Completing the Cycle

Saving seed is a tradition that has been practiced by many cultures for thousands of years. Last season, we decided to allow some of our mustard to go to seed, and yesterday, we winnowed the mustard to free the seeds.

Mustard Seed Video

Here is a photo of our setup: photo+2The fan is set behind the bins. When the fan is turned on, the seeds (which weigh more than the chaff–the protective casing around the seed) will fall into the top bin, while the chaff will blow to the side, as in the video.

We ended up with about 1.5 pounds of beautiful mustard seed and a lovely sea of chaff.

photo 1


We can’t wait to plant our mustard this year, and have already started thinking about what seeds we’d like to save.


Hey There!

My son and I hanging out... waiting for a train

My son and I hanging out… waiting for a train

Hi!  I am Kirstin Bailey and I am the Growing Farmers Program Manager.   This is my second growing season with CROPS and probably the best one yet.  We have 9 amazing farmers out at the farm and a CSA full of great families that love fresh vegetables!

I am a born and raised Nebraskan and proud of it.  I live in Brainard on my family’s farm.  It has been in our family for about 114 years.  Thanks to Community CROPS we transitioned from renting our land to conventional farmers to farming it sustainably ourselves.  Fox Run Farms is the new name of the farm and we love producing veggies.  We also have a vineyard and a growing bubble business.  Bubbles!  We sell bubbles at a couple of farmer’s markets, Fall Brook in Lincoln and Florence Mill in Omaha.  We also sell to a few stores around the nation.  It is very exciting.

In my free time I like playing with my son Jett.  He is four and a half and very energetic.  He can’t wait for the pool to open!  I also like being creative and often have a few projects in the making.  I love to read and cook as well.  I love spicy food and rice.

I am so excited for this season. There are going to be so many new foods to try this year.  Already I have fallen in love with radish greens… I can’t wait to see what will be next!


Farm Music Monday!

It’s time for Farm Music Monday again!

It’s late, so it’s going to be a short, quick and to the point post tonight.

Kirstin: Prince-Little Red Corvette

Amy: Truckstop Honeymoon- Magnolia Tree

Aaron: Devil Makes Three- All Hail


Thanks for reading! Check back soon for more greens updates, recipes and thoughts!


Farm Music Monday!

Hey yall!

We here on the CROPS Farm team decided we’d start a new blog series…and we’re calling it Farm Music Monday. Farming’s hard work, no doubt about that. When you’re riding the tractor seemingly into the night, or scraping every bit of exposed skin or your clothes are drenched in sweat after 9 hours of harvesting what could possibly motivate you to keep going? What driving force can help sustain our only human bodies and our often wandering minds?

The answer? A lot actually… the pure joy of hard work. Seeing wildlife hopping, flying or running across your fields Helping to build a thriving local food economy.  The promise of a cold, fermented beverage at the end of a hard days work. All of these things. But I find that on those hardest of days spent in the field and those longest of nights spent pouring over crop catalogs and plans nothing motivates me like that perfect song…that undeniably irresistible tune that you blast on full volume or sing out loud when that bed of radishes seems unending.

So, every Monday we’re going to share songs that help motivate us through these long days. Lets start!

Kirstin: Aloe Blacc: Can You Do This 
She says: “A fun peppy song that talks about dancing, the sun and the moon.  What more could you ask for on these warm days and nights?”

Aaron: William Elliot Whitmore: Dry
It may be a bit cliche or cheesy to post a song about farming, but how can you resist a song like this…especially when it’s written by a fellow farmer. In addition to being a rowdy, moving musician William Elliot Whitmore also farms in southeastern Iowa. If you haven’t been to that part of Iowa… just go.

Amy: Shuggie Otis: Strawberry Letter 23
A throwback to 1977, this song topped the charts and is still keepin’ Amy goin’. With its bright, funky hooks and soul inspired rhythms who couldn’t love it?

That’s all for now. Check back soon for more updates and more delicious music!


Greens, Greens, Greens! (Part 1)


It’s this time of year where my hands start to itch for the feel of a ripe tomato, the prickle of squash leaves or even the dry, July air. With days creeping up into the eighties and nineties and nights spent with windows open summer feels so damn close. But, as we all know, the time of tomato jungles and okra forests is still fairly far off. That doesn’t mean there’s no produce to praise however. If you’ve been to a farmers market or grocery store/restaurant where local food is served in the past weeks you’ve probably noticed an abundance of greens. Those delicious spring vegetables that help us transition from the frigid winds of winter to the sometimes scorching suns of summer. So lets talk (and look at) some of my favorite greens! This may take more than one post, so stay tuned for Part 2!

Swiss Chard: Genetically diverged from the beetroot (and their common ancestor the sea beet) who knows how long ago, this Mediterranean cooking green is hands down my favorite spring delight. Incredibly tender when in its “baby” form, it makes a great addition to raw salads or slightly wilted under a great steak. When larger it’s absolutely fantastic stewed (think collards), or added to soups, curries or even in yogurt/fruit smoothies. Here’s a good recipe for a fruit smoothie with chard:

Oh right, chard is also insanely good for you. Extreme high concentrations of vitamins K, A and C pack a healthy punch you don’t want to miss. There are also a whole bunch of other health benefits (or so I’ve read), but I’m not a doctor so I won’t delve into all that. Instead, here’s a picture.

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baby baby chard

Next up, Mustard Greens: Some like it hot right? And those some LOVE mustard greens (including yours truly). A close second on my “favorite greens list”, this member of the brassica family (think cabbage, broccoli, canola, kale etc) is SO GOOD. Why you ask? It’s incredibly versatile. Think about it: we eat the stem which is crunchy and almost juicy, we eat the leaves which are horseradishy and punch-you-in-the-face amazing and then we take the seeds, grind ’em up and mix them with vinegar to create the king of condiments: MUSTARD! So bring it on ketchup-heads.


sideways red mustard

Have I mentioned that the varieties of mustard are incredibly diverse also? At Prairie Pines, we are currently growing 5 different kinds of mustard. We’ve got Red Giant and Southern Giant from Johnny’s Selected Seeds…and the real treat in 3 kinds of mustards bred on a farm I used to work on, Even’Star Organic Farm. We’ve got Curly American, New Star (the most deliciously pungent mustard I’ve ever encountered) and Chinese Thick-Stem Mustard….the crown jewel of the bunch. I could write sonnets about Chinese thick-stem; if only I knew how to write sonnets. It’s sweet and mild with a distinct nose tingle and remains tender even when it’s leaves grow up to 12″. Enjoy some photos!

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Chinese Thick Stem Mustard growing at Prairie Pines. Result of 15+ years of breeding by amazing farmer and mentor Brett Grohsgal of Even’Star Organic Farm

Check back for more greens love, farmer bios and farm updates!

Here’s to spring, aaron


Hey internet people!

We here on the farm staff at Community CROPS are getting back into the blog world and figured we’d start out with a small round of introductions: who we are, where we come from and what we like to do. After all, we’re growing your food…so let’s get to know each other! I’ll start.

this is me harvesting sweet corn in Iowa

this is me harvesting sweet corn in Iowa

My name’s Aaron French and I’m the farm production and CSA coordinator (titles, titles, titles…) here at CROPS. It’s quite a mouthful, but basically it means I help things run smoothly at our Prairie Pines Incubator Farm (more on what an incubator farm is in a future post). Along with my fellow farm employees I grow produce on roughly one acre and I’ll be focusing heavily on greens, sweet potato and winter squash this season. I also help our training farmers (you’ll meet them soon) with technical assistance, hands on help, tractor work and griping about the weather…which sometimes seems like our favorite past time.

I was born and raised in central Omaha and moved out to Maryland for college. While in school I started working at Even’Star Organic Farm, where I learned the in’s and out’s of sustainable, diversified vegetable production. We grew year round (thanks moderate mid-Atlantic climate) and I’m really excited to bump up our winter production here in Lincoln. I’ve worked on a few other farms of various sizes and styles and have also done youth garden and culinary education and community garden development work, all of which have led me to this wonderful position with Community CROPS.

In my spare time I really like playing with cats (need a cat sitter?), riding bikes, cooking fancy meals…or not so fancy meals and growing hot peppers to make hot sauces. Really hot sauces. Feel free to ask me for a sample sometime!

That’s it for me today, but check back soon for more farm updates, staff and farmer bios and tons of beautiful photos of our great farm!

Here’s to spring!

Farm Fauna, Revisited

Thursday, August 8th of 2013, a lone AmeriCorps member trellises cherry tomatoes at Prairie Pines Community Farm.  Cool breeze passing through the hoop house, a flutter of dark wings catches her eye amongst the sea of green, brilliantly spotted with yellow. Not a species she is familiar with, she swiftly pulls out her phone and snaps a few quick photos!



If any of you peruse our Facebook regularly, you’ve probably seen this picture already, and can identify this gorgeous lady as a female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.  Identified through a trusted and knowledgeable Facebook follower, and an office field guide,  the scientific name is Papilio glaucus (family Papilionidae, order Lepidoptera).

Enter a few fun facts about the tiger swallowtail, whose range spans all of the eastern United States into North Dakota, Wyoming and east parts of Texas…

Let’s start from the beginning. As caterpillars, they are humpbacked and green, with  yellow, black ringed eye spots towards the front of the hump.  The caterpillars feed on cottonwoods, birches, cherries, ashes, tulip-poplars, and willows. Adults butterflies, in comparison, love to snack on the nectar of wild cherry, lilac, and milkweed.  In general, these lepidoptera prefer river bank and woodland habitats.  So, combined, one could safely hypothesize that this partially explains why they’re making appearances at our farm – it’s full of milkweed and surrounded by wooded areas that act as windbreaks!

Blame it on that crazy thing called genetics, Eastern Tiger Swallowtails come in several different morphologies.  These include light male (yellow with 4 dark tiger stripes, edges of wing dark), light female (same morph as light male, but add a row of blue circular markings, sometimes rimmed with faded orange on the hindwing), and dark female (pictured in this post!).  They grow 2.5″ – 4.5″ inches in wingspan.  Here’s a little human-butterfly size comparison:


All said, this butterfly gave my Thursday an excellent start, and made me learn a few new things in the process. It’s great to see such a variety of pollinators flitting about the farm, and such a striking one is always welcome! Fly on tiger swallowtail, fly on.


Tuesday, August 13th, of 2013.  Sun beating down, a lone AmeriCorps member strolls across the fields of the farm.  Out of the corner of her eye, she notices the quick beat of wings.  Could it be?  Another visit from the swallowtail? Pausing, she turns to see the tigress’s male counterpart land upon an aster, only just visible against the yellow petals of the flower. Fumbling for her phone, the butterfly is much too quick…perhaps she’ll be quicker at the draw next time!

For now here is one last photo, and thanks to Field Guide to Insects and Spiders of North America by Arthur V. Evans and for help with this post!


Ciao ciao,

Amy G.


Winter CSA

While we are sweating it out, debating whether to turn on the A/C unit or open the windows, the last wave of sprouts for the winter CSA are beginning to put on their first true leaves.


We have Broccoli Raab, Beets, Spinach, Raddichi0 and so much more in the ground and more beds of green left to plant. We will be protecting these mildly tolerant crops with light weight row fabric that covers our rows and keep the plants nice and toasty on chilly fall nights. Then, when the cold really hits we will let the roots of beets, carrots and turnips hang in the ground until we need to harvest them for the CSA.


Along with another flush of spring crops we have sweet potatoes, winter squash and onions that we will be storing deep into the winter to provide for that fantastic butternut soup or sweet potato pie during Thanksgiving!


Other goodies to expect this winter will be honey, micro greens, eggs (with a optional item for vegans), fresh basil (in November), brussel sprouts, and so much more! For more information about the CROPS Winter CSA check out our website.

Happy Growing,


Meet the Crew!

If you are a CSA member you may be use to seeing us every Thursday. As we get to know each of our members a little better every week, we also wanted to share about ourselves!



Kirstin came to CROPS from Fox Run Farms in Brainard NE.   She lives on the farm that her family started 114 years ago! Currently there are 4 generations living and working on the farm.  She loves family gatherings, enjoying the outdoors with her son, cooking, crafting, getting together with friends, and reading. Learning about vegetable growing in the late 1800’s on is one of her favorite things to do.  She admires women pioneers who were growing on uncharted territory! She is excited for fresh tomatoes with mozzarella and basil! However her all time favorite vegetable is kale. Kirstin is also a big fan of green smoothies and fresh juices.



Before CROPS Tyler worked on the Big Muddy Farm in Omaha.  Big Muddy is a collective of young urban farmers with fields all over Omaha.  Tyler enjoys playing chess, reading, working on cars, playing with his son, and visiting with other farmers and friends.  Tyler is currently enjoying planning a winter vacation to Guatemala.  His favorite vegetable is the sweet potato.  He likes the greens and the roots!



Amy is the Farm Program’s AmeriCorps worker.   Amy has spent the past year helping the program become more successful.  She is a Lincolnite who loves to travel.  Amy loves all veggies but has a special place in her heart for peas, kale, and garlic.  She loves her horse Memphis and Memphis loves mulberries.  Amy likes to read, drink coffee with friends, take naps, run, dabble in the arts, and getting things done!    Amy also runs the cooking classes and has enjoyed interacting with our CSA members at these events.  We are so glad she renewed her term and that we get to work with her another year!

The farm team as a whole loves what we do and wouldn’t have it any other way.  We enjoy having our weekly meetings at coffee houses or bakeries… sometimes we even find ourselves at Honest Abe’s eating the farm staff’s favorite food… hamburgers!  We will never turn down a favorite recipe or some iced tea!

Turn up the “beet” in the kitchen!


Ever wonder what happens to CSA shares that don’t get picked up?  While we do donate the majority to FoodNet, sometimes we just can’t help but take a few items home with us.  Inspired to do some roasting by the week 6 selection of beets, carrots, and onions, that’s exactly what happened!

I rarely cook with recipes, so I don’t have a name for it, but the finished product is here:


You may notice the 3 plates…sharing the veggie love is one of my favorite parts of cooking, especially when it’s with fresh food loving friends!

To detail this particular kitchen adventure, I started by chopping 1 bunch of carrots into 1″ sections, quartering 2 bunches of beets, and de-greening them.  Making the executive decision at this point to save the greens for the meal, I set them aside.  Unfortunately lost in a sea of beet green centered thoughts, I completely, and also quite tragically, forgot about the onions.  Seriously, not my fault, total blame to them beet greens! 😉 At this point, I sliced and added some red potatoes I had sitting around, and 5-6 cloves of garlic.  Tossing everything in olive oil with fresh rosemary, thyme, and finally adding a couple dashes of salt and pepper, I covered and roasted the mix for roughly 35 minutes, at 425F.  While waiting for the root vegetables to soften to perfection, I ribboned the beet greens. I decided to roast them for about 10 minutes at the end of the process, just so they were a bit wilted – making sure they were fully coated in the oil first by mixing them thoroughly with the rest of the vegetables, so they didn’t burn.

Despite the lack of onions, the result was amazing, nutritious, and filling!  No doubt, due to great quality carrots and beets from our amazing farmers – shout out to Carla Stormberg and Fox Run Farms! The beets paired great with chevre from Shadowbrook, and I brought a little summer and substance into the meal with some great Sourdough Cottage Dill from Open Harvest.  What did I learn? Fresh, local, and seasonal = tasteful!


Let us know what you’ve done with your CSA share at  We’d love to hear about your cooking adventures too!

Ciao until next time,

Amy G.