Meet Our Crew: Jen Malkoun

Jen Malkoun has joined the Blooming Glen Farm crew as Assistant Farm Manager, an important year-round position here at the farm. As we describe in our employee manual, the assistant farm manager works closely with the farm owners, Tom and I, to ensure the daily functioning of the farm. She’s our third arm, and after just a few months, we already feel like she’s family. Besides being an amazing crew leader, a thoughtful encouraging person, and a curious and intentional farmer, she’s an excellent writer- as you’ll see from her answers to the following questions I asked her. We are thrilled to have her on board and we hope you’ll help us welcome her to Perkasie and Blooming Glen Farm.  

How did you get into farming- what are some of the paths in your life that led to a life of soil.

Although it was just four years ago, it’s hard for me to draw a direct path from memory. I have always been engaged in and drawn to work that seeks to address social and/or economic disparities, but to be honest, agriculture was never a part of that equation. I grew up in Media, located in Delaware County. I went to college just outside of Baltimore and studied sociology and peace studies. While in college I was fortunate enough to intern with the Philadelphia-based non-profit The Food Trust, and was able to work on incredibly illuminating research around food access within the city. So, in a way, my path to farming began with action research in an urban setting.

After graduating, I spent a few years doing the young-professional thing in Philly, but felt incredibly unfulfilled in both the nature of the work and the cubicle environment. Around the same time I was beginning to read more about health and nutrition and explore our food system. I surrounded myself with the voices and writings of Vandana Shiva, Wendell Berry, and Eric Holt-Gimenez and learned of the brilliant and self-reliant organizing of communities as they sought to secure access to healthy, nutritious and affordable food, and reconnect with the source of their health.

These examples inspired something inside of me that had been stirring: I began to draw broader connections among the well-being of our communities, the health of our landscapes and how and by what means our food is grown and distributed. I quickly learned just how powerful agriculture is in our every day lives and the potential it has for creating unity, beauty and inspiration. But, to a great extent, these revelations were theoretical.

I decided that if I was to advocate for a change in our industrialized and disconnected food system, I had to know what it meant to actually do the work. So, I left my office job and life in the city and set out to see what this agriculture thing was all about. While the journey may have been sparked by rather romantic ideals about social and environmental change, I find myself here four years later, the path still unfolding and the discoveries ever more rich and diverse with each season.

What has kept you farming- what are some of the joys and what are some of the challenges?

So very many things have kept me on this train – some being both joys and challenges. Farming by nature is unnatural, yet in order to be sustainable (meaning farming that can be, as Wendell Berry describes, ‘continued indefinitely because it conforms to the terms imposed upon it by the nature of places and the nature of people’), farmers must learn from and work in concert with nature. This, by its very means demands humility and what sometimes feels like an unending reservoir of patience.

I am constantly humbled by the work, always learning new things and discovering just how little I know. Farming also brings to the fore the utter fragility of life: what is here today could very well be gone tomorrow, wiped out by extreme weather patterns, pests or disease. Despite this fragility, or perhaps more accurately, balancing out this delicately temporal reality is the strongly innate drive of all living things to survive. It’s something we say a lot in the fields and the greenhouses: things want to live! It’s truly an incredibly awe inspiring process to observe and be a part of.

I have also found that farming pushes people to tap into an inner strength, to uncover what they are capable of, both physically and mentally. Tasks that are seemingly insurmountable are accomplished by teamwork, collaboration and strategy. There’s more science, intuition, creativity, teamwork and collaboration in farming than any other field I’ve every worked.

If there’s one thing that has kept me going it’s the possibility that each season brings to build and reaffirm community.  It is truly the kind of community that I have longed for, the connection to one another and to the land. Although farming can be repetitive, it’s never the same because each day is unique and we have to account for that and move our plans with rather than against it.

Farming is essentially at its root about growing food. Tell us about your relationship with food.

Food was always a big part of my childhood. With an Italian-American mother and a father who emigrated to the U.S. from Lebanon, we always celebrated around the dinner table. 

Anything you want to share about your life beyond farming- your hobbies and interests?

I’m drawn to learning more about the nutritional and medicinal properties of food and am beginning to truly understand the meaning of food as medicine. I love the mountains and find refuge in parks with lots of trees. I am capable of eating an entire watermelon in one sitting and am perfectly content to do just that every single day that they are in season. 

What specifically drew you to Blooming Glen Farm, any thoughts on being a part of this community and this farm?

Honestly, the genuineness of both Tom and Tricia and their dedication to continuing to build a successful and sustainable farm business. I wanted to learn how two farmers made the successful leap from working for others to operating their own business. In the short months that I’ve been with BGF, I’ve already learned so much about running a farm business, but equally as important, they have taught me how to find and hold the balance between serious dedication and letting go and having fun.

Post and photos by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner.

Posted in Crew profiles

Beet Berry Soup

All throughout the day, CSA members surrounded my demo table with pink smiles and mmm’s of amazement that beets and berries lived so harmoniously together in one silky pot of goodness. This recipe is so simple to make and can easily be adapted with different juices or fruit. Freeze in popsicle forms for the little ones, or make it into ice cubes for a great addition to smoothies.  The sweet strawberry flavor is balanced by the earthiness of the beets. And the color, well it just can’t be beat!

Beet Berry Soup, serves 4

3 to 4 small beets
2 cups berry juice 
juice of 2 oranges
1 kohlrabi
1/2 cup yogurt
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 cup fresh strawberries

Rinse and drain strawberries, toss with the honey in a bowl and let sit to release their juices. Boil beets and let cool. Peel and set aside. In a blender add the beets, yogurt, chopped and peeled kohlrabi, orange and lemon juice. Drain the berries of their juices reserving the liquid and adding liquid to blender. Blend on high until smooth. Chill. Garnish with the macerated berries and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

Recipe written by Kristin Moyer, Farm Chef Educator at Blooming Glen Farm and passionate farm-fresh food advocate. Kristin cooks at The Perk in Perkasie, does private catering and serves on the Pennridge Wellness Committee, working to create edible school yards in Pennridge School District. Together with Blooming Glen Farm she hopes to someday start a Community Supported Kitchen at the farm.

Photos and post by Tricia Borneman.

Posted in Recipes

Garlic Scapes and Beneficial Bugs

This week we are transitioning from the harvest of green garlic to garlic scapes. The scapes are the flowering tops of the stiff-neck garlic plants. They make a delicious side dish on their own.  My favorite way to enjoy them is tossed in olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper and grilled on low heat until carmelized. Snapping off the scapes promotes bulb growth of the garlic. With a half an acre planted, our crew will have quite the aroma of garlic about them after snapping all those scapes!

Blooming Glen’s lettuce of choice was featured in Bon Appetit magazine, Why the Foodist Loves Little Gem.”  We fell for its crisp crunchy texture and sweet flavor- a sort of combination butter head and romaine. It’s relatively easy to grow, and in demand by local chefs. The leaves are perfect- snap them off from the base, until you get to the lovely heart at the center. It’s great in sandwiches, salads, try it halved and grilled, or use the leaves as scoops for your favorite filling, as Chef Kristin did in last weeks demo. You can find this lettuce in your CSA share and on our farm market stands.

6/17/14, share #3

Out in the fields we’ve been dealing with a lot of insect pressure. Our greenhouse and field tomatoes have been covered in red aphids. We ordered a beneficial insect to help us out called aphidius colemani. Don’t worry, these parasitic wasps are about the size of a gnat and won’t sting humans. They will however sting and lay eggs in its aphid victim. We don’t mess around when it comes to our tomatoes! We’ve seen good results in the greenhouse tomatoes. Now we have 7,500 on their way to be released in the field.

The field potatoes are coming along beautifully. With all the rain over the past month we were lucky we didn’t suffer any major losses. We have heard of a few local CSAs who lost their entire crops from rot. We have an early planting that we did on beds of black mulch to capture more heat. We did lose probably 30% of those. However the field potatoes are on some of our better draining ground. Between the rains we were able to hill and cultivate, and with just the ends of the beds having washed out in the downpours, they seem fully recovered.

We hope to harvest one of Farmer Tom’s favorite crops, new potatoes, for you within the next 3 weeks!

Post and photos by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner.

Posted in Weekly Share

Turnip the Dirt: A Kids Farm View

Strawberries are here, no need to fear!! As red and ripe as they are, they are almost through their season. Soon we will say goodbye to strawberries for the year. Strawberries for our markets are picked from the field at sunrise. From our CSA share, the members go into the strawberry field and pick for themselves. Strawberries do not just come and go in the blink of an eye. The plants produce strawberries and their flowers continue to bloom and turn into strawberries. Hurray for strawberries!

My mom makes Strawberry Shortcake every strawberry season. It is so delicious. Here is the recipe.

Strawberry Shortcake
Serves 8 (modify for less)

6 cups strawberries, rinsed, hulled and quartered
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoons salt
12 tablespoons cold (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces.
2 cups heavy cream
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375. In a medium bowl, toss the strawberries with 3/4 cup sugar; let sit to bring out the juices.

In a food processor, pulse flour, baking powder, 1/2 cup sugar, and the salt until combined. Add butter, and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal but with some pea-size bits of butter remaining, 10-12 times. In a medium bowl whisk together 1/2 cup cream and the eggs; pour over flour mixture, and pulse until some large clumps begin to form, 25-30 times.

Using a half-cup measuring cup, gently pack dough, invert, and then tap out into a baking sheet. Repeat to form 8 biscuits. Bake until lightly golden, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool, about 15 minutes.

Beat remaining 1 1/2 cups cream and 2 tablespoons sugar with the vanilla until soft peaks form.

Slice biscuits in half horizontally. Spoon strawberries and their liquid over bottom halves. Spoon whipped cream on strawberries, and replace top halves of biscuits.

Recipe courtesy of MarthaStewart.com

Written by Dakota, a 9 year old farm girl who loves to chase her chickens, read books, ride her bike and cuddle with her dog. Her favorite thing about growing up on a farm is getting to eat the food that grows right outside her door. Photo by Tom Murtha. 

Posted in Recipes

Raw Veggie Hash with Green Garlic Vinaigrette in a Lettuce Bundle

Today on the farm we had our first chef demo and tasting during CSA pick up. We look forward to building deeper more intimate relationships with each other and the food.

After many months of winter, I always find myself needing Spring on so many levels. As the anticipation heightens so does the influx of Spring inspired recipes.

Most recipes can easily be adapted to suit personal preference or convenience, thanks to the internet. Get creative! Most likely, if you can imagine it, you can find help creating it online. My personal Spring inspiration for recipe design comes from my love and adoration of nature’s unadulterated perfection. I am not a raw chef, or even a vegetarian chef, but let’s face it, Spring is the time to eat RAW. So let’s do it….!

Raw Veggie Hash with Green Garlic Vinaigrette in a Lettuce Bundle

For the Hash:
2 kohlrabi, peeled and diced small
1/2 bunch radish, diced small
2 beets, peeled and diced small
2 cups total beet greens, kale and escarole, chopped fine
1 cup cooked grains of your liking: for example, barley, rye berries, rice, kamut
salt and pepper
Lettuce leaves, whole, for serving

For the Vinaigrette:
2 stalks green garlic, sliced thin
2 stalks spring onion, sliced thin
1 bulb of fennel, fronds removed, finely sliced
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
1 T honey
fresh herbs

Dice the kohlrabi, beets and radish and place in a bowl. Chiffonade greens (cut into long, thin strips) and set aside.

Heat oil in a saute pan on medium and add sliced green garlic, spring onion and fennel.

Cook 10 minutes stirring frequently until they are very tender and sweet. Add the vinegar and reduce for 3 to 5 minutes or until the mixture looks and smells happy. Remove from heat and stir in honey.

At this point any fresh herbs such as tarragon, marjoram, lemon thyme, basil etc, can be folded in. Whole grain mustard is also a nice addition when making any vinaigrette. For the sake of spring simplicity, I left it out.

Toss the warm vinaigrette with the diced veggies. Fold in greens and grains. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve in lettuce leaves. If making ahead of time, I suggest keeping the beets separate as they will bleed into the salad and make everything pink. Enjoy!

Few rituals are as sacred as that of feeding ourselves and our families. Consciously connecting to the land, the sun and the harvest opens our hearts and strengthens our bodies, minds and spirits. Carry with you, from the farm to your table, joy and presence with every bite.

Post written by Kristin Moyer, Farm Chef Educator at Blooming Glen Farm and passionate farm-fresh food advocate. Kristin cooks at The Perk in Perkasie, does private catering and serves on the Pennridge Wellness Committee, working to create edible school yards in Pennridge School District. Together with Blooming Glen Farm she hopes to someday start a Community Supported Kitchen at the farm.

Photos by Tricia Borneman.

Posted in Recipes

Picking peas; Trellising tomatoes

This week’s share sees the addition of beautiful pick-your-own sugar snap peas. The vines are loving all the steady rain and cool nights. The peas are prolific and sweet. This is the variety of pea where you eat both the pea and pod- no shelling required. I love them sauteed in a little butter with spring onions- just until tender and bright green.

6/10/14, share #2

Each year brings us new faces to the farm crew, and over the past 9 seasons we’ve had probably 50 or more employees pass through here in some capacity. There’s something special about this years group. The season is in full swing and we are hitting our stride. It truly feels like a team effort. Maybe we are becoming better managers, but this group also brings a level of enthusiasm, respect and commitment that really shines. Each and every one of them is doing amazing work on the farm, every day, for long hours. Hard, dirty, tiring, and rewarding work.

Tomatoes are being trellised, hundreds and thousands both in the greenhouse and in the field. The sweet potatoes, winter squash and second planting of watermelons and cantaloupes went into the ground over the past two weeks.

Trellising heirloom tomatoes in the greenhouse; planting sweet potato slips.

The weeds are officially growing, and fast, so we move en masse through sections of crops, weeding by hand around the vegetables, and using the cultivating tractor to weed the aisles. All the while we harvest, 5 out of 7 mornings a week, and fit in the field work in the afternoons. It’s a juggling act, but one we do out of a shared love for growing good food. And there is nothing more rewarding then seeing your smiling faces, your baskets loaded with fresh veggies headed for your kitchens and your stomachs.

Post and photos by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner.

Posted in Weekly Share

Macerated Strawberry Salad

We were lucky to pick a quart of perfect strawberries at this season’s first share pickup — yum!  These pretty, plump berries aren’t just nice to look at: One cup of them offers nearly 150% of the daily recommended allowance of Vitamin C and 29% of manganese, both powerful antioxidants that protect our bodies from free radical damage.  They also offer a healthy dose of dietary fiber, needed for everything from blood sugar maintenance to happy digestion.  Finally, strawberries have an “amazing combination of phytonutrients,” including anthocyanins, ellagitannins, flavonols, terpenoids, and phenolic acids, which help prevent unwanted inflammation.

Although it’s tempting to pop all of the berries right into my mouth, I was able to refrain from that temptation and save them for the salad below.  Feel free to use any combination of the greens that you have on hand from this week’s share.

Macerated Strawberry Salad

Ingredients
Macerated Strawberries:
1 cup strawberries, sliced into quarters
3 tbs balsamic vinegar
1 tbs fresh lemon juice
1 tbs brown sugar
Splash of vanilla extract

1-1/2 to 2 cups greens, chopped (kale and red lettuce are pictured)
Squeeze of lemon juice
Salt
2 tbs sunflower seeds
Balsamic vinegar

Method
In a small bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, brown sugar, and vanilla. In a larger bowl, add the strawberries, and pour the balsamic mixture over top. Let the fruit marinate for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Drain the berries from the marinade.

Note: If you are using lettuce and/or spinach, you can skip this step, which is to soften up tougher greens, such as kale. Place chopped greens into a bowl, squeeze on a bit of lemon juice and/or balsamic vinegar, and add a little salt. Massage the greens, so they’re coated. Let stand until strawberries are ready.

Pour drained berries onto greens, and sprinkle with sunflower seeds.  Add balsamic vinegar to taste.

Post Sources:
Nutrition Data
The World’s Healthiest Foods

Post and photos by Mikaela D. Martin: Blooming Glen CSA member since 2005, board-certified health counselor, and co-founder of Guidance for Growing, an integrative wellness practice in Souderton. Read more about healthy eating and living on her site, http://guidanceforgrowing.com!

Posted in Recipes Tagged , , , ,

First CSA share of the season

The first CSA share of the season was harvested today. Now it can finally feel like winter has passed! For the farm crew it is rewarding to see all the smiling strawberry-stained faces after the months of planting and preparation leading up to this point. The energy of the farm widens to embrace the CSA community.

Each Tuesday we will post a photo of the share here on the blog, labeled with crop names, just in case you get home and forget what you have.

6/3/14, share #1

Many of you may have had the chance to meet our new CSA greeter, Sandi Viscusi. Sandi will be keeping the pick-up room stocked and bountiful, and will be available to answer any of your questions during CSA pick-ups.  She’s happy to offer you cooking tips as well, should you need them, or point you in the direction of the pick-your-own crops.

We’re looking forward to a wonderful season here at the farm!

Post and photos by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner.

Posted in Weekly Share

What’s the Buzz?

With just a few weeks to go to the start of CSA pickup, thousands of tiny residents from Blooming Glen Farm have been hard at work. Not your typical Carhartt clad farm workers, these foraging buzzing honeybees are contributing to the effort just the same, helping pollinate the strawberries, vegetable crops and various flowers around the farm.  Justin Seelaus and Lexi Berko, our residential beekeepers, have been frequently checking the newly established and revamped apiary on the property to promote healthy and sustainable growth on the farm.

As the next generation of beekeepers, Justin and Lexi practice Treatment/ Chemical Free Beekeeping, as well as provide our honey bees’ access to flowers, fruits and vegetables grown by organic processes. This in turn results in healthy and hardier bees with chemical free honey. By using Treatment Free Beekeeping, our beekeepers encourage our bees to use their natural bee biology, promoting natural habits and responses to typical environmental stresses.  In addition, we have introduced diverse genetics from New World Carniolan Honeybees, Apis mellifera carnica, which provide the gentleness and honey production of a typical Italian Honey bee, with disease resistance and hygienic behaviors favored in Treatment Free Beekeeping.

More traditional beehives to the left and center; yellow top bar hive to the right.

Finally, the latest addition to our apiary is our very first Top Bar Beehive.  This new style of beehive is gaining in popularity by allowing beekeepers to inspect their hives with minimal invasiveness to the colony. And just as important, the design is also easier on the beekeeper, as it eliminates the need to lift extemely heavy honey-filled boxes. The design follows that of a typical trough with a series of bars placed over the top, spaced evenly to account for bee space and inspected weekly to ensure proper comb construction. In the Top Bar Beehive, the bees are not provided with foundation (a wax guide to build comb), so they must build it from scratch, allowing a more hygienic system of beekeeping.

A frame from the Top Bar Beehive, with comb built entirely by the bees.

With all these recent additions to the apiary and new practices in beekeeping, thousands of bees on the property have been busy collecting the first spring nectar and pollen flow this year has to offer.  As you walk around the farm in the upcoming months, gathering flowers or eating strawberries, please take the time to thank the honeybees for helping us with even the smallest of tasks.

We will continue to provide you updates as our apiary grows and expands in the upcoming months! If you have any questions about the bees on the farm, or have questions about beekeeping in general, feel free to contact our beekeepers Justin Seelaus or Lexi Berko. Justin Seelaus:  jcseelaus@gmail.com and Lexi Berko berko.alexa@gmail.com.

Post written by Blooming Glen Farm crew members and amateur beekeepers, Justin Seelaus and Lexi Berko, both recent graduates of Delaware Valley College. Beekeeping photos provided by Justin Seelaus; flower photos by Tricia Borneman.

Posted in On The Farm

First CSA pick-ups scheduled!

The first CSA pick-ups of the season will be the first week of June: Tuesday June 3rd and Thursday June 5th. For half shares, this is week A. Week B will start Tuesday June 10th and Thursday June 12th. (*Full shares come every week, half shares come every other week on their designated week: A or B). New members, please read over the CSA Rough Guide so you are prepared for your first trip to the farm. Delivery shares to Doylestown Presbyterian Church will begin Friday June 27th. *There is still space available for the CSA so please help us spread the word.

The past two weeks have been crazy busy. The farm season feels like it kicked into high gear and we are full steam ahead.  We survived the torrential donpours in May that brought almost 5 inches of rain to the farm over just a few hours. It was an anxious day, watching topsoil flow by in a river of muddy water, but despite some potatoes washing out of their hills, for the most part the crops seem to have weathered the wet weather.

Our crew is a flurry of stamina, enthusiasm and bustling activity, working long days to make up for the late winter of cold and wet weather that seems to finally have ended. We’ve been seeding, tilling, making beds, transplanting, cultivating, moving row covers, trellising, mowing, building a high tunnel, marketing and more!

High Tunnel Construction

It’s hard to believe less than a month ago the temperature dropped down to a freezing 19 degrees!

Planting onions- 3 rows to a bed, 6 inches apart.

The list of vegetables in the ground is long and growing. The spring crops are sizing up: head lettuce, sugar snap peas, bok choy, cabbages, fennel, beets, kohlrabi, spring onions, kale, arugula, broccoli raab and more…the summer crops are going in and growing quickly: potatoes, summer squash, onions, cucumbers, beans, sweet corn, field and greenhouse tomatoes.

Transplanting grafted heirloom tomatoes and tatsoi.

The strawberries are looking lush and green. Tom counted over 30 blossoms on just one plant. It won’t be long before we are all enjoying these sweet tasty fruits!

The farm is a vibrant dynamic organism, beyond just the soil and crops. Tom and Jen must keep the crew moving in what seems like ten different directions at once- getting folks trained and confident in so many different tasks requires organization and delegation on our part. It takes a group effort to make this farm function.

We are constantly looking for new ways to be more efficient and more sustainable. One way we have found is to empower folks in our crew with specific responsibility such as cultivation manager, tractor operator, or greenhouse propagation manager. Jared, who joins us with his partner Cheyenne from Wisconsin, is our new irrigation manager. He will be responsible for learning drip tape installation and repair, as well as following a complex watering schedule. With over 35 acres of crops this is no small job!

Drip tape irrigation tutorial.

Another way to achieve better efficiency is to look at existing tasks with creativity. A new technique discovered this season is to use the drip tape winder to remove and roll up remay from the field.  Dealing with the huge rolls of white cloth that we use as both a frost, wind and insect barrier is no easy task. It was a eureka moment!

We are often asked what’s new for this season. New crops, new greenhouses, new crew- these all apply, but the one thing we are super excited about is the addition of Farm Chef Educator Kristin Moyer. Not only will the farm crew enjoy the fruits of our labor in delicious field-to-table lunches prepared by Kristin twice a week, but you, our farm community, will get to enjoy the recipes from these meals that Kristin will post on the blog.

Chef Kristin will be at the farm doing demos and tastings during CSA pick-ups two weeks a month- she’ll be available to answer your questions and share her cooking tips and techniques. She is also planning an evening cooking class series, as well as a children’s drop-in cooking club during CSA pick-ups. We are committed to supporting you, our community of eaters, in your journey of cooking and enjoying fresh seasonal produce!

Post and photos by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner. Additional photos contributed by Tom Murtha.

Posted in On The Farm