Loving My CSA!

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CSA. What’s that? I’m glad you asked. Here is a great, although somewhat lengthy description of it:

You are a conscious consumer, concerned about the health of your family and the wellbeing of the Earth. You buy organic produce, but the cost –usually 50% higher than conventional produce– is killing your budget. What can you do? –short of resigning yourself to a side of nasty chemicals with your dinner? One alternative that more and more families are turning to is buying a share in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). A CSA is a farm supported by a community of shareholders, who receive a share in its harvest in return for their financial support. The CSA movement supports the vision that everyone, even those living in urban centers, can enjoy a personal connection with the land and the farmer that grows their food. Today there are over 1,000 CSA’s nation-wide. Jean-Paul Courtens, president of the Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association (BDA), says, “When people join a CSA, they are recognizing that they need the land to live. They are entering into a personal relationship with that farmer and his land.” Many CSA farmers follow biodynamic farming principles. This method of farming goes beyond the guidelines of organic certification to embrace a holistic connection between the farmer and his land. The farm is regarded as a living organism in context of its broader surroundings, and the farmer uses techniques that are focused on nurturing soil, eliminating pests naturally, and creating a sustainable and ecologically sound farm. Courtens says, “A biodynamic farmer strives to create a kind of integrity on the farm that is similar to a living organism. [It] is comprised of many living things working together like one great symphony orchestra” This orchestra includes the community that supports the farm. In the CSA model, most farmers forgo the hassle and increased costs of the organic certification process, and instead rely on the relationship with consumers to create trust in their farming practices. Says Courtens, “I think the (organic) certification model is based on the absence of trust. While the CSA model is based on consumers taking an active role and taking responsibility in the well-being of the farm.” CSA shareholders support the farm through subscriptions. Shareholders pay ahead of time in exchange for receiving a weekly delivery of produce for the entire harvest season, usually May through November. A weekly basket of produce is then dropped of at one of several delivery sites scattered throughout the CSA service area, and shareholders pick up their weekly delivery of produce at the site of their choosing.

So… does Cheverly have a CSA drop off site? I’m glad you asked. Yes, it does. Right on Cheverly Ave you can pick up your weekly CSA box every Wednesday. I made the decision to buy a 6 month share, therefore my weekly spending is around $40. Has it been good for us and for my family? YES. A resounding yes. First of all, I have a genetic condition which compromises my immune system. Doctors doing the research on it have told me to avoid foods laden with chemicals. I’ve never done that- it’s way too expensive- plus my husband says that chemicals are all around us anyway. J I have always bought fruits and vegetables for our house and to feed our children. I think it is wonderful to expose children to a large variety of food. The CSA has done just that. I’m not a huge asparagus fan but we received some fresh asparagus in our first CSA box. I cooked them up with some of the fresh garlic they gave us and all of the sudden my kids are asparagus fans. (we even bought some last week at the Community Market) This past week we received the foods below. For $40 I’m not only NOT having to drive to the store, I’m getting fresh, organic, just picked vegetables that some 1)I’ve never seen at the grocery store and 2) that I might not ever try because they’d be too expensive. After I picked up my box, I sat down with my children and we looked at all our greens. Then we got on the computer and figured out which green was what…and then tasted them all! I made a salad on Wednesday night, Friday night, Saturday for a birthday party—and guess what? I plan to finish off the greens this evening. (they are still fresh!)

I urge you to check out the Spiritual Foods CSA site and consider joining the Cheverly group!

Here is what I received in my box last week:

from the Kimberton CSA farm:

12 oz Swiss chard

1 lettuce

7 oz escarole

2 turnips

1 cucumber

1 head yukina savoy

2 leaves each of 4 kinds of kale:

    lacinato, green curly, Red Russian, Siberian

2 red mustard leaves

2 green mustard leaves

1 pt strawberries

 and to supplement with other items:

1 loaf Multi-grain bread

1/2 doz eggs, organic

1 bag black beans, organic (4 cups worth ~ 1.8 lbs)

1 quart strawberries, organic

And this is the message from the CSA about our food:

Early in the season, as it is, we see mostly greens and this week quite an array!  I don’t believe we’ve ever had a sampling of 4 kinds of kale in one week before.  Re the other greens,

> mustards are best cooked (or in a raw mix, use sparingly)

> Escarole is also recommended cooked unless you like the slight bitterness. 

> Yukina savoy is a dark green leaf and holds up well and long – can be used like spinach. 

> Turnip greens are said to be the most nutritious of all so take advantage in spring and fall.

> Swiss chard is a summer staple as it grows in all seasons and when other things shrivel up in the heat.  It’s mild flavor and versatility offers an addition to any meal. 

The bread comes from Sweetwater Bakery at Camphill Village Kimberton Hills, PA, around the corner from our CSA garden.  All of their bread is slow rise sourdough mixed and shaped by hand and baked in a wood-fired oven.  See Food-A-Pedia on our website for pictures and a story.  www.spiritualfoodcsa.org.  For multi-grain, the wheat is biodynamic, the other grains are organic. 

Black Beans?  We offer dried legumes occasionally to round out our meals and provide added nutrition.  black beans always score high as a favorite.  While daunting to the inexperienced, cooking beans is actually quite simple.  Soak 8 hrs, overnight or more changing the water morning and night.  To cook, drain and cover with few inches of fresh water.  To speed up cooking process, you can add 1/8 tsp baking soda per cup of dry beans.  Bring to boil, simmer and cook til done.  Black beans take about 1 to 1-1/2 hrs on stove, 6 hrs in crock pot or ? in pressure cooker.  If you have a crock pot, dust it off and try it.  Sure, you can  make a soup or stew in it but you can also just cook the beans alone and use them after as if you had opened a can. You will notice a difference in freshness and taste with these beans.  Black beans are good for burritos or tacos, beans and rice, black bean soup (Cuban style), a dip (puree with spices) or black bean chili.  Don’t let them sit in your cupboard.  Have them with your greens this week!

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