As we move into our third week of harvest we thought everyone, old members and new, might like a rundown of the most popular questions we are hearing about the farm.
Is the farm certified organic?
Our vegetables, lamb, and pastures are all certified organic by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association. This means we submit a 40-60 page plan each year that includes every detail of how we produce crops. This plan includes everything we use for fertilizer (fish meal, fish emulsion, and brewery grain), how we wash our greens (twice in stainless steel tanks with annually tested well water), how many bales of forage we produce on a acres each year (12-16), etc. MOFGA then comes once a year spends half a day “inspecting” us; looking at records, walking the fields and asking questions about the details we submitted in our plan. The cost of certification, in addition to time is about $1200 per year. Our pigs are not certified organic because we feed them a ration that is made up largely of spent grain from Maine Beer Company in Freeport (great beer!) and the grains they brew with are not organic (even though they are very high quality).
Do you wash the greens?
Yes! Twice as a matter of fact. We have two 350 gallon stainless steel tanks where we dunk and re-dunk the leafy greens. These tanks are deep and enable us to roll the leaves over a few times allowing the grit from the field to settle away from the crop. While in the tanks we also inspect for quality, pulling bad leaves and weeds from the mix. Just because we wash the greens doesn’t mean you should not. It never hurts to wash them when you get home and the cold water from your tap will help them cool off after warming up on the trip from the farm to your kitchen.
What do I do with all these greens?!
- Salads is an obvious one of course – but we also like to stress making your salad into more of a meal by adding other veggies, nuts, chicken, legumes, or other proteins. Experiment with dressings – this makes the salad way more exciting! Play with ingredients like miso, tahini, tamari, lemon juice, or toasted sesame oil to make salads a great treat!
- Stir fries and sautés. Butter, olive oil, garlic. Sometimes if I want my greens a bit more tender, after a few minutes of cooking in a skillet with the garlic & onions I’ll add a tablespoon or two of water and cover until the water is absorbed.
- Is pesto a favorite? Lightly steam your chard or kale, and throw it in the blender or food processor with garlic, onions, basil, or other herbs, toss it on pasta or pizza with oil or butter, and cheese.
- Bacon. Hard to go wrong with bacon. Cook the bacon in a pan, and then add the greens. Watch out – the kids might argue over who gets the last bite!
- Spanikopita. Many cookbooks or of course the internet will have the recipe. We’ve been making variations on this for years. I use kale, chard, or spinach I use whatever cheese I might have, and I rarely use the filo dough due to time constraints. Sometimes I’ll top it with bread crumbs, roasted sunflower seeds, or even crushed up tortilla chips. We call it kale pie. I like to steam the greens and then puree them in the food processor. And lots of basil. Another favorite of kids.
- Smoothies!! See link below! Green smoothies are all the rage these days. If you’re not doing it already, then get on the trend! Throw your greens in the blender along with fruit, juice, and you’ll be powered up for the day!
- Facebook? We have not been very active on our facebook page – but I have to admit it is a great way to share recipes. We will put some recipes on there – so I encourage you to “like” us if you are so inclined, and to share recipes with each other – especially since we are all working with the same ingredients from week to week! https://www.facebook.com/crystalspringcommunityfarm
Can I get any tips from professional food writers who are also members of your CSA?
Local writer and editor Liz Pierson and her family have been CSA members with us since day one. Liz and her husband Jan have been inspiring us for years sharing anecdotes from their kitchen – an interesting Indian spice or super simple tomato sauce. Liz recently posted a delicious recipe for creamy spinach and mushroom enchiladas on her daughter’s blog: http://www.diaryofalocavore.com/2014/06/creamy-spinach-mushroom-enchiladas-liz.html
Try it out & let us know what you think. We will continue to look to Liz and her daughters for more great ways to cook with what is in season.
Another CSA member, Laura McCandlish recently wrote a column in the Portland Press Herald about the pleasures of CSA and using greens in smoothies! Kid friendly as well. Perfect timing! http://www.pressherald.com/2014/05/31/the-farm-to-table-family-when-csas-give-you-greens-make-smoothies/
We will keep you posted with more of their great ideas as they come in!
What is the Upic field and when does it start?
The Upic is a 3/4 acre field where we grow crops that we think are fun to harvest. Each season you will find peas, beans, cherry tomatoes, herbs and flowers all available for you to pick each week. We expect our first crop that will allow us to open the field will be peas which we hope will be ready the first week of July. Once we open the field you are welcome to come pick once a week on Tuesday, Friday or Sunday dawn to dusk. The crops we grow here are meant to compliment the others we offer each week in your share. We will let you know when the crops are ready for you to harvest and we’ll give relevant guidelines then as well.
Do you (Seth and Maura) own the farm?
Maura and I have run the farm as our family business for the past 11 seasons. We have a long-term on lease 115 acres of the farm’s 320 acres from the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust who saved it from development more than 25 years ago. The land trust runs the Saturday farmers market and cares for the farm’s trails along with many other important properties in the area. More info on the work of the trust and how to support their efforts can be found on their website www.btlt.org.
Why operate the farm as a CSA as opposed to going to farmer’s markets or selling to restaurants?
Many years ago we were lucky to have worked on a several CSA farms in California and Massachusetts and found their connection to the communities they were a part of to be unique. Inviting folks onto the farm each week of the season provides the potential for a relationship between growers and eaters that can’t be found anywhere else. Each week you are learning about what you are eating by coming straight to the source and talking to the people who grew the food for you. As farmers we know every week that you are looking forward to picking up the harvest; we cannot hide from you – we have a commitment to present you with beautiful, delicious, quality food. We in turn, are grateful for your appreciation and excitement about eating and cooking the fruits of our labor, it keeps us charged from week to week. We also get to learn from all of you what is important about your food and your experience when you come each week. We consider it to be a great partnership and obviously we can’t do it without you – thank you!
How do you deal with the crazy weather?
In short, we don’t. If we have done our job we have handled all the variables within our control (planting by the calendar, protecting crops with row cover, irrigating when it’s dry etc.). Plants are very resilient and many of our crops we plant in succession ensuring another harvest in a week or two if one planting is lost. We also use different varieties that withstand one weather variable better than the next so if we lose the red onions we have yellow onions planted nearby that will deal with the changes differently and do well. When the weather makes wild changes we try to react as best we can and then hope all of our crops are healthy and can withstand mother nature’s swinging pendulum.
What’s in the share…
Baby Bok Choi