Veggies Fresh from the Farm–Without Getting Dirty!

…well unless you want to…

Imagine receiving a weekly delivery of farm fresh vegetables, flowers, dairy and pasture grazed beef every week without getting one ounce of dirt on your hands…for those that agree that a little dirt won’t hurt you, there are ways to get your farming fix by helping to plant crops for your local farmer and with each delivery you’ll smile knowing you played a part in cultivating the delicious bounty before you.

This perfect balance of free veggies with or without dirt does exist, and it’s called Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) my friends!

Community farming initiatives started out in Japan and Chile in the early 1970s, with influence in the United States coming from the biodynamic agricultural traditions of post World War II Europe from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. The idea crossed the pond in 1986 and the idea of CSAs was born simultaneously at Indian Line Farm in Massachusetts and at the Temple-Wilton Community Farm in New Hampshire.

CSAs help to create a local, safe, and sustainable community. When people share in the harvest and even planting of their own food they feel a sense of pride. The benefits of owning a share in your local CSA is knowing exactly where your food is coming from, how it’s grown, and who the farmer is, minus the concerns of genetically modified organisms, cruel animal farming practices, and the contribution to fertilizer laden ecosystems from harsh over use. Because they are not government funded, the best part about CSAs is that all they need to thrive is involved members, farmers looking for community support, green thumbs and a good piece of land.

CSAs do have a few drawbacks just like anything else in this world. Shareholders must adjust to eating with the seasons and the inconsistencies of the harvest. Many CSAs will send out surveys asking what’s working and what families would like to see grown, but the farmers make the final call, and with any CSA, you take what you get.

But the thought of paying half the price of retail for locally grown produce, flowers and locally raised dairy and meat products outweighs any negative aspects in my opinion. If you keep track of how much you spend on average in the produce section or your local market each week–then multiply that by 26 you’ll have a figure to compare with what a six month share at your local CSA would be.

Great websites like Local Harvest and Sustainable Table can help you find local CSAs in your area, the farmers are more than happy for you to contact them regarding CSA product and pricing information.

Love your farmer–eat locally!

Posted by Amanda| follow me on Twitter

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Become a Jedi of the Farmer’s Market

Now that spring has officially sprung itself here in our lovely state of Rhode Island my thoughts are drifting towards the 2010 farmer’s market season. I am a huge fan of the Aquidneck Growers’ Market; I get there early so that I can get first dibs on all the goodies while sipping on an icy cup of deliciousness from Custom House Coffee. Since buying locally is the biggest way to high five mother earth I thought I’d put together some tips and tactics in preparation for the upcoming season–to make sure you find the produce you are looking for.

Straight from the horses—or in this case farmer’s mouth

Don’t be afraid to talk to the person tending the booth—it is an amazing opportunity to speak with the people who grow it–they want to answer your questions! Ask where your food comes from, are they certified organic? If not ask why, I guarantee they’ll have a good reason…maybe they are a very small family run farm who practices sustainability because the price tag of organic just doesn’t add up…but hey…sustainable farming is great too!

If you don’t know how to cook parsnips, rutabagas, artichokes or that some squash blossoms are edible (and delicious when panko breaded and fried!), ask for suggestions on preparing them.

Make a list, no need to check it twice

Knowing what’s in season won’t be very hard to figure out while you are at the farmers market since it will be all around you…but doing a little recon before making any purchases will help you out in two ways.

  1. Do a little research for in-season produce and look at seasonal menus to help you figure out what you’d like to be looking for and what to do with your locally grown haul. Oranges and Avocados don’t grow in Rhode Island in May…but Asparagus does!
  2. Make a loop around and take in all the sights before buying (I like to grab a coffee and a blueberry muffin…grazing while I take in the sights) you’ll kick yourself if you find amazing looking basil two tables down…for half the price!

It always helps to have a few loose ideas in your head as to what you are going to do with your produce…often the grower will want to hear about that delicious blueberry trifle you made the week before, your feedback can help them sell to the next person who doesn’t know what they’d do with a pound of fresh berries.

Money talks…debit cards walk…

Please oh please do not get frustrated when the farmer forgets their credit card machine at home…unless you are at in indoor farmer’s market most of the time there is no electricity at such events. You’d think this was common sense…but since I’ve seen it—I had to put it out there…

Also don’t be afraid to use your cash to shop for bargains—it doesn’t hurt to ask especially if you are at the tail end of the day—if two items for $5 instead of $6.50 will work.

Tote along for the ride…

Since fresh produce hasn’t been dipped in wax or petrified to survive shipping thousands of miles it will absolutely bruise and damage easily. Collapsible market totes, boat tote bags and coolers will become your new bff and always go with you to the market. Damp paper towels or cheese cloth in water proof containers or baggies will protect herbs from wilting on your way home—and can be used in the refrigerator to help keep them a little longer. Chances are your farmer will have a few recommendations for storing, watering, and enjoying your purchases.

Do or do not…there is no try.” ~Master Yoda

Happy hunting–see you at the market!!

Here are a few great websites to help you along your journey:

Local Harvest

Epicurious’ seasonal map

Farmers Market online in season listing

Posted by Amanda| follow meow on Twitter

Get the Greenest lawn in the Neighborhood

solar-powered_lawnmower

Husqvarna's Solar Powered Lawn Mower

Time to buy a new lawn mower? How about trying out a hybrid mower? Or even better and electric or battery operated one? Maybe Dad needs one, it would be a great belated fathers day gift. I got my weekly email from MNN and they have the inside scoop on some possible future lawn mower tax breaks. If you can hold out on buying one, you may get 25% back on your taxes if you purchase a low or no emissions lawn mower. Its all a part of the Greener Gardens Act put together by three congressional delegates from Vermont.
googlegoatsOr you can do one better and hire goats like Google. Yep, Google doesn’t pay landscapers to trim their grass, they rent goats from California Grazingto come in and have a little snack at their Mountain View Headquarters. It takes 200 goats, one border collie named Jen and one week to finish the job, but the benefits out weigh how long it takes; The goats fertilize as well as “mow”, they are quoted as being “much cuter to watch” than landscapers and lawnmowers, its GREAT for the environment and it costs the same if not less to rent goats instead of hiring a lawn mower.
And don’t forget, if you need to fertilize your lawn don’t go out and buy expensive chemicals to sprinkle all over your yard, start your own compost pile and make your own super healthy soil to feed your grass.
Cheers to keeping lawns super green!

Posted by: Ashley (intern)

URI teaches the basics: REDUCE REUSE RECYCLE

landfill_from_distance

Are you a master composter and recycler? Would you like to be? Well if youre a Rhode Islander you should check out URI’s Master Composter and Recycler Program. It not only teaches you how to compost and recycle in RI, but also the ins and outs of Rhode Islands trash systems. The class takes place in a green house at Roger Williams Park, and includes 30 hours of Volunteer work and field trips to landfills, and the Earth Care Farm in Charlestown. The basic goal of the class is to teach you the many ways to reduce what is making it into the landfill. This class is perfect for those of you who, like myself, want to recycle and compost but dont quite have the hang of it or arent sure where to start. I talked with a super cool dude and Master Composter and Recycler student, Mr. Robert Redinger, about his experience with the class and I found what he said about the trip to Earth Care Farms to be especially interesting…

 “The trip to Earth Care farm was fascinating and Mike, the owner was very happy to teach, show and explain to the class.  All of the zoo waste along with local landscapers waste is taken, then a couple times a week, all of the fish waste and clam waste from Point Judith is shipped to the farm and buried for compost.  Every three weeks the pile is turned in on itself and the pile reaches 160 degrees and kills all seeds, weeds, and almost anything other than micro-organisms.  Eventually after 6 months or so, the compost can be screened and sold to the public and to landscapers at $60 and cubic yard.  Katherine Hepburn bought some and the owner had just shipped 3 semi trucks full to NY.  All of the organic stuff can be turned into fine fertile compost, mixed with our poor RI soil and we can all have lush lawns and gardens, healthy plants without chemicals, and we can all reduce the waste stream. “

That’s just from one farm, composting at home is alot less effort that composting on a farm. Imagine if we all did this kind of thing in our own yards? No more money on fertilizers, beatiful lawns, no chemicals, less trash in the landfill, and no more guessing what to toss in the recycling… its WIN WIN people!! Click to check out more about the class, Earth Care Farms, and the landfill. Thanks for the heads up Rob!

Posted by: Ashley (intern)

Where to Find Farm Fresh

As we gear up for spring, flowers and plants won’t be the only thing that will be in full bloom soon.  One of my personal favorite parts of spring and summer are the reopening of farmers markets across the state.   If you live in Southern New England and are wondering where to find info on local farms and markets near you, www.farmfresh.org is a fantastic resource.  Just type in your zip code and an interactive map will appear with a listing of all the farms, stands and markets available in your area as well as when they open and their hours of operation. 

Community supported agriculture is another great way to ensure you and your family have fresh produce all season long.  Also known as a CSA,  community supported agriculture is  a prepaid subscription to a farm’s produce for the season. Most CSAs give shareholders a weekly supply of veggies, herbs, fruits and sometimes even eggs and meat. You know it’s fresh and you get to meet the farm and people who grew your food. The prepaid CSA arrangements also makes it a source of financial security for the farmer. Some CSAs also incorporate farm workdays for shareholders for those interested in getting their hands dirty. 

Most farmers markets in the Northeast start in May – t-minus 1 month to go!

Posted by: Ashley / follow me on Twitter

Can you be a locavore?

I love local food, but I live in RI and it is challenging to get your daily requirements of fruits and vegetables in RI in February. But come May, my mouth waters at the thought of local strawberries and the promise of farm picked blueberries, raspberries, zucchini, summer squash, butter-n-sugar corn…and don’t even send me down the path of heirloom tomatoes that appear mid-July and linger through October.

That said, I yearn to be a year-round locavore.  I love our local oysters (check out my personal favorite Matunuck Oyster Farm; Perry does an amazing job growing oysters on the pond and I can say I have had the pleasure of one pulled from the icy, salty waters and shucked and slurped within minutes!). There is nothing better than going to a dock in Galilee and taking home what a local fisherman reeled in that day.

Locavore Nation implemented an experiment to get volunteers to source 80% of their food from organic, seasonal sources defined as within 500 miles of their home for a year. To read about the experiment and get tips on how you can become a locavore go to Splendid Table here. Our family is trying, but I’m not just all the way there. In season right now is leeks, potatoes, and some salad mixes. I’m not into canning, I just don’t like the flavor. I can eat the root vegetables off season; I can source local fish, meats and dairy products but I want fruit, I want my kids to have fruit.  I am a locavore trapped in coastal RI and one cannot live on oysters and potatoes alone, I am very interested in locavore ideas so please share your thoughts!

KDL | follow me on Twitter: newscaster

You put the polypropylene in the coconut and mix it all up…

I have never tried to get into a coconut. They are not delicious to me and I lack the patience and muscle required to knock one open. However we all may be driving in one someday. Some groovy guys from Baylor University wondered where something such as coconut husks could be used other than falling from trees and knocking people out, and considered its capabilities as a composite material. Well golly gee it worked. Granted they had to mix it with polypropylene to make it work, they managed to turn it into a lightweight, strong, and unflammable material that works pretty well for cars. It has been used as trunk liners, floorboards and car-door interior covers. They make up for the polypropylene use when you consider that using all the extra coconut husks from other countries will help stop the spread of malaria and help coconut farmers make some extra mula. You can find out more at ecogeek or msnbc.

Published by: Ashley Gee (intern)