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THE BEET: news & notes from the ranch

MAY 2016

FROM THE RANCH | ARTISAN OF THE MONTH | AT THE TABLE

At the beginning of May, we hit the fields at Tomales Station to plant Red La Soda and Yukon Gold potatoes. This land was first homesteaded by Irish settlers specifically for potatoes, because of the constant fog and moist ground. Taking notes from those before us, we plant our potatoes in the same location. We don't irrigate these potatoes, because they receive enough moisture from the ground.

We planted 57 rows x 750 feet each = 8 miles of potatoes! We’re hoping that every seed potato produces about a pound of mature potatoes.

First, we till the soil (enter tractor 1).

Then we dig a furrow around 8-12 inches deep (enter tractor number 2).

 

Next, we drop the seed potatoes into each row, approximately 12 inches apart. The seed potatoes weigh around 2-3 ounces each and have several eyes.

And finally, the last step is to cover the seed potatoes with 4 inches of dirt.

Although potatoes grow underground, they have shallow roots and once the greens reach 4-6 inches above ground, we will recover the crop with 4-6 inches of soil to allow the potatoes to continue to grow. Once the greens flower, it’s time to harvest!

We typically plant French Fingerlings and Red La Sodas around March 1st and we begin harvest around June 1st. Early season potatoes or 'slip-skins' are harvested beginning after the plants flower and are consumed shortly thereafter. Yukon Gold potatoes are planted closer to May 1st and are harvested in the middle or end of September. Storage potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, stay in the ground until the potato plant has died, this makes the skins tougher and they can be stored for up to 6 months.

Fast Fact - In the farming/gardening world, a potato or bulb is called a tuber.


ARTISAN OF THE MONTH

NAME

Christopher "Landy" Landercasper

WHAT IS YOUR ROLE AT LONG MEADOW RANCH (LMR)?

I am the farm production manager for LMR. I think I also have the title of chief organic officer and agricultural safety director. Although, I think these are more informal titles.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WITH LMR?

I am in my third year at LMR. I joined in October of 2013.

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE PROJECT AT LMR?

Developing and implementing a long term vision for our farming operations, including the chicken house to help supply nitrogen, greenhouses to help grow all of the transplants we need for our expanded farming footprint, and perennial plants that will allow us expand our offerings going forward.

WHAT DO YOU WISH OTHER PEOPLE KNEW ABOUT LMR?

How far out we are trying to plan. Through the development of orchards and perennial gardens, we are planning for the next few decades. We try to have our annual plantings scheduled out at least a year in advance, while still leaving some flexibility in our design plans.

TELL US HOW YOU GOT INTO FARMING. WAS IT A NATURAL FIT FROM THE START OR DID YOU TAKE VARIOUS AVENUES BEFORE LANDING IN THE FIELD?

I grew up on an organic cattle and row crop farm in Minnesota. I took a few detours--boarding school in Rhode Island and a liberal arts education at Colorado College--but I would always come home during breaks and summers to help run the family farm. I moved to California in 2009 and I jumped at the first farming opportunity that presented itself. Seven years later and I am still trying to figure out how to make organic farming work better.

WHAT KIND OF TRENDS ARE YOU SEEING IN THE FARMING INDUSTRY?

Organic food production is continuing to grow, but is still outpaced by the growth of consumer demand. If we are ever going to meet the demands of consumers, we are going to need to drastically expand our national organic output. I do think organic, local and heirloom food production will expand rapidly over the coming years and with that expansion, small farms will be able to drive down the costs of production through economies of scale, making the price difference between organic and non-organic decrease. American organic production has been climbing rapidly over the last decade, and I expect this to only accelerate.

WHAT INSPIRES YOU?

Seasoned farmers. The people who taught me about farming and organic methods were generally not
ag-students or professors, but more often they were my family, neighbors, and friends. They shared a wealth of information and experience with an uncommon openness. If someone knows a trick to making your peppers better, they generally will tell you before you even ask. One of the great things about LMR is the organic history that exists in the family. Ted and Laddie have decades of experience and Chris grew up gardening and farming. They have spent countless hours farming and the knowledge I have gained from my conversations with them has given me a huge leg up.

BEST VACATION YOU HAVE EVER TAKEN?

Meh, I live in Napa Valley. Coming home from vacation is sometimes as wonderful as where I have been. As a farmer, I am more of a stay in place sort of person. Once you have good dirt under you and a nice community around you, the rest seems extraneous. I also love to return home to my family farm in Minnesota. I spend most of my free time building my own organic farm in Vacaville, CA.

RED OR WHITE WINE?

Why limit yourself? I like green and yellow and purple too! But I am talking about tomatoes. Specifically, Japanese Black Trefele, Green Zebras, and Valencias. If I must answer on wine: red- Cab Franc, specifically. Although, the LMR Rosé is the best white-ish wine I have had in a long time. And, the Chappellet Chenin Blanc is the only white I have ever really enjoyed.

BICYCLE OR MOTORCYCLE?

Boat over either bicycle or motorcycle. I don't ride either a bike or a motorcycle. I like my melon in one piece.

SUSHI OR PIZZA?

Pizza. Sushi is not exactly your first choice when you grow up more than 1,000 miles from an ocean.

IPHONE OR ANDROID?

Android, ‘nuff said.

MOUNTAINS OR OCEAN?

Ocean, if it’s warm. I love to spend time in south Florida. Mountains when it’s cold. Skiing in Colorado is a favorite past time. I’m just getting to know the California mountains now and they are pretty nice too. I don't really hike that much. If I have energy to do something, I usually try to use it to grow something.


AT THE TABLE

STRAWBERRY PRESERVES WITH LEMON AND TARRAGON

Yield: 8 (8oz.) jars
Recipe Courtesy: Tim Mosblech, LMR Estate Chef

Ingredients:
5 c strawberries, cleaned, hulled and roughly chopped
5 T fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 package (49 grams) fruit pectin
6 c raw sugar
2 T fresh tarragon, chopped

Special equipment: 8 (8oz.) mason jars

Directions:
In a medium stainless steel pot, add strawberries, lemon juice and pectin and bring to a hard boil. Remove from the heat and add all of the sugar at once.

Return the mixture to a rolling boil. Once boiling, skim off any foam that develops on the surface.

Remove from the heat and add the chopped tarragon. Add the mixture to mason jars and refrigerate.

Serve with your favorite cheese, stirred into oatmeal, or over ice cream.

Preserves will keep refrigerated for 6+ months.

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