Wow, Erin did a great job on her blog last week. It’s made me nervous to even try to write something today. At this time of year I frequently resort to a few pictures, recipes and an “I’m so busy”.
Erin’s blog made me think a lot about how I sensor myself in these emails. How I focus on the biology, or the crop planning, or the recipes and stay away from the politics. But I got into farming because I feel passionately about environmental and social justice. And I figured I could take a second and recount what got me on this path. (Because I definitely don’t do it for the money!)
I went to school at Northeastern University. I was super lucky to get a great scholarship, but I struggled with what I wanted to do. I started out trying to double major in Theater and English but realized that although I had been passionate about theater throughout high school, I wasn’t going to be happy trying to make a career of it. I have, for as long as I can remember, felt like I owe something back in a big way and I didn’t feel like theater would allow me to do that.
I took two sequential seminars, “Nutrition, Public Health and the American Diet,” followed by “Eating and the Environment”. They were my “ah-ha” moment, connecting public health, individual health, environmental health all to agriculture. How we grow food is one of the most significant ways we as a species affect our planet, and what we eat has a huge impact on how we feel and our long and short term health outcomes.
But it goes further than that. My senior year I was able to study abroad in Costa Rica, with a focus on sustainable development. My program had two tracts, environmental sustainability and social sustainability. I was in the environmental tract but there was a lot of overlap. We were able to visit banana and coffee plantations, meet small farmers trying to get by with cooperatives and agri-tourism ventures, and talk to people living in barios, just outside the big city, with little opportunity and many challenges. I was struck by how much of an impact the food people were eating back home was having on this population thousands of miles away.
My number one take away from that semester was: the food we eat has a significant impact on the world. Our demand for cheap and accessible food, regardless of season, or region or climate has created a global food system that compromises environmental rights and worker health, safety and well-being. Profit is the number one priority and when demanding such extreme variety and availability, it is impossible to achieve profit without exploitation.
So, I thought, if I can go back home, learn to farm sustainably, and then convince people to buy locally I would be making a real impact. I could provide an alternative product and direct market demand away from other products that have a more negative impact. Ten years later, that is basically what I’m doing. What I’m not sure of is if I’m really having any kind of impact beyond feeding a few people great food who can afford it and trying to donate as much food as possible while staying in business. The idea is that collectively, small farms can make a huge difference. It’s why I don’t consider other small farms in the area my competitors, it’s why I’ll gladly send someone to another market stall if I don’t have the crop they are looking for that week and I know someone else has it.
But are we really having an impact?
I wrote that question before spending a a few minutes on the phone with a nurse at Harvey’s doctors office. I had a few questions about Harvey (he is ok, just had a little tummy trouble this weekend). She was so helpful, and made me feel so much better. For her its just a 5 minute phone call, but for me, it’s peace of mind that can only come from a trained professional, and yes, it’s a small impact, but for all of the parents and kids she helps throughout her career, it makes a real difference.
So, I’ll venture an answer to my above question with, yes, I hope so.
What’s in the share?
Lettuce and Lettuce Mix
Some notes: I’m sorry the lettuce has so much soil on it. When it rains heavy like this its almost impossible to get it clean. Also, the cucumbers and zucchini don’t keep well if we wash them and so after the rain they have a little more dust on them as well. Your new potatoes will come with some soil because their skins are so tender that if we washed them they would peel off and not keep/look yucky. We really do try and get most of the soil off before we send produce home with you. *edited to refer to all earth material as “soil” not “dirt”. It’s not dirt, it a complex ecosystem that makes food possible.
We are doing our best to keep the produce fresh in this heat! The crew has been coming in early (6am!) on the really hot days to pick, we are very grateful to them. And SO grateful for the storm last Friday. We were really drying up, even after the 2 inches of rain the previous Thursday. Man, time flies.
There is some tip burn on the lettuce. This means the tips of some of the leaves are damaged by extreme heat. You can just cut or tear these bits off – some heads don’t have it, some of it is so insignificant you might not notice, but the heads of lettuce are huge. So you need to cut a little off, but its better than just mowing in the whole planting and not having lettuce this week.
What to do with your share:
You should grill. We grilled carrots, onions, zucchini and broccoli last week and it was great. Just brush with oil and cook. You can do it! Grilling 101
(Below are pictures of bok choy, beets, onions, squash and zucchini all on the grill! Harvey likes the beets best, zucchini second best)
What are fresh onions? Onions that are grown specifically to be harvested while their tops are still green. We have two types on the stand this week: Ailsa Craig a long white onion and Purplette, a small red onion. Both can be used just like onion in any recipe, but we strongly suggest putting them on the grill (with their greens on) and just eat them on their own. They are so sweet and zesty . . . one of the great joys of July.
As are the new potatoes. Fresh potatoes are better than any potatoes. We love that potatoes store well and we think they are delicious in winter too, but there is nothing like the first potatoes of the season. We can’t wait to try ours this week! The variety you are getting is Dark Red Norland, a personal favorite (although I love them all). These potatoes have not been cured and should be eaten this week. If you want to keep them longer you should store them in a paper bag in the fridge. 20 New Potato Recipes
And what to do with all the cukes and zukes (our short-hand for cucumber, zucchini and summer squash). Try this guide to Quick Pickling Any Vegetable (you can even try to add fresh onions and carrots!).
I also made a great no-sugar zucchini bread this week. Harvey loves zucchini bread but lots of recipes have so much sugar its almost like cake. I modified from this recipe: Healthy Zucchini Bread. My suggestions: leave out the nuts if you don’t like nuts. Grate the zucchini onto a towel, roll the towel and squeeze out the excess moisture, then leave the zucchini in a Tupperware in the fridge overnight to dry out a bit more. I used 2 cups of drier zucchini instead of just 1.5 like it calls for. I also added a dash of nutmeg and a glug of molasses. Harvey loves it.
Also, if you are looking for more info, I found out a CSA member is blogging about their Upswing Farm veggies, check it out here. Have some great ideas? Let us know!