We are hiring a full-time farm intern

General description: Little Hat Creek Farm is a 5-acre diversified vegetable farm and wood-fired bakery located in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. 2017 will be our fourth season of selling at three farmer’s markets and through a 20-25 member CSA. We grow about 50 different annual vegetables on approximately one acre, we keep chickens for eggs. and we grow a few perennial fruit crops. In the spring, we also sell vegetable, herb, and flower seedlings for gardeners. Our growing practices, which include cover cropping, crop rotation, plastic mulch, and hay mulch, are geared towards promoting soil biodiversity and maximum nutrition. We avoid the use of chemicals. Our pastries and slow-fermented sourdough breads are mixed by hand and baked in a wood-fired oven. We strive to include as much local flour and produce from our farm in our baked goods as possible. While our wholesale business continues to grow, we are primarily focused on direct-marketing our produce and baked goods to our customers. In addition to ourselves, you can expect to work with another full-time bakery worker, and additional part-time workers from time to time. This is a full-time hourly paid farm position.

Skills desired: You are a good fit to for this position if you love making and sharing good food and if our farm+bakery business model excites you. You get pleasure in seeing (and eating) the fruits of your hard work. You want to learn more about what it takes to run a successful farm business, and how to grow nutritious and delicious food. You are a self-starter who can anticipate tasks and you work well independently and with others. You take pride in performing routine tasks quickly and efficiently while attending to detail, and you are able to problem-solve on the fly. You are punctual, able to safely lift fifty pounds, and able to meet deadlines. You are comfortable driving a van on mountain roads and have a clean driving record.

Duties: You will be responsible for routine farm tasks like seeding, watering, planting, harvesting, sorting, weeding, and mulching. You will be expected to help keep the greenhouse and packing station tidy, including washing flats and harvest containers. You will assist us at our busy farmer’s market stand, help us pack our CSA, and help manage our laying hens. Additional duties may include post-harvest processing like pickling, jamming and drying; egg-washing; deliveries; helping with production, packaging tasks, or cleaning tasks in the bakery.

Duration and Hours: You will work 30-40 hours per week starting in May or June 2017. The start date is negotiable, but we require you to commit to stay at least through the end of August. Beyond that, we are open to the possibility of extending the position through the end of October. Most weeks, your hours will not exceed 50 hours per week. We strive to keep your hours regular and predictable, with early morning start times required on market days.

Meals: You will have free access to unsold farm produce, eggs, bread and pastries. Should you live on the farm, you will have access to a shared kitchen and bathroom.

Compensation: $8/hr, plus trading privileges at market and free access to unsold farm produce, eggs, and baked goods. A room in our house is available for $150/mo rent (including internet and utilities), with access to a shared bathroom and kitchen. You will receive training in marketable skills, including how to grow nutritious and delicious vegetables, and how to start and run your own 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 all aspects of starting and running a business like ours. And because there are many ways of doing things, we also take you on visits to 2-3 other farms and bakeries over the course of the season.

To apply, please send a resume, cover letter, and three current references to littlehatcreek@gmail.com.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Your farmer and baker,

Ben & Heather

crew-2016

Our 2015-2016 crew

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Subscribe and save 50% off of your first order!

We want to keep our oven hot this winter and keep you in the wood-fired baked goods you know and love. But we need your help! Create a new subscription by December 10 and use the discount code SIGNUPDRIVE50 to receive 50% off of your first order! That’s on top of the 10% discount you get just for subscribing.

How to sign up
To get started, go to our online store. When you select a product, say, chocolate croissants, you will see a few choices, shown above. If you choose “one-time purchase” you generate a single order for the next delivery date at full price. The discount code doesn’t apply. If you choose “Subscribe and Save”, you get 10% off of the retail price of the croissant, and the discount code applies to your first order. You may opt to get your croissant every week or every other week.

Continue adding products to your cart, choosing whether you want them just once, every week, or every other week. (Yes, they can all go in the same cart.) Then, at checkout, select your delivery day and location (see options below) and put in your credit card information (or select our invoice option). You will also be prompted to create an account. We require an account because this allows you to manage your subscription.

Managing your subscription

Once you have your subscription, there are several changes that you can make. You may place vacation holds, swap out products, add or remove products from your subscription, or change quantities. To help you navigate these options, we have created this step-by-step guide. If you have additional questions, please see our FAQ, or reply to this email.

That’s it! We look forward to baking for you!

Click on this interactive map to view our pickup days and locations.

 

New pickup location at the Rockfish Valley Community Center!

We have added a new pickup location in Nelson County!  As of Nov 12, you can get your wood-fired bread and pastries at the Rockfish Valley Community Center on Saturdays, during opening hours. If you have an existing subscription, and would like to switch to this location, please contact us, and we will make the change.

Happy eating!

Ben and Heather

A new way to get bread!

After a couple of months in the works, we are thrilled to launch our new wood-fired oven subscription service! You tell us what you want us to bake for you every week, and we will deliver to a location near you in Nelson County, Charlottesville, and Lexington. We initially conceived of this service as a “Community Supported Bakery” share similar to Pannier Bread Company‘s share (Heather’s first bread-by-bike business), but wanted more flexibility. We think this oven subscription retains the philosophy of a CSB while offering you the ability to fully customize your subscription.

When we fire the oven, we want to make sure the heat produced by the wood we burn is put to good use baking bread and pastries for our community. By subscribing to a weekly bake, you support us by making it worth it to us to fire, because we know that many people are going to benefit every time we bake. You also help us predict our flour orders. Our most important flours are shipped directly from small mills, and we often need to know four weeks in advance what we will need.

In return for your commitment, we will give you 10% off of the retail price of our products!  You can either “set it and forget it”, or you can customize your subscription. If you know you always want the same loaf of bread every week, you can set up your subscription once, and guarantee yourself that bread for the coming weeks while never having to lift a finger again. If you prefer to switch it up, you can access your account and change types and quantities. Another improvement on the CSB is that you can also place your subscription on hold if you go on vacation.

Ready to get started?  Go to our store!

We look forward to baking for you!

Bakery/shed 5: Closing in

You could say we’re in the home stretch of this project now. Here’s what has happened in the last month or two.

The plumbing and electrical were roughed in.

Big red trucks came, replaced a pole, took down a pole, ran a new service and buried the electric to the house–bonus!

Ben moved lots and lots of gravel around.

We couldn’t excavate close to the oven, so in a feat of masterful framing involving strange angles, our contractor connected it to the building with a little interior alcove.

The foamers came and made it look like it snowed upside-down in there.

The doors and windows closed it all in.

Then the sheet rockers came and made walls appear.

And Ben took on a second full-time job as our painting subcontractor.

Now the exterior siding is going up, the interior trim is getting put in, the HVAC is installed and the building is energized.

It won’t be long now!

The farmer’s market season opens!

Come find us this morning (Saturday April 2) at the very first 2016 Charlottesville City Market (7 AM to noon) and at the last winter market at the Rockfish Valley Community Center (9:00 to noon).

We have beautiful plant starts for your garden, fresh spinach and wood-fired breads. And, we also are introducing hand-laminated croissants and scones, fresh from our brick oven. Quantities are limited, so get there early!

Looking forward to seeing your friendly faces!

Bakery/Shed 4: Raising the roof

What hasn’t been apparent thus far is the “shed” part of the this project. We designed the building so that it would streamline our vegetable harvesting in addition to providing Heather with a place to bake bread. The new shed will be attached to the bakery building via a covered driveway.

This phase of the project also began Ben’s intimate acquaintance with the shovel. Each of those posts is set in a hole three feet deep–no small feat in ground that has in places more rocks and dirt, thanks to  Hurricane Camille.

Then Ben and Craig hoisted those beams into place by hand. The trusses on the other hand, got to ride on a crane.

In the above photos you can see the scissor trusses for the main floor of the bakery–these create a lofted ceiling.

The shed already has a high ceiling, so that got standard trusses.

But our favorite part of the design is the loft created by the “attic” trusses over the cooler and office. This space is too beautiful and restful to be used for storage–it will be a retreat, a guest room, a practice room, a yoga room.

The next day, the OSB and tarpaper went on. Suddenly it didn’t rain in the building anymore.

 

 

Bakery/Shed 3: Hello walls

Construction projects are notorious for going over budget and off schedule. Somehow this winter, it seems the stars have aligned over our project; apart from rest and rain days, there has been no down time. Credit for working that magic goes to our contractor Craig Swingle.

In the last half of February, Craig and Ben framed the walls, and Ben laid the drainpipe and moved a bunch of gravel around. He helped finish waterproofing the foundation, then he and I filled the area behind the retaining wall with rocks and gravel.

Then the sheathing went up. It looks like the oven is outside the building, but it will be tied in with a concrete floor, shed roof and wing walls.

At some point, we took a break to start farming again. We put the plastic on the greenhouse and started seeding for the 2016 season.

The last steps in this phase were placing the beam over the little “hallway” to the oven, and building some stairs up to the bakery.

The building has to sit high off the ground because of how we built the oven. Last year, if you recall, we were scrambling to get the oven built, and didn’t think through how it would tie in to the rest of the building. In building it on the high part of the pasture, we essentially fixed the finished floor height for the rest of the building.  Early next week, we’ll show you the roof.

No Cause for Alarm: Food Safety and Farmers’ Markets


We read this recent opinion piece in the New York Times after a skeptical friend sent it to us. A few days later, another friend, a science journalist, sent the same article to a group of farmers (including us), asking if anyone would draft a letter to the editor in response. After checking out the piece and its source–this unpublished working paper–we agreed that the author, Marc Bellemare, was overstating his results when he sounded the alarm that farmers markets are correlated with a higher incidence of food-borne illness per capita. To his credit, Bellemare reminds readers that the correlation that he found does not imply causation. But reports like this get picked up and repeated without the caveats that Bellemare included in his article. We agree with our journalist friend who said that the New York Times gave Bellemare a big megaphone for results that are less than conclusive.

To understand the difference between correlation and causation, imagine reading that states with more traffic accidents also had more food-borne illnesses. Another way of saying this is that there is a positive correlation between traffic accidents and food-borne illnesses. It would be difficult to imagine anyone arguing that traffic accidents caused the illnesses, or for that matter, that illnesses caused the accidents. Similarly, there is nothing in Bellemare’s results that would prohibit the conclusion that food-borne illness caused increases in farmers markets, rather than the other way around.

Still, a correlation between two variables is usually the first clue that they might be related. The stronger the correlation, the more likely it is to catch a researcher’s eye. If you look at the figure above, you see one of Bellemare’s main results. It shows a correlation between farmers’ markets per capita and a variable that is not well-explained in the paper, but which presumably represents all reported outbreaks of food-borne illness. The green dots are the actual data, the red line is a type of trend-line, and the blue shape is the uncertainty about the location of that trend-line. The steeper the trend-line, the stronger the correlation, so a flat line would indicate no correlation.  Look at the actual data points (green dots). If you were looking at the data for the first time, without the blue shape and red line, would you think there was a relationship, or would this just look like a blob of points?  If you do think there is a relationship, is it a strong relationship?

We don’t think so. To us, it looks like a shotgun blast of points that show no trend. But even if you think it does show a trend, it would still just be a correlation.

Mistaking correlation for causation is a common error that we have written about before. What bothers us most is the New York Times should have known better. By publishing the piece with the headline, “Farmer’s Markets and Food-Borne Illness,” the NYT is implying that shopping at farmer’s markets increases the risk of contracting a food-borne illness. This, despite the fact that in the conclusion of his unpublished working paper, Bellemare himself writes “from a policy perspective, it would be a mistake to take the results in this paper and discourage or encourage people to purchase food from farmers markets on the basis of our results.”

That said, we welcome a discussion of ways to reduce the risk of food-borne illness. It is the responsibility of small and large producers alike to ensure the food that they sell is safe. Regulators rightly focus on larger producers, whose products are available in supermarkets nationwide. Higher risk foods, like cheese and meat, are also more closely regulated, even at farmers’ markets. It is likely that small producers of lower risk foods, like vegetables, are not inspected because the risk of an outbreak is low relative the impact it would have, since each farm serves a small area, and not an entire region.

And therein lies the main safety mechanism for consumers. By shopping at a farmer’s market, you are buying food grown by a member of your community. No-one wants to make their neighbors sick, and we all know that word travels quickly if there ever is a problem. Farmer’s markets give customers the opportunity to make food safety judgements for themselves, by asking producers about their practices, or by visiting their facility. It is when food production is removed from the community that it becomes necessary for the government to step in and inspect on the consumer’s behalf. So until there is actual evidence that food purchased at a farmer’s market is unsafe, we can relax and continue to enjoy farmers’ markets for their fresh nutient-dense food, local economic benefit, and sense of community.

We did send a letter to the editor in response to Bellemare’s opinion piece, but the Times declined to publish it. Here it is:

To the Editor:

Marc Bellemare writes that certain outbreaks of food-borne illness are correlated with the number of farmers markets per capita in a state (“Farmers Markets and Food-borne Illness” Op-Ed, Jan. 17). He rightly concedes that correlation does not imply causation, so for the Times to publish his non-peer-reviewed analysis seems premature and risks sowing undue fear of local food. To imply that farmers markets are to blame ignores that, as Bellemare writes, “most…illness [is] caused by consumers who undercook or fail to wash their food,” no matter where it is purchased. Food at supermarkets is anonymous. But at the farmers markets where we sell in central Virginia, customers can ask about food safety issues including pesticide applications, use of growth hormones and antibiotics, and worker conditions. The Times’ ill-considered publishing of Bellemare’s results stands to misinform consumers.

Ben Stowe and Heather Coiner