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.

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

Summer Shares starting first of June! May 31 early bird signup for winter shares

May has shown us a blast of summer and bit more winter, but the soil is warming and our farms are rolling along, with plants going in the field since mid-April–
“About four acres of crops are in the ground, including: just germinating spinach, carrot, beet, and radish seeds; greenhouse transplants of lettuce, scallions, kale, radicchio, peas, and kohlrabi; and somewhere around 75,000 potato seed pieces tucked in this week.”, says Picadilly Farmer Jenny Wooster.  Thousands more being tended in their cozy greenhouses.  And things are going well enough that both Picadilly and Riverland Farms anticipate share deliveries to start the very first week of June! So, here’s your chance to reserve your full season’s share of the freshest, high quality, organic food delivered to your neighborhood all summer and well into the fall.  Both farms have a few more shares to sell to hit their targets, so please spread the word!

Summer Farm Shares at our member farms:

Picadilly Farm Eastern Mass. Organic Shares (to many locations from N. Reading to Newton, Cambridge out to Bedford) . Before you know it, we will get the word that it’s time to pick your own strawberries at the farm! (All shareholders can come and pick.)

Riverland early carrots in the high tunnel

June’s carrots growing in Riverland’s high tunnel

Riverland Farm South Shore Organic Shares (to Hingham, Cohasset, Scituate, Marshfield)

 

 

 

 

 

To help you help the farms during this, their season of financial squeeze (buying supplies, making sure equipment is in full working order, paying full-time crew now), we are extending the Early Bird discount for winter share signups until May 31.  That’s 10% off the winter share price for whatever months you choose.  And you get the discount even if you just put down the first installment (and pay the rest by Sept. 1).

Thanks everyone!

 

 

First 2014 Winter Share Pickup Saturday in Arlington

Also check out shareholder Jackie Starr’s menu suggestions and recipe links, customized for this month’s share!

Romanesco Broccoli

Share contents for Saturday, October 25, 2014:

Use these within a week or so (or blanche or make a dish for freezing):
Lettuce-1 head, from Riverland
Bok Choy—1 head of large, from Riverland
2 broccoli or Romanesco, from Riverland
Mixed greens– a bunch or bag, from Riverland
Kale—1 bunch, from Riverland—great in soups, grated and marinated for a salad, or kale chips!
Escarole—great in soups,  from Riverland                                                                                    Rosemary bunch, from Riverland

These will keep for a couple of weeks in your fridge crisper drawer:
Leeks (2 bunches)—keep whole or chop for soup and freeze (no need to blanche) from Picadilly
Salad (Hakurei) turnips – a bunch (cut off the greens and use them first), from Picadilly

These will keep for many weeks in cold storage (keep moist in bag, with some ventilation):
Carrots – 5#, from Picadilly
Potatoes – 5#, gold from Picadilly
Beets – 2#, from Picadilly
Celeriac— from Picadilly, peel and slice or grate as an excellent salad or stirfry ingredient, steam and mash like potatoes,
Cabbage (red), from Riverland—if you are making sauerkraut or kimchi, do that asap
Fennel, from Riverlandnice grated into salads, or slice and roast with other veggies.

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 Alprilla Farm

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

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

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, MA.watch 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,

IMG_5398-1024x682

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.

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!

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!

CSA Farm Share Fair in Arlington

I’m helping to organize a CSA Farm Share Fair in Arlington. It will be a nice opportunity to meet the farmers who grow your food. Our three-person team of volunteers (one of whom is headed to Africa for a month!) needs help spreading the word about the Fair. If you’re willing to put flyers around town, forward e-mail announcements about the Fair to friends, or if know how to set up and use Facebook or Twitter to spread the word, we would love to have you help us!

Last year’s Fair was terrific, in spite of gale force winds and pounding rain. I’m sure this year’s will be even better! I think Rob and/or Meghan from Riverland will be at the Fair on behalf of Shared Harvest.

Rob & Meghan at Riverland Farm

Rob & Meghan at Riverland Farm

I heard a rumor that Jenny and baby Jesse will be attending also.
Jenny and Jesse Wooster, leading 2010 Farmer Training Tour at Picadilly Farm

Jenny and Jesse Wooster, leading 2010 Farmer Training Tour at Picadilly Farm

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