The Alleged Farm News – 9 October, 2014

This Weeks Share: Cucumber, Garlic, Kale, Kossak kohlrabi, Leeks, Lettuce, Onions, Peppers, Poblano hot pepper, Radishes, Satina potatoes, Tatsoi, Jester winter squash


I was a bit surprised to learn that some high schools in Aroostook County, Maine, still shut down for the potato harvest so the kids can work to bring in the crop. It seems awfully quaint, and maybe a bit stupid. Most of the rest of the country is coming to the conclusion that the school year needs to be longer, and up in potato country they are taking as much as three weeks off shortly after the start of the year to let the students do farm work. It does not sound like the kind of education policy that results in high test scores and advanced engineering skills. If we don’t prepare ours kids for the new technological realities we won’t ever rule the planet again, or even dominate video game programming.

Consider, however, all the largely pointless community service projects and internships that many schools require of their students. I don’t doubt that somewhere in America an eighteen-year-old is doing something amazing to help others in his community service or learning vital skills and providing invaluable input at her internship. And in principle, community service and internships are excellent things to do–things that we might consider forcing all American teenagers to spend a year or two at before we let them anywhere near college. But in fact they are mostly a waste of time for the kids and for the people the kids are meant to help. They seem to exist largely to lard college applications. I once interview a kid who spent one weekend day a month volunteering at a cat shelter. I asked if he was particularly fond of cats and he stared at me blankly as though I had made some completely irrelevant comment. Which I suppose in a way I had.

Compared to that, having the kids go out for three works of hard labor vital to their community seems not entirely unreasonable. I don’t know that potato harvesting per se has much to teach, unless you plan to be a potato farmer, which I would guess a certain number of kids in Aroostook County probably do. There’s not much else going on up there. But there’s plenty a kid of any age can learn from purposeful, tangible hard work. Maybe not so much about the holy trinity of science, technology and math. But about the habits–the application of effort, the willingness to stick with something when if gets hard and boring, the value of working with others to accomplish something significant–that are at least as likely to make you successful, fulfilled and useful to others.

I am not dissing school or book learning. I don’t particularly want to cross a bridge designed by someone who only knows about potato picking. Nor, however, do I particularly want to cross one designed by a highly trained engineer who lacks the self-discipline to see things through and takes price not in getting a job, but in doing a job.

Or maybe I am just blathering on, making up reasons to send kids outs in the fall to do field work because I would love to have a picking crew turn up and finish harvesting the potatoes.

Speaking of which, I hereby offer you the chance to be part of a picking crew that comes out to my farm and harvests potatoes. Not, I hasten to add, for three straight weeks (unless you want to do that). Just for an afternoon. More specifically, the afternoon of Sunday, October 26th, when we host our annual CSA open house/pot luck/pie contest. In addition to the potato picking (as if that weren’t enough), we will tour the farm, make cider, share a meal and, most importantly hold our annual pie contest. So get our your work boots and your best pie recipes and come join us on the 26th. Who knows what you will learn.


Vegetable notes: I cannot explain why the radishes are getting so large. Until the past couple of days we have had barely any rain for about a month. You’d think a radish would want at least a little moisture in order to grow. of course, these might be small. If it had rained they would be the size of the kohlrabi.

Speaking of which, they are actually supposed to be large. Kossak is a storage variety and allegedly they can get as big as 12 pounds. The biggest one I have ever grown was a mere 4 1/2 pounds, and we have picked these before they got even to that meager size–for which you may be grateful. Even big, however, they are still sweet and crisp, excellent eaten simply sliced and sprinkled with a little salt. Or you can dice your kohlrabi and toss it with yogurt, lemon juice, crushed garlic and mint. Or, since it is a storage variety, you can just put it away for a while.

The tatsoi (the head of dark green leaves on crisp stalks) is quite like bok choi and can be prepared in the same ways. It is also not bad raw mixed with other greens.