I carrot believe…

How quickly the summer is flying by!

Last week was our first carrot harvest of the season. Besides being incredibly delicious, it also marked the first vegetable that I have cared for from seed to harvest (over 3 months), which was a powerful feeling that gave me pause as I dug in deeper with the pitchfork.

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Our five legged carrot friend. 

It is easy to get caught up in the daily routine of weeding, watering, and tending to the basic requirements of the farm; however, it is important to keep the bigger picture in mind (especially when the humidity is almost 100%).


Compost project- Bin and sign finally complete! 


It is also easy to get caught up in the news of yet another black life taken or a terrorist attack and feel helpless and frustrated. While farming less than an acre of vegetables may not make a dent in the problems of today’s world, it provides a jumping off point for a dialogue about food justice that can be linked to deeper discussions of racism, classism, and other injustices.


Found a namesake turtle at the farm! 


In addition to the joy that comes with finding a perfectly ripe tomato or a sunflower that hits the light just right, Monday nights with the families are a great way to keep the goals of the farm in perspective.


Families are always finding new and fun ways to photograph, eat, and enjoy the vegetables, from swiss chard and jalapeno tamales to basil tea!


Great photo by one of our farmers Liliana! /Hermosa foto por Liliana! 

Also, our raspberry bush has been blooming for the past couple of weeks, which has led to red stained hands and lips of children and adults alike.


Our summer garden is definitely in full bloom, with beets, zinnias, tomatoes, summer squash, and peppers- we just can’t get enough! Be sure to stop by and take in all the natural beauty 🙂


At the Painted Turtle Farm seeking food justice is just one way we strive for a more just world– how will you?






A Garden Without Weeds


“Come to the Painted Turtle Farm! No turtles. Some vegetables. Mostly weeds.”

Weeds seem to be the omnipotent god of a garden, everywhere and unrelenting in merciless tyranny. Sometimes, running a farm, we feel like we’re farming weeds. We harvest the lettuce, and pick out the weeds. We weed out the carrots and are left with half as many carrots as we thought there were. However, our billion year old planet does not produce specific plants JUST to be a nuisance to us and to be what we call weeds. Like all other beings – plant, animal, and fungi alike, “weeds” are apart of the balance and health of our ecosystem. They are people’s invention, not nature’s.

Nature actively desires diversity!

Without Roundup and other agricultural herbicides, the green grass squares that make our country’s checkerboard of suburban houses would be practically impossible. It’s no wonder 40% of bees died last year when their options for and access to nectar are constantly being limited. Mother Earth News directly blames Round-up for this epidemic and France has recently banned all pesticides in the hope that the bee population may be able to recover. On an organic and Certified Naturally Grown farm, there is no quick-fix to weeds or pests. No permanent solution besides Extinction. They are a fact of life. As Good Housekeeping suggests in its article on weeds, 8 Homemade Weed Killers, you must “learn to love them.”

Since the beginning of the summer I have grown to appreciate two weeds – excuse me, plants – in particular: Lamb’s Quarter and Purslane.(Recipes using them are soon to come!)

We would never have discovered the benefit of these plants if it wasn’t for the families with plots on the farm. Without them, we would not have known that both are edible and that Purslane (or La Verdolaga) is great with pork or cooked up in soup. Indeed, the diversity of our community allows us to grow as farmers, friends, and food-lovers as it compliments the diversity of our garden.

The community we tend to on the farm and the friendships harvested from the relationships grown there, indicates the necessity of having a diverse world – be it in people or plants. When there is more diversity in an ecological community, the greater its resilience. This is the same with communities of people. (The journal of Ecology and Society discusses this theory further.)

Just as no plant is really unnecessary, no group of people can be deemed such either. The improvement, resilience, and stability of our society depends on our ability to embrace diversity in its many forms. Once accepting that we should learn from nature and each other, this becomes evident. As William Shakespeare said through his character Ulysses, “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin”.
So much the world has to teach us! Weed happily knowing the plants will grow back soon and the bees will buzz by again.This is sustainable farming. 

Flowers for Food, Flowers for Thought

Zinnias! More than just a pretty plant, this multicolored annual is good for eating!

Perhaps they’re already your favorite garden flower: they’re fast-growing, low maintenance, and if you cut one flower-head, more flowers grow in its place! The long stems make them perfect to place in a decorative vase. Plus, their bright colors call all sorts of much needed pollinators to your garden, including the beautiful black-veined Monarch Butterfly. No wonder the Chicago Botanic Garden calls Zinnias “the hardest working flower in the summer garden”.

But, did you realize you could eat them?

Katie Shank from Acadia Farms gives us the scoop on how to best consume Zinnias here. Try them in pasta, stir-fry, and pancakes. Or maybe sip on some Zinnia tea or limeade!

And what are we most excited to try?

Garden Tacos! With our bountiful amount of cilantro, onions, garlic, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, and beans getting close to harvest, plus our meat CSA from Rambling River Pastures being delivered weekly, adding a taco shell and some Zinnia petals for garnish sounds like the perfect summer meal!

At the Painted Turtle Farm we have about 50% of one of our rows dedicated to Zinnias. The third row from the front, they catch your eye immediately. They’re strategically placed, anchored on either side by cilantro, with unobstructive spinach and evenly spaced garlic in front of it, and in front of that, the flowering mix of ovation greens and dinosaur kale. It is a wonderful arrangement of vegetables and herbs which we eat and make useful with a variety of recipes. At first, I wondered “Why did we plant flowers when we could plant more food?” Yet it took something as simple and soft as a rainbow of Zinnias to remind me that I do not tend, weed, and water food. I water plants. It reminded me that the very existence of these vegetables and herbs is extraordinary.

How lucky we are to be a part of that existence!
When planting and tending to your summer garden, remember it’s not a chore, it’s an art! I hope you enjoy every sight and every petal – maybe even some food for thought. Happy planting!

Haven’t got a Clue about Kohlrabi?

Your first hint- Kohlrabi is not another Kardashian sister or even some obscure band, but rather a delicious vegetable that is rapidly gaining popularity for smaller farmers and community supported agriculture (CSA) across the country, though it has been known in the US since the 1800s.

Kohlrabi has German origins, and means “cabbage turnip.” It also shares roots (see what I did there) with brussels sprouts, kale, and broccoli, which means that you can substitute it and modify some of your tried and true recipes.


Here are some of my favorites:

Kruncy Kohlrabi

Eating kohlrabi raw with a little bit of sea salt and olive oil can make a great snack or addition to a salad. Just peel the kohlrabi and thinly slice, then serve!

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Kohlrabi and Butternut Squash
  • 4 medium kohlrabi (2¼ lb with greens or 1¾ lb without)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2½ lb butternut squash
  • Special equipment: a 17- by 12- by 1-inch shallow heavy baking pan
  1. Put oven rack just below middle position and put baking pan on rack, then preheat oven to 450°F. (If roasting vegetables along with turkey, preheat pan for 15 minutes while turkey roasts, then roast vegetables underneath turkey.)
  2. Trim and peel kohlrabi, then cut into ¾-inch pieces. Toss kohlrabi with 1 tablespoon oil, 1 teaspoon thyme, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¾ teaspoon pepper in a bowl. Transfer kohlrabi to preheated pan in oven and roast 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, peel butternut squash, then quarter lengthwise, seed, and cut into ¾-inch pieces. Toss squash with remaining 1 tablespoon oil, 1 teaspoon thyme, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¾ teaspoon pepper in same bowl.
  4. Stir kohlrabi, turning it, then push it to one side of pan.
  5. Add squash to opposite side of pan and roast, stirring and turning squash over halfway through roasting, until vegetables are tender and lightly browned, about 30 minutes total (after squash is added).
  6. Toss vegetables to combine and transfer to a dish.
Kohlrabi Fritters
  • 2 kohlrabi
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • ½ cup grapeseed or vegetable oil (enough for ¼-inch depth in a large skillet)
  • ½ avocado
  • ¼ cup plain yogurt
  • ½ lemon
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • Green onions (for garnish)
  1. Cut the leaves off the kohlrabi and peel the bulb. Peel 1 carrot. Shred the vegetables in a food processor, or by hand using a grater. Squeeze the shredded vegetables in a tea cloth (or with your hands) to remove moisture, then add to a medium bowl with 1 egg, ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, and ¼ teaspoon cayenne. Mix to combine.
  2. Place ½ cup oil in a large skillet (enough for ¼-inch depth). Heat the oil over medium high heat, then place small patties of the fritter mixture into the oil. Fry on one side until browned, then fry on the other side. Remove and place on a plate lined with a paper towel to drain excess oil.
  3. In a small bowl, mix ½ avocado, ¼ cup plain yogurt, juice from ½ lemon, and ¼ teaspoon kosher salt to make the avocado cream (or blend the ingredients together in a food processor).
  4. Serve fritters with avocado cream and sliced green onions.


So next time you receive a kohlrabi in your CSA share, be sure to invite all your friends over to show off the newest addition to your culinary repertoire! Stay tuned for more to come about our summer garden, food justice, and our favorite recipes.

Radishes, Collards, and Spinach, oh my!

These past two weeks have passed extremely quickly, with the arrival of the CPS Summer Fellows and our first two harvests!



One highlight of the week was our first community potluck of the summer. With a wide variety of dishes from quiche to enchiladas, everyone was stuffed by the end of the night!



On Monday we took a field trip to learn more about the agricultural processes of Adams County, which included a trip to Hollabaugh Brothers Orchard and Rice Fruit Company, which packs and processes many of the apples in the area.


Despite the early morning wake up, harvest mornings are beautiful as we watch the sunrise and harvest a large assortment of veggies. So far, we have harvested over 130 pounds of fresh vegetables for our CSA members!

On Friday we got a chance to visit Sherfy Battlefield Garden and enjoy some history as well as farming. The best part- trying some honey straight from the comb.

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Check out this great TedTalk for an overview on Food Justice to contextualize our mission at PTF!

Orange, Blue, and…Green? A Glimpse at our First Week!

Our first week went by quickly, and was a whirlwind of planting, weeding, and adjusting to sore muscles and the permanent layer of dirt under our fingernails.


The 2016 Summer Coordinators- Lizzy (left) and Mary Margaret (right).

On Monday night we had lots of people on the farm, which meant so much got done, including preparing for the raspberries and planting peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant in the hoop house. Yum!

We also had a great presentation by Friends of Farmworkers and let the kids decorate the new mini shed

The next morning Darren and I planted the raspberry bushes which it turns our look something like this when they’re small.

Wednesday morning was a tad rainy, so we headed over to Elizabeth’s Amazing Heart Farm to get to know her and her interns, Danielle and Kendall. We made some delicious vegan cookies (with chocolate chips of course) and then planted our winter squash using black landscape fabric to control the weeds.

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Iris every flower was as pretty as this one!

I also had a blast playing with her golden retriever and taking pictures of her flowers. Thanks, Elizabeth!

Friday morning was spent weeding the beds we have yet to plant and finding a heater to keep our tilapia warm (did we mention that the aquaponics system is up and running, wahoo!)

To wrap up a great week, we got a change to represent PTF at the Gettysburg Green Gathering. In addition to learning more about other amazing green initiatives in Gettysburg like the Gleaning Project. We also gave out fresh mint tea and made over 30 self-watering planters with kids and kids at heart. We hope your week was as great as ours!



Au Revoir

This post is the last one you will be seeing from me! I am off to the Food Corps in DC for my next adventure. I have had quite an enjoyable experience working for the Center for Public Service and the Painted Turtle Farm. The highlights of my experience have been getting to know the families that come to the farm every Monday night, meeting the visitors who came from Gaza to learn about our programs, and travelling to the Baltimore area to learn about the toxins in the city and exploring a few of the Baltimore urban gardens. These have been my most meaningful experiences because I was able to meet people who value fresh food, health, and human rights. At times I get discouraged because there is so much poverty and need in the United States and internationally. I feel as though the small steps I am taking are not enough. When I meet others who are working passionately to solve issues of hunger and poverty I am rejuvenated. I have come to understand that I am part of a larger picture and process. Although I may only have a small impact, that impact is powerful. I am impressed by the hope and enthusiasm displayed by many people who have faced great challenges and even failures. I am in awe of the many people who have endured poverty, hunger, and war. Resilience is amazing.  I also recognize that I would not be in a position of influence without the many beautiful people who have supported me and loved me throughout my life. I hope to continue this work and pass on the outpouring of love I have received.

Until next time~

Erin Brennan

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