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November 21, 2013

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This week marks an important turning point for our year. It is the final week of our fall CSA and that means our year is winding down. While we will continue to supply restaurants, grocers, caterers and more with produce over the winter, our task is almost done. The hard work is over.

I’d like to take a few moments to talk about our crew this year. We’ve had a great year. Despite spring’s cold and wet start, the crops went in on time. Despite a cool and dry summer, the plants got watered. And a cold, dry fall had very little effect either. It didn’t happen by magic. The crew made it so.

First of all, our crew starts with you. That’s right. Many of you have come out to the farm and helped us harvest squash, plant potatoes, wash crates, pack CSA shares, and weed carrots. But even if you’ve never been to the farm, you’re an important part of farming. By buying locally grown, organic produce, you are helping our farm carve out a niche in the marketplace. We need your help in all sorts of ways and you came through this year. Again.

Our harvest crew consists of Yoram, John, Lori, Jon, Tim, Bailey and Heath. They harvested your produce in rain and shine, cold and heat. Harvest is, unquestionably, the most physically demanding job on the farm. We grow over 70 different crops and each is hand harvested and brought from the fields to the pack house. They work hard and never complain (well, maybe John sometimes). They don’t get the satisfaction of nurturing plants from seed nor the delight in seeing clean produce go into the cooler. But their work is an absolutely critical piece of the farm puzzle. Harvest ain’t for showboats, folks, but rather for people who can get the job done. And they did, week after week.

Carlos, Matt, Jon, and Tim make up the core of our field crew. Their job is to grow the plants we want and to stop the weeds we don’t want. No easy job on over 20 acres of farm. Seeding and transplanting the crops is specialized work that has to be done right or the plants don’t grow. Water has to be given when needed and we move thousands of gallons from our deep well to the fields covering almost a million square feet of farmland. Weeds need to be controlled at all costs and that means tractor work and hand work. We had a very productive farm this year – growing more than we ever have in the past – and the field crew got us off to a good start and finished our year with bountiful boxes and a beautiful, colorful market stand.

No, I won’t forget our postharvest crew. Led by Camelia and driven by the majority of our worker shares, this crew is responsible for cleaning, sorting, and packaging all of our produce. It requires an eye for detail, a sense of order and organization, and it is a ridiculous amount of work. Every vegetable gets washed. Every herb gets cleaned. At the end, it all gets bunched, bagged, or grouped based on need. Post harvest preparation is the last step before it arrives in your home. It has to be right. We work hard to bring you the cleanest, freshest produce in Chicago. Camelia & Co. make it happen every single day.

Did I forget anybody? Oh no I didn’t. They leave their day jobs each week and come to the farm and do whatever we need. They get up early on Sundays and head out to the markets. They get all sorts of crazy requests from me and they still work with energy and excitement and enthusiasm. Our worker shares are an important part of Montalbano Farms. They bring the outside world to our little farm every day. They remind us of the importance of our work, they sing our praises, they tell their friends about us. Our farm could never work without them. They are the glue that holds our farm together.

On behalf of everyone who grows and brings your produce, we’d like to thank our families and customers who buy our food. Your support is appreciated. Your substance gives our work meaning and fulfillment. And we promise you this: Montalbano Farms will forever continue to work hard and bring you the safest, cleanest, and freshest produce that you can find.

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