March 26, 2017
A Little History Lesson
A Note from the Farmer's Wife
The Farmer was barely a farmer when he first heard the term “CSA.” In 1999 the phrase “Community Supported Agriculture” was still a new concept in the Philadelphia area. The first CSA in this country began in the mid 80s when Jan Vander Tuin, a Swiss biodynamic farmer, introduced the model to a small farm in Massachusetts.
When the owner of a small farm where Michael (the Farmer) worked approached him about starting a CSA, he was dubious.
The idea of selling a season’s-worth of organic produce up front before the first field had been tilled seemed half-crazy, if not nerve-wracking. But even more concerning to him was that the customer had to accept anything the farmer wanted to stick in their box. Don’t like kale? Well if the kale harvest was good you might get half a box of the stuff. Eat it or compost it, right?
This concept seemed both unfair and un-modern to the Farmer. He he decided to offer their shareholders the ability to choose which vegetables landed in their boxes.
Four years later the Farmer began his own farm, and the Future Farmer’s Wife was one of his first CSA members. With about thirty members, the then-Bachelor-Farmer collected each week’s orders off an ancient answering machine. In an even ancienter Ford van he delivered boxes to several drop off locations. One of these was the Future Farmer’s Wife’s chiropractic clinic. Her staff and patients raved about the fresh food and the following spring attended an Open House to hear the Farmer speak on organic gardening. Okay, that day is a whole story in itself. Suffice it to say that two years later the Future Farmer’s Wife became the Farmer’s Wife and they founded Red Earth Farm together.
More than fifteen years later, the Farmer feeds a growing number of avid vegetable eaters. He is still adamant about offering his customers the ability to choose what goes in their weekly box. And ordering is now streamline through online accounts - no more dreaded evenings of handwriting orders from a scratchy answering machine recording! We are still the only CSA in the Philadelphia region that offers online weekly ordering.
And the Farmer’s Wife? Believe it or not, she is still a member, and loves ordering her veggies online each week. Getting that box (she has home delivery!) each week still feels like a birthday present!
Does "The CSA that Let's You Choose" resonate with you? How much does choice matter in a CSA? Are there other factors that are key to your positive CSA experience? We'd love to hear from you!
March 18, 2017
The Secret of Success
written by a friend of the farm
"Some say that success is the result of a combination of hard work and luck, or determination and talent, or being in the right place at the right time. While any of these may be determinants of success, they are not its essence. What the world doesn’t tell you — because it doesn’t know — is that you cannot BECOME successful. You can only BE successful. Don’t let a mad world tell you that success is anything other than a successful present moment. And what is that? There is a sense of quality in what you do, even the most simple action. Quality implies care and attention, which comes with awareness. Quality requires your presence.”
~ Eckhart Tolle
These words of Eckhart Tolle sing in the heart of the Farmer’s Wife as she looks out over the late winter fields in her walk to water the fresh green shoots coming up in the nursery. The mad world slips far away with each gentle footstep on the precious earth, for quality permeates the very air on a small sustainable farm such as this, where gentle stewards of the land work with care and attention to all the joys and caprices nature has to offer. Growing food demands care and attention to the present moment. A sunny day means extra watering, a little more time with the young ones. If a little detail is dropped such as mindlessly skipping a flat during the watering, dozens of plants will perish.
The fact that care and attention must be paid to every detail here can sometimes feel grueling. Sometimes whole crops perish due to weather, or blight, or insects or a momentary lapse into mindlessness, or an impatient impulse to rush or force something that isn’t intended in the present moment. Success as the world knows it can seem fleeting or impossible when faced with the strain of nature combined with human nature, and the rigors of keeping the whole operation accountable business-wise. But the quality of the very air here when breathed deeply into the lungs immediately brings one back to the present moment, and the knowledge that what we are doing is bringing nature’s finest food to local tables allover this region, and that this food builds the bodies of so many diverse and magnificent souls who are choosing to eat for success, for a sense of quality in what they eat. The green shoots patiently waiting for water refocus one back on the now, and the knowledge that this farm grows much more than vegetables.
Yes, the mad world, when it comes to success, may view the small farm, which requires so much care and attention in order to sustainably feed the local community, as an exercise in futility, especially when viewed next to some of the huge corporate farms. But in truth, at least according to Eckhart Tolle, it is the very essence of success. The care and attention that each miraculous plant demands allows for all involved, from the seeding to the eating, to be energized with quality, the sap of success, the bliss of the present moment. May the hearts of all who savor this precious food be filled with joy.
Your membership supports this family farm. Join now.
March 11, 2017
Action Steps that Support Local Farms
A Note from the Farmer's Wife
Do you value local food and want to support your local farm? Here are some simple action steps you can take to make a difference.
1. Join a CSA
- we are hoping you choose ours! www.redearthfarm.org
The CSA model offers an essential security to small farms since your early commitment allows the farmer to plant knowing his product will be consumed.
2. Recruit ONE new member for our CSA. Put your thinking cap on. Eating more vegetables is a simple and effective way to support one's health. Do you know someone who has never tried a CSA? Tell them about your experience! Break down the expense - show them that CSA can be more cost effective than shopping at the standard grocery store.
3. Post flyers
, or postcards at local businesses where potential CSA customers visit. Only 1% of the population uses a CSA, which means quite a few people have never experienced the wonder of a just-picked box of produce delivered to them. Email us if you would like us to send you postcards or flyers, or both.
4. Leave a rave review
on Google or Yelp - your honest reviews help potential customers choose our farm. To leave the Google review open Google Maps
, search Red Earth Farm, Kempton PA and click the stars and leave a comment.
5. Email us your testimonial. Let us use your words of praise to help others know that we are the real deal.
6. Send us a "Selfie Video" of you raving about your favorite aspect of the CSA - use your smart phone and make a short clip: if you do we will send an extra goodie in your first CSA box of the summer season!
7. Like our Facebook page
, follow us on Instagram,
share our posts or even better: make your own veggie loving post, or even a live video on Facebook, opening your first CSA box. It really helps!
We know we say it all the time: YOU are our best advertising! Your efforts to spread the word really make a difference. Take a step today. Thank you for your ongoing support.
March 6, 2017
The Early Bird Gets the Veg!
Announcing the Spring Share
It's official! For those of you who cannot wait to get your hands on Red Earth produce, we are once again offering a Spring Share. The early greens are the sweetest and most tender of the entire season, and not to be missed! We are offering a limited number of shares to select locations.
The Spring Share will be Farmer's Choice only (no ordering, take what you get - you know like those old fashioned CSA's?). The cost will be $115 for 6 weeks, 5 items/week, beginning April 26.
Possible and likely items in your box will be green onions, radish, baby salad, arugula, bok choi, head lettuce, kale and swiss chard. Egg shares are delivered weekly for $4.25/week.
All deliveries will be on Wednesdays.
Your participation makes a difference!
to sign up for the Spring, and/or the Main Season. You won't be sorry!
March 4, 2017
Herald of Spring
A Note from the Farmer's Wife
The tractor has already been busy. Never ever have we been able to start our field prep so early. Beautiful even rows of brown earth wait for the Farmer, like a blank canvas awaits the artist. In many ways farming is an art and the summer fields become an expression of the passion of the farmer. Nothing feeds his spirit like the miracle of growing food. Every time seeds sprout and thrive, it feels like magic.
In spite of winter-like temps today, the Farmer made the trek to Farmer's market with early greens and radishes from the hoop house. Even on chilly days, which have been scarce, you can now feel the power of the sun again. The birds know it. Chirps, twitters and a flurry of activity remind us that nest building is underway.
If things continue this way, we will be on target for our Spring Share, a 6-week share featuring the priceless first greens. We have set the date for this to start in late April, so stay tuned for all the details.
If you haven't registered for the Main Season, jump in now
. We are happy to have you back.
February 22, 2017
CSA Day is Feb 24!
A Word from Small Farm Central
In honor of CSA Week, Simon Huntley, Small Farm Central, asked us to share this letter he recently posted. We thought he had some great ideas!
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a personal relationship between a farmer and eater. You join the farm as a member and you get a box of food from the farm throughout the growing season. The CSA Charter
describes this relationship well.
As our culture and economy becomes more homogenized and centralized, CSA is the opposite. It is about a personal relationship between a farmer and the CSA members.
It is an intimate connection between local farmland and your dinner table.
You get the freshest possible ingredients from a farmer that you know and the farm gets advance knowledge of demand so he or she can focus on growing healthy food and getting the food to you.
In world of intractable problems - take your pick: political and economic instability, nuclear weapons, global warming, and on and on - joining a CSA is a positive act that you can take today that has profound impacts on your health, your local economy, and the environment.
CSA farmers spend money with other local businesses which circulates money in our local economies. CSA farmers take care of their land. CSA farmers treat their employees well. You know all this because you can go visit your CSA farmer and see for yourself.
CSA keeps small scale, local farms in business so they can continue producing food for you.
To be frank, joining a CSA is not the easiest path to eating healthy. You can continue to shop at the grocery store and maybe visit the farmers market a few times throughout the season. However, joining a CSA puts you in partnership with a local farmer.
A CSA membership enriches your life with high quality food as you spend your food dollars in a way that you will feel good about.
The investment you make in your CSA farm is modest. The average CSA share costs $25/week during the season, so that is $100/month. (editor's note: Red Earth Farm CSA is just $21/week for a Partial Share) and $30/week for a Full Share). That’s probably less than your cable bill and less than your cell phone bill - for food grown with care in local soil and delivered directly to your neighborhood! There usually is some up-front investment, though most farms will offer payment plans (if not, ask your farmer for a payment plan if you need it!).
Thank you for supporting local farms and making the commitment to a CSA share. Your support makes all the difference and keeps our farms running.
If there is something that is preventing you from joining your CSA farm, you should let your farmer know so they can improve their program in the future!
Founder, Small Farm Central
February 8, 2017
What DO Eaters Want?
a Note from the Farmer's Wife
And so it is that the farmers and their families wend their way home from Penn State after the 26th annual farming conference hosted by PASA (Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture). If you’ve never attended this inspiring event, you can’t imagine the incredible energy when several thousand sustainably-minded, idealistic farmers come together. The conference is loaded with informative classes, from labor laws to field fertility, from marketing trends to cheese making; there is something for everyone.
I attended a session with Simon Huntley, CEO of the marketing firm, Small Farm Central
and avid CSA proponent. His topic, What Eaters Want
, reminded me of a blog post
I wrote a few years ago, speculating on the future of CSA.
Huntley provided some data that validated some of our concerns and some that proved our concerns wrong. He also offered some creative encouragement to negotiate the changes in the CSA market.
He noted that while $703 billion is spent in the US on food at home, only 0.5%- 1.0% of that amount is spent on food purchased through the local food movement channels, such as CSA and Farmer’s markets. To gain some perspective on that figure, Whole Foods alone receives almost twice the annual dollars spent on food, as retail local farm outlets.
When you look at those numbers, the idea that the CSA market is saturated seems kind of ridiculous. Surely the CSA model is a good fit for more than 1% of the population. The trick is figuring out why that figure is so low, and how to either meet the needs or spread the word to those who do not participate.
According to Huntley’s research, last year was the first year that spending at restaurants and bars surpassed money spent on food for home consumption. Clearly this reflects our busy lives and the drive for convenience. After long days at work, juggling kids’ activities and other responsibilities, a stop to pick up takeout can be a relief. Many restaurants offer dishes made from local foods, with plenty of options for healthy choices, making the temptation to buy out even more tempting and justifiable.
Another obstacle that many CSA consumers face is the daunting task of preparing and cooking the entire contents of their box each week. This takes commitment, and for those who are less confident in their cooking skills, truly challenging. To meet the needs of the unconfident-wanna-be home chef, mail-order services like Blue Apron offer meal kits utilizing perfectly portioned local foods and easy to follow recipes. At $60/week this option is more than three times the expense of a CSA farmshare box, and yet 3% of consumers have tried it. Compare that with an optimistic 1% that have tried CSA, and a Farmer might get a little discouraged…or start selling to Blue Apron. Meal kit services have a notoriously low retention rate when compared to farm shares, which leads one to believe that CSA is still a more sustainable option in the eyes of the consumers that actually try it.
Does the term “CSA” still mystify the consumer? Or is that now a mainstream word that has meaning when mentioned on Facebook, or print advertising. Huntley suggests that even though the term is now used by non-farm “shares,” such as a Beer CSA
, or a Bread CSA
, it might make sense to use a term whose meaning is quickly understood, such as "Farm Share" or "Farm Box." The term CSA literally means, Community Supported Agriculture, but it is evolving into a more generic term meaning something like community supported artisan, or activity as much as anything to do with a farm.
Regardless of the term used, Huntley confirmed our experience that CSA’s expand by word of mouth. We rely heavily on a good reputation which our customers who are passionate about the farm and the good food that comes to them convey everywhere they go.
We would like to hear from you. Have you tried a CSA before? What was your experience? If you have never tried a CSA, why not? What do you think would make this model more accessible to veggie consumers, and more user-friendly for the new customer? If you have been, or are, a CSA customer of Red Earth Farm, do you have ideas that can improve your experience?
Feel free to comment below this post, or email us with your thoughts. If you are willing to speak to us personally, that would be a great help. We are all ears. email@example.com
January 22, 2017
5 Tips to Eat More Vegetables
A Note from the Farmer's Wife
With the holiday feasting and gastro-extravagance behind us our minds turn to New Year’s resolutions. Diminishing the midline tops many lists, with ideas of elliptical workouts and newfangled diets.
Perhaps, one simple adage could be remembered for those seeking trimmer, healthier bodies. “Eat your vegetables!” We repeat it all the time to our kids, but do we follow up ourselves? I’m guessing there is room for improvement for most of us and implementing a few of the following strategies may help make this goal a reality in 2017.
1. Eat More Meals at Home
For some carnivores, this can be challenging - especially if you are trying to satisfy a teenage boy. The goal here is to increase vegetable consumption, not bread, noodle and cheese consumption. Look for vegetables that have a hearty, meaty flavor such as eggplant, mushrooms, winter squash. A side of mashed local potatoes can please almost any teenage palate. Try a vegetarian shepherd’s pie, for example.
4. Invest in a Vitamix or Juicer
Juicing roots, greens and fruits can be delicious and very beneficial to energy and appetite. Try using leftover pulp in burgers, homemade bread or homemade dog food.
5. Join a CSA!
You knew this was coming of course! Your CSA box arrives every week. Set a goal to finish your box before the next one arrives. One of our members lost 25 lbs the first year he joined our CSA - just by eating more vegetables. And the early registration discount is still on!
What tips do you employ to consume more vegetables? Any ideas for kid-friendly recipes?
January 7, 2017
A Note from the Farmer
by Michael Ahlert
The Farmer’s Wife reminded me recently that it has been some time since The Farmer wrote to all of you who support our farm and eat the wonderful food it produces. As many of you may relate to, I often think of things I would like to say to people I care about, but life distracts me from saying them. This New Years, I am not letting the opportunity slip past.
In many ways, 2016 was a challenging year for our family and farm. We have struggled to make our packhouse GAP food safety certified, while still making ends meet. We worked through a summer that brought extended hot weather which tested crew and crops alike. Our younger son broke his leg at camp and I worked with walking pneumonia for much of the Fall. At the same time, our country went through a drawn-out and contentious election. Communities and even families have been left stinging and divided from many harsh words.
I know many of you have struggled with even more serious challenges this past year. I share ours only by way of saying thank you for all your support and to let you know, that you are an inspiration for me. I believe that the growth of our farm over the years is concrete evidence of the power of people to choose the kind of world they want to live in and their ability to make that a reality. Choosing to eat fresh, locally grown food, choosing to support a local family run business, choosing to buy food produced without the use of dangerous pesticides and herbicides, all help to shape this small part of our world in very real ways. These choices are conscious acts that make ideas into reality.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.”
This quote is attributed to Margaret Mead, the famous 20th century author and anthropologist. It is not certain that she in fact coined the phrase, but the sentiment rings true. The choices we make as individuals on a daily basis help to make the change that we wish to see in our broader society. It is by making conscious choices and following them with actions, albeit as small as where to buy the veggies we will eat for supper, that positive change is created.
Thank you for your choice to support our farm. Whether it has been for one year or fifteen, we value the members who sustain our work. We believe your choice to support our farm is a choice to eat food that is produced in a way that provides careful stewardship of our land and water resources while lifting up, rather than marginalizing, the men and women who bring it to our table. This is our work and our mission.
We wish you the very best in the coming year and look forward to spring and the opportunity to recommit ourselves to creating a more just and healthy world. We are grateful for your help in making that effort possible.
All the best,
Michael, a.k.a. ‘The Farmer’
December 31, 2016
Vegetables Still Make Sense
By Charis Lindrooth
I wrote a post about food
for my health blog yesterday. I started the post thinking about the plenitude of internet information about diets and how one food can be vilified on one site and glorified as a cure-all on another.
If you read the post, or run your own google search, you will quickly find a number of foods we used to think of as healthy on the unhealthy list now, and vice-versa. Hot debates on these foods include whole wheat, gluten, grains in general, beef, butter, coconut and eggs. It’s enough to make your head spin.
Smugly, when I started the post, I thought to myself that vegetables are about the only food immune to the see-saw of cans and can'ters. But that’s not true either: try cabbage, or other brassicas, spinach, Swiss chard, tomatoes, potatoes and beets. Seems like with a little research you can determine that absolutely no food is good for you.
I have spent several decades as a natural health care practitioner, helping people sort through the bombardment of information surrounding what to eat. While I love to read the research, sometimes we need to take our nose out of the books and internet and use common sense.
Without a doubt one of the surest ways to improve your health in general is to eat more vegetables. Whether you cook them, eat them raw or throw them in your VitaMix, most of us have more room on our plates for more fresh vegetables.
Take things a step further and prepare your food with care and thoughtfulness. Share it with friends and family, with conversation and laughter. I have no doubt that these factors play a role in the nutritional outcome as much as the chemical makeup of the food itself.
Now that winter has fully descended upon the farm, I am faced with shopping for my vegetables. While much progress has been made in food transport and flavor preservation, salad mix in a box just doesn’t inspire me the same way as our own. I think most of you would agree, nothing beats the taste of just-picked, local farm fresh produce.