Category Archives: Community

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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We are hiring a full-time baker!

We are looking for a full-time bread and pastry baker to join our 2018 team! We are a growing farm-bakery in our fifth year. This position is paid hourly and starts April 2, 2018. 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 one full-time farm employee and one part-time bakery 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. You may have some experience making bread, but most importantly, you are interested in being in charge of firing an oven and making sourdough breads and croissants from start to finish, including selling what you make at a farmer’s market. At the market, you will take pride in presenting the week’s produce, enjoy interacting with customers, and be able perform mental arithmetic in a fast-paced and exciting environment. You are a self-starter who can also perform routine tasks. You are organized and consistently attentive to cleanliness. You are able to work 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 enjoy interacting with customers, work well with others, but are also content to work alone.

Duties: You will be responsible for the overall daily production of our bakery. This includes mixing, shaping, and baking bread and pastries, dishwashing, oven and firewood management, ingredient restocking, and general cleanup. You will also be expected to represent our farm-bakery at one farmer’s market. Heather will train you, and assist you with production on the busier days. You may be asked to help train and supervise part-time employees. We currently fire the oven and bake two days a week, but this may increase as we take on new accounts. Occasionally, you may be asked to participate in other farm activities, including greenhouse work, harvesting, mulching and weeding; post-harvest processing like pickling, jamming and drying; and deliveries.

Duration and Hours: You will start work Monday April 2, 2018. You must be available to  to continue working through October 2018, preferably through December 2018, with the possibility of continuing part-time through the winter. Your working hours will not exceed 50 hours per week and will generally be during daytime hours. Your days off are flexible within the framework of our weekly schedule.

Housing: We have housing available.

Compensation: You will start at $7.25/hr until you are trained, or for the first month, whichever is shorter. After that, we pay $8/hr, with the possibility of another raise after four months. We pay monthly. You will have unlimited free access to unsold farm produce, including eggs, bread and pastries.

You will receive training in marketable skills, including but not limited to:
-managing a large wood-fired oven
-making pastries and naturally-leavened bread on a commercial scale
-adjusting recipes to account for weather and ingredient variation
-handling food safely
-processing fruits and vegetables
-selling farm and bakery products at a busy farmer’s market
-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. And because there are many ways of doing things, we also try to take you on visits to 2-3 other farms and bakeries over the course of the season.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Ben + Heather

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Be a part of our 2018 CSA!

IMG_9254.jpgIn December, when the seed catalogues start arriving in the mail, I begin to think about the coming year’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Program. Managing a CSA properly means planning for a diverse assortment of crops in each box. We don’t want to deliver a box with 10 pounds of summer squash in it and nothing else (though there are weeks when I could do that!). Of course, summer squash is one of the “anchors” of our CSA, along with tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers, so we attempt to plant and harvest continuous successions of these anchor crops. So when I peruse the seed catalogues by the woodstove, sipping my morning cup of coffee, I am searching for a few untried but promising varieties of each important crop to add variety and keep things interesting both for me and our CSA members. And every year we like to try a completely new crop. In 2018 we are excited to try our hand growing celery and black-eyed peas.

By choosing to join our CSA program, you choose to support our farm in the winter, when the most important work is mental, rather than physical. In the summer, we pay back your investment in our farm with the fruits of our physical labor. But winter is the time for mental labor, as I look over the 2017 field maps to plan the 2018 maps, deciding what the landscape of tomato stakes and bean trellises will look like.  And when I am imagining the shape of the coming season, you become part of my mental landscape as well. I am motivated by the thought of you opening your box, marveling at some variety of radish you have never seen before. I love thinking about you sharing the fruits of our labor with your friends and loved ones.

Our CSA runs for 19 weeks, from June through October, and is available for pickup on Wednesdays in Charlottesville, in Lexington, and at our farm. Please visit our CSA page for more details and to sign up now!

Order now for Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is our favorite holiday because it celebrates family and food, two things we value highly. Every year we pull out all the stops to celebrate the harvest and our community. Last year we had so many people descend on the farm we set up a long dinner table in the bakery! We want to include you in the bounty, so we are taking orders for pickup on day before Thanksgiving.

IMG_8406Last year we had some special requests for mini butter croissant rolls, so this year we are offering them to everyone! We have also added bulk pricing on pastries and larger bread loaves to make it easier to feed your family.

THANKSGIVING MENU

  • Multigrain sourdough ($7/small, $12/large)
  • Country white sourdough ($7/small, $12/large)
  • Corn rosemary sourdough ($7.50/small)
  • Sesame spelt ($7.50)
  • Danish rye ($4.50 half, $9 whole)
  • Farmhouse sourdough ($7)
  • SPECIAL: Mini butter croissants ($23/doz, $12/half-dozen)
  • Butter croissants ($3.50/ea, $20/half-dozen)
  • Chocolate croissants ($4/ea, $23/half-dozen)
  • Almond croissants ($4/ea, $23/half-dozen)
  • Apple-walnut tarts ($4/ea, $23/half-dozen)

Your orders will be available for pickup at our farm, at the Lexington Farmer’s Market, and at Basic Necessities in Nellysford on November 22, 2017.

To place your order, please email us at littlehatcreek(*at*)gmail.com with “ORDER” in the subject line, and indicate:

  • Where you want to pick up your order
  • Which products you would like

We will write back to confirm and send you an invoice to pay via PayPal. Please note that the order deadline is Saturday November 18. Please email with any questions you may have!

We are looking forward to sharing the products of our kitchen with you!

Heather, Ben, Sam & Hazel

 

 

Gratitude falls like leaves on the lawn

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Good morning. I am sitting, sipping coffee and gazing out the window at our frosty fields. The chill winds the night before last deposited scarlet maple leaves on our lawn, forming a red carpet as if to formally welcome the coming of winter. I appreciate the changing of the seasons for the sense of renewal that it brings. This year especially, the last burst of color on the hillsides is juxtaposed with the fresh new life of Hazel and Sam, our twins, who are only just starting their journey of life. Fall for me is also a time to reflect on the hustle bustle of the summer and feel intense gratitude for the customers that supported us through another growing season. The genuine joy on so many of your faces, meeting Hazel and Sam for the first time, and welcoming me back after a long absence, fills my heart with happiness and love for what I do. It is not enough to make delicious bread and grow great vegetables, we must also deliver them into appreciative hands, meeting our community of eaters face-to-face, and learning little tidbits of their lives.

So thank you for being there for us. During my pregnancy and recovery, this blog, and our newsletters, fell silent. But I never stopped thinking of you, and of thoughts I wanted to share with you. I am hoping that I will be able to, every once in a while, pick up my metaphorical pen again to help you stay connected as our markets wind down. In my next post, I’ll tell you of our winter plans–where you can find our bread and pastries, and what our little family hopes to do to fill our time in the off-season.

Until then, be well, stay warm, and soak up the bright colors of change.

 

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

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Our 2015-2016 crew

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

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

Day 5: 2016 CSA signups are now open!

We are excited to announce that signups to our 2016 Community Supported Agriculture Program (CSA) are now open!

Purchasing a share entitles you to 19 weeks of ecological produce from our farm and a loaf of wood-fired sourdough bread. We pack our CSA boxes with fresh fruits and vegetables that are picked at their peak, so that our members can experience the best our farm has to offer from the beginning to the end of the growing season. We also publish a popular weekly newsletter with farm news and recipes to help you make the most of your box.

To keep things interesting, every year we introduce a few new varieties. For 2016, we are adding carrots, beets, broccoli raab (rapini), as well as new varieties of tomatoes and squash. But we are keeping prices, pickup times, and locations the same! For more details on our CSA, please go here.

You can sign up by filling out this form. We sold out last year, so don’t dally too long. We look forward to welcoming you to our community!