ask letter for our members

Got Milk? Yep, we do. Got Money? Hmmmmmmmm…..

The USDA Value Added Producers Grant

Mark has been steadily calling each Essex Farm member over the last few weeks, to hear what products people want to see in the share in the next few years. If he hasn’t reached you yet, he will.

Cheeses and more dairy products are high on the collective wish list. With that in mind, we are applying for a Value Added Producer’s Grant (VAPG) from the USDA, to help us create a proper, legal creamery and cheese cave on our farm.

We plan to add a line of pasteurized, cultured dairy products to the share, including yogurt, butter, Greek yogurt, sour cream, buttermilk, and hard and soft cheeses, as well as pasteurized milk, skim milk, and cream. We plan to continue to distribute raw milk, too.

The VAPG would pay half of the actual payroll, marketing, transportation and packaging expenses for this new dairy venture every month for the first three years, up to $250,000. The farm pays the other half.

The grant requires proof that we can access the money we need to cover our side of the obligation. We have already collected proof of most of the total from a combination of credit line, in-kind contributions of raw product, owner labor, cash on hand, and a bank note (whew), but are looking to secure another $100,000 in third party guarantees.

It’s always uncomfortable (for me, anyway – I won’t speak for Mark) to ask for financing from our members, but I do it anyway, and you always come through with enthusiasm and generosity. That’s been an incredibly powerful part of our Community Supported Agriculture adventure.  So: If you are able to guarantee a three year line of credit for us, in whole or in part, would you get in touch as soon as possible? As usual, we’re coming up fast against a deadline, and time is of the essence. Call or text Mark at 518-570-6399, send us an email at essexfarm@gmail.com, or come by the farm to chat and get more information.

Thank you as always for making this farm work.

With warm regards,

Kristin & Mark Kimball 

January Thaw

Essex Farm Note

Week 2, 2018

Nothing abides but change. The cold rolls out, the fog rolls in, and the January thaw is on us. There goes the snow, the ice, the solidity of the ground. All the water on the farm is on the move now, searching with its infinite eyes for easy passage to the depths. The depths, today, are found in our basement, which is half flooded and rising. Mark is down there as I type, reaching one arm into the black water of the drain in its corner (where a host of evil things live, in my imagination). There’s a slim hope that it is plugged. The alternative is much more complicated: he must have hit the drain line from the house while driving the new fence posts, and crushed it. Which will make for a more interesting weekend than it should be.

            On the bright side of change, our farmhouse crossed into a new era yesterday. The cracked, squinty, east-facing window that has plagued me for fifteen years is gone, along with its uncracked but equally undersized partner. They have been replaced with a pair of brand-new, full-size, double-hung, uncracked beauties. The light is beautiful, even on a foggy day and through the dust of construction. The wall between the two downstairs rooms is gone, too, the cracked plaster ceiling is gone, new drywall is hung, new lighting is wired, and we can finally reach the upstairs bedrooms without having to go outside. I won’t miss the feeling of my hand freezing to the doorknob on the way to bed after doing dishes in the evening. Another week of work and we should be at a new level of civilization, fresh paint included. Thanks to Dennis Shetler and his son Benjamin, Mark and Erin Hall, Travis Gigous, and to Ryan Hathaway, who has just opened his own local electrical business, Hometown Electric Systems.

            The wet, mild winter weather of a January thaw is harder on the animals than deep dry cold. We got the sheep and the three livestock guardian dogs under cover, just before it hit. The horses moved to a more sheltered pasture, with bark-chip bedding around their feeder, better for them and for the ground. The heifers and dry cows are in the covered barnyard, and the laying hens are hunkered in their barn. We finally got the last batch of broiler chickens butchered yesterday. I’m wary of raising broilers this deep into winter, but they did really well in the greenhouse, on fresh daily hay, and grew better than some of our mid-season batches. 

            Dan Kittredge of the Bionutrient Food Association gave a talk at the Grange this week. He works on soil health and its relationship to crop nutrient density. What’s that? One very accessible example comes from a 2007 study, which found that eggs from truly pasture-raised hens, compared to conventional eggs, have 2/3 more vitamin A, 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids, 3 times more vitamin E, and 7 times more beta carotene. I (inexpertly) suspect that the next front line in nutrition research will involve the microbiome of the soil, and how it affects our own human microbiome, and that in ten years we will talk about and measure nutrition in a very different way. One of our goals for 2018 is to quantify and increase the nutritional density of all the food we produce, building plant, animal, and human health from the soil up. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this warm wet 2nd week of 2018. Find us at 518-963-4613, essexfarm@gmail.com, on Insta at kristinxkimball and essexfarmcsa, or on the farm, any day but Sunday.    

–Kristin & Mark Kimball

 

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Deep freeze

Essex Farm Note

Week 1, 2018

            A tractor trailer got stuck athwart the narrow Bouquet River Bridge last night, blocking the homeward road for the Amish girls and their horse. In the blowing snow, in the dark, they waited, then led the horse off the road, and knocked at the McConnell’s door to spend the hour until the truck could be towed clear. Then they hitched up again, and made their way up Crooked S Hill, to Jersey Street, and home. The tractor trailer driver, meantime, backtracked east on Route 22, but got stuck again, overnight, at the base of our hill. Mark found him parked at the end of the driveway before dawn. He was from Liberia, unused to snow and ice, and hauling a load to Michigan. We made him coffee and some breakfast and by 9 he was on his way again, fishtailing up the freshly sanded hill.

            The farm news is all hard-frozen this week and delivered through chilled fingers. It has been a grueling stretch. Work on non-essential projects has come to a stop. No seed order, no fixing of equipment, not even the broken wood stove in the machine shop, which we missed very much this week. We have not had a day warm enough to slaughter the last batch of broiler chickens, so they are still pecking and scratching in the greenhouse, the warmest creatures on the farm during the day.  

            Instead of the usual, we attend to all the things that could go wrong. We run the propane heater in the barn before milking, so the equipment doesn’t freeze. We have twice-daily mandatory temperature checks in all the insulated trailers, where tens of tons of vegetables are stored, and temperatures are being kept above freezing with an ad-hoc collection of space heaters. This morning, Mark discovered the door to one of the trailers had blown open overnight, and the cabbages were beginning to freeze. He found it just in time to save a year’s worth of hard work from ruin. That’s why the cold is stressful: a minor mishap – the poor latching of a door – can have such outsize consequences.

            Only 48 more hours before this weather is due to break. Tomorrow night will be the worst of it. The lows are predicted to be close to twenty below zero, not including the wind chill. So, until Monday, the priority list is extremely clear: Keep people safe, first and foremost. Make the animals as comfortable as possible. Get the cows milked twice a day, without frostbiting their teats. Get food to our members. Keep equipment from breaking and stores from freezing. Then bask in the heat of the wood stove, sleep under thick down covers, and begin it all again.

            Tonight, for team dinner, we’re having black bean soup topped with sour cream, and cilantro from the freezer; smoked ham; warm apple sauce dusted with cinnamon; and grated carrot salad – simple, filling fare that will make the kitchen fragrant, warm and steamy, before warming our bellies. Hard to believe, in this chill, that green plants are not far away. The ground is still not frozen, holding at 33 degrees, though the deeper layers of soils are chilling faster and faster, equalizing. The greenhouse will be tilled for seeding in six short weeks. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this deep-cold first week of 2018. Find us at 518-963-4613, essexfarm@gmail.com, on Instagram at kristinxkimball and essexfarmcsa, and on the farm, any day but Sunday.

–Kristin & Mark Kimball

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