is finally over!  Admittedly, you can never really tell in these parts, but for now the mugginess has dried from the air and you actually need a jacket or fleece to help with the early morning chill–it’s heaven!!  It is a pleasure to be in the regular swing of things as our field (and our kitchen) is filling up again with the season’s first veggies.  We are looking forward to another great year of growing healthy, delicious vegetables for you and your family.  Thanks for coming along for us on this wonderful journey in sustainable farming…
Here is a simple recipe inspired by our friend and regular market goer, Stephanie, who came to the farm for our first arugula harvest and raced home to make this savory treat:
·         one bag Down to Earth Farm arugula, washed,  long stems removed
·         1-2 large garlic cloves
·         ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
·         ¼ cup pistachio nuts, shelled (you can substitute other nuts (walnuts, pecans, pine nuts, but pistachios impart a unique flavor)
·         Salt and Pepper to taste
1.       Heat a small, dry skillet over medium heat until warm.  Add the pistachio nuts, stirring frequently until beginning to toast (about 3-4 minutes). You will note them beginning to brown.  Be careful to not allow them to burn.
2.      In the bowl of a food processor, place  arugula, garlic clove, toasted pistachio nuts and olive oil.  Process until liquefied, scraping sides of the bowl as necessary.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
If you desire the pesto to be thinner, add more olive oil.  Serve over freshly made pasta and some chopped pistachio nuts for garnish.