Sunday, July 31, 2011

week 9 is fine!

this week i have been thinking about the choices we make consciously and unconsciously each time we lift a fork to our mouths. i appreciate how carefully our CSA members and customers think about their food choices and am always glad that they have chosen us to provide the foods that they eat. What got me thinking about food choices lately is that a shopper made a comment about not shopping for vegetables from some farms at the market because they raised animals for meat as well. as a strong proponant for local farms, the comment stuck with me and i started to think about how it depended what the alternative is.

if rather than support a local farmer who raises animals, the choice is vegetables shipped from california from a giant farm which is bound to the earth, is the choice necessarily a better one? though i have not researched it, i have the funny feeling that this large farm would be owned by a huge food conglomerate that also owns and runs factory farms and/or their enormous feed lots, and/or slaughter houses. now the animals production portion is not on the same land, i imagine, but nonetheless would be controlled and would profit the owners of the vegetable producing component as well. just a much larger more complicated and more profitable version of the small farmer selling a mix of veggies and meats.

the consolidation and aggregation of the food in our country in the hands of several very large players means that most of the food dollars we spend go eventually to the hands of just a few big players (3 percent of the nations farms supply 75 percent of the nations food). all the problems of low wages to farm workers, the environmental cost of shipping food 1500 miles before it is consumed, the low food quality of food that is several days old when it arrives in the store all add up to weigh against this california grown food.

the choice conscious or not must be made. What is the bottom line for me? (animal welfare, global climate change, pollution of waterways with farm runoff) what do i value about local farms, or what value do they provide to my community? does this outweigh the fact that i disagree with raising animals for meat? Or with using pesticides? Or with using fertilizers? or whatever the thing we disagree with. for i know lots of local farms that spray no pesticides on their fruits (and veggies)but use round up to clear weeds from around them. (fruit is a great case study, it is notoriously hard to grow tree fruit organically in the humid northeast united states where disease grows in the water droplets on the leaves . here in the empire state, is it better to get local apples (from growers who spray) or is it better to buy certified organic apples that travel from desert dry washington state (where trees are irrigated with water from the much battled over salmon rivers in an area that is too dry to naturally grow fruit trees.)

as i have thought about the conundrum, it becomes obvious to me that food is very complex and the choices we make about where we get it, how we cook it, and how much we eat of it could consume us all day. one thing is for sure, though- when buying from a local farm, we have the chance to talk to the farmer who produced our food and ask them about the choices they made about their operation and voice concerns as consumers of the food, about why they choose to use pesticides, or herbicides, or to raise animals for food. and listening to what they answer can help us understand how complex producing food can be. and as producers explaining to our eaters can help us understand what eaters worry about and can help us always keep moving toward more perfect systems.

this week was not just full of thiking of food issues, it was also full of garlic harvesting and hanging. it nice to have all of it out of the ground and drying stuck through the slats of our greenhouse tables (photo next week). it feels nice to have that big task behind us. we are honestly quite vain about our garlic and pride ourselves on growing nice big heads. alas, this year we have produced just normal sized heads but given the fact that they were almost underwater for several weeks this spring and then had almost no rain for several weeks this summer, we are glad to have gotten a crop at all, and we will just have to let our heads shrink down to regular size this year along with the garlic's heads.

this week try making a deliciouse coleslaw with cilantro:
one head of cabbage
one bunch cilantro cut finely (half may be enough)
large ground salt
mayonaise (try 2-4 Tablespoons)
drizzle of lime juice or vinegar
drizzle of olive oil
fresh ground pepper.

grate cabbage and toss with other ingredients. allow to chill and serve.

hope you have a great week and hope for some more rain here!
liz and matthew

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The New Normal

As climate change begins to affect us in unpredictable and traumatic ways, we begin to wonder what extreme weather events are results thereof and which are just our usual weather variations. Whenever I hear scientists discuss global climate change, they are reluctant to say any particular weather event is a direct result of climate change. But as the reports of droughts and floods, tornadoes and hurricanes, extreme heat waves and burying snow storms pile up around the world I can't help but think that the warnings about the future of the planet are already coming true.

So is this the new normal for our area: extremely wet springs with tornadoes in upstate New York and then equally dry summers with temperatures in the 100s.

If it is, we like to think that small, diverse, organic farms are uniquely suited to survive these trying times.

As an aside here are a couple of my climate change pet peeves. They are mainly PR issues. First, calling it "global warming" - because, hey, who would mind the earth 1 or 2 degrees warmer? Not a big deal right? In fact that sounds pretty attractive in the middle of February. Also, raise your hand if the first thing that pops into your mind when you hear the words "global warning" or "climate change" is a polar bear. People need to realize that, while the extinction of the polar bears will be a tragedy, it will be just one of many. And climate change will have much more immediate and tangible effects on the world's human population (and ecosystems).

Available vegetables:
Beet greens
Beans (Dragon Tongues are in)
*new - mint
pickling cucumbers

next week
same plus
sweet onions
lettuce mix

Here's a cool salad:

Tomato Basil and Pasta Salad:
3 Lbs Tomatoes (about 4 large)
1 T kosher or sea salt
1 lb. Pasta such as penne, bowties, elbows, ect.
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
About 30 basil leaves
3 T good quality vinegar- balsamic or red wine
Salt and fresh ground pepper

Cut tomatoes in half and squeeze out the seeds. Coarsely chop and toss with the salt. Put in colander to drain for ½ hour.
Cook pasta until al dente. While still hot, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

week 7

this is what it looks like around here on a harvest morning.

our first experience with tomato wilt. We have had to pull a few plants, maybe ten, not a lot on the grand scale of things, hopefully it will not spread any further...

onions bulbing up!

ducks at king bird farm, glad to get to see another farm during the busy time of year, went on a tour over the weekend!

hello happy (we hope) eaters!
we wanted to take a moment and let people know that due to the generosity of you, our members we now have six low income families getting half price CSA shares. It has been super fun to see people's faces light up when they get to pick their items at the market. we feel really rewarded to know that those low income folks are getting to be involved in our farm. the exclusion of poorer members of our community due to the initial cost has always been a concern for us, and we were wowed and warmed by the number of people who choose to give extra money to subsidize a low income family.

we were also surprised at how hard we had to work to find families to join at half price. We started the journey to low income members four months before the CSA started, with the thought that people could pay $50 per month and that would not be too much of a strain on the budget. We sent a letter to everyone who gets food from the food bank in our county. got some interest but no members. We visited the food pantry three times (two locations), went to headstart, talked to office of the aging, went to the WIC office hours and tabled twice, and yet didn't have a single person willing to try the half price CSA concept! Finally we started talking to everyone at the watkins market especially people who we knew we had received food stamps from in the past and we asked the managers to get the word out. We were glad through word of mouth that we filled them all! but our eyes were really opened to many of the factors affecting those in our community with less financial resources.

new this week:
you'll see the first of the pickling cucumbers coming in soon. don't think they aren't tasty and delicious just because you don't plan on pickling them!

still here:
chard, kale, lettuce, scapes are still sticking around somehow, fresh onions, summer squash and zucchini, tomatoes (a few cherry tomatoes), cucumbers, parsley, basil, and new potatoes!

try this yummy quinoa tabouli recipe from the greenleaf:
1 cup quinoa
1 tsp coarse salt
fresh ground black pepper
1 cup flat leaf parsley
1/2 cup fresh mint or 1/4 cup dried
4 scallions
4 T lemon juice
4 T extra virgin olive oil
1 large ripe tomato

rinse quinoa well. bring to a boil covered in 2 cups salted water. cook over very low heat until water is absorbed (~15 min)
chop herbs and onions
remove quinoa from heat, remove lid cover with a clean towel, replace lid. allow to cool, fluff with fork.

combine with herbs, onions, lemon juice, olive oil and pepper serve at room temperature.

planning a jam making event here in july, word will come by email in the next day or so. have a super week!
liz and matthew

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Week 6

As many of you know, Debra Whiting died in an automobile accident last week. She was the owner and executive chef at Red Newt Bistro here in Hector. It was in this capacity that we got to know her. She was always excited by whatever vegetables we had to offer her. And she always seemed to have so much energy. She was so great to work with. We also were aware that she was an avid supporter of local farms and other local businesses - she served as chair of the boards of Finger Lakes Culinary Bounty and Watkins Glen Area Chamber of Commerce. But we did not know her personally all that well and we did not realize just how much of an integral part of the larger community she was until we attended the memorial celebration on Tuesday at the Red Newt.
Cars were parked a half mile both up and down Tichenor Rd. as overflow from the parking lot. And the line of people waiting to sign the registry was about 200 feet long for probably almost an hour. And it was impressive to learn about all of the other activities she was involved in. It was nice to know there are so many people to support her family.
So our community has a giant piece missing from its heart. This void will certainly take a long time to fill. Debra will be missed for a very long time.

The farm is doing well. We have been lax the past couple months about setting up our irrigation system for the year since we thought we might never need it! But the last week has been hot, sunny, dry and windy. So the last couple evenings we have been laying driptapes and turning on the irrigation. And yesterday evening we were feeling so jealous as we watched two large storms pass us - one just to our north and one just to our south. So when my sister and her boyfriend showed up at the farm drenched after picking cherries in a downpour at the orchard less than a mile south of our place, we were a little miffed. But we figured that's just how summer thunderstorms are. And then last night we were awoken at 2:30 by the sound of a torrential downpour. This is always a nice surprise for farmers in the middle of the summer's dry spells. So we smiled sleepily and then laid back down to sleep.

This week's expected vegetables
Green beans
Green Onions
Summer Squash and Zucchini
New Potatoes
a few tomatoes

next week...
more of the same
perhaps some carrots

Refrigerator Sun Pickles: makes 1 quart
Cucumbers to fill a quart jar
2-2 3/4 cups vinegar (white or cider)
1 Sprig Fresh Dill
1 clove garlic, chopped.

Wash cucumbers. Cut ¼ inch off of each end. If cucumbers are large, slit them into quarters within ¼ inch of the ends. The cuts allow the vinegar to penetrate the cucumbers and in larger cucumbers, make it easier to divide the pickles into spears. If they are not cut, the centers will not be crisp.
Pack the cucumbers as they are prepared into the jar vertically. Don’t over pack by stuffing in too tightly. Add dill and garlic, then add vinegar until it completely covers the cucumbers.
Expose the jar to sunlight for 2 days for a total of at least 14 hours of sunlight. Chill and eat. These pickles must be stored in the refrigerator. And they are really, really good!

*If you wish to use salt, add 1 teaspoon salt to 2 cups water and decrease vinegar to 1 cup.

from Stocking Up, third edition Carol Hupping and the staff of the Rodale Food Center.