What's Growin' On at the Farm

Posted 7/28/2016 12:17pm by Minnesota Food Association.

Greetings Members,

Wednesday is the best day on the farm. Now that we have hit a good stride in our weekly activities I think I can say that with good authority. I'll tell you why.

On Wednesday the pack shed is full of people washing produce, unpacking harvest totes, packing wholesale boxes and just hanging out. The kids on the farm zip around on bikes and the staff runs around checking in produce and teaching farmers how many carrots go in one bunch. It is a zoo, but if I step back and take a breathe I see the hive working in harmony.

Sebra Farms cleaning garlic

Wednesday is the best day on the farm because it is a weekly reminder of how messy but also how beautiful building a local food system can be. Yesterday Argelia of Sebra Farm showed me her onions. They look like tiny little moons they are so white and glowing. The basil continues to fill the pack shed with a sweet heavy aroma and this week we have beets for everybody!!! 

On Thursdays, after we pack boxes and after Lorenzo heads out to deliver them, Molly and I walk the whole farm. We talk with farmers, we check our crop plans and we decided what is going to be in the CSA box the following week. By the following Wednesday, I have forgotten what we had planned and instead of seeing the tops of carrots in the fields the orange bunches surprise me along with all the other food filling up in the cooler. Wednesday is the best day on the farm. 

Please remember to bring your own bag to collect your vegetables, unpack your box, stack the boxes and cross your name off the list. Thanks!

 

Farmer of the Week:The honorable DG!

Dil has been impressed by what modern farm equipment can do and how easy it is to use. “People here have so much,” he observes, much more than they realize. He’d like people to understand safety issues, such as the need to know how to use equipment right. He’d also like people to understand the health benefits of organically grown food. Finally, he’d like people in government and the voters to be aware of the importance of improving the farming industry, especially through training and support of small businesses.

Continue reading Dil's story....

 

 

Whats in the Box?

Basil, Cucumber, Fresh Garlic, Onions, Tomatillos and Sungold Tomatoes all from Sebra Farms!

Cucumber, Roselle and Zucchini from Karen Family Farm

Zucchini from Bhutanese Farm

Green Beans and Cucumber from The Early Birds

Lacinato Kale from Mhonpaj's Garden

Beets and Zucchini from 1st Karen Farm

 

In the Kitchen

For those of you who didn't get a box last week we are super excited about introducing our first specialty crop of the season. Thanks to a grant from the USDA we are helping farmers grow traditional food crops more efficiently and generating buzz around new foods in our community. This week we are proud to offer Roselle, a relative of the Hibiscus family and a staple in Burmese cooking. Our Karen farmers use these greens in soups primarily. The sour, almost lemon like flavor, pairs nicely with almost any kind of seafood. 

Sour soup recipe (Chin hin) adapted from Best Oodles

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 lb shell-on shrimp, divined*
  • 1 water spinach (aka Ong Choy) or yam leaves, 2” chopped and washed*
  • 1 bunch roselle leaves (Chin maung yath), washed
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 3 quart water

*Update Notes:-1 water spinach (aka Ong Choy) or yam leaves = A bunch of water spinach (aka Ong Choy) or yam leaves approx.

Directions: 

  1. Pinch roselle leaves and discard stems.
  2. In hot stock pot place oil, onion and garlic to sauté until they caramelize, add chili powder, turmeric powder and stir for a minute.
  3. Add shrimp and stir for a minute and then add water, water spinach, roselle leaves and stir the leaves until they have wilted. You could also add a teaspoon of fresh minced ginger.
  4. Stir in fish sauce and water. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes when you see the soup boil.  Serve with rice.

Its Tomatillo Time!

Perhaps another new vegetable for some folks, tomatillos, a member of the nightshade family (think eggplant, potato, tomato, pepper) and native to Mexico make a delicious summer salsa. You can either roast, boil or prepare them raw and I love adding avocado into any salsa recipe for a creamy delicious snack.

Here is a recipe from the New York Times cooking blog.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound tomatillos, husked
  • 1 to 2 serrano chiles (to taste), stems removed
  • 1 medium garlic clove, unpeeled
  • 1 slice white onion
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro, with stems
  • 1 medium avocado
  •  Salt to taste

PREPARATION

  1. Heat a heavy cast-iron skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. Place tomatillos in pan and toast until charred on 1 side, about 10 minutes for a medium or large tomatillo. The color in the middle should be fading from pale green to olive. Turn tomatillos over and continue to grill until charred on the other side, about 10 minutes, but not for so long that they burst. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool.
  2. Place chile(s), garlic clove and onion slice in skillet and toast, turning often, until chile is lightly charred and garlic is charred in spots and softened. The onion should be lightly colored on both sides but not charred black (that will make it bitter). Remove from heat. Peel the garlic and transfer, with the onion and chiles, to a blender. Add tomatillos and any liquid that may have accumulated in the bowl.
  3. Add remaining ingredients to blender and blend until smooth. Taste, adjust seasoning, and serve.

If you are running low on Zucchini recipes, try making this hash and invite your friends over for brunch! Nothing like Zucchini to bring people together!

Happy eating.

 

Lebo Moore

Food Hub Manager

Minnesota Food Association/Big River Farms

651-433-3676 ext.21

Posted 7/28/2016 10:57am by Minnesota Food Association.

Story by Nancy Cook; photos by millcitytimes

Dil Gurung is a family man and a determined small business farmer. Now in his third year in Minnesota Food Association’s training program, Dil is proud of his growing business. He and his family not only sell their produce through the Big River Farms CSA, but at local markets. He aims to increase his acreage and, maybe one day, raise animals.

Twenty-five years ago, growing up in a small mountain village in Bhutan, Dil could not have imagined the life he is now living. As citizens of an autocracy, his family, like 90% of the Bhutanese people, made their home on a small plot allotted by the government. Although a mountainous region, Bhutan boasts a more moderate climate than that found in Minnesota, and the Gurungs raised cash crops, including oranges, apples, and cardamom, as well as a variety of vegetables such as radishes, beans, corn, potatoes, peppers, turnips, and onions. Ensuring a successful crop was the job of everyone in the family.

Political upheaval forced the family to abandon their fifteen acres in Bhutan and relocate to Nepal, where they spent seventeen years as refugees. Another change of fortunes came in 2010 when the family made its way to Minnesota to join others with Bhutanese and Nepalese origins. Now firmly settled into a democratic society where everything from food and dress to industry and education is different, Dil’s basic focus remains the same. “Family is first,” he says. With two children in college and aging parents who also rely on him, Dil’s primary goal is to support the family. Community is very important, too. He takes pride in the growing Bhutanese Farm and in providing the community with “good products that help everyone.”

To fulfill his duties to family and community, and to see his dreams come to fruition, Dil knows he has to learn as much as possible about all aspects of farming. The weather here is a big challenge, for one thing. Mastering methods of planting, nurturing, and protecting organic produce takes time and effort. Dil has been impressed by what modern farm equipment can do and how easy it is to use. “People here have so much,” he observes, much more than they realize. He’d like people to understand safety issues, such as the need to know how to use equipment right. He’d also like people to understand the health benefits of organically grown food. Finally, he’d like people in government and the voters to be aware of the importance of improving the farming industry, especially through training and support of small businesses. 

Posted 7/21/2016 4:26pm by Minnesota Food Association.

Greetings Fellow Vegetable Fanatics,

Our world is struggling these days. There seem to be too many incidents of violence rooted in deep oppression that challenge our ability as humans to connect with each other. In times of crisis I always turn to food as solace and as a medium through which to unite. This week I read a fascinating article detailing the power of hummus in uniting, but also dividing the Middle East.

I found the contrasting power embedded in this one staple food so fascinating. Not only are there verifiable "hummus wars" based on who can break the Guinness record of largest hummus plate in the world, there are also significant cultural claims to the origins of hummus as a dish. Reading this article, in the context of the long standing troubles in the Middle East gives new perspective to the way we incorporate food into our socio-politics, not to mention our daily menus. 

I also like watching farmers fuel up their very own tractor for the first time! Check out See Nay's new wheels! 

Speaking of traditional foods, we are thrilled to announce the arrival of our first Specialty Crop of the season. Chin baung or Roselle, in English, comes to us from our Karen farmers, both See Nay (1st Karen Farm) and Aung Thin (Karen Family Farm). Some of you may know Roselle as Hibiscus. Fun fact it is in the same plant family. For Karen and Burmese populations, Roselle is a staple green in their diet and food culture. Check out this video about Roselle and then experiment with a few recipes below!

Our specialty crops are made possible by a grant from the USDA to grow traditional food crops that are representative of the farming cultures in the MFA training program. We are thrilled to introduce these new foods to our CSA members and give farmers an opportunity to grow traditional and often inaccessible food for their communities.

Farmer of the Week

 Although Xie grew up with farming in her blood and has been working the fields all her life, she says she is still learning a lot.
American agricultural practices are different from those she grew up with. For example, the method of using beds and greenhouses for planting and cultivating was new to her. Significantly, in Xie’s view, fertilizers were never used in Laos or Thailand, and the idea of relying on them in the United States was not appealing.
Continue reading Xi's story....
 

 

Whats in the Box?

  • Green Beans for pickling, sauteeing, steaming from the Karen Family Farm and The Early Birds
  • Kohlrabi from Karen Family Farm
  • Carrots from Bhutanese Farm
  • Radish from Bhutanese Farm
  • Zucchini from Bhutanese Farm, 1st Karen Farm and Karen Family Farm
  • Caraflex Cabbage (a delightfully sweet cabbage perfect for roasting with a little bit of olive oil, lemons, salt and pepper) from The Early Birds and 1st Karen Farm
  • Onions and Fresh Garlic from Sebra Farm 
  • Roselle from 1st Karen Farm

In The Kitchen

The following recipe comes from Indira Singari's Blog The Mahanandi. Check it out for more Roselle recipes!

Gongura Peanut Pachadi

1 tablespoon, peanut oil

2 garlic cloves, skin peeled and chopped coarsely

1 red onion or shallots – coarsely chopped, about a cup

6 to 8, fresh or dried chillies, Indian variety

Fresh gongura leaves – about 6 cups, tightly packed

Roasted, shelled, skinned, unsalted peanuts – 3/4 cup

1/2 teaspoon, salt (or to taste)

1. Heat the oil in a wok or skillet. When oil is hot, add garlic, onion and chillies. Saute to soft brown. Remove them into a cup.

2. In the same skillet, stir in the gongura leaves. It will seem an enormous quantity but the leaves reduce rapidly to less than half the volume. Cover the pan and cook over medium heat for about five minutes. If the gongura is very fresh, the mixture will be juicy. Remove the cover and continue to cook until the water has evaporated, for another two to three minutes. Remove from heat and leave to cool.

3. In a blender or mortar, take the peanuts. Add salt. Grind or pound into a fine powder. Add the cooked onion-gongura mixture to peanut powder. Stir in half cup of water. Blend the ingredients to smooth pachadi. Remove to a cup.

Gongura-peanut pachadi tastes good with breakfast items, rice or roti

SALADE NIÇOISE: 

The best way to eat summer veggies in my opinion

SERVES 4-6 from Savuer.com

For the Dressing

1 clove garlic
Kosher salt, to taste
13 cup olive oil
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 shallot, minced
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the Salad

1 lb. small new potatoes, boiled until tender
6 oz. yellow baby beets, boiled until tender, peeled
6 oz. red baby beets, boiled until tender, peeled
8 oz. haricot verts, blanched
12 oz. cherry tomatoes, halved
12 cup black Niçoise olives
8 small radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced
8 salt-packed anchovies, rinsed and drained
4 hard-boiled eggs, halved lengthwise
1 small cucumber, thinly sliced
3 (4-oz.) cans high-quality oil-packed tuna, drained
12 cup loosely packed basil leaves, to garnish
14 cup thinly sliced scallions, to garnish

Instructions

Make the dressing: Mince garlic on a cutting board and sprinkle heavily with salt; using a knife, scrape garlic and salt together to form a smooth paste. Transfer paste to a bowl and whisk in oil, juice, mustard, shallot, and salt and pepper; set aside.
Make the salad: Arrange all ingredients in separate rows on a large serving platter; drizzle dressing over all ingredients, season with salt and pepper, and garnish with basil and scallions just before serving.
 

Lebo Moore

Food Hub Manager

Minnesota Food Association/Big River Farms

651-433-3676 ext.21

Posted 7/21/2016 4:15pm by Minnesota Food Association.

~Story by Nancy Cook; photos by Molly Schaus & Laura Hedeen

Anyone meeting Xie Cha for the first time can see immediately that she goes through life with a positive outlook. Whether she is talking about her early life in rural Southeast Asia, or her current life as a new member of the MFA family, she is all smiles.

Gardening is easy for Xie; she comes to the work naturally, having always had a garden plot of some kind. In Laos, where she was born, Xie helped on the family farm. Later, as a young woman living in Thailand, she raised bok choy and other Asian greens, onion, mint, cilantro, and many other vegetables and herbs essential to home cooking. Less than two years after her 1992 arrival in the U.S., Xie acquired her first community plot. When she and her family relocated from Wisconsin to Minnesota in 2003, she continued the family gardening tradition. It was while tilling her family’s plot that she learned about the MFA training program. She applied, was accepted, and has been in the training program since January of 2016.

Although Xie grew up with farming in her blood and has been working the fields all her life, she says she is still learning a lot. American agricultural practices are different from those she grew up with. For example, the method of using beds and greenhouses for planting and cultivating was new to her. Significantly, in Xie’s view, fertilizers were never used in Laos or Thailand, and the idea of relying on them in the United States was not appealing. “You don’tknow what’s in them,” she says. “Organic food is much better for people.” Xie was born in Laos, but she came of age in Thailand, where she lived for ten years in a refugee camp. It was there she met her husband. They married and had five children before emigrating to the United States. Another two children were born in the U.S. Now adults, the children – some of whom have children of their own -- range in age from 21 to 33. Shortly after the last child was born, Xie started to go to school to learn English. Meanwhile she raised the seven children while her husband worked.

In her small plot, Xie raises corn, squash, Asian greens, and cucumbers. A lot of what she grows goes to feed her large family, but she sells a little too. She dreams of having a big farm. Although her husband has no interest in cultivating the land (“he likes his inside job,” Xie says, smiling), the children help when they can, especially two sons who remain at home with their own families. (In the Hmong culture, married daughters go to live with the husband’s family; sons stay with their parents.)

Xie is very optimistic about the future. While she remains deeply connected and committed to the Hmong community, she says she never misses the past and doesn’t look back. She stays positive by always staying busy. As a young person, after all, she never really settled. And she genuinely likes to work. It provides satisfaction in and of itself, and has made it possible to have not only such creature comforts as a house and a car, but what matters most, home and family. 

Posted 7/15/2016 11:59am by Minnesota Food Association.

Greetings,

There is nothing more exciting than the first bunch of summer carrots, except perhaps a first head of cabbage, a bunch of dill, oh wait, cucumbers! I'm telling you, the crops are in abundance this week. Which is why you should all come to our Open House on Saturday to see this stuff in real time. 

We will have farm tours where you can learn how vegetables are grown and meet your farmers. There will be a scavenger hunt, raffle, local popsicles from Johnny Pops, thai food from Sen Yai Sen Lek and baked goods from Butter Bakery for tasting. Plus, a communal mural to paint. The kiddos will have plenty of space to run and breathe fresh air and you will meet other folks in the Big River Community. Not to mention we are only one of many farms on the Eat Local Farm Tour so why not make a day of farm visits??!!

Thanks to all our sponsors for helping us with this event! Sen Yai Sen Lek, Butter Bakery, River Market, River Moon Coffee,  Seward Coop and Julie Van Grol, our muralist.

 

Whats in the Box? A lot of treats!

1st Karen Farm: Basil, Dill, Green Onions, Carrots, Zucchini and Broccoli

The Early Birds: Cabbage, Lettuce mix, Green Beans and Broccoli

Bhutanese Farm: Cabbage, Zucchini, and Swiss chard

Karen Family Farm: Cucumbers, Green Beans, and Zucchini

Mhonpaj's Garden: Cucumbers

Sebra FarmPurple Kale

 

 

Farmer of the Week:

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.

Continue See Nay's story......

 

Posted 7/8/2016 11:21am by Minnesota Food Association.

 

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.”

 

Posted 7/7/2016 5:27pm by Minnesota Food Association.

 "Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food." 

-Hippocrates (460-377 B.C.)

For a moment close your eyes and cast your head fully into your bag of vegetables. Take a deep breathe and inhale the scent of basil, dill, fennel, garlic. This box is aromatic to the max. It is chock full of herbs which I have learned to keep close at all times. Really, you can add fresh herbs into anything and your food immediately transforms into a total sensual experience. I like to think of eating within the context of all the senses. It can't just be about taste because then you loose the crunch of kholrabi, the snap of beans, the smell of herbs, the smooth feel of Zucchini skin. So really, dive head first into this weeks box and channel all your senses.

In the meantime, we at the farm will continue to water, weed and grow this beautiful food. Want to see how its all done? The come on out to our Open House on July 16th. I hear rumors of sambusas and other tasty snacks plus mural paintings, farm tours and a raffle. 

NOTE: Please remember to bring your own BAG to collect your vegetables. We need to re-use our delivery boxes from week to week. We really appreciate your cooperation with this logistical detail.

NOTE: We have started adding some wholesale deliveries to our route. This may cause Lorenzo to run a little behind schedule sometimes. Again, we appreciate your patience. 

In gratitude.

Whats in the box?

All Things Pesto from my personal fav Heidi Swanson!

 

 

Radicchio and Fennel Slaw. A perfect summer side dish from Food and Wine.

Thai Zucchini Soup (adapted from 101cookbooks)

2 tablespoons coconut oil oil or clarified butter
1 cup sliced green onion
1-2 tablespoons green curry paste, or to taste
1 can coconut milk (full fat)
2-3 zucchini, loosely chopped (5 cups, or why not throw in some broccoli or kohlrabi?!)
1 cup water, plus more if needed
juice of one lime
cooked brown rice (or other grain)

topping ideas: olive oil, roasted turnips, toasted nuts/seeds, quick pickled shallots, lots of lime, fresh herbs (dill, basil)

Heat the coconut oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, stir in the shallots and a couple generous pinches of salt, and sauté until soft. Stir in the green curry paste along with a dollop of cream from the top of the coconut milk. Stir well, and sauté for another minute or so, until fragrant. Stir in the zucchini with another couple of pinches of salt, and sauté, being careful not to brown, until the zucchini is tender 5-7 minutes, or so. Add the remaining coconut milk and the water, let everything come up to a simmer, and remove from heat. Season the soup with the juice of lime, and salt to taste. It's all about balance here, and the soup should be brothy with strong coconut-lime flavor. Serve over a scoop of brown rice, topped with any (or all!) of the toppings suggested, or experiment with your own ideas.

Serves 4-6. Prep time: 10 min - Cook time: 10 min

Farmer of the week

Dil Barakoti of Numuna Farm

“We never used chemicals in Bhutan. All of our crops were grown without chemicals, from livestock to the oranges and lemons,” Dil says. He continues to embrace organic farming through the Farmer Training Program. He feels good about this way of farming, because most of his crops are used to feed his family. And that is nothing to sneeze at—all told his family totals 40-50 people!

Continue reading Dil's story.....

 

 

Lebo Moore

Food Hub Manager

Minnesota Food Association/Big River Farms

651-433-3676 ext.21

Posted 7/4/2016 9:01am by Minnesota Food Association.

Meet Dil Barakoti, an avid gardener and Bhutanese immigrant from Nepal. His son sold produce this weekend at the Kingfield Farmers Market with great success. Thanks to all you shoppers!

Story by Sarah Beahan; Photos by Laura Hedeen

Dil Barakoti’s community garden was a marvel. By all accounts, it was so beautiful that people would stop on the street and take photos. Dil loves to grow things and it is clearly in his DNA. His whole family has been involved in farming in one way or another.

Dil is a Bhutanese refugee from Nepal. He spent 20 years living in a refugee camp in Nepal before coming to the United States in 2009. He was a carpenter in Nepal, but he came from a family of farmers. They farmed corn, rice and potatoes. Here in the United States, Dil has taken what he knows of farming from his family and embarked on a new farming experience.

“We never used chemicals in Bhutan. All of our crops were grown without chemicals, from livestock to the oranges and lemons,” Dil says. He continues to embrace organic farming through the Farmer Training Program. He feels good about this way of farming, because most of his crops are used to feed his family. And that is nothing to sneeze at—all told his family totals 40-50 people!

Dil hopes to continue to support himself and his fam

ily with what he grows. “This is my job. It pays the rent, supports my family,” Dil says. He sold much of the produce he grows at the community garden, but his involvement with the Farmer Training Program has allowed him to learn a great deal more about where and how to market his crops. He is learning that there are more places to sell what he’s produced than just farmer’s markets. Dil is growing onions, cauliflower, carrots, cilantro, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini and kale, but his favorite vegetables to grow are potatoes and tomatoes. He and his family prepare them in spicy curries and soup.

“This is my first year. I had no idea how hard it would be. But I am learning how to run the business,” Dil says. Between learning about irrigation, cultivating new crops and learning about the wholesale “This is my job. It pays the rent, supports my family.” market, on top of commuting back and forth to the farm, the learning curve has been steep. Dil continues to cultivate a quarter-acre plot at Big River Farms, maintains a community garden and also has a backyard garden.

 “It is exactly as I imagined it,” Dil   says. Despite the challenges, when he looks five or ten years into the future, he hopes to be doing the same thing. First a  quarter acre, then a whole acre,then, who knows?”

 

Sarah Beahan is a volunteer writer for MFA.

Laura Hedeen is the Program Manager at MFA.

Posted 6/28/2016 8:38pm by Minnesota Food Association.

June 28th. It is June 28th and the farm is in full gear for the 2016 season!

This week we will deliver our third CSA. For the last two months we have been bringing farmers to our weekend markets with all sorts of tasty and beautiful produce. 

The farmers, staff and seasonal crew navigate the farm like a honey-bee colony. We gather for meetings, touch base on tasks, move out into the land and then reconvene at the end of the day. We are busy. We are growing. We are a community. And we want to share our community with you in one of two ways.

First, come to our annual Open House on July 16th. We are honored to be part of the Eat Local Farm Tour and will have games, snacks, farm tours plus a global farmer table highlighting food and farming cultures around the world!

Second, this year we were blessed with a group of volunteer writers. Tasked with interviewing farmers, they have generated stories, quotes and histories from all the farmers enrolled in our training program. It is with great delight that we share with you the first installment in our 2016 Farmer Story Series. Check back each week for a new feature farmer, plus follow us on Instagram and Facebook where we will post updated news about each farmer and show off their glorious produce!

Without further adieu, we present The Early Birds. 

Story by Nancy Cook; Photos by Laura Hedeen


Lue Lor was born in Laos to a family of modest means. Lue’s father was involved with American CIA operations, and his mother assumed the role of head of household, managing the family’s small farmstead. The years that followed US troop withdrawal from Viet Nam were a “long, sad story” for Lue. His mother and siblings were killed in the Viet Nam War, and in 1979 Lue, then ten years old, and his eleven-year-old brother escaped to Thailand with an uncle. Fifteen years later, married and father to three children, Lue arrived in the United States. It was difficult at the beginning, adjusting to harsh weather and a strange language. But now, Lue says, he feels prosperous and “everything is good.”

After their arrival in Minnesota, the Lors welcomed three more children into the family. And Lue has rediscovered his farming roots. Two years ago, he got connected to MFA’s training program through friends. He started with a quarter of an acre but quickly felt the desire to expand.

A man with “a passion for the outdoors, the sun and the wind,” Lue has found his work at MFA to be very satisfying. His goals are to complete the training program at MFA and acquire his own farm, which will enable him “to give back” and contribute to community health as well as feed his own family. Every day, in pursuit of his dream, he is “up before the sun,” Lue’s son Houa reports. You have to “beat the heat,” says Lue, “if you love the land and work.”

Lue has passed on to his children wisdom acquired during his life’s journey. Houa, the second born, and a college graduate with professional credentials, says that chief among the values he’s taken from his father are patience and diligence. Farming “takes a lot of work,” says Houa. The work is often invisible, and many consumers underestimate the labor involved. For his part, Lue thinks it unfortunate that so many people gravitate toward conventional produce that looks beautiful but lacks taste and nutritional value. If they could only do a taste comparison, Lue believes, they’d make different choices. He also wishes people could see crops growing firsthand, getting exposure little by little over time. As the Lors note, most consumers don’t realize that planting begins in January, or that farmers work nights and weekends. Lue adds: “They survive heat, the dark, rain,” and they do it with “love, passion, care.”

Both father and son reflect positively on the value of community farmers markets. The markets create opportunities for people to get to know each other and introduce people to different cultures. According to Lue, many “beautiful transactions” have taken place on market days. One example the Lors relate is of a time a customer invited them to dinner, where a “spaghetti” meal made from squash raised by Lue was served. It’s this kind of experience, they say, that illustrates what matters most: “family, community, health.” 

Nancy Cook is a writer and teaching artist. She has written many stories about a diverse range of people, jobs and places. She has a professional background in community law practice. 

Laura Hedeen is the Program Manager at the Minnesota Food Association.

Posted 6/16/2016 4:56pm by Minnesota Food Association.

Dear CSA Members,

The boxes are delivered and I thank you for your patience in waiting to get your newsletter. Keep in mind that these first few boxes will have a lot of greens, as that is what grows this time of year. The boxes will get heavier and more robust as the season develops.

Here are some thoughts I had last night as the farmers were turning in the last of the produce. 

It’s 7:30 on Wednesday night. Aung Thin and his family load into their car after washing their Pac Choy and onions. Porfirio and Argelia bunch kale. Lue and Kia diligently pound tomato stakes into the ground. I can hear the thwack of metal on wood.

The farm is ready to find a rhythm for the season. We are ready to find beauty and purpose in the land. I am not a farmer. I learned quickly that I didn’t have the will to work that hard. What I lack in stamina though, I try to make up for in spirit. I believe in farmers and I believe they are to be honored for the work they do. The following words of Marge Piercy came to me by way of a farmer. They taught me how to honor the work of growing food.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn,are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.
                - Marge Piercy, To be of use  

This is real work, the growing and eating of food. It is work that has a satisfying shape in the land it cultivates and the food it produces. I honor farmers for their hours spent seeding, planting, weeding and harvesting. I honor MFA for the work it does to provide this land, tools and resources to people who may not have access to them otherwise. There is so much caught up in growing food these days when the reality is really quite simple: seed, plant, weed, harvest. If only it could be that simple. 

This is why I also honor you, our valued CSA members, who have chosen to seek out this simplicity, to value this work. Whatever your reason for membership, be it the quest for the freshest radish, support for immigrant and underserved communities, or a belief in sustainable land stewardship, without your appetite we would not be able to do our work. We are simply 70 acres, merely 17 farmers, but you are part of our community that is slowly but surely, changing the way the world eats. I think we can all find shape in that. 

My name is Lebo Moore, I am the food hub manager at Big River Farms and I am honored to bring you food grown by seventeen amazing individuals for the next eighteen weeks. Thank you for your commitment, your time and energy.

This week your box radiates with Folic Acid, Magnesium, Potassium, Riboflavin, Protein, Vitamins A and K.

From Dil Gurung and the Bhutanese Farm: Garlic Scapes, Radishes and Green Onions

From See Nay and the First Karen Farm: Garlic Scapes and Spinach

From Aung Thin and the Karen Farm: Pac Choy, Asian Greens and Green Onions

From May and Mhonpaji Garden: Swiss chard and Arugula

From Porfirio Perez and Sebra Farms: Garlic Scapes, Kale and Black Beans

From Xie Cha: Cilantro

From Anna Dooley: Romaine Lettuce                                                   

Note: The lettuce, Pac Choy, Asian greens and arugula will be split in half. You will receive two of the four in your box. Thanks for your flexibility in working within the unpredictability of the harvest. 

 

No doubt in my mind, this time of year is for tacos. Cook up your black beans with salt and a little cumin, warm-up some tortillas on a skillet or the grill, sautee your chard, pac choy or asian greens with olive oil, onions, cilantro and cayenne pepper, top with some cheese and your favorite hot sauce! Or, try these other delights....

Garlic Scape Pesto (Recipe from Serious Eats: 7 Things to do with garlic scapes)
 
1/4 cup pine nuts (or any nut/seed)
3/4 cup coarsley cut garlic scapes
Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp. salt
Black Pepper to taste
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup parmesean cheese
 
Blend scapes, pine nuts, lemon juice, salt and peper
Slowly add olive oil. Stir in parmesean cheese by hand.

Enjoy over pasta, on toast or in a salad.

French Breakfast Radishes for Breakfast...really! (Adapted from NaturallyElla.com)

1 bunch French Breakfast Radishes
2 tablespoons good unsalted butter
3 green onions, diced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
pinch of salt
2 eggs
2 pieces of bread, toasted
 
Prep the radishes by removing tops and roots. Slice in half lengthwise and set aside.
In a skillet, heat butter over medium low heat.
Add in green onions and let cook until beginning to soften, 2-3 minutes.
Add the radishes, thyme, and salt to the green onions. Cover and let cook, stirring once or twice, until radishes are tender but still have a bit of crispness to them, 5-6 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.

While radishes cook, poach eggs. Try this technique. If you don't like runny eggs, this would also be great with scrambled or hardboiled. To serve, place toast on two plates, divide radish mixture, and top each with a poached egg.

Happy eating!

Oh and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. We'd love to connect through social medias!

Lebo Moore

Food Hub Manager

Minnesota Food Association/Big River Farms

651-433-3676 ext.21