Week 20, Final Week 2017

Hello! This is the last week for our 2017 CSA season.  The first frost finally came Wednesday morning, a little later than usual.  Some of our more tender crops saw their final day and some of our hardier crops enjoy a little cold to build additional sweetness.  We have had a very successful season and we would like to thank you all for participating.  Please sign up again, starting now.  Prices for returning members are locked in at the current year prices so make sure you sign up before there is a slight increase for 2018.

In this week’s box:

Parsley or Lemongrass

Salad Mix or Spinach or arugula

Beets or radishes

Collards or Kale or Broccoli Greens

Green Peppers


Swiss Chard (Tuesday) or Radishes (Friday/Saturday)


The Beginning of Late Summer (Week 13)

Hi again and welcome to the beginning of late summer.  As the temperatures begin to drop again and kids go back to school, we farmers often get asked if we are beginning to wrap things up.  On the contrary, this is the most productive part of the season.  Our hot crops are in full swing (my tomatoes JUST started turning red), beans and herbs and greens are bumping.  Apples and late pears are coming into peak ripeness and we are busy as ever tending to young fall plants (maybe even seeding a few more before it gets too late).  This is the best time of the year to eat Detroit vegetables.

In your box this week:

Cherry Tomatoes




Salad mix


Basil (Tuesday)/Mint (Saturday)


Try this recipe if you like to eat meat.  Substitute chicken or turkey if you don’t eat red meat or omit and replace with green beans, pole beans or cranberry beans if you are vegetarian.


This week, we had to extract veggies from the massive weeds that are overtaking this part of the world.  The rain and heat have made crops bump into serious production but unfortunately, the weeds are out of control too!  Here are some common weeds one might find in the Detroit garden:










Queen Ann’s Lace



Ground Ivy



Gallant Soldier



Bind Weed






Now that you know which weeds we are battling, you might want to know what is in the box this week.

Tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, summer squash, eggplant, cucumbers, collard greens, leaf celery, kale, basil and,

Cranberry beans


These beans are best shelled and cooked for 30 minutes or more.

This box makes me crave minestrone.  Get some good parmesan.  Substitute fresh tomatoes for the canned and the cranberry beans for the canned beans.  Yummy!

It has been suggested also, that this is a ratatouille box.  Maybe you are already familiar with this dish or maybe you know nothing about it!  Now is a great time to try out a recipe.  Here’s one from one of my favorite chefs, Jamie Oliver.  Try it and report back!

A letter from Chris’s Cousin

Below is a letter from the cousin of our Buffalo Street farmer.  If you’re feeling inspired toss his a buck or two for running so far, and for Chris farming so hard:

People –
As many of you know, my cousin Christopher has been busting his ass as a farmer and resident on the east side of Detroit since 2009.  Here’s an overview if you’re not familiar: http://semircd.ehclients.com/uploads/Buffalo_Street_Profile_0615.pdf  And for those of you who prefer pictures: https://instagram.com/buffalostreetfarm/
As most of you don’t know, I’m going to run the Detroit Half Marathon on October 18.  And rather than run for one of many big name charities,  I’m going to run the 13 miles for cousin’s Buffalo Street Farm.
Here’s where you come in.  Support me, support my cousin, support something super special in a community that needs this farm to grow by pledging $13 (that’s $1 a mile) or more here: http://www.youcaring.com/buffalo-street-farm-419326
In return, cousin and I invite you to join us for a tour of the farm to see what you’re supporting after the race and for a sip of something at a local joint to celebrate (details to follow in a separate email).
On behalf of my cousin, the farm and a city that just keeps on swinging just like Irish Mickey Ward, thanks for considering.

Sometimes the stars align

And we end up with a light box.  A couple folks pointed out this week that the boxes were a little light (especially on Tuesday).  Part of a CSA is rolling with the ups and downs of the season.  But also part of a CSA is us telling you a little about what’s going on and why that might be.


Also rest assured that we keep track of the value of the boxes that go out, and if there is a week that is light we make sure that there is an extra big box to balance it out later in the season.

Cherry tomatoes in shopping basket

So this week, a problem on Tuesday was that Noah was having a well deserved camping trip vacation and his farm sitter couldn’t find the cherry tomatoes that were supposed to go in the boxes.  On Tuesdays we pack the boxes about 2 hours before you come and pick them up, so our wiggle room to look for things and find substitutes is very limited- so the boxes went out without cherry tomatoes.


There are lots of ups and downs to the season that come from pests or weather.  You can read a lot more about our policies on how we deal with pests here.


This week’s biggest problem was more an issue of planning though.  To quote our weekly planning e-mail: “Uh-oh I have tomatoes and carrots and garlic too!”  So rather than drown you in double doses of each, we went with the option to have lighter boxes this week in favor of more plentiful and diverse boxes later.  If you would rather that we give you larger quantities of some items, by all means let us know!  The most common complaints that a lot of CSAs get is that they get drowned in Kale one week and then Zucchini the next.  We try our best to avoid that.

weed party

Being a cooperative helps us smooth out a lot of the ups and downs of the season, but every once in a while even that can’t help us out.  We obviously hope we’ll make up for this light week later, but certainly continue to tell us when we get it wrong.  This is our fourth year of doing this, and we’re always hoping that we’re getting better at it all the time.

Chances to see the farms

Hello CSA members-

We hope you have been enjoying all of your vegetables and fruit and flowers so far this year.  Now with some hot weather we can see about getting tomatoes and peppers coming at you soon.
A few of you have pointed out that our spring potluck never materialized- but we are going to try and play catch up now.  Here are two opportunities to visit some farms coming up din August.
1) Summer CSA Potluck: Come on and all to Fields of Plenty (Clairmount between 3rd and the Lodge) on August 16 at 6 PM for a potluck and farm tour.  Many of you visited this farm last year during its first year of operation and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how it as grown over the past 10 months.  We’ll send more details on parking etc as the date gets closer.
2) Detroit Agriculture Network Tour: You can see some of the City Commons farms on 18th Annual Tour of Detroit Urban Gardens and Farms on August 5.  This is a fundraiser for the Garden Resource Program- without which City Commons would not exist. Buffalo Street Farm will be a stop on the Eastside Bus Tour.  On the Central Bus Tour, Food Field will be a stop and Fields of Plenty will be a roll by.  The entire event is followed by a dinner of local food.  You can see more details about this event and purchase ticket here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/18th-annual-tour-of-detroit-urban-gardens-farms-tickets-17357961129.  Tickets often sell out so we recommend you reserve yours soon.
Thanks so much for your support of our urban farms,
Alice and the rest of the City Commons Crew

2014 Box Flashback

It’s been one of the coldest Februarys on record here in Detroit.  Sometimes on these days it is hard to remember those days when we were wearing t-shirts and eating fresh produce (except Farmer Minni, she’s in Belize for a couple months, maybe she’ll give us a local food entry from down south).

Maybe the fact that February does seem so long and cold and dark, nationally February 28th is the most popular day for CSA Sign Ups.  As such we’re joining the movement to make February 28th National CSA Sign Up Day.  We encourage all of you to join up by signing up for a CSA (even if it’s not ours!) and encouraging your friends to do the same. If you’re into that sort of thing you can tag it with #CSADay

Here are some photos from last summer to wet your appetite.  These are photos of every box we gave last year (thanks to Maurita Plouff for providing the ones we missed!  Her website is www.goodstuff.recipes)

Week 1

Week 1

Week 2

Week 2

Week 3

Week 3 (photo compliments of Maurita Plouff)

week 4

Week 4

Week 5

Week 5 (photo compliments of Maurita Plouff)

week 6

Week 6

Week 7

Week 7

Week 8

Week 8

Week 9

Week 9 (photo compliments of Maurita Plouff)

Week 10

Week 10 (photo compliments of Maurita Plouff)

Week 11

Week 11 (photo compliments of Maurita Plouff)

Week 12

Week 12 (photo compliments of Maurita Plouff)

Week 13

Week 13

Week 14

Week 14 (photo compliments of Maurita Plouff)


Week 15

Week 16

Week 16 (photo compliments of Maurita Plouff)

Week 17

Week 17 (photo compliments of Maurita Plouff)

Week 18Week 18

Week 20

Week 20 (photo compliments of Maurita Plouff)

Storage 2014

Storage share

Thanksgiving 2014


Thanksgiving share



Potluck at Fields of Plenty this Weekend

Our summer/fall CSA member potluck is this weekend at Fields of Plenty!


When: Saturday 530 PM

Where: Fields of Plenty is located on Clairmount between 3rd and the Lodge.  If you are trying to find it on Google Maps you can use 860 Clairmount or simply the intersection of Clairmount and 3rd.   There is a Clairmount exit off the Lodge if you are headed north. There is parking on Taylor, 3rd, and Atkinson.  If you have limited mobility we can have a few folks park in the alley behind the garden, enter off of 3rd.

*rain plan* If there is rain the party will move to Alice’s house at 870 Gladstone

What: A potluck!  Bring a dish to pass, we’ll be grilling some veggie so feel free to bring something to throw on the grill.

If you have trouble finding the place or have other questions about the farm or potluck  you can contact Alice at 509-540-2769

Buffalo Street Farm Presents: Attack of the Aliens, Stray Dogs and Aphids; Plus Monarchs Abound! (and other news)

You know what’s in the box, but what’s going down on the farm? A lot. And we at Buffalo Street Farm and City Commons want to fill you in on some happenings and  thank all of  our members for  their season long support that helps us  realize our passion for providing fresh, local, organically grown food while transforming vacant lots in our immediate neighborhood. [Note: Click on the photos if you want a closer look]


About the farm: Started in 2010, Buffalo Street Farm is now a 3/4 acre growing space in Northeast Detroit. We grow a wide variety of crops, including cherry tomatoes, Swiss chard, kale, and carrots. We also have 20 laying hens.

Meet the farmers: While 3/4 of an acre may not seem like a lot of space, it takes an incredible amount of work to keep it in production at hand scale. That means almost everything we do is with shovels, wheelbarrows and hands and not with machinery.  Chris McGrane and Minehaha Forman operate the farm with hired help from the neighborhood and some volunteer help from fellow City Commons growers.

Chris McGrane                                                 Minehaha Forman                                      Joseph Wiley –Farm hand and neighbor




This year we almost doubled the size of our growing space and got a 70’X30′ hoop house to extend our growing season. We planted lots of kale and cherry tomatoes, which soon came under attack by a number of pests. As organic growers, sometimes you can feel helpless when pitted against thousands of tiny insects. And some of them are not so tiny. For instance, just last month we were invaded by tomato hornworms. If you haven’t seen one, they are big fat green worms with a red “horn”  on their back end.

One day I was harvesting cherry tomatoes for lunch and heard a distinct clicking sound, like something out of an alien movie. I followed the sound to a giant ugly horn worm that was using the sound to scare off predators, maybe? I shook more of the leaves and heard many more eerie clicks as if answering in chorus. Then I realized the severity of the problem. The worms eat so much so fast that if we didn’t do something in a matter of hours the entire crop of tomatoes–about 130 plants–would be destroyed.

They were everywhere. Almost every leaf or fruiting stem was bent with one hanging on and chewing away. They blend in so well it was hard to see them but their clicking betrayed them. I put on a pair of gloves (because they look gross and  a little like aliens) and started hand picking them off into piles as fast as I could. As a chemical-free farm, it was my only defense against them and my last hope of saving the tomatoes.





I collected piles of the hornworms and threw them into the chicken coop thinking the hens would be overjoyed. They weren’t. They side-eyed the worms and made suspicious sounds in reaction to the clicking of the hornworms and ultimately didn’t touch the things. Thanks for the help, ladies. =/



Just when I thought I got them all, I would hear and spot more. I abandoned my afternoon plans (garlic harvesting) to take out as many hornworms as I could. After I realized the worst they could do to me  is click, I had took off the gloves. By the time evening started to roll around, my hands were coated in a sticky green film of tomato resin.

Then something happened that I didn’t expect. I started spotting white things in between the leaves. Didn’t take clicking to spot them. A closer look showed me it was a hornworm covered in white pellet looking things. At first I was like WTF kind of new devilry is this? Are they really aliens morphing into something else? I frantically tweeted the following photo to a friend and veteran organic grower who is knowledgable in pest ID.



CAM01089parasite wasp worm



But good news! It turns out those white things are the eggs of a parasitic wasp that feed off of the juice of hornworms, which given the worms diet is basically tomato leaf juice… (disgusting, but true). I’ve never been so excited about a parasite. I didn’t remove the white-scaled worms because I wanted the wasps to grow up and multiply and eat all the hornworms they could. The next day all of the remaining hornworms were covered in the white eggs. They had stopped clicking and eating and if they were not already dead, they were paralyzed.

Since then, the wasps have kept the hornworms in check. Turns out we didn’t need synthetic poisons, nature helped take care of it! By the way, hornworms turn into fuzzy brown moths, not butterflies, not that it matters, I guess? May they find better luck out in the wild, but when they go after my tomatoes, they go after my livelihood and that is really the only problem I have with them.


With the hornworm problem solved, we felt like a weight was lifted. More and more cherry tomatoes were turning and we almost had enough to put in CSA boxes when we noticed a new attack on the plants. This time, it was aphids and white flies that basically drain the new tomato shoots of life and eventually kill their host plant.  They are small, but if you look closely at the photo below you will see little pale bugs.



Chris tackled the problem. He got some Organicide, which is a mixture of fish oil and seasame oil that is harmless to animals and people (Chris’ dog Odin chewed open a quart of it and drank it all and he is doing quite well). We had never used it before and were skeptical.  But it worked! After the spray the bugs fell off. Then it rained and the fishy smell was gone, too.




And hooraayyy! The tomatoes survived and now we have lots to share with our CSA members. With all the rain, the tomatoes have been splitting, literally bursting with juice. Here’s a tip: When you got home, gently pour the cherry toms out onto a tray or plate in a single layer so that they air out and don’t split more/ go bad faster. Refrigerating tomatoes may compromise the flavor a bit but if you don’t eat them in a day or two it might be worth the compromise to keep them fresh.

Cherrytoms CAM01160



We kind of like wasps around here. The predatory kind (not parasitic)  eat the cabbage moth caterpillars and help protect the kale from total destruction.




In memory of Bantam the Rooster:

About two months ago, a woman in a mini van stopped at the farm. She got out holding a cardboard box asking if we wanted a rooster, saying it was a pet she couldn’t take care of anymore. Without waiting for a reply, she left the box in the grass and drove off. She must have known we had chickens and thought it would be a good home for him.

In the box was a feathery little gift–a small red bantam rooster with blue-green iridescent tail feathers and  large spurs on his legs. Often bred for fighting, bantams are little and have big spurs. He looked scared and confused and we put him in the coop with the 20 hens. They  basically ignored him. But he was so happy to be there he started crowing and strutting around. If he found a bug he would call one of the hens over to share it. One would take the bug and the other hens would chase her around for it. If he thought he saw a hawk (most  likely one of those  common tiny brown birds that hang out on the power lines)  he would warn the hens, who, being the independent ladies that they are, didn’t necessarily listen or  respond, but he was just that kind of bird. He was so small compared to the big laying hens, but it didn’t phase him.

About a month after he was dropped off on Buffalo Street Farm in a box, Bantam (we didn’t name him) met a valiant end. A pack of stray dogs came onto the farm while the chickens were out–three scraggly dogs that we often see running in the street. One looked like a brown pit bull with a beige brindle in its coat. One was a big  shaggy mutt with a crooked tail and lumps in his black coat. The third was a tiny mutt style dog with short hair, a dirty grey color, running behind the others, its short legs doing double time to keep up with the pack. The dogs closed in on the chickens, Chris told me what he saw from the window before he ran out to scare off the dogs.

Seeing the dogs, the hens scattered, clucking frantically. But Bantam held his ground. He drew the dogs’ attention to himself and away from the hens by flying up into the face of the pit bull wielding his spurs. All three dogs came down on Bantam while the hens ran to safety. For his size, the small bird put up a big fight. But by the time Chris ran across the field, the pit bull had Bantam limp in his jaws and was leading all three dogs away across the farm into a thicket on an abandoned lot at  the end of the farm. Feathers in the grass painted a picture of Bantam’s struggle. All the hens were accounted for. A month later there are feathers still in the grass here and there, and we won’t soon forget Bantam the rooster. And if you ever buy Buffalo Street Farm  eggs from Alice (Alice works with Chris to care for the Chickens on Buffalo Street),  Bantam probably saved the hens that laid them!

R.I.P. Bantam the rooster.




The Neighbors and Mimi/Fifi

On the farm we are constantly trying to work with the raw, sometimes unpleasant, current of nature. But I love working on Buffalo Street not just because I get all the fresh cherry tomatoes I can eat in a day, but for many reasons including the neighbors. One  “next door” neighbor ( there are  numerous farmed lots between us) is a  lady who grows an abundance of all types of flowers like lilies and petunias and they brighten up the place even on the dreariest of days.

Then there is our neighbor across the street who often volunteers to help harvest cherry tomatoes and turnips. She also loves the chickens and brings them treats every day. She has a tiny white bichon frise dog named Mimi (nickname Fifi). Mimi/Fifi loves nothing better than to run around the chicken yard and try to scare the hens. By now they are so used to her that they don’t even budge when she lunges but she still tries. Mimi/Fifi loves attention and affection and would sit in my lap for hours if I let her. When it’s hot out and I’m exhausted from farm work, Mimi/Fifi comes over and sits with me in the shade until I’m cooled off and ready jump back into work again. Chris and I always look forward for Mimi/Fifi visits. I’m famously not a dog person, but Mimi is very special to me.


Chris and Fiif me n fiifCAM01262



Our milkweeds bring all the monarchs to the yard:

It was all over the news this year: 2014 marked the lowest monarch butterfly population ever  recorded making some scientists warn that they may soon join a growing list of the planet’s endangered species. But if it wasn’t for the news reports we would never have guessed it. All summer we have seen many monarch butterflies floating about the farm. They seem to gather on the milkweed that we have growing all over the place. We didn’t whip down the milkweed for that reason. It grows naturally on the farm and we don’t thwart its spreading as long as it doesn’t pop up inside the production beds. This year a whole field of it grew up on a vacant lot that we had compost dumped on. We used up all the compost but we couldn’t get every morsel and a lot of it was left to feed the milkweed. So kind of by default, Buffalo Street farm became an unintentional  sanctuary for monarchs on one of their toughest years in history.

If you have any room in your yard, plant some milkweed for the monarchs! It will keep coming back, and spread. The native milkweed variety that we have on the farm gives off a heady floral scent when in bloom that can be compared to that of  lilacs.

Monarch caterpillars, unlike the hornworms, do not like to eat any common vegetable crops but they love milkweed. Milkweed attracts other beneficial insects and butterflies, too, so it’s a win-win. Take a look at those two fat monarch babies (below) who are loading up on milkweed sap as they grow on the farm! Also, a swallowtail sips on milkweed nectar (right).

CAM01209                                 CAM01153



The “F” word … 

No one wants to hear it, but we have been planning for fall since early July when we harvested garlic and planted our fall crops. We have the garlic seed stored and ready to go in the ground in October or November, we have kohlrabi transplants bulbing out already as well as bulb fennel, radicchio, lettuce, and more.

As it goes with farming, and why we love having CSA members is because they understand that although we do our best to fight off the pests and animals, sometimes we don’t win, and we have to surrender a crop or two to nature’s will. As you have read, a lot can happen between now and 40 days from now when those little lettuce seedlings are to become full round heads. But we can promise you this: If it’s in our power and skill set to raise these crops to maturity using chemical free methods here in Detroit, we will, and you will find these goodies in your box come fall. We just ordered 25 yards of compost to boost the fall crops to help them grow faster and withstand pests and disease.


Seed garlic drying                                           Chris’s sister planting kohlrabi                          Compost delivery

CAM01078 CAM01088composr dump


Baby lettuce transplants going in the ground

lettuce TPS fall



Despite warding off pests, 2014 has been a pretty abundant year. We hope you are enjoying your shares!

Basil for Pesto                                    Pie Pumpkins fighting off mildew and squash bugs                   Giant Swiss Chard

CAM01224 CAM01236        CAM00984 CAM00979 CAM01215




Did I mention that I was obsessed with glads this year? Folks with flower shares may have noticed

CAM01243 CAM01113 CAM01235 CAM01077



Oh, also, tell Odin the dog to stop eating all the pears off the tree and leave some for the humans!  Good thing he can’t climb. Barring a squirrel invasion or some other unfortunate event, we may be able to have pears in boxes soon! Click on photo to see pears.

odin eats pear



The Future: 

Looking forward in the long term, over the past couple years  we’ve planted  lots of  fruit–berries, grapes and tree fruit–so that one day, (it takes about 2-5 years for these to establish, and there are always risks) but one day we hope to have a fruit share as an add on. Sound good? Stick with us! =)

wine grapes CAM01210CAM00966