Monday, August 20, 2012

CSA, Week 16

Elmwood Stock Farm is one of over 85,000 farms in Kentucky, more farms than any other state.  There is a lot of diversity in what each produces, though it wasn’t always that way. Kentucky has more farms than any other state, in part from the previous tobacco production quota system. Many of you are aware of Wendell Berry’s writings on the value of farmers and farming, the need to maintain the culture that agriculture brings to the fabric of Kentucky. You may not be aware that Wendell’s father, John Berry, is the father of the quota system for tobacco production.  Under the program, every farm that grew tobacco would agree to limit its production in exchange for a fair price. The amount a farm was entitled to grow (its base) was related to not only the acreage of the farm, but also the productive capacity of the property, without causing environmental degradation of the land. A highly erodible hilly farm would have a smaller base than a flatter farm of equal size. The highly productive soils of the Central Bluegrass (along with the available work force of area horse farms) helped make Lexington the epicenter of burley tobacco marketing, processing, and politics. The farmers knew how many pounds of burley they could sell, when it would sell, and what it would sell for. The bank also knew this and could comfortably loan farmers money for equipment, supplies, and labor to “make a crop”. Every farm had a Ford 5000 tractor, an International Farmall cultivating tractor, barns were measured and referred to by how many sticks of tobacco they would hold. (A stick is a 1”x1”x 4’ oak stick that held several plants.  It would hang across tier rails to allow the stalks to hang upside down and dry or cure in the barn. Some hand split sticks are still around, but the last 75 years, most were cut at sawmills.) Every farm also had to round up a work crew to tend the crop from pulling plants from the seed beds, to planting, chopping out weeds, topping the flowers off, cutting, housing, and stripping the leaves off the stalks, though much of the work was done by family members and neighbors.   The tobacco quota program allowed even the smallest farm to generate a moderate income and kept KY farms intact when so many others across the country were forced to “get big or get out” during the farm crisis of the 1980s.  Since Congress ended the tobacco program, only a small fraction of Kentucky farms still grow tobacco, and the free market system has moved most of the production overseas. 
Years ago, Elmwood Stock Farm began growing vegetables as a way to keep good tobacco workers employed over the entire growing season, by having more work avail-able such as harvesting vegetables. The large acreage, single variety, wholesale marketed, vegetable crops were planted and harvested around the schedule of the more profitable tobacco.  Later, as the farm grew less tobacco, an interest developed in raising smaller volumes of multiple crops over a longer season for direct sales – this brought new management strategy issues. The ever-evolving decisions around what equipment is needed, where do you get it, how many people do you need, what do they need to know, insect problems, what is the best variety to grow, what variety tastes best, what price will it receive, and on and on …  Today, each of the crops grown at Elmwood are relatively small scale by commercial vegetable production standards, yet quite a large scale when there are thousands of kale leaves to be picked, or beets to be pulled, or tomatoes to harvest and box for delivery to you. Most commercial equipment is not appropriate and too expensive. We have purchased a few key pieces of specialized equipment, modified some of the older tractors, and built a program of production around them both. Mostly, we have developed systems of harvesting and handling with homemade ingenuity while still depending on hands-on labor to ensure the care that a quality food crop requires.  

We touched on this topic so you can better see how your role as a shareholder in Elmwood benefits not just your family, and not just Elmwood Stock Farm, but your partnership keeps a former tobacco-dependent farm intact and sustainable.  As the current generation of Kentucky farmers age and the tobacco program funding ends, there will be more and more Kentucky farms faced with development or consolidation – either one will reduce the number of viable farms.  With your support as a partner in Elmwood’s CSA program, one of those 85,000 Kentucky farms will continue to flourish!

In Your Share

Cabbage- organic
Celery – organic
Onion -organic
Bell Pepper -organic
Heirloom & Hybrid Tomatoes – organic
Green Beans-organic
Garlic - organic

Recipes to Enjoy

Grilled Celery Salad with Tarragon Dressing, recipe from Country Living Magazine July 2012

1 head celery, stalks separated and ends trimmed
3 T olive oil, plus more for grilling
¼ C red wine vinegar
2 T roughly chopped fresh tarragon
3 oz shaved Parmesan (about 1 cup)
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat grill to medium.  Lightly brush celery stalks with olive oil.  Grill celery until marked and partially softened, about 12 minutes, turning once halfway through.  Transfer to cutting board and cool, about 5 minutes.  Slice celery on the bias into ¼ inch thick pieces.

In a medium bowl, combine celery, olive oil, vinegar and tarragon and toss to coat.  Season with salt and pepper.  Top with Parmesan.  Serve at room temperature; or cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.

Quick Moussaka, a Martha Stewart recipe using feta and ricotta rather than the traditional white flour-butter-milk sauce.

Butter, for baking dish
1 large eggplant (2 1/2 pounds), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
7 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground beef or lamb
1 can (28 oz) whole tomatoes, drained OR equivalent fresh
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (9 ounces) ricotta cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup (4 ounces) feta cheese, room temperature
1 large egg, room temperature

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Butter a 4-quart ovenproof dish. On a baking sheet, toss eggplant with 6 tablespoons oil and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Spread in a single layer, and roast in the oven until soft and golden, 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer eggplant to prepared dish, spreading in an even layer.

In a large saucepan, warm remaining tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, and ground meat; cook, stirring to prevent sticking, until meat is browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in drained tomatoes, tomato paste, parsley, oregano, cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Simmer, crushing tomatoes with the edge of a spoon, 15 minutes. Spread the mixture evenly over the eggplant.

Heat broiler. In a small bowl, mix ricotta, feta, egg, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and a pinch of salt. Pour mixture over the casserole, and spread evenly to the edges. Broil until topping is browned in spots, 5 to 10 minutes. Serve hot.

Tomato and Corn Pie, our thanks to a CSA member for sharing this recipe, adapted from Pink-Parsley, previously adapted from Bakin and Egg and Smitten Kitchen, originally from Christ Church Cooks and Gourmet.  Makes one 9-inch pie.

For the crust:
·                                 2 cups all-purpose flour
·                                 1 T baking powder
·                                 3/4 tsp salt
·                                 6 T cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
·                                 3/4 cup buttermilk
·                                 2 T butter, melted
For the Pie:
·                                 1 3/4 lbs tomatoes
·                                 salt
·                                 2/3 cup mayonnaise (light is fine)
·                                 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (8 oz)
·                                 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
·                                 2 garlic cloves, minced
·                                 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
·                                 2 T snipped fresh chives
·                                 2 T fresh lemon juice
·                                 freshly grated black pepper
·                                 1 1/2 cups fresh corn (from 2-3 ears)

To make the crust, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl, then blend in cold butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until it resembles coarse meal. Add the buttermilk, stirring until mixture just forms a dough, then gather into a ball.

Divide dough in half and roll out one piece on a well-floured counter into a 12-inch round. Either fold the round gently in quarters, lift it into a 9-inch pie plate and gently unfold and center it or, roll the dough around the rolling pin and transfer to the pie plate. Pat the dough in with your fingers and trim any overhang.  Place the pie plate in the refrigerator to chill while you prepare the filling.  Wrap the second half of the dough in plastic wrap and chill as well.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Cut an "x" in the bottom of each tomato.  Have a large bowl of ice water ready, then add the tomatoes to the boiling water.  Cook for about 10 seconds then transfer to the ice water.  When cool enough to handle, peel the skins from the tomatoes.

Line a baking sheet with a double layer of paper towels or a lint-free kitchen towel.  Cut the tomatoes into 1/4-inch slices and arrange in a single layer over the paper towels.  Sprinkle generously with salt and allow to stand at room temperature for 20-30 minutes.  Blot the tomatoes with more paper towels (or another kitchen towel).

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Mix together the mayonnaise, cheeses, garlic, and lemon juice.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Remove the piecrusts from the refrigerator.  Layer half the tomatoes on the bottom of the pie. Scatter half the corn over the tomatoes, then drop spoonfuls of the cheese-mayo mixture over the top.  Sprinkle with half the basil and chives, then repeat the layers:  tomatoes, corn, cheese, herbs.

Roll out the second piecrust into a 12-inch circle.  Fit over the filling, pinching the edges of the two crusts together to form a fluted edge, or use the tines of a fork to fit together.  Use a small knife to cut 4 slits in the top of the crust, then brush with melted butter.

Bake pie until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling, 30-35 minutes (place a cookie sheet on the rack below the pie in case any of the filling boils over).

Allow to cool 10-15 minutes before cutting into slices and serving.