Do you shop at the Nelson market? Sign up NOW for your fall bakery shares

CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP by NOV 7

Starting next week, you can pick up a bread and/or pastry share at the Blue Ridge Bucha taproom in Waynesboro, at Basic Necessities in Nellysford, at the Old Orchard Farm Market at RVCC, or on our farm.  Shares work like a CSA–you pay in advance for 6-7 weeks of deliveries (depending on the location), and you can buy as many types of bread as you want! We’ll have another sign-up drive for winter shares in January. Thank you for your support!

Blue Ridge Bucha Taproom: Wednesdays starting Nov 14

RVCC, Basic Necessities, Little Hat Creek Farm: Saturdays starting Nov 10

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It’s Fall, y’all!

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The first morning in August when there is a chill in the air, I think to myself how much I love the change of season from summer to fall. Unlike summer to spring, which often feels like an explosion of green, fall presents itself in bits and pieces; a cool breeze on your skin, golden evening light dancing on your cabbages, a dusting of leaves on your path. I love how Fall teases us with cool weather, only to step back and allow Indian Summer its time in the sun.

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Fall vegetables are challenging to grow, because we usually have to start them in the heat of the summer. Most brassicas (because, let’s face it, most of the best fall vegetables belong to this family) don’t germinate well in the heat. We start them indoors, and then cross our fingers that they don’t overheat as transplants, or get overtaken by flea beetles that adore making cabbage leaves into Swiss cheese.

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Next year, we will invest in insect netting that will help exclude these little insects without overwhelming the plants with heat. This year, we just got lucky. Our leafy fall Brassica plantings look great. Cabbages are heading up in the shortening days, and the kohlrabi! Yes, we have decided we love kohlrabi (starring in the above photo), and have planted more than ever. Today is the first harvest of this otherworldly vegetable. We can’t wait to bite into the first crispy fresh slice this evening. Kohlrabi is lovely in fall soups and stews, but in our house it rarely makes it past the cutting board. –HAC

Visit our new Pop-up Shop in Waynesboro!

we are lovely.jpgWe are so excited to collaborate with Blue Ridge Bucha to bring our ecological vegetables and wood-fired sourdoughs to Waynesboro. On Wednesdays starting today from 4:30 to 6 PM, we will be setting up a table inside the beautiful new Blue Ridge Bucha Taproom at 1809 E Main St, right along the 250 corridor. If you miss market, or just need some mid-week groceries, stop by, and remember to bring your growler!

Plus, we will be opening up our bread & vegetable CSA to a small number of new mid-season members in Waynesboro, and we’ll be trialing a new bread & pastry subscription service.

Come say hello!

A big thank you to our crew!

We couldn’t do it without you.

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Our 2018 crew from L to R: Rhys (farm), Addy (bakery), and Brian (farm/bakery).

Last week we went on vacation to the Clifftop Appalachian Stringband Festival. We go every year, but this is the first year we went for five nights, not just two. I should say, we go every year except last year, when we were busy having our twins. It was worth missing the festival to now be able to celebrate Sam and Hazel’s birthday with friends, many of whom we only see once a year in the mountains of West Virginia.

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Camping with twins is maybe not everyone’s idea of a vacation, but we wouldn’t miss it. Somehow showing up at the same time of year to the same place with the same folks to do the same thing is an important reset button that helps us keep the rest of our lives in perspective. Some of the hardest decisions in my life I have made at, or just after, Clifftop.

So it is fitting that we celebrate one of the biggest changes in our life–the birth of our twins–there as well. We are so grateful to our wonderful crew for making it possible for us to get away during peak season. We had full confidence that the greenhouse would be watered, the tomatoes would be harvested, the CSA delivered, and the bread and pastries baked while we were gone. It is no small task to run a multi-faceted business like ours, and Addy, Rhys, and Brian did a great job.

Thank you!

Ben, Heather, Hazel & Sam.

A mid-June farm update

img_0170.jpgNow that the rainy days of May are gone, and the humid, dusty days of June are here, it is really feeling like Summer. Despite the May 14th hail damage, it doesn’t appear that our tomatoes will be late. We think perhaps our switch to Vermont Compost potting soil might even be pushing them a little early. We start our earliest tomatoes in mid-February, so we don’t ever get fruit until July, and we’re not expecting any until then. But some of the cherry tomatoes have some full-size green fruit on them, so we’d better keep our eye out for color while we’re stringing them up.

A hail-storm in May definitely did damage the vines of cucumbers and melons. The hail came in between the first and second planting, and you can see that the second planting (the right-hand bed, above) is already larger and giving us more cukes than the first. The melon vines look similar, though it is too early to compare fruit. Winter squash vines were fortunately not affected, as they were seeded later than the cucumbers but earlier than we have seeded them in the past. The winter squash vines are starting to take off, so cross your fingers for a good winter squash harvest this year; it would be a nice change after three years of disappointing harvests. We are hoping the earlier planting will make a difference!IMG_2462.JPG
Spring things like radishes, garlic, broccoli, cabbage, and spinach have all finished for us, and this week we mowed all those beds. This afternoon I went ahead and tilled all those beds so that Heather can seed a cover crop of buckwheat. The buckwheat will occupy the ground until we are ready to prepare beds for fall broccoli, kale, radishes, turnips, and a late planting of summer squash. Buckwheat is a short turnaround cover crop that does lovely things for the soil tilth, scavenges phosphorus from the soil, and attracts pollinators. It would be great if we could let it go to seed and then use it in our bread, but we have no good way of harvesting the seed, and our farm is so small that we need the beds for vegetables. –BGS & HAC

We are hiring a bakery/farm assistant!

We have created a new full-time farm/bakery position for our 2018 team! This position is an entry-level position split 25/75 between our ecological vegetable farm and wood-fired bakery.  You will be paid hourly and can start immediately. Apply now by sending a resume and cover letter to littlehatcreek@gmail.com.

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General description: Little Hat Creek Farm is a successful small diversified vegetable farm and wood-fired bakery. 2018 will be our fifth season.  Our weeks are structured around preparing to sell at three fast-paced farmer’s markets and delivering our CSA. We use ecological farming practices on one acre of annual vegetables and a small fruit orchard. Our bakery specializes in naturally-leavened breads made by hand with local flours and hand-laminated croissants. Our 5’x7′ wood-fired oven is housed in a climate-controlled bakery building on the farm. In addition to our retail sales outlets, we also wholesale bread and pastries to stores and restaurants. Our team includes two full-time and one part-time employee in addition to Ben, who manages the vegetable side of things, and Heather, who manages the bakery.

 

Skills desired: You are a good fit for our team if you love making and sharing good food and if our farm+bakery business model excites you. Our goals in creating this position are to become both a bigger buyer of regional grain, and a better employer.  We like working hard, but by bringing more people on board we aim to produce more while keeping everyones’ hours reasonable and using our teams’ skills appropriately. You will join our business at this exciting time as we transition from doing all the work ourselves to building a team that will allow us to have a greater impact on our community.

Duties: You will assist our existing bakery and farm team with discreet tasks that help them move production along including cleaning, dishwashing, pastry prep and makeup, scaling, dividing and shaping dough, and ingredient processing. In addition, you will assist our farm team with normal farm tasks, including hoeing, mulching, planting, harvesting, seeding, and weeding. You may be asked to perform other tasks, including making deliveries, helping to manage the oven fire, or feeding sourdough starters. 

This entry-level position is a great way to get your feed wet in an artisan bakery and on a small ecological vegetable farm. We prefer that you demonstrate some kitchen experience (but it doesn’t have to be baking), enjoy working with your hands, and are able to learn new skills easily.  You can anticipate tasks, see what needs to be done, and do it. You are organized and take pride in a clean workspace and a job well done. You are able to work quickly and efficiently while attending to detail, and you are able to problem-solve on the fly. You also don’t mind working outside in any weather and enjoy physical labor. You are punctual, dependable, able to safely lift fifty pounds, and able to meet deadlines. You work well with others, but are also content to work alone. You must have a clean driving record and be comfortable driving a large van on mountain roads.

Duration and Hours: You need to be available to start work immediately. We prefer that you commit to working through October 2018, preferably through December 2018, with the possibility of transitioning to a role of greater responsibility through the winter. Your working hours will be 35-40 hours per week, split 75/25 between the bakery and farm.  You need to be available all day Tuesday and Friday, either Saturday or Sunday, and at least one other day.  There is some flexibility, but we ask that you keep the schedule once we decide on it.

Compensation: We pay monthly, starting at $8-10/hr (DOE) with a $2 raise after three months. Benefits include unlimited free access to unsold farm produce, eggs, and baked goods. You will also receive training in marketable skills, including but not limited to. We pay monthly. You will have unlimited free access to unsold farm produce, including eggs, bread and pastries.  You will also receive training in marketable skills, including but not limited to:

  • making pastries and naturally-leavened bread on a commercial scale
  • growing vegetables ecologically for market
  • handling food safely
  • processing fruits and vegetables
  • successfully growing a small local food business

You will also have access to the logic behind everything we do. We make a point of sharing the details of our farming, baking, and business practices, so we encourage you to ask about starting and running a business like ours.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Ben + Heather

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About that tractor

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The May planting rush is upon us, and we rely on our old Ford tractor to prepare bed after bed. In the photo above, you can see the new blue paint on our tractor’s front axle “knee.” No, we’re not giving the Ford a touch-up paint job, it’s actually a brand new part, replacing the one that cracked all the way around the kingpin (the vertical shaft inside the knee). Hmmm! Not what you want to see when you’re preparing beds for your May-planted crops! So I limped back to the barn…….

When you use a tractor that’s 36 years old, you can’t be too mad when something breaks. Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of aptitude or even interest in working on vehicles. It’s very satisfying to fix something on a vehicle and get it running again, but my experience level really limits my problem solving abilities. And anyway, I’d rather be working with plants!

So I knew I could probably tear it apart, but then watch in horror as some ball bearings and mangled bushings dropped out of the axle. (This is probably the first time I was glad that this tractor WASN’T four-wheel-drive!). I knew I was going to need some “supervision” putting it back together. After calling around, I found someone who could help. A guy named Bill Fenner came over last week. He told me he had worked for many years at an big company that made high-speed wrapper machines. (There was a slight pause where, in my head, I said to myself, “rapper like hip-hop?”) And he said, you know like cigarette and candy wrappers! Anyway, he rose through the ranks to middle management, but luckily for us, he decided that what he would rather be doing is fixing farmers’ vehicles and machinery.

Big thanks to Bill for getting us rolling again!

Help us fill our CSA!

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SIGN UP NOW

Do you have a friend who wishes she could make it to the Farmer’s Market, but can’t? Or how about that new guy at work who loves to cook?  Tell them about our CSA, and if they sign up by June 1, 2018, you get $25 in market credit with us, and they get a $25 discount on their box!

It’s win-win.

Or maybe you’ve been toying with the idea of signing up yourself.  It is so easy to let time slip by (don’t we know it), but really, now is the time to sign up! We’ll give you $25 off your box if you do.

We’re looking for FIVE new members, and we can do it with your help!

Our CSA is perfect for the busy family or professional who wants to eat ecological produce and good bread, and who wants to keep their dollars in the local food system, but doesn’t have time to go the farmer’s market. Our CSA boxes are pre-packed and ready to go with the best our farm has to offer, and our pickup windows on our farm, in Charlottesville, and in Lexington are long enough to accommodate tight schedules. Read more about our CSA here, or better yet, just hit the button below! And make sure you mention this offer so we can give credit where credit is due.

SIGN UP NOW

Thank you for supporting your local farmer and baker!

–Ben & Heather

 

 

Announcing two new plant sales locations

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We start thousands of seedlings every year in our greenhouse; this year is no exception! Many of them are destined for our fields, but nearly half of them are grown specifically for your gardens. We choose tried and true varieties of vegetables and herbs for our garden starts, grow them up ecologically in our wonderful new potting soil from Vermont Compost, and sell them in their prime. Buying plant starts is a great way to kick start your garden, grow successions of things like zucchini and lettuce, and to try several varieties at once. We think about seeding in February so you don’t have to! And we are always happy to pass on tips or help you with your garden planning, so come with questions!

You can find our plant starts at the following local plant sales:

We look forward to seeing you there!

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March is greenhouse month

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In mid-February, right after my birthday, Ben gets the greenhouse started. Every Monday, he seeds a new round of flats. The flats are germinated in the house, either in a cool guest room, or in a closet we have newly outfitted with a space heater and metal shelving. Some seeds, like tomatoes, germinate best in the heat, others, like lettuce, in the cool. Once the first seed leaves show themselves, the flat gets whisked out to the greenhouse where the sun shines. We heat the greenhouse, but only barely; we want our plants to be hardened and ready for chilly spring conditions, so we only heat enough to keep the nights in the forties.

We’ve started longer term crops, like the tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant that won’t be ready until July, as well as some of the first crops that we plan to have in our first CSA share, like lettuce, kale, and the gorgeous napa cabbage you see in the photo. The weather forecast says it will be staying a bit warmer at night early this week, and so we plan to transplant that napa into the field. Also going into the field early next week are carrots, beets, turnips, and radishes.
We’d like to share a few other highlights from our crop plan with you. Last year, we increased the area planted in tomatoes, which allowed us to really load up the CSA shares with tomatoes for a few weeks in late August and early September, so we plan to repeat that. Another change we made last year that we plan to keep was our switch from bush beans to pole beans. Pole beans have better flavor, are more productive, and are easier to pick. We think those positives outweigh the only downside of the time we have to spend setting up and taking down the trellis. We delivered far more beans in the shares last year than ever before, even as we had less area planted in beans.

New this year, we’re trying for some fall broccoli. Even the best broccoli farmer I know says that there’s only a 70% chance of broccoli every year, but we found the space to give it a shot. Another new crop this year is celery, which we’re looking at as sort of an experiment. From what we’ve read, Virginia’s climate is borderline too hot for celery, which takes a long time to grow but prefers cooler weather and plenty of water. We made some irrigation improvements last year, and we found a space for it close to the edge of a field where it will receive some morning shade, which may help it keep cool. So if we get some celery or broccoli that we like the looks of, they will make it into our CSA  share, and show up at market!

It is not to late to join our CSA!  Bring the fruits of our labors into your home, and sign up now–we would love to have you!