IS CSA RIGHT FOR YOU?

Aren’t sure a CSA is right for you? We understand that the CSA model is unique. While we love this model of distributing our delicious food,  we know it isn’t for everyone. Here are some thoughts on what you should consider when thinking about joining a CSA.

 

You should truly enjoy eating vegetables. From canned spinach to tasteless sweet potatoes, I feel like the global food industry has created several generations of vegetable skeptics. Tomatoes picked green just don’t have the same flavor and texture has ones picked red (tomatoes picked at the breaker stage -just barely starting to show color- can be sold as “vine-ripened”). Carrots that have never experienced a frost are never going to reach their full flavor potential.  Have you tried our fall carrots?? Sweetest. Carrots. Ever.  We have CSA customers telling us they can no longer purchase certain vegetables at the grocery store. Even though our vegetables are super tasty and therefore easier to enjoy, you will get a lot of them as a CSA member, so you have to have that preliminary interest in them.

 

You also have to be willing to try new vegetables! The height of the season comes with summertime favorites of tomatoes and green beans and potatoes. But this summer season is bookended with lots of greens and more unfamiliar vegetables. The CSA will expose you to small pink turnips and large purple radishes. You’ll get mustard greens, fennel, and kohlrabi. All these vegetables will need to make their way from the fridge onto your plate, bringing me to my next point.

 

You have enjoy cooking–or at least be willing to put some effort into it. Boiling Brussels sprouts just isn’t going to create an amazing meal. But roasting them with a little balsamic vinegar and shaved parmesan will have you licking the plate. Getting creative in the kitchen should sound exciting and fun.  A side of meat, a side of grain and a side of vegetables will work sometimes but more often then not, during the CSA season, the vegetables have to be the star of the show. Often you just need to tweak your cooking style to accommodate the increase in vegetables. For example if you are having tacos, just throw sautéed zuchinni, spinach or broccoli into the ground beef. It really doesn’t matter which veggies you throw in!

 

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tacos with broccoli and summer squash

Before I started farming, I never heard of a lot of these vegetables either and I wasn’t very comfortable in the kitchen. (I still remember being educated on our first day of work by a 5 year old farm kid at the very first farm we interned on. She bounded out to the patch of lettuce we were weeding with a container of some very interesting looking lunch.  She had to explain to me what her lunch was- pea shoot pesto served over quinoa.)  It does take time for some to master CSA style cooking but you can get to the point where meals are original but take little thought and can be made quickly.

Pictured above are some of the creative ways we’ve served greens. We created a savory french toast bake with french toast topped with creamed Swiss chard. Mustard greens and sausage are a great combo for pizza or pasta. We love making a peanut sauce and serving it on a bed of steamed greens.

So you need to enjoy vegetables and cook at home frequently, but why not just get your vegetables from the supermarket? Being part of a CSA is a very deliberate choice. I asked our CSA members why they join year after year and most answers had to do with knowing their farmer and getting local produce.  Members like that they are supporting the local economy and a small family farm. They find value in their produce coming from 12 miles away as opposed to over 2,000 miles away.

So this conscious choice to join a CSA comes with some sacrifice–the convenience of the grocery store, the lack of customer choice with veggie selection, the possibility of crop failures. CSA members tell me that their vegetable intake is definitely higher during the 24 week season, so members are also actively finding ways to eat more veggies (a challenge that is definitely appreciated by our returning members but a challenge nonetheless).  For these reasons, we are all about supporting our CSA members so they make the most of their box. We provide recipes each week and have a member only Facebook group where members share recipes and kitchen tips with each other. I love seeing what customers come up with.  We had one CSA member make fennel upside down cake with her fennel. Yum!

Organic production, local and seasonal food, and community wellness all hold special value for a successful CSA member. I love that the CSA model addresses the health of three things: the land, the local economy, and our bodies! Of course shopping our stand at 2nd Street Market would also support these matters. If after reading this post, CSA feels like a bad fit, we hope to see you at market! We appreciate all our customers! Comment below if CSA solves a problem for you or provides a value to you that I didn’t address!

March Madness

It is not often that you get ground dry enough to work in March, but when you do, you jump at the opportunity. That was us this past week- all hands on deck as we worked ground, seeded hundreds of flats, and prepped hoophouses. Labor whose fruits will be born in June for the first month of CSA boxes and the 2nd Street Market stand.  Speaking of which, we are still taking members for our 2018 CSA season (vegetable delivery program). If you haven’t yet, why not SIGN UP and join today?

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Prepped the carrot house with fertilizer and the walk behind tractor
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Used the subsoiler to subsoil over 6 acres of fields. This tool lifts and shatters any hard pan that builds up due to compaction.
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After subsoiling, we disced our early season fields
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We start to make our beds with discs that throw the soil up in a mound. In addition to the discs, this pass has 2 chisel plow shanks that loosen soil down the center of the bed.
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We also weeded the garlic with tine weeders. It took an hour to clean up 6 beds.
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The tomato house also got its roof last week.
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The greenhouse is filling up with beets, onions, spinach, lettuce, fennel, and herbs

We are particularly excited about the chance to subsoil. That is is a step you don’t need to do every year but it had been awhile since our fields had that done. With the wide window of dry weather it was a no brainer we’d do it this spring.  In the summer when we get dry spells, we work like mad to get all we can done. When the first sign of rain enters the forecast it is a relief as we know we’ll soon get a break. Until that rain though, we are outside with our plants, ignoring the mounting jobs inside. Piles of dishes and dirty clothes mound up, kids get tucked in super late, and dinners are thrown together  as an after thought. The last 2 weeks have felt just like this summer push!  So we are actually pretty happy that the farm is currently wrapped in a blanket of snow.  We don’t plant in the field until early April so the snow will not be a set back.  We can relax- but just a touch. Of course there is lots of computer and shop work that has been neglected during our dry March miracle! Once the ground dries out again we will shape the beds and be ready to plant!

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What is a CSA anyway and why should I join one in winter?

 

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inspecting the crops
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harvesting summer squash
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view from the sweet corn patch

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a wonderful producer consumer relationship; one in which a consumer agrees to get his/her main source of vegetables for a season from one farm and that farm agrees to produce a diverse range of high quality vegetables. It is a hyper local diet because the farm is oftentimes located in the same county as the consumer and the weekly harvest is dictated by the season (ie sugar snap peas for 2 glorious weeks in June, copious amounts of tomatoes in August, and no sweet potatoes until October–but it’s worth the wait!).

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spring boxes feature greens, fast growing roots, and seasonal treats like garlic scapes
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summer deliveries consist of peppers, tomatoes, beans and other heat loving crops
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fall boxes welcome the return of greens and crops like sweet potatoes and pie pumpkins make their debut

It’s a win win for both the farmer and the consumer. The consumer hears directly about how their food was grown and the freshness and quality of the vegetables usually results in superior tasting food. We often hear things like “I didn’t even realized I liked beets!” and “I don’t even buy greens from the grocery anymore.” The CSA customer is encouraged to try new foods. We hear from CSA members that they eat more vegetables during the 24 week CSA season. They welcome this challenge and enjoy the health benefits that come with it. The farm, in turn, benefits from having a season long relationship it can count on, often beginning in the dead of winter before any seeds are even started!

 

In fact, now is the perfect time to sign up for a CSA! We have a lot of expenses at the front end of the season. Seeds and plants are purchased in January and cost more than $5,000! We are also restocking the farm of all the supplies we’ll need for the season from tomato stakes to fertilizer to irrigation lines. It is much easier to get these supplies in winter before we are too busy managing plants. We also usually have a major piece of equipment to buy each season or a costly project and having funds from CSA members helps pay for these big ticket items. Finally knowing what our CSA membership is before the start of the season helps us plan accordingly.

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equipment like this transplanter are purchased in winter
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at least one farm upgrade, like this new well, happen each year
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seeds are ordered and organized in winter

While we are calling on folks to join now, we recognize that paying upfront doesn’t fit everyone’s budget. We strive to keep our CSA affordable and have several payment options. You can break up the CSA cost into 3 or 7 installments and you can pay with credit card or check.  For those members who can not get through a box of produce every week, we offer a biweekly delivery schedule. You can even place your deliveries on hold if you go out of town so you won’t have to pay for something you’re not going to get. Boxes picked up at a neighborhood pick up location are just $25 a week, farm pick boxes are $23, and home delivered boxes are $29.

Sound good? Sign up HERE today! To see more about our CSA visit here.

Planting Has Begun!

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baby escarole

What a cold wet spring we are having thus far! The red buds aren’t showing color yet and the trees very much look like they are still in winter mode. But the greenhouse is full of plants, just like every spring, so the show must go on! We had a chance to do our first round of planting last week. We planted 25,000 onions of all kinds- cipollini, sweet, yellow, red and shallots! It’s becoming a favorite crop of ours to grow and we excited to try some new varieties this year!

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Trailer full of onions and the beds that they are destined for
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Field of Onions
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The weekend’s rain served to water in the plants

That took all day Thursday. The fields were still fairly wet and in an effort to not work soil when it is too wet we held off making our beds till the last minute. We made beds and planted the same day. Then we did the same thing on Friday in a different field and planted out our first round of spinach, lettuce, beets and sugar snap peas. We even had time to begin training one of our returning crew members, Audrey, to operate the tractor and she drove for the final 3 beds of the day.

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Making beds with a bed pan
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Planting beets on our 2 row finger planter
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Audrey training in the driver’s seat

All in all we planted 24 beds and over three trailers worth of flats. These vegetables will make up some of the first CSA boxes! We were glad to have mother nature take care of the watering and welcomed this weekend’s rain. However, we do need the ground to dry out again for the next round of planting! Potatoes, herbs and salad mix are next with a whole lot of brassicas on deck!

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After hardening off for a day or 2, these plants are now all in the ground
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freshly planted and watered snap peas

Tomatillos

Tomatillos are native to Mexico and Central America. They are common in Mexican cuisine–mostly known as the main ingredient in salsa verde. They are a tart tomato lookalike but ripe when green and from a different plant. They are usually cooked–which brings out more flavor–  and made into sauces or salsa. Tomatillos last a couple weeks in the fridge.  The husks are not edible so slip the tomatillos out before use.

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Chicken Posole Verde

Salsa Verde

Brussels Sprouts

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Perhaps an inedible strong- smelling vegetable comes to mind when you hear “Brussels Sprouts”. But when they aren’t boiled and  overcooked, they are so good! They grow for a long time and take awhile to develop the mini cabbage buds. We wait to harvest until at least few frosts have hit the plants as the cold weather sweetens them.

We typically harvest the entire stalk so you’ll need to pluck each sprout from the stalk. Put them in a plastic bag or other airtight container and place in the coldest part of your fridge. If kept near freezing, they’ll last 5 weeks, but more typical fridges would be slightly warmer were they’ll last a couple weeks.

Roasting sprouts whole or in halves is a common way to prepare. They are also often thinly sliced and cooked or even eaten raw. They are often paired with Parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, bacon, nuts, mustard, or brown sugar.

Smashed Brussels

Shredded Brussels Sprouts

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Cranberries and Almonds

Rutabaga

IMG_3471Rutabaga is a direct cross between turnips and cabbage! They look like turnips but are generally larger. Their flesh is also more golden–especially after it is cooked– than a turnip. It’s flavor is milder and sweeter than a turnip as well. It is creamy like a potato, but with a lower starch content. Rutagabas are very healthy– high in fiber and vitamins. Just 1 cup of cooked rutabaga provides 53% of your daily value of vitamin C!

If stored properly rutabaga will last at least a month. Store it in an airtight container in the fridge (plastic bag is fine). If they are left loose the moisture will wick away and cause them to shrivel.

Rutabaga can be boiled, roasted, mashed, or put in gratins, soups and stews.

Pasties (meat pies from Michigan)

Clapshot (Scottish dish of mashed potatoes, rutabaga and sometimes carrots)

Rutabaga Puff