Dec 20, 2010

End of Fall Update

With it being just hours away from the official start of winter, we don't want to let the seasons change without providing a recap of all we've been able to accomplish this fall.

If you've been following us on Twitter or Facebook, you know we built ourselves an outdoor kitchen last summer (primarily to beat the heat while still being able to cook amazing meals).  In the early part of fall we were blessed with an upgrade to our kitchen:  a six-burner, two-oven Wolf range with a flat top.  It's been in use virtually every day since we got it, and it's so enjoyable to cook on.

In animal news:  We obtained more squab to replace the ones killed by the raccoon last summer, and they seem to be doing well – pairing off and making nests.  We've also begun raising quail again, and nearly two dozen quail chicks hatched just a few days ago.  We also hatched a handful of ducklings, and welcomed two litters of rabbits to the homestead.

We managed to get our garlic and spinach in the ground before the cold temperatures set in, and we'll let them grow throughout the upcoming winter and spring before they'll be ready to harvest next year.

Now that the days are short and the nights long, we keep warm by staying indoors – flipping through books and seed catalogs, carefully planning what we're going to do next year.  We've got plenty of exciting things in development, that's for sure, and we can't wait to share them with you in the upcoming months.

Nov 25, 2010

Giving Thanks


First and foremost, thank you to our neighbors:  Mike, Cheryl, Megan, Bob, Sharon, Craig, Kevin, John, etc.  They generously let us use their land, they give us encouragement, they build things for us (Craig built both our beehives and our composter), offer us help (especially John, our bee mentor), and they never complain.  We couldn't do what we do without the supportive neighbors we have.

Thank you to the network of restaurants, local grocers, and individual customers that buy from us.  They keep our business going and growing - pushing us to grow new and different vegetables and meats.

Thanks to our family for helping with the needs of our farm from time-to-time, happily eating the food we cook, and listening to us constantly discuss our new projects and passions.

Thank you to the St. Louis community, food bloggers, journalists, Kitchen Conservatory, Facebook fans, Twitter followers, and the folks at Homegrown.org for having an interest in what we do.

A special thank you to Stephanie for recently designing our wonderful new logo.

We want to give thanks also to Slow Food St. Louis for supporting our heritage breed, heirloom vegetable, and squab projects the past two years.

Thanks to the new friends and contacts we've made:  The brothers in Waterloo, and Joe, our squab breeder. With their knowledge and help, we've got some very exciting things in store for 2011 and the years to come.  

Last, but not least, thanks to Nature for always being there.

Oct 21, 2010

Fall Project: Microgreens

At YellowTree Farm, we're always thinking of ways to remain productive during the colder months.  Late last summer, we decided our cold-weather project this year should be growing microgreens.  

Microgreens are a tiny form of edible greens produced from the seeds of vegetables, herbs or other plants.  They're used in a variety of ways, including as salad components and as garnishes.  Microgreens can have surprisingly intense flavors considering their diminutive size, making them perfect as a flavor accent.

Their tiny size makes them nutrient-dense - all the energy it takes to grow from seed to full-size vegetable is packed inside these tiny greens.   Microgreens are often higher in protein, phyto-chemicals, vitamins and minerals than their full-size veggie counterparts.  


We offer them to chefs in custom blends.  The varieties we grow include:  arugula, beet, brocooli, carrot, Chinese heading mustard, chrystanthemum shungiku, collard greens, fennel, fenugreek, leeks, mizuna, onion, pac choi, purple kohlrabi, radish, red mustard, red Swiss chard, tatsoi, and Tokyo bekana.  Keep an eye out for our microgreens at your local restaurant.  

Sep 20, 2010

The Future of "Food"?

Genetically engineered animals are inching dangerously closer to our dinner plates today, as the FDA commences public hearings on whether to approve gene-altered salmon for human consumption.

AquAdvantage® Salmon (AAS) is the creation of Massachusetts-based AquaBounty Technologies. The company boasts that AAS "reach market size twice as fast as traditional salmon," thereby creating a more economical and efficient meat source for producers.

...and thereby making it logistically easier for fish farms to turn into CAFOs: growing more fish in faster time with less space.

One ethical problem with AquaBounty's engineering of salmon is that they approach the fish as merely a product or commodity, with the end-goal being increased revenue for both AquaBounty and the fish producers who buy their product.

As we mentioned previously about Cornish cross chickens, animals bred for size exhibit signs of pain and muscle immobility. Considering that Cornish crosses cannot move a few paces without their legs tiring from carrying their own weight, we wonder whether AquaBounty's product will suffer any health implications from being genetically altered for size.

Sure, gene-altered salmon seem like a great idea for AquaBounty shareholders... but is it a good idea for the fish themselves?

If you share our concern over this technological innovation, Food & Water Watch provides an excellent online petition for you to voice your doubts to lawmakers. Click here, and also note that they provide phone and fax numbers for the White House, should you really want to get your point across.

Sep 4, 2010

Chicken Spotlight: Naked Neck

The recent recall of salmonella-tainted eggs has highlighted once again the problems with industrial animal production: Inhumane treatment + unclean facilities + questionable practices = diminished food security. So we figured now's a good time to fill you in on our latest venture: raising naked neck chickens.

Naked necks, also called "turkens," can be found in pockets across the globe. Rather than a breed, the "naked neck" is a gene wherein the chickens lack feathers on their neck and have significantly reduced feathers over the remainder of their body.

And what are feathers made of? Mainly protein. Because naked necks have fewer feathers, their diet doesn't require as much protein as other chicken breeds - instead, naked necks convert excess protein into eggs and meat more efficiently than other breeds!

Keep in mind that today the main breed being supplied is the cornish cross. Regardless of whether you're buying conventional or even "free range," chances are you're purchasing a cornish cross chicken. The problem with this breed is that its specifically bred for industrial production. Cornish crosses build muscle mass at such a fast pace that they cannot move more than a few feet without getting tired (hardly "free range"), and they reach market weight in a monstrous 49 days.

However our naked necks are quite the opposite. While naked necks are efficient in protein conversion, they happen to be a comparatively slow grower - reaching market weight in 10-12 weeks. But the meat it does grow is darker, richer, the skin more delicate, and the fat more yellow in color than conventional chickens. It's one of several, lesser-used chicken breeds that supply richer meat, yellower skin, and more flavorsome fat than typical breeds, and it happens to pair well with our climate and growing conditions.

We hope to have a modest flock by the beginning of October and will be sure to keep you posted on our progress.

Aug 23, 2010

What We're Reading Right Now

"The very meaning of food is being transformed: food cultures that once treated cooking and eating as central elements in maintaining social structure and tradition are slowly bring usurped by a global food culture, where cost and convenience are dominant, the social meal is obsolete, and the art of cooking is fetishized in coffee-table cookbooks and on television shows."

"We eat every day. We put our forks into something or someone three times a day. We cannot disengage ourselves, even if we wanted to. We are all involved in agriculture on a daily basis. We vote with every meal. We make a difference with every bite. We cannot choose to ignore this issue, thinking it has nothing to do with us. It has everything to do with us."

A Month's Worth of Lunch

Want to go a little further in your fight to help the environment? We all eat, but have you ever taken into account the massive amounts of packaging tied to the food we consume? Being more conscious about how to reduce food waste is one of the easiest ways we can make a difference environmentally.

Danielle works a typical 9-5, and she used to spend upwards of $50 per week on lunches from nearby grocery stores and restaurants - lunches wrapped in plastic or styrofoam, with plastic silverware, in plastic or paper bags. However, she stopped all that ridiculousness in 2007, and she's been bringing her own lunches to work ever since: homemade soups, leftover rabbit stews, pastas, sandwiches, tomatoes, squash and other vegetables from our garden - all on reusable china or in compostable wrappings. The picture here is what July's lunches looked like for Danielle.

The folks at TakeOutWithOut have launched a campaign to reduce restaurant waste. Check it out and become inspired to readjust your own eating habits. You can make a difference too, one lunch at a time.

Aug 6, 2010

What We're Reading Right Now

"Nature did not intend for animals to live by the hundreds or thousands, crammed together inside buildings, raised with pharmaceutical products, with no access to grass, sunlight, or the clean, healthy scent of outdoor air."

"Many Americans have no idea where their food comes from, and many have no desire to find out."

Aug 1, 2010

'Tis the Season for Tomatoes

Not only did our Matt's Wild Cherry win highest brix at yesterday's The Good, The Big, & The Ugly Tomato Festival, but our tomatoes are also featured in this month's Sauce Magazine, on stands now. Check out the stunning photos of our tomatoes taken by Greg Rannels.

Jul 28, 2010

Get Growing, St. Louis!

In the past, the Missouri Botanical Garden hosted an annual tomato contest awarding cash prizes for those who grow "the best tomatoes." Sadly, 2008 was the last year they hosted this contest, right after we began growing our own tomatoes at YellowTree Farm. Thankfully this year, Justin took the initiative to form a group of people to help organize The Good, The Big and The Ugly Tomato Festival! It's taking place this Saturday from 12-4 at Sappington Farmers Market on Watson Road. There are various fun categories tomatoes will be judged on - and at $1 per entry, anyone from experienced pros to newbies are welcome to enter. In addition, there will be live music, seed saving demonstrations, and a tomato mixed drink contest featuring area mixologists and local tomato growers. Click here for more information.

Jul 18, 2010

There's Someone You Should Meet...


...and we hope his singing gets stuck in your head.

Can it, already

Only a week left until Justin's canning class at Kitchen Conservatory. Join Justin for a hands-on tutorial on canning as a way of preserving summer's bounty all year round. He'll teach how to make a decadent-yet-healthy tomato sauce, how to pickle fresh corn, and how to preserve cipollini onions in balsamic vinegar and French walnut oil. Everyone taking the class gets to go home with a jar of canned goodness. The class is next Sunday, July 25, from 12:30-3:30. Find out more and register here.

Jun 20, 2010

Tomato Spotlight: Matt's Wild Cherry

Out of all the tomato varieties we're growing this year, Matt's Wild Cherry stands out. It's an heirloom tomato, originating from Mexico. Diminutive in size, it's packed with totally-perfect-umami-tomato flavor. They're perfect for snacking, and we've been popping them into our mouths like candy for weeks. The best part? The plant seems to be yielding a ton, so it seems as though we'll enjoy hundreds and hundreds of these little gems.

May 27, 2010

Not Certified? Not Bad!

While providing 10 tips for shopping at farmers markets, the folks over at Serious Eats make an excellent point about why small-scale farmers may not be certified organic:
"The fact that produce is not labeled organic doesn't necessarily mean it's swimming in pesticides or is a qualified member of the Dirty Dozen. Sometimes it's quite the opposite. Some of the best farms, where a single farmer can lovingly attend to every seedling, are hardly bigger than a postage stamp. A farm that size can't afford a refrigerated truck, never mind a costly (and questionably bullet-proof) certification by the USDA. Many farms use organic practices, often much more stringent than those required by the government, but simply don't get certified."
That pretty much explains why we're not certified organic here at YellowTree Farm - but please rest assured that we use organic practices and we never, ever use pesticides.

May 14, 2010

What to do with Nasturtium Flowers...

We grow nasturtium, and a lot of it. Sure it's pretty to look at, but did you know it can be used multiple ways in the kitchen? The leaves are edible and great in salads. The flower petals are edible as well, and make excellent garnishes on just about anything: salads, cakes, and even deviled eggs (like these we made and garnished with nasturtium flowers, radish and guanciale). An added bonus: the plant deters harmful insects!

May 5, 2010

No Spray Zone

With mosquito season upon us, you should know you have a right to opt-OUT of pesticide fogging. St. Louis, Missouri sprays May-October. Residents can call (314)727-3097 and ask to be put on the Do Not Spray list. You can also call (314)615-4BUG to find out nightly spraying routes in St. Louis County. We strongly encourage folks who live in other parts of the country to research who to contact in your local area to find out how to opt-out of mosquito spraying.

After all, it defeats the purpose of having an organic garden if the county's going to pump known carcinogens into the air every couple weeks.

May 3, 2010

Bragging Rights

It's only May 3rd, and not to gloat too much, but we've got ripe tomatoes in the garden! Mainly it's our sungold cherry tomatoes that are ripening the fastest, and they are so very sweet. Here's a peek at what's growing right now:

Apr 20, 2010

We Had a Baby!

...a duck baby, that is. Say hello to the first duckling to be successfully hatched by YellowTree Farm!



Apr 19, 2010

Set Your DVRs

This week (Wednesday, April 21), PBS will be airing the acclaimed documentary, Food Inc. If you haven't seen it yet, you should. If you've already seen it, you could probably benefit from watching it again. It's a crucial movie for anyone who eats - and, well, that includes everyone. Consider this YellowTree Farm's official endorsement.

Mar 22, 2010

Thanksgivings

For the second year in a row, the folks at Slow Food St. Louis have been generous enough to award us with grant funding. Last year we used the proceeds to help cover the costs of soil amendments, heirloom seeds, and poultry. This year, we're very excited to use the grant money to help support our newest endeavor: raising squab! We sourced three Texan Pioneer breeding pairs and brought them to live at the homestead last week. They're beautiful, sustainable birds and we're very pleased to be adding them to our farm.

There Grows the Neighborhood

We're featured in the cafe section of the current River Front Times! It can be found on local newsstands now. If you haven't seen it yet, check it out here, and be sure to view the slideshow.

Mar 12, 2010

Pesticide Free Zone

We don't use pesticides at YellowTree Farm, we use bugs. These mantises were hatched recently in our greenhouse, and we keep dormant ladybugs on hand to assist when needed.

DIY Gardening Tip

Late last month, the folks at GOOD magazine provided a lovely tutorial on the basics of creating a verticle garden chock full of edible plants. Edible gardens are terrific space-savers. Check out the tips from GOOD, and also our friend Fiona's lovely indoor verticle garden, below:


Feb 9, 2010

For Sale: Vegetables and Herbs

This year we are teaming up with our friend Kelli Best-Oliver and are offering a variety of vegetables and herbs available for pre-order. Provided next to some of the names of items below is a link where you can search for descriptions of the particular varieties. To pre-order, please either e-mail (justin@yellowtreefarm.com) or twitter @YellowTreeFarm.

Vegetable plants
Celery
Eggplant
Leeks
Onion (Ishikura bunching)
(Johnny's)
Onion (deep purple bunching)
(Johnny's)
Pepper (zavory hot)
(Burpee)
Potatoes (seed potatoes, variety TBD)
Tomatillos (green)
(Seed Savers)
Tomatillos (purple)
(Seed Savers)

Herb plants
Anise (pimpinella anisum)
Basil *Dark Purple Opal, Genovese, Italian Large Leaf, Lime, and Small Leaf
Borage (seed)
Caraway (seed)
Chervil
Cilantro
Dill
Fennel
Hyssop
Lavender
Lemongrass
Lovage
Marjoram
Moroccan Mint
Oregano
Parsley *Giant Italian and Flat Leaf
Rosemary
Sage
Shiso (purple)
Thyme
Tulsi

Seeds available
Arugula
Banana melon
(Baker Creek)
Chinese yellow cucumber
(Baker Creek)
Daikon radish
Dakota black popcorn
(Baker Creek)
Detroit red beet
Dill
(Baker Creek)
Fennell
(Baker Creek)
Mongogo du guatemala squash
(Baker Creek)
Parsley
Purple kohlrabi
Tatume squash
(Baker Creek)
Thai golden round melon
(Baker Creek)
Tulsi
Udmalbet eggplant
(Baker Creek)
Yellow watermelon

Jan 26, 2010

A Year of Urban Farming

Now that 2010's in full swing, here's a look back at our first year...

video