Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Farmblogging: Down on the Farm with Shannon Brines of Brines Farm

4. June 2006 • Ed Vielmetti, Guest Contributor
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Down on the Farm is the weblog from Shannon Brines, a Dexter, MI farmer who is a regular at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market . He writes about what’s he’s about to bring to market (snow peas and tomatoes are on the way), the eat local challenge to limit your food consumption to things grown within 100 miles of you, and the local harvest guide to regional producers.

The blog tagline is
Blog of Brines Farm, so you can “know your farmer.” Sustainability, green, and eco news related to agriculture, local food, and other interests as well.

If you see him at market, say hi, and say Arbor Update sent you.

  1. Welcome aboard, Ed!

       —Dale    Jun. 4 '06 - 01:43AM    #
  2. Great to see blogging extending beyond those with political or technical topics.

       —Ross Johnson    Jun. 4 '06 - 07:41PM    #
  3. Washtenaw County is lucky to have lots of cool, organic, local farmers, we’re in a great place to try the eat local challenge.

    I’m a big fan of the Community Farm of Ann Arbor which sells great biodynamic produce.

    They’re a CSA (community supported agriculture), so you pay at the beginning of the season and get a share of produce. Right now their strawberries are amazing.

    There’s other good local CSA’s like Gardenworks and that place that distrubutes and Morgan and York.

    But what I like about the Community Farm is I get to go to the farm to pick up my produce. That means I get to see where it’s grown, do u-pick when there are more tomatoes or squash than they can harvest, see the chickens (all named “Jessica”), and to chores to lower my bill.

    Just be warned, one share is a lot of food. I love to cook (and to eat), but I usually go in with three other families to share a share. Folks with big families or mad canning/freezing skills can pull off a full share on their own, but mere mortals like me need to find share partners.

       —Chuck Warpehoski    Jun. 9 '06 - 01:09AM    #
  4. “There’s other good local CSA’s…”

    Do any of these places deliver?

    Getting produce year round is one of things I find a little annoying in Ann Arbor without a car.

       —Bruce Fields    Jun. 9 '06 - 01:31AM    #
  5. Good post Ed! Gives me an opportunity to let people know about the South Central Farmers struggle happening right now. Please check it out.

       —Mark    Jun. 9 '06 - 11:09AM    #
  6. Bruce, I don’t know of any that deliver to your door. Sorry. I think that Frog Holler does business deliveries, but I don’t know about residential.

    Also, just heard of a cool Michigan CSA by Cycle Tour A couple of folks who are biking accross the state, visiting and volunteering at CSAs, and making a documentary about the farms. Now that’s a cool way to spend the summer.

       —Chuck Warpehoski    Jun. 9 '06 - 06:03PM    #
  7. Bruce, Tantre Farm, in Chelsea, will let you pick up your weekly box of veggies at the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market. That’s close enough to delivered for me, but I live close by.

       —Parking Structure Dude!    Jun. 9 '06 - 06:08PM    #
  8. Aha! You’ve let your hand slip a little far, PSD! Next time I pick up my Tantre share at the market, I can get your secret identity narrowed down pretty well. Bwa ha ha ha!

    Bruce, I’m in my second season with Tantre; they, like Community Farm of A2, are out by Chelsea. Community Farm is significantly more pricey, from my comparison shopping last year (they have a sliding fee scale, the bottom of which is the same as Tantre’s single rate). I’m quite happy with them – they bring shares to the A2 farmers market, and also allow pick-up at the farm (I took that option last year, but it’s a bit of a drive), and have excellent u-pick (well, depending on the season). Last year a housemate and I picked about 45 pounds of pickles-to-be in perhaps 20 minutes, for under $20.

    Alas, you’re not going to be able to get much of anything year-round (Michigan, remember?), though Tantre does offer an add-on “Thanksgiving share” with approximately 1 million squash, potatoes, onions, and other keepable items. Shares are big enough that if you’re diligent about canning/freezing/cellaring, you’ll last most of the year, though might get bored by February or so.

       —Murph    Jun. 9 '06 - 06:26PM    #
  9. I don’t know of any CSAs that deliver here, but many of them do at least deliver to Farmer’s Market. Boxelder Acres doesn’t do Farmer’s Market, but has an Ann Arbor pick-up at the Elks Club on Spring Street on Tuesday afternoons.

    Actually, I think we are pretty lucky in downtown Ann Arbor because with Farmer’s Market and the Co-op, we can get local produce pretty easily all year. As Murph points out, it goes to apples and root vegetables in the winter, but that is something anyway and the organic hydroponic people can get lettuces most of the year. We live close enough to walk and have two of those folding crates on wheels so it is actually fairly easy to get everything home. We freeze a lot of local vegetables and fruit too so we don’t have to rely on nonlocal so much during the winter.

    Speaking of delivery, it is always good to ask places because some places do delivery that you might not expect—like Downtown Home and Garden has a delivery service one day a week. Ann Arbor Vacuum has offered to deliver things for us. Depending on where you live, many farmers or businesses will deliver even if they don’t normally offer the service (especially if you offer to give them a few dollars for gas). I’m also a big fan of Calder Dairy because they deliver a full-line of dairy products door-to-door in Ann Arbor. We have done that for a few years now and it is nice not to have to lug milk around.

       —Juliew    Jun. 9 '06 - 07:06PM    #
  10. Calder’s egg nog is to die for. My mother lives in Allen Park, so when I am over there around Christmas I will bop down to the Calder in Lincoln Park to pick some up.

       —tom    Jun. 9 '06 - 08:08PM    #
  11. Calder chocolate milk is pretty amazing too (and makes great ice cream). Their buttermilk is the best I have found for cooking because it is so thick and buttery. It makes excellent biscuits, pancakes, and salad dressings. Their sour cream and cottage cheese are really good too. I like that they not only use recyclable glass bottles, they actually reuse them. They grow their own animal feed and allow, even encourage, you to go to the farm. Oh yeah, and if you are a delivery customer, on the back of your bill every month they print the “Moo News” with updates and highlights from the farm and the employees. Very cool.

       —Juliew    Jun. 9 '06 - 09:45PM    #
  12. Murph, I’m flattered that you’re curious but I’m afraid we didn’t join back up this year. The folks we shared our share with couldn’t do it again and we can’t eat lettuce fast enough to justify getting one for just ourselves. Keep an eye out for me at the market buying milk from the milk-guy who’s been coming every other Saturday. I like the Calder milk too (and especially the glass bottles), but this guy’s milk comes from some higher order of cow—it’s fantastic. And he gives out free samples.

       —Parking Structure Dude!    Jun. 9 '06 - 11:37PM    #
  13. Juliew wrote: “Calder chocolate milk is pretty amazing too (and makes great ice cream).”

    What’s in the ice cream recipe besides chocolate milk?

       —HD    Jun. 9 '06 - 11:40PM    #
  14. Well, Calder makes chocolate ice cream, which I’m sure is delightful but I’ve never had it. I make my own using Calder chocolate milk as the base, add more Dutched cocoa), more sugar, vanilla, some (or none or a lot) of heavy cream depending on how I’m feeling, and a pinch of salt. I just add stuff until it tastes way too heavy, chocolaty, and sweet. Once it freezes those flavors get a lot less intense so it works out right. Eat it in big bowls on the front porch. Mmmmm.

    The milk from the milk guy at Farmer’s Market is amazing. His is totally non-homogenized and very low-heat pasteurized for a long time so it is more like milk used to be. High-heat pasteurization is why milk tends to rot now, rather than get pleasantly sour. Low-heat retains some of the good bacteria. Calder does lower-heat than most, but not quite as low as the Farmer’s Market guy and you can taste it. Most “regular” milk is high-heat flash pasteurized which gets rid of everything, even the good stuff in milk. The Farmer’s Market guy has only Jersey cows which have the richest milk (and the prettiest eyes). The problem for me is that he only has full-fat milk (between 3-8% I think he said, depending on the season) and that doesn’t quite make a rich-enough ice cream, but is too rich for me to drink. He doesn’t have a full line of dairy but the milk is great and the cheese curds are yummy.

       —Juliew    Jun. 10 '06 - 12:24AM    #
  15. Juliew, so it doesn’t sound like you cook that mixture at all before freezing? Is that why you eschew whole vanilla bean in favor of the extract? Or is it because the brown chocolate color of the base would rob you of the pure whiz-joy of seeing the bean specks in the cream anyway?

    Personally, I’m faithful to a recipe requiring the use of a whole vanilla bean, splitting, scraping and straining as necessary after cooking. And I’ll give People’s Food Co-op a plug for offering whole vanilla beans in their bulk section at a fraction of the price of what they cost anywhere else I’ve found.

       —HD    Jun. 10 '06 - 02:05AM    #
  16. Nope, I don’t cook it at all. Just whisk until the sugar dissolves and the cocoa all mixes in. I do often use vanilla sugar that I make by letting split vanilla beans sit in sugar, so does that give me enough whole vanilla bean cred? I’m all for using the whole vanilla bean, cooking, straining, and cooling. But you get ice cream faster my way. If you use cold milk, you don’t even have to chill it before freezing. Takes less than five minutes to get it to the ice cream machine.

       —Juliew    Jun. 10 '06 - 05:19AM    #
  17. Frog Holler now has a Frog Log weblog – this week Cathy is writing about organic strawberries, and also says

    “A full day getting ready for market. New items we will have are broccoli, radishes and green onions. Lots of spinach, lettuce and salad mix of course! We’re also taking some fresh basil and cucumbers from our greenhouse. Nice to have summery veggies so early.”

    Sadly, no RSS feed from the Frog Log.

       —Edward Vielmetti    Jun. 10 '06 - 10:04PM    #
  18. We did a field trip to Calder Dairy’s farm in Carleton (south to Milan, then east on county and farm roads). We saw cows, pigs, chickens, a few horses, a peacock, some bunnies, a barn cat or two and an ostrich.

    The cows looked pretty happy; we were there at milking time and there was much mooing.

    A calf was born while we visited, which gave the kids some excitement.

    The farm (and their dairy in Lincoln Park) have an ice cream store – it’s really tasty ice cream. And the whipping cream we brought home for strawberry shortcake the next day was exceptional.

       —Edward Vielmetti    Jun. 13 '06 - 06:48AM    #
  19. What a luxury to have this kind of direct link to local producers! I was definitely sorry to hear about the Brines family’s recent health issues.

       —Cory    Jul. 7 '06 - 07:01PM    #
  20. Hi All – Just stumbled on this site when searching on things Ann Arbor. It’s great to see that there are so many folks farming and blogging in the A2 area.

    I just wanted to throw my hat in that ring as well. We have a small farm just south of Ann Arbor, by the Airport. We focus on livestock, raising Alpacas for their wonderful fiber and for sale to other farms. We also have a bit of lavender.

    Our site is
    and our BLOG is on the PacaCam Page.

    Have a look & have fun watching the pacas.
    Greg Croasdill
    Ann Arbor Alpacas

       —Greg Croasdill    Jul. 11 '06 - 04:52PM    #
  21. Sadly the Milk Guy I raved about back in post 12 seems to have gone out of business. The Food Coop, which had begun carrying his milk, has had a sign up for a while. I meant to post an update, but I wanted to get their names right. The Milk Guy was Harley Thomas, who along with his wife Linda owned Thomas Organic Creamery. I’ll miss them and I wish them well.

       —Parking Structure Dude!    Jul. 13 '06 - 08:31PM    #
  22. I tried their ice cream a couple times from the co-op. More like ice milk, unfortunately. Sorry to hear they’re defunct, though.

       —Steve Bean    Jul. 13 '06 - 08:42PM    #
  23. (Closing comments on this thread, as I’ve been having to delete yucky spam daily.)

       —Murph.    Jul. 16 '06 - 05:00PM    #