Organic and Local (or Eating Romaine in Spite of the Ban!)

I’ve fielded some questions lately from our members about the quality of and sources of the food that is in our shares and offered as Extras.  I think some of the answers below might help folks in general get a better view of where to go for good food and some of the broader implications.

Photo by: Mark J. Terrill
Romaine lettuce still sits on the shelves as a shopper walks through the produce area of an Albertsons market Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018, in Simi Valley, Calif. Health officials in the U.S. and Canada told people Tuesday to stop eating romaine lettuce because of a new E. coli outbreak. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

With the Romaine lettuce recall, growing understanding of the prevalence and harm of pesticides and lack of transparency and honesty in our larger food system, it’s very understandable that, even in the realm of local foods and CSA, people are nervous about their food and are rightly asking questions! The CDC had to ban all Romaine lettuce in November because the tainted lettuce could not be tracked accurately enough back to the growers to single out the problematic stream.  Meanwhile, our members were eating Romaine we knew was grown, handled safely, and delivered by a farm we trusted directly into their hands.

The key here is knowing your growers or at least buying directly through someone you trust who knows the growers!  This direct to consumer relationship supports the  grower in setting the bar higher, knowing people care and are paying attention, sustaining their resolve for integrity and continual improvement, and vigilant to sustain their families, their crew, their land. their businesses, and all the life that supports and is affected by their growing.

Rob, Meghan, Cayden, and Charley, owner/growers at Riverland farm

A foundational purpose and value of Shared Harvest is supporting local growers who care for their land and communities.  Our entire share and most of our Extras are grown within 100 miles of our pickup location by  small scale family farms that I know personally.   Our shares are composed of 100% certified organic veggies, certified organic dried beans, and IPM apples (see below).  I’ve become personally acquainted with the land and know the farmers that grow the shares and most of our Extras, including those who sell us meat and cheese.

All of the Extras we offer are made of food grown only in New England (with few exceptions like salt or spices).  Many farmers markets and farm stands, including Wright-Locke, widen the offerings to include small scale local producers who may source ingredients from regions beyond.  At some pickups,  we make available this broader offering as “Extra Extras”, as we help Wright-Locke and Picadilly close down their regular season inventory of added value goods.

All farms we work with are certified organic, except for the following:
1.  The apples and cider come from an IPM farm, Cider Hill Farm.  Apples and other tree fruit can be tricky to grow using no pesticides, as fruit trees involve very long term growing situations and can have long transition periods to regenerate ecology above and below ground over the course of a long growing season, and with much loss along the way. IPM (“Integrated Pest Management”) when done right, can actually involve fewer pesticides than even certified organic fruit, and features the grower (in this case, Glenn Cook, farmer-owner of 30+ years) carefully scouting for problems and imbalances prior to any intervention, as well as cultural interventions such as new and improved breeds, soil amendments, etc.  Whereas, certified organic at this point does allow some sprays of non-persistent chemicals such as copper, etc. that might do harm and can be overused if scouting is not part of the program (and it’s not required for certification).

grazing herd at Alprilla

2.  While they are not certified, Noah and Sophie at Alprilla Farm work in harmony with a beautiful landscape, surrounded by biodiverse natural forest, grassland, and marshland communities, use smart holistic farm planning and management, and teach classes on biological soil regeneration for other growers and gardeners. In comparison to certified organic in stores or at the farmers market, their food is the same or better nutritionally and certainly safe from pesticides. This season’s

Noah plowing with oxen

Extras from Alprilla included garlic, shallots, potatoes, beets, celeriac, parsnips,and the grain flours.  Alprilla utilizes the latest in soil-building practices, including holistically managed grazing, carefully trained and timed animal impact in the crop fields (with oxen!), carefully balanced compost and soil amendments, and the invaluable effect of vigilant growers in the field every day.

3.  The frozen blueberries are from non-certified, ecologically managed farms in maine and Nova Scotia. We source these from Forest Hills Farm via Blue Sky Produce, a distribution channel founded by a friend who was a farmer herself and now runs this program to guarantee good growers a better price for their efforts, helping them sustain their land, families, and communities, while keeping us healthy with their nutrient dense berries!
4.  Some of the items sold by Wright-Locke farmstand, including Walden Local Meats, are not certified organic, but most are pesticide free. As an example, Walden Local Meats are all from pastured, humanely raised animals. See Our Standards for a statement from Walden Local about these meats and some things to know about certified organic animal products.

November/Thanksgiving Shares and Extras Items

Here’s what to expect in your share and some advice about how to enjoy and store…if you have any leftover after the holiday festivities! Extras this month include apples by the bushel, fresh cranberries, several unique and interesting potatoes, including fingerling, a variety of winter squashes to grace your centerpiece and then fill your plate, meats and cheeses, and some staples like bulk carrots, potatoes, and cabbage, honey, and maple syrup.

From Riverland:
Green cabbage
Carrots
Brussels Sprouts
Garlic
Onions
Sweet Potatoes
Kale
Head Lettuce
From Picadilly:
red cabbage
acorn squash
leeks
white potatoes
popcorn
plus a few more surprises, probably more greens… : )
From Cider Hill Farm in Amesbury:
Apples!  All late season storage varieties so they’re nice and crisp still.
Store fresh for up to 2 weeks in your refrigerator crisper drawers: 2 heads lettuce,  2 bunches kale (can also be dried in a low oven as kale chips for later use), 2 stalks Brussels Sprouts (pop off stalk to fit in fridge drawer, or if you have larger place for them, keep on stalk for longer freshness–but even better, just roast and eat them now!)
Garlic 3/4#,  this month is good for use right away or very short term storage.  Keeping in a closed jar (whole heads, in the peel) in the fridge will prolong the life.
Store fresh for a month or two in cold (just above 33F), moist storage in unheated basement or garage, be sure to retain moisture by storing in plastic bags with small holes or buried in sand (or in bags in the back of your fridge or crisper drawers):  1 green cabbage, 1 red cabbage, carrots 5#, white potatoes 5#, bunch leeks
Store in dry moderate temps (kitchen counter or pantry) for about a month:  herb bunch, acorn squash,  onions 2#.  Once dry, herbs can be store in airtight jar for many months. For longer storage, store onions in cooler temps, in paper bags for moderate moisture, in a dark location.
Store in dry moderate temps (kitchen counter or pantry) for about a month, then in a closed jar for months:  Popcorn bouquet of 2-4 ears.   If storing these for later use, test kernels for good popping, then when the moisture is right, pop off ears and store in a jar to maintain good moisture level (not too dry, not too moist!). 
Store in dry, moderate (kitchen counter) for months:  4 # sweet potatoes

Sweet and hardy after the frost! Late October Farm Share


Hard frost hit the Pioneer Valley this week spelling the end of summer crops, but the beginning of wonderful for many of our fall and winter foods which get their best flavor and storage quality after such cold temperatures.  The fields are getting tucked into bed with their cover crop covers now nicely green and established, feeding the soil for next spring and summer’s plantings.   However, many fields are still occupied by this year’s food, such as kale, brussels sprouts, leeks, still yet to be picked and brought fresh to the kitchen table and home stores.

 

Carnival Squash curing in storage at Picadilly Farm

Leeks can be pulled from the ground even after a freeze once the soil warms a bit (Picadilly, Oct 2018)

The squash, sweet potatoes, onions and garlic have all been curing at just the right temps and timing for the best eating and storage quality. All the potatoes and some of the roots, the peppers and tomatillos, and cabbages have all been harvested ahead of now and in cold storage, washed and packed yesterday and today for our shares.

Lettuce, spinach, herbs still happily sizing up in unheated “high tunnels” at Picadilly (Oct 2018, Picadilly Farm)

Lettuce, herbs, and other more tender greens, if grown under shelter of a hoop house or covered with insulating fabric for a heavy frost, can be harvested well into the colder months of fall. And Brussels Sprouts are the best after a hard frost–the farms are able to harvest these and other greens once they’ve spruced up in the warmth of the day.

As this page from Cedar Circle Farm in VT explains, there’s nothing like Brussels Sprouts harvested at their peak, after a hard frost:   “It is well worth noting that often store bought Brussels sprouts are picked too early, and it shows in their bitter flavor and tough texture. Picking them fresh from the farm or garden after a few frosts sweetens the flavor and makes them tender, offering a whole different experience!  Try them roasted, along with some other yummy fall veggies.”

What to expect in your October share (# means “pounds”):

White Salad Turnips–mild, sweet and easy to enjoy raw or cooked

Store fresh for up to 2 weeks in your refrigerator crisper drawers:  fennel, 1 piece, bunch of salad turnips, quart of tomatillos + a few chili peppers, possibly +1-2 sweet peppers, 2 heads lettuce,  2 bunches kale (can also be dried in a low oven as kale chips for later use), 3/4 pound spinach, 2 stalks Brussels Sprouts (pop off stalk to fit in fridge drawer, or if you have larger place for them, keep on stalk for longer freshness–but even better, just roast and eat them now!)
Garlic 3/4#,  this month is good for use right away or very short term storage.  Keeping in a closed jar (whole heads, in the peel) in the fridge will prolong the life.
Store fresh for a month or two in cold (just above 33F), moist storage in unheated basement or garage, be sure to retain moisture by storing in plastic bags with small holes or buried in sand (or in bags in the back of your fridge or crisper drawers):  1 green savoy cabbage, 1 red cabbage, carrots 5#, beets 3#, white potatoes 5#, bunch leeks
 
Store in dry moderate temps (kitchen counter or pantry) for about a month:  herb bunch,  and carnival squash,  onions 2#.  Once dry, herbs can be store in airtight jar for many months. For longer storage, store onions in cooler temps, in paper bags for moderate moisture, in a dark location.
Store in dry, moderate (kitchen counter) for months:  4 # sweet potatoes

Early Bird Pricing: Ends May 31st

Early Bird Discount for winter shares: save 10% if you signup for Shared Harvest winter share by May 31.

Early spring is when the farms are most in need of dedicated support from shareholders as they complete their crop plans, buy supplies, repair, and purchase equipment, hire their crews and begin growing the food for our shares.

Choose one month or all of the winter months! Click Here to Sign-Up

 

New Website Look!

Hi everyone! Now that the winter is wrapping up, we’ll be working on our site a bit. You’ll notice some changes this week and next–bear with us as we work to get all of our content reorganized and updated.

Thanks for a wonderful winter season! Come visit us at Arlington EcoFest on Saturday, March 24th. Stay tuned for details!

November Farm Share

New England is turning more grey and brown, typical of November.  Our rainbow palette of fresh food will surely brighten the day, though.  Giving thanks to the hard work of all the farms this year–it’s been an amazing harvest!

The hyperlinks on the vegetable names take you to a lot of recipes and information about those vegetables.  If you’ve never had popcorn from the farm, please check out the tips at the end of this post and Enjoy!

Use these within a week or so (or blanch or make a dish for freezing):

Brussels Sprouts, bag from Riverland ( roast, steam, braise, or blanch for the freezer),

Spinach from Picadilly (or blanche and freeze, or make pesto and store for weeks in fridge)

Arugula from Picadilly (or make pesto and store for weeks in the fridge)

Kale “curly” Winterbor—2 bunches, from Riverland—great in soups, grated and marinated for a salad, or kale chips!

These will keep for a couple of weeks in your fridge crisper drawer:
Leeks—keep whole or chop for soup and freeze (no need to blanch) from Picadilly

 

These will keep for many weeks in cold storage (keep moist in bag, with some ventilation):

Apples–storage varieties, 5#, from Cider Hill.  All apples today will store well, except for Empire which is good now, but should be used on the sooner side (won’t stay as crisp for as long as others). Most sources recommend storing apples separately from other cold storage items as they have a ripening agent which may hasten other items past their prime.
Carrots – 6#, from Riverland
Cabbage (red or green), from Riverland and Picadilly— sauerkraut or kimchi ideally is made asap

Potatoes – 8#, white from Picadilly

 

These will keep for many weeks in cool, dry conditions (40-55 degrees), like a shelf in your basement or unheated room as long as it doesn’t freeze; store in paper bags:
Garlic ½ #(can also be stored in a tightly closed jar in the refrigerator), from Riverland
Onions, yellow, 2#, from Harlow Farm in VT

 

These will keep for a several weeks in your kitchen or in a cool dry cellar:

Winter Squash, 3 pieces, from Picadilly. good idea to inspect these periodically and use (or peel and freeze) blemished ones.

These will keep for months at 50-70 degrees—NOT COLD STORAGE:
Sweet potatoes 4#’s, from Riverland

Popcorn Cellar, cool, damp, or room temperature if using within a couple of months
Once a week, shell a few kernels and try popping them. When the test kernels are popping well and tasting good, shell and store the rest of the kernels in sealed, airtight containers. If stored popcorn fails to pop, it may be too dry. Add 1 tablespoon of water to a quart of popcorn. Cover and shake at frequent intervals until the popcorn has absorbed the water. After 3 or 4 days, test pop a few kernels to see if it is ready. A number of winter shareholders have had good luck putting the cob of popcorn directly into a microwave.

October share

oct 2017 share
Share contents for Saturday, October 21, 2017
Also check out Jackie Starr’s menu suggestions and recipe links on our website!

Use these within a week or so (or blanche or make a dish for freezing):
Lettuce-1 head, from Riverland
Spinach, from Picadilly
Mixed greens– a bunch or bag, from Riverland (great braised or sauted!)
Kale—2 bunches, from Riverland—soups, grated and marinated for a salad, or chips
Red Italia Peppers-1# Picadilly
Herb bunch, from Picadilly

These will keep for a couple of weeks cold in your fridge crisper drawer:
Brussels Sprouts, pop off the stalk from Riverland
Leeks (2 bunches)—keep whole or chop for soup and freeze (no need to blanche)
Salad (Hakurei) turnips – a bunch (cut off the greens and use them first)
Napa Cabbage—ideally wrap in a wet towel to keep extra moist

These will keep for many weeks in cold storage (keep moist in bag, with some ventilation, back of fridge or cold cellar or garage, 33-45 degrees, humid)
Carrots – 5#, from Riverland
Potatoes – 5#, white from Picadilly
Beets – 3#, from Picadilly
Celeriac— from Picadilly, peel and slice or grate as an excellent salad or stirfry ingredient, steam and mash like potatoes,
Cabbage from Riverland—(if you are making sauerkraut or kimchi, do that asap)

These will keep for many weeks in cool, dry conditions (40-55 degrees), like a shelf in your basement or unheated room as long as it doesn’t freeze; store in paper bags:
Garlic ½ #(can also be stored in a tightly closed jar in the refrigerator), from Picadilly
Onions, yellow, 2#, from Riverland

 

These will keep for a few weeks in your kitchen or in a cool dry cellar:
Acorn/Carnival Squash, 3 pieces, from Picadilly

 

These will keep for months at 50-70 degrees, in paper bags or box
—NOT COLD STORAGE:
Sweet potatoes 4#’s, from Riverland

Peaches and Resilience

This particularly intense hurricane season brings on, in varying stages, thoughts about resilience.

Those of us not in the path of direct damage to our homes and towns, and too far away to serve as immediate refuge, still dry and warm here in the sun…we certainly recognize our good fortune on this particular day.  But we can also already adopt wide angle vision, consider cause and effect, and ponder or investigate how our own region might react, and invest in ways to prepare now to prevent damage and rebound from a future storm like Harvey or Irma.

Seeing photos of rows and rows of occupied shelter cots, image after image of people being lifted out of the rising waters, rescued from shelter that isn’t shelter anymore (And what is mixed into that water now?)…  What do we as individuals, families, neighborho
ods, towns, a watershed, a foodshed…what do we as humans really need to survive and thrive in the world in which we evolved?  How can we be resilient?
Last year wildly fluctuating spring temperatures fairly completely wiped out the peach crop here in Massachusetts and beyond.  (CBS Local: “Mass. Peach Crop Ruined”)

Peaches

barrenpeachtrees Peach trees at Smolak Farms. (WBZ-TV)

This year my family was invited to “rescue” our friend’s two peach trees from too much fruit!  (Though the 2016 flower buds froze, the roots, branches, and leaves were largely unharmed.)  The trees bounced back, certainly.   What about the orchards?

To sustain a peach grove from year to year, a fruit grower prunes (branches, buds, early stage fruit) to remove barriers to growth and prevent extra damage.  A fruit grower also ensures that the trees have what they need from the soil, given the expectations of the tree’s biology.
To be resilient and sustain themselves in the long run, our regional farms and orchards prune regularly, but also cultivate diversity–diversity of crops, diversity of harvest schedule, diversity of markets, diversity of crew members and their tasks, diversity of harvesting methods, diversity of ways to engage the wider community of people (e.g. PYO, on-farm events, etc.).  Resilience also requires cultivating the diversity of the non-human allies all around: pollinators, larger animals (create and spread fertility), the soil organisms (more beings in a handful of healthy soil than there are humans on earth), and the forested watershed that cleans and holds the rain on the land.
The community we steadily build sustains us from day to day and year to year, and helps ensure resilience in challenging times.  Know that buying local has a multiplier effect.  And every time you learn more about growing or eating local and revel in our joyous harvest festivities, you are helping create resilience!
I’ll continue to post here about local events, starting with tomorrow’s Boston Ag Exposition (see below).  Also, this may be the last weekend to get some of those peaches!
Cider Hill Farm in Amesbury (Farmer Glenn will again send us apples for our November share.) Cider Hill still has their own peaches in the stand this weekend.  Get some after picking your apples and berries–and be among the first to try Cider Hill Cellars, hard cider made on the farm with their own special cider apples!!
Topsfield Fair gone mini and urban:
Sunday, September 10, 2017
12 Dade Street in Dudley Square
(Haley House Bakery Cafe parking lot)
11AM – 4PM, rain or shine
The Trustees, Agricultural Hall, and Haley House are partnering to create a special day devoted to the celebration and enjoyment of community gardening, backyard growing, and local agriculture. We’ll have displays, exhibits, contests, animals, old-time games and activities for kids, and tasty treats featuring locally grown and locally produced products. Plans are in the works for agricultural exhibits including beekeeping, backyard chickens, mushroom cultivation, cider pressing, composting to name just a few.  Psst: Don’t miss the goat milking and pie eating contests!

Farm Share Fair, Sign up now for Healthy Food all year long!


2017 FARM SHARE FAIR!
Wednesday March 29th @ 5:30-8:30PM
The Armory
191 Highland Ave, Somerville

free and open to the public
proceeds to benefit the Urban Farming Institute

more info at www.farmsharefair.com
get connected on facebook and twitter!

I’ll be there along with Bruce Wooster–stop by for a chat!  Bring your checkbook to sign up for shares, and/or browse– oyster shares, Dean’s Beans coffees, Soluna Garden farm herbs and teas, etc.

Signup for Shared Harvest 2017-18 is open now for Arlington/Winchester and Jamaica Plain, and includes a discounted share price (through May 15) on whichever months you sign up for.

Info for Summer Shares is also on our website; signup through these individual farms.

 

Boxes of Plenty for February shares

From Baer’s Best Beans: 2 one-pound bags of dried beans (choice of black turtle, red kidney, and soldier (white with red flecks))

 

From Picadilly Farm

potatoes – 5 pounds
carrots – 6 pounds
parsnips – 3 pounds
rutabagas – 2 pounds
butternuts – 2 pieces
dried herbs – a bunch
beets – 3 pounds

From Riverland Farm:

1 Cabbage

Gilfeather turnips 2 pounds (read here to learn more about the Gilfeather and how it was recently named Vermont’s State Vegetable!)

Sweet Potatoes-4 pounds

Garlic-half pound

1 Celeriac

Onions-2 pounds

1 Tomato Puree

Some extras of some of the above, since the salad greens didn’t work out (see below).

Rutebagas usually have a purplish shade on top with a creamy golden interior

 

gilfeatherturnip

Gilfeather turnips are sweet, creamy, and white on the inside

Rutebagas and Gilfeathers are surprisingly versatile, steamed and mashed, shredded raw into salads, fermented, etc.  Gilfeather can be successfully used in place of cauliflower in some recipes.  See the Recipes page under the Storage Tips and Recipes Menu for some interesting ideas.

 The salad greens at Riverland did not regrow well for this month (typical greenhouse growing for winter harvest is “cut and come again” with the second and third cuts always being fairly dicey, given constraints of indoor growing–a matrix of factors including timing of planting and cutting, sunlight (and heat) availability, snow cover, space, ventilation, weather conditions at harvest, etc.  Kudos to farmers Meighan and Rob for taking on the challenge of winter greens growing each year!