Monday, May 9, 2016

Week 2, CSA News


Integrity from the Ground Up

Over the course of the year, we will describe the reasoning behind our interest in organic farming and eating. Here, I will take a moment to explain the mechanics associated with the U.S. Department of Agriculture organic certification process itself so you understand what our organic certification means. This third-party certification is strict, but not rigid. It is based on the laws of nature, scientific knowledge and transparency of information exchange.  

Without nature-based cultivation methods, we would not have a basis for organic certification at all. Evidence of evolution shows us how nutrient cycling grows healthy plants. We “fertilize” our crop fields with the incorporation of plants that release their nutrients to feed our crops and with the droppings from the herbivores—namely, our cattle and sheep—that consumed them. Science tells us we are actually energizing the intricate soil food web that envelopes the roots of the plants. These nutrient-cycling systems create such healthy plants and animals, there is no need for toxic, synthetic, chemical fertilization and rescue treatments. How we carry out all of this is described in our Organic System Plan, a forty page document that we submit for review and approval each spring to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, which is an organic-certification agency accredited by the USDA.

The USDA has statutory authority to administer the regulations that inform producers and processors what can and cannot be done to achieve certification through its National Organic Program. The regulations, referred to as “The Rule,” allow for individual interpretation, because all farms are unique, while maintaining strict restrictions of materials and substances that cannot be used by organic producers. Our OSP documents source and quantify that the 250+ seed varieties we purchase are from an organic source, ensuring we are not using genetically engineered products, synthetic fungicide treatments or countless other potentially harmful materials. Our plan includes information about buffer zones between us and neighbors to prevent contamination, greenhouse potting-soil mixes, pest- and weed-control strategies, poultry-feed sources, individual animal-ID and animal-welfare strategies, post-harvest produce-handling practices, and much, much more. Only in the last year has this become an electronic document, allowing for easier annual updates.

When our OSP is submitted to the KDA for review, a reviewer, who has passed rigorous training, pours over the plan with its accompanying documentation and then notifies an inspector to verify our plan is accurate and thorough enough to demonstrate that we are working within The Rule. The inspector, also intensively trained, reviews the plan again before scheduling a farm visit, where they have unfettered access to our fields, buildings, files and records of the operation. Part of the inspection includes an audit trail protocol to verify authenticity. This means the inspector can pick any one of those 250+ seed varieties and ask to see documentation that verifies that the quantity of crop we harvested matches the quantity of seed we say we used. The records we keep show when and where they were planted, how many trays were seeded in the greenhouse, when they were planted into which field, their harvest yield, and where they were sold. These records are part of good farm-business management anyway, so we would keep track of these details even if we didn't need them for organic certification. Inspectors can arrive unannounced, take samples for pesticide residue, and verify systems are being employed as described in our plan. We welcome them anytime.

The inspector submits a report to a final reviewer (often a committee of several people), who sets a third set of eyes on the plan to ensure a thorough review has been performed to confirm compliance. Only then will a certificate be issued. The certification agency also goes through a similarly thorough accreditation process to verify they have the capacity and capability to administer a sound review of the operations.  

The Word Organic
The USDA essentially owns the word “organic,” or at least how it is used in the market place. Farmers and food processors must have completed the certification process before they can use the term. Misuse can result in an $11,000 fine, per transaction, and there is a well-financed enforcement division within the USDA-NOP. If it is not certified, it is not organic.

It seems more than a little ironic: Farmers that are restricted to mined minerals and plant extracts to produce food for their communities have to spell out every detail of their operations for scrutinized review. On the other hand, producers that have access to genetically engineered seeds; formulate chemical cocktails with synthetic fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides and herbicides; or confine their animals, don’t have to report to anybody.

When you see the seal or the term organic, it’s legit. And our third-party auditor can vouch for us. 

In Your Share:

Green Garlic
Fresh Herb
Kale Greens
Rainbow Swiss Chard


Greens-Filled Dutch Baby
1 lb kale, spinach or Swiss chard, chopped
4 large eggs
1 c. milk
1 c. all-purpose flour
salt and pepper
pinch nutmeg
4 T. unsalted butter
2 green garlic stalks, thinly sliced
2 T. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Whisk eggs, milk, flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper and nutmeg in large bowl until smooth. You can also do this step in a blender.

Melt butter in a cast-iron skillet. Add kale and cook and stir until heated through, about 1 minute; season with salt and pepper. Increase heat to high and cook for 1 minute without stirring. Pour in green garlic and batter, and sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake 25 minutes or until lightly browned.  
Cut into wedges and serve with a salad. Serves 6.
Eggs Over Mushrooms and Spinach, adapted from Food + Wine, serves 4.
1 T. olive oil
2 green garlic stalks, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 T. unsalted butter
1 lb. white or cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced (about 6 c.)
1 T. soy sauce or tamari
1/4 c. dry red wine
5 oz. baby spinach
salt and pepper
4 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  In a deep skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add and stir, about 3 minutes. Add butter and mushrooms. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are softened and a lot of liquid is released, about 7 minutes. Uncover and add soy sauce and red wine and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until the liquid is reduced to 2 tablespoons, about 5 minutes. Add spinach and stir until wilted, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Coat four 1-cup ramekins with oil. Transfer the mushrooms and spinach to the ramekins and crack one egg on top of each. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, until the white is set and the yolks are to your desired temperature.  Let stand for 2 minutes; serve with crusty bread.

Shaved-Asparagus Pizza, adapted from Smitten Kitchen, makes 1 thin crust 12-inch pizza
your favorite pizza dough
1/2 lb. asparagus
2 tsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. coarse salt
black pepper
1/4 c. grated Parmesan
1/2 lb. mozzarella, shredded or cut into small cubes
1 green garlic stalk, thinly sliced

Preheat the oven to the hottest temperature. If you use a pizza stone, preheat that, too.
Laying the asparagus on the cutting board, create long shavings of asparagus by drawing the peeler from the base to the top of the stalk. Unevenly thick pieces are OK. Discard tough ends. Toss peelings with olive oil, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.

Roll or stretch out pizza dough to a 12-inch round. Transfer to a cornmeal-dusted pizza peel (if using a pizza stone) or cornmeal-dusted baking tray. Sprinkle dough with Parmesan, then mozzarella. Pile asparagus on top.

Bake 10 to 15 minutes, or until edges are browned and the cheese is bubbly. The asparagus might be lightly charred. Remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle with green garlic, then slice and eat.


Ace Your Salad Dressing

This week’s share includes lettuce, making this the start of salad season. Using lettuce as your salad base will never get old if you know how to dress it. Any combination of ingredients is possible--oils, vinegars, herbs, spices, fruits, dairy and more. We encourage you to play around to find your favorites. Here are a few basic salad-dressing tips from The Kitchn to get you started:
        The standard ratio for vinaigrettes is 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar. Use more vinegar if you like a tart dressing or more oil if you like it richer.
        Balsamic vinegar will add just a touch of sweetness. Honey, sorghum and brown sugar are excellent sweeteners.
        Dijon mustard will help thicken up a dressing.
        Olive oil may overwhelm other flavors in a dressing, so consider using other oils in its place. Sunflower and grapeseed are neutral-flavored oils. Sesame and walnut oils will impart a whole new flavor.
     Whole-milk yogurt, sour cream and mayonnaise can be used interchangeably in most any dressing recipe that you’re following.