Farm, Hendrick House, Journal

The First Frost of the Year!

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This pretty much sums up the weather the last week. It has been freeeeeeeezing in the mornings and warming up in the afternoons to the mid 70s. By the time the day is finished there is a pile of clothes laying in the passenger seat of my car from all the layers I had to strip off.

My one nasturtium flower of the year murdered by the freeze

My one nasturtium flower of the year murdered by the freeze

bye bye peppers :(

bye bye peppers ūüė¶

We had our first frost over the weekend. I was petrified to look at the farm afterwards because I still have lettuce, kale, chard, herbs, broccoli, green onion, green beans and peppers in the ground. As I slowly pulled up to the plot to survey the damage I saw the death and destruction. It totaled the peppers and green beans. The peppers were almost finished but I was really hoping to get another harvest of the beans this week. Mother nature put a kibosh on that. Thankfully the rest of the crops were untouched and I had a great harvest of romaine yesterday. I am hoping to get the rest out of the ground by the end of the week.

I got all the tomatoes unclipped and pulled from the plastic (over 2,000 plants). Yowza, my back hurt! I am really looking forward to the day someone develops biodegradable tomato clips. I am going to remember the tedious removal next year so that I am careful to only put clips on where they are ABSOLUTELY needed. The trellising came down yesterday and it now looks like a sad barren brown spot ready for winter. I will be pulling plastic and drip on the rest of the tomato bed, peppers and green beans, which will be the rest of the plastic on the farm. I have been slowly breaking down the farm as I go so this is pretty huge that this will be one whole 1/2 acre finished. Its all downhill from here!

No more tomatoes :(

No more tomatoes ūüė¶

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Farm, Hendrick House

Farm to Table Dinner

Fall

My friend Dale’s fall Maple

People keep asking me if the farm is over. My answer is NO NO NO NO NO! ….. and then I show them the picture below which was this morning’s delivery. I still have an acre of produce in the ground people! This is the downward slide but definitely not the end!!!

HH farm delivery this morning 10/13/2015

HH farm delivery this morning 10/13/2015

We had our first HH farm to table dinner at Kappa Delta sorority last Wednesday. It accomplished all the goals we anticipated. It was amazing exposure and marketing for the farm, it solidified relationships between the clients and the chef (Andy Mullins) and it showed the range of product that can be offered with Hendrick House food service. On a personal note, I love being able to harvest product that morning and cooking with it in the afternoon. The smells and flavors are completely consuming. There is so much more care that is taken with product when you have a stake in it are the one who picked the variety, planted it, cared for it, fed it, watered it and harvested it. The chefs can say the same thing and take ownership in the fact that they ultimately decide what is grown. If even a portion of that feeling ( the appreciation for food grown less than a mile away with complete control of flavors) can be conveyed to the clients through their chefs then to me this farm project can be deemed successful.

Farm to table Dinner Kappa Delta

Farm to table Dinner Kappa Delta

The air of excitement throughout the house was magnetic, from the kitchen to the dining room. I was even able to get members of AKL fraternity to come and help serve, which created double exposure for all of the positive attributes associated with this event, listed above.

Table Center pieces

Table Center pieces

The tables were dressed in white linens with crisp white linen napkins. The table decorations were all from the farm, cut flowers donated by the U of I Student Sustainable Farm and blue corn with husks donated from the U of I from my good friend Jeremy Shafer. We poured sparkling grape juice in place of champagne and had carafes of ice water placed at each table.

1st course Soup!

Spring Onions before they were turned into soup

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Spring Onion Vicyssoise

The first course was a vichyssoise made from the beautiful spring onions from the farm. It was paired with apples given to me by my friend Rick Weinzierl which were turned into apple cream and apple crisps by Andy. We also used fresh horseradish given to me by my friends Bill and Dale who work with the U of I Aboretum.

Red Beets before they were salt roasted

Red Beets before they were salt roasted

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The second course was a spinach salad made with beautiful big red beets (from the farm) and Prairie Fruits Farm chèvre.

HH farm kale before it was cooked

HH farm kale before it was cooked

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We served pork tenderloin for the entree with HH farm kale and HH green bean braise.

Apple and white cheddar Turnovers

Apple and white cheddar Turnovers

Equipment Mistake

Equipment Mistake

The dessert was apple and white cheddar turnovers and caramel. The apples came from Rick and the cream that went in to¬†the caramel sauce was from Kilgus Farmstead (up near Fairbury, Illinois). I do have to add that it is very important when coming up with a menu to think about the equipment that will be available to you when cooking and executing the dinner. I didn’t realize Andy didn’t have a fryer in his kitchen so it was pretty comical attempting to fry over 100 turnovers in my little fry daddy.

I have to give a special thanks to Andy Mullins for partnering with me for the day and lending me his kitchen helping to market the farm. Thank you also to the girls of Kappa Delta for letting us do this dinner for you and also for taking pictures. Big thanks to the boys at AKL for always supporting me and the farm and showing up to be wonderful, diligent servers. I definitely look forward to doing more of these events in the future!

Success!

Success!

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Farm, Journal, Update

Fall is here?

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The sweet smell of summer and sunshine has been replaced with grey skies and crisp earthy smells of fall. Fall used to be my favorite time of year with changing colors of the leaves, dusty harvests, visits to the pumpkin patch, fresh cider and bon fires. This year I am sad seeing the tomatoes and peppers coming to an end. This was an incredibly short summer and it makes me nervous not having a set spot for the coming year, especially now that the first two “practice” years are almost over.

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IMG_1852The name of the game this past weekend was Head Romaine. Kevin and I harvested nearly 150 lbs yesterday and it was sold and delivered this morning. I am anxiously waiting to hear feedback from the chefs. The Romaine plus the peppers and small order of chard (thanks Casey ūüôā ) was one of the largest deliveries of the season. It was amazing to empty a full walk in this morning, distributing each product to its new home.

The chefs have been creating some beautiful dishes:

AOPI

AOPI

Nick from AOPI did a Chicken Nicoise dish with an Anchovy-herbed compound butter buerre blanc, using the farm’s yukon gold potatoes and red ribbon sorrel

Hendrick House

Hendrick House

Bonnie (chef of Hendrick House) did a Paprikash catfish with sautéed carmen peppers (from the farm) and onions with cheesy grits and corn on the cob

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PIKE

Antonio from PIKE did a beef and cheese stuffed carmen pepper with the last of my ripe tomatoes, which he turned into a coulis

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Hot, Hotter, Hottest Golden Greek

Hot, Hotter, Hottest
Golden Greek

Despite this cold weather, I am still getting beautiful harvests of peppers though it is slowing down. This past weekend was the first Sunday that we did not harvest tomatoes. There are a lot of tomatoes hanging on the plants but it is just too cool for them to ripen. We are predicted to have 80 degree temperatures this weekend so I am hoping that is just enough heat to push them to have one more nice harvest. I have been prepping the chefs to get ready for a large green tomato harvest. Many of them, with Bonnie’s lead, have been changing their menus and coming up with a lot of great ideas to help me move them. I hope the students like green tomatoes. ūüôā

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Stupid Spot

Stupid Spot

Bacterial Spot is back again. Nothing new.

 

 

 

 

I am starting to disassemble the farm slowly. The drip tape will be pulled up in the next couple days (as soon as I can kick this inconvenient cold/flu) and the south 1/2 of the land will be ready to disc. I am also preparing to take down pepper and tomato trellising as soon as the green tomatoes are harvested next week.

 

 

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Farm, Journal, Update

Get Em’ To The Greek!

Lunchbox Peppers

Lunchbox Peppers

It has been crazy hot here for the last two weeks and I am guessing that was it for summer 2014, since it is now back in the 70s for a high. Pretty strange. I heard today that it is supposed to frost in two weeks, which is early for us here in central Illinois and right on time since the tomatoes are finally starting to look really good (sarcasm). This short period of heat has really brought on the peppers and tomatoes. When I say “has really brought on” I am dead serious. I am harvesting nearly every day to keep up. I am pulling over 300 lbs a week ¬†just in Carmen peppers alone. I think the chefs are getting a little tired of this variety but they keep taking them, mostly because at this point I am begging and also trying to remind them that we will be starved for fresh produce in the winter :). I am pretty sure every chef I am selling to has menu’d stuffed peppers at least once, to try and move through the volume. I will probably not grow so many Carmens next year.

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Antonio’s Sweet and Sour Pork (with homemade sauce) and farm peppers

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Antonio’s gyros with a Mediterranean salad using farm tomatoes

 

I have been overwhelmed with the support and excitement from the chefs this year.  I received some beautiful pictures of some of the dishes they have served with all of the peppers and tomatoes they have been buying. Antonio, who is the chef of the PIKE fraternity has been taking tremendous orders every Monday. He has capitalized on my seconds turning them into salsa, marinara and various sauces. I love seeing what he has been doing with the produce.

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AGD peppers Before…

AGD Stuffed Carmens

AGD Stuffed Carmens

Casey, who is the chef of AGD sorority, has also been very excited about the produce this year. He is so much fun to sell to and always has great ideas. This is his version of the stuffed Carmen. He sent me beautiful before and after pictures.

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Bonnie’s Stuffed Peppers

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Seconds getting ready to be Bonnie’s base for sauces

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Bonnie’s stuffed Carmen

Bonnie, the chef at Hendrick House is my crutch. Without her this project would probably not be possible. She is so understanding of the season and writes her menus accordingly. She also doesn’t hesitate changing her menus to accommodate an influx of produce (when we have a heat wave etc). Bonnie will take any produce I cannot sell and process it down to use or sell at a later date, even if she doesn’t really want to ūüôā “Bonnie, I know you just got 100#s of Carmens last week but do you want 50 more #s on Monday?” – Me “Eh, Surrrrrrre.” – Bonnie “Oh thank goodness” – Me (saying to myself) She is a great chef and a farmer’s dream!

Not mentioned: Christie at Gamma Phi Beta, David at KKG, Nick at AOpi, Jason at Armory, Rich at Presby, Ryan and Heath at Newman and of course Kevin at Phi Delta Theta. I am coming for pictures!!!

Aphids.... What Aphids?

Aphids…. What Aphids?

In other news, the aphids on the tomatoes are suddenly gone. One day they were there, the next they weren’t. Was it the heat? Was it the heavy rainfall + the heat? I’m just going to shrug my shoulders and move on, grateful I didn’t spend money trying to get rid of them. Chalk this one up to a win :)!

Yukon Gold Potatoes, yes please!

Yukon Gold Potatoes, yes please!

Spent the afternoon digging potatoes. I decided to try my hand at Yukon Golds this year. I love the way they taste and was going to plant this as a trial. Turns out to grow potatoes all you have to do is plant them, wait 3 to 4 months and harvest them. That is it! No weeding, no pest control, no nothing. I am definitely going to grow this crop again.

Second round of Romaine is coming along nicely, now that I cured my western corn worm problem. I have been looking at this crop closely and I think that I will have much better luck with this harvest. They should be ready by the beginning of next week. Oh yeah, I sprayed a non organic pesticide on the beds but was very careful about pollinators. And yes, I feel like a horrible person again to the extent where I actually saved a tomato horn worm I found today, gently setting it on the other side of the fence instead of squishing it.

 

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Farm, Journal, Update

Happy Labor Day

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Huge harvests

Happy Labor Day! What better way to celebrate Labor Day then to spend it at the farm :). I had a busy weekend trying to catch up from lost time spent in the kitchen last week. It was a beautiful couple days, the rain held off and I had a lot of orders to fill. I was lucky to have an extra day to make it happen.

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Romaine hearts

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Loss due to western corn worm beetles

Tomatoes packaged and waiting for delivery tomorrow morning

Tomatoes packaged and waiting for delivery tomorrow morning

Peppers are rolling in like crazy, tomatoes are in abundance and I had my first fall harvest (except it feels like summer) of romaine. Had you driven down south Lincoln today ¬†you probably would have seen me angrily shaking my head and fists down the first lettuce bed. It¬†was attacked by western corn worm beetles. This was not a good thing because I already had cooks putting in orders for it to be delivered tomorrow morning. Being a chef myself, I know there is nothing worse than having an unreliable vender who leaves you short handed at the last minute. Fortunately, I was able to contact the chefs in plenty of time to source from someone else and they were all very understanding. I did dig down and saw that the hearts were still in tact so I was able to replace a couple of the orders with hearts instead of heads. I have another batch that is two weeks behind this one and I will be spraying with pesticide tomorrow to ensure this will not happen again. Which pesticide (organic vs. non organic)? Well, here we go again….. I will let you know next week.

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Roasted farm tomatoes and peppers for salsa and jambalaya

Not a regular cheese burger,  Cheese burger with Hendrick House farm tomatoes yummy!!  - Antonio, PIKES

Not a regular cheese burger,
Cheese burger with Hendrick House farm tomatoes yummy!!
– Antonio, PIKES

It was (sort of) nice being at the farm and in the kitchen last week because I was able play with the produce I was bringing in. I turned my tomatoes and peppers into salsa and tasty jambalaya. I also received a picture from Antonio, the chef of the PIKE house, to see how he was using the produce, asking for feedback from the students. The response so far has been very positive.

 

These boys came after dinner in the evening to help me because they knew I had been in the kitchen all day then had to go harvest.

Thank you Rauf, Andrew, Joe and Marshall!!

I think the boys at the fraternity took pity on me last week because they rallied together and not one but two groups came out to help me out of the goodness of their hearts! I even had an alumni, the president when I first started working for this company (Jon Adler), organize and rally a group to come out and help me harvest Sunday. It blows me away when these college kids take time out of their schedule to do manual labor for free, in the heat AND on a holiday weekend. I absolutely love that they are invested and care about the quality of their food. It makes everything so worth it. This means this project of local and fresh food is working and every day more and more people are starting to take notice. From the bottom of my heart, thank you AKL!

 

Thank you Jon, Katie, Aaron, John and Andrew!!!

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Farm, Journal, Update

Back in the Saddle Again…

I apologize about my tardiness in posting. After the 14 hr work day combined with the intense heat and humidity my brain wasn’t quite up to the challenge of being witty last night when I got home.

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Classes started yesterday for the U of I and food service is in full swing. Also, summer has finally decided to join the party just as the ac broke in my kitchen :). That being the only thing that went wrong yesterday was a pretty big victory compared to last year.

Produce delivered to Sororities and Fraternities 1st day of Service

Produce delivered to Sororities and Fraternities 1st day of Service

 

I arranged to have use of a walk-in cooler that is not shared with Hendrick House, which meant I was completely out of the way of the hustle and bustle of first day service. I also received access to a farm vehicle which allowed me to haul the hundreds of pounds of produce from the farm, to cold storage and then to their respective homes. I am communicating with about 10 chefs who are interested in the farm project and it is working out beautifully so far. They are excited and are now placing sizable orders each week. Every vegetable that Kevin and I harvested Sunday morning had a home by Sunday afternoon. We were able to wash, fill orders and have them packaged, sitting in the walk-in and ready to go out early Monday morning before I had to be in the fraternity. It was beautiful and everything went very smoothly.

Fresh Veg for AKL ready to roll

Fresh Veg for AKL ready to roll

AKL Produce for 1st day of service

AKL Produce for 1st day of service

I love being able to see the life cycle of the vegetables first hand. I love harvesting, then talking with the chefs to see what they are most excited about. My absolute favorite part though is introducing 18-21 year old fraternity boys to new types of fresh vegetables, completely going against the stigma of a young fraternity boy’s¬†pallet. I put lunchbox peppers on the salad bar yesterday along with some heirloom tomatoes and I had to fill the containers again before dinner. “If you build it they will come.” “If you feed them they will eat it.”

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Lunchbox Peppers

This is a critical time for the farm since everything is now ready. I am trying to harvest every day/ every other day to meet the orders that are flying in and also to keep up with the ripening fruit. This is such a great problem to have :). We are still working on cloning technology so that I am able to farm, cook, train and cater the special events that are quickly approaching. Hopefully by the end of the week everyone will be trained at AKL and I will be able to step back a little bit and be out in the dirt full time again.

Green Zebra, Valencia and Pink Wonders

Green Zebra, Valencia and Pink Wonders

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Farm, Journal, Update

Hot Sauce Peppers!

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IMG_1682Busy Busy Busy… We had a huge harvest and delivery today, distributing nearly 500#s of produce throughout the company. It was beautiful and full of color. I am now starting to harvest three days a week and delivering two, Monday and Friday. That will probably change once school starts next week so that I can properly accommodate the chefs.

AKL helpers Mario and Zach

AKL helpers Mario and Zach

Now that the students are back I had some very sweet volunteers at AKL, Zach and Mario. I always get such a thrill when these boys take an interest in the farm. I love showing them what they will be eating in its raw form.

Lunchbox Peppers

Lunchbox Peppers

The sororities are back in action starting this week and the girls at Gamma Phi Beta will be the first to eat the lunchbox peppers this year. I can’t wait to hear the review from Chef Christie.

Face melting pepper

Face melting pepper

Speaking of peppers, I was harvesting last Friday and I found a Golden Greek that I had missed harvesting the previous week. This pepper had become large and had a golden yellow tint to it. For some reason I had an urge to take a very large bite and instantly regretted it. I seriously thought my face was melting off like an Edward Munch painting and I then began hallucinating. It took about 30 solid minutes to recover, dousing my entire head with my water jug. Now that I know the capabilities of these little gems, my plan is to save a section of them and make hot sauce out of the peppers.

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Green beans

Green beans

The fall plantings are coming along nicely and we should see head lettuce in about two weeks. The demand is astounding and I am so excited for this crop to be ready. The spinach and green beans have started to show and Kevin and I just got the second round of basil in the ground today.

Spinach

Spinach

Summer is officially over and school starts in 1 week! Things are about to get incredibly busy but we are better prepared this year, having learned from our mistakes the previous year. I have new systems in place and now know what to expect and how to manage the farm and large harvests while training people to help me in the  kitchen. Wish us luck!

Summer

Summer

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