NOFA-NY Blog

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Feb. 25 CSA Fair at NY Wine & Culinary Center

Feb. 25 CSA Fair at NY Wine & Culinary Center

Thanks to Meg Lindsay from the NY Wine & Culinary Center for this blog:

Are you seeking ways to incorporate fresh, local foods into your daily meals? Investing in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) allows you to receive fresh produce weekly - all season long. By becoming a CSA member, you’re investing in a “share” of locally grown fruit, veggies, meat, and more! There are different levels you can take part in that vary in the amount of food you receive to best fit your life style.

Not sure if investing in a CSA share is right for you? Stop by the CSA Fair at the New York Wine & Culinary Center (NYWCC) at 800 South Main St, Canandaigua, NY, Saturday, February 25 from 10am – 2pm. NOFA-NY will be there as well to help answer questions about organic farming and food.

 

 

Throughout the morning, the NYWCC Chefs will host cooking demonstrations in their Educational Theatre to show you how to best utilize some of the more unique items you may see in your share.

Don't miss Chef samplings at 10:30, 11:30, 12:30, and 1:30.

 

There will be 16 different farms showcasing what they do best! Participating farms include:

This special event is made possible through partnerships with MVP Health Care and Cornell University Cooperative Extension – Ontario County.

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Re-Engineering an Engineer at a CSA

This post comes from our Operations Director, Nancy Apolito, as she shares her experience of a CSA newbie. 

Having been raised during the ‘70s in a traditional household, vegetables were considered a necessary part of the trifecta of meat, potatoes and a vegetable for every evening meal.  That being said – my distinct recollection of “vegetables” included many varieties in color and shape. But, they all had the same consistency, having been boiled on the stove until mushy. My other recollection deals with the “clean your plate” requirement. This resulted in many long dinners, some tears and the masterful negotiations of my brother in dealing with the number of said vegetables that were required for him to consume, the amount of milk that he could use to eat said vegetables, and the length of time the rest of the family had to wait until this process was successful and Eric ate his negotiated allotment. 

 

With this background and many years of adult living, I signed my family up for a CSA share at Mud Creek Farm. My background with folks at work as well as my true love of properly prepared vegetables had me excited yet a little nervous for this experience. My husband and I are trying to incorporate more vegetables into our diet and we agreed that this would require us to do so.  So as information regarding proper protocols, and what and where to pick started hitting my inbox, my level of anticipation increased for my first time at the farm with my husband.  Did I mention that my husband is an engineer?

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Our 2016 Neighborhood Farm Share program

NOFA-NY's Sondra Gjersoe reports on the 2016 Neighborhood Farm Share:

NFS

As we celebrate the beginning of summer, the sun is shining and the CSA shares have begun to make their way to homes across our beautiful state. This year I am happy to announce that NOFA-NY was honored to help bring fresh organic fruits and vegetables to 30 families in the Rochester and Buffalo region through our Neighborhood Farm Share program.

NOFA-NY developed the Neighborhood Farm Share program as a way to increase access to healthy, fresh and local produce for low-income urban and rural communities in Western New York by providing a subsidy for qualifying families to participate in a local CSA. These communities are rich in food culture and tradition but often bereft in healthy food access due to transportation issues, lack of grocery stores and income.

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Top 5 Ways to Enjoy Spring Asparagus

[caption id="attachment_494" align="alignleft" width="225"]May Asparagus My first purple asparagus of 2015 finally makes its appearance!


After months of foraging in my freezer for last year's veggies, I made the joyful discovery of the first asparagus of the season making its way skyward.  What could be better than a perennial vegetable that has the good sense to ripen in Spring!  Simple, elegant, versatile asparagus!  Now I will be eating asparagus until it stops producing big thick spears and is ready to go to flower.

Asparagus does well with salty, savory, and fresh flavors.  If you have garlic, extra virgin olive oil, and salt and pepper on hand you can prepare asparagus in a variety of delicious ways.  Asparagus also pairs well with flavors of lemon and vinegar, and is great with chives (for a little bite), lemon balm (taste the sunshine), dill (a fresh lift), and tarragon (a little zip and depth).  It tastes great with eggs and egg based sauces.  You can blanch it and wrap it in prosciutto, steam it and sprinkle it with balsamic vinegar and sesame seeds. Cook it in a soup.  Put it in risotto.   It is even delicious pickled (and eaten during the dregs of winter on your favorite antipasto platter).  Fancy or simple, there are innumerable combinations and ways to enjoy asparagus.  Here are my top 5 favorites when it is at its peak freshness:

5.  Oven roasted - spread with a little olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper - roast in your oven at 425 degrees until it reaches the level of caramelization you love - usually around 10 minutes.

4.  Grilled - prepare the same as oven roasted, but toss on the grill and let it get just a bit charred to bring out a smoky sweetness.

3.  Sautéed - use olive oil or butter, toss in some minced garlic, be liberal with your salt and pepper, and drizzle with lemon juice when done.  Just a few minutes can bring out a bright green color and lovely crisp/tender meatiness to the spears.

2.  Simply steamed - just needs water!  Using some kind of steamer basket keeps the spears above the water and lets the steam do its work.  The length of time to steam asparagus varies with the thickness of the spears and your personal taste.  I tend to prefer my asparagus crisp, so I keep my steaming to 5 minutes or less.  But some folks prefer asparagus that has been steamed closer to 10 minutes.  Toss with your favorite toppings (see above for options) and serve.  Steaming makes asparagus very tender.

1. Raw  -   freshly snapped out of the garden and directly from hand to mouth, just-picked asparagus is so flavorful even the most stubborn asparagus hater can be transformed.   Children who visit my farm in springtime beg for this special treat.

If you don't have your own asparagus patch, you can buy the freshest local, organic asparagus directly from area farmers at nearby farmers markets, farm stands, or you may even  get a bunch in your CSA box.  To find a farmer near you, you can check out the NOFA-NY Food and Farm Guide.

Enjoy Spring!
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Farmer Voices: Peace & Carrots Farm's Past, Present and Future

By Tess Gee, Locavore Challenge Intern

At Peace and Carrots Farm in Chester, NY, partners Laura Nywening and Jason Uhler exemplify hard work and sustainability in farming. With a growing CSA of 60 members and a burgeoning calendar of farm events, Peace and Carrots is laying a path of successful development for their future.

Laura Nywening wasn’t always planning to be a farmer, but is glad she decided to veer in this direction after graduating from Westfield State University in Massachusetts with a B.A. in History Education. She got a job working for the National Park Service in Virginia post-college, and quickly realized that she wanted to include nature and the outdoors as part of her life’s work. Luckily, Laura comes from three generations of farmers before her, and the transition to farming seemed natural. She grew up on the same land she works now, and her family runs a dairy farm close by. Her partner Jason grew up in the area where his family always had a large kitchen garden. After working a few retail jobs, he realized he would rather be working outside and giving back to the land. He began working at Keith’s Farm in Westtown, NY where he met Laura and eventually partnered up with her to start Peace and Carrots.

So far, Laura and Jason work on the farm together with the help of one part-time employee. A typical harvest day begins at 7 a.m. as they pick crops and start prepping to deliver their produce to Groundwork Hudson Valley out of Yonkers, which bought 30 of their CSA shares this year. There is usually a lot of weeding to be done, as they use hoes instead of machinery. They also pride themselves on preserving their soil as much as possible by not over-tilling the land.

Peace and Carrots Farm currently has a growing variety of crops available to their CSA members and the public. They do not grow sweet corn due to the overwhelming amount of GMO corn fields in the area surrounding the farm. The farm yields leafy greens such as kale and chard, garlic, cabbage, tomatoes, squash and much more throughout the spring, summer and fall. Peace and Carrots CSA members are mostly made up of families or thirty-something’s, and Laura says interacting with members is her favorite aspect of the job. She can put names to faces and has a great level of appreciation for each member. While the CSA shares seem to be the most rewarding part of the job, it does require focus, organization and close attention to detail.

Peaceand Carrots“The easiest part of my job is getting to interact with customers. We have the greatest members, and everybody is so happy with what we have to offer. The hardest part is a combination of planning out the shares for each week and implementing that plan. It is so much out of your control sometimes,” said Laura.

So what is in store for the future of Peace and Carrots? Growth. They are currently raising chickens, but are looking into getting more livestock for the farm in years to come. Laura would also like to boost attendance at farm events. So far she has organized potlucks, a beekeeping workshop, a canning class, and even a photography workshop over the summer. Peace and Carrots is holding their own Harvest Festival on October 18th which will include games, hot cider, live music and hay rides. Laura hopes to gain more ideas for different events to hold at the farm for the near future.

Laura and Jason display physical and mental dedication, stay informed about growing practices and sustainability, and commit to showing a deep respect for the land they work on. They understand that organic farming is important because the land provides us with everything. At Peace and Carrots Farm, the golden rule applies to people as well as the earth.

“I love the land. If I want the land to continue to provide for me I have to treat it well,” says Laura.

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A Three-Journeyperson-Farm Bonanza!

Last week, I found myself walking fields with some very awesome, very smart, very hard-working new farmers.  I was in the Hudson Valley, where we have a "cluster" of Journeyperson farmers thanks to some generous funding from the New World Foundation's Local Economies Project.  There was an added effect I hadn't anticipated, visiting three farms in close succession: I could see a few recurring themes (similar to what I talked about with Ben and Courtney a few weeks back) like the challenge of keeping good notes and records, like feeling limited by equipment, of wondering how to farm and recoup investments, of having enough income to save for bigger ideas and scaling-up infrastructure, of distributing food effectively to those who want it, etc.  Of course there are a lot of common positives, that the farmers are finding solid guidance with very proactive and hands-on mentors, that they are indeed producing lots of good food, they are indeed finding eaters to purchase their food, and they are all finding joy in the daily success, despite the uncertainties.  I thought I'd share a little about what each are up to:

Peter Harrington, Ten Barn Farm in Ghent, NY

Peter's growing a lot of food--that was my first big takeaway!  I of course was happy to see and munch on my first peas of the season (my odd travel schedule had me miss a few farmers' markets at home), but could sense that Peter is producing much more food than he's able to move at his current markets and through his small CSA membership.  He's learning (that's the point, to accompany these farmers in their learning process) about how to spread the word to more likely buyers, and is finding out how to be flexible with late sign-ups.  While the initial boost of income before a season helps the farmer make investments, a farmer like Peter might plant a good deal extra to protect against crop failure--that means that when things are going well or if not enough people signed up before he made a decision about how much to plant, he's got an amazing, unsold harvest!  Though Peter sells at nearby farmers' markets, casual purchases are note the same kind of security as the support of a CSA.  I promised I'd remind our readers that you can definitely still help him earn back his investment in materials and labor by signing up for his CSA, late!  I reminded Peter that he should be flexible with the commitments, enough to give people a sense of CSA, but he shouldn't let the logistics of prorated/short-term membership detract from his actual farming.  So, the lesson is that he must keep good notes about planting, harvest, distribution and customer accounts and be firm in his limits with sales options.

[caption id="attachment_113" align="aligncenter" width="300"]What a perfect head of lettuce! What a perfect head of lettuce!


[caption id="attachment_114" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Peter's mom milks goats and makes cheese, so of course we stopped in and said hello to "the kids." Peter's mom milks goats and makes cheese, so of course we stopped in and said hello to "the kids."


[caption id="attachment_115" align="aligncenter" width="225"]Kohlrabi, already. Kohlrabi, already.


[caption id="attachment_116" align="aligncenter" width="225"]What a dreamy fence. What a dreamy fence.


[caption id="attachment_117" align="aligncenter" width="225"]Peter has extra-long beds of vibrant vegetables! Peter has extra-long beds of vibrant vegetables!


Jalal Sabur, Sweet Freedom Farm

Jalal draws connections between growing food, youth empowerment and a better life for many more people than you'd think could be reached by the action of one farmer.  Food that Jalal grows is added to other local farmers' vegetables, eggs and fruit in a box that a person can purchase.  The big bonus?  Someone purchasing this box is part of the Victory Bus Ride CSA, which includes a ride from New York City to upstate correctional facilities.  The price is less than other prison bus services, and it builds a community around healthy food and healthy lifestyles.  Beyond his farm fence, Jalal works with youth at River City Gardens in Hudson specifically as a food system educator via Roots & Rebels.  The focus of my visit with Jalal was hearing how these all combine into a unified vision (he's still hammering out his "elevator pitch"), which he can market and gain support for.  He explained some deep connections between the abolitionist movement and maple syrup (maple producers historically rejected slave labor), which is just one example of what he brings to the surface for youth, adults, and anyone who has a conversation about the food system with this great beginning farmer.  Jalal has no equipment, which has made doing all this work especially challenging.  Thankfully, many of nearby farming community friends and all the people he helps out are pitching in as they can.  I hope you would also read more about this important work and see how you might be able to learn, get involved, and actively support farmer-led food justice projects.

[caption id="attachment_120" align="aligncenter" width="225"]Michelle and Jalal hard at work weeding. Michelle, Jalal's mentor, and Jalal hard at work weeding.


[caption id="attachment_121" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Jalal was proud to tell me he'd built this greenhouse on a shoestring, following a NOFA-NY Winter Conference workshop on that topic. Jalal was proud to tell me he'd built this greenhouse on a shoestring, following a NOFA-NY Winter Conference workshop on that topic.


[caption id="attachment_122" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Michelle, Jalal's mentor, regularly visits to help with production and marketing/promotion of the farm. Michelle regularly visits to help with production and marketing/promotion of the farm.


John Agostinho, Fatstock Farm

This world of cute/funny farm animal videos (a world I'm happy to live in) hasn't completely ruined my sense of wonder at watching a livestock farmer in action.  John has a relationship with all the animals on his small multi-species farm.  The sheep herd is one he's slowly earning equity in: the first year he had the flock he made 1/3 of the investments, earned 1/3 of the income from the meat sales, and owns 1/3 of the remaining flock.  This year, he's a 2/3 investor-owner, and next year, the flock is entirely his.  This is a simliar arrangement to what is called "sharemilking" and is very useful to transfer livestock and dairy farms to new hands--animals and good genetics are very expensive, so this allows a beginning farmer with the right knowledge and experience to get started much faster, with less initial investment.  John also has lots of experience with pigs, and I was introduced to some very happy, very chatty (yes, chatty) pigs, including one about to give birth (I didn't get to stay for that part of the day, though).  Again, this farmer is thinking every day about how to best market his product; with meat, there is the added question of humane, USDA-inspected and accessible slaughter and processing facilities.  John sells via a CSA model in conjunction with two farms that distribute in Queens, which helps reduce some of the logistical stress because he knows exactly what is sold, how many animals to process, and how it's going to reach customers.  Still, he is bound by regulations and the availability of infrastructure.  This is a huge issue in the organic community at large, and is an acknowledged roadblock to success for small-scale organic meat farmers.  Once the animal goes to slaughter, the farmer loses their control, so they must trust the facility and its practices.  The type of slaughter facility, and subsequent processing facilities, determines how the farmer can sell their meat.  If you're interested in some simple, complete definitions about livestock slaughter facilities, I'll direct you to the Cornell Small Farms slaughterhouse map.  So, back to John at Fatstock Farm.  I saw how John is attentive to the sheep in the field, plus got to watch Ella the sheepherding dog do what she is clearly always interested in doing--herd sheep!  One got away, all the way back to the house, which was pretty funny to watch.  Seemed like she wanted to hang out in the barn with her friends--John's been keeping small groups in the barn on rotation so he can monitor and treat a hoof concern.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/Iil9wSQxgIQ]

[caption id="attachment_124" align="aligncenter" width="300"]John Agostino and a soon-to-be proud pig mama. John Agostinho and a soon-to-be proud pig mama.


[caption id="attachment_125" align="aligncenter" width="300"]The sheep that made its escape. The sheep that made its escape.


[caption id="attachment_126" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Boars definitely smile. Boars definitely smile.


 

NOTE: The NOFA-NY Journeyperson Program is part of a multi-state project to support farmers in their first few years of independent farming, modeled off a highly successful program piloted by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA).  We take on a few farmers per year for this program, and the applications open in the fall.  Read more at www.nofany.org/jp!
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