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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

Greenfield Winter Fare 2014

Winter Fare veggies

If I am counting correctly this is the 7th Greenfield Annual Winter Fare which will bring truckloads of fresh local vegetables to Greenfield High School on Saturday, February 1.  Enter from Kent Street off Silver Street. Beyond  vegetables there will be preserved products like pickles and syrup, honey and jams. Frozen meat!  And to keep you shopping from 10 am til 1 pm music will be provided by Last Night’s Fun, and soup provided by The Brass Buckle, Hope and Olive, Wagon Wheel and The Cookie Factory will help you keep up your strength.

At 1 pm there will be a Barter Swap. Anyone with extra home made or home grown food can gather for an informal  trading space where you can make your own swapping deals.

There is more to the Winter Fare than the Farmer’s Market. Open Hearth Cooking Classes on Saturdays, Feb. 1 and 8, 10 am – 2:30 pm at Historic Deerfield.  Contact Claire Carlson  $55 per person.

Screening of Food For Change and discussion with film maker, Wednesday, Feb 5, 6:30 pm at the Sunderland Public Library. Call 43-665-2642 for more info.

Annual Franklin County Cabin Fever Seed Swap Sunday Feb. 9, 1-4 pm Upstairs at Green Fields Market, for more info.

Seed Starting Workshop Sunday, Feb 9, 1 pm at the Ashfield Congregational Church. Sponsored by Share the Warmth. More info: Holly Westcott

Winter Fare is obvioulsy about more  than Fare, this is a Fair atmosphere that brings a community together.

Winterfare, Winter Farmer’s Markets, Good Food

Veggies from The Kitchen Garden

I just attended my sixth Winterfare ! got to do my small part, giving a talk about the basics of extending the growing season, but mostly I just enjoyed the crowds, visiting with people I haven’t seen in a while and marveling at all the fresh produce that is available in February in Franklin County. Of course I shopped, too. Carrots, onions, salad greens, apples and salad toppers, a flat of arugula that I can snip over the next month to top my salads.

So how did Winterfare start? When I asked Mary McClintock, the Recorder’s food columnist and Winterfare organizer, she said that for her it started in 2001. “ I attended a talk that Kate Stevens and John Hoffman gave about Gary Paul Nabhan’s book Coming Home to Eat: The Pleasures and Politics of Local Food. That book and that talk changed my life. I started noticing where my food came from. “

That discussion changed McClintock’s view of the produce departments in grocery stores. Then when Juanita Nelson suggested to a group of people that it would be nice to have a Harvest Supper at the end of the year McClintock was prepared and eager to join an organizing committee that created the wonderful and celebratory Annual Free Harvest Supper that fills the street in front of Greenfield Town Hall and the Common..

It takes a lot of volunteers to put on that Dinner, organizers and generous farmers, cooks and even musicians. In addition to serving up a magnificent buffet, this event raises money to provide coupons so that clients of the food pantries can also buy fresh produce at the farmer’s market.

After some time of happy harvest suppers Juanita Nelson made another observation and suggestion. The Harvest Dinner educated people about the delicious benefits of local produce, now how could they find a way to make that produce available in February?

McClintock joined Nelson  in March of 2007 to start writing a series of monthly press releases for the Recorder talking about what gardeners could be doing in their garden to prepare for a winter’s worth of fresh vegetables. That was part of the groundwork for the committee that began planning for the first Winterfare in 2008. McClintock’s wonderful Wednesday food column, with recipes as suggested by Recorder Editor Tim Blagg, grew out of those articles.

“The response to that first Winterfare was mind blowing. It was so crowded. Coyote Farm sold out of their greens in half an hour,” McClintock said. .I’d say the rest is history, but most of the history is almost invisible.

If produce is going to be sold at the Winterfare farmers have to grow it. And they have. “That first Winterfare changed local farming,” McClintock said. “Now farmers plant for Winterfare, and for the winter farmer’s markets that have been created because of Winterfare.”

That statement confused me a little. I thought all the farmer’s markets were Winterfares. Not so. McClintock explained that Winterfare is really an add-on to the winter farmer’s markets. Winterfare organizes workshops, the soup café and the barter fair.

From 2010 on CISA (Community Involved is Sustainable Agriculture) inspired by Greenfield’s Winterfare, organized Winterfare events for winter farmers markets in Northampton and Springfield. The Winterfares have given birth to a host of regular winter farmer’s markets in Amherst, Athol, Northampton, and other towns. Their schedules are on the CISA website  The next Greenfield Winter Farmer’s Market will be at Greenfield High School on Saturday March 16.  This is a change from the usual first Saturday of the month schedule, so mark your calendars.

This year there was a weeklong calendar of Winterfare events from movies, pot lucks and talks, ending with the Annual Cabin Fever Seed Swap on Saturday, February 9 at Green Fields Market from 1-4 pm and the Conway Local Pot Luck on Sunday, February 10 at 5 pm at the Conway Town Hall. Full information is on the CISA website.

My talk with Mary McClintock touched on the different ways that local farming has changed over the past few years. With a year round market for local produce, farmers have been planning and planting for what is practically a non-stop season. The use of hoop houses has helped with that effort

There have also been ongoing discussions and efforts to increase the infrastructure needed for food storage. One addition to the food system infrastructure is the Community Development  Corporation’s Food Processing Center which makes it possible for farmers to freeze their produce and sell it locally. You can look for this at Green Fields Market.

Many people have been involved with Winterfare over the years. The organizing committee is an ad hoc group. They are not affiliated with any organization although members of the committee may also work for CISA or other groups. New volunteers are always needed for the committee or for the day of Winterfare activities. If you are interested in joining these lively and satisfying efforts Mary McClintock would like to hear from you. You can email her at or telephone at 413-522-5932.

If we cannot work for Winterfare we can support Local Hero Farms and the restaurants that serve local produce. Eating local provides so many benefits, health, protecting the environment by reducing food being trucked across the continent, protecting our beautiful rural landscape and dining on the most delicious fresh food possible.

Between the Rows  February 9, 2013

Winterfare – Always a Delicious Success

Winterfare veggies

Saturday more I went down to Greenfield for Winterfare – always a delcicous success. People in our area are so happy to be able to buy fresh vegetables directly from farmers, even in winter. Of course, this winter farmer’s market isn’t limited to vegetables. Real Pickles had a booth selling – Pickles! Sunrise Farm was selling maple syrup, Apex Orchards was selling apples, Warm Colors Apiary was selling honey and other bee products, Barberic Farm was selling  lamb and lamb fleeces.  El Jardin had their fabulous breads and there were many other great vendors. The soups they served at lunch were delicious.

Salad toppers from LaSalles

Winterfare always schedules a few talks. I gave mine on how to extend the growing season and I mentioned ‘micro-greens’. This was a new concept for some of my auditors, but I could send them to John LaSalle’s booth where he was selling – and I was buying – what he called salad toppers, otherwise known as micro-greens. You wouldn’t get a whole salad for the family out of his flat, but you could snip off a few leaves for a fresh topping.

Freesias from LaSalles

We do not live by bread, or veggie alone. John LaSalle also brought bundles of his famous fragrant freezias. Most of these end up in New York City florist shops. Winterfare shoppers were very happy.

I came home with a bagful of veggies and bread and a flat of  salad toppers. Winterfare is always a delicious success!

We do not live by

Winter Farmers Market and More – Coming Up

Winter Farmers Market January 7, 2012

The Second Winter Farmers Market will be held on Saturday, February 4 from 10 am – 1 pm at  the Second Congregational Church on Court Square in Greenfield. I attended last month and stocked up on beets, turnips, pears, apples, squash and Real Pickles sauerkraut. It is exciting that so much local food is available to us in midwinter. And even more exciting to know that plans are in place to give us even more local food all year long.

The February Farmers Market is the beginning of Winter Fare Week, a celebration of local food with many events planned. In addition to buying produce on February 4 shoppers will have an opportunity to attend a number of workshops.

Daniel Botkin of Laughing Dog Farm, a ‘seedy madman’ will inspire you as he shows off his favorite “open-pollinated” heirloom tomato (and other!) seeds that have inspired a decade of great gardening at Laughing Dog Farm. Dan will review the significance of “heirloom genetics” as well basic seed botany and seed saving/preserving protocols, including which ones need only to be gathered, cleaned and dried, (the “easy” ones…) and which seeds need more elaborate “isolation” and/or hand-pollination schemes. Seeds for sale and free!

Mark Lattanzi will show you how to can the delicious abundance of the summer and fall garden. Think about putting up your own local food this year.

Rachel Scherer will present Get Sauced. Did you know that condiments like “Sriracha” and “Tabasco” start with lacto-fermented chilis? That lacto-fermented fruit and vegetable chutneys are the culinary origins of ketchup and relish? This workshop will cover the basics of making lacto-fermented condiments at home, and the details of how to go from the general process to a custom recipe.

Annie Sullivan-Chin with Catherine Bryars will talk about the many benefits of composting and how to make it feasible in your home. Conversation topics include soil science fundamentals, how to get/build buckets and bins, troubleshooting a lazy compost pile, and a special show-and-tell about worm composting. Participants are encouraged to bring questions and experiences to share.

In addition to the workshops there will be a Local Food Barter Fair. How does it work? Anyone who has home-made food items items to barter will gather at 12:15 p.m. with their goods and take part in informal trading.  A great chance to meet your home-growing neighbors, practice the art of bartering, and bring home delicious food and goods without exchanging money.  Open to gardeners, gleaners, foragers, canners, dryers… even professional farmers!

I’ll be telling you about more great events coming  up the week of February 5-12.  Friends and Food. What a combo.

Gray Dog's Farm, Huntington

Gray Dog’s Farm is just one of the farms that is participating in the market. Other participants include Clarkdale Fruit Farm, Red Fire Farm that is moving to Montague, and


Winterfare in Greenfield

Red Fire Farm greens

It didn’t take long to use up all the wonderful fresh veggies I bought at the Northampton Winterfare, but the Greenfield Winterfare, a winter farmer’s market is coming up on Saturday, February 5  from 10 am – 2 pm at Greenfield High School on Lenox Avenue.

In addition to all delicious food, bread, fruit, veggies, meat, yogurt, jam, pickles, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, there will be a variety of workshops on canning, growing grain, seed saving and more.

There will also be a Barter Fair and soups from area restaurants including Hope & Olive, Barstow’s Longview Farm, Bart’s Cafe,  Green Fields Market and McCusker’s Market and the Wagon Wheel Restaurant. Something delicious for everyone.

Winterfares Coming Up

Winterfare Northampton 2010

Have you been longing for fresh greens and the chance to meet the farmers in our area?  Long no more. It is time for Winterfares!  This Saturday the winter farmer’s market will be held at the Smith Vocational School in Northampton on January 15 from 10 am to 2 pm.  Fresh greens, apples, honey, yogurt, root veggies, local grain, bread, the Soup Cafe (bring your own cup) and workshops.  This is a delicious and healthy event – pure delight.  Don’t forget to bring your own shopping bags.

Also, mark your calendars for the 4th Annual Winterfare at Greenfield High School on Saturday, February 5, again from 10 am – 2pm.  More fresh food, more workshops, more fun.

Massachusetts Farmers Market Week

Greenfield Farmers Market

I’m so happy to participate in the Loving Local Farmers Market Blogathon hosted by In Our Grandmother’s Kitchens for several reasons. First, Farmers Markets are beautiful and celebratory places to be. Everywhere are gorgous healthy fruits and vegetables, fragrant herbs and brilliant flowers. Everyone is cheerful when they are surrounded by this beautiful bounty. Who wouldn’t like to spend an hour at the Farmers Market?

Second, is the energy savings of locally grown produce. I know all about the current re-calculating of energy costs of California produce versus more local produce that required heated greenhouses but the farmers I know are using solar greenhouses and limited or no other energy for heating.

Tom Clark of Clarkdale Fruit Farm

Third, is the crisp freshness of the produce. It has been picked  ripe and at its peak. That’s for me! And the nutritional value hasn’t had time to evaporate away.

Fourth, is the variety of veggies, fruits, herbs and unique varieties that promise great flavor and texture. I am a gardener and I grow a lot of my own veggies and herbs, but for a family of two I can’t grow all the variety that I hunger for.

Fifth is my concern for my own food supply. I firmly believe that less centralized, more diversified food sources are safer from violent weather and insect damage or blights and disease. This means the food system for the whole nation is more secure.

Sixth, I think smaller food producers are less likely to spread diseases like salmonella.  It seems that all the  outbreaks of infected foods that have necessitated recalls are from large farms, feedlots and processing plants.

Seventh is my desire to support the farmers who will grow this safe, healthy and delicious food. I love farmers! Some of them are cute and are willing to flirt at the farmers market. I wonder if I can count flirting as another reason for supporting farmers and farmers markets.  What do you think?

Eighth is my concern for the local economy. Buying food, or anything locally, will keep my dollars circulating in my community, so shopping at the farmers market is supporting the whole local economy.

Nine. I can meet various friends and acquaintances at the Farmers Market. I always allow time to stop and gossip.  Here I am blogging and Facebooking, but really, there is  nothing like a face to face confab with people you enjoy, maybe while eating a juicy peach or apple, or a fruit turnover. Have you noticed how many farmers are good cooks?

Ten. Even if you are not a passionate cook farmers markets are a good place to shop because you don’t really need to do anything to make fresh veggies taste wonderful. The flavor is already there. Who needs to do anything fancy to corn on the cob? Or a passel of peas? Or beets?  Steaming, roasting – or just plain raw.

I just came up with a new slogan – Eat Local – Eat Well.   It works for me.

January Winterfare in Northampton

Check out the Mass Farmers Market Association, a non-profit organization and donate to help support farmers markets throughout the Commonwealth.

A Valentine Radish

Beauty Heart Radish

It seemed only appropriate to serve Beauty Heart radish at our Valentine’s dinner.

We were introduced to the beautiful pinky red radishes when we were living in Beijing where it is very popular. Members of my Women of China work unit brought some pickled Xin  Li Mei radish to a picnic outing. They called it Beauty Heart which I much prefer to Red Meat, as it is sometimes  called in seed catalogs. It is also called Watermelon radish for its ‘large’ size, green skin and red interior.

I have not been successful in growing Beauty Heart radish. I think my growing season is too short and cool. My book, Oriental Vegetables: The Complete Guide for Garden and Kitchen by Joy Larkcom, says that it needs several months of warm weather, beginning when temperatures are reliably above 60 degrees. They are ready for harvest in about 80 days. She makes the point that growing them in an unheated hoop house provides ideal conditions. That explains why the Beauty Hearts I bought at Winterfare from  Red Fire Farm are so beautiful and delicious.  And why the ones I have tried to grow are such failures.

I originally thought these radishes were really turnips because of the size. I was wrong. I also thought the roses carved of vegetables on banquet tables were dyed turnips, but no, the petals are carved from Beauty Heart radishes, and as good to eat as they are a pretty decoration.

More Reading

This morning I was so excited while sending in my online rose order that I gave a shipping date of a month earlier than was wise. Now I have to call them and explain that my desire to get these new roses in the ground overwhelmed me, but I finally realized I have to bow to the realities of our Heath climate.

Having put off planting dates, I satisfied myself by settling back to finish two excellent but very different books that I have been reading.

The Perfect Fruit: Good Breeding, Bad Seeds, and the Hunt for the Elusive Pluot Bloomsbury $25) is by Chip Brantley, a local author who has written extensively about food and flavor.

I confess that when I first saw pluots being sold at the supermarket, I thought it was some kind of marketing ploy, and that fruit farmers were simply operating under the theory that consumers would buy more of anything new. I did not think that farmers were actually looking for fruit with wonderful flavor and sweetness. Brantley has disabused me of that un-generous thought.

Brantley also explains why I, and many other shoppers, have hesitated in front of the plum bins at the market. There are dozens of plum varieties that ripen over a long season. The simply labeled black or red plums that you buy on July 1 are not going to be the same black or red plums you buy on July 15 or August 1. You’ll be getting a different plum as the different varieties ripen. This explains why I have hurried back to a store to see if I could get the plums from that particular shipment because they were so good. It never occurred to me they were good, or only OK, because I was getting a different variety each time.

Some fruit breeders in California like Floyd Zaiger who have been growing and hybridizing fruit for more than a half century, wanted to make the plum more flavorful and crossed plums with other fruits, resulting in pluots, plumcots, and apriums, all plum-apricot hybrids. Brantley learned that one of the measures of a good hybrid was its Brix measure. The Brix scale measures sugar content.. A Brix of 12 is poor, 21 is really good but 26 is outstanding.

Brantley reminds us that Luther Burbank, one of the great hybridizers, was a Massachusetts native, growing up in Lancaster, and moving to California in 1875 where he started improving all manner of plants including the plum. He was the first to use the term plumcots and in 1907 introduced his Santa Rosa plum, which was the most widely sold plum in the U.S. for over 50 years.

We also get to meet Rod Milton, whose family had been farming for over 100 hundred years, Mike Jackson who decided to ‘chase flavor’, as we learn all about Dapple Dandies, Flavorella and Dinosaur Eggs in the most entertaining way.

In Lives of the Trees: An Uncommon History (Algonquin $19.95) Diana Wells takes us through centuries of myth and history to give us weird, wonderful and poetic facts about 100 familiar and not so familiar trees. For example, how many of you have been stumped when a child asked you what is frankincense? Or even worse, what would the Baby Jesus need with frankincense?

According to Wells Queen Hatshepsut of Egypt sent to the Land of Punt (now Somaliland) for 32 frankincense trees to plant near an Egyptian temple in 1482 BCE. As you might imagine from its name, the small frankincense tree produces a resin that is used as a high quality incense. It was extremely valuable.  As for the Baby Jesus, I always imagined that the three gifts brought by the Wise Men financed the flight of the Holy Family to Egypt, and kept them afloat until it was safe for them to return to Nazareth.

The maple which is native to many parts of the world, gets a substantial entry ranging from our native red maple to the varied and delicate maples of Japan and the Norway maple which has become a dangerous invasive in our country.

I have long wondered about the Monkey-puzzle tree which shows up in so many English mysteries and novels. This tree, Araucaria, is originally from Chile; seeds were was brought to England in 1795. It is so ancient that it was growing in the days of the dinosaurs. It has been thought that those strong prickles protected the tree from browsing dinos.

Monkey-puzzle trees were very popular in England, especially during the Victorian age as a weird and exotic specimen tree. I saw a couple in California, and did not see the appeal, but it is a different time.

Many of the trees Wells describes are ancient varieties, or ancient in their current self. There is a bristlecone pine in California that is called the Methusela tree because it has been calculated to be 4700 years old.

Olive trees send up shoots after the main trunk is cut down, regenerating itself  for centuries. Some olive trees are thought to be 1000 years old.

For a time coffee was one of the most dangerous trees. It was banned by both Muslims and Christians at different time. Coffee drinkers could even be put in sacks and drowned in Constantinople for a time.

So many trees.  So many stories. More than enough to while away the hours before rose planting season. ###

Hope to see some of you at the Greenfield Winterfare on Saturday, February 6 from 10 – 2 pm at Greenfield High School. Fresh produce, barter fare, workshops and Soup for Lunch.

Between the Rows  January 23, 2010