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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!
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October 16, 2016
Campfire Donuts
By Charis Lindrooth
In rural areas trick-or treat traditions can be a bit awkward. With miles between houses of people you know, and uncertainty about the houses you don’t know, parents can struggle with how to satisfy their children’s desire to participate in Halloween. School parties help, as do a town business trick-or-treat event, but years ago the Farmer and I thought it might be nice to also come up with our own tradition.
We decided a bonfire with friends would be perfect. We always have tons of brush to clean up in the fall, in this respect, an advantage of our rural acreage. Add a few friends (mostly people who work on the farm), some locally made hotdogs and you have a good time. Tell everyone to wear costumes and we are a step closer to Halloween. Except the sweet stuff.
I’m one of those parents who don’t really appreciate the effect that sugar has on my children. Stuffing them full of candy at every turn around the holidays just isn’t my style. I wanted to treat them, but on my terms. The Farmer grew up taking family vacations to the Adirondacks. On the way home in the fall, his family always stopped for “Cider Donuts.” He had raved about these delicacies for years, so naturally I thought it might be fun to make a home-made version.
Since deep-frying indoors is a less-than-pleasant occupation, I thought it might be good fun to take advantage of the campfire and cook them outdoors. I have a heavy cast iron pot with legs, designed for baked beans that I thought might work over some coals. We plopped homemade, uniquely shaped pieces of dough into oil that was who-knows-how-hot, flipped them when we thought they might be ready and tossed them in cinnamon sugar. The light from the fire was entirely inadequate for actually cooking by site, so the process was rather intuitive. And delicious. Homemade donuts, right off the fire are incredible. The apple cider renders a moist and tender donut with a lovely sweet and tangy flavor.
Years later we have an annual tradition of making these donuts. Friends and family alike look forward to the pleasure of eating them. This year they will be featured at our Garlic Planting Potluck, an Open Farm event to which all are invited, October 23, 2-4pm. Even if you can't join us, you can use the recipe below to make your own campfire donuts.
This recipe is adapted from New England Today, which offers instructions for cooking indoors.
Makes 30-40 donuts and holes of various shapes and sizes:
1 1/2 cup rapadura sugar, or any sugar you like
1 1/2 sticks of butter, at room temperature
4 large eggs, at room temperature
7 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 TBS baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 TBS ground cinnamon
1 TBS mace or nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
1 TBS ginger powder
2 tsp cardamom
1 cup buttermilk or sour cream
3 cups of apple cider, boiled down to 2/3 cup - watch it carefully and do this ahead of time - takes about half an hour
Lard or oil (for frying)
Cinnamon sugar or confectioners’ sugar for rolling hot donuts in
In a large bowl beat together sugar and butter until mixture is pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each. In a separate bowl mix flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and spices
Mix buttermilk and boiled cider into wet ingredients. Add flour mixture and combine gently just until fully moistened. Refrigerate just until firm.
Roll dough to 3/4 inch thickness on a floured board. Cut into traditional or crazy shapes. Place pieces on a floured baking sheet. If too soft put the baking sheet in the freeze to firn them up before cooking.
Once your campfire has low coals, place your cast iron Dutch oven (with 3 inches of oil) over the coals. My pot has little legs so it stands over the coals. You can rig a rack or hang the pot alternatively. Plop a test piece of dough into the hot oil. If it sizzles the oil is ready. Drop 3 or 4 donuts into the oil. Cook until browned on one side, about 1 minute; then flip and cook until browned on the other side, about 1 minute longer. Use tongs to remove them from the oil onto a plate of paper towels. As soon are cool enough to handle but still warm, toss them in a bag of cinnamon sugar or confectioners' sugar. Eat immediately.
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October 18, 2015
Little Friends at the Farm
A Note from the Farmer's Wife
This week the Farm hosted a large group of very enthusiastic Kindergarteners from a local Waldorf school. The kids were thrilled to pick carrots and then race after the potato plow picking up potatoes...and lots of earth worms! A chance to climb on the tractor and eat local apples topped the event. We hope to host more on-farm educational events, and would be interested in your ideas and suggestions.
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March 28, 2015
The History of the Red Earth CSA
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 the 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 proposed that they 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! And now I am wondering, is there anyone, besides me, who has been a member since the days of Oley Valley Produce, the Farmer’s first CSA?
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January 24, 2015
Sustainable Land Preservation
By Charis Lindrooth
Many of our long-time CSA members remember the Land Project, started five years ago. This began as a fund-raising drive, which helped towards the downpayment for 90 acres in the Lehigh Valley. Initially, a wide open field edged by young tree groves, this new farm needed infrastructure before we could depend on it for vegetable production. We planted a few acres of potatoes the first year and by July the plants were begging for water. We dug a well, but with no electric the potatoes were out of luck. I don’t even want to tell you how much that electric box cost, since our residence is not on the property, but we finally bit the bullet.
25 acres of vegetables? it's more work than you might think!This past year we planted 25 acres on the “Land Project,” now nicknamed the “New Farm.” This step was huge and meant that we were’t trying to maintain two crews in two separate counties. Equipment shed, greenhouses, nursery, pack house with a walk-in cooler big enough for an elephant, two wells, a gravel drive. Now we are ready for the next step, a “gutter connect” greenhouse, allowing us to extend our season more reliable beyond and before the first and last frosts. Besides a house on the premises (farmers really should not commute to their farm) we harbor an additional dream for this Farm. That dream is the creation of an educational series for members, children and neighbors interested in sustainable living. I mentioned in the last post the plan to build an earthen oven as a community project. Around this we hope to create a space for Farm to Table dinners, educational classes, live music, and more. We would love your input about your interests. What learning or social opportunities would lure you to visit the farm?
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