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.

Come Be Part of Local Food, Local Farms and Local Economy!


CSA Fair Display, Arlington Robbins Library

Think it would be great to get a box of delicious fresh vegetables on a regular basis from farms and farmers you know and trust? Are you looking for ways to reduce your carbon food-print? Want to sign up for a farm share, but haven’t connected to a farm that delivers in your area yet?


Come to the second annual CSA Farm Share Fair in Arlington! Farmers will be on hand to tell you about Community Supported Agriculture how their CSAs work, what they are growing this year, and how you can sign-up for a farm share. The Fair will host over a dozen local CSAs.  Shared Harvest Winter CSA will be at the Fair. Rob Lynch (Riverland Farm) and Charley Baer (Baer’s Best Beans) will be at the Fair to answer your questions. Charley will be selling his wonderful heirloom beans. Picadilly farmer, Jenny Wooster and Busa farmer, Dennis Busa will be hand, selling their farm’s summer shares and chatting with fair-goers.

The Fair will be held in Arlington on Thursday, February 24, 4:30-7:30 pm at the Park Avenue Congregational Church, 50 Paul Revere Road.

Come meet your farmers on the 24th!

December 11 share

Saturday was the last distribution of Shared Harvest CSA’s three month winter share.

Shared Harvest CSA Share, Dec 11, 2010

Shared Harvest CSA Share, Dec 11, 2010

Everything in the photo, except the cookbooks and brewing hard cider, was in the share. Here are the details.

Picadilly Farm
Parsnips, 2 pounds
Butternut, 7 pounds (2-3 pieces) and ‘bonus’ squash – acorn in this share.
White potatoes, 6 pounds. One pound of these potatoes was packed with the celeriac.
Celeriac, 2-2.5 pounds (it is small! the drought this summer really took a toll on the celeriac!) Here’s a picture of celeriac, along with a nice recipe for it.
Beets, 3 pounds

Riverland Farm
Carrots, 6 pounds
Green cabbage, 1 head
Leeks, 1 bunch
Onions, 2 pounds
Popcorn, 1 bouquet. Tips from Rob Lynch, Riverland Farm, on how to pop popcorn.
Turnips, 2 pounds
Sweet Potato, 4 pounds

Watermelon Radishes & Purple Top Turnips

Winter radishes, 1 pound. The radishes in the share were watermelon radishes. I think there might have been a few black Spanish winter radishes in some of the shares. The links have photos of the radishes as well as recipes.

Moraine Farm
Baer’s Best Beans,
one pound.

Busa Farm/Brookwood Farm
Lettuce, three heads OR two bags of kale & carrots. Dennis Busa grew lettuce in his greenhouse. We’d hoped to be able to harvest kale, but the temps didn’t get above freezing on Friday, and veggies harvested frozen have zero shelf life. The last twenty Lexington shareholders got the kale & carrots from Brookwood Farm, as did all shareholders who picked up in Canton. The extremely cold temps in Canton last week did in some of the December greens, so the Brookwood crew substituted with carrots they dug on Friday.

November 20 CSA Share

Besty, Ben, Darry & Kristi unloading shares

Today was the first distribution of our two month winter share. What a lovely day for a CSA share distribution – sunny skies and crisp temperatures. Lots of folks came to help unload the truck and set up for the distribution — thank you!!!

Here’s what was in the share.

Picadilly Farm
Potatoes, 5 pounds. Store out of bag, in a cool dark place.
Carrots, 4 pounds
Hakurei salad turnips, a bunch
Parsley, 1 bunch
Parsnips, 2 pounds
Spinach, 2/3 pound
Winter squash, butternuts, 7 pounds
Leeks, 1 bunch
Sweet potatoes, 4 pounds. These will store well at a temperature of 50 degrees. A basement, attic, or even sitting on the kitchen counter would be a fine choice– just remember to take them out of their plastic bag.

Riverland Farm
Broccoli or cauliflower, 2 pieces
Brussels sprouts, 2 stalks
Bok Choy, 3/4 pound of red, green or both
Garlic, 1/2 pound
Yellow onions, 2 pounds
Cabbage, 1 head, red or green

Busa Farm
Three leafy greens, some combination of:
Lettuce, green (Boston or leaf variety)
Lettuce, red (leaf variety)
Greens, Swiss chard, tuscano kale, escarole or two heads of endive.

Moraine Farm, Baer’s Best Beans
Jacob’s Cattle dried beans, one pound. This heirloom variety typically has a lot more white on it, but we think that the extreme heat and lack of water combined to leave them almost completely purple this year.

Cider Hill Farm
Apples, about five pounds


Can we eat yet?

(updated November 5) Shared Harvest Winter CSA  can supply the veggies for many tasty meals this winter! Lots of A few two month shares are still available. Pick up is at Busa Farm in Lexington or Brookwood Farm in Canton on Nov 13 & Dec 11. Picadilly Farm and Riverland Farm grow the majority of veggies for the share, with smaller farms like Busa, Brookwood and Moraine adding the finishing touches. Email me (use the Contact form) if you are interested in getting one of the few remaining shares.

Purple Cows in the Winter Share!

Next week Charley Baer hopes to harvest the heirloom Jacob’s Cattle beans he’s growing for the Shared Harvest CSA.

According to Slow Food USA, “Jacob’s Cattle bean is also called a Trout bean or an Appaloosa bean, but Jacob’s Cattle bean is the oldest name for the variety. This bean is a Prince Edward Island heirloom. Legend has it that it was a gift from Maine’s Passamaquoddy Indians to Joseph Clark, the first white child born in Lubec, Maine.”

Of this year’s crop, Charley writes: “In hot years like this one there is much more red than normal.  This year they are almost pure red with very little white. There is so little white in the few I have checked that they almost look like purple kidney beans with a few white spots. Although a good growing year, yields look like they will be light with weak pod sets coming on Beverly’s sandy soils lacking water earlier on. I’ve got a lot of these purple cows coming in.”

So there you have it, the reason for the one pound bag of purple cows you’ll find in your Shared Harvest CSA share this year!

What’s in the winter share,

and will it be enough, or too much, for my family? I spoke with a couple of folks yesterday who were wondering about this.  I think the best way to answer the question is to check out the 2009 share content lists: October 2009, November 2009, and December 2009.  You might also find shareholder reviews helpful. Last year’s shares were terrific, so we’ve not altered the plans much. Shared Harvest CSA farmers report that crops for the winter share are doing well, so we’re hoping for a repeat performance this year. Mother nature willing.

Plans for the winter share include apples, beets, broccoli, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, cabbage (napa and green varieties), carrots, celery, celeriac, chicories, cilantro, collard greens, dried beans, escarole, fennel, garlic, hakurei turnips, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, leeks, onions, purple top turnips, parsley, parsnips, pie pumpkins, potatoes, popcorn, sweet potatoes, radishes, radicchio, rutabaga, spinach, turnips, winter radishes and winter squash.