Monday, September 27, 2010

CSA Share Week #18

A CSA member recently asked us how we determine what’s in a share from week to week. We thought this was a good question and worth sharing our answer with everyone.
There are a lot of factors we weigh when we determine a share each week:
• Firstly, we try to distribute to members what is most fresh in our fields;
• We also try to distribute what we have enough of each week for all members so that most weeks everyone gets the exact same share. If we're short something, we make sure those who get something else get something similar and of comparable value. For example, recently we didn't have enough escarole for all members, so one group got kale instead (which we had some of but not enough for everyone). Similarly, we recently didn't have large red and yellow bell peppers for everyone, so one distribution group got smaller peppers but more of them (3 versus 2).
• We try to make sure that the value of a share is more than $20 (Upstate NY prices)—knowing that depending on the stage of the season some weeks might not be quite that and most weeks it’s comfortably more than that. This season we have been fortunate to consistently meet this standard each week starting at the very beginning of the season. For example, this week’s share we calculate to be worth slightly more than $23 if purchased at one of our Upstate farmer’s markets.
We should also note that being in a CSA means you may not always get that value--depending on how the season turns out; if a farm loses 70% of their crop to hail (and I've heard of this happening), the members also suffer a loss in their shares. That's the "shared risk" part of being in a CSA; you’re willing to hang in there with the farm through thick and thin.
• On the flip side, we also try to make sure each week’s share isn’t too large. Distributing more produce than members can use in the course of a week is an all too common way a CSA can drive off members the following year. So we try not to overwhelm members while at the same time making sure they feel like they are getting an ample share each week.
• Lastly, we try to minimize too much repetition with certain vegetables--so if you've had eggplant 2 weeks in a row, we try to avoid including that crop for at least the following week. Granted, with vegetables like salad greens or onions, which people regularly eat or use to cook, we aren’t so hesitant to offer repetitively. We also try to make sure each week’s share is well balanced in terms of the makeup and diversity of the vegetables in the share. For example, if we include something out of the ordinary (like the Asian greens in this week) we try to make sure it’s balanced by plenty of more commonplace vegetables.
It's tricky business—determining what's in a share each week. We put a lot of thought into it. Often we stress about it—wanting to make sure members get the best of what we have, a nice variation of items, and at a value better than if they were to buy from an organic grower at a farmer's market or at a natural foods grocery store like Whole Foods. Fortunately, this has been a pretty good season so far. But, ultimately, we can only think out, debate and assess a share list each week according to what nature permits. We’d love to be including collards, broccoli, head lettuce and kale this week as we’d planned, but these were crops affected by this season’s weather extremes. But there’s still a good chance you’ll see these items before the season is over. And on the flip side, you’re seeing potatoes—a crop we had very little of in 2009 because of last year’s infamous late blight.


1 butternut squash
1 bunch Swiss chard
1 ½ pounds beets
1 bunch cilantro
1 red onion
red bell peppers
1 bunch leeks
1 bunch mixed Asian greens (mizuna, tatsoi, Japanese red mustard greens)
1 ½ pounds all-purpose white potatoes


Adapted from a recipe by Lori Longbotham in Everday with Rachel Ray, Nov. 2009

2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, such as safflower or canola
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ finely chopped crystallized ginger
¼ cup cilantro leaves

Directions: Preheat the oven to 450°. In a large bowl, toss the squash with the oil, coriander, 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. On a large baking sheet, arrange the squash in a single layer and bake, turning occasionally, until tender and golden-brown, about 30 minutes.

Transfer the squash to a serving bowl and toss with the crystallized ginger and cilantro.

This is a recipe from another one of the farm’s favorite cookbooks—“One Potato, Two Potato” by Roy Finamore with Molly Stevens. There’s hardly a recipe in this book that doesn’t make you want to cook. This recipe conveniently makes use of a few items in this week’s share.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound red bell peppers (2 to 3 peppers), cored, seeded and chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 cup chopped leeks (white and pale green parts)
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon sweet paprika
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch chunks
1 cup light cream

Heat the olive oil in a wide soup pot over medium heat until it slides across the pan. Add the bell peppers, leeks, garlic, paprika, cayenne, and salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook gently, stirring from time to time, until the vegetables begin to give up some of their liquid but are not at all brown, about 5 minutes. Add the potatoes and continue to cook for another 5 minutes.
Add 4 cups water, cover partway, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are very tender, 20 to 30 minutes.
Let the soup cool for 5 minutes, then work it through a food mill to eliminate all pepper skins (farm’s note: if you don’t have a food mill, press through a colander with a large rubber spatula). Stir in the cream and then strain the soup through a fine mesh sieve. (Skipping this last step will give you a soup of equally fine flavor but with a much less luxurious texture.) Rinse out the pot and pour the soup into it. Return the soup to the heat and bring it to a simmer. Taste for seasoning and serve warm.

Ever wonder how fresh our eggs are? Well, we can’t tell you exactly which day the particular eggs in your carton were laid, but we can say that all of the eggs that go to our Tuesday CSA members were laid some time between Friday and Monday. (Saturday distribution members' eggs were laid any time between Tuesday and Friday.) So that makes the eggs anywhere from 1 to 4 days old when they arrive at distribution (they're kept refrigerated during that duration). A study from the University of Illinois that found supermarket eggs ranged from being 7 to 45 days old, with the average age being 16 days.

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