Thursday, July 16, 2009

Orange Oxhearts in the Morning Sun

These are one of my favorites-they are so tasty and just massive.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Avocado Summer Salad

Because it's so important to eat your greens, and because your garden will provide you with an abundance of lettuce in no time at all, you'll need lots of different salad recipes to mix things up. The same old lettuce, tomato and carrot salad, while very tasty, won't cut the mustard week after week.

One of our favorite salad ingredients is avocado. Not only is it one of the most nutritional fruits out there, but it's silky texture helps emulsify the salad dressing, creating a rich meal all on its own.

In this variation, we used fresh corn cut off the cob (although canned or frozen corn kernels would work just as well), diced avocado and cucumber to compose a refreshing summer salad.

1 head lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces - red leaf, green leaf, butter lettuce or any other variety will do
kernels cut from 2 boiled or steamed sweet corn cobs (or use 1 can of canned corn kernels or 2 cups defrosted frozen corn)
1 English cucumber or 2 pickling cucumbers, diced
1 large, ripe Hass avocado
4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1-2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar, to taste
salt and pepper

To prepare the avocado, slice the fruit in half around the pit. Twist the halves to separate, then carefully remove the pit -- gently tap the pit with the blade of your knife, then twist the avocado half and pit in opposite directions to loosen and remove. Scoop the avocado out of the skin with a spoon, making sure to keep the flesh in one piece. You can now easily dice the flesh into 1/4-inch pieces.

Combine lettuce, corn, cucumber and avocado in a large bowl. Whisk together oil, vinegar and mustard in a small bowl. Once the dressing is combined, drizzle over the salad and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Optional additional ingredients: crumbled feta cheese, shaved parmeggiano cheese, halved cherry tomatoes, toasted pine nuts, golden raisins or fresh herbs. If you think of other combinations, or if you have a great salad recipe, please send it to us at We might feature it on the Yard Farmer blog to share with everyone!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Summer Solstice Festival

Last Sunday was the longest day of the year-it really was. And there was no better way to celebrate that than attending the 1st annual Summer Solstice Festival at the Wild Oats Garden. There was so much to do. We started off with some amazing dishes by fellow gardener Chef Paul Buchanan's Primal Alchemy Catering. Then of course we entered the "Guess the Weight of the Zucchini Contest" -something we are naturally good at. We visited the new heritage chickens and enjoyed some amazing live music . The Wild Oats Garden is administered by the non-profit Long Beach Organic and is truly a remarkable example of a community run operation.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Chard Recipes Part One: Mac and Cheese

With chard and other leafy vegetables comes that inevitable question: if I don't put it in a salad or saute it, what can I do with it? Thankfully, chard (swiss, rainbow and other cultivars of this leafy green) is actually a pretty versatile vegetable.

We're going to give you a few different recipes that show you what you can cook with chard. Just remember that you don't necessarily have to eat it by itself - it's great when combined with fish, lamb and a range of other vegetables.

Chard Recipe 1: Mac and Cheese With Chard

First off, chard goes really well with cheeses and white sauces. One basic recipe that the kids will probably like is mac and cheese. Of course if you're actually interested in how your food tastes, you won't want to just mix a box of Kraft mac and cheese with some chopped chard and call it a day. Thankfully, mac and cheese is a pretty straightforward recipe, even when made from scratch.


6 tbsp butter or 3 tbsp butter and then 3 tbsp canola oil
1/2 large onion, diced
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3 cups 2% milk
4 cups of grated cheese (gouda or smoked gouda are good, so are some Italian cheeses, like pecorino romano, etc., I'll talk more about cheese in a bit)
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 to 1 1/2 lbs. swiss chard, rinsed, ribs removed
12 oz. elbow macaroni (penne and rotelli work well, too)
1 cup of breadcrumbs
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1/4 tsp smoked spanish paprika (optional)
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Before we get started, let's talk about cheese. For this recipe, you can use a wide range of cheeses and it's probably a good idea to experiment to find out what you and your family likes to eat. Gouda, swiss, parmigiano reggiano, pecorino romano, Monterey jack, muenster, sharp cheddar, etc. are all good cheeses to use. It's actually not a bad idea to mix two cheeses, for example one sharper cheese and one milder one, say gouda and sharp cheddar, or pecorino romano and mozzarella, to get a more interesting flavor for your mac and cheese.

Directions: First, heat 3 tbsp of butter or oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the diced onion, then the flour and garlic, and saute those ingredients until the garlic and onions become translucent. Gradually whisk in the milk and bring the mixture to a boil (should take a few minutes). Add half (2 cups) of your grated cheese and stir it until the cheese is melted into the mixture.

Next, add the spices you like. If you're going to add nutmeg, you probably don't want to add the smoked paprika. If you to give your mac and cheese a smoky flavor, though (for example if you used smoked gouda as the cheese), I would add the smoked paprika and forgo the nutmeg. Cayenne adds heat and will work with nutmeg without affecting the flavor too much, but use the spice only if your family likes a spicier mac and cheese. Good spice combos are nutmeg and black pepper or smoked paprika and cayenne.

Next, grease a 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass baking dish and pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Then, while you're cooking the cheese sauce, start a pot of boiling water. Add the chard to the boiling water and cook it for about a minute (until it's tender but not overly wilted). Remove the chard and let it cool. Bring the water back to a boil so you can re-use it to cook the pasta. Drain the pasta once it's cooked and add it immediately to the cheese sauce. Stir it all together.

Chop the chard up into small strips. Pour about a third of the mixture into the baking dish and sprinkle half of the chard onto the first third. Also add 1 cup of the remaining cheese. Next, add the second third of the pasta/cheese mixture and add the rest of the chard to it. Lastly, add the final third of the pasta/cheese mixture and sprinkle the remaining cheese as well as the breadcrumbs on top. Bake the mixture for 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and then let cool for 10-15 minutes.

Note that this recipe is also pretty good with sausage of some kind added to the mixture. If you do decide to add sausage, cook it first (boil it if you want to make it somewhat healthier), dice it into small pieces and then add it right before you bake this dish when you're pouring the pasta/cheese mixture into the pan. Chicken sausage is a good substitute if you want to make this recipe slightly healthier. Divvy the chopped sausage into thirds and add it in layers along with the chard so you don't end up with a sausage layer by itself.

This dish probably serves 4-5 normal people, maybe 3 really hungry people. This recipe was adapted from a May 2009 recipe from Bon Appetit magazine (the cheese types, sausage and spicing suggestions are original additions).

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Gardening Game for Nintendo DS

This isn't for everybody, obviously, but I just found out that there's a spin off of another popular Nintendo DS game series (Cooking Mama) that now has a gardening version called Gardening Mama. Although a lot of the game looks fairly cartoony and simplified, the game is a cute intro to the idea of gardening. Anyway, just thought this would be fun for kids who own a DS who are into video games (or adults like me who still play video games). Of course the best way to get kids into gardening is to actually get out into the garden with them and have them plant something, but for rainy days and family vacations, this is pretty cool. Also, let's face it, kids play video games a lot these days, so if they're going to play anyway, directing them to games more like these is a good idea. Check out the link above when you get a chance.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Mighty Container Garden

Spring is in the air and its time to get those peppers, tomatoes and zucchini seedlings in the ground. You might feel left out if you're lacking ground to plant in (by that we mean soil), but fear not! The Yard Farmer has an innovative solution for those with unused patio and balcony space -the container garden.

A well-managed container garden can help take a sizable chunk out of the
produce bill, and as our pictures can attest, the Yard Farmer is able to grow organic produce for you and/or your family even in living areas without a back yard or a large area for growing fruit and vegetables. We offer a variety of custom gardening solutions, as you can see from the pictures here.

In this garden we've planted freckled loose leaf lettuce, romaine, red velvet and mesclun lettuce, tomatoes, swiss chard, radishes, carrots, manzano peppers, bell peppers and "California Wonderful" peppers, spinach, bush beans, white sweet corn, broccoli and cantaloupe, just in this small space.

Also, using drip irrigation connected to a unique resevoir system, we're able to reduce the amount of water normally required to grow plentiful amounts of produce, and even less than is used in many kitchen gardens.

We'll keep you updated on how our balcony gardens are doing throughout the warm, summer growing season. If you're interested in Yard Farmer's balcony garden solutions for your space, please contact us at theyardfarmer at

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Earth Week!

Many thanks to everyone at the CSULB Environmental Policy Club for inviting us to their Earth Week event. We meet a lot of nice folks and exchanged some great ideas.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

What to do with all that local produce...

I found an entertaining article on today about one woman's experience with her CSA. Although author Catherine Price said she's a big fan, she said she often feels guilty about not using some of the produce she gets. Here's a link to the article itself: The Locavore's Dilemma.

As humans, our biology dictates that we get tired of eating the same thing, over and over again, so it's natural to experience some "dietary fatigue," especially during the winter months in California, where, if you're trying to eat locally, you end up with a lot of different broccoli dishes.

In Southern California, we're very much blessed with a climate that's conducive to growing a variety of fruits and vegetables year-round. Although that's a great thing about living here, our access to that range of great local produce, and all those supermarkets, makes us pretty spoiled when it comes to our dietary choices. When I start getting tired of the produce selection I have access to locally, though, I think back to my childhood when the only kind of salad I knew of had four ingredients: iceberg lettuce, cucumber, carrot slices and cherry tomatoes. In the summer to shake things up we'd add some sliced bell peppers.

Now I'm not saying that in the middle of winter you should force broccoli on your family day-in, day-out. But I think the author of that article has a real point in that trying to "cover up" vegetables with sauces and bizzare ingredients when you're experiencing "dietary fatigue" can actually make you sick of them faster than if you had used them in recipes that make them a central ingredient. Her conclusion was that she was really trying too hard to be creative with her vegetables and decided instead to focus on recipes that "complemented and highlighted" their natural flavors. Of course if you want to put broccoli stem slices on your ice cream to "liven things up," who are we to stop you?

A couple of things about Yard Famer with respect to this topic. First, our customers all prefer different types of fruits and vegetables. Because of this fact, the more customers we have, and the more local produce we're growing, the wider the range of produce we can offer customers in the Yard Farmer network.

Second, if you're getting sick of something, please let James or Noah know. Part of Yard Farmer's service is to provide (within the limits of the climate and growing season) what you and your family are interested in eating. James will be happy to tell you about your seasonal options. It does take time (sometimes a long time) to grow new fruits and vegetables, so if you are interested in some specific things for a given season, contact James or Noah well in advance, and I mean months, of when you want to be eating something.

Third, we're going to be posting more recipes on here in the future ourselves, but if you have any types of produce you'd like to know how to cook, let us know, and we'll test some recipes and post the results here on the Yard Farmer blog.

Next up will be a couple of recipes, so stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Gone With The Lawn

You've probably heard that California has entered into a state of drought. Gov. Schwarzenegger has declared a state of emergency, meaning that water rationing could begin in towns and cities that can't reduce their current water usage by 20%. The Long Beach Water Department has been extremely progressive over the past decade in consistently reducing the amount of water we use each year -- but there is more work to do.

You don't need Yard Farmer to convince you that lawns are out of style. Everyone knows that water-thirsty lawns bring with them the attendant noisy lawn mowers, leaf blowers, and weed whackers that destroy the peace and quiet and spew pollution. Plus we could be using the same space to grow a ton of organic produce in a far more efficient manner than most conventional farms.

We have developed some cool techniques for removing lawns but there still is no way to take the hard work aspect out of "sod busting." First we bust the sod and remove as much grass as possible with our shovels and our best tools (our hands). Then we cover the area with trimmed palm fronds or mulch from local tree trimmers to keep the grass from coming back.

At this point, it's best leave the land dry for 4 to 6 weeks to allow the sod roots to break down. After we are ready to start watering again, the mulch and compost gives the soil high water retention and our programmed drip irrigation system allows us to irrigate only when and where the vegetables need water. You'll be rewarded with a reduced water bill, a beautiful, diverse farm-scaped yard and plenty of delicious produce. You'll also help out our drought-stricken state and support a return to agriculture that you'll always know is sustainable.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Price of Conventional Agriculture

A fellow Yard Farmer forwarded an article entitled "Politics of the Plate: The Price of Tomatoes," from the March issue of Gourmet magazine, to me today. Given what we're trying to achieve with this business, I thought this was pretty relevant to not only how we're working to change the agriculture business but also to the types of choices we make as consumers.

This article highlights the amount of human misery entailed in conventional farming methods, especially when those methods are performed by migrant workers with few, if any, easily enforcable employment-related rights.

Here's an excerpt:

Immokalee is the tomato capital of the United States. Between December and May, as much as 90 percent of the fresh domestic tomatoes we eat come from south Florida, and Immokalee is home to one of the area’s largest communities of farmworkers. According to Douglas Molloy, the chief assistant U.S. attorney based in Fort Myers, Immokalee has another claim to fame: It is “ground zero for modern slavery.”

Our modern demand for every type of produce whenever we want it for the cheapest price possible puts human beings into conditions we would never even wish on our enemies.

Here's another short excerpt about labor conditions:

For every 32-pound basket you pick, you receive a token typically worth about 45cents—almost the same rate you would have gotten 30 years ago. Working at breakneck speed, you might be able to pick a ton of tomatoes on a good day, netting about $50. But a lot can go wrong. If it rains, you can’t pick. If the dew is heavy, you sit and wait until it evaporates. If trucks aren’t available to transport the harvest, you’re out of luck. You receive neither overtime nor benefits. If you are injured (a common occurrence, given the pace of the job), you have to pay for your own medical care.

The rest of the article goes on to highlight the small gains worker advocacy groups are making, but goes on to describe the uphill battle these groups, and law enforcement, face. The article cites our current food production system, and fierce competition among agricultural cooperatives and companies, as obstacles to real change occurring.

Here at Yard Farmer we don't believe we can change the system overnight. We're in this business with long-term goals in mind, though, and we know it will take the work of many people to really overhaul how food production in the United States works. Yard Farmer customers here in Long Beach will play a minor role in this overall process, but we believe we can help bring about positive change, even if it's on a small scale.

Read the rest of the article when you get a chance. It's enlightening and will make you think twice before you choose to buy "conventionally grown" tomatoes next time you visit the supermarket.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Composting 101

Composting is something that most people have heard about but don’t necessarily practice. In the U.S., either due to misconceptions about the practice, a lack of a garden or lawn that might use compost or just a plain lack of knowledge, composting is not a common enough practice to reduce the impact households have on our environment.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has done research that shows just how much organic waste goes into landfills. Here are a few statistics:

Although industrial composting is on the rise, as the statistics above indicate, individuals aren’t doing as much as they could do make sure more food waste is composted. Yard Farmer insists that its customers compost, and we make it easy for them to do so by setting up an easy-to-use composting system at each of our customers’ homes. That said, we believe that the more you know about composting, the more comfortable you’ll be with the process. Once you get used to it, composting is even less difficult than sorting out glass, plastic and aluminum trash for recycling.

What is compost?
Compost is organic material that we use to amend soil. Composting has been occurring in nature since the dawn of plant life on this planet. As vegetation from trees and other plants falls to the ground, it slowly decays, which provides minerals and nutrients for plants, animals and microorganisms.
The composting process that most gardeners use, however, produces higher temperatures that kills pathogens and weed seeds. It also encourages the growth of microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi that break down the organic material in the compost pile into humus. When added to soil, this black, earthy material increases the level of nutrients available to plants and helps the soil retain moisture.
Studies have also demonstrated that compost can reduce incidences of plant diseases and pests, help eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers and produce higher crop yields.

What can I put in my compost bin?
The EPA has a great set of basic guidelines for composting. Following are guidelines on what’s safe to add to your compost pile and what isn’t (and why).

What to Compost

Cardboard rolls
Clean paper
Coffee grounds and filters
Cotton rags (non-oily only)
Dryer and vacuum cleaner lint
Fireplace ashes
Fruits and vegetables
Grass clippings
Hair and fur
Hay and straw
Nut shells
Shredded newspaper
Tea bags
Wood chips
Wool rags (non-oily only)
Yard trimmings

What Not to Compost and Why

Black walnut tree leaves or twigs: releases substances that might be harmful to plants

Coal or charcoal ash: might contain substances harmful to plants

Dairy products (e.g., butter, egg yolks, milk, sour cream, yogurt): creates odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies

Diseased or insect-ridden plants: diseases or insects might survive and be transferred back to other plants

Fats, grease, lard, or oils: create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies

Meat or fish bones and scraps: create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies

Pet wastes (e.g., dog or cat feces, soiled cat litter): might contain parasites, bacteria, germs, pathogens, and viruses harmful to humans

Yard trimmings treated with chemical pesticides: might kill beneficial composting organisms

NOTE: Compost should not be used as potting soil for houseplants because of the presence of weed and grass seeds.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Rosemary Skewers

The piney aromas of rosemary pair particularly well with grilled meats
and Mediterranean flavors. The herb is a wonderful addition to
focaccia bread, lamb roasts and chicken dishes. However, rosemary is
also one of the few herbs that can do double duty as both a flavoring
and as a skewer. Using rosemary as skewers imparts a great deal of
flavor to roasted or grilled meats and vegetables. Try skewering
chicken with cherry tomatoes and Greek olives, or lamb with eggplant
and bell peppers or even chunks of feta cheese. In this preparation, I
used large cubes of beef in a simple marinade.

1 1/2 pounds grassfeed bison/beef tenderloin or sirloin, at least 1-inch think
10 to 12 rosemary sprigs
5 to 6 garlic cloves
olive oil

Select rosemary sprigs that are 6 to 8 inches long with a woody stem.
Examine each sprig and look for the place where the stem goes from
being soft, green and pliable to more rigid and woody. With one hand,
grasp the sprig at this spot while stripping the leaves downward from
the woody portion with the other hand. (Reserve the stripped leaves
for that focaccia bread or for stuffing a roasted chicken.)

Cut your meat into 1- to 2-inch cubes. Marinate at least 15 minutes
with about five cloves of minced garlic, about a 1/4-cup of olive oil
and a teaspoon each of salt and pepper (adjust these seasonings to
taste). Stir to coat the beef evenly with all the seasonings.

Carefully skewer two or three chunks of meat on each rosemary sprig,
leaving at least a 1/4 inch between. To make this job easier, you can
whittle the end of the rosemary sprig to a slight point or pierce the
meat through with the tip of a paring knife. To prevent the rosemary
sprigs from burning, they can be wrapped in foil before cooking. I,
however, am not so finicky.

Once your skewers are all prepared, they can be grilled outdoors
(charcoal or mesquite briquets lend a wonderful smoky flavor) or on
the stove top using a grill pan. They can also be roasted in a
400-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes. This time, I pan fried the
skewers in a piping hot cast iron skillet with a little olive oil.
Three to five minutes per side allowed the meat to sear and just cook
through for medium doneness.

Serve with pita bread and a green salad for an easy spring or summer dinner.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Kale and Other Winter Greens

First in our recipe series is the common winter green known as kale. Most people in the U.S. have heard of it before, but if asked if they’ve ever eaten it, many would say no. High in nutrients and also a traditional ingredient in dishes from many European countries, kale is most often found in the U.S. as a garnish. That firm, leafy green vegetable under your turkey sandwich? During the winter months it’s often kale. One of the reasons we’re starting with kale is because many people don’t have any idea what to do with it in the kitchen, and we want to show you that even a vegetable as often maligned as kale can be turned into a tasty winter dish.
We’re going to start with a quick profile of the plant and from there offer some recipes that use kale, and could also use other, related winter greens as well.
Kale is a form of cabbage (it’s scientific name being “brassica oleracea,” from the “acephala” group) that’s green in color but has central leaves that don’t form a “head” as with other types of cabbage. Some of kale’s properties include high levels of antioxidants, anti-inflammatory characteristics, high levels of beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, lutein and also some calcium.
Kale, along with cabbage and other vegetables in the family, for example broccoli, has sulforaphane, a chemical that is believed to have cancer-fighting properties. Also, in a recent study, kale was found to reduce the chance of getting glaucoma by a whopping 59 percent if eaten only once per month. Here’s a link to the study:

Kale Study

From a “health food” standpoint, kale is pretty awesome stuff but eaten raw, it’s fairly bitter in taste, and you’d get sick of it pretty fast. When cooked the right way and in the right types of dishes, though, it actually makes for some pretty good eating. So what can you make with kale?
One of the most well-known dishes made with kale is Irish in origin, and is made for the holiday of Halloween night, which is traditionally the eve of the Celtic new year. Known as colcannon, this combination of greens, scallions (a.k.a. green onions) and potatoes is a hearty, comforting dish made for cold winter nights.
I got the idea from issue 91 of Saveur magazine but adapted it to what I had around the house.
I made a variation on this recipe that used yellow onions and garlic instead of green onions. Otherwise the recipe was pretty similar, and ended up tasting good by the time I was done. I used the potatoes that I had on hand (a mix of small red, yellow and purple potatoes), and it turned out well, but I’d suggest using Yukon Gold or another good mashing potato for a more “traditional” style of colcannon.



12 small potatoes or 5 medium Yukon Gold potatoes (peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces)
4 cups lightly packed kale and other winter greens (collard greens, cabbage works too, etc.)
5 tbsp. butter
1 small yellow onion, diced or half a medium onion (also diced)
2 medium cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup of milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Basic Ingredients

1. Boil the peeled potatoes in a large pot of salted water for about 35 minutes or until they are soft enough to mash.

2. While the potatoes are cooking, wash all the greens, remove the leaves from the tough stems and chop the leaves into smaller, salad-greens-sized pieces.

2. Meanwhile, bring 1/2 cup water and 3 tbsp. of the butter to a boil in a small pot over medium-high heat. Add the washed greens, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until just tender, about 15-20 minutes. Drain well, discarding the liquid, and set aside.

Greens, onion and garlic cooking.

3. Melt 2 tbsp. of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the diced onion to the pan. Lower the heat to medium and saute the onions for about 2-3 minutes then add the minced garlic. Saute the garlic and onion mixture for another minute or two (take care not to let the garlic burn) and then add the greens. Add salt and pepper to the greens at this stage. Cook the greens, onion and garlic mixture for another 5-10 minutes over medium to medium-low heat until the greens are the texture you want (some people like them very wilted, others with a crunchier texture). Once you’re done cooking the greens, drain off any excess liquid.

Mixing it all together.

4. Once the potatoes are cooked, drain the water off by pouring the potatoes into a colander. Then add the cooked potatoes back to the large pot. Add the cup of milk and begin mashing the potatoes. Once the potatoes are sufficiently mashed, add the mixture of greens, onion and garlic to the potatoes. Mix well. Season with more salt and pepper to taste. Toss a pat of butter on top and serve hot.

The other recipe from that issue of Saveur that I decided to try was a way of making use of leftover colcannon by turning them into cakes. It’s pretty basic. It just involves adding flour and butter to leftover colcannon, making little cakes from the mixture and then frying them in butter. Not exactly the most nutritious way of making use of leftover colcannon, but these potato cakes taste really good. The recipe from Saveur follows.

Colcannon Cakes

Saveur credited this recipe to Irish grocer Peter Ward. From issue 91 of Saveur.

1 cup Colcannon
1⁄3 cup flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp. butter

1. Put colcannon, flour, and salt and pepper to taste into a medium bowl and stir to combine. Shape mixture into 3 equal patties, each about 3/4" thick.

2. Heat a heavy medium skillet over medium heat, add butter, and melt until foaming. Fry cakes in butter, pressing cakes lightly with a spatula, until golden brown, 3–4 minutes per side.

Monday, February 9, 2009


Lettuce is delicious--so it's no surprise that it has been cultivated for thousands of years. Even the word "salad" can trace its roots the to Latin word "sal," meaning salt (the Romans liked salty salads). Tender baby leaves are usually the earliest produce we can harvest, and at nearly $5 for a serving for two at your local organic food retailer, you will quickly see the value of having Yard Farmer tending to your lettuce rows.

Because we farm on a more intimate level, we are able to employ "cut and come again" harvesting, whereby we harvest the outer leaves but allow the inner leaves to grow larger for later harvest. This way, we can harvest three to four times more produce than we would by removing the entire lettuce head. We also maintain a high level of diversity in our seed catalog so you can enjoy lush Red Velvet lettuce one evening and then a crunchy heirloom Freckled Loose Leaf the next.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Coming Soon to the Yard Farmer Blog...

Hi everyone, this is just a preview of what types of content we have planned for the Yard Farmer blog in the coming year. You'll be seeing profiles of the produce growing in various projects, recipes for those vegetables and fruit, more content about environmental issues and how we can do our part, photos of projects, gardening how-to content, discussions with other local farmers and more. We'll also be launching a basic website soon. Yard Farmer has big plans for 2009, so stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Reducing the Effects of Climate Change

Not to get too hung up on doom and gloom, but according to a new study by the National Academy of Sciences cited in an NPR article, global warming is now irreversible. The key point the article makes, though, is that if we want to avoid dustbowl-like conditions here in the southwest in the decades to come, we need to do everything we can to reduce emissions starting today. Here’s a quick quote and a link to the article:
"I guess if it's irreversible, to me it seems all the more reason you might want to do something about it," she says. "Because committing to something that you can't back out of seems to me like a step that you'd want to take even more carefully than something you thought you could reverse."

Global Warming Is Irreversible, Study Says

Yard Farmer is here to offer our services to help local Long Beach, California residents not only grow their own organic produce for health reasons, but also to do what we can to offset the pollution generated by shipping and storing fruits and vegetables.
That said, if this post just got you thinking about the effects climate change could have on your part of the world, consider doing what you can on a local level, such as growing your own vegetables, participating in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program or even just making more trips to the local farmers' market. We're in this together, after all.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Why grow (and eat) seasonal produce?

Throughout human history people have eaten what grows in their geographic area in its season. Today, although there are occasionally some fruits and vegetables that you can’t find on a given day of the week, Americans can find most types of produce in markets regardless of season.
Even though having that kind of choice in our diets seems like it’s an absolute good, is it really? At what cost to our planet and ourselves do we continue to invest time, energy and resources into making sure produce from all over the world is available in supermarkets year-round? As concerns about energy costs and sources and pollution from transport and traditional farming methods grow, Americans need to take a hard look at whether we can sustain this type of one-size-fits-all approach to agriculture in the decades to come.
So what kinds of costs to our society and our collective health are we talking about? According to an April 26 article in the New York Times titled Environmental Cost of Shipping Groceries Around the World, fuel for international freight carried by sea and air is not taxed. This has led to some pretty strange food production strategies where locally produced food is either sent far abroad for processing or left to spoil because importing food from thousands of miles away is less expensive due. One example is the citrus market is Spain. Spain imports lemons from Argentina but lets local lemons fall of the trees and rot.
So what about buying domestic produce at the grocery store rather than fruits and vegetables grown in a foreign country? This should make sense, but it’s not that simple. You can approximate the amount of energy required and pollution generated by shipping produce using a concept known as food miles.
On the National Resource Defense Council’s website (NRDC's This Green Life Page) the organization provides some examples of the number of miles various food products travel to get to a typical market in New York City. Washington apples must travel more than 2,900 miles in refrigerated trucks to get to that store. The peaches in the store are from Chile, and travel 5,000 miles by ship. Both methods are energy intensive and polluting, but which method produces more pollution? The method of transport, whether by air, ship or truck, changes the amount of pollution dramatically. Marine transport produces the least amount of pollution of the three transit types though it’s still bad for the environment and marine life.

The following chart from the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, an organization managed by the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) and funded under a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture's Rural Business-Cooperative Service, offers a useful quick comparison:

There’s also a basic social cost. As a kid in Orange County, California I can remember the annual strawberry harvest. Along Valley View St., now taken over by office parks and warehouses, were fields of strawberries. When spring turned to summer, each field would have its own small stand selling fresh strawberries. The local markets all of a sudden had baskets and baskets of the red berries, and even local chain restaurants like Marie Callenders’ had strawberry pie from mid-summer through early fall. My grandfather also used to grow strawberries right in his backyard, and throughout the summer my sister and I would grab a few to snack on.
In California, even though strawberries harvested across the state are actually produced locally, they are still shipped by truck to large cooling rooms where they are stored until they are shipped to stores. Here’s an interesting look at the USDA’s recommendations for storing and transporting strawberries to keep them fresh. USDA Strawberry Recommendations
So what can we do to make our global approach to agriculture more sustainable? First, we can use available land in urban areas, rather than clearing more wilderness, to offset some of the costs of traditional agriculture. Using community gardens, CSAs and our own backyards is a good place to start. And when it comes to making our own yards productive, that’s where Yard Farmer comes in. More on this subject in an upcoming post.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Purple Broccoli

We've been harvesting this wonderful cultivar for the last three months and it is as tasty as it is beautiful. The Sicilian Purple Broccoli is one of the great successes of 2008 and will be a mandate for cold weather gardens in the future. According to the USDA Americans eat less than two pounds of broccoli per year and one plant with a strong harvest could easily yield that. Broccoli preserves well in the freezer or by pickling and here at the Yard Farmer we advocate at least 3 plants per year(or more) to keep your reserves full and of course some for the friends and neighbors.

Broccoli on the farm bike.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

New Year's Produce

This year is already off to a great start with many of the winter crops being harvested or nearly ready.

These lettuce starters weathered the cold snap and are well on their way to becoming a tasty salad.

These fat strawberries are going straight into a milkshake in two weeks

A huge bowl of broccoli and ripe navel oranges.

And yes the Brussels spouts are coming in