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Author: bloomingglenfarm

Radishes are one of the first crops to pop up in the spring—a sign that warm days are coming and heavy winter eating is coming to an end. They’ve got a crisp crunch and bright spice, but somehow still have a root-crop earthiness about them.

Crudités is just a fancy way of saying raw, bite-sized vegetables served with a dipping sauce. In this recipe, that slightly spicy bite of the French breakfast radish pairs perfectly with creamy and salty feta. 

Radish Crudités with Creamy Feta Dip

– Wash and cut the greens off 1 bunch French Breakfast Radishes. (Reserve greens for another use.)

– In a food processor, combine:
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup plain yogurt
juice of 1 lemon
2 minced garlic cloves (or two stalks green garlic)
a handful of chopped chives (or scallions)
pepper (to taste)

– Pulse ingredients into a creamy consistency.  Serve as a dip for radishes and other raw veggies.

Alternatively, you can make a thicker spread with a pop of color by mixing a ½ bunch of grated radishes into the feta dip. Serve on top of a piece of crusty bread or (in my case) some gluten-free crackers.

Text and photography by Kate Darlington – Blooming Glen Farm second year intern, Colorado native, and food lover.

What a difference a year makes! Looking over blog posts from this time last season, we were drowning in rain. Plants were waiting, and waiting, to go into the wet soggy fields, we were doing lots of construction projects to keep busy, and we were generally frustrated by too much water. This Spring is the complete opposite. The lack of rain wouldn’t be too bad, we do have a great irrigation system after all, however the wind adds another level of stress to the plants.

Transplants that go out into the field are either hooked up to drip irrigation, which delivers water through tubes directly at the base of the plants, or by overhead sprinklers, which creates a shower-like effect in a 40 foot radius. Overhead is necessary for our direct seeded crops like radishes, spring turnips, arugula and carrots. And with the wind, you can imagine that any overhead watering is quite a challenge. Even when we do get something nice and watered, it quickly dries out again.

Because of this dry windy weather, we have had some difficulty getting germination from our first rotation of carrots, so we’ll be trying again next week. Even the transplants themselves are dealing with wind stress. We often utilize hoops and row covers to try and protect them a bit, but they can act like giant wind socks and cause more harm by banging against the plants.

Blowing in the wind: Row covers (or "remay") over the lettuce seedlings.

We are seeing some wind damage on our transplants, but our hope is that they will be very strong after this week, and will grow in leaps and bounds as soon as they are given calmer weather!!

Sugar Snap Peas

What’s growing out there? Lots! Our crew of 8 has been busy planting, planting, and planting, oh, and a little weeding too! Spring onions, sugar snap peas, lots and lots of potatoes, broccoli, lettuce, swiss chard, kale, bok choy, kohlrabi, beets, fennel, radicchio, and Chinese cabbage are all out in the fields. As our harvest start to trickle in, our farmers markets will begin May 5 and 6th (and we’ll be at the Wrightstown mini-market Saturday April 14) and then once we have enough volume, and when those strawberries ripen up, we will start the CSA pick-ups. Keep an eye on your emails, the blog, or the website. As soon as we know when that first week of the CSA will be, we will let you know! We are in the process of adding classes and events to our online calendar. Check here on the blog, or on our website’s calendar , for updates. We hope you’ll join us April 29th for our Spring event at the farm: Cookbook Swap and Food Tasting Adventure! There are still CSA shares available, so please spread the word. We have flyers if you’d like to hang any in your neighborhood.

Brian potting-up flower seedlings. Spinach seedlings.

Join local food blogger, canning instructor and cookbook author Marisa McClellan of Food In Jars at Blooming Glen Farm on Saturday, May 19 at 10 am for a Strawberry Vanilla Jam canning class.

Whether you’ve been thinking about learning to can or you’re well-versed in the ways of homemade jam, this class is for you. In this two-hour class (10am to noon), Marisa will walk you through the basics of boiling water bath canning. The class will include information on food safety, best canning practices, recommendations on how to store your newly canned goods and much more.

You’ll learn to make Strawberry Vanilla Jam, and will go home with small jar of the jam, as well as a printout of the recipe. It’s the perfect class for beginner and intermediate canners as there will be plenty of time to have all your food preservation questions answered.

Marisa’s first cookbook, called Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year Round, will be published by Running Press in May 2012. It is currently available for pre-order from a number of booksellers.

This canning class costs $50 per person. Pre-registration is required. Please go to this eventbrite link to register: http://www.eventbrite.com/event/3251891495

If you have questions, email Marisa at foodinjars@gmail.com.
Strawberry Jam Photo courtesy of Marisa.

Are you adventurous in the kitchen or do you prefer to play it safe? Do you enjoy poring over recipes from cookbooks of all kinds or do you keep to your tried and true food formulas? Will a full color food photo sometimes leave you drooling then racing to the kitchen? Are your bookshelves overflowing or in need of a cookbook makeover? What about seeing what others in your community are cooking and tasting a bit of everything?

Bring a gently used cookbook to Blooming Glen Farm Sunday, April 29th at 3:00 pm for a spring cookbook swap and food tasting adventure. The catch? You must bring a dish to share made from a recipe from the cookbook you are bringing to swap. 

Your cookbooks reflect your changing tastes, so if you no longer indulge in butterlicious cupcakes (really?) or that well-intended macrobiotic phase is over, maybe someone from the community will have just what you’re looking for now. But for sure, one of your well-loved but no longer active cookbooks can find a new home, and you can be inspired by the recipes in someone else’s old favorite. 

If you don’t have a used book on your shelf that you want to swap, check out the local thrift stores, or splurge on a new copy at the bookstore in town!  You may even have a food memoir with recipes in it that you’d like to trade.

How will this swap work? To determine the order of cookbook selection, come prepared for some “family feud” style fun. Participants will be broken up into teams to answer fun farm facts and veggie trivia. Winners of each round will select a cookbook to take home, until all cookbooks are gone. (**You must bring a cookbook to leave with one- however, all family members are welcome to participate in the trivia fun.) Tasting will begin promptly at 3:30, trivia and swap begins at 4:00. (**Please arrive around 3:00 to be ready for tasting by 3:30.)

Bring to the Cookbook Swap and Food Tasting Adventure:

  • The cookbook you wish to swap.
  • delicious dish for the tasting to tempt swappers to choose your cookbook. Remember to select a recipe from the cookbook you are swapping away. (Bonus: Tasters’ favorite dish will win a door prize!)
  • A notecard with the following information on it: your name, the name of your dish, the main ingredients, and the name of the cookbook you have brought with you to trade.
  • A beverage and place settings for you and your family.
  • An appetite for farm fun and trivia!!

Come on out and meet other food lovers in our farm community; taste new recipes and leave inspired and ready for the farm season ahead with a new favorite cookbook in hand! Please RSVP to the farm by April 22nd if you will be attending.

Email: info@bloomingglenfarm.com

 

Going to the seafood counter at the grocery store is a downright overwhelming experience, if you ask me. Last time I stopped by to pick up some fish for a recipe, I got so overwhelmed that I nearly left empty handed. Most neighborhood grocers provide little information about the fish they offer. Even when they do offer info about origin or catch method, it’s hard to decipher what it all means– and what is the best for our bodies, our environment, and our budgets. Plus, there’s this business about modern-day slavery aboard fishing vessels in New Zealand that I read about the other week. What the heck is a fish lover to do?

Luckily, at Blooming Glen Farm we’ve got Amanda Bossard, owner of Otolith Sustainable Seafood, in our corner.

Amanda started Otolith in 2007 with her husband Murat, when his fishing boat and business in Alaska were under severe threat of financial ruin. Based on what commercial fish processors were paying per pound for their catch, it was impossible to keep up with boat maintenance, permits, and employee salaries—let alone take in a profit each year.

Murat Aritan and daughter, Isabella in Adak, Alaska

It was then that their accountant gave them the idea to start a fish CSA. Amanda was a member of a Lancaster CSA, and it was easy for her to see how the direct harvest-to-consumer model would work for her family’s fish. Much like the CSA at Blooming Glen Farm, the Community Supported Seafood (CSS) program at Otolith provides a steady and fair income for the fishermen while providing you, the consumer, with the highest quality fresh and sustainable food. And here’s the best part: you can pick up your seafood share right here at Blooming Glen!

Otolith is on a mission to promote sustainable fishing and bring you the best the ocean has to offer. Amanda describes herself at “just a fish snob with two little kids,” but she is much more than that. She is one of the most passionate people I’ve ever talked to, and once you get her started on fish, watch out. With a background in marine biology and over a decade as a fisherman’s wife, she knows what she’s talking about, too. With Otolith, you can be sure your fish is good for the planet, good for your health, and good for the people that catch it.

Otolith has committed to:

1. Eliminating trawling as a fishing gear method. As Amanda told me, the oceans simply can’t sustain the pressure of commercial trawling (that would be the way your run of the mill, grocery store seafood is caught). The ocean does produce an abundant supply of the renewable resource that is seafood, but we’ve got to be responsible in the way we harvest it.

2. Reducing pollution in the oceans. By committing to purchasing from small independent harvesters (including her husband’s boat), Amanda can be certain that the boats catching your fish have a low environmental impact.

3. Creating a new generation of fishers that are concerned with sustainability. Amanda is a firm believer in economic incentive. “I don’t believe in a million years that change can ever come unless it’s in your financial interest,” she says. By providing the CSS model that is economically viable, she is proving that sustainable seafood harvest is in the fishermen’s financial interest as well as moral interest.

The Otolith CSS offers a variety of different options including halibut, rockfish, sablefish, Pacific cod, and Dungeness crab, and wild salmon. All of the fish is sushi-grade, long-line caught in Alaska by small boats, blast frozen and packaged into conveniently sized pieces, and delivered direct to your chosen pick-up location during its appropriate season.

I’m signing up for the salmon share because Amanda said it changed her life—and at $12 a pound, it’s a downright bargain. Which one will you chose?

How to participate:

·      Log on to Otolith’s website and read about your different CSS options.

·      Fill out and send in your enrollment form for one (or more) of the shares.

·      Pick up your sustainably caught seafood at Blooming Glen Farm when you come to pick up your CSA share.

For questions or clarifications about the Community Supported Seafood program or sustainable seafood in general, you can contact Amanda at Otolith by calling 215.426.4266 or emailing inquiries@otolithonline.com

Written by Kate Darlington – Blooming Glen Farm second year intern, Colorado native, and food lover.

We’re excited to announce that the Outstanding in the Field bus is returning to Blooming Glen Farm on Sunday, September 23. Chef Mitch Prensky and his crew from Supper in Philadelphia will be manning the field kitchen again. Tickets go on sale on March 20, the first day of Spring! Tickets for these events sell out quickly- anywhere from 5 minutes to 2 weeks. Join the OITF mailing list to get updates leading up to the release date.

Outstanding in the Field is a roving culinary adventure that travels around the country setting their long table in fields, gardens, beaches, barns and vineyards. Their mission is to promote local food and agriculture and get people out to the farm to see where their food is coming from and meet the producers. Their long table has graced farms from Hawaii to Florida, and even has headed oversees to partner with the esteemed chefs at the famous Noma restaurant in Denmark. (Read about it in their blog.) And now they’re coming back to Bucks County! Last years dinner at Blooming Glen Farm drew people from New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Virginia, Maryland, and Washington D.C. Join us in the field for a farm dinner experience not to be missed. Tickets available on the Outstanding in the Field website on March 20.

It’s almost March- I guess on most other years it would be already! As busy as we’ve been, it kind of feels like this leap day, we get a “free” day. It’s been an incredibly mild winter- I don’t need to tell anyone it feels like Spring. Tom was able to work up some ground yesterday to get ready to plant our onion sets, it’s been that dry. The propagation greenhouse underwent a makeover. Thanks to some “new” used greenhouse benching, our flats now actually lie flat- no more wavy gravy, which means less water pooling and more even germination. Today the onions are being seeded, and already you’ll see tomatoes, lettuce, broccoli, kale, swiss chard, kohlrabi and cabbage sprouting in the greenhouse flats.

Garlic sprout

One of the great things about Blooming Glen Farm is the influx of new faces and energy every season. One of our highly valued missions here at the farm is to mentor and train future farmers. In another month our interns will be joining us, a great new group of young people from Washington, New Hampshire and Wisconsin, as well as Kate, returning for another year from Colorado. You’ll be hearing more about all of the new farmers joining us this season, so you can have an idea of the many hands behind the harvest headed for your dinner plate. Our skeleton crew of employees has been busy these past few weeks, seeding, working on construction projects and winter repair, and thinning out the thick blanket of straw that covered the garlic all winter, so that the new pale green garlic shoots can poke through. Our early crew consists of: Jillian Herschlag, our assistant manager, returning for year three; Brian Smyth newly engaged and returning for year two and a half; and a new face on the farm, Brandon Grossman.

Brandon, 24, comes to Blooming Glen Farm with a few years of experience working on a farm on Mount Desert Island in Maine that he started with his girlfriend’s family. Together they ran a small CSA and market garden, growing throughout the summer and into the cold winter months in Maine using a wood heated greenhouse for season extension.

Brandon graduated from Oberlin College with a BA in Neuro-Science. Not too long after graduation, a job in his area of study brought him to Maine. However, he quickly decided to trade in a laboratory of beakers and research for the broader laboratory of farming.

“I think I was initially rebelling from the standard path of what was expected of me- get a degree, get a job in your career path. The idea of what a farmer was- an uneducated tobacco spitter- I wanted to break down those misconceptions. Farming was so different then how I grew up. I grew up eating Wonder Bread and Dunk-a-roos. I was always that kid in class and in the office, fidgeting, and wanting to be outdoors. So I chose to go down a path that would get me outside, living a healthy lifestyle.”

Brandon at his farm in Maine.

However after three years living in a half-insulated shed, struggling to make ends meet and chopping firewood all winter, both his hands and soul grew cold and homesick. He decided to return to Bucks County where he grew up- Brandon attended CB West and when his folks moved to New Hope area, he graduated from New Hope Solebury High School.

“Most of the things I learned about farming were self-taught, through trial and error. I’m ready to learn farming from professionals, and be closer to family.”

When Brandon’s not at the farm, you can find him and Chad, his close friend and identical twin brother, on Sundays down in Suburban Station in Philadelphia playing music to the subway riders. Brandon comes from a very musically gifted family. Lately you’ll find him on guitar and his brother on ukulele, both doing the vocals, but Brandon also plays the saxophone, drums and ukulele. We’re happy to have him on the farm!

Blooming Glen Farm CSA is committed to providing its customers access to not only fresh sustainably grown produce but also to sources of protein raised by farmers who share our values. Our 2012 CSA members will have the option to sign-up for pastured-poultry shares from Ledemete Grass Farm, grass-fed beef shares from Tussock Sedge Farm and sustainable seafood shares from Otolith Sustainable Seafood in Philadelphia, all to be conveniently picked up at Blooming Glen Farm when you pick up your produce. Since one of the wonderful parts of Community Supported Agriculture is the opportunity to get to know your farmers and their stories, this week’s blog post features April and Rob Fix of Ledemete Grass Farm.

Animals, including chickens, turkeys and pigs, at Ledamete Grass Farm (pronounced “Let ‘em Eat”) are raised on pasture in the sunshine and fresh air and fed a grain mix grown by a local farmer who uses organic practices. April and Rob Fix are passionate about what they do, and we feel very fortunate to be able to include them in our CSA community.

Rob and April, tell us about how you first got into farming.

April: Rob and I both traveled far and wide before settling down at Ledamete Grass Farm in Schnecksville, PA.

After graduating with an Environmental Studies degree from the University of Pittsburgh, I apprenticed on a few diversified family farms in Vermont and Virginia. I worked as an Organic Research Assistant on Virginia Tech’s Kentland Farm and as a Farmer/Teacher at the Farm School in Massachusetts. Rob and I met at the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) Conference and brought our lives together shortly thereafter at Fielder Farm, in Central Pennsylvania. There we raised pastured poultry and pork that we sold through CSAs, and we raised a Jersey cow and heifer, for our own milk, butter and yogurt.

Rob: Prior to landing at Fielder Farm, I spent time studying at Penn State, working as a sous chef at fine, local foods restaurants in Scotland and Montana, and hiking the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. Real food, hard work and the great outdoors are at my heart of hearts.

Rob and Tessa

What brought you back to Pennsylvania?

A desire to be closer to family brought us to Lehigh County where we started Ledamete Grass Farm. To keep things exciting we decided to buy a farm, start a business and have a baby all in the same year. And so it began, a few years ago. Tessa Wren, now nearly two, loves life on the farm and is especially fond of collecting “eggies” and placing them carefully into their cartons!

What is it about farming that appeals to you?

Since we first met, we have always loved to sit down together to a beautiful meal brimming with food grown by ourselves or by family and farmer friends. We enjoy the unique personalities of all the livestock and are grateful for the opportunity to be stewards of the animals and the pasture ecosystem where they dwell. Starting a farm from scratch is no small feat, and it’s been many a long day for sure, but the hard work feels worth it when the bellies are nourished and the faces are smiling.

How have the first few years at the farm been?

Now beginning our third season at Ledamete Grass Farm, we are thrilled about all of the improvements we have made to the farm in just our first two years. We recently completed a two-year Natural Resources and Conservation Services (NRCS) Environmental Quality Initiatives Program (EQIP) contract which provided partial funding for several large projects including installing permanent fencing for 15 acres of pasture, digging a water line and installing 5 frost-free hydrants throughout the pasture, creating a gravel access road, and planting a 1/2 acre of native wildflowers as a pollinator habitat. To prevent drainage issues from the new access road, we installed a large swale and catch basin along the road that they will plant with native grasses and trees this spring. New and improved farm structures include a large chick brooder, an on-farm poultry-processing house, an equipment barn and a livestock barn. 

Rainbow at Ledemete Grass Farm

What lies ahead for you?

As we look into the future we see our small family farm thriving, nourishing ourselves and our neighbors with our thoughtfully raised chickens, turkeys, pigs and cows. We plan to expand our specialty products, such as our farm-made turkey and pork sausages. We hope to add a flock of laying hens laying delicious pastured eggs with bright orange yolks. We see a beautiful farm that’s well-cared for; a sustainable business as well as a happy home for ourselves, our children, and our animals.

Thanks Rob and April Fix, of Ledemete Grass Farm!

Click on this link for registration information for chicken shares for the 2012 season, or go to their website for more information.

Written by Joe Coleman.

By reading recent Blooming Glen Farm blogs, we learned that the farmers, Tricia Borneman and Tom Murtha, are busy these days scanning seed catalogs and planning crops for the next growing season. We are fortunate to be neighbors benefiting from their labor to grow wonderful, fresh, nutritious produce.  In addition to managing the farm to provide crops for the CSA members, they are mindful of the need to help relieve hunger.

During the 2011 growing season, I volunteered with the Bucks County Opportunity Council (BCOC) to support Michael Olenick, Food and Nutrition Network Manager, who coordinates 27 food distribution sites. Tricia and Tom offered excess produce to BCOC, and I connected the dots on Monday mornings by picking up the produce at the farm and delivering it to the New Britain Baptist Food Pantry. Another volunteer delivered produce to Pennridge Fish and the Quakertown Food Pantry.

In addition, the congregation at the Doylestown United Methodist Church purchased a CSA share to help those in need. I delivered the produce to the same pantry.  The pantry staff extended the dots and forwarded any excess produce to the Neshaminy Senior Center.

Approximately 95% of the food donated to the New Britain Baptist Food Pantry comes from local sources. I delivered 1,831 pounds of Blooming Glen Farm produce in 2011. Hundreds of clients were thrilled to receive the fresh produce. The pantry staff provided guidance on how to cook the produce, and encouraged the clients to try new meals.  To further help in that regard, a 12 year old Central Bucks student recently prepared a book containing recipes with ingredients typically available in food pantries.

A diet that complies with the Department of Agriculture’s guidelines is unaffordable for many Bucks County residents. For low-income families on a thin budget it’s almost impossible to put healthy and balanced meals on the table. Food pantries are the primary source of fresh fruit and vegetables for low income families. Nearly 97% of food pantry clients go without fresh fruit and vegetables if their food pantry has none.

The Hunger Nutrition Coalition (HNC) of Bucks County conducted a survey during 2011 to understand the current hunger problem in our communities. Based on response from 2,000 families actively receiving county services, 26% of the families skip meals due to a lack of food in the home. Visits to food pantries increased 21% since 2009 while government food resources have declined and became increasingly unreliable. Last year, the New Britain Baptist Pantry provided food to 10,035 people.

Tricia and Tom’s generosity brings us closer to the hope of the harvest. BCOC views the program at Blooming Glen Farm as a wonderful model, and is actively pursuing additional farm-pantry relationships throughout Bucks County. To extend the program, BCOC needs funding to look into purchasing the produce from farmers at reduced cost (currently it is all donated) and they need volunteers to transport the produce to food pantries. For information on donating to the BCOC, click here.

Written by Joe Coleman, a resident of New Britain Twp. since 1975, retired from Johnson and Johnson, father of two grown children and husband to his lovely wife Judy. Joe is currently a volunteer with the Bucks County Opportunity Council.

Written by CSA member Jenny Isaacs.

Although we still have a few ziploc bags of Blooming Glen’s chili peppers in the freezer (I halve, seed, and roast them, then freeze for easy use in recipes year-round) we just consumed the last fresh vegetable from our 2011 CSA share last week: a Long Island Cheese Pumpkin.  January is by no means a record for last-squash-eaten, either: going back through my notes since 2006, I see that there were not one but two occasions where I cooked up the winter squash from our final November pick-up in June of the following year!  Tom & Tricia aren’t kidding when they tell us that squash varieties like Cheese Pumpkin or Blue Hubbard are long-lasting!

I happen to think having a giant squash on my kitchen counter for months on end is quite decorative, though I understand tastes may vary.   Still, there are many less visible ways that the harvest of CSA membership lasts and lasts. 

My family’s journey with Community Supported Agriculture began in 1994 at the Kimberton CSA (founded in 1987, it was the first CSA in Pennsylvania).  We were members there for seven years before moving to Bucks County.  In 2005 we joined the Anchor Run CSA in Wrightstown, then in its 2nd year of operation.  It was a lovely farm, but a 45-minute drive from our home.  We were thrilled when Blooming Glen opened the following year!  As we enter into our fifteenth year of CSA membership, I thought I’d share some of the yields for us beyond our annual share.

* An end to certain vegetable prejudices

Spring Share with Hakurei Turnips

I was not a particularly picky eater growing up, but I hated turnips.  My mom inevitably snuck them into her pot roasts & stews, where they masqueraded as unobjectionable potatoes until I bit into them — blikkkk! 

My very first CSA pick-up introduced me to sweet, white hakurei turnips, so delicious raw that I can seldom bear to cook them (though they’re incredibly tasty sauteed as well).  And turnip greens, it turns out, are my very favorite green of all.  I totally fell in love with those turnips, only to be heartbroken when, a few weeks into the growing season, they vanished from the share tables.  The next year I treasured them all the more, knowing they would soon be succeeded in the harvest cycle. 

Every year the first bunch of early-season turnips, symbol of fleetingness but harbinger of so many good things to come, reminds me of the possibility of profound & surprising transformation in myself. 

* Raising vegetable-prejudice-free kids (mostly)

Years ago we were eating dinner at a restaurant in Doylestown that had a kind of jokey children’s menu.  It claimed to feature nothing that kids don’t like — like spinach and brussel sprouts.  Our youngest was completely baffled:  “Why on earth do they think that kids don’t like spinach and brussel sprouts?” she wanted to know.  “Because they want to sell you chicken nuggets, I guess,” I told her.  She rolled her eyes.  None of my kids will eat chicken nuggets.  They do love turnip greens in their scrambled eggs, though — a lot. 

Unadventurous stages in eating aren’t uncommon, and every kid eventually announces that they don’t like something.  I learned from a wise mom to answer that remark every time with a cheerful, “Well, maybe you’ll like it when you’re [insert their age plus one year]”.  I loved how this gave leeway for growth and change in tastes– indeed, it often seemed to inspire my girls to beat the clock and convert earlier.   Eventually we started calling reversals of taste like my turnip epiphany “turning” a vegetable, as when my middlest announced at age fourteen, “Mom, guess what!  I’ve turned mushroom!” 

I have to admit that not one of the three has turned beet yet, and I’ll tell you why: it’s because down deep, I haven’t turned beet myself.  I’ve probably put fifty pounds of beets on the sharing table over the years.  But I happen to love eggplant, so I make it and everybody eats it, though they all (even my husband) refer to it jokingly as ugh-plant.  Serving up, with love, all the varied produce that our CSA has to offer, meal after meal, year after year, has created flexible eaters who can politely eat even un-favorite vegetables.  They know that something more to their taste will be on the table next time. 

* Developing a totally different style of cooking, eating, and shopping — year-round

I became a much more creative & improvisational cook once dinner no longer consisted of planning a meal, then heading to the grocery store to pick up the needed ingredients.  I’m used to thinking,  “What do we have in the fridge to work with?”  and then manifesting something out of what’s there.  My repertoire of recipes and techniques also expanded rapidly, sometimes because I was presented with vegetables that I would never have bought myself, sometimes because I had to find new ways to cook up familiar ones that turned up week after week after week. 

Our shopping habits have also been permanently affected by our CSA experience.  We rapidly gave up buying out-of-season berries and tomatoes; they didn’t taste as good, and it felt plain wrong to eat them in the winter.  During the cold dark months we now make it a habit to buy fruit that doesn’t grow in Pennsylvania any time of year: oranges, pineapples, bananas and mangos give us a needed dose of tropical sunshine, and we look forward to the return of local peaches & apples in due time. 

Over the course of several years, we also transitioned to buying exclusively organic produce, deciding that we wanted to make a commitment to voting with our food dollar every single time we went to the grocery store.  We spend way more money on food than we used to, and we think it’s completely worth it.  (The real secret to good cooking is high-quality ingredients, as any restaurant professional will tell you.)

Eventually we gave up shopping at chain supermarkets altogether.  Just as Blooming Glen affords the opportunity to get to know Tom and Tricia, and to watch Dakota grow year to year, patronizing our locally-owned health food stores and buying meat from local farms means we know the people we buy our food from in the winter, too.  Where I shop, if I turn up without my kid in tow I get asked,”Where’s Sophie?”   If it turns out that I left my wallet on the kitchen counter, I can even write an IOU!  I don’t think that would fly at the Giant!

* Coping with abundance

I certainly remember feeling a little challenged at first to make it through our share every week.  Going out of town was particularly difficult; now in addition to arranging for pet-sitting, I had to figure out how to cook up or otherwise preserve the vegetables.  I announced to everybody I knew that being in a CSA was more work than having a dog!  

In self-defense, I learned to can tomato sauce and pickle green beans.  I learned to freeze.  I learned, sadly, that dehydrated beets are not tasty at all.   I learned that it is in fact possible to serve greens at every meal.  I put kale in my kids’ macaroni and cheese and turnip greens in their eggs and squash in their muffins.  They gobbled it all down.  Eventually they got so big and ate so much that we never had any problem using up our share — and then two of them got so big that they grew up and moved out. 

Last year I got lapped on my veggies more than once, and learned that I had gotten overly smug about my coping-with-abundance skills.  It’s a cycle, I guess.

* Lessons in patience

Our oldest daughter was a year old when we joined Kimberton CSA, and I was pregnant with the one who would turn out to be our middlest.  Our youngest, who is now nearly 10, was 4 when we first came to Blooming Glen Farm.  Nowadays my very favorite sight in the shed (even more than the beautiful pearly globes and glowing greens of my beloved turnips) is the moms with babies in slings or toddlers in tow — especially the moms with both.

The author's daughter at the farm in 2009, harvesting oregano with a friend.

Seeing children painstakingly counting or weighing out veggies for the share, or eagerly helping pick strawberries, green beans, or cherry tomatoes, brings me back to the days when farm visits lasted at least an hour and sometimes seemed to go on all afternoon.  Bags and baskets fill slowly; walks to the pick-your-own crops are long for little legs; walking back can seem even longer for the mom carrying a tired toddler on a hot day! 

It’s almost impossible to imagine them growing old enough even to play in the children’s garden unsupervised, let alone go off with a pair of sharp shears to cut flowers.  But eventually there might come a day — it did for me, anyway — when your ex-toddler, sporting a brand-new learner’s permit, actually drives you to the farm to pick up your share.  You’ll try not to flinch and gulp too obviously, knowing at this stage they need a lot of practice, not a lot of criticism.  You’ll get out of the car feeling thankful that the ride is over, and wondering whether you’re really going to be able to fake being a calm passenger all the way home. 

You’ll look around.  You’ll see Tom on his tractor, a kestrel overhead, kids crawling through the squash-blossom tunnels in the children’s garden, a woman with a bright bouquet in one hand and a baby on her hip.  You’ll smile at her. 

You’ll go into the shed.  It will smell of tomatoes, arugula, corn.  You’ll start to weigh out your share.  It all goes very quickly when you’ve had a lot of practice.

Fueled by veggies from Blooming Glen, meat from Tussock Sedge, and sustainably-caught fish from Otolith, Jenny Isaacs is the director of Secret Garden Montessori school in Frenchtown NJ and the founder of Bucks County Renewables, a nonprofit devoted to advocating for electric vehicles.