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February 24, 2019
Eat for Your Bugs
By Charis Lindrooth
In the garden, the soil at our feet is teeming with life. Beyond worms and arthropods which can be seen with the naked eye, microbia of all sorts play a vital role in the healthy environment of the ground where our food is grown. Similarly, the human body harbors up to ten times as many microbial cells as human cells.
What are these microbes and what are they doing? What do they tell us about ourselves?
Just as our human genome records traces of who we are and the conditions we have adapted to during evolutionary history, our microbial genomes may record traces of what we have eaten, where we have lived, and who we have been in contact with.
My daughter is the one who drew my attention to this subject.
As a young toddler she consumed more dirt on our organic farm than I thought humanly possible. At first I tried to dissuade her. When nothing dire happened to her, and when she stubbornly persisted I began to wonder if she wasn’t craving something she needed. Adopted at birth, she was never breastfed, except once. I made her a formula using raw goat’s milk as a base, but the formula was low in iron, something that bottle fed babies often lack. Our soil at that time was very high in iron so I assumed that she was eating the dirt because she craved iron.
But then I began to notice that she never got sick. She was the healthiest baby and toddler I had ever seen. With her first two teeth she had a low-grade fever for a few hours and that was it for her entire babyhood...until she weaned off her formula and dirt.
That’s when I began to wonder if she innately knew something I didn’t. I decided to write a book about why eating dirt was such a good thing. It didn’t take me long, when I started researching, to stumble on the then-exploding science of the microbiome. I never wrote that book. I didn’t need to since a pile of books on the topic were proliferating faster than I could sharpen my pencil. However, I did learn a lot on the topic, the most important lesson being how key our diets are to the health of the magical world of bugs in our gut.
Imagine holding a human brain in your hands, about three pounds. Now imagine instead of the mass of grey matter in your hands, you are holding a squirming pile of bacteria. That is the amount of microbes found in a human gut.
This amounts to trillions of bacteria which hang out in and on us, and in and on the soil at our feet. Scientists have learned that these bacteria in the gut play a vital role in digestion, the production of certain nutrients, the development of our immune systems, in setting our metabolism making us thin or fat, in inflammatory and auto-immune disorders and even in what we think and feel.
Multiple studies have demonstrated that people with a rich diversity of bacteria are healthier and better equipped to thwart inflammatory conditions such as autoimmune disease, cardiovascular disease and arthritis. Overweight and obese people are prone to lower bacterial diversity and so are vulnerable to insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease and overall inflammation compared to thin people.
So how do we create an environment that feeds diversity and sustains a wide diversity of microbes? Your first guess might be to eat more fermented foods, such as sauerkraut and yogurt (maybe not at the same time). While these foods, and the bacteria found in them, do have an important influence on the activity of our gut microbiome, there is another category of food that plays a more significant role: fiber-rich vegetables.
Gut bacteria love carbohydrates, but we digest most of our dietary carbs in the small intestine, before they hit the colon where most of our gut bugs hang out. To get around this, gut bacteria have evolved to survive on carbohydrates found in the indigestible fiber that we eat. Increasing our dietary sources of this "bug fuel” will provide for a thriving and more diverse bacterial population of bacteria in our guts, and so possibly assist weight loss, lower inflammation, and decrease chronic diseases.
Vegetables rich in soluble fiber are key. If your gut bugs don’t get enough fiber, they turn to an alternate source of carbs, the mucus lining of you large intestine - yum! Eating a wide diversity of vegetables is the answer: asparagus, leek, tomato, radish, as well as countless greens, roots and other vegetables and berries.
The most encouraging and amazing thing about the microbiome is its incredible capacity for rapid transformation. By changing what food is arriving in your gut, you can transform the population in as little as 72 hours. This changeability is why many scientists see the microbiome of the gut as potentially one of our most powerful tools for transforming health. The key to success here is consistently eating the food that nourishes and sustains them over time. While positive change can be made quickly, the health benefits won’t be realized unless this change is supported for the long haul. As quickly as diversity can improve, if we fall back into old habits, the former inflammatory-promoting bugs will simply return just as quickly.
The short answer? Join a CSA and eat more veggies every single day! You knew that was where I was headed with this, right? ; )
February 17, 2019
By Charis Lindrooth
In some ways February is my favorite month on the farm.
For one thing the sun is noticeably stronger. Now that we have started seeding, the mid-winter sun feels downright glorious in the greenhouse nursery. Flats of emerging seedlings need water twice a day, and I love to bundle up and make the trek down the long hill to where they await my attention.
Along the way I watch for returning birds and have already spotted robins and a boisterous flock of Eastern bluebirds. Chickadees and juncos hop about nearby, unconcerned by my journey past them.
I always make sure I stop at the honeybee hives, checking the stark white boxes for signs of life. On a warm day, even in February, I can spot a few brave bees emerging and searching for food. That reminds me to watch for the early wild flowers that are so essential to their survival. A few yellow dandelions peek out from the brown weathered grass and I hope the foragers find them.
As soon as I unlock and slide open the heavy greenhouse door I am struck full in the face by the warm, humid scent of moist earth. The deliciousness travels to some part of my brain that has stored early childhood memories of spring and immediately feelings of hope and expectation stir within me.
We have nicknamed our greenhouse “Florida” partly because it is so balmy and inspires the shedding of winter clothing, and partly because it feels grand to say, “Hey, I’m going to Florida. See ya later!”
The nursery will be in operation from now until November. It’s opening every winter, along with the opening of CSA registration, feels like the beginning of the season.
Always this moment bears with it hope for abundance. May we be blessed with the right amount of sun and rain. May we be blessed with a bounty of perfectly ripe and delicious produce. And may we be blessed with plenty of customers who will be nourished body and soul with then fruits of our labor.
February 17, 2019
A little more about the VALUE of your CSA Box
By Charis Lindrooth
Since launching our new CSA registration via the new platform Harvie we have had a few questions about cost vs value/size of the new shares. First let me clarify that with the new system we are able to place a VALUE on your box that more accurately ensures that you are getting your money's worth each week. Rather than focusing strictly on the number of items in your box, we will be ensuring that what goes in your box matches the weekly value. This means if you like a lot of low cost items you will get more items in your box, but if you prefer the premium items (say heirloom tomatoes) you might get fewer. This means that the new Partial Share is actually a more valuable share than last season. The number of items in your box will be based on the $28/week value rather than last year’s $21/week. The Solo Share is $23/week which more closely resembles last year's partial share. In retrospect perhaps we should have re-named the Partial Share to better proclaim it's difference from past year's. This is a bit of a learning curve for us too, so as the season progresses we are looking forward to your feedback about how you think it is going.
Also please note that Cheese and Egg Shares will be delivered for 11 weeks this year, rather than 10. This adds to the overall cost of these shares, but again, the value is increased.
As is the case every year there has been a modest increase in price which helps the farm with the rising cost of labor and a 5% payment that we make to Harvie for their services.
We are hoping that the benefits of a payment plan (at 0% interest), customized pre-ordered boxes, vacation skipped boxes and other benefits that Harvie offers will actually serve our customers better and they will actually end up with a better value than previous years.
We are working hard to make this farm a viable operation - not easy for a thousand reasons! and still make it a rewarding, delicious and valuable opportunity for our customers interested in supporting local farms…especially this one! Many of you have been long-time supporters of our farm and we hope that you give the new system a try. If you are not happy with it you can opt out with a refund for the remaining season any time.
Please let us know if we can clarify anything. Thank you!
February 9, 2019
What's for Dinner?
By Charis Lindrooth
We call this "Nasty (nasturtium) Salad" ; )
Sometimes I think I spend more time reading about cooking lately than actually doing it. I get the Kitchen Winter Blahs in February and acutely miss the freshness of the summer bounty. That's why I couldn't resist taking a peek at this article in the New York Times:
It spoke to me, since I have been disheartened by my own lack of inspiration to hit the kitchen and worried about statistics cited in Michael Pollen's book, Cooked
about how Americans spend less time than preparing food than people anywhere else in the world.
A CSA definitely thrives on customers who actually prepare their own food from scratch. As food services madly scramble to make cooking as cookie-cutter and streamlined as possible, the Farmer and I look at each other and wonder at all the waste that goes into this carefully pre-chopped and otherwise prepared, wrapped and packaged pre-cooked meals. It seems so simple to us to take a few items from the field and create a meal that satisfies us in the deepest way imaginable.
People who prepare their own meals eat approximately 140 calories less per day
which prevents several pounds of weight gain each year. We know eating at home is better for us, but it is still a challenge to make it happen. Besides a shortage of time - we are all so crazy busy and tired these days - what keeps you from cooking? Do you need ideas? Recipes? How-to classes? Inspiration? Incentive?
We like to think that the weekly arrival of your CSA box acts as an encouragement, not a nag, that cooking for yourself is healthy, satisfying and delicious. When you eat a home-cooked meal that includes local produce, you are supporting a small family farm, an essential part of the the Pennsylvania rural landscape...in our humble opinion, that is!