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CSA – Community Supported Agriculture is for You

Winterfare Market February, 2012

For some people the initials CSA are just another of those annoying acronyms that can make our conversations sound like an unintelligible inter-office memo. For some CSA means Community Supported Agriculture which encompasses delicious local food, help for the farmer, and a community of like-minded folk who enjoy fresh food, and enjoy knowing they are supporting farmers and farms, and the very land and environment that surrounds us.

Small farmers never think they are going to get rich doing what they love. They only hope they won’t go broke after a bad season. In the 1980s a new idea came on the scene when the first community supported agriculture farms were first organized. The idea is that people would buy shares in the farm and its harvest at the beginning of the growing year, essentially sharing the risks the farmer would face over the course of the season. Would there be flooding rains? Drought? Would blight kill all the tomatoes? Mother Nature can throw all kinds of disasters at a farmer. CSA members are essentially buying the harvest as crops are planted and becoming a part of a community – a “we’re all in this together” community sharing the risk, the worry and the joys of the farm.

When I first became aware of Community Supported Agriculture some years ago, there were not many CSA farms or people buying shares. The organizational elements were fairly standard. An individual or family would buy a share in the spring, and then as the May and June harvest started coming in they would pick up their weekly boxed or bagged share of greens, beans, radishes and vegetables of every type in season. Because man does not live by carrot alone, many CSAs also included a bouquet of summer flowers.

Now there are many more CSAs in our area. I spoke with Phil Korman, Executive Director of CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture) who said that in the three counties, Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden, in 2009 there were about 4550 farm shares sold, but in 2012 that number had increased to about 7300 farm shares sold. Some of those shares were to people outside the three counties. The expectation is that the number has continued to increase but statistics are only collected every five years. Korman pointed out that those farm shares did not include winter shares which are now available.

In fact, there are now many more kinds of CSA shares that people can buy. In addition to the regular vegetable garden shares, there are shares for meat, fish, eggs, flowers, and grain.

The last few years have seen other changes in CSA distributions. Originally, a shareholder paid up, and then picked up that share weekly at the farm. Nowadays CSA shares can be delivered to various sites including schools, retirement communities, and work sites.CooleyDickinsonHospitalallows staff to pay for their share with a payroll deduction, and the share is delivered to the hospital.  Some people share a share with a neighbor

Hager’s Farm Market and Upinngill Farm sell vouchers. The Hager vouchers are dated for use throughout the season, but they can be used at the Market on Route 2 in Shelburne with the shareholder making his own choices, for produce or pies, eggs or yogurt. Upinngill’s vouchers are not dated. Several can be used at one time. In both cases, at the Hager Farm Market and the Upinngill farmstand, the vouchers provide for a discount, so you are saving money, as well as getting wonderful produce.

There are 15 CSA farms inFranklinCounty, inGreenfield, Montague, Gill, Leyden, Colrain,Sunderland, Ashfield, Whately, and Berndarston. Each CSA farm delivers its share one day a week. All of them are now signing up shareholders for the 2014 season.

Western Massachusettshas been “an incredibly receptive community” to desiring and buying local farm products Korman said. The first local, and now longest running CSA farm is Brookfield Farm inAmherst. The first Winterfare was created inGreenfieldby volunteers just a few years ago. Now farmers plant winter storage crops for the 30 winter farmers markets that are ongoing across the state. CISA was the first non-profit organization in the state and created the Local Hero marketing project.

Currently there are 55 Local Hero restaurants using local produce for a total of about $2 million a year. There are also 240 Local Hero farms. They sold between 2002 and 2007 $4.5 million worth of farm products, but that amount has now doubled to $9 million. Food coops account for $16 million in sales. Right now in the three counties between 10%-15% of our food is fresh local food, but CISA’s goal is to have 25% of our food grown and enjoyed locally.

I was shocked that we are eating so little local food, but Korman gently pointed out that the whole population ofFranklinCountyis only half the population of the city ofSpringfield. I can see that it will be a great day when everyone inSpringfieldgets 25% of their dinners from local farms. I have to keep reminding myself that not everyone lives in our beautiful and fertile valley or near a hilltown farm where fresh food is available for a good part of the year.

It’s finally getting warmer. It’s time to think about fresh salads, grilled vegetables and corn on the cob. It’s time to think about the possibility of joining a Community Supported Agriculture farm.

You can find a full listing and information about local CSA farms on the CISA website.

Between the Rows  April 5, 2014

Cooking Lessons Over the Years

Rory in 2009 cooking lesson over the years

As a liberated  woman I have made sure that my grandsons have had a few cooking lessons over the years. Rory was 13 when this photo was taken, but it is not his first lesson. Perfect scrambled eggs was probably an early lesson, but by 2009 he had moved along to the perfect omlette.

Rory with Saumon en papillote 2010

Saumon en papillote, a Julia Child recipe, amazingly simple, but a dish with dash, has become Rory’s specialite.

Rory’s pickles for the Heath Fair 2010

I cannot begin to tell you how many blue ribbons this family has won at the Heath Fair in August.

Rory and more pickles for the 2011 Heath Fair

We made a lot more things for the Fair than pickles. Cookies are also always on the list.

Rory with cookies 2012

I told you he made cookies!

Rory making real caramel corn 2013

Making real caramel is quite an operation, but he is up to it.  When we are cooking for the Heath Fair, the rule is that  I can instruct and advise, but I cannot touch anything. That rule has carried over into all our lessons.

Tynan making cookies 2008

Rory’s younger brother followed in his brother’s footsteps.

Tynan kneading his bread 2009

I bake a lot of bread. It is fun to do. I tell all the children that they have to think about all the people who will enjoy their cooking while they work. That love gets cooked right into the dish.

Tynan with his raspberry jam. 2010

If you have a raspberry patch, you must make raspberry jam, and Tynan did.

Tynan at the Art Garden in 2011

I know Tynan did some baking every year, but there does not seem to be a photographic record. However, creativity comes in all forms – many of them are found at the Art Garden in Shelburne Falls.

Drew and Anthony 2009

Because Anthony and his younger brother Drew live in Texas we got them both at the same time in the summer. Less cooking, more field work like picking raspberries.

Anthony and Drew at the Hawley kiln 2011

Of course, we take all the boys touring locally at historic sites like the Hawley kiln, and art sites like MassMoCa. There is lots to do at the End of the Road and all around western Massachusetts. I think these boys have gotten fewer cooking lessons, but they are Boy Scouts. They need to cook around the campfire.

Bella and French toast in 2013

The boys are getting ‘old.’ They’ve got jobs and less time for cooking lessons and frolicking. Fortunately, we have Bella, a great-granddaughter, who has moved close enough to start her cooking lessons.

Cookies for Moonlight Magic


Cookies for Moonlight Magic

I’m still baking for the Family Feast tomorrow, but I just finished my cookies for Moonlight Magic in Shelburne Falls on Friday, November 23. Lots of  cookies for sale at the Visitors Center and lots of magic throughout the town.

For more Wordlessness this Wednesday click here.


An Autumnal Wedding in Heath with Cake

'Wedding' cake

Yesterday I finished making a cake, to serve as ONE of the wedding cakes, for the wedding of our good friends Lyra and Ed. This is an All Occasion Downy Yellow Butter Cake with Mousseline buttercream frosting from my favorite cake cookbook, the Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. When I bought this cookbook I was particularly taken by the love story Rose tells in her Introduction and I can never resist repeating it when I am serving a cake to a new Cake Bible audience. It is particularly apt for a wedding cake.

Rose was in a master’s program at Cornell and was proud of the academic response to her dissertation. “Feeling proud after seven years of night school as a food major, I presented my paper to a boyfriend who was a physician.

To my amazement, he actually snickered, saying” ‘Is this what you consider a suitable topic for a dissertation?’

It only required a week’s interval to recover sufficiently to hazard showing the paper on a first date to Elliot Beranbaum, also a physician. . . . By then the paper had taken on the aspect of a test of sorts. I watched as he leafted through the 24 pages gravely nodding his head. Finally I couldn’t resist asking: ‘You don’t find this topic a little funny?’

‘Not at all, he replied. ‘I have encountered the same problem with dry ingredients for my digestion studies’  . . .

I thought to myself: Ah hah! This is the man I am going to marry. We have the same approach to life.” And marry they did.

The mousseline buttercream is what surprises people. It is not overly sweet and it tastes so light. Then I explain how you make this merinque buttercream which begins with beaten egg whites, adding a sugar syrup cooked to the firm ball stage – slowly – and then – slowly – adding one pound of unsalted butter.  It is the pound of butter that shocks everyone, but the recipe makes a lot of frosting. I’m making a small cake today for us just so I can use the rest of the mousseline.

Mother of the Bridge and cakes

Cynthia, mother of the bridge, helped serve the wedding cakes. She made the Red Velvet Groom’s cake, and Susan put a whole bouquet of flowers on her chocolate cake. I used ‘Starlet’ spoon mums, a reflection of the golden September afternoon.

Ed and Lyra

A perfect day!

Look At My Loot

Seven Years Gold Compost

As Christmas drew near a  friend asked if I his Christmas gift had been delivered. I said no deliveries and then waited every day for my treat to arrive. I did get a Package Too Big notice from the Post Office and picked up this bag of compost that had a mailing label right on the bag. I assumed it was some sort of sample from the Seven Years Gold company, although it did seem an odd time of year to be sending compost samples to Massachusetts.  But when my friend arrived for dinner after Christmas he said he couldn’t wait any longer to tell me what was on its way to me – horse manure!  Seven Years Gold wasn’t a sample it was my friend who paid attention when I said one of the best gifts I had gotten for my first vegetable garden 40 years ago was a load of rotted horse manure. Friends like this are not easy to come by.

Christmas Books

Of course all my friends and family know I love books – and that high cooking and baking season lasts all winter. The stove helps keep the house warm. I was familiar with Nigel Slater (British) from his many inspiring and useful cookbooks, but Yotam Ottolenghi was new to me. Nigel Slater was prompted to write Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch this latest book by his new(ish) passion for gardening. Yotam Ottolenghi’s book, Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi, takes a vegetarian approach. I have already made his flavorful Mushroom and herb polenta. Delicious and easy.  Although I had never heard of Ginette Mathiot or her cookbooks that are considered  the Joy of Cooking of France, I am ready to delve into The Art of French Baking (The definitive guide to home baking by Frances favorite cook book author). I must say the recipes look very easy. We shall see.

Finally, there is a book for bedtime reading. Writing the Garden: A Literary Conversation Across Two Centuries by Elizabeth Barlow Rogers is not the anthology of selections I first thought. There are snippets from each of the authors mentioned from Thomas Jefferson and Gertrude Jekyll to humorists like Karel Capek and artists like Robert Dash, but Rogers gives us a sense of the life and personalities of each. I am savoring each section.

Now here is a question. Although not apparent from a photo, two of the cookbooks, Plenty and The Art of French Baking have padded covers. Is this a new trend? A new style in books? Does it make the books more wipe-able?  Any ideas?

Christmas Trees at Kringle Candle Company

This Christmas may be over, but all these gifts, including a candle from the Kringle Candle Company, will keep the memory alive for many years.

ADDENDUM – One way or another I have gotten comments and questions about horse manure – and I found interesting information and comparisons here.

Monday Record June 13, 2011

Rain. Downpours. But the intrepid Garden Club of Amherst members were undaunted. I met them for a tour of the Elsa Bakalar/Scott Prior garden. In the background you can see that the old rhododendrons in back of the house near the woodland path are still blooming. The daffodils are long gone

It’s iris season in the garden right now. The Siberians don’t mind how much rain they get.

Of course, there are other bloomers right now like these pink poppies, a verbascum – and blue irises. A whole different palette will be in bloom during the Franklin Land Trust Farm and Garden Tour on June 25 and 26.  For full information click here.

The rain was sporadic in the afternoon, but I had to finish baking and dousing the Pina Colada cake for a Hawaiian themed Gourmet Club. Delish!  Downpours continued on Sunday morning which allowed me to go out and spread some rose fertilizer knowing it would be well watered in. Two inches or more of rain!  Damp and cold, but I got finished pruning out all the winterkill on the roses, and weeded the herb bed.

Blanc Double de Coubert rugosa

Every day a new rose begins to bloom. Roses love good spring rains.

All the rain is just what the gardens needed. I could see this second planting of greens and radishes grow in front of my eyes.

Fresh picked salad with supper, topped off with the last piece of my husband’s birthday cake – and local strawberries.

Apple Blossom Time

Sargent crabapple

I hope this photo give some sense of the amazing bloom of the Sargent crabapple. It is  not 15 feet tall, but it is at least 15 feet wide and was planted about 15 years ago. It thrives in the Sunken Garden even though it is very wet in the spring.  It is now in full flower – almost a single tree-sized blossom at this point.

This apple tree, name unknown, produces apples but they are not the best apples I’ve ever eaten. I do use them in apple sauce and apple pie as part of the mix.  The tree usually takes a beating from the plow when it makes the turn in front of the house.

These apple blossoms are on  the Liberty semi dwarf tree in the ‘orchard’. All apple blossoms are so lovely. I hope they were open long enough to get pollinated.  Some of our trees are beginning to leaf out.  The grass looks as though we had a big wedding today.

Sprouted Wheat Bread

Sprouted wheat bread

Bread is the staff of life. I love making bread in general, especially in winter when the oven helps warm the house, but in preparation for my sprouting workshop at the Northampton Winterfare on Saturday, Jan. 9, I decided to make sprouted wheat whole wheat bread. I got a good recipe from the Sprout People website, and the result is delicious.

The recipe made two loaves. One, the prettier one, went into the freezer so I can bring it with me to the workshop. I sliced into the other loaf to test it and make sure it was workshop worthy.  It is!  I sat down with a strong cup of tea and bread slathered with butter and a friend’s homemade blackberry jam. Hard to say which was crunchier, the spouted wheat or the blackberry jam, but so delicious – and nutritious.  Did you know that when a seed sprouts the amount of vitamins and protein and fiber increase in an amazing way!
Sprouted Wheat on FoodistaSprouted Wheat