Monday, June 27, 2016

CSA News, Week 9

Is this Organic or Non-GMO?

There is a lot of hype about food labels and farming practices, and with so many labels out there, it's important to know the difference between them. We often have conversations with CSA members about our production methods, and we're still surprised by the amount of misinformation that we read in the media or overhear at the farmers market. This is a main driver behind the topic of the next event in our Daytime Tour Series: Eat Well, Shop Smart, on July 7.

Everything we produce at Elmwood Stock Farm is certified organic. (Mac wrote about the organic-certification process in this space a few weeks back.) Our production practices go deeper than what any food label can define, however.
You can argue that all food is “organic,” in that it essentially comes from a carbon source. To be certified organic is entirely different, and that's what organic food or farming actually refers to. The U.S. Department of Agriculture regulates the term organic, reserving this label for farms that follow the National Organic Program standards. USDA ensures their standards with third-party inspections, a required Organic Systems Plan for every organic farm and an annual review of farms' records. Organic farms are not permitted to use synthetic substances or GMO seeds, feeds or other materials. Organic animal production follows humane-treatment, animal-housing and animal-welfare standards set forth by the government, as well. 

The U.S. has no mandatory GMO-labeling law in place, though 64 other countries do. On July 1, all food products containing genetically modified ingredients that are sold in Vermont must be labeled as such. Until a national GMO-labeling law is passed, we all get to benefit from Vermont's law, as it's hard for Campbell's to manufacture a can of soup, for example, and be sure it won't end up for sale in Kentucky instead of Vermont. We are sure there are more changes to come to GMO-food labeling in this country.

This term is not mandated by any agency, so it's difficult to know what standards this food was produced using. Naturally raised meats and prepared foods often carry a higher price tag without offering the known benefits of an organic label. Your natural peanut butter can contain GMO oils grown with chemical herbicides and a natural pork loin can come from a confinement farm where pigs are given low levels of antibiotics in their genetically modified, synthetically fertilized and toxically insecticided feed. 

Even More Food Labels
Cage-Free, free-range, grass-fed, farm raised, no antibiotics added, Kentucky Proud and Fair Trade are just a handful of other food labels that probably also cause confusion. Some of these labels apply to Elmwood Stock Farm’s farming and marketing practices, but we also go far beyond others. 

Part of using the organic label means food from Elmwood Stock Farm is not genetically modified (non-GMO), contains no artificial hormones or antibiotics, and is not produced using synthetic substances. Our beef is grass-fed, meaning the cattle never eat grain. Our eggs are cage-free and free-range—our chickens live outdoors, though most eggs bearing this label don't come from chickens kept outdoors. And everything on the farm qualifies as “natural”—even though that word has no legal definition.

These food labels are just words on a package, but the practices behind them have wider implications. Some food labels are little more than marketing schemes, so it's important to know exactly what they mean before you invest in them. It's actually best to just buy from someone you know whenever you can.

We know food labels and the organic vs. non-GMO discussion are topics that are on a lot of our friends' and customers' minds. We hope you'll join us to learn about various food labels so you can make your own informed food decisions. Our Eat Well, Shop Smart event is on July 7, 9:30 to 11 am, at the farm, just outside of Georgetown. This walking tour invites you to connect the concept of various food labels with actual farming practices that take place at Elmwood. Preregistration is required at Eventbrite. Elmwood Stock Farm CSA members receive discount registration. —Lisa Munniksma

In Your Share

Savoy Cabbage
Rainbow Swiss Chard
Summer Squash


Chickpeas and Spinach with a Soft-Boiled Egg, adapted from Merci Mama. You can also use Swiss chard or beet greens in place of or in combination with spinach in this recipe.

2 eggs
olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 c. cooked chickpeas
½ lb. spinach
½ c. water or vegetable broth
1 tsp. smoked paprika
½ tsp. ground cumin
1 T. sherry vinegar

Softboil or poach eggs. In a medium-sized pan, heat olive oil, add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add spinach and cook until it wilts down to half its volume. Add chickpeas and water, and increase the heat to boil. Add paprika and cumin. Mush some of the chickpeas with the back of a fork. This will mix with the liquid and create a creamy texture. Let cook for 5-10 minutes, until most of the liquid evaporates. Season with salt and pepper to taste, add sherry vinegar, and cook another 3-5 minutes.

Spoon the chickpeas and spinach into two serving dishes, making room in the middle to top with the egg. Do a final sprinkling of paprika and salt, and serve.

Curried Broccoli Couscous, adapted from Real Simple
This recipe calls for couscous, but you can make it gluten free and add more protein by substituting quinoa.

2 T. olive oil
1 ½ c. finely chopped broccoli
1 tsp. curry powder
1 c. cooked chickpeas, rinsed
⅓ c. golden raisins
½ tsp. salt
3⁄4 c. cooked couscous

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the broccoli and cook, tossing occasionally, until tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the curry powder and stir to combine. Stir in the chickpeas, raisins, 1 cup water, and salt. Bring to a boil. Stir in the couscous, cover, and remove from heat. Let steam 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

Summer Squash Tian, adapted from The Splendid Table. As summer-squash season sets in, use this recipe for your summer squash and zucchini varieties.

3 T. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 to 3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 lb. summer squash, cut in 1/4- to 1/2-inch dice
salt & pepper
2 tsp. fresh or 1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 c. Arborio rice, cooked
2 eggs
3 oz. Gruyère cheese, grated (3/4 c.)
1/4 c. breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Oil a 2-quart baking dish. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large, heavy, nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, stir together for about 30 seconds, until it begins to smell fragrant, and stir in squash. Cook, stirring often, until squash is translucent but not mushy, 5 to 10 minutes. Season generously with salt and pepper. Stir in the thyme and rice, and remove from heat.

Beat eggs in a large bowl. Beat in cheese and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir in zucchini mixture and combine well. Scrape into gratin dish. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top. Drizzle the remaining olive oil. Bake 40 to 45 minutes, or until the top is browned and the gratin is sizzling. Allow to sit for at least 10 minutes before serving. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.