Old Plank Farm
Testimonials

"Thanks for all the hard work, diverse veggies, email info, organized process and the HEALTHY FOOD EXPERIENCE!"

"We are delighted with each and every weekly box of veggies we get from you.  We have never eaten better."

"I am definitely healthier and happy because you are my farmer!"

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Old Plank Farm Gift Certificates Available

12/13/2017 8:12pm

 

In a season overwhelmed with holiday cookies and other treats, Angelica and I decided it would be nice to offer you a healthy gift idea to give to your family or friends this year: an Old Plank Farm Vegetable Share! While we can't put tomatoes in your Christmas stocking, we can provide gift certificates you can purchase for either our Small or Large Vegetable Shares for the 2018 harvest season.

If you want your family to be a member of our farm in 2018, or know of a family that wants to join us, consider buying your shares through our Gift Certificate program. Give an Old Plank Farm membership to your spouse or relatives or neighbors or co-workers. 

The prices for Small Share and Large Share gift certificates are the same as regular share prices + $2 (click here for regular share prices and details). A printed gift certificate card will be mailed to you, so you have something to wrap up and give away. You can order the gift certificates online, but you must be able to mail a check for full payment the same day you order.
 
We'll mail your gift certificates within one day of ordering them online (provided that you email us and let us know your mailing address)! However, the coupon code printed on your gift certificates (allowing the recipient to sign-up for their share at no cost) will not be activated until after we receive your check for full payment. Instructions are printed on the gift certificate so the recipient will know how and where to sign-up for the share you have given them.
 
If you're interested, here's what to do:
 
1. Go to our web-store and select the type of gift certificates you want to purchase ($2 each, payable through Paypal). 
 
2. Mail a check for the total cost of the shares you ordered gift certificates for. Please mail the check the same day you order, payable to Old Plank Farm, W6028 County Road C, Plymouth, WI 53073.
 
3. Send us an email (csa@oldplankfarm.com) with your mailing address, so we can put your gift certificates in the mail right away.
 
4. Look for your gift certificates in the mail, then personalize, wrap, and give them away! Remember they won't be activated until after we're received your check in the mail for full payment (you'll be notified when your check reaches us).
 
 
 
If you don't need a gift certificate, but want to become an Old Plank Farm member for 2018, you can sign-up online here. We're not requesting any down payment until January for regular sign-ups.
 
Questions? Email csa@oldplankfarm.com or call Stephanie at 920-917-8207.
 
Wishing you a healthy holiday season, from our farm to your table!
 
 

The "Vegetable of the Year Award" and other Reflections and Offerings

12/6/2017 9:32am
 
We call this photo "Carrot tries to pick up a watermelon while Beetie the Beet watches." It's a working title... Carrots are the 2017 Vegetable of the Year award winner at OPF!
Carrot tries to pick up a watermelon while Beetie watches. 2017 Vegetable of the Year award winner.
 
Dear Old Plank Farm members,
 
As 2017 draws to a close, I'd like to offer you a brief re-cap of our harvest season, along with some thoughts about what we are planning for 2018, our tenth growing season.
 
From the crops' perspective, this season was cool and wet and a bit overwhelmed by deer. Several of what I consider staple crops--broccoli and lettuces in particular--suffered tremendously from a combination of these conditions. Our much-anticipated treat of summer--cantaloupe--also threw in the towel before setting fruit. 
 
Nonetheless, each week we were happy to have a nice variety of other vegetables to deliver to you all. If we gave out a "Vegetable of the Year" award (I think we should!), CARROTS would most likely have won. Hats off to this wonderful veggie and the other staples like peppers, potatoes and onions that did very well this year. As our soils and my field management skills improve we continue to see more overall stability in the weekly harvests. Receiving a crop damage hunting permit from the DNR is also helping with our deer problem.
 
We found that we loved packing the choice boxes to go along with your shares! They seemed to be effective in dividing up crops that either yielded poorly or were grown on a small scale because they aren't always favored by everyone. Eggplants are one crop that regularly went in the choice box but not in the shares. If you wanted eggplant, did you get some? I hope so. I've been working on a questionnaire to help fine-tune our use of the choice box. It will also help us with general crop planning for the season, because it will be sent out to each member when you sign-up! This way we know what you want before the season. We are no longer doing a post-season survey, though we always welcome feedback you want to send us at anytime.
 
The 2017 season also brought us it's usual variety of ups and downs separate from what weather and field conditions provide. The highlight of the season for us was having our new packing and storage shed to work in. This glorified root cellar is just that: glorious. Being built into the hillside helped tremendously with natural temperature management. It is also spacious and well-designed, helping to make our packing and delivery days run more smoothly. We still have some finishing work to do on the building this winter. Next summer we look forward to having an open house where we can show off our new space to you!
 
The low point of the season for me was a tractor accident which left me with a broken arm. This happened the first week in October, making the last several deliveries more challenging than they otherwise might have been. Healing from my broken arm has been no easy task. I find that even with the cast now off there is still a long ways to go until I will have full strength and range of motion with my arm. That said, I continue to do the things around the farm that I would ordinarily do. It just takes me longer to accomplish things, and I am sometimes quite frustrated during the process. 
 
Not long after the accident, a friend said to me that she was surprised I am still farming. But of course I am still farming, I thought. As long as I am here I will still be farming in some way! Even during the darkest days of the initial recovery period in October there was not a single day where I wanted to be doing anything except working on the farm and helping my crew to bring out the best of our season's harvest. 
 
Working on the farm is more than a job, it's who I am. And so I am ever grateful to our members who help make Old Plank Farm what it is. I look forward to continuing to serve you as we head into 2018, our tenth growing season. 
 
I invite you to sign-up now for the upcoming season. There are no price changes and no other major changes. If we need to make any pick-up site changes we will notify you; should a change occur (not likely), you would have the option to drop out if it is no longer convenient for you. There's no immediate payment necessary either; we'll start requesting down payments in January. 
 
We want you to sign-up now because we want your input now! When you sign-up you will be sent a questionnaire that you can fill out to let us know how often you prefer to use each of the vegetables we grow. Fill out as much or as little of the survey as you want. This month we will be doing a lot of our 2018 field planning, and your input will help us fine-tune what we need to grow. This is your season and your farm, and I hope you can help us make the most of it. 
 
Best wishes for a healthy holiday season, and I look forward to keeping in touch with you throughout the winter!
 
Your farmer,
 
Stephanie
 
 
 

Getting ready for winter

11/10/2017 8:12am

As we head into our final week of delivery, most things are going well at the farm, despite the deep freeze that came down so suddenly upon us. We managed to get everything out of the field by yesterday morning, and we'll be washing and packing up those last few things for the CSA box next Tuesday. Some nice carrots and Brussels sprouts and other great fall crops, too! I look forward to sharing this last harvest with all our members, and sharing some of my seasonal reflections soon, too.

A tractor accident last month has left me with a broken arm, and I find that writing and typing is just as difficult as harvesting carrots, bagging potatoes, or any farm work at all that I now do one-handed. Nonetheless, we have been carrying on here fairly normally. This month we will be busy finishing up this season's work, tucking the farm in for hibernation, and beginning planning for next season. As I was planting the last of the garlic the other day, I couldn't help but get excited for next spring already. But before the garlic can send up its new green shoots next March it must go through a long, dark and cold season first. The garlic does this so gracefully, and we as farmers must get ready to do the same. 

The Last Pepper

10/26/2017 3:57pm

We harvested the last of the peppers before the frost hit last night. It was a good year for our peppers, and a lot of the ones that went out earlier in the season were quite large and lovely too. At first glance, this last round of peppers doesn't look like it stacks up to the rest of the lot. These are smaller, often a bit misshapen, and also will be nearly a week old by the time they make it in the CSA boxes. That was my first thought when I looked over the harvest, and I even wondered if they are worth giving out.

But then I thought a little more about their hidden value. Unless you keep a heated greenhouse full of pepper plants in your backyard, this is probably the last fresh pepper you will get to eat until next June or July. This one rag-tag little pepper is meant to be enjoyed and appreciated because it celebrates the end of the life of this year's pepper crop. 
 
Seasonal change offers me a constant reminder to be grateful for whatever crops we are able to harvest at any given moment in time. Sure, you can buy a pepper in town this winter that will have been shipped from another community in some distant climate. In fact, I just checked and you can buy green peppers on Amazon.com and get them shipped to your door. But I think I'll pass on this convenience and enjoy looking forward to next year's crop instead. 

On the Importance of Greens and Commas

9/18/2017 6:40pm

“ A panda walks into a cafe. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air.

'Why?' asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife annual and tosses it over his shoulder.

'I'm a panda,' he says, at the door. 'Look it up.'

The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation.

Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves. ”   ― Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation

 
 
The above quotation is one of my favorite jokes, combining my love of vegetables with my love of punctuation (I'm not exactly in love with punctuation, but I do appreciate the art of writing and the grammatical rules that go with it).
 
This week's CSA box includes shoots (sunflower shoots) and leaves (spinach for everyone, chard for some). So we can all have fun eating like a panda this week.
 
Besides acting like a panda bear (how could that not be fun?), eating shoots and leaves can be a great way to get healthy. Shoots (sometimes called sprouts or microgreens) are among the most nutrient-dense green things we can eat. A little container goes a long way; shoots make great sandwich or salad toppings. This week's CSA sunflower shoots got a little bit too big (sudden hot weather made a big difference in their rate of growth);but we are enjoying eating them and wanted to share them with all our members too. We'll try growing them again at least once more this season and hope to improve on flavor and texture.
 
Spinach and chard are among my favorite greens for smoothies. They taste great mixed with frozen strawberries, peaches, banana and a little honey. Besides taste, the nourishment is unmatched. If you aren't used to eating fresh greens on a regular basis, give it a try. I hope you'll notice a burst of energy in your day. Eating such lively food really can make you feel more lively, too. While all the Old Plank Farm vegetables are grown with love and filled with life, I think greens are particularly successful at transferring these energizing feelings straight into our bodies as we eat them.
 
With that, I'll wrap things up by saying: Let's eat CSA members!
 
Oh wait, I meant to say: Let's eat, CSA members!
 
Commas save lives...and so do vegetables.

Mother Nature Doesn't Give Participation Trophies

8/31/2017 4:17pm
There has been a lot of ups and downs this season from my perspective here at the farm. As I walked around the field last weekend, I was particularly dismayed by the failure of our cantaloupe crop. We planted approximately 4-5 melon plants per CSA member this season. If a plant even yielded 1 marketable fruit we would have enough to go around this time of year. When we planted the melons we gave each plant a hearty scoop of compost, and then we side-dressed them with compost partway through the season. They are among the least-weedy crops on our farm. Onions and potatoes are among the weediest this season, and yet they just keep on growing. So since we worked harder than ever for our summer favorite, I am very disappointed to not have any fruit set on our plants, except a few small misshapen ones that start rotting before fully ripening.
 
But here's the thing: mother nature doesn't give participation trophies. She doesn't give us melons just because we worked really hard and hoped to have a good harvest. Instead she gives us cold damp nights in August, the last nail in the coffin for these poor plants, which were suffering from excessive dampness and poor pollination already. Some things will do fine in this weather. Some things won't. In general summer fruits have been below average so far, and the coming cold isn't likely to help much. A peek at the fall carrots and sweet potatoes which will start to be ready soon raises my spirits slightly. This reality that we as farmers and CSA members have to face is beautiful and cruel all at the same time. Regardless of how one looks at it, the point is that it's real. 
 
I am hopeful that we can find a good, sustainable system for growing cantaloupes in the future, without relying on plastics and soluble fertilizers which are all too common on both organic and conventional farms. But I won't dwell on this anymore now. It's the last day of August and we still have many weeks left in our season, many other crops to tend, and many other things to do before the North wind settles down on us.

Meet the Farmily

8/17/2017 4:31pm

The Old Plank Farm Family, or Farmily, is everyone who works each year at the farm in order to grow your weekly boxes of vegetables. This year’s Farmily is largely the same as last season’s, except for a couple new faces (and one new birth!). Here’s a brief overview of all of us:  

Stephanie Bartel. That’s me. Yep, I’m still here, nine years after starting Old Plank back in 2008. What more can I say?  

Angelica Immel. Back after four seasons, Angelica’s experience and intuitive understanding of our way of farming makes her help here indispensable! She is often the one in communication with you all through our weekly newsletter. She also coordinates the packing and delivery of your shares, and does our Kohler delivery route. But most of her time (and everyone else’s time, too) is spent in the field, tirelessly working at planting, weeding and harvesting. She’s the best bean picker and carrot weeder east of the Mississippi.  

The Laswells. Sammi used to work here more often in past years. This year she was pregnant with her second child. Sammi helped off and on throughout the summer, as her pregnancy allowed. This past Monday, August 14th, she gave birth to a baby girl, Elowen. We are all excited for this addition to her family! Sammi’s husband Ryan works full-time at NOURISH in Sheboygan, but also helps out here occasionally. He usually leads tours during our open house/pizza nights. Their 4-yr old daughter Finnleigh has recently been helping with these tours and is, apparently, quite good at it!  

Scott and Laura Bailey. The Bailey’s are Sammi’s parents, and they are the farm’s most behind-the-scenes awesome workers. Scott fixes everything I break (which is a lot!), and Laura takes care of the animals and does all our yard upkeep, among other things. Before Scott and Laura came to the farm three years ago, we had 8’ tall burdock growing around the yard, among other problems. Not anymore, thanks to the both of them.  

Jake Menzynski is here as a first-year intern this season. He’s also Angelica’s boyfriend, and has been a great addition to the farm so far. He’s able and willing to do anything that needs to be done. Our farm dog, Max, especially loves his presence here. Jake’s been training Max to eat vegetables, which is always amusing to watch during our lunch breaks. Angelica and I are happy that he’ll be working with us at least through the end of the season.  

Joe Drewry spent his summer here as a first-year intern this season, too. He heads back to college in Michigan next week, to finish up his senior year of environmental studies. After a summer of hard work out in the field, he should have no trouble lifting a pen! He’ll be missed especially when we are picking tomatoes; he is the only one of us not afraid of the huge tomato spiders that we find in the field.  

Cassandra Marthaler is our neighbor who spends her summers working with us. When she started here three years ago Cassandra didn’t know what kale was. Now she’s trying it out in green smoothies. We all love having her as part of the crew, and she will be missed when she heads off to her senior year of high school in a couple of weeks. She wants to go on to be a large-animal vet. But we look forward to one more summer with her next season before starting college.  

Nichole Kloss. Nichole spent her second summer here with us this year. She only works occasionally, when we need an extra hand, because she is busy on her own homestead, establishing an orchard there, and—as of this fall—teaching first grade in Milwaukee.  

That’s our core Farmily. Extended Farmily includes several other volunteers and worker-shares who help make everything run more smoothly during our busiest times. These people include:  

Bing Drewry. We grow a few things over at Bing’s homestead just outside of town. He turned 90 years old this past May, but continues to do much of the tractor work in his gardens for us. His favorite crops to grow are sweet corn and peppers. We have our potato crop down by him this year too, and it is looking like it will be a good one.  

Dan and Chris Drewry. The Drewry’s often bag up various items like salad mix and carrots on Mondays for us. They also do a lot of the work in their family’s woods, helping to bring us Drewry Farms maple syrup in your second CSA box.  

Jessica Gallipeau. Jessica has been helping pack shares on Tuesday mornings for many years! She also delivers our Sheboygan CSA shares, which helps keep our delivery routes manageable.  

The Immels. Angelica’s two sisters, Emma and Natalie Immel, come Tuesday mornings to pack your shares during their summer vacation. They start 6th and 9th grade in a couple of weeks, and we will miss them! Angelica’s mom Christine writes your kitchen blog, “A People’s Pantry” each week. Angelica’s dad Jason isn’t around the farm as much as the rest of the Immels, but you may find him helping make pizzas during some of the upcoming open houses…! Angelica’s one-year old brother Abe just entertains us with cuteness when he is around the farm. Next year he’ll be weeding for us. Just kidding.  

It is nothing less than humbling for me to share this farm with all these wonderful people. Without each of them, our farm would be missing a piece of the puzzle that sustainable farming inevitably is. I hope that as you unpack, wash, prep, and eat your veggies each week, you remember that your support of Old Plank Farm is so appreciated by all of us.      

Balancing on the Bridge

8/10/2017 2:31pm

Last week we dug leeks and scallions. It went great, except that you couldn’t hardly tell them apart. Our scallions are some of the biggest and most beautiful that we’ve ever grown, and they were a joy to harvest. Our leeks were some of the smallest that we’ve ever grown, and were kind of a pain to harvest. In the end, they were basically the same size. Which isn’t really a problem, except that I generally expect my leeks to achieve bigger size than they did this time around.  

Both leeks and scallions were planted in the same part of the field and were exposed to virtually the same weather, weed pressure, and care from us farmers. So why did these scallions have their best season ever and these leeks have their worst? I can speculate, but can’t say exactly why this is the case. What interests me more is to look at how this situation sheds light on the idea of a perfect growing season.  

On a diversified vegetable farm, there is no such thing as a perfect growing season. This is because various crops thrive under various conditions. Though it isn’t a perfect growing season, I would say this year has been generally very good weather. Working around frequent rains has been a challenge, but not needing to irrigate has been a blessing. However, our leeks and scallions remind me that there is no such thing as a “perfect” season on a farm. Even when one variable—like weather—works in our favor, there are many other variables that can affect the final harvest (deer pressure comes to mind in what would have otherwise been a great summer for lettuce!).  

Rather than strive for perfection—an unrealistic ideal that could easily lead to frustration and burn-out—we strive to simply make the best of the conditions that Old Plank Farm is faced with. My perspective here is not meant to sound passive towards my role as a farmer, nor carry any hint of resignation to uncontrollable forces. Instead, I see my role is like being on a bridge between the natural world that governs all things and the cultivated world that I help govern on this farm. I’m always on the bridge, trying to stay in tune with what nature is doing for the farm and in tune with what I can do for the farm. Staying on this bridge is a fundamental part of Old Plank Farm’s growing practices. Making the best of what nature offers is a key to maintaining a sustainable farm.  

So much of commercial agriculture is largely out-of-touch with nature these days. Modern scientific methods strive more and more toward perfection in the field…uniform, large and early crops at nearly any cost has been a trend on farms, both organic and conventional. That sort of perfection may be desirable to humans, but not always to nature.  

So no, we aren’t having a perfect season. My leeks can tell you that. But we are having a good season, and I am still on my bridge, working with nature as best as I can.

CSA Sign-Up

Our 2018 CSA sign-up season is now open! Sign up early to fill out our pre-season vegetable preferences survey. No down payments due until January.

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