I first met Pat and Nick of Hexagon Projects & Farm nearly two years ago when they moved to Wisconsin from New York State. As first time farm owners, they were starting from scratch on new ground in a new community with a deep determination to build their business into something healthy and thriving and beautiful. In the short time they have been a part of the greater Menomonie community, Nick and Pat have made outstanding progress as growers and have become an integral part of the sustainable farming community. They are weekly vendors at the Midtown Farmers Market in Minneapolis and grow approximately half of all of the produce offered through Local Choice Cooperative Producers CSA. Additionally, they have certified their farm through Certified Naturally Grown as a means to assure their customers that they are growing responsibly and taking care of their share of the Earth. Read more about Hexagon’s farming adventures and the wonderful things they are up to in their bio, below!
Hexagon Projects & Farm is owned and run by Pat Lang and Nick Rigger, who currently grow around a half acre of vegetables and are establishing a small selection of perennial fruits. They were living in Poughkeepsie, NY, where Pat worked for several years at Poughkeepsie Farm Project, when they became aware of the opportunity to purchase their 9-acre property, which they did in November of 2017, returning closer to Nick’s family home of Coon Rapids, MN. Hexagon is located at the bottom of a small valley, 7 miles south of downtown Menomonie; the hilly property is roughly the shape of Minnesota, a very irregular hexagon.
Nick and Pat’s first solo operation (and Nick’s first farm experience of any kind), Hexagon has started up small with the goal of determining what methods work very well for their particular terrain, soil, and available resources. The farm has also started up largely with human power (versus fossil fuel power) and is now fully no-till, with loads of benefits to soil health and fertility. The crop mix is highly varied, and Pat and Nick acquire most of their seeds from small, Certified Organic or Certified Naturally Grown seed companies. All but 2 of the varieties grown are open-pollinated, which means that the farmer or home gardener, under the right conditions, can reliably save seeds from the crop that is grown (unlike hybrid seeds). Many of the varieties are heirlooms (collards, tomatoes, onions, zucchini, cucumbers, and more), and some others are new, intriguing varieties developed using traditional breeding methods. From the start, Hexagon has been certified by Certified Naturally Grown, an organization that provides a certification similar to Certified Organic, featuring peer inspections and a strong focus on improving sustainability on member farms/apiaries.
Nick and Pat maintain perennial grasses and clovers around the garden area, which they cut with a scythe for straw production (post-harvest photo below). This season they have experimented with a mulching system that involves: (1) brown craft paper, from recycled content; covered by (2) a very thin layer of wood chips from a local tree service; covered by (3) straw produced on the farm. So far it has helped tremendously with weed suppression, and paper is so attractive to earthworms that they come to the surface in droves, effectively tilling and fertilizing the soil while doing their thing. One photo below shows the garlic beds that will be planted in October 2019 (between tomatoes and chard), currently covered by the paper/chip/straw mulch (and worms, not visible!).
An additional major project underway at Hexagon is the introduction of artist space on the farm. Nick and Pat will be making some repairs to and constructing some studio spaces in a 50×65 foot pole building, erected in the eighties, that originally served as tractor and hay storage. A brief but significant time in Nick’s life was spent at a farm-based artist residency in Reedsburg, WI, and the vision for Hexagon is a similar one, in which residents participate in a work share (receiving work space and lodging in return for time spent providing farm and market labor), contributing to a vibrant, communal atmosphere at the farm and surrounding area. Nick and Pat urge anyone interested in this project to reach out and/or follow the Hexagon blog (www.hexagonprojectsfarm.com), as additional resources/assistance of any kind is invaluable.
This week in Local Choice CSA
Bifrost Farms – Chevre
Essence Homestead – Bell peppers and potatoes
Hexagon Projects & Farm – Carrots, dandelion greens, salad turnip and arugula
Towering Heights Farm – Italian sausage
Valley Pasture Farm – Eggs, 1/2 chicken, lamb brats, spaghetti squash
Winnowburrow Farm – Dill pickle sandwich slices, poblano cucumber relish and mixed mushrooms (oyster and wine cap)
Digging deeper into Nutrition with Johnne Smalley of Towering Heights Farm
Spaghetti squash (also called vegetable spaghetti, noodle squash, spaghetti marrow, vegetable marrow, squaghetti, and gold string melon (金糸瓜 (kinshi uri) in Japanese) is a type of winter squash that is unlike other members of the gourd family. It is non-starchy and tends to have firm yellow flesh, as opposed to the softer orange flesh of acorn squash, butternut, and other winter squash varieties. How spaghetti squash got its name is actually pretty obvious. When you cook the squash, the flesh develops threads that resemble spaghetti, and it’s long enough that you can twirl them around your fork. Spaghetti squash has a very mild, almost neutral flavor, and is often used as a substitute for pasta. (One cup of cooked spaghetti squash contains just 28% of the calories of one cup of cooked spaghetti.)
Spaghetti squash is rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. In particular, spaghetti squash is a good source of fiber, vitamin C, beta-carotene, manganese, and vitamin B6. The beta-carotene and vitamin C are two antioxidants that can curb free radical formation and reduce your risk of chronic diseases. Due to its low calorie and high fiber content, spaghetti squash may aid weight loss and digestive health.
One cup (155 grams) of cooked spaghetti squash provides the following nutrients:
- Calories: 42
- Carbs: 10 grams
- Fiber: 2.2 grams
- Protein: 1 gram
- Fat: 0.5 grams
- Vitamin C: 9% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
- Manganese: 8% of the RDI
- Vitamin B6: 8% of the RDI
- Pantothenic acid: 6% of the RDI
- Niacin: 6% of the RDI
|*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.|
To maximize the potential health benefits of spaghetti squash, select healthy toppings and pair it with other nutritious foods like veggies, herbs, spices, heart-healthy fats, and quality proteins. Spaghetti squash can easily be baked, boiled, steamed, or even microwaved. The main issue is that it’s easy to overcook. Cooking the squash al dente is practically an art. If I’m making a casserole, I don’t worry about overcooking the squash, because it really doesn’t matter. If I’m going for al dente noodle-like strands, I pay close attention to cooking times.
Dandelion Greens can be eaten cooked or raw and serve as an excellent source of vitamins A, C and K. They also contain vitamin E, folate and small amounts of other B vitamins. What’s more, dandelion greens provide a substantial amount of several minerals, including iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium. On top of that, they also contain more protein and iron than spinach. Dandelion greens are also a diuretic, which is where the old tale that dandelions cause bed-wetting came about. (The French slang word for dandelion, pissenlit, literally means piss in the bed.) But, besides assisting with urination, dandelion can help against cancer, inflammation and the immune system.
The Fine Cooking website describes the taste of dandelion greens as earthy, nutty and pleasingly bitter, similar to the taste of endive or radicchio. It recommends pairing dandelion greens with bacon, goat cheese, nuts and lemon to complement the taste.
Here are just a few ways to use these nutritious greens.
- Sautéing and braising are simple and delicious ways to cook dandelion greens. Sautéing with olive oil and lots of garlic really compliments this green. Or, take it one step further by adding bacon and braising in a little chicken stock.
- Use them raw in salads and pesto.
- Include them with egg dishes. Dandelion greens, melted cheese, fluffy eggs and maybe even a couple other vegetables are the perfect mix for a great healthy and hearty meal. An easy and familiar way to incorporate dandelion greens into breakfast (or any meal) would be including them in an omelet, frittata, quiche or tart. Try substituting spinach with dandelions the next time you whip up a recipe calling for spinach.
- Pair them with something sweet like fruit salad.
- Add heated bacon grease (from pastured pork) and vinegar for a delicious wilted salad.
- Just throw it in. Throw some dandelion greens into a soup just as you would kale, chard or any other tough green. And as you might expect, dandelion greens work really well in a bean based soup such as lentil or pasta fagioli.
Leaves should be rinsed in cool water, dried thoroughly, and stored in an open plastic bag. Wrap them loosely in damp (not wet!) paper towel, if you’d like. They’ll keep for a few days in the fridge.
This week’s meal plans are provided by Nick Rigger of Hexagon Projects & Farm
Meal 1: Spaghetti Squash Cakes with Sauteed Dandelion Greens and Soft Boiled Eggs
1 Spaghetti Squash
Olive Oil (for the pan)
1 bunch Dandelion Greens
Poblano Cucumber Relish (optional)
- Halve the spaghetti squash and roast in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until soft. Remove and allow to cool completely.
- Scoop out the inside of the squash and place into a bowl (take note to drain any water that may have been released from the roasting). Add a generous pinch of salt and ground pepper, tossing to incorporate.
- Heat a medium sized skillet and add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan.
- Using your hands, grab about 2-3 tablespoons worth of squash and press into small patties using your palms. Place a few patties in the heated pan and allow to cook for 5-6 minutes on each side (trying not to flip or move the patties more than is necessary). While the first batch is cooking you can use that time to continue making patties. Continue cooking until until all of your squash has been used – adding more oil to the pan as needed. Set the patties aside.
- Roughly chop the dandelion greens into about 1 inch pieces.
- Using the same pan you used for the squash patties, add a little oil and heat. Once warmed add the chopped dandelion greens and saute for 4-5 minutes. Season with a little salt and pepper or with a dash of rice vinegar and soy sauce.
- Bring a small pot of water to a boil and gently lower eggs into the water. Cook for 6 minutes at a low boil. Transfer the eggs to a bowl of ice water and allow to cool for just a couple of minutes. Once chilled, carefully peel and add to a plate with the dandelion greens and squash patties. Serve the squash patties with a small spoonful of the poblano cucumber relish for an added flavor.
Meal 2: Coconut Curry (adapted from averie cooks)
2-3 T coconut oil
1 medium onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
3 t ground ginger
2 t ground coriander
1, 13oz can coconut milk
4 carrots, shredded
2 T red curry paste
1 t salt
½ t ground pepper
1 T lime juice
1 T brown sugar
1-2 bell peppers, chopped
1 bunch dandelion greens (or arugula would work), chopped
2-4 lamb brats, chopped (or casing removed and crumbled) – optional
- In a large skillet or pan, add oil, onion and saute over medium heat for about 5 minutes; stirring intermittently.
- Add the lamb (optional), and cook for another 5 minutes, again, stirring occasionally.
- Add garlic, ginger, and coriander, and cook for about 1-2 minutes.
- Add the coconut milk carrots, bell peppers, curry paste, brown sugar, salt, pepper, and stir to combine. Allow the mixture to cook at a low boil for 5-6 minutes and thickens slightly.
- Add the dandelion greens (or arugula, or really any green you like), lime juice, and cook for another 2 minutes. Serve with rice or your grain of choice.
Thanks for visiting the Local Choice Cooperative Producers newsletter blog! Check back next week for more great tips, recipes and sustainable farm news!