June 24, 2018
Good Help is Hard to Find
By Charis Lindrooth
Meet Sarah! She is all things useful when it comes to packing your box every week. She is the happy face on the other end of the line when you call or email the farm and she works SUPER hard to field all of your questions while keeping on top of the pack house organization. Believe me, there are a ton of balls to juggle on any given week in her world. In her free time, she enjoys running, herbalism, making puns, and eating lots of organic veggies :)
She looks forward to helping you in any way she can, so please feel free to reach out to her @ firstname.lastname@example.org or (484) 637-6305 but remember how nice your site host is too...approaching your site host first can really help cut down the chaos in Sarah's world. Please check your Welcome Info bulletin for you host's contact information.
June 16, 2018
The Science 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. 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.
June 3, 2018
The Meaning of CSA
By Charis Lindrooth
Many of you have already heard the Farmer and I wax philosophic on the future of CSAs in our region. Maybe I should say, we wax anxious about the issue. Surely everyone knows by now that the term CSA stands for “Community Supported Agriculture.” The question, then becomes, what exactly does that mean?
Originally, the CSA model was designed to accomplish two objectives:
- The CSA model provided farmers with the assurance that their product would be sold throughout the season. Growers who previously relied only on farmers' markets and wholesale outlets, such as produce auctions, might experience dramatic fluctuations in sales, depending on fair weather and customer turnout. The upfront commitment by CSA customers removes this uncertainty.
- The unadulterated CSA model eliminates the "middle man.” This is a win-win for both customer and farmer, allowing the customer to receive a fair deal on the freshest produce and the farmer to get full retail price for his labor. This has made all the difference for small family farms such as ours.
Isn’t there an old saying, “Where there is blood there are sharks"…or something like that? The success and profitability of the CSA enthusiasm has attracted larger organizations, ready to cash in on the opportunity the local food movement provides. From large cooperatives of farmers, such as Lancaster Farm Fresh to Amazon and Target, the range of organization and good intentions surrounding the delivery of local goods is now mesmerizing and maybe confusing for the consumer.
As the NYT article put it, “The opportunity for confusion is of enormous concern to many farmers in the New York [and Pennsylvania, we might add!] region. Depending on how and where these new businesses buy their produce, consumers can receive all the benefits of C.S.A. membership, while the farmers get only a fraction. Some farmers say that after years of steady growth, their C.S.A. memberships have dropped since the arrival of services like Local Roots or Farmigo….But the drawbacks can outweigh the benefits. Some say that these hubs have siphoned off their members, partly by offering a more convenient product, but also by blurring the definition of terms like ‘C.S.A.' and 'farm share,' so that customers believe they are directly supporting local farms with their purchases when they might not."
Our production has expanded greatly, and our growing skills sharpened since we started more than a decade ago. Those of you who have been long-time customers have weathered through some ups and downs with us. Do you remember when we had virtually no cucumbers? Or when the list was so short in August, when our squash conked out and the tomatoes were blighted out of existence? The Farmer has bull-doggedly forged on, year after year, honing his skills, creating systems around seeding, planting, weeding and harvesting. All to bring variety and quality consistently to your table.
In spite of the apparent strength and progress of our farm in the past few years, our CSA membership has plateaued, and then this year, actually declined. At first, we felt this was a natural shift as the market grew saturated and diverse opportunities were presented to our customer base. We felt that we needed to diversify, which is why we ventured into wholesale. But wholesale is a new game. The profit margin is smaller and takes a much larger production scale to achieve the type of security we so easily found in our CSA. The need to expand into new markets has also required us to make changes to meet more stringent food safety standards, which is why we are now GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) certified.
The concept of CSA was born from a passion for supporting small farms and for a grass-roots endeavor to reconnect with where and how our food is grown. I maintain this blog with the primary intention of helping our customers know us and our farm. I write with my heart on my sleeve, because I believe that our customers care about the welfare of their farming family as much as about the convenience of having their local food arrive in one box. I want our customers to know without a shadow of a doubt their dollars are supporting the livelihood of a small Pennsylvania farm and their support makes this farm a better provider of fresh, high quality, safe food for people throughout our region.
How can you help?
1. If you are not a current member, please join today!
Our CSA is the only one in the region offering weekly online ordering.
2. If you are a member, refer a friend. Tell them about our farm and share this post.
3. Consider making a tax deductible donation to one of our Community Supported Accessible Food partners: Ardmore Food Pantry
and New Bethany Ministries
For donations of $285 (feeds 10 families for 2.5 weeks) we would like to invite you and a friend to a truly fabulous dinner at the Farm, with the Farmer and his Wife. You can’t get much closer to Farm to Table than that! Donations must be submitted via the partner portal or via check payable to Ardmore Food Pantry or New Bethany Ministries. Please let us know if your donation qualifies you for the Farm to Table Dinner. These donations are tax deductible.
New Bethany Ministries Donations (portal available soon).
As always, we are grateful every day for the opportunity to feed you and your families. Thank you for your continued support.
May 28, 2018
Fields of Promise
A Note from the Farmer's Wife
Things are gearing up at the farm and the fields already look promising. Our Main Season begins the week of June 11 and we are hoping that we can count on your support. The success of this small family farm depends on veggie eaters like you.
One of the best ways to get healthier is to eat more fresh vegetables, and nothing makes that easier than a CSA. Michael and I are passionate about vegetables, healthy eating and the environment. We believe that vegetables that are picked fresh and delivered locally have the greatest nutritional value and the least environmental footprint of any food on today’s market.
Please let me know if I can answer any questions, or help you get registered for this season. If you do not plan to participate, it helps us to know why, so we would appreciate any feedback you have to offer.
Remember Red Earth Farm is the ONLY CSA that offers online weekly ordering AND we are one of the least expensive. On top of that we never use chemical pesticides or herbicides or GMO seed.
Will you be part of the “Farmily" again this year?
Yours In Health,
Charis Lindrooth, The Farmer’s Wife
Red Earth Farm
April 28, 2018
Back in the Kitchen
A Note from the Farmer's Wife
Come midsummer I might take salad with a ho-hum attitude (note that I said “might”) towards salad, but right now the return to our homegrown bounty is a relief. Some may call me a veggie snob, but I truly believe nothing tops fresh picked baby lettuce and radishes…except the summer heirloom tomatoes!
Everyday I think about the obstacles that keep me from eating 8-10 servings of vegetables daily - not an easy thing to accomplish, even for the Farmer’s Wife! I see the issue as two-fold. First is the ready access to fresh produce that inspires the palate. Second, is the time and know-how needed to prepare the vegetables in a way that satisfies the family. I am always looking for creative and simple ways to incorporate more vegetables into my family’s diet.
Of course the first step to eating more vegetables is to buy, or grow, local produce. The flavor and nutrient value will leave your kids asking for more. Personally, I think Red Earth veggies are the best and there is nothing like getting my box each week (yes, I really am a CSA member - with benefits!). Each week I eye up my box with the goal of finishing it before the next one arrives. It becomes a personal challenge that rewards me with a feeling of health and vitality.
The second 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 washed, chopped and stored veggies just waiting for you? 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 especially if you make it fun with your kids. My daughter has her special own chopping knife that is kid safe and yet effective enough she feels involved. Her involvement inspires her to eat more vegetables either while she's chopping or later when they land on the plate.
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 beer. Instead, follow these steps to ensure that you will be using this fresh bounty to the best of your ability.
1. Assemble your tools: Clear off a bit of counter space, center a cutting board and line up a series of glass or plastic containers or 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 and a salad spinner are also helpful.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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 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.
6. Smoothie and juicing items can be washed and stored in ziplock bags lined with paper towels, or you can get the juicier out, juice 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.
If you haven't already, get started with Step 1, support a local farm and join Red Earth Farm CSA