Sunday, August 31, 2014

Apples :: Beacon

Early Season • Sweet

Late August

Beacon is a bright red, juicy apple with a sweet and sprightly flavor. The red skin can wash into the flesh, giving the flesh a pink hue. Beacon is best as a fresh eating apple.

Beacon, on the tree, August 2014.
Beacon is known for it's cold hardiness and is a true Minnesota apple. It was introduced in 1936, by the University of Minnesota. For many years this was the first good eating apple of the season. Beacon used to be referred to as "the State Fair apple" as it ripens by the beginning of the state fair; this is different than the actual 'State Fair' apple.

Parentage: Malinda x Wealthy.

1-2 weeks

Friday, August 29, 2014

CSA Week #11

Another week of CSA has been delivered. Everyone received 2 lbs of delicious 'Beacon' apples - perfect for those first school lunches! We have made the switch from "table" onions (uncured, require refrigeration) to storage onions (cured, store in a dark, cool cupboard), which is one sign that we are moving into fall.

CSA Newsletter Week # 11

In the Box: 2 lbs Beacon apples, heirloom tomato mix, carrots, large bunch basil, Swiss chard, green bell pepper, 1.5 lbs snap heirloom mixed snap beans, 2 lbs Nicola potatoes, white and green cucumbers, yellow storage onions, jalapenos, bunching onions and mint. Half shares also received leeks and zucchini.

This week's Herb Booster: 1/2 lb basil!

Emily caught me packing CSA boxes...

On to Week #12 and the debut of more new items!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

{Farm-to-Table Dinner} Photos

Our Farm-to-Table Dinner event in partner with Schell's Brewery and Chef Lacey Leuth, of Lola - An American Bistro, was amazing, delicious, beautiful and fun. Here are a few photos from the event for you to enjoy. More photos can be found in the facebook album for the event here.

The event started off with an tour of the farm - we had a great sized crew out there! Thanks for bearing the heat to check out how we do things at Alternative Roots Farm. Here is John talking about our native prairie, which serves as our required buffer strip, as well as important wildlife habitat.

Getting settled in for some social time, with a Goosetown beer, at the brewery. The tables and setting were beautiful!

The dinner was hosted in the beirgarten at Schell's Brewery. The dinner featured seasonal fare from our farm, paired with six different local beers.

 First Course ~ Cucumber Gazpacho paired with Goosetown. Featuring heirloom green and white cucumbers.

Second Course ~ Beet Carpaccio ~ beets & cucumbers, shaved red onions & arugula. Featuring Alternative Roots Farm heirloom beets and cucumbers with a balsamic reduction.

Between each meal Jace Marti talked about the beer pairings, Lacey talked about how she created her courses and John and I talked about the farm, and unique facts about our heirloom produce.

Third Course ~ Kale Ravioli with Heirloom Tomatoes ~ tender and delicious ravioli with kale, garlic, ricotta and lemon zest, dressed with a tomato-garlic sauce. Featuring Black Krim and Valencia heirloom tomatoes, and Red Russian heirloom kale. 

Chef Lacey dishin' it up and having a blast!

Fourth Course ~ Grilled Polenta ~ featuring an heirloom cornmeal polenta & a delightful sauce with mirepoix, heirloom tomatoes and peppers, rosemary & garlic

The tables were decorated with hops from the brewery, barley and blue glass wire ball jars from our farm and golden glasses of beer.

Fifth Course ~ Beet Sorbet ~ with a carrot coulis, apples and fresh mint. Paired with Black Forest Cherry, from the Noble Star Series - this was the release for this new beverage!

Sixth Course ~ Apple Tart ~ with caramel, cream and cinnamon. Featuring our early season Beacon apples, fresh homemade ice cream, by Lacey, and a caramel made with unhoped wort from the brewery. (Sorry I didn't get a picture, they disappeared fast!)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

CSA Week #10

Week #10 boxes introduced ground cherries, hot peppers and APPLES to the role call!

CSA News Week #10

In the Box: Salsa time! Green pepper, basil, snap beans, leeks, mixed heirloom tomatoes, carrots, beets, cabbage, kale, zucchini, green and white cucumbers, cilantro, Serrano hot peppers, ground cherries and 'Beacon' apples.

The first apples of the season! 

Packing CSA boxes.

Tasty carrots!

Tasty taters! We grow early, mid and late-season potatoes as a member-only crop.

Garlic Harvest & August Photos

While it has been great working in the cool of these strange summer days (as you home gardeners no doubt agree) we need some heat for those summer lovin' veggies! Tomatoes, peppers, melons, they all like the heat and you can see the positive response when we get it - foliage grows, yields increase.

Some harvest photos...

Our 'Winningstadt' cabbage grew huge this season! We have had several reports that it makes delicious cole slaw and have been enjoying the tasty slaw at home quite a bit as well.

We had some lovely visitors out to the farm! Harry and Jackie Hoch, of Hoch Orchards and Gardens (La Crescent, MN) stopped in. They have been fabulous mentors for us for the orchard, hogs and farming business.

Mmmmm, garlic. We have our best garlic year yet and we are so grateful for this! Two years ago there was a very widespread garlic disease, which meant no saving seed from the crop. We experienced some residual effects from that last year and decided to bring in new seed again...

This year we will be able to save our seed garlic! This saves us money and adds to our viability as a business and over time this seed will become adapted to our micro-climate, showing hardiness and vigor. Sweet!

Farm cat Ivan, enjoying the flowers?

John looking at the 'Honeycrisp' tree in our home orchard. It is looking bountiful this season!

Along with the garlic, our storage onions are curing. We tried a new method this season, where we remove the tops right away, in the field. It is working fabulously! It means more work up front, but it leaves the organic matter in the field, which we like. Plus it makes it much easier to lay them out.

It's a hard melon year for many farmers, it sounds like. Our farmer mentor was out at the farm on Saturday and Ben taught us a little more about melons, which was great, as they are a tricky crop in some ways and there is always more to learn about any crop! We have about 50% fruit set on our melons, but there will be melons to enjoy!

A look down the bean row. Beans have been amazing this season! We love cooking them in a foil pack on the grill.

The whole crew. We have said goodbye to ten of our herd, as they have moved on to new homes. Some left as feeder pigs, for folks to grow out and harvest. One of the sows and two of the gilts (unbred female) have left to nurture other herds. It was sad to say goodbye, but part of the process and they went to great homes.

A few photos from the farmers' market. We are the first certified organic vendor :)

And a little sneak peek at apple season...our 'Beacon' apples made it into boxes this week!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

CSA Week #9

We are so happy for that delightful rain! We managed to have 6/10ths here, with 2 inches just a couple miles away, but we'll take it. Now bring the heat! Here is a look at the Week #9 boxes.

CSA News Week #9

In the boxes: mixed fresh red and yellow onion bunch, mixed heirloom tomatoes, swiss chard, broccoli, 2 lbs mixed heirloom snap beans, carrots, 2.5 lbs 'Nicola' potatoes, green and white heirloom cucumbers. Half shares also received red and green cabbage.

Herb Boosters received: basil double bunch, lavender, parsley and sage.

Thursday, August 7, 2014


We are thrilled to announce that Alternative Roots Farm is now Certified Organic!!! Every apple picked this season will be organic!

We are so grateful to have reached this point, after our three year transitioning processes. Thank you to the Lakewinds Co-op Field Fund, for a grant to help defray the initial certification costs, as well as our numerous farmer friends and mentors that have been there for us when we have questions.

What does this mean?
This means that you know food produced at Alternative Roots Farm was grown in a manner that protects the soil and environment, with absolutely no synthetic, nasty chemicals, and no GMOs or treated seeds of any kind. We are dedicated and conscious about how we plan, plant, produce, harvest and maintain our vegetables and fruits.

What else was involved?
The last couple of steps, which happened over the last month, included a third-party inspection and a final review by our certifying agency, Midwest Organic Services Association (MOSA). After we submitted our Organic System Plan to MOSA they have the inspector come out and look at the farm, and orchard, go through the plan, verifying that what we have in the plan matches what is being done. The inspector then sent their report to MOSA, for final review.

The Organic System Plan details information on: soil fertility and conservation management (fertility inputs, natural resources conservation); seed and crop management (organic seed sourcing, crop rotation, weed/pest/disease management);  maintenance of organic integrity (buffer, equipment, harvest practices); marketing & labeling.

Over the last three years we have been maintaining the necessary records, some of which includes: where we looked for, and bought, seeds; all "inputs" that are applied to the field (fertilizer, pest control, etc); crop rotation and field maps. I can show you seed packets and catalogs for the last three years too!

That is the simplified explanation of the whole process, but it gives you a basic idea.

All the record-keeping, time and energy, fees and miscellaneous work is well worth the integrity of the organic label. It's a guarantee to our customers, it's honoring the land and it's a movement that we are so glad to be a part of.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

CSA Week #8

Monday boxes have been delivered and Wednesday is up next! Then the season will be halfway through. Summer bounty filled the boxes with beautiful color, texture, smells and, of course, taste!

CSA Newsletter Week #8

Tickets yet available for our Farm-to-Table Dinner with Schell's Brewery & Chef Lacey Leuth.

Week #8 CSA Box • August 4th, 2014
In the boxes: Cabbage - 1 large, 1 small, basil bunch, 1-1/2 lbs mixed snap beans, kale bunch, celery bunch, bunch of beets, trio of yellow onions, mixed heirloom tomatoes, 1 white & 1 green cucumber, zucchini summer squash, 1-1/2 lbs carrots, quartet of green peppers and 2 lbs potatoes (half shares).

Hazel was beating the heat with a nap, while I was packing boxes.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

A.R.F. In the News

There have been a few fun things going on lately!

First, John was interviewed this spring by about organic orchard management. Head over to for 7 Organic Fertilizers for a Fruitful Orchard.

Credit: Scott Streble
Credit: Scott Streble
Then last month John was interviewed about pollinators and cover crops for the University of Minnesota Extension fall issue of their Source Magazine. A professional photographer, Scott Streble, came out to the farm and orchard for a photo shoot (all photos are from that shoot). These are just some of the amazing shots, see more on our facebook page.

Credit: Scott Streble
Credit: Scott Streble 
Credit: Scott Streble
Credit: Scott Streble
Credit: Scott Streble
Credit: Scott Streble
Credit: Scott Streble
The magazine article will come out in the fall, a couple weeks ago John's mug was on the UofM Extension website :) Cool beans.

Apparently the photographer, Scott Streble, was taking pictures of Bill Clinton the week prior!