July 14, 2017
A Note from the Farmer's Wife
My daughter discovered audio books this summer. Each week at the library she chooses three books whose covers have convinced her that they are interesting. Then, because I haven't found the CD player amongst our unpacked boxes, she sits in the car, transported to faraway adventures. This week when we brought our selections to the librarian I was shocked to see the date she carefully stamped on the back of the case each case: August 2! How can that be? Why is it that summer gallops by, as if on the back of a racehorse, and winter dawdles like a teenager with chores?
We have just completed our sixth week of deliveries, which means we're nearly 1/3 of the way through the main season! Don't worry, We have loads of tomatoes, beans, peppers and all sorts of deliciousness ahead of us. I, for one, am really taking the time to savor the taste of summer.
I made sorbet from the sour cherries in my box last night (yes, the Farmer's Wife still gets a weekly box!). I plan to use it for the final course of tonight's farm to table VIP dinner. The final creamy pink frosty delight turned out so spectacularly, surprisingly better than the most expensive sorbet I could buy at any grocery store near me, that I'm going to tell you how to do it. Other than a good dose of patience, you need very little else to make this magical dessert. I plan to serve it a-top a blueberry tart made by the Daily Loaf, our bread share baker.
Mousse à la Cerise (Cherry Sorbet)
Pit 1 quart of cherries. I did this with my bare hands because I couldn't find my fancy cherry pitter. I've seen online tricks like using a paperclip, but honestly this worked just fine. Nothing like an audiobook to keep you company while you pit!
Place the pitted cherries with their juice in a food mill such as a Foley food mill. Turn the handle to press the fruit through the finest sieve. It will look like pink juice. Reserve the pulp (I added sugar to that to use as a topping on ice cream later).
Measure the freshly pressed juice from the cherries. Be sure to squeeze every last drop out of the pulp. You should have about 2 cups (add a little water or juice if need be). Add half a cup of superfine sugar and mix until dissolved. Add the juice of one lemon.
Pour the liquid into a flat ceramic dish. Place in the freezer. Set your timer for one hour. Check every hour and when frozen but still slightly slushy, scrape into a food processor and mix until it whitens.
Place back into the flat dish and freeze again another hour or two. Return the mixture to the food processor and blend on high, gradually adding the white of one egg. The egg white will prevent large crystals from forming. Blend until almost creamy in appearance. Scrape into the final container you wish to store it in. Freeze until ready to serve. If too solid at time of serving let it soften 1/2 hour for scooping.
June 29, 2017
It Takes a Village
A Note from the Farmer's Wife
If you live alone, hang out by yourself most of the time, or feel lonely even when people are around, your risk of kicking the bucket in the next seven years increases to about 30%. This startling statement in a Wall Street Journal
article this weekend caught my eye. According to Susan Pinker, author of "The Village Effect" (is she married to the guy who wrote the Dorito Effect?) our social habits more accurately predict how long we will live than our eating and exercise habits.
For many of us this news makes us think of aging parents or other elders we know who no lack the gumption to get out and connect with friends or even family. Is it possible that the sky-rocketing rate of dementia in this country connects to a growing isolation of our elders? Is a nursing home the answer? Even residents of retirement facilities can feel very alone, perhaps even more so if they grieve the loss their familiar turf.
"Isolation is the beginning of disease." So stated Malidoma Some, West African shaman and author or several books. Indigenous cultures have known since ancient times the value of a supportive community.
How does this connect to the CSA? First to my mind springs the satisfaction of a shared meal. Does your family sit together and begin the meal together? An article in the Washington Post
highlights a myriad of benefits for families that sit down to a meal together. Young children learn more vocabulary at family dinners than they do from being read to, teens are more likely to get good grades in school and suffer less obesity once they are on their own. Families that eat together tend to eat more fruits and vegetables - have you ever subbed a bowl of cereal for a meal as a loner? Even medical conditions such as asthma were improved by eating together.
The article stresses that the atmosphere is essential. No TV while eating together and parents should be "warm and engaged" versus stern and controlling. I suppose this research has finally put to rest the old adage, "Children are to be seen and not heard."
One of the most interesting and frequent comments on our 2014 survey highlighted the social connection our members get from picking up their box at a communal location. This may vary from site to site, but I was surprised and pleased to see how much people value connecting with other dedicated vegetable eaters. In the flurry of business that seems to be part of everyone's lives these days, it is interesting to note that this small community building activity of the weekly box pick up seems to be worth the extra effort. Perhaps getting a box of food in the mail is easier, but only lends to the nuclear isolation that is plaguing our culture.
So remember that the acronym "CSA" stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Take a moment to connect with your fellow CSA members, and build the community around you. If you prepare your meal together and sit down together, after socializing at your pick up site, maybe you will live a little longer! Especially if you eat your vegetables!
June 11, 2017
The Art of Eating Seasonally
A Note from the Farmer's Wife
Welcome to the beginning of the summer season! Eating locally means that you are also eating in rhythm with the seasons. Technically it is still spring which means your boxes are full of green things. To the new CSA veggie eater this can seem like a real challenge, trying to finish your box of green things before the next box arrives. Everyone is excited about the tomatoes, cucumbers and snap beans that mark the height of summer, but learning how to eat more greens is one of the most productive ways to support your health.
Let's talk about a few things you can do to make the task of eating greens easier and downright delicious. As soon as you receive your weekly box take the vegetables out of the plastic liner and lay them on the counter. Now you are going to perform something like triage. You want to identify which produce should be consumed first. For example, rate a bag of salad mix before a head of romaine lettuce.The tender and delicate greens should be eaten first. You might want to wash and spin these greens so they are ready to be eaten as soon as possible. I find it very valuable to line are glass storage container with a paper towel, thoroughly spin the greens to remove excess water and then gently place them in the container without crushing or bruising the leaves. With the lid securely on top, place them where they will be easily accessed.
Herbs such as dill and cilantro usually come in bunches too large to be consumed in one week. However these herbs are cool-season friendly, so with a little work now you will be prepared for the hot summer days when you're more likely to use them on cucumbers and tomatoes. My favorite way to store herbs like this is to chop them them in the food processor with a little bit of olive oil or water, salt and lemon juice. Press the mix into ice cube trays and freeze. Once thoroughly frozen pop them out and store in a container or Ziploc bag in the freezer. You'll be surprised at what a timesaver it is when you're making fresh salsa or cucumber salad in August. Cilantro and dill will not be on the list in the hot season because they do not grow well then. That's one of the challenges of eating seasonally.
Baby bok choi is a popular item on our list, but I often discover mine shoved to the back of the crisper drawer, forgotten. Bunches of green onions often wind up with the same fate. Recently I decided to try grilling them. I chopped off the tippy tops of the choi, and about half of the onion greens. A quick toss with balsamic date vinegar and olive oil and they were ready for the grill. I had the grill on low, less than 350 degrees, and placed the veggies on the upper rack. A slow gentle cook yielded my new favorite side dish, warm, tender with a bit of crunch. Fabulous.
When you are short of time, but your refrigerator is still packed with greens, think smoothie. In a future post I will suggest some recipes, but for now try frozen banana, strawberries, Wholesome Dairy yogurt (the perfect consistency) and any green: bok choi, kale, lettuce, cilantro, dill. Whiz is in a hefty blender, like a Vitamix, add cinnamon, cocoa powder, nut butter or vanilla for a quick nutritious way to pack a lot of vegetables into your day.
May 28, 2017
Happy Birthday to the Farmer!
A Note from the Farmer's Wife
The Farmer's Dad always tells a story about the Farmer's birth at a Memorial Day swim party...well not exactly at it, but dramatically almost at it. Now, a little grey speckles the Farmer's beard and swim parties remain a distant memory. His mind is focused on things like dirt, what's growing, including weeds and what needs to be done. With the CSA main season beginning this week, we are all distracted from thinking much about celebrations. Still, I want to take a moment to celebrate this hard-working guy in front of anyone who cares to listen.
It takes a special kind of guy to farm vegetables sustainably. He needs endurance, perseverance and vision. He must like the outdoors extremely muchly. Blazing heat, pouring rain, chilly mornings and long days cannot deter him. Dirt must be one of his best friends, since he has little time for socializing. Working 7 days a week during the growing season, from dawn to dusk, must seem like a great idea. Multi-tasking is essential as is managing a crew of 20 people simultaneously performing a variety of chores. And then we he is finished the farm work, he must be a cheerful, available Dad for his kids and a patient, kind ear for his Wife. That's me.
This is my Farmer, honest as the sky is big and hard-working as the ocean is deep. I am proud to stand by him on this journey we have chosen. And happy to make him a big, sloppy, strawberry cake in his honor! Happy birthday my love!
May 13, 2017
Kitchen Magic: Mastering Kale
A Note from the Farmer's Wife
CSAs have what some might consider a bad reputation, others might argue good, for sending a lot of kale to their customers. If you are a kale lover, you can probably stop reading here, since you likely know all your favorite ways to consume large amounts of the nutrition-packed green. But if your taste buds balk at a big green pile of mushy brassica, you might want to read on.
Here are some tips on preparing a tasty feast out of your kale bonanza:
- First, be aware that while spring kale is quite tender, as the season progresses it gets a little tougher and the cooking time lengthens. If undercooked, it often remains on the dinner plate.
- Second, the bitterness of this green can deter some palates which proper seasoning can overcome.
Let’s look at three recipes that are simple and tasty for those who have been intimidated by kale in the past. Mind you, I’m often a hurried cook, and work in the kitchen from the seat of my pants, more than from a recipe book. I’m also partial to using seasonal, local veggies whenever possible, so if I use a recipe, I often adapt it to suit what’s in my CSA box. At the end of each recipe, I offer a link to a “real” more formal version, for those who want more detailed instructions.
1. Portuguese Kale Soup
2 large yellow onions diced fine, or chopped as you wish!
2 TBS butter or olive oil
8 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2-4 potatoes sliced 1/8 inch thick, or peeled and cubed if you prefer
1 bunch, or bag of kale, stripped from the stems, torn or chopped into bite size, and steamed for 10 minutes.
1/2 lb of chorizo, or mild sausage if spiciness is an issue for your crowd. Feel free to sub a vegan sausage.
Cannellini beans, 16 oz can, drained and rinsed
1-2 sprig rosemary, or 2 tsp dried
1-2 sprig thyme, of 1 tsp dried
Salt, pepper to taste
A dash of turmeric and paprika (optional)
Fresh basil for garnish, or sliced of lemon
In bottom of sturdy soup kettle, saute onions in butter, on medium heat, just until clear. Add stock and bring to a simmer. Add potatoes and simmer 5-10 minutes. I often take a potato masher and loosely crush the potatoes into smaller pieces. Add kale and sausage. Simmer 15-20 minutes. Add beans, rosemary and thyme and seasoning to taste. Simmer 5-10 minutes. Serve with garnish. Double the recipe for fantastic leftovers.
2. Kale Pesto - I have yet to try making this, but plan to use it to make a nutrition-packed pizza. Spread the pesto on a prepared crust (preferably homemade) and top with your favorites: cheese, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes and garlic top my list.
3. Kale Salad with Hemp Seeds: The key to a successful kale salad is to massage it and let it marinate. This tenderizes it and gives it time to soak up some great flavor to counteract it’s bitterness. Take 1 bunch of kale, stripped from the stems and torn into bite size pieces and place it in a large salad bowl. Drizzle olive oil, the juice of 1 lemon, salt to taste and add crushed garlic. Massage until the leaves turn oil and darker green. Let sit for at least an hour if possible. Add dried cranberries, hemp seeds, grapefruit and radishes. Drizzle a small amount of date balsamic vinegar, toss and enjoy.
April 21, 2017
Your Magic Kitchen: Part 1
By Charis Lindrooth
photo credit Caroline Attwood,
Way back when I was a real CSA member and not a Farmer's wife I received a partial share. Each week I eyed up that box with the goal of finishing it before the next one arrived. This was no easy task for a busy single mom who was working full-time. My then two-year-old was little help polishing off this box. However I wanted to eat more vegetables on a daily basis and this was one of the most simple and inspiring ways to eat more healthfully. Challenging myself to finish my box by the week's end became most of the most satisfying health journeys I have ever faced.
This post is the first in my series highlighting tips to make it easier for you and your family to eat more vegetables. For me one of the biggest obstacles to eating more veggies is the the amount of time it takes to prep vegetables. It's so much easier to slab to throw a slab of meat into a pan and throw a few potatoes in with it and call it a meal.
The first step to eating more vegetables is to take some time to do some vegetable prep before your busy week begins. Wouldn't you be more likely to cook at home and use more vegetables in your meals if your refrigerator was full of perfectly wash chopped and stored veggies just waiting for use. True you still have to do the washing, chopping and storing in advance, unless you're lucky enough to have a sous chef, but this can be done efficiently and even be fun if you involve your kids. My daughter has her own special chopping knife that is kid-safe and yet effective enough she feels involved. I find that her participation inspires her to eat more of these vegetables either while she's chopping them or later when they land on the plate.
So let’s get started. Ideally, you have done some menu planning before your CSA box arrives, but if you are like me, you probably haven’t. That means the box dictates your meals, or to put it more poetically provides inspiration. On CSA day, when you come home with your bag of goodies, stop before you shove the entire bag in the fridge and sit down with a glass of wine. Instead, follow these steps to ensure that you will be using this fresh bounty to the best of your ability.
- Assemble your tools: Clear off a bit of counter space, center a cutting board and line up a series of glass or plastic containers of various shapes and sizes. Have one large chopping knife, and 1 small paring knife and maybe a pair of scissors handy. A roll of paper towels, ziplock bags and a salad spinner are also helpful.
- Assess your CSA box and determine which items might be used for healthy snacking, which might be used for soup, salad or stir fry, and which might be used for smoothies or juicing. If you are already stuck for ideas, fear not, I will be addressing these choices in later posts.
- Chop items for snacking into bite-sized pieces. I like to place mine in a glass container so they are visible and enticing to refrigerator perusers.
- Chop soup, stir fry or steamable items and store in glass or plastic containers with lids or ziplock bags. Some items, such as broccoli and carrots can be tossed into the freezer for future soup. Diced onions and crushed garlic can be stored tossed with a little lemon juice, salt and olive oil and stored in fridge or freezer.
- Wash lettuce or salad mix, spin in salad spinner, and place in plastic container lined with a paper towel. You will be amazed how fresh it will keep. Be aware however that salad mix is more perishable than stiff head lettuce like romaine. Always use salad mix first. In fact I almost always use the salad mix on CSA night. It is only one day old and so packed with so much flavor it needs little else to make it tasty. In the spring I slice a little radish, add grapefruit sections and a bit of avocado for a refreshing side dish.
- Wash and trim smoothie and juicing items and store in ziplock bags lined with paper towels, or take it a step further and can the blender/juicer out, process and freeze in single serving containers.
Yes, this takes time, but it might be only 15 minutes now and the rest of your week is streamlined. And yes, produce that has been chopped does lose some nutritional value, but not as much as produce that you never eat.
We'd love to hear your veggie prep tricks! Comment here or email them to us for a future post!
Know someone who could eat more veggies? Please share this post and tell them about our CSA!
Get more info about our family farm here
April 9, 2017
The Good Ol' Days
By Charis Lindrooth
Once upon a time Red Earth Farm sat on a 14 acre plot of land, with just over 4 acres in vegetable production. So many heads of lettuce have been harvested since that time, maybe 100,000? That’s just a Farmer’s Wife’s guess, so we will see what the Farmer says when he hops off the tractor and reads this. Back then a collection of old bent kitchen paring knives constituted the tools for harvest. Now we use slick machetes with fat yellow handles. And now we cultivate over 30 acres in produce.
Sometimes the Farmer reflects on the “good ol’ days.”
Things didn’t always run smoothly, and the quality of the produce lagged behind our standards today, but a sweetness blessed those early days. One of the best things about those times, were crew lunches. We shared our housing with several employees and took turns cooking a hot lunch for the entire crew. Rickety tables, and even more rickety chairs set up outside were laden with steaming curried greens, homemade cornbread, vegetable soup and always the ever present salad. If the salad arrived on the table as a simple pile of lettuce, we called it a “George Salad” because crew member George lacked creativity or inspiration when making salad. Promptly at 1pm a hot, sweaty crew would pile down the hill from field to table, and while plates full of food circulated, the banter began.
I savored these moments.
Featured topics included politics, much less eventful in those days, TV shows from the 80s and the secret lives of our chickens. Ian, a red-haired Johnny Appleseed sort of fellow, teased the kids about "Chuckles the Chicken" who was always calling his cell phone. Todd, Ian’s counter-part, strummed his guitar and crooned songs like Long Black Veil as the tea kettle whistled: hot tea after every meal for the Farmer, no matter how hot the day.
While the intimacy of those days have disappeared, a strong camaraderie still thrives among the crew. The challenge of long rows of a single task, be it bean-picking, tomato-stringing or cultivation with the hoe, becomes a backdrop for friendships that endure. Crew lunches still happen, now in the new lunch room, albeit no hot fare prepared by the Farmer’s Wife.
And once in a while you still might hear the notes of Old Joe Clark, when the Farmer is feeling sentimental and can spare a moment to pick up his banjo.
Sometimes it feels like the Farm has grown up, just like a child ready for college. We can't help but feel excited about the potential this "child" holds, but a little worry about pitfalls and a little wistfulness for what once was, the pitter-patter of little feet, as it were, seems appropriate.
CSA shares are available for Spring and Summer seasons.
Join our "Farmily!"
April 1, 2017
The Economy Share
By Charis Lindrooth
No fooling, things are heating up on the farm. The tractor hums by me daily, the driver happy and content to be back in the “saddle,” as it were. The nursery is turning a brighter shade of green, touched by the magic of popping seeds and emerging shoots. The haygrove, our triple-bay hoop house is covered and full of baby lettuces, bok choi and sweet salad turnips, designated for Spring Share
boxes later this month. Did I say later this month? Yes! In less than 4 weeks, our season begins again
. I can hardly wait to taste those first, most tender and sweet baby vegetables. I cannot wait to visit the grocery store less often, when my refrigerator is bursting with vegetables.
I still get a CSA box every week. Being the Farmer’s Wife, I get a steep discount, of course. You might think that because the farm is right at my feet I wouldn’t need a box, but thirty acres is a lot of ground to cover when you want something specific. And nothing beats the thrill of the weekly list that magically appears each week, picking my favorites, planning my weekly menu and then the delight of opening the fresh box each week.
Recently I asked our members what works and what doesn’t work for them about CSA. If you haven’t responded to this question yet, feel free. We are listening! Almost everyone lists “choice” as a top priority, and we have that covered. Others mentioned the need for pick up site closer to their home. We are willing to accommodate any group that organizes enough interest to host us - we need help with that! And others mentioned that they wish we had a smaller, more affordable share size.
Our recent work on our Community Supported Accessible Food initiative has highlighted this same issue. We have created a new Economy Share to fill a niche for a smaller share for those people who want a more economical option. This share will include 5 Farmer’s Choice items weekly for 22 weeks. The Farmer will pick vegetables for these boxes that are family favorites, with the hopes that the customer will easily be able to use the contents of the box each week. The cost of the share is $306 for 22 weeks, just $13.91/week. In mid summer the box might hold 1 large head of lettuce, 1 quart of tomatoes, 1 quart of potatoes, a quart of green beans, and 4 juicy cucumbers.
Please let us know if you have questions or feedback for us!
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 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