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Too Many Vegetables?

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I am still trying to wrap my head around that statement.

My CSA site host went to a conference last week, to meet with CSA management and talk with the dozens of local site hosts in the DC metropolitan area. Our CSA, Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative, has thousands of members in seven states and the District. Using over a hundred local small farmers to offer us vegetables, fruit, meat, dairy, eggs, flowers, herbs, bread, “farm”aceuticals. You name it. Mix and match. Customize the size. Everything but home delivery and choose your own, like you would at a market.

They brought back the small share. Four items. Because people thought 7-8 items for $23 a week was too much produce. Really? Are we still putting 8-12 ounces of meat on a plate and saying we only want a couple of ounces of vegetables on that plate? I thought we were getting away from meat-centric meals.

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Obviously, we aren’t. Many of my local farming friends are seeing a decline in membership, and in purchases at markets. Companies like Blue Apron are replacing CSA shares. According to the CSA management, briefing the site hosts, people want recipes. They don’t know what to do with the vegetables they get.

Never mind the fact that our CSA has a huge web site devoted to providing that information. We seem to have created a generation of people who want to be spoon fed. Tell me every week what to do with corn. With cauliflower. With fennel. With leeks. Etcetera. Etcetera.

I know. I am whining here. I just really don’t get it. We have so many choices around here, and yet, people aren’t staying on as members, with many of our local farm CSA options. Membership is declining. Friends and Farms folded. The Glenwood Market isn’t opening this year.

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I hope we have our CSA again this summer. We can’t seem to find 30 people in a town as big as Columbia who want inexpensive very fresh organic food. From people who care about what we eat.

Crossing my fingers and hoping our local sources remain.

Life Skills

AKA Home Ec. Shop. Personal Finance. You know. The stuff we really should add to the high school curricula. Are we really preparing children for life, or just to get into the top colleges?

Julia wrote about VoTech in her post today. It triggered a response internally from me. Based on watching and reading and just wondering about how well we really are preparing children to survive when they go out on their own. Can they make a simple meal? Can they fix anything? Can they pay attention to their bank balances and adjust their spending?

We had life skill classes when I taught high school in the 70s. They seem to have disappeared.

We also have a shortage of skilled tradespeople where we live. We seem to push everyone into the college prep option and forget about those skills necessary to support our county. Those trades pay well. Better maybe than going to college and majoring in an area that won’t guarantee a high paying job. We need to allow children around here to choose their passion, and to follow it.

Artisans built our deck. For much more per hour than some of the degreed folks around here are making.

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Food for thought, so to speak.

Creatures of Habit

If it’s Tuesday it must be food bank harvest. Except it’s December, and after seven months of Tuesday harvests, our season is over. It feels strange not having a standing date with a few friends and fellow gardeners. I have to find another way to fill those mornings.

I have been considering how to continue getting vegetables to the food bank through the winter. Our CSA ends for the fall season next week, and doesn’t start up again until mid-January. I thought I might work with my site host to get those swap box items that seem to accumulate in large amounts. It is interesting to see what doesn’t get taken every week.

Last week for example, three people didn’t take their apples. They were all “appled out”. I wonder how many massive butternut squashes weren’t picked up from the bulk bin yesterday. Every one of us got a massive squash, and all the large shares had a “bonus” item. Sweet onions.

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The two humongous onions alongside the regular ones on my counter.

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As for squash, we got another one of these. I have to say, even I can’t keep up with processing such a prolific harvest.

What’s the take away from this post? The decision to make a New Year’s resolution to find sourcing to give at least something to the food bank twice a month over the winter. I know there won’t be much in the way of fresh vegetables, but I should be able to put together some of my site host’s “leftovers” along with some simple staple items from the local stores. Or maybe find a way to volunteer some time to the main site, or the pantry sites.

I need to pop over to the food bank’s new distribution site and see what they will need after the holidays. When contributions fall off. After all, the need doesn’t disappear during the dark winter months.

Joining the Fresh Revolution

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I have been pretty vocal about missing Friends and Farms. They were like a second family. I loved the concept, the execution, and the amazing vendors. I know that Phil is trying to establish a buying club, for meat and seafood. We have been early adopters, so to speak. Buying some lovely seafood for the Thanksgiving holidays.

We got another email today. To order meat, poultry and seafood for Christmas and New Year’s. Really awesome stuff for a very good price. A couple of pick up options or a delivery to home choice (but you have to be home to accept).

Link is here. Hope it works.

You could also email Phil to get added. His email is phil.freshrevo@gmail.com and he would love to add you to his growing list of people who loved what we received from the suppliers like Nell’s Butcher and Reliant Seafood.

In January they are holding a meeting to see if we can make this buying club permanent. There will be more information on the blog next month, but the meeting will be at St. Agnes in Catonsville.

If you would like to join us, we would love to expand the audience for locally processed proteins. And no, I get no monetary or complimentary perks from this. I just want to see it succeed, so I can continue to get quality foods from local vendors.

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Giving

It’s not just for Tuesday.

There are so many worthy causes that can use our help and our monetary support all year long. One “Hallmark holiday” day may be cute and trendy but the reality is this. The other 364 days of the year (OK, 365 this leap year) we can still make a difference.

Give time. Give money. Give publicity. Help in any way you can. Share a Facebook post from a nonprofit. Support an event at local charities and nonprofits.

Just recently I saw requests from places locally. Like:

How Girls Code
Howard County Conservancy
Howard County Community Action Council
Voices for Children

Today I realized I supported the food bank three times before 11AM. Once by pulling some items from my CSA share, to take up to our community food bank garden. Then, by harvesting collards and cabbage to add to my contribution. Then, at Harris Teeter, donating to give them money. It’s easy to do. It’s those little things that add up.

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It’s the season of giving. Find something that you believe in. Something that ignites a spark within you.

Every little contribution is worth it. I got hooked on food bank gardening years ago. It’s one of the most rewarding things this old lady can do. I can still harvest veggies.

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The New Farm Store in Town

Did you all know that Breezy Willow opened a farm store in Ellicott City? Amidst all the fanfare of the downtown re-opening, it was somewhat low key, but at least I got some shopping done at a small business without having to hike a mile after finding a parking place. I figure I can get to Old Town any day of the week, without the crowds.

What did I find there?

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All sort of goodies. Locally produced, for the most part.

The store, is in the right hand side of the big old house on the corner of St. John’s Lane and Frederick Rd.

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Next to Southern States, and across the road from Rita’s Ice.

They had music on Saturday, and Zeke’s was handing out free samples of their coffee. Everyone who stopped by got to take home a free bunch of broccoli.

I didn’t take the camera inside yet. They were still arranging items around the store.

This is a welcome addition for those who are accustomed to buying out at the farm on Saturdays, and who live on the eastern side of the county. They have many more items here. Sun of Italy items are included in the pantry area, to help with menu planning. The meat freezers are self serve so you can pick the size you want.

My friend Nicole has her preserves on sale here. Neat Nick.

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I bought a jar of spiced cranberry jam and a fresh scone. Perfect for a Sunday morning breakfast.

And, they have Salazon chocolate. Salazon is made in Carroll County. These are the holiday offerings.

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Their sea salt and dark chocolate bars are the best dessert, with a glass of leftover red wine.

We will be getting eggs and meat here during the winter months, unless we are heading out to Lisbon on a Saturday when the store at the farm is open.

Another local small business that deserves our support. Check it out. Open Thursday through Sunday. 10-6.

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Small businesses. Worth more of our time and money than just tomorrow. I want to highlight individual businesses around here that deserve our support year round. One day doesn’t keep them in business. Solid customer loyalty does.

In November and December, Maple Lawn Farms does most of their business. Did you know they sell 20000 turkeys every year? 18000 of them for Thanksgiving and the rest for Christmas.

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Besides their fresh whole birds, they sell parts. The parts are the real bargain, for those of us who enjoy turkey as a healthy choice. We use turkey all year for dinners and lunches. Maple Lawn sells their wing packages and their drumstick packages for $6 each. You can make soup, hash, casseroles and crock pot meals using the meat from these packages, and put a great meal at a bargain price on your table.

They also sell ground turkey, turkey bacon and turkey sausage at the farm. You can stop in and buy it whenever the farm is open, or go online once they open the order forms again after December 5th. You can also email year round and ask what is still in the freezer to buy.

Believe me. This is the way to get a quality, relatively inexpensive option for good food. This year I put the drumsticks (two to a pack) away for future soups. Bought a bone in turkey breast (7 pounds) which also was frozen to guarantee I have the fixings for a turkey dinner, plus leftovers for casseroles, and maybe a turkey pot pie.

The Iager family has been a fixture in county history. Farming since 1839. Raising turkeys since 1938. There is no need to buy turkey anywhere else. If you want to support a local farm, this is a very good option.

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More in the next few posts about other local business choices. Shop local. Eat local. Drink local. Keep more money in our county.