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.

Connecting the fall color in the landscape to the color on your plate

Crystal Brook Farm in Sterling photo credit: Crystal Brook Farm

It is the time to drink in the New England growing season’s fantastic finale of color–wow!  Our appreciation of color is so intrinsic to our biology:  bright colors on our plate signal nutrients and flavor and the brilliance of fall foliage keeps us moving outside and getting those essential rays of sun even as the weather turns cold.  Brilliant, deep green grass means healthy land which supports the health of our food, our water resources, our oxygenated air.

If you get a chance to venture out of the city this weekend, here are some nifty opportunities to include farm tours, which can be a more intimate look at what colors our landscape and plates:

Only this weekend: 

last weekend to pick your own organic raspberries at Wright-Locke Farm in Winchester, MA.

Child looking at Cranberry crate at Fresh Meadows Farm in Carver, fresh organic cranberries being harvested at  Fresh Meadows Farm in Carver.  …the fresh organic cranberries you can order in November with your shares are picked using dry harvest (which involves much less bruising) and then separated from the chaff and hand sorted on this amazing antique wood conveyor machine.  Touring their fresh harvest operation is weather-dependent, so if Sunday and Monday live up to the dry forcast, head to their stand.  If it is drizzly in the morning, tours will view the wet harvest (for their frozen and juice berries), which is also a unique adventure.  Tours are gathered at the farm stand, which will continue to be open beyond this weekend, and selling delicious cranberry items (like orange infused sugar coated organic cranberries–special gift!).

If Carver seems a ways away for some of you, consider piggy-backing the cranberry tour on a day trip to King Richards Faire, an outdoor medieval village set amid a beautiful grove of trees in Carver…I’ve taken my kids there and we all had a blast, from the Shakespearean humor, real blacksmithing, roving pickle vendors, costumes, and human powered festival rides, games, and challenges (which are amazingly well-constructed and fun!)

This weekend and next:  Cider Hill is among very few orchards in our area still open for picking.   It is a beautiful farm with nice views from the top of the hill, and an interesting variety of apples.  And you can piggy-back a beach trip on this one (near Salisbury and southern NH beaches).

Anytime this month,


Goats at Crystal Brook Farm in Sterling

Goats!  Crystal Brook farm, where we get our goat cheese for the Extras, is open for tours and farm stand sales Wed.-Sun…it’s a little off the beaten path, but the wide-open pastures are breathtaking (and a quiet getaway), and it’s only about an hour from Arlington.

Foliage in the hills and mountains!  Take a trip further west to see the foliage in the Berkshires, hill towns, southern VT.  Picadilly Farm is minutes from Northfield MA, out Route 2, and en route to Brattleboro–shareholders and friends are welcome to walk around the farm anytime, stop in and say hi and see their beautiful operation there, the view from the barn, and your fall carrots and kale thriving in the fields.  Picadilly has farming neighbors with animals on pasture with views. (Win-gate farm around the corner, and Manning Hill Farm in Winchester, NH–check their websites or call ahead for hours).  Then hike Mt. Pisgah right nearby, or…

Riverland Farm is in Sutherland, just outside of Amherst and Northhampton on the east side of the Connecticut River, along River Road/MA-47 in case you are the vicinity of those towns or visiting Mt. Tom.

Apples, from Glenn’s home to yours

APPLES, part of your November share, come to you from the orchards of Cider Hill Farm in Amesbury. Open until Christmas this year, Cider Hill is worth a visit – fun for everyone, with hayrides, pumpkins big and small, endless cider doughnuts, and of course, several varieties of apples to taste and pick.

On Friday, when it was fairly cloudy and cool in Boston, some Shared Harvest team members took a trip up to Cider Hill, where the sun was shining and a morning spent under apple trees was really our only option.


The crew minus Jane, weighed down with apples (or not)

After a walk through the corn maze, ample apple picking, donut eating and checking out the animals and experimental hydroponic system, we were pretty spent. On our way out, we were lucky to snag a few moments with Glenn Cook, owner of Cider Hill (along with his wife Karen Cook). Like our other producers, Cider Hill is a small family operation and we love knowing that the orchards and fields have been managed by the same family for almost 40 years. Glenn, all smiles and high energy, is happy to send us apples for our core share, and additional/optional bulk and cider apples, just in time for Thanksgiving and the rest of the hectic holiday season.

Even though most of my apples are being unconsciously snacked on with peanut butter, I can’t wait to put my apples into slaws and sauce (Gala apples make fantastic applesauce). Hopefully, I have enough apples to tide me over until Shared Harvest begins. If not…I’ll have to go back. And while I’m there, I might as well get a few donuts.


A perfect fall day



What’s this?!

A few of the veggies in the share proved challenging to identify and “what’s this?” was a common question during the distribution.  The answer: “It’s probably either kohlrabi, winter radish or parsley root.” Photos of kohlrabi and black winter radish are below; more pics if you follow the links I’ve included.

Here’s what was in the CSA share distributed in Arlington on November 19: Apples (not in the photo), Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, collard greens, carrots, cabbage, escarole, fennel or parsley root, garlic, kohlrabi, leeks, onions, purple top turnips, potatoes, parsnips, rosemary*, salad mix, salad turnips, sweet potatoes and winter radish.

raw veggie snacks for the cook: carrots, salad turnips, kohlrabi and black radishes

What are you cooking with your share?

Today I’ll roast Brussels sprouts, carrots, parsnips, onion, garlic, purple top turnips, sweet potatoes – all tossed in olive oil, salt, pepper and rosemary. In addition to these roasted roots, dinner at our house will include pork chops, collard greens, lettuce salad and apple pie. Tomorrow I will make soup for freezing – squash soup, sweet potato-leek-turnip soup and carrot soup. I’ve found that cooking and freezing part of my share works best for me. I am curious about how other people manage their share.

*Riverland Farmer Rob Lynch had a bit of a surprise a few days ago when he checked the herbs (sage) he’d planned for our share. It was gone. Not wanting you to be herb-less, Rob contacted a neighboring farm and bought in rosemary for the share. Hope you enjoy this special treat!

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

November 13 share

We’ve got another lovely share to distribute this weekend! Our farmers will be picking the greens and packing Shared Harvest boxes today. They’ll be up early Saturday morning to deliver boxes of deliciousness to us! Marius from Cider Hill Farm will get to the farm first with bulk apples and cider. Then Mike from Riverland, and Ben from Picadilly will arrive.  Kristi, Darry, Brittany and I, along with a small group of shareholders (thank you!) will help unload over — drum roll — seven tons of local produce! Want to join the early morning party? We can never have too much muscle.

Brussels sprouts

Get your cookbooks out! Here’s what we’ve got planned for the share on Saturday. (I’ll add any last minute corrections tomorrow.)

Riverland Farm

Bok Choy, one head
Brussels Sprouts, two stalks
Garlic, 1/2 pound
Yellow Onions, 2 pounds
Herbs (parsley, rosemary, or sage)
Leeks, 1 bunch
Green Cabbage, 1 head
Purple top turnips or rutabagas, 2 pounds
Sweet Potatoes, 4 pounds

Picadilly Farm
Carrots, 4 pounds
Daikon, 1 bunch
Spinach, 2/3 pounds
Butternut Squash, about 6 pounds
Salad turnips, 1 bunch
Parsnips, 2 pounds
Potatoes (unwashed for better storage), 4 pounds. Oops – we’d planned for 5 pounds of spuds in the share; a note from Jenny explains: “we mistakenly packed 4# of potatoes instead of 5. It’s already done (with boxing now in progress), so we send an extra pound in December.”

Brookwood Farm, Canton shareholders (& the last twenty Lexington pick up folks)
Kale, two bunches (red Russian, winterbor and/or tuscano varieties)
Collard greens, one bunch Chard, one bunch

Busa Farm, Lexington shareholders (last twenty folks got greens from Brookwood)
Lettuce, 2 heads
Greens, 1 bunch. Red mustard, kamatsuna, rabi senza testa OR yukina savoy

Shareholder Reminders
Bring grocery bags for your greens.
Use the Swap Box to exchange items you don’t want for items you do want.
Car pool if you can! Check out your Ride Share map to find a neighboring shareholder.
Storage Tips and Recipe Resources are on the web site.

Lettuce growing in the Busa Farm field, November 2010

Dueling Airlocks

The airlocks allow gas to escape as the yeast starts to ferment the apple cider in these five gallon pails. It prevents air (and other stuff) from getting into the cider. These batches of cider began bubbling 24 hours after I pitched the yeast. The cider is from Cider Hill Farm in Amesbury and Pine Hill Farm in Colrain.

Farm Happenings

Shared Harvest CSA shareholders are welcome to join Riverland Farmers Rob and Meghan for a potluck picnic this Saturday, September 4 at 5:30 PM.  Come join your farmers for a meal!  Bring a large dish to share, a blanket to sit on, and your friends and family.  Rob and Meghan will provide the salad and some beverages.  Potluck will be behind their house at 206 River Road in Sunderland. Directions to the farm are here.

Here’s a farm event that you might want to start preparing for now ….. Cider Mash 5K at Cider Hill Farm, Sunday, October 24.  Sponsored by a local fitness place, this 5K is a nice opportunity to visit Cider Hill Farm and get some exercise as well as a cider donut! Cider Hill Farm is open to visitors daily – pick-your-own peaches are in right now.

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.