Community Philosphy Blog and Library

Posts Tagged ‘CSA’

A Beginning Farmer Goes To A Farming Conference

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Kat is Farm Aid’s Program Assistant. In the fall of 2011, she transplanted from an organic vegetable farm in Kansas to the Northeast. She enjoys a full-on life as a yogini and graduate student in agricultural policy at Tufts University

I’m still high from gleaning little tastes of that farm life I dearly miss. I am a beginning farmer who is spending two seasons in graduate school … without a farm. I don’t need an M.S. to farm, but a wise farmer once told me that everything I do makes me a better farmer. Earlier in January, I attended the NOFA-NY Winter Conference, which included a workshop track specifically for beginning farmers.

My experience began with the full day intensive session Get Your Boot in the Door: Defining, Planning and Starting Up Your Farm on the Path to Long-Term Success. Most folks in the room planned to start farming in one to two years. We heard the presenters’ stories of how to make goals, plans and mistakes; of how to find the right land, restore unhealthy soil and convert historically conventional farms into diversified, organic farms.

Melissa Madden and Garrett Miller of The Good Life Farm shared a comparison of two actual farm situations in the Finger Lakes region. Farm A had little farm training before starting a small farm with low debt. Farm B had significant farm experience before starting a large farm with high debt. Yet both farms have similar net incomes, great farmers and reliable markets. At The Farmer’s Calendar workshop on Saturday, Mark Kimball of Essex Farm recommended 12 years of education on diversified farms before starting a farm. If I follow that prescription, by the time I complete graduate school and the rest of my farm-based education (I have two seasons of experience to date), I will be 37 years old. Ugh.

The point is the importance of gaining enough experience to feel confident going into debt later. But I am not patient, and from my experience, farmers are not patient. We get this itch to dive in—to jump off the cliff. Mark and Kristin Kimball did it (they started 11 enterprises their first year). Melissa and Garrett did it, too. Although they sat and observed their land for a year and planned diligently, they still moved quickly and made mistakes. Isn’t this process valuable in a profession of lifelong learning? Mark’s answer: we need to figure out how to farm bigger and better rather than recreate the wheel. For Essex Farm, I think this means sustainably providing a high quality, full diet—grown on 600 acres, and powered by draft horses and solar panels—for as many people as possible.

The Kimballs apply a lens to farm planning that considers how everything on the farm has peaks and valleys (the seasons, the budget, the stress, the physical labor, etc.). The higher the peak, the deeper the valley you will need for restoring balance. Being reminded of this reality helped me finally accept the difference between building a farm and farming. These workshops asked mostly first-generation farmers to be honest with our goals and missions. For many, community is part of the dream. We want and need relationships to start sustainable farm enterprises, and the theme of this year’s conference, The Cooperative Economy, echoed this value.

Hearing the personal stories of struggle and resilience on farms in New York state reminded me of the bigger picture, and the irony in my worries about how, when, where and with whom to farm. The stresses we impose on ourselves prevent us from enjoying life. For beginning farmers, the key is to know where we are now, where we are going in the long haul and to have faith through the peaks and valleys. I know what little steps I can achieve this year—even off the farm.

The Great HOMEGROWN Cook-Off of 2011

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

What’s cookin’, HOMEGROWNers? It’s peak growing season and these days local food is being celebrated across the map! From food co-ops, to farmers’ markets, restaurants to home kitchens, folks are foraging for their favorite seasonal goodies and whipping up homegrown recipes that embody the freshness of the summer. In Massachusetts, June brings a cornucopia of beets, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumbers, lettuce, peas, peppers, radishes, scallions, spinach, strawberries and kale.  And, we’ve got blueberries, corn, summer squash, melons, peaches, raspberries, and tomatoes coming down the pike!  These foods provide a veritable feast of good eating for summer picnics, and many can be preserved for annual enjoyment and nourishment.  Paired with proteins and grains, this produce provides a base for a delicious and wholesome homegrown meal.


(Photo Credit: Cornelia)

Cooking with local foods and attempting to “eat your zip code,” not only promotes sustainable living, growing and eating, but it provides a real opportunity to flex those creative culinary muscles.  While I may not be the next Food Network star, I am learning to avoid the far-traveled supermarket fare and choose fresh, local food straight from the source.  Since my neighborhood farmers’ market has opened, I have experimented with pickled daikon, baked kale “chips”, sautéed beet greens with garlic over chicken, roasted beet and chevre salads, and my fair share of sauerkrauts and coleslaws.


(Photo Credit: Cornelia)

By committing to eating locally, I am recycling old standby recipes, learning more about combining flavors and textures, and creatively reconstituting and stretching my meals into leftovers until the next market run. Inspired by Kerry’s successful attempt to stretch one organic chicken into 22 meals for $49 bucks, I have kept my wallet and my eating healthy, and my recipes unique with each home-cooked meal.

Lots of my inspiration and knowledge has come from you – the members who have mastered the arts of living homegrown, and the newbies who are sharing their experiences as they commit to the HOMEGROWN lifestyle.  I find myself utilizing our search box when I buy an unfamiliar ingredient, or when I am at my wits end with the pests in the garden.  You folks come through with helpful tips and tricks, recipes and resources that run the gamut of homegrown living.  Groups like Hunting, Gathering, Foraging, Food Preservation, Urban Gardeners, and Favorite Farmers’ Markets provide a community of like-minded individuals to bounce ideas off of; discussions such as “Urban Food Co-ops” and “Farmers’ Markets Are Open!” keep the conversation flowing; blogs like “Is There a Crisis in Home Cooking?” and “Farmhouse Scramble” explore and celebrate good eating and local living; and our growing photo and video collections illustrate the importance of CSAs, farmers’ markets, and backyard agriculture.


(Photo Credit: Ross P)

So in the spirit of the season, we have a little competition brewing!  Last year we hosted a CSA Cook-off.  As a result of this challenge, we now have a library of beautiful photos and lots of delicious recipes to sift through when we need a little dinner inspiration.  This year, we want to give the cook-off a little twist:

  1. At least 50% of your ingredients must come from all or any of the following sources: A CSA share, Farmers Market or your garden (of that of a friend/neighbor).
  2. Post your recipe (each week or however often you like) as a member blog for all to enjoy. Bonus points for naming the farm, photos or video in your recipe.
  3. A weekly prize will be awarded for the best overall recipe, judged on the basis of ingredients, creativity, and presentation. The prizes include: a HG T-shirt, a mix CD curated by our HOMEGROWN Shepherdess and Flock-Tender, the honorable title of HOMEGROWN Chef-herd / Chef-herdess, and immortality in the end-of season HOMEGROWN Cook-off Cookbook.

Please keep in mind when submitting your dishes that we can only put original recipes in the cookbook.  The weekly deadlines for entries is every  Monday through August 30th!

Show us the bounty of the season in your neck of the woods!  Find a farmers’ market, co-op, or family farm through the Eat Well Guide, then post a member blog of your recipes, photos, videos, and experiences with local foods this summer by August 30 – we can’t wait to see what you’ve got cookin’!


(Photo Credit: Cornelia)

Five Ways To Have A Homegrown Kitchen

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

eat locally

Want to eat as locally as possible? Hoping to have fresh, healthy meals while supporting your local farmers and staying on budget? Wondering where to begin? Here are five tips to help you bring the Homegrown home.

1. Grow and raise the food you love

More power to you folks who grow a wide variety of fruits and veggies yourselves. For those of us with limited space, time or ability, smaller and simpler gardens are the way to go. Are tomatoes your thing? Can’t get enough of the almighty spud? The price of herbs getting you down? Try growing a few varieties of your favorites for maximum happiness. Don’t forget that backyard chickens mean a steady supply of fresh eggs! (duh).

2. Subscribe to a CSA

Community Supported Agriculture ensures a regular stream of fresh, local and family farmer-raised products in your cooking arsenal. Check out the CSA Cookoff series for inspiration. Frugal gourmets note: By selling directly to you, the customer, the farmer is able to provide you with a better price while keeping the “middlemen” out of his pockets. There are still farms taking subscribers. Find them on Local Harvest and The Eat Well Guide.

3. Practice Meal Planning

Busy moms like Tory know the value of this time-saving tip already, but everyone can benefit from some preparation and organization. If you have a CSA share, your farmer should send out a list of the contents of the week’s harvest. If you shop the farmers market, having a list really cuts down on the tendency to buy too much stuff or stuff that doesn’t get used (who hasn’t done that before?). Either way, try to spend 20 minutes each week thinking about what’s in season, what the week’s schedule entails and what ingredients are already in your pantry, then sketch out some meal ideas.

4. Minimize waste

By mid-season, we can find ourselves drowning in vegetables. Keeping a chalk board in the kitchen with a list of what you tuck away in the fridge each week (start with that CSA list!), helps cut down on spoilage. After eating fresh, your second defense against rotting food is preservation: Too many greens? Blanch and freeze them! Overdosing on beets? Cucumbers? Beans? Get out those canning jars! Too many tomatoes? (Never!) Slow roast, sun dry or dehydrate them and store it all for those dark winter days. Join the Food Preservation group for recipes and support.

5. Buy in bulk

Buying in bulk not only saves you money, it saves on excess packaging and trips to the store. A pantry stocked with whole grains, canned goods, beans and pasta puts you ahead of the game. Use your pantry as the foundation for your meal planning. Buying a whole, or going in on part of an animal with your friends and neighbors is a tremendously economical way of cooking with meat. You can find farmers who sell their meat directly through Local Harvest and The Eat Well Guide. Ask around at your local farmers market, too.

Good luck and good eating! Please feel free to add your tips for eating and living Homegrown in the comments.