What's Growin' On at the Farm

Posted 8/8/2017 11:04am by Minnesota Food Association.

Greetings Folks,

Its the time of year when we settle into the wealth of the fields and load our plates with the first tastes of the Solanaceae. Also known as the nightshade family, this group of vegetables embodies the flavor of waning August sunsets when you can sit on the porch eating chip after chip of fresh salsa. 

Most of the farmers have harvested their garlic crops and it hangs in the barn curing. Onions will come next and the mesh tables that once held tiny seedlings in the greenhouse mere months ago, will carry the weight and the stink of red and yellow onions as they too cure in the barn.

Its hard to believe we are halfway done with the CSA, and yet with each passing week, there are small signs of fall in the air. I've already seen the red of sumac peeking out from the lower branches.

 

 

 

 

This week we have spent time thinking about farming on a national scale having attended a Farm Bill listening session with representatives from the House Agricultural Committee. Almost every corn and soy grower emphasized the need for crop insurance. Cattle and poultry producers were concerned about the need for prevention and mitigation of potential  disease outbreaks and there was a small but mighty representation of organic family farmers, most of whom are members of Land Stewardship Project. Their message was clear: Organic is a growing trend in agriculture, and small farmers need more support across the board. It felt good to be part of a positive movement in agriculture and to see so many farmers advocate for small, local solutions to feeding our community. Lets keep sending that message to all our representatives in hopes that the 2018 Farm Bill can be OUR farm bill not only providing assistance and support to small-scale agriculture, but helping grow the market and access to local and organic food for all consumers, no matter their income.  

Emily, Laura, Molly Lori and Lebo at Farm Fest after the listening session

 

Send Naima to Cuba!

Naima with her husband and farm partner, Fagas and their two sons

Second Year farmer Naima Dhore is hoping to participate in a 10-day farmer to farmer exchange with Witness for Peace in Cuba this September. She is currently asking for support through her Go Fund Me page.

Donate Here: https://www.gofundme.com/invest-in-naima-dhore

"Cuba is one of my favorite places to visit in terms of learning about farming. My goal is to learn about their food and practice of farming. In addition, skills that I could bring back to America to help and grow my farming business as well as share with other farmers." - Naima Dhore

 

 

Farmer of the Week

Written by an MFA volunteer with Photos by Laurie Schneider

Porfirio came to Big River Farms with a lot of experience in agriculture and food processing. He is originally from Guatemala, where he grew coffee, corn, and beans. “We were always working in the fields,” he said, and he was involved in all the many steps of coffee production, from preparing the land, planting and caring for trees, harvesting, washing, drying, processing, bagging, and bringing the crop to market.

When Porfirio first came to the US, he found a job in a meat processing plant in Iowa, where he lived for seven years. When fewer and fewer hours were available, he found a job with a construction company that operated all over the Midwest, including Minnesota. Eventually he moved permanently to Minnesota, after spending a year driving back and forth from Iowa for work. Porfirio has been in the Twin Cities for thirteen years now, and has been with Big River Farms for seven of them.

Porfirio hadn’t heard the term organic until he started working with Big River Farms, although he had farmed without chemicals in Guatemala. He values comida saludable - healthy food - and saw that the organic method focused on producing food that is good for people to eat. Today in Guatemala, he says, there are people that can’t produce crops without pesticides, because there are too many insects that eat the plants.

“If they don’t spray, bugs will destroy the crop in one day, and the next day there will be nothing. The seeds are coated with chemicals, when the plant emerges they release them. Then every week, chemicals, chemicals, until the pests are gone. This is why the plants are not healthy; we too, are consuming the chemicals. But if we didn’t do it this way, we wouldn’t produce anything. The system works like this.”

But it wasn’t always like this, so many chemicals, so many pests. “Before, we grew café, natural. Maíz, natural. Frijoles, natural. There were no chemicals.” But now, he says, “we ourselves, the workers, don’t know how to protect the earth.” Big River Farms is where Porfirio “discovered that we are killing the earth, and that we ourselves can give life to the earth. There, [in Guatemala] the earth is dead. It’s dead. If we plant things, we have to take good care of the earth, so that the earth has strength. If we don’t, it will not produce anything.”

And does he think Big River Farms teaches new farmers how to take care of the earth? “Sí. Sí. That is how I noticed, how I discovered this. This is where I learned to maintain the land, so that it produces.”

Without Big River Farms, Porfirio doesn’t think he would be growing plants today. “For us, for immigrants, we’re working in the cities, and we can’t see any of the countryside. It’s not easy to enter, to start. Big River Farms has helped many people discover how to get out of the city and get access to land.” There are other immigrants who would like to have access to a plot of farmland, he thinks, but many do not want to work two jobs – farming requires a lot of work! And if you don’t take good care of your crops, you’ll lose them. Porfirio works full time in construction, and comes to the farm after work and on weekends to ensure the success of his crops.

When he started at Big River Farms, he lost a lot of produce due to lack of experience. But today, he sells half his vegetables to BRF, including sweet corn, several kinds of tomatoes, unique dry beans like Black Turtle, jalapenos, cabbage, and squash, and has enough left over to sell at the Lyndale and West Side Farmers Markets. “I have learned a lot from [the instructors]” he says, starting with how to cultivate land organically, and in the process other things too, like how to bring the produce to market. “Me siento bien para estar trabajando con ellos…I feel good to be working with them.”

A note on the boxes: We had hoped for Cilantro for everyone and cherry tomatoes for Full Share members. Instead of Cilantro, everyone received cucumbers and instead of tomatoes, full share members received sweet corn! Hopefully, tomatoes and more corn will drop next week! 

Full Share

Beets from Mhonpaj's Garden

Tomatillos and Jalapeño from Sebra Farm

Corn, Broccoli, Zucchini, Cucumbers, Cabbage and Green Beans from The Early Birds

Zucchini from 1st Karen Farm

Garlic from Bhutanese Farm

Half Share

Tomatillos and Jalapeño from Sebra Farm

Zucchini, Cucumbers, Cabbage and Green Beans from The Early Birds

Zucchini from 1st Karen Farm

Garlic from Bhutanese Farm

 

In the Kitchen

We are so thrilled to send out the first of the seasons garlic and tomatillos and hot peppers in this weeks box. The jalapeño are one of our specialty hot peppers being grown on the farm this year and they are absolutely lovely to look at. 

What better way to use all three than in a simple salsa. Break out your chips!

Tomatillo Salsa

adapted from The New York Times Cooking and Rick Bayless

Photo courtesy of Epicurious.com

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound tomatillos, husked and rinsed
  • 2 to 4 jalapeño, seeded for a milder salsa, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ cup chopped onion, soaked for 5 minutes in cold water, drained and rinsed 
  • ¼ to ½ cup coarsely chopped cilantro (to taste)
  •  Salt to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon)
  • ¼ to ½ cup water, as needed

PREPARATION

  1. Place the tomatillos in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, flipping them over halfway through, until softened and olive green. Remove from the heat. Transfer to a blender. Add the jalapeño, onion, cilantro, and 1/4 cup water to the blender and blend to a coarse puree. Transfer to a bowl, add salt, and thin out as desired with water. Taste and adjust salt, and set aside for at least 30 minutes before serving, to allow the flavors to develop.
Instead of boiling, you could also husk, rinse and cut the tomatillos in half and then roast them in the oven under the broiler with some olive oil and salt. Watch as they turn from bright green to a more olive shade and begin to get soft, about 5 minutes on each side. This will give the salsa a smokier flavor. 
 
Try-out the tasty Pesto-Green Bean Recipe on the card this week as well and let us know how it goes!
 
Best,
Lebo
 

Lebo Moore

Food Hub Manager

Minnesota Food Association/Big River Farms

651-433-3676 ext.21

Posted 7/25/2017 10:19am by Minnesota Food Association.

Happy Tuesday CSA Members!

I think I say this every week, but really, it seems that the farm can't be more bountiful these days. We've got the first of the carrots for you all this week marking the turn to late summer crops. Before we know it our plates will be heavy with the late summer nightshade family of eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes and peppers, such a change from all the early season greens we have been munching on. Yum!

This week also marks our first wholesale delivery of the season to the Columbia Heights school district. Here are Danielle and May loading up the truck! We are really excited and proud of this new relationship in sourcing local and organic food to the five schools within the district. Later in the fall we will host students at the farm and pay farmers to visit the classroom closing the loop on a full farm to school partnership! This week we are sending carrots, zucchini, and summer squash which will be chopped and frozen for stir fry mixes to be used throughout the school year. Tasty tasty!

Meet your CSA Packer

Lately I have been thinking a lot about farm workers and the labor that is needed to keep a small-scale vegetable farm afloat. The other day I saw Farmer See Nay in the field with a crew of 15 people. He told me "Weeds are expensive!"and I couldn't agree more. Thanks to encouragement from one of our CSA volunteers, I felt it prudent to give thanks to our CSA workers, a reliable crew who arrives at 7am on Tuesdays to sort and pack your veggies. We really couldn't do this without them. 

Meet Paul, Andy, Willow and Mary. Absent from the photos are Brendan and Susan who have also helped out this season.

See them in action here as they move boxes along the assembly line!

       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Working the CSA assembly line!

Farmer of the Week: 1st Karen Farm

Story by Nancy Cook; photos by Lorie Schneider & Laura Hedeen

On May 28th, 2016, See Nay marks the ninth anniversary of his arrival in the United States. The farmer and part-time pastor has spent the last six of those years in Minnesota. The journey that brought him here to the MFA has been full of twists and turns.

Born in Ahmoe, in wartorn Burma, See Nay experienced a great deal of loss and instability in his youth. Forced by circumstances, See Nay’s family had to flee from village to village and, as See Nay recalls, he “saw too much death, too much war, and lost too many friends.” He remembers and still mourns one friend, in particular, who tried to prevail on the young See Nay to join in the fighting; the friend died in the hostilities, three bullets in his body. Others See Nay knew survived but were tortured or later suffered from post-traumatic stress.

In 1997, See Nay’s family – his parents, himself, four brothers, and five sisters -- fled to Thailand, where they lived for ten years in a refugee camp before an opportunity to emigrate finally opened up. See Nay and one brother came to the U.S., See Nay relocating to Wisconsin and his brother settling in Texas. By this time, See Nay had his own family, including a daughter and two sons. A third son was later born in the U.S. All four children, aged five to seventeen, are still living at home and going to school.

The move to the United States presented a great many challenges. Although See Nay had learned some English as a student in Burma, the little bit he’d mastered was of no help. He had start to over to learn American English. In all phases of life, he found he had to adjust to larger organization with built-in hierarchy. He also remembers well the culture shock he experienced around everything having to do with food. Even adjusting to American eating utensils took time. In Burma, at a family meal, although there might be a single knife, fork, and spoon on the table available for serving, at their respective places, people would eat with their fingers. The grocery store presented other surprises. For See Nay, it seemed things were organized in strange ways. The “breakfast foods” aisle was a real curiosity.

Coming from a place where rice was a staple at all meals, including breakfast, he couldn’t understand the strange boxes of cereals and bottles of pancake syrup. A simple sandwich at lunch was a novelty, as See Nay had never eaten bread with cheese folded inside. The culinary education worked two ways,of course. 

When the Burmese newcomers made a Karen meal for their sponsor, the man gamely picked up a whole chili pepper and put in his mouth, not realizing how hot it was. The sponsor’s ears turned red and tears flowed, to everyone’s amusement.

See Nay worked hard to become a contributing member of the community. His first job was at a Sears store and, after it closed, he worked in a grocery for nine months. Then he got a call from a friend living in St Paul. The friend wanted See Nay’s help organizing for his church. See Nay had for two years served as a pastor in the Thai refugee camp, and he was grateful to receive the call. So in 2010, See Nay moved with his family to the Twin Cities. Shortly after arriving, he saw that the local Karen organization was looking for a farm program coordinator and he applied. To his surprise, See Nay was hired. In 2013 See Nay was admitted to MFA’s basic training program.

The transition to his double career as pastor and organic farmer makes perfect sense to See Nay. In Burma, his family was self-supporting, raising rice, corn, and chili peppers, among other crops. Growing things comes naturally. He says working with the plants gives him peace; he loves nurturing them and watching them grow. Being able to see them every day makes him happy. “Food is my medicine,” See Nay says. “It makes the body healthy.”

There is an unmistakable connection between sustainable agriculture and pastoring work, which See Nay continues to do. As a pastor, See Nay’s job is “to encourage and nurture members, and focus on clean living.” He sometimes bring members of the congregation to the farm, and shares extra food with those who need it. See Nay dreams of becoming a successful organic farmer, with the ability to feed the community and to provide good health and good life to others. “The world is battling disease,” he says. “Many diseases are food related. We need to rebuild with healthy food. I want my produce to give strength that will spread through community, and even throughout the world.”

Update: As of 2017 See Nay and 1st Karen Farm are now the 1st Karen farm to be a member owner of Shared Ground Farmers Cooperative!

In the Box

Full Share

Fennel, Beets and Lacinato Kale from Mhonpaj's Garden

Fresh Onions, Green Onions, Carrots, Beets, Cucumbers and Peas from The Early Birds

Zucchini and Basil from Sebra Farm

Cucumbers and Swiss Chard from 1st Karen Farm

 Half Share

Fennel and Lacinato Kale from Mhonpaj's Garden

Fresh Onions, Carrots, and Cucumbers from The Early Birds

Zucchini and Basil from Sebra Farm

Cucumbers from 1st Karen Farm

In the Kitchen

For those with savory tastes, I highly recommend experimenting with a simple braise with this weeks box. Braising sounds fancy, but its really quite simple. Braising is essentially a way to brown in fat and then stew vegetables or meat. I love to braise all sorts of veggies with butter, olive oil or meat drippings and the flavor melding is soooo delicious.

You could easily braise your fennel, carrots and onions from this box and if you want through in your chard and zucchini!

Here is a basic recipe for a fennel carrot braise from Deb Lindsey for the Washington Post. Some may think this a cold weather treat, but I love eating it warm or cold as part of a hearty grain salad or on top of a bed of sauteed greens.

Photo courtesy of The Washington Post

INGREDIENTS
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large shallot, minced (a heaping 1/4 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seed, coarsely crushed
  • 2 small bulbs or 1 medium bulb fennel, plus a few fennel fronds for optional garnish
  • 2 strips of orange peel, removed with a vegetable peeler, each about 3/4 by 2 inches
  • 1 pound carrots, trimmed and cut into 1/2-by-2-inch sticks
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or more as needed
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup dry vermouth or dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup water
DIRECTIONS

Melt the butter in a large skillet or shallow braising pan over medium heat. Add the shallot and coriander seed; cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the shallot is translucent.

Trim the fennel bulb(s); if desired, reserve a handful of the fennel fronds and coarsely chop them. Cut the fennel bulb into 1/2-inch-thick wedges.

Stir the orange peel and fennel into the shallot mixture until evenly coated; cook until the fennel just begins to sizzle, about 4 minutes. (This will give the fibrous fennel a head start on the quicker-cooking carrots.) Add the carrots, and season with the salt and a good pinch of pepper.

Add the vermouth or wine; once it begins to bubble, add the water. Cover, and reduce the heat to medium-low; cook for about 40 minutes, stirring once or twice.

Uncover; increase the heat to medium and let the liquid reduce for about 5 minutes or until it nicely coats the vegetables. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as needed.

Discard the orange peel, if you like. Serve hot or warm, garnished with the fennel fronds, if using.

And finally, a little bit more about fennel from our favorite naked chef, Jamie Oliver!

Three cheers for Zucchini bread, am I right or what? Enjoy the recipe card this week!

Lebo Moore

Food Hub Manager

Minnesota Food Association/Big River Farms

651-433-3676 ext.21

Posted 12/27/2016 4:43pm by Minnesota Food Association.

Greetings all,


A friendly reminder that our Early Bird coupon expires on January 30th so if you have been dreaming about summer produce, nows your chance to sign-up and get your discount! Just enter the following coupon codes at checkout.

And remember to follow us on Facebook to keep updated throughout the winter on farm news, Immigrant Minority Farm conference happenings etc...

Nothing like local veggies to keep the winter blues away!


Lebo Moore

Food Hub Manager

Minnesota Food Association/Big River Farms

651-433-3676 ext.21

Posted 12/12/2016 9:29am by Minnesota Food Association.

Greetings CSA Members,

The fields are finally laid to rest and a light snow is falling. We at the farm are busy like bees keeping the hive warm and alive during the winter, but we are also grateful for the change of pace, to rest, reflect and relish in winter's warmth.

I wanted to reach out to you, our steadfast supporters, with a small reminder that it's never too early to think about summer vegetables!

Our 2017 CSA season is already taking sign-ups. Wouldn't it be great to check that off your list? Or maybe you want to gift a CSA share to a friend this season?!

Sign-up before January 2nd and get $30 off your share! Make sure to type EarlyBird2017 into the "coupon" field during check-out to add the discount to your payment. 

 

2017 CSA Options

Thanks to your feedback we are making a small change to our CSA for 2017. We will continue to offer both full and half share memberships. Our half share is changing from an every other week delivery of a full box to an Every Week delivery of a half box. You get the same amount of vegetables but in smaller amounts and more regular intervals.

We are also adding on an herb pot at the beginning of the season complete with an herb pocket guide to keep you stocked with tasty recipes all season long.

Visit our website for more detailed info on pricing and some new drop site locations!

May you find warmth, rest and peace this winter season.

In gratitude for food and farmers,

Lebo

 

Lebo Moore

Food Hub Manager

Minnesota Food Association/Big River Farms

651-433-3676 ext.21

Posted 11/8/2016 3:15pm by Minnesota Food Association.

The birds are back, and that’s a good thing. When Amy and Proeun Doeun first started farming on their current land in 2012, birds were rare. Why? No bugs to feed them. The land had been used for commercial farming, and the surrounding land, as well. Amy and Proeun were committed to organic farming, though, and set about restoring the nutrients in the soil. They used organic pest control techniques, such as spacing out the planting of cabbage to discourage moths from eating their produce. Some bugs are good bugs, after all. And now, the birds have returned -- a sign that the land is getting healthier.

Amy and Proeun are graduates of the Minnesota Food Association organic farming program and say that the program was a big help in preparing them to live off the land. They say that one of the greatest benefits of the program was that in addition to learning the basics, they learned how to research the answers to questions that came up later.

Proeun’s parents were farmers in Cambodia before war uprooted them. After spending five years in a refugee camp in Thailand, the family made it to America, eventually settling in Minnesota. Proeun’s parents would tell stories of how much they loved working with the land in the jungles of Cambodia, growing things, but it was Amy and Proeun’s oldest son who led them back to farming here.

Their son, now twelve, had such an enthusiasm for farms and growing things, that Amy and Proeun began to dabble in programs they heard about at the Minnesota Living Green Expo. Eventually, they got involved in the Minnesota Food Association, and before too long, the family had moved from their urban home of a 40 x 80 foot plot to a 40-acre farm. Amy and Proeun now have six kids, with a seventh on the way, and love that their kids can run and play in wide open spaces.

Amy and Proeun started farming produce, but they have been transitioning into heritage livestock, including Berkshire hogs, Galloway cows and Lincoln sheep. Their oldest son saved money to purchase cows of his own. Now that the cows are breeding, the herd is expanding. Thanks to a grant from Lakewinds Coop, they have been able to invest in fencing for their animals.

While the farm operates under organic farming guidelines, the cost of certification has been a hurdle. The farm’s CSA clients love the quality of their produce, and chefs know the value of heritage animals that tend to have more flavor than commercially raised animals. Upcoming plans include offering raw fleece from their sheep, and taking a sabbatical from growing produce in order to focus on their animal herds.

Amy has written a book, “Home School Farm” for her CSA clients, and anyone who is interested in seasonal living. Offering tips on when to order seeds, plant and harvest, she follows a year of living on the farm. The book may be downloaded from their website at crazyboyfarm.com.

Posted 11/3/2016 1:49pm by Minnesota Food Association.

Greetings from the farm!

The sun is absolutely glorious today. Absolutely. And the light is different this time of year. I have been trying to notice and pay attention to it more, especially in the context of the changing season. Despite the unseasonable weather, the earth is still turning and we are headed for some long dark days. I hope that you all lean into hibernation through winter projects, cooking and eating with friends, and some really good movie marathons!

Not must to report from the farm. We will have our final Holiday Farmers Market on Nov. 13th at Bachmans. Even if you don't need produce, it is a great time to find winter flowers, local cheese, jams, mushrooms etc. Drop by our table if you happen to go!

Whats in the Box?

This week we have a lot of good roasters and mashers.

Carrots, Brussel Sprouts, Squash, Rootabaga, Parsnip and Beets from Mhonpaj's Garden.

Onions and Cabbage from Bhutanese Farm

Garlic from Sebra Farm

Potatoes from Karen Family Farm

Acorn Squash from 1st Karen Farm

Note: Some of you received cabbage, others got acorn squash.

In the kitchen

My mother hates the smell of rutabaga. Yet, being the dutiful librarian she is, my childhood was full of animated readings from Carl Sandburg's Rutabaga Stories. If you haven't ever read it, I recommend venturing into this gnarly, unruly nonsense collection. And then make yourself some roasted rutabaga...

Gimme the Ax lived in a house where everything is the same as it always was. “The chimney sits on top of the house and lets the smoke out,” said Gimme the Ax. “The doorknobs open the doors. The windows are always either open or shut. We are always either upstairs or downstairs in this house. Everything is the same as it always was.” So he decided to let his children name themselves. -Rutabag Stories, by Carl Sandburg

Roasted Rutabaga

Toss 1 large peeled and cubed rutabaga with 3 tablespoons olive oil, and salt and pepper on a baking sheet. Roast at 425 degrees F until golden and soft, 40 minutes. Toss with 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar and chopped parsley.

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/roasted-rutabaga-recipe.html?oc=linkback

Rutabaga Chipotle Soup

 

Ingredients
3 tablespoons butter
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 large rutabagas, peeled and diced (this yields about 5 cups)
4 cups broth of choice (chicken or vegetable)
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 to 1 teaspoon dried ground chipotle* (see note below!)
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
Salt to taste

 

Preparation
Melt butter in a large pot and add onion and celery, cooking until browned. Season with salt. Add the rutabaga and the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until the rutabaga is fork-tender, about 30 minutes. Add the chipotle and the white pepper. Stir well.

 

Process in a blender or food processor until smooth, and pass through a fine mesh sieve to remove any chunks. Stir in the cream and taste. Gently simmer for 15 minutes. Add more salt, white pepper, chipotle, or paprika if you think it needs it.

 

*Note about the chipotle: this pepper is spicy! I could handle a full teaspoon of it, but it's always best to start small and work your way up where chiles are concerned. Start off with 1/4 of a teaspoon, stir, taste, and keep adding 1/4 teaspoon more until you reach your desired heat level. If you overdo it, you can cool it down with sour cream or plain yogurt.

As for parsnips, well you can make parsnip hash, roast them, mash them, eat them in a salad or a pilaf or even a cake!

Check out these recipes from the BBC Good Food.

 

Happy eating and I hope you all get outside to feel the light!

Lebo Moore

Food Hub Manager

Minnesota Food Association/Big River Farms

651-433-3676 ext.21

Posted 10/6/2016 6:31pm by Minnesota Food Association.

Greetings All,

Today during box packing our fingers were so cold! The only salvation was the sun rising up above the tree line and the delicate heads of butter lettuce gently nestling into the box.

For those of you with half shares in Week A (all you half-shares receiving this email) this is your last box! Full share members, you have one more week to pick up your CSA.

Fall share members your first box starts on Oct. 20th.

As we come to the close of the CSA I can't help but reflect on the larger issues we are tackling at Big River Farms. I think, after reading this article in the New York Times, I am especially honored and proud to be a part of this small revolution. I hope you feel the same.

We may not be processing 14 million pounds of produce in one week, but those numbers frighten me. The article begins by stating how industrial agriculture has allowed for us to produce the most amount of food for the least amount of money in the history of civilization. I can't help but question, what hidden costs have been absorbed by our environment, work force, social culture and public health. There are costs associated with each of those categories that are externalized and then overlooked when praising the success of a vertically integrated global food system. 

It's not as cheap as it looks. But all of you know that. $650 for 18 boxes of vegetables isn't cheap either. But it is closer to the real cost of what it takes to produce those vegetables.

14 million pounds of produce in a week! - photo by George Steinmetz 

 

The food you have eaten for the last four months has returned nutrients to the soil, conserved water, and most importantly supported beginning farmers, most of whom are immigrants, in starting their own business. 

If you come to the harvest party on October 16th (4-7pm at the Farm!) you will meet all of your farmers and celebrate the season with them.

In case you can't come, I'll share one success of the season. We are thrilled to announce that Aung Thin, owner/operator/farmer for Karen Family Farm is in the review process for an FSA loan to buy his OWN Farm. He is a fourth year farmer in the program and he is at the verge of graduating into ownership of his own small farm business. That is what your membership has supported. Maybe now $650 seems cheap when you realize how far it has gone. 

Aung Thin, bunching green onions at Big River Farms

 

What's in the Box?

Anaheim Peppers and Butternut Squash from Sebra Farms

(H)Anchotte from Rome Farm

Arugula, Broccoli, Carrots, Cilantro and Potatoes from Karen Family Farm

Broccoli, Lettuce and Radish from 1st Karen Farm

Cilantro, Kale and Onions from The Early Birds

Beets from Mhonpaj's Garden

Kale from Naima and Fagas

Pumpkins from Molly Schaus (farm manager extraordinaire!) and the students from Face to Face Academy who helped seed, plant, weed and harvest all summer long!

 

In the Kitchen

This week we are proud to present our final specialty crop. (H)Anchotte is a traditional Oromo vegetable. It is a tuber crop, meaning it grows underground much like a potato but it is also somewhat akin to a cucumber.

Kano of Rome Farm is a native Ethiopian and come from the Central Region of Ethiopia where the Oromo people are concentrated. He is the only person in Minnesota, likely in the midwest, growing (H)Anchotte and the Oromo population in the Twin Cities can't get enough! We are lucky to have gotten even the tiniest bit for our CSA.

It is also registered as part of The Slow Food Arc of Taste. YOu can read more about what that means here.

The best way to prepare (H)Anchotte is to boil and mash it as soon as possible. It can store for up to a week in the refrigerator. If you do not cook it immediately, it will start to dry out and become starch.

Boil and mash your (H)Anchotte and then add this Oromo butter for a tasty and traditional Ethiopian delicacy.

Oromo Butter

  • Blend 1 stick of butter with a blend of your favorite spices (cumin, cayenne, paprika, ginger, cardamom, coriander, fenugreek, salt)
  • Leave this on your counter for 3 days allowing it to ferment in a closed container. If it smells a little stinky, that is good!
  • Melt this mixture until it boils and becomes liquid.
  • Cool, but don't let it solidify (you are separating the fat out, much like Ghee or Clarified Butter)
  • Filter off the spices ussing a fine strainer. YOu will be left with liquid butter that will last 1 plus years. The Oromo people use this technique so as to preserve butter when they don't have access to refrigeration.

Kano says you can drizzle this on your mashed (H)Anchotte, maybe mix in some sauteed onions and jerky and it is delicious! Or throw it in with your mashed potatoes and taste test!

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

From Cooking New York Times

Because why not???

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound elbow macaroni, cooked according to package directions
  • 1 large butternut squash
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 7 cups milk
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  •  Salt
  •  Pepper

PREPARATION

  1. Roast the butternut squash. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut squash in half lengthwise; remove seeds. Place in roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil. Place in oven and cook until soft all the way through, about 1 hour. Set aside until cool. When cooled, remove skin and place in food processor. Purée until smooth.
  2. Make cheese sauce. Melt butter in saucepan. Add flour. Stir to make a roux and cook 3 minutes, stirring the entire time. Add 3 cups milk and stir until thickened. Add the rest of the milk and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Add shredded cheese and stir until melted. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. To assemble the dish: Place cooked elbow macaroni in bowl. Pour half of the cheese sauce over and add puréed, roasted butternut squash. Fold together. If it seems too dry, add the rest of the cheese sauce. Place in an ovenproof dish and heat for 15 minutes at 325 degrees.

 Hope to see you all on the 16th. We'll be in touch about 2017 CSA share options in the next month so you can start dreaming of vegetables all winter long!

Take Care,

Lebo

 

 

 

 

Lebo Moore

Food Hub Manager

Minnesota Food Association/Big River Farms

651-433-3676 ext.21

Posted 9/29/2016 12:57pm by Minnesota Food Association.

Well folks....

...the time for savoring the season is upon us. The gift of morning mist rolling across the fields as the cool air meets the warmth of the soil reminds us that the days are waning. It also reminds me of the Inca people who lived and farmed in and around Machu Picchu. There is a ruin in Peru, south of the Sacred Valley, south of Cuzco called Moray, where the Incans cultivated food. 

Moray sinks into the horizon. Three deep pits lined with terraces descend to a depth of 429 feet. Each terrace is connected to irrigation channels, has its own micro-climate and there is strong evidence to suggest that Moray operated as the first agricultural research station in the world. Could Incans have transplanted tropical plants, slowly acclimating them to grow in higher altitudes by planting them in a different terrace each year? How is the design of Moray situated in relation to the sun and the solstice, both significant elements of Incan culture? So many questions, such a fascinating place.

When I visited Moray I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Peru. Tasked with youth education I spent most of my time cooking, dancing and yoga-ing with kids in the Northern Department of Piura. In the Sacred Valley I became intrigued by the ingenuity of these ancient communities, especially how their knowledge for food and agriculture has been passed down from generation to generation. There are farmers around Cuzco who grow potatoes at high altitude, where the nights are cold and the days are warm. These farmers employ an age-old practice of cultivation knowing that the sun warms the soil just enough so that when the cool night air meets the land a fog envelopes the tender potato plant, insulating it against the cold, ensuring continued potato production. That is why the mist on the farm this morning reminded me of Peru and reminded me to savor and honor the waning season for all the land has provided and all the toil the farmers have contributed to the food we are eating today. Farming is as old as civilization and to think that the Incans developed agricultural techniques that are still in practice today is like, woah, super cool (or super chevere as the youth in Peru would say).

On the Farm

Farmers are beginning to clean up the fields, squash and pumpkins are curing and we had a whole host of third graders from Brimhall Elementary came on a service learning trip to the farm to clean onions, wash pumpkins and take some tractor trailer rides!

Our Harvest Party is only three weeks away. Did we tell you about the potluck yet? Thats right, its a potluck party so you can bring a dish to share and then delight in a variety of dishes prepared by fellow CSA members and farmers. There will also be a small farmer ceremony to highlight success of the season and congratulate our farmers in their training advances. 

 

 

 

Whats in the Box

 

Arugula, Carrots, Potatoes, Green Beans and Cilantro from Karen Family Farm

Green Beans, Eggplant and Onions from The Early Birds

Fennel, Lacinato Kale and Beets from Mhonpaj's Garden

Lacinato Kale from American Sustainable Organics

Hot Peppers and Butternut Squash from Sebra Farms

 

In the Kitchen

Beets. We haven't had many this year, but these root crops take soups, salads and roasted veggie mixes to a new level. Whether mixed with your Arugula, blue cheese, walnuts and a simple balsamic vinaigrette or cooked up in a borscht, these humble crops supply all sorts of nutrients. Plus they are a central character in Jitterbug Perfume, one of Tom Robbins quirky novels.

Jalapenos. My friends invited me over the other week for an addicting snack. 

Puree:

5 Jalapenos (without seeds, or with if you like it really spicy!)

2-3 cloves of garlic

1/2 bunch of Cilantro

Juice of 1-2 limes

Salt and pepper to taste

Its that east. Its that delicious. Put it on ANYTHING!

Butternut Squash. It is the beginning of the roasting season. What more could you want than a succulent deep orange squash with cardamom from Ottolenghi? Or maybe you are looking for a hearty squash and farro main dish from 101 Cookbooks that would be delicious as leftovers for lunch.

A good farmer is a craftsman of the highest order and a kind of artist- Wendell Berry

A leader and visionary, Wendell Berry is a must read for any food enthusiast.

 

Lebo Moore

Food Hub Manager

Minnesota Food Association/Big River Farms

651-433-3676 ext.21

Posted 9/1/2016 1:47pm by Minnesota Food Association.

Dear CSA Members,

It is so quiet on the farm. The sky is still blue, the trees are still green, but they have that late summer green that is tired and heavy. The farmers are still in the fields, but all of us have recognized a change of pace and a slowing down.

One CSA member picked up her share early this morning and stated that this is her favorite time of year, when the summer begins to fade and the faintest cool breeze reminds us of the winter ahead. Its only three weeks till the solstice folks so enjoy these days of warmth and light.

Dates to remember:

October 13th: The last CSA box delivery for the every week members and all of you "Week B" members.

Oct. 16th: Annual CSA Member Harvest Party. Bring your friends and family for games, tours, good food, drink and live music on the farm!

Oct. 20th: The first of three Fall CSA deliveries Remember to sign-up for your share of leeks, beets, carrots, turnips, garlic onions and winter squash!!!

Nov. 17th: Support your MFA farmers on Give to The Max Day!

 

In addition, if you are interested in participating in other local food events around town, I recommend checking the From The Ground Up North calendar, which posts lots of family friendly food oriented activities happening around town. September 17th is Community Garden day, you can visit a variety of gardens and learn about growing in your neighborhood!

This is what Kale looks like in August. I see a tiny forest after weeks of producing nutritious leafy greens.

 

Farmer of the Week

Porfirio Perez, one of the Farmer Mentor's at MFA is an expert grower and jovial face around the farm.

Without Big River Farms, Porfirio doesn’t think he would be growing plants today. “For us, for immigrants, we’re working in the cities, and we can’t see any of the countryside. It’s not easy to enter, to start. Big River Farms has helped many people discover how to get out of the city and get access to land.” 

Continue reading Porfirio's story....

  

Whats in the Box

Bok Choy, Edamame and Potato from Karen Family Farm

Cucumber from 1st Karen Farm

Green Onions, Kale and Sweet Peppers from The Early Birds

Kale from Rome Farm and Mhonpaj's Garden

Ground Cherries, Watermelon, Cherry Tomatoes and Sweet Peppers from Porfirio Perez and Sebra Farm (our farmer of the week!)

 

In The Kitchen

For those of you new to Ground Cherries, these little pineapple tasting drops of heaven can be eaten raw, thrown in a salad or baked into a pie! There are some recipes here on our blog.

Braised Bok Choy with Plenty of Garlic

from Jack Bishop's Eating Vegetables Everyday

This recipe produces a side dish that captures the essence of bok choy with minimal distractions. Braising highlights the creamy nature of bok choy and garlic is a natural compliment to the earthy flavor of this Chinese cabbage. Serve this saucy side dish with meat (such as pork) or fish (use bok choy as a bed for roasted cod or snapper) that benefits from the addition of some "gravy".

Serves 4 as a side dish

1 large head bok choy (about 2 pounds)

2 tablespoons roasted peanut oil

6 medium garlic cloves, sliced thin

1 cup chicken or vegetable stock

Salt and ground pepper

1. Separate the leafy green portions of the bok cho from the white stalks. Discard the tough bottom portion from each stalk. Cut the stalks crosswise into thin stripos. Cut the leaves crosswise into thin strips. Set the stalks and leaves aside separately.

2. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over high heat until almost smoking. Add the bok choy stalks and stir fry until slightly softened, about 2 minutes.

3. Add the bok choy greens, stock, and salt and pepper to taste to the pan. Stir to combine the ingredients. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer, stirring once or twice, until the bok choy is very tender, about 10 minutes. Remove the cover, raise the heat and simmer briskly until the excess liquid has evaporated, 3-4 minutes. The bok choy should be moist, not soupy. Adjust the seasonings. Serve immediately.

 

I can't believe we have gone a whole season without a potato salad recipe?! Try this one from Heidi and spice up your lunch or dinner!

Smash-and-Toss Roasted Potato Salad

If you can't find jars of pickled ginger, leave it out. Still delicious!

1 pound small potatoes, smaller is better
1 1/2 cups cooked lentils, room temperature

3 tablespoons chopped sun-dried tomatoes (oil packed)
2 tablespoons oil from sun-dried tomato jar
1 tablespoon pickled sushi ginger
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
2 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
5 scallions, chopped
Juice of half a lemon, or to taste

1/3 cup toasted, sliced almonds
a handful of basil, slivered
basil flowers, to finish

Heat oven to 425F. Rinse the potatoes, and pat dry with a clean dish towel, absorbing as much extra water as possible. Place the potatoes on a baking sheet and sprinkle with a bit of salt. Roast until well-cooked through - you want them to be fully cooked, fluffy and tender. Remove from the oven, wait five minutes, take a fork, and press about half of the potatoes. You want to smash the potatoes, while still having them retain some structure.

In a large bowl, toss the lentils with the sun-dried tomatoes, sun-dried tomato oil, ginger, sea salt, garlic, most of the scallions, and lemon juice. Toss well. Add the potatoes and gently toss again. Top with the remaining scallions, the almonds, and basil.

Serves 4.

Prep time: 10 min - Cook time: 25 min

 

May your tastebuds linger with summer this week.

 

Lebo Moore

Food Hub Manager

Minnesota Food Association/Big River Farms

651-433-3676 ext.21

Posted 9/1/2016 1:36pm by Minnesota Food Association.

Written by an MFA volunteer with Photos by Laurie Schneider

Porfirio came to Big River Farms with a lot of experience in agriculture and food processing. He is originally from Guatemala, where he grew coffee, corn, and beans. “We were always working in the fields,” he said, and he was involved in all the many steps of coffee production, from preparing the land, planting and caring for trees, harvesting, washing, drying, processing, bagging, and bringing the crop to market.

When Porfirio first came to the US, he found a job in a meat processing plant in Iowa, where he lived for seven years. When fewer and fewer hours were available, he found a job with a construction company that operated all over the Midwest, including Minnesota. Eventually he moved permanently to Minnesota, after spending a year driving back and forth from Iowa for work. Porfirio has been in the Twin Cities for thirteen years now, and has been with Big River Farms for seven of them.

Porfirio hadn’t heard the term organic until he started working with Big River Farms, although he had farmed without chemicals in Guatemala. He values comida saludable - healthy food - and saw that the organic method focused on producing food that is good for people to eat. Today in Guatemala, he says, there are people that can’t produce crops without pesticides, because there are too many insects that eat the plants.

“If they don’t spray, bugs will destroy the crop in one day, and the next day there will be nothing. The seeds are coated with chemicals, when the plant emerges they release them. Then every week, chemicals, chemicals, until the pests are gone. This is why the plants are not healthy; we too, are consuming the chemicals. But if we didn’t do it this way, we wouldn’t produce anything. The system works like this.”

But it wasn’t always like this, so many chemicals, so many pests. “Before, we grew café, natural. Maíz, natural. Frijoles, natural. There were no chemicals.” But now, he says, “we ourselves, the workers, don’t know how to protect the earth.” Big River Farms is where Porfirio “discovered that we are killing the earth, and that we ourselves can give life to the earth. There, [in Guatemala] the earth is dead. It’s dead. If we plant things, we have to take good care of the earth, so that the earth has strength. If we don’t, it will not produce anything.”

And does he think Big River Farms teaches new farmers how to take care of the earth? “Sí. Sí. That is how I noticed, how I discovered this. This is where I learned to maintain the land, so that it produces.”

Without Big River Farms, Porfirio doesn’t think he would be growing plants today. “For us, for immigrants, we’re working in the cities, and we can’t see any of the countryside. It’s not easy to enter, to start. Big River Farms has helped many people discover how to get out of the city and get access to land.” There are other immigrants who would like to have access to a plot of farmland, he thinks, but many do not want to work two jobs – farming requires a lot of work! And if you don’t take good care of your crops, you’ll lose them. Porfirio works full time in construction, and comes to the farm after work and on weekends to ensure the success of his crops.

When he started at Big River Farms, he lost a lot of produce due to lack of experience. But today, he sells half his vegetables to BRF, including sweet corn, several kinds of tomatoes, unique dry beans like Black Turtle, jalapenos, cabbage, and squash, and has enough left over to sell at the Lyndale and West Side Farmers Markets. “I have learned a lot from [the instructors]” he says, starting with how to cultivate land organically, and in the process other things too, like how to bring the produce to market. “Me siento bien para estar trabajando con ellos…I feel good to be working with them.”