I’ve been trying to block the early-November freezes and the never-ending April rains out of my mind, because the growing season book ended by those less-than-ideal months was one of the best we have ever had. The crew has spent the last few weeks trying to stay one step ahead of record low temperatures. Everything we could cut was harvested and put up safe in a cooler, and what we couldn’t cut we covered with frost blankets, up to four layers deep! The results have been worth it, as we have abundant lettuce, kale, spinach, and chard, along with plenty of spuds, sweet potatoes, and a record crop of really nice butternut squash for late fall suppers and a local Thanksgiving spread.
As I look back on this year, one thing I am very grateful for is the great crew of people that helped us from first planting through the last clean up. Field manager Lauren Henderson-Tamowski coordinated the farm’s day-to-day operations, keeping everything from weekly lettuce planting to packing up the harvest going smoothly. This was Lauren’s first year as field manager, and she made it look easy. Lauren will be helping us navigate 2020 and we are thrilled to have her back.
This year’s apprentice crew was a great pleasure to work with. There is a fair bit of talk about the perceived short comings of the Millennial generation, but if those things are true, we saw little of it here. Dana Scott, Mady Dean, James Gilbert, and Connor Whitehouse showed up ready to work and made short work of the hundreds of tasks on the farm: spreading compost, prepping and planting fields, watering during the dry summer, and harvesting, harvesting, harvesting all summer and fall. We are thrilled to have Dana back for her third season on the farm, joined by Connor and James. We wish Mady luck as she moves over to The Hickories to see how they farm in Ridgefield.
Every year we have a few people jump on the farm crew that are here for most of the season and make a big contribution. Selenna Strother and Harry Solaski were super positive and fun to work with. Selenna will be back as an apprentice next season, and we’ll save some carrots for Harry to pull next June. Former apprentice Rae Moore cleaned up her farm and then helped us with the late fall harvest, a much appreciated boost. Elliott McGann left the farm in February after 7 seasons but missed the Fort Hill Farm vibe, so he brought his high energy work ethic back to the crew in July. Elliott assures us he is really, truly, leaving the farm in December.
One of the big reasons a small farm like Fort Hill can make it is that we have a dedicated crew of folks who work at our farm stands and the farmers’ markets. Kathy Scott and Faye Barry did an outstanding job of making our somewhat homely pole barn into an inviting and thriving farm stand, and we get a lot of positive feedback about their welcoming nature. Off the farm, we cannot say enough about the hardworking folks who make up our three market crews. They met us in all kinds of weather, and promptly hauled tents, tables, scales, and (literally) tons of vegetables off of our trucks. They also helped convey knowledge of the farm and produce to our customers. Thank you, Sarah Jaeger, Jalna Jaeger, Jon Jaeger, Jon Clemente, Chris Barker, Aidan Dougall, Eloise Barjak, Evan Barjak, Jodi Beckett, and Allyson Norkowski. We are deeply grateful for our on- and off-farm crew members, each of whom adds something unique to help make the farm succeed and thrive.
And most importantly, thanks to each of you who make a special trip to pick up Fort Hill Farm veggies through the CSA/farm stand, at a farmers’ market, or at New Morning Market. It’s worth repeating: our farm couldn’t exist without people like you who appreciate fresh, local, organic veggies. We appreciate your willingness to work with us as we deal with the special challenges created by organic growing in New England. We are encouraged by the positive comments throughout the season by eaters like you! We hope you’ll visit us at the New Milford and Westport Winter Farmers’ markets this winter and take advantage of our winter CSA discounts; please check our website, contact us to be put on our email list, and like us on Facebook for details.
We hope you enjoy the farm and the harvest,
Paul, Rebecca, and Lauren for the Fort Hill Farm crew
Available this week:
sweet winter spinach, head lettuce, curly green and lacinato kale, rainbow chard, collards, fresh herbs, green and red cabbage, red and chioggia beets, leeks, sweet Italian red peppers, jalapeño, cayenne, shishito, and poblano hot peppers, Blue Gold potatoes, Dark Red Norland potatoes, Fingerling potatoes, German Butterball potatoes, Satina Gold potatoes, Kennebec potatoes, Magic Molly potatoes, frozen baby ginger, baby boy choy, salad turnips, red radishes, radicchio, escarole, celeriac, fennel, parsnips, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, Gilfeather Turnips (rutabaga), German extra hardy garlic
more autumn and winter veggies at the winter markets!
Pick Your Own:
Fresh herbs: thyme, sage, oregano
*** Just like last year, CSA members may take a small (mixed or not) PYO herb bunch for free, one bunch per share per week! Please see sample sizes in the barn.
PYO begins 30 before and goes 30 minutes beyond barn hours.
Recipes, suggested by Rebecca Batchie. For more recipes, check out the Fort Hill Farm Recipe Database
Mama Voula’s Spanakopita
BY JOANN CIANCIULLI
YIELD: Serves 12 INGREDIENTS
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, preferably Greek, plus more for brushing 6 leeks, white and light green parts, chopped and well rinsed
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 1/2 pounds fresh baby spinach, rinsed and dried
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups crumbled firm feta cheese, preferably Greek
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh dill
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mint
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 frozen country-style filo sheets or puff pastry sheets (see Note), thawed but kept chilled
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Place a large skillet over medium-high heat and coat with the 3 tablespoons of oil. When the oil is hazy, add the leeks and garlic; cook and stir until fragrant and very so”, about 4 minutes. Add the spinach in handfuls, folding the leaves under with a spoon as you add each batch. Let the spinach wilt and cook down before adding more. Once all the spinach is in the pan, season with the pepper.
Remove from the heat and transfer the spinach mixture to a colander over the sink. Using the back of a spoon, gently press out all of the excess liquid. Set aside to cool; the filling needs to cool down a bit to prevent the dough from becoming soggy. Once the mixture is cool, add the feta, dill, mint, and eggs. Fold the ingredients together until well combined.
Brush the bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with oil. Working with 1 sheet at a time, lay the dough on a lightly floured surface and roll it out slightly to fit the pan. Line the bottom of the dish with the first piece of dough, pressing into the corners. Trim off any excess with a paring knife. Spread the spinach filling evenly over the dough. Cover with the second sheet of dough, trimming around the edges of the dish. Brush the top with oil.
Crunchy Winter-Vegetable Salad
By Chris Morocco via Bon Appetit
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 tablespoon thyme leaves
- ½ garlic clove, finely grated
- 4 cups ½–¾-inch pieces country-style bread
- Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
Dressing and Assembly
- ½ cup olive oil
- 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- ½ garlic clove, grated
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh tarragon, plus more for serving
- Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
- 1 head of Treviso or Chioggia radicchio, leaves coarsely torn
- 1 large head fennel, very thinly sliced
- 2 medium golden or red beets, very thinly sliced
- 8 small white turnips, trimmed, very thinly sliced
- 8 cups torn lettuce leaves (such as red oak or Little Gem)
- ½ cup pomegranate seeds
- Preheat oven to 350°. Mix oil, butter, thyme, and garlic in a small bowl. Scatter bread on a large rimmed baking sheet and drizzle oil mixture over. Toss, squeezing oil mixture into bread; season with salt and pepper.
- Bake, tossing occasionally, until croutons are golden brown and crisp, 20–22 minutes. Let cool.
- Do Ahead: Croutons can be made up to 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.
Dressing and Assembly
- Shake oil, vinegar, mustard, and garlic in a jar to combine. Add 2 tsp. tarragon; season dressing with salt and pepper.
- Toss radicchio, fennel, beets, turnips, and lettuce in a large bowl to combine. Drizzle dressing over and toss to coat; season with salt and pepper.
- Toss in croutons and pomegranate seeds and serve topped with more tarragon.
- Do Ahead: Dressing can be made 3 days ahead; cover and chill. Vegetables can be sliced 1 day ahead; cover and chill.