Monday, June 9, 2014

Week 4, What Does CSA Stand for Again?

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. The name sounds kind of bland or generic, but actually it has tremendous impact on your health and our financial security. There are many layers of benefits created by the relationship we have with you.

The concept of CSA originated out of the need for small diversified farms like ours to stabilize the marketing structure. As farmers, our entire production system is based around the predictability of weather patterns. It can be a double whammy when we load up the truck and trailer for the farmers market, only to have it rain and much goes unsold since customers decide not to venture out. With your agreement to get your veggies from us every week through CSA, it insulates our marketing plan from the vagaries of the weather. We can usually make adjustments to the impact of bad weather at the farm level, but if the markets do not support our efforts, it can be demoralizing.

First there is the financial agreement. With your commitment of support by pre-paying for this season’s offering of farm fresh produce, we are able to invest in infrastructure improvements like the germination room and needed field equipment as discussed in previous posts. These investments improve our efficiency and help us achieve higher quality food for you. An item like a specialized seeder is difficult for a lending institution to provide a loan on to folks like us, as it is so far outside the norm of traditional agricultural lending policy. For that matter, crop insurance is either not available or the terms are ridiculous since organic production is considered risky as we are refusing to use chemical inputs like ‘good’ farmers do.

Another big benefit is that your investment helps us to cash flow many expenses to ramp up production as the growing season begins. Although we use considerable less off farm inputs than conventional farmers, the hundreds of varieties of seeds and plants we purchase are pricey, though we are glad to support other organic farmers that produce them. Additionally, the greenhouse heat, potting mix, tractor fuel, and labor costs add up fast, especially when there is little to sell early in the season.  Our field crew has already spent a lot of time in the fields tending the young crops, long before there is anything to harvest for sale. 

Knowing we have a large volume of produce to harvest and deliver increases our efficiency while picking and packing your items for you. With more plants of each variety planted to meet the demand of CSA shares, we can secure the highest quality product for your share. With a predictable amount of numerous produce items to be harvested each day, we have been able to design systems of tubs, sinks, and packing systems that are efficient and considerate of the type of work we do each day. 

The conversations we have with you are an important part of the CSA relationship. The positive feedback about how tasty and vibrant the items are goes a long way in motivating us to work as hard as necessary to produce for you. The recipes you share, the stories of dinner conversations you have with your guests that are marveling over the flavor, and the questions about foods or vegetable varieties you have seen in your travels or growing up all help form the Community Support part of this type of Agriculture.

In Your Share

Garlic Scapes


Green Leaf or Red Leaf Lettuce


Sugar Snap Peas

Purple Top White Turnips



Recipes to Enjoy

Wilted Spinach Salad with Warm Feta Dressing
9-ounces fresh spinach leaves
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium red onion, halved, cut into 1/3-inch-thick wedges
1 7-ounce package feta cheese, coarsely crumbled
2 tablespoons Sherry wine vinegar
Place spinach in large bowl. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over high heat. Add onion; sauté until brown and softened, about 7 minutes. Transfer to bowl with spinach; remove skillet from heat. Add remaining 3 tablespoons oil and cheese to skillet. Stir to melt cheese slightly, about 1 minute. Stir in vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour over spinach; toss to coat and wilt slightly.

'Carpaccio' of Kohlrabi with Radishes and Blue Cheese
2 small, young kohlrabi
6 young radishes
4 Tbsp (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
4 tsp (20 ml) white wine vinegar, or white balsamic vinegar
a pinch of Hot English mustard powder
blue cheese (Gorgonzola, Roquefort, or whatever you fancy)
flaky sea salt
freshly milled black pepper
Strip the leaves off the kohlrabi and cut off the tops and bottoms, and peel the outer tough skin. Using a mandolin cut the bulbs into paper-thin slices. Do the same with the radishes. Arrange the kohlrabi and radish slices on a platter, or on individual salad plates. Whisk the olive oil, white wine vinegar and mustard powder together in a small bowl, and drizzle the dressing over the slices. Season well with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with crumbled blue cheese.  Serve immediately.  Serves 4.

Roasted Kohlrabi, Turnip and Carrot Salad
Roast the above mentioned vegetables or those of your choosing in olive oil and sea salt at 400° for 20 minutes, add some fresh thyme and roast an additional 10 minutes.  Add the roasted vegetables to salad greens (you can also peel and chop raw kohlrabi to add to the greens in addition to the roasted vegetable mix). Top with nuts like almonds and your favorite cheese and dressing.  For more details visit the Noshtopia blog.

Turnip Gratin
4 whole Turnips
3-4 cloves OR 2-3 scapes, Fresh Garlic
2 cups Gruyere Cheese
4-6 Tablespoons Butter
Chicken Broth
Heavy Cream
Salt And Pepper, to taste
Fresh Herbs, to taste (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375º F.  Start by peeling and thinly slicing the turnips and mincing the cloves or finely chopping the scapes of garlic. Grate about 2 cups of Gruyere cheese.  In a large ovenproof skillet, melt 2-3 tablespoons of butter over medium-low heat. Place a single layer of turnips on top of the butter.   Next, sprinkle a little of the garlic on top, then (purely optional and really not all that necessary) add a couple of tablespoons of butter.   Next drizzle a healthy splash of chicken broth over the turnips. Next, do the same with the cream.   Now add a nice layer of Gruyere, about ½ cup. Sprinkle a bit of salt, but not much as the cheese is already salty.  Repeat these layers twice more. Sprinkle on some freshly ground black pepper.  Now pop the whole thing into the over and bake for about 20 minutes or until the top is hot, brown and bubbly.  Serves 6.

Spinach Cake, thanks to a CSA member for sharing, she reports, “I adapted the spinach "cake" slightly from a David Lebovitz version; although it's called a cake, it is somewhat like a soufflé, just a bit more dense.  It reminds me a bit of Stouffer's spinach soufflé.” 

2 medium leeks (you could use two onions, or a bunch of scallions or green garlic instead)
2 tablespoons butter
salt and freshly-ground pepper
2 pounds fresh spinach, well-washed and stemmed
big pinch of chile or cayenne pepper
whole nutmeg
2 cups milk
6 large eggs
Parmesan cheese
Remove the green part of the leeks, slice each lengthwise, and then slice each half thinly into half-moons.  Wash the leeks in a bowl of water until they’re grit free, then towel-dry. Melt the butter in a deep pan and sauté the leeks with a little salt and pepper, stirring occasionally, until they’re translucent. While they’re cooking, wash spinach and tear or slice into ribbons. Once the leeks are cooked, begin adding the spinach in batches until the spinach has cooked down, then add more. Add salt and pepper as you go, and include a scraping of nutmeg and chile powder during the final batch.

When all the spinach is just barely wilted, turn it out into a large bowl (along with any juices) and let cool. Stirring it a few times will speed it up.  Preheat the oven to 400F Liberally butter a 9- or 10-inch deep round baking dish.  Working in batches, puree the spinach mixture with the milk and eggs until almost smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish. Grate a wispy layer of Parmesan over the top and bake for 45 minutes, or until a knife poked into the center comes out clean.  Let cool to room temperature, then serve.


Strawberries and Cream Baked Oatmeal

2 cups old fashioned or steel-cut oats
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups heavy cream
1 Large egg
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sliced hulled Strawberries
Preheat oven to 350°F.Grease an 8 x 8-inch baking pan and set aside. Stir together oats, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl. Whisk together heavy cream, egg, butter and vanilla in a separate bowl. Pour heavy cream mixture over oat mixture and stir until combined. Add 1 cup sliced strawberries. Pour into prepared baking dish. Gently pound baking dish on the countertop to make sure cream moves through oats. Scatter remaining strawberries over top of the oatmeal. Bake 40 minutes, or until top is golden brown and oat mixture has set. Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes. Serve warm.

Strawberry Caprese Pasta Salad
8 ounces Strawberries (about 1 2/3 cups)
8 ounces shell pasta, cooked, rinsed and cooled
8 ounces fresh mozzarella balls, drained
1/4 cups slivered fresh basil
1/4 cups slivered red onion
1/4 cups prepared balsamic vinaigrette

Hull and quarter strawberries. Combine strawberries, pasta, mozzarella, basil and onion in a large bowl (salad can be prepared to this point and refrigerated until ready to serve). Drizzle with vinaigrette and mix gently until ingredients are well coated.