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Cheers To Young Farmers!
June 19, 2017
A month into CSA pickup, how time flies! We bid farewell to CSA member Ashley, who has been volunteering with us over the past month. We'll miss you Ashley! Upon goodbyes, she gifted us with a beautiful book, a collection of essays by famous farmers, based on the question 'what advice would you give young farmers starting out'?
The synopsis of the book from their website is:
WHY YOUNG FARMERS?
We are about to witness the largest retirement of farmers in U.S. history. There are now more farmers over the age of 75 than between the ages of 35 and 44.
Meanwhile, 400 million acres of farmland are slated to change hands in the next two decades—an area roughly four times the size of California. Quite simply: our future hinges on the investments we make today in the next generation of farmers. If we invest in farming that is adaptable and regenerative; that respects the limits of season; that builds soil and economies—we can grow a vibrant way of farming that delivers good food to more Americans while being resilient in the face of a shifting, highly variable climate. Helping beginning farmers succeed is crucial to creating a sustainable food future.
We thank you all so much for your support over the past few years as we have built our business. As we delve into the hottest months of the year, it is nice to have this book on hand to remind ourselves from time to time why we are doing what we do and why it is so important.
Following is an excerpt from the book by one of my favorite authors, Barbara Kingsolver. Her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, is a beautiful Summer read and I would recommend it to anyone interested in eating local that wants to read a romantic, dreamy, book about it.
"I don’t need to tell you what there is to love in this life; you’ve chosen it. Maybe you’ve even had to defend that choice already against family or academic advisers who don’t see the future in farming. Clearly you do, and are moved by the daily rewards. You like early rising. You can’t wait to get outside, cup of coffee in hand, to walk among seeded rows and take stock of the new lives that have risen to meet the day. You’d stay late in the barn with a ewe giving birth, just for the thrill of watching the newborns emerge and make their wobbly first march to the teat, a new family creating itself before your eyes. You’ll slog through a deep February snow to enter the summery hoop house, inhale a humid blast of kale-scented oxygen, and smile like a fox, knowing you’ve mastered time travel here, at least on a modest vegetable scale...
This is getting at the heart of what I want to tell you: however calloused your hands, however grimy the uniform, however your back may sometimes ache, you are a professional. Your vocation is creative, necessary, and intellectually demanding. Unfortunately, you’ll run into a lot of people who won’t see you that way. You’re the offspring of a generation—mine—that largely turned its back on the land and its benefaction. We, in our turn, were raised by a generation that set itself hard to the project of escaping from agriculture. For the latter half of the 20th century, the official story was that modern ingenuity could mechanize farming so efficiently, a handful of folks could oversee the process while everyone else fled the tyrannies of farm life and rural stultification. Legions believed that story, trained their sights on the city lights, and never looked back. Or they were heartbroken at the prospect of forsaking their family livelihood, but still were forced by poverty to leave the farm for the factory. In any case, they counseled us, their children, to stay in school and study hard so we could score a respectable life sitting at a desk indoors and never get dirt under our fingernails at all.
The subtext of this message is that manual labor is degrading and that soil is, well, dirty. Some people will see your coveralls and presume, at best, a countrified backwardness, and, at worst, a deficit of smarts or ambition. It’s a hateful bigotry, as wrong as equating those deficits with dark skin, or femaleness, or a Southern accent. (And I’ll add here, if you are a female Southern farmer of color, I dearly hope you’ve found an online support group.) Prejudice runs around unchecked in surprising quarters. I know kind, well-educated people who happily patronize their farmers’ market but recoil at the idea of their offspring becoming farmers. It will take time for your profession to recover from decades of bad press. Whether you like this agenda or not, your career is going to be a sort of public relations event, in which you will surprise your market customers not only with your flawless eggplants but also with your intelligence, industry, and good grammar. This might be just the mother in me talking, but if you show up clean, it will help.
In exchange for your efforts, we will learn to respect the art and science of your work. We’ll be grateful for your courage and your vision. Prepare to rectify one of the most ridiculous, sustained oversights in all of human existence. When we told our youth that farming was a lowly aim compared with becoming teachers, doctors, or lawyers, what were we thinking? We need teachers for just a few of life’s decades. If we’re lucky, we’ll see a doctor only a few times a year, and a lawyer even less. But we need farmers every single day of our lives, beginning to end, no exceptions. We forgot about that for a while, and the price was immense. Slowly, we’re coming back to our senses. Be patient with us. We need you."
ROASTED NEW POTATO, LENTIL + KALE SALAD WITH LEMON CAPER DRESSING
Lemon Caper Dressing
1 tablespoon capers, drained and roughly chopped 2 tablespoons dijon mustard 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil Sea salt + pepper to taste
14 ounces (400g) new potatoes 1/3 cup lentils (I used black beluga lentils here but de Puy/green lentils would be good too) 2-3 stalks curly green kale (or more if you want to make it more of a green salad) 1/4 cup freshly chopped flat leaf parsley
Preheat the oven to 375 F / 190C. Wash and pat dry the potatoes. Slice them in half and place a rimmed baking sheet covered in parchment. Drizzle with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place in the oven to roast, turning once, for about 25-30 minutes. Once potatoes are golden brown and easily pierced with a fork, remove from oven and set aside.
Rinse and drain the lentils. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and add the lentils. Cook the lentils for about 22 minutes or until just soft. I always prefer my lentils on the al dente side if I am going to be tossing them into a salad. Otherwise, follow package instructions. Drain lentils and rinse under cold water, then allow them to drain completely.
To prep the kale, remove the leaves from the stalks. Stack the leaves on top of each other and roll them up lengthwise. Thinly slice using a sharp knife so that you have small strips of kale. Place kale in a large salad bowl and sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt and a drizzle of olive oil. Massage the salt/oil into the kale until it softens and deepens in color.
Make the lemon caper dressing. Place capers, dijon and lemon juice into a small bowl and whisk until well combined, slowly add in the olive oil and continue to whisk. Add a good pinch of salt and some fresh cracked pepper. Adjust seasoning as needed.
Add potatoes, lentils and chopped parsley to the kale bowl. Add half the dressing and toss gently. Divide into bowls and drizzle over remaining dressing. Garnish with extra parsley or capers, fresh cracked pepper or lemon zest.
Cucumber Radish Salad with Fennel and Caraway Seeds
Recipe Developer: Alexandra Shytsman Yield: 4 servings Ingredients
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 large fennel bulb with its fronds (reserve stalks for later use)
1 cucumber, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced on a diagonal
1 bunch radishes, thinly sliced crosswise
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons organic cold-pressed canola oil
Sea salt, to taste
In a small skillet, toast caraway seeds over medium-low heat until fragrant, tossing occasionally, about 4 minutes.
To prepare fennel, slice the stalk portion off the bulb. Pick off fronds. (Store leftover stalks as you would celery, fronds as you would fresh herbs). Quarter the fennel bulb lengthwise and thinly slice each quarter.
In a large bowl, combine sliced fennel, 2 generous handfuls fennel fronds, cucumber, radishes, caraway seeds, vinegar and oil. Toss to combine and season to taste with salt. Transfer to a serving plate and garnish with extra fronds. Serve immediately.