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Category Archives: Farms

Catching Up

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One of the things I put together ever since I started my blog was my weekly catalogue of What is in the CSA basket. Somehow I have been shirking my “duty” the past two weeks. Maybe it’s that time of year when we get so tired of winter, and those boring stretches of root vegetables, stews, soups and crock pot meals.

We yearn for the weather to stay nice enough to grill, for a change. For many winters we did manage to grill a few times, but the brutal cold, and the snow covering our grill for weeks, made that impossible. Until, hopefully, this week, when we want to do something, ANYTHING, out there. I have a couple of petit filets I would love to make one evening, or my favorite, kofta.

Yesterday we cleaned the grill, since the snow has finally melted all around it. Thankfully, no little critters took up residence in it this winter. Last winter a chipmunk decided the side burner was a perfect spot to store everything they could carry up there.

As for what has been coming from the CSA for two weeks, here it is.

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The highlights from Lancaster Farm Fresh were the pantry item, maple sugar and the new goat cheese. We also got some kielbasa sausages in our omnivore add on. The vegetables. Standard except for the green beans. They were a treat. I swapped radishes to get double the carrots. There has been cole slaw made more than once the past two weeks. I made root vegetables again, to take to a Slow Food dinner this week. They must have gone over well, as there was almost nothing left. I still have a bag with the collards in it. They have to get cooked soon.

A few days ago, the latest basket.

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I am calling this the year of the celery root. Never had it before a CSA share delivered it. Now, we get it two or three times a month, it seems. Yes, there are two of them. I swapped the rutabagas for the second one. I like the celery root in that roasted honey glazed medley. This week we got honey. We got chicken. We got a new cheese. Pecora. Smoky and tangy. Good with a glass of red wine.

As for the rest. Beets in a salad. Chard as a side dish last night. The shiitake mushrooms, with the other ones from Friends and Farms a week ago, became a very lovely mushroom soup for dinner.

Speaking of Friends and Farms, they were invited to present to the Slow Food Dinner group. They brought their latest basket and they talked about how they operate, and what made them the company they are today.

The basket from the 4th of March looked like this.

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The best part of this basket. The rainbow trout.

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Simply cooked. We enjoyed that dinner, for sure. The Individual Quick Frozen corn is also very good. Makes us yearn for summer.

The rib eyes would have been great to grill, but not to be, due to the weather.

As for Wednesday, the basket that I picked up hours before the slow food dinner.

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Yes, there’s chard in there. Yes, there’s a chicken. And kielbasa. And sauerkraut. And carrots. Notice those similarities.

YES, I am officially tired of winter vegetables. I want to plant that garden, and go to farmer’s markets for fresh greens.

We still are eating well, even if it is getting a bit boring these days.

Going Whole Hog

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Sort of. Not completely. We haven’t gone for buying whole or half portions of beef or pork. We did once do half a lamb. It was more than we expected.

But, I have seen where we are now using more and more of the pork products available at our local farms. And, we are stretching our food dollars by making meals that use 3-4 ounces of meat per serving. Getting better quality meats from the farmers and butchers in the area. Yes, and paying more than that $1.99 a pound stuff out there.

I find it interesting to see McDonald’s and COSTCO both touting their changes. Where once I thought our local farmers and small organic markets were going to suffer, now I notice quite a large turning away from factory farmed, overly processed meats.

Quite an increase in CSA and Friends and Farms members. An increase in farmer’s markets. An interest in my web pages with links to local sources. All of this is a good thing. Besides lowering our exposure to antibiotic and hormone laden meats, we are decreasing our carbon footprint when we buy locally. We are keeping our local farmers and small butchers in business.

Remember when you could go into any grocery store and have a butcher wait on you, to get you the cuts of meat you wanted, in the quantities you wanted? So many of the stores today have removed that position.

I am grateful we have good butchers in the area. Boarmans. Treuths. Wagners.

We also have good farms selling meat. Copper Penny. Maple Lawn. TLV Tree Farm. Breezy Willow. Carroll Farm. England Acres. Clark’s Elioak. Wagon Wheel.

I did this post over a year ago. Since then, I have expanded the database to add more farms. But, I still love picking up very fresh items from these farms.

I have also learned to use those lesser used items. Ham Hocks. Bacon ends. Lamb shanks. Turkey drumsticks. Pork lard. Heck, I even ventured into the world of making my own scrapple.

I could do better the next time I do scrapple. I need to increase the pork part of it, and decrease the cornmeal.

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It was a wee bit pale. Not as dark and crispy as the scrapple of my youth.

As for those other goodies. I have made countless soups using the ham hocks, smoked mostly. That pork lard from Carroll Farm. It’s been used instead of butter in cooking. Most of it was put in small containers and frozen for later use. I will be trying a Pennsylvania Dutch biscuit recipe this week with it.

Bacon ends. The most economical way to have bacon around for flavoring.

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I have found bacon ends many places. Ask at any of the local farms if they have them. A good bargain. Freeze them. Take out as much as you might need to make excellent greens, soups, frittatas, spinach salads. Lots of possibilities.

Moving 100% away from grocery stores. Using less per meal. Using locally produced items. It can be done, and it really isn’t difficult at all in Howard County.

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But, I admit, I’m not quite ready to do Pig’s Feet – Toe On, or Pig’s Tail. Wayne Nell. You do have some interesting items there.

The “New” Farm in Town

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Or, at least the newest farmstand. Opened in October. Providing beef, pork and poultry. In small and large quantities.

Carroll Farm to Table. Off Frederick Rd. past Kiwanis-Wallas park. Owned by descendants of Charles Carroll, signer of the Declaration of Independence.

We first heard about them being there in our fall Friends and Farms newsletter. You could purchase whole or half Berkshire heritage pork. Also in the works was a potential for chicken to come to us sometime in 2015.

We finally got to the farmstand when they were open a few Saturdays ago. At least my husband got there. The stand is open Wednesday afternoons and Saturdays. He asked for a price sheet, and as he was really interested in some of the cuts of Angus beef, they talked a bit and gave him a free sample of their pork lard.

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Which found its way into tonight’s dinner.

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A wee bit of lard mixed with the cider and chicken stock to flavor the cabbage and kale and apples under the kielbasa links.

I am fascinated with trying some traditional recipes from a Christmas present from my mom.

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She gave me a couple of Pennsylvania Dutch cookbooks that she’s had for decades. I am interested in trying the pastry recipes that call for lard.

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Now that we all know lard is better for us than vegetable oils, it should be fun to test the taste difference.

I am also interested in trying the brisket, and the filets, from their stand. It is hard to find brisket from the local farms. Not that many of them around, when you are only processing a small number of cattle at a time. I always had to cross my fingers and hope to find one from the local farmers.

Happy to see a “new” farm in our vicinity. Particularly one that specializes in meats that we usually have to go much farther to find.

Shared Risk

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In Community Supported Agriculture, known otherwise as CSAs, there was always this message given, that by buying into a CSA as a shareholder you were sharing the risk with the farmer who grew the crops. In good years, you got more. In lean years, you may suffer a bit, but you were always a part of the “family” that made it possible for the farmer to prosper.

Decades ago, the model was fairly simple. One farmer. Enough shareholders to buy most if not all of the produce and fruit that was planted and harvested from that farm. As CSAs grew, some of the farmers partnered with others who raised animals, adding dairy or meat into the packages.

These days, more and more regional and seasonal partnerships are available. Mitigating that risk. Making it easier to get the value, and reducing the risks on the suppliers and the customers.

This winter has been brutal around here. I am amazed that we are getting as much fresh produce from both of our sources. One, the winter CSA, has written in their newsletter that we may be seeing more regional produce as they have to reach farther from the cooperative to meet the needs of the very large community that Lancaster Farm Fresh serves.

Last week, we got this in our Omnivore share.

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Our meat item was boneless skinless chicken breasts. Cheese was a lovely smoked gouda. Pantry item, a jar of applesauce. We had six vegetables in the box. Lots of carrots. Sweet potatoes. Spinach, turnips, russet potatoes and cremini mushrooms.

I made mushroom soup. I made honey glazed roasted root vegetables. I made chicken salad. All in all, we dined well during our bout of bad weather, without having to stand in long lines at the grocery stores.

Friends and Farms, a “mutant” from the traditional CSA, partners with regional food suppliers to give us baskets year round. Lots of seasonal foods, but also, some Quick frozen vegetables that a farm in New York prepares and provides during the dead of winter.

Last week, our small share included these items.

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Pickles. Frozen green beans. Eggs. Bread. Cider was my substitute because we don’t get milk. I realized I had those “essential” pre-storm items here. You know. Bread and milk, if I had wanted the milk.

Sweet potatoes here, too. A different variety than those from Lancaster. I really enjoy the sweet potatoes because they are so easy to use in many ways. In soups. Stews. Chili. Like you can make using the jalapenos we got.

We had cabbage and pork butt. Perfect partners. Red onions. Hydroponic lettuce from Baywater Greens in Salisbury MD. Getting fresh greens in the winter is such a surprise, and really appreciated. Bacon this week. Chicken thighs, too. And, apples.

I did not need to buy much of anything at the store. I picked up a few yogurts from the refrigerated case at the warehouse. I get my butter there, too. You could have picked up beans or rice while there. The pantry shelves help us round out our baskets and make meal planning easier.

There are still traditional one farm CSAs out there, but the newer models really start to look like a full farmer’s market has shown up and given you your groceries.

Tomorrow is my next pick up. We did pretty well getting through our two baskets. We have also been lucky with the weather. It may be raining like crazy tomorrow. Between our ice events, and now predicting snow again Thursday, I am happy to use what we will get this week. Again, without having to brave the crowds in the stores.

Just hope we don’t get too much snow.

Nearly Impossible?

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Local Produce? In the winter? Around here?

A few years ago I may have made that statement myself. Now, I know better. There was a long discussion on one of our local facebook pages, Clarksville Happenings. About rotten produce (and meat) at our community grocery store. Lamenting the apparent lack of quality control, and attention, from the big chain.

Lots of discussion about using Roots, Wegmans, Boarmans and Harris Teeter as alternatives to getting less than stellar fresh foods.

One comment struck me. A good thought. Using mostly local foods instead of those flown in from far away. Eating locally and sustainably. But, the caveat. That it was nearly impossible to find local produce in the winter in the Northeast.

Dark Days Homemade Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Dark Days Homemade Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Before I took the Dark Days Challenge in 2012, I didn’t know what was available locally. I signed up for a winter CSA. Lots of root vegetables and a few flash frozen fill ins. I found DuPont Circle, Silver Spring and Tacoma Park year round markets. You could make that once a week challenge meal using those sources.

Now, there are many more options for fresher better foods. I get 90% of my food from Friends and Farms (which sources regionally) and Lancaster Farm Fresh (which delivers a CSA to Columbia while dropping off wholesale foods to MOM’s, Roots, David’s and Friends and Farms).

A December CSA Delivery

A December CSA Delivery

All my meat and seafood except for specialty items I get at Boarman’s. Dairy. Bread. Produce. Pantry items. Every week. Fresh from the greenhouses or high tunnels.

It means eating seasonally. There aren’t many choices for fruit. There are quite a number of flash frozen items to fill in the gaps. Still, I can eat most of my meals without going to a store. For those who are ready to use local produce, check out my local resources page. Besides my two current suppliers, there’s Breezy Willow Early Bird starting next month.

My carbon footprint is smaller too. Even if it includes citrus from Florida. Which is awesome by the way. Something about grapefruit in a salad that makes cold weather recede into the background.

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Well, time to check on dinner. In the oven on slow cook. The tri tip roast from F&F. Fingerlings from LFFC. Carrots and onions. A mushroom gravy I made from two weeks worth of mushrooms. That soup I made the other night. I thickened the leftovers and made the gravy for the roast. It smells wonderful up in the kitchen.

Local meals. In February. Not impossible at all.

Synergy

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I love it when a plan comes together.

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The chili is bubbling away in the crockpot. It will be used for dinner tomorrow. Nachos on Sunday. Maybe a lunch if there’s enough.

My two major food sources cooperated to give me almost all the basic ingredients to make a turkey chili. They also support a few other meals by combinations. Greater than the sum of their parts.

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Friends and Farms gave us ground turkey this week. This is the protein component of our basket. Besides that turkey, the eggs and bacon will show up in many places. Breakfast Sunday. A frittata next week. And, those pork chops. Will combine with the leftover half of my sauerkraut from last week’s Lancaster Farm Fresh share. Browned, then baked over the kraut, with a couple of sliced apples and some of that lovely apple cider. I am enjoying that cider. It has been used in many pork dishes. Used to make one awesome honey mustard dressing. I like getting it biweekly. It works in so many ways as a liquid base for meals.

The rest of the Friends and Farms basket.

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Pea shoots. Collard greens. Red onions. Garlic. Apples. Grapefruit from Florida. Shiitake mushrooms. Green peppers. Raw peanuts. Cheddar parmesan bread.

Turn to my winter CSA share from Lancaster Farm Fresh. Picked up right before heading out to Friends and Farms.

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Yellow onions. Rainbow carrots. Red beets. Portabella mushrooms. Popcorn. Yukon gold potatoes (squared – I traded Rose radishes). Cheddar cheese. Ground beef. Maple syrup.

Think about that chili. Ground turkey. Yellow onions. Green peppers. Garlic. Pull out a few jars from the freezer of tomatoes. A few cans of beans.

Super Bowl Sunday. I am thinking popcorn, peanuts and maple syrup. Close to Cracker Jacks maybe?

Two kinds of mushrooms here. Thinking mushroom soup.

Grapefruit. Beets. Red onions. There will be a salad in our future.

Meal planning made fun and easy when you get locally sourced fresh foods every week. Winter? Who cares? This is really good stuff. Without traveling down to DC to find it.

Evolution

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Or, how the farming communities have changed their models to reflect their customers’ desires. It used to be the case that Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs used one or two farms that pre-sold their crops. Buy in before the season started and reap the bounty of what was grown. Not much in the way of options, and very risky in bad weather years.

These days, things have changed. The models keep evolving. There are cooperatives. Home deliveries. Buying services. All sorts of sizes, add ons, payment plans and expansion of the definition of local.

Here in Howard County we have many choices in the winter. For us, finally, we got our winter CSA from Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative. The Coop has over 100 farmers in it now. And, they have expanded their options, offering packages and add ons. Today was our first pick up. What do you get in the winter?

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White mushrooms – Mother Earth Organic Mushrooms
Covington sweet potatoes – LFFC
Mixed winter radishes – Spring Valley Organics
Sunchokes – Lee’s Organics
Orange carrots – Rising Sun Organics
Parsnips – Rising Sun Organics

All of us who bought vegetable shares got these in our box. Some of us chose an omnivore package, with three add ons. Others may have chosen a Vegan package, which had tofu instead of chicken. They got bread, instead of cheese.

We got:

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Sauerkraut. Colby. Chicken breasts. I love the message on the sauerkraut.

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As for the other half of our winter food source, we still love Friends and Farms. Today is our one year anniversary of buying from them.

What is interesting today? The carrots in our Friends and Farms basket come from Lancaster Farm Fresh Wholesale. Many of the produce items come from the same cooperative that supplies our CSA.

As I said above, the evolution in provision of fresh local and seasonal foods has brought us many good choices. There is definitely a program and a package that fits a person or a couple or a family, a package that replaces mass market grocery store food.

Today, our small basket from Friends and Farms included the following.

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This was in our insulated bag. Individual Quick Frozen (IQF) green beans. Chuck roast. Eggs. Chevre. Cod. Ground beef. The ground beef was our chosen substitute for bread. The eggs. Our substitute for milk. What I love most about them is their flexibility to tailor your basket to your preferences.

For us, all the protein we need for a week comes in this basket, and in our CSA.

The rest of our vegetables?

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Sweet potatoes. Carrots. Thyme. Apples. Hydroponic romaine. Kale.

There are other winter options for food around here. Zahradka Farm delivers weekly. So does South Mountain Creamery. They both let you tailor your deliveries to include your preferences. This is so different from the days of rigid “Take it or leave it” CSAs.

Come March, add the early bird Breezy Willow to the choices.

We really are lucky. We can have fresh regional foods (mostly from a 150 mile radius). You can’t beat fresh produce. Way better than those cardboard tomatoes in the stores.

Tonight?

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I pan fried one of those cod fillets in some browned butter. Seasoned with bread crumbs and paprika. Served with those IQF green beans and a sweet potato.

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