What's Growin' On at the Farm

Posted 8/18/2016 2:52pm by Minnesota Food Association.

Dear Members,

After box packing this morning I cracked open a watermelon. Oh my gosh did the juices ooze and dribble down my face. It tasted so good. I have no advice for watermelon other than to face plant into the abyss.

This morning we also tested how many farmers it takes to unload a brush washer. Thats right, our pack shed has reached a new level of awesome. Thanks to the specialty crop block grant we have purchased four pieces of farm equipment that will impact our farmers efficiency and ability to increase production and cut down on labor (like weeding!). 

The most recent arrival has been the brush washer which will help farmers wash and process root crops at a much faster rate than the hand washing they have done in the past. Check out our facebook page for pictures of the new equipment and come to the Harvest Party on October 16th to see them up close!

While farm economics are sorted in the pack shed equally important social politics of food continue to drive our mission at Big River Farm. Last week Farm director Molly and I attended a training on racial justice in the food system, hosted by The Land Stewardship Project. The history and education we received in a few short hours made us ever more resolved in the mission of MFA to provide access to land and markets for immigrant farmers and populations that have consistently been marginalized in our society. The history of food is not pretty. It is loaded with conflict and oppression of certain people based on the color of their skin. But the hope in food system work is that change is possible. And the commitment you make to MFA allows us to provide platform and support for some of these marginalized populations.

For those interested in unpacking social politics of food, I highly, highly recommend subscribing to The Secret Ingredient, a podcast hosted by Raj Patel, Tom Philpott and Rebecca McInroy. Each episode focuses on one food item or ingredient. The hosts unpack the complexity of production, distribution and marketing of each food and how it impacts our food system. It is fascinating and introduces serious questions and insight about what we eat.

 

Farmer of the week

When Fagas Salah first came to Big River Farms he told staff, “Sign me up, I’m born for this.” But it has been winding path that brought Fagas here. He grew up in the city—Mogadishu, Somalia—and for the last nine years has worked as a long-haul truck driver, crisscrossing the U.S. But, with his children getting older and missing him more on his long trips, and with a growing interest in farming fueled by watching YouTube videos, Fagas decided it was time to make a change. “I was getting bored, living in a box. I saw a video of a man from Somalia that has his own farm now in Minnesota and wondered, wow, is this possible?”

Continue reading Fagas and Naima's story

Whats in the Box?

Cilantro from Xie Cha

Corn from Sebra Farm and The Early Birds

Cucumber from 1st Karen Farm

Garlic from Bhutanese Farm and 1st Karen Farm

Onions from 1st Karen Farm

Bell Pepper from Karen Family Farm, The Early Birds, Rome Farm

Hot Peppers from Sebra Farm and Jackie's Roots

Potato from Bhutanese Farm

Grape Tomato and Slicing Tomato from from Sebra Farm

Watermelon from Sebra Farm

 

In the Kitchen

The following recipe comes to us from Farm Director Molly.

And for those brave souls....a hot sauce recipe from Bon Apettite!

Ingredients

SERVINGS: MAKES ABOUT 2 1/2 CUPS
  • 1 pound stemmed fresh chiles (such as jalapeño, serrano, Fresno, or habanero; use one variety or mix and match)
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups distilled white vinegar

Preparation

  • Pulse chiles and kosher salt in a food processor until a coarse purée forms. Transfer to a 1-qt. glass jar, loosely screw on lid, and let stand at room temperature for 12 hours to ferment slightly.
  • Stir in vinegar and loosely screw on lid. Let chile mixture stand at room temperature for at least 1 day and up to 7 days. (Taste it daily; the longer it sits, the deeper the flavor becomes.)
  • Purée mixture in a food processor or blender until smooth, about 1 minute. Place a fine-mesh sieve inside a funnel. Strain mixture through sieve into a clean glass bottle. (Hot sauce will become thinner and may separate after you strain it; shake vigorously before each use.)
  • Do Ahead: Can be made up to 4 months ahead. Keep refrigerated.

Enjoy the week of vegetables!

 

Lebo Moore

Food Hub Manager

Minnesota Food Association/Big River Farms

651-433-3676 ext.21

Posted 8/17/2016 3:56pm by Minnesota Food Association.

Story by Mike Rollin; photos by Lebo Moore & Laura Hedeen

When Fagas Salah first came to Big River Farms he told staff, “Sign me up, I’m born for this.” But it has been winding path that brought Fagas here. He grew up in the city—Mogadishu, Somalia—and for the last nine years has worked as a long-haul truck driver, crisscrossing the U.S. But, with his children getting older and missing him more on his long trips, and with a growing interest in farming fueled by watching YouTube videos, Fagas decided it was time to make a change. “I was getting bored, living in a box. I saw a video of a man from Somalia that has his own farm now in Minnesota and wondered, wow, is this possible?”

That farmer connected Fagas to MFA—he checked out the Facebook page on a Friday and saw that the annual harvest fair was the next day. He packed lunches for himself and his kids and they all came out to the farm. Right away, he signed on for the next year’s program.

While his enthusiasm is boundless, Fagas is clear about the challenges of farming. “I thought truck driving was hard work until I did this. I have so much respect for farmers now. You have to decide, how much can you handle? I’m a beginner, I want something small, I don’t want to get disappointed.” The training MFA provides has been invaluable. “Now I think about succession planting, making the most of the plot and the growing season. I think about how to save water, how to protect against weeds and bugs.” Tall and lean, Fagas says some days he practically lay down next to his beds to finish planting. He came home (to Eden Prairie, a 65 mile commute one-way) dead tired. When his wife asked if he was ready to quit, he remembered life on the road. “I was sitting 16 hours a day driving a truck. This is healthier—I want to be working with my hands.” His farm plot is the proof, the long rows planted now with a vibrant mix of tomato, bell pepper, onion, Swiss chard, cabbage and kale.

Working at the farm has become a family affair. During the winter months MFA offers classes for beginning farmers. When Fagas is out driving (he still drives, for the added income), his wife Naima Dhore attends in his place. She also comes out to the farm to water when Fagas has had to be out driving. His children also visit the farm some weekends when he is working. “They love to run in the open spaces here.”

Fagas is planning his future step by step. Next year, ¼ acre, the following year, ½.

When he’s certified as an organic farmer,he’d like to buy his own farm. The MFA training has him well-prepared. “They teach you record keeping. Every receipt, every seed packet. When I go for a loan, the bank needs a picture. I’m compiling a story that will tell them, this guy is serious.” He can also draw on his own experience in the trucking industry, growing from a driver to owner of his own truck. Longer term, Fagas is also thinking of bringing his knowledge back to his native Somalia. “These skills I’m learning will be useful there too—crop rotation, water-saving techniques, interplanting. Desertification is terrible in Somalia now. I’d like to maybe build an institution there to teach better farming.”

For now, Fagas is preparing his first batch of succession plantings. “These Minnesota seasons, only four months to farm!” There’s no doubt Fagas, and his family, will make the most of them 

Posted 8/11/2016 8:54pm by Minnesota Food Association.

Hiya folks!

Its hard to believe that with eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes, sweet corn, onions...all theses treats coming off the farm, that the sentiment in the air speaks of Fall and the slowing down of the season. In the fields we see the slow transition as first plantings wane and second plantings beginning to take shape. The multitude of farmers in the fields sweat in this heat and work harder than ever to ensure good food in on your plate. 

In the office staff is already planning for the Fall harvest party (October 16th!) and even starting to organize the Immigrant farm conference that will take place in January at the U of M. Our farmers continue to reach out to a variety of markets on their own and through Big River Farms. We are excited that some of our farmers are pioneering their own delivery routes using an EBT machine. Their commitment to distributing healthy and organic produce to communities that so often lack access to diverse food supplies. 

THis week we were also excited to participate with United Family Medicine during their #HealthyWest7th Block Party. Farmer Maisian set-up a veggie guessing game to spread the veggie love!

As always, we so value your commitment to supporting local food and local farmers. Eat on!

Whats in the Box

This week we are excited to present our second and third specialty crop of the season. Welcome Daikon radish and Asian Eggplant. Though your tastes are on complete opposite ends of the spectrum, you are both unique in flavor, use and cultural significance. Thanks to Sebra Farms for the Daikon and The Early Birds for the Eggplant.

Looking for recipes to try with Daikon. Saveur magazine has a great series of Daikon recipes from Kimchi to Curry.

In addition the box includes:

Sungold tomatoes, slicing tomatoes and sweet corn from Sebra Farms

Potatoes, carrots and onions from Bhutanese Farm

Cabbage from Karen Family Farm and 1st Karen Farm

Green Peppers from The Early Birds

Basil and Cilantro from 1st Karen Farm

 

In the Kitchen

Now is the time of year to make loads of ratatouille. Enough to share, freeze and eat fresh! I invite you to explore the "secret to perfect slow-cooker ratatouille" or try this recipe from The Smitten Kitchen

Ratatouille’s Ratatouille
As envisioned by Smitten Kitchen

1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
1 cup tomato puree (such as Pomi)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 small eggplant (my store sells these “Italian Eggplant” that are less than half the size of regular ones; it worked perfectly)
1 smallish zucchini
1 smallish yellow squash
1 longish red bell pepper
Few sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and pepper
Few tablespoons soft goat cheese, for serving

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Pour tomato puree into bottom of an oval baking dish, approximately 10 inches across the long way. Drop the sliced garlic cloves and chopped onion into the sauce, stir in one tablespoon of the olive oil and season the sauce generously with salt and pepper.

Trim the ends off the eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash. As carefully as you can, trim the ends off the red pepper and remove the core, leaving the edges intact, like a tube.

On a mandoline, adjustable-blade slicer or with a very sharp knife, cut the eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash and red pepper into very thin slices, approximately 1/16-inch thick.

Atop the tomato sauce, arrange slices of prepared vegetables concentrically from the outer edge to the inside of the baking dish, overlapping so just a smidgen of each flat surface is visible, alternating vegetables. You may have a handful leftover that do not fit.

Drizzle the remaining tablespoon olive oil over the vegetables and season them generously with salt and pepper. Remove the leaves from the thyme sprigs with your fingertips, running them down the stem. Sprinkle the fresh thyme over the dish.

Cover dish with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit inside. (Tricky, I know, but the hardest thing about this.)

Bake for approximately 45 to 55 minutes, until vegetables have released their liquid and are clearly cooked, but with some structure left so they are not totally limp. They should not be brown at the edges, and you should see that the tomato sauce is bubbling up around them.

Serve with a dab of soft goat cheese on top, alone, or with some crusty French bread, atop polenta, couscous, or your choice of grain.

_______________________________________________________________

Farm Director Molly has also introduced this delicious recipe stating " unless I can use the whole cabbage in one recipe, I wont choose to make the dish"

Check out this Japanese style pizza aka Okonomiyaki from 101cookbooks and use your whole cabbage in one fell swoop!

Okonomiyaki (Japanese Pizza) Recipe

Leeks are notoriously gritty. To clean them well I typically slice them lengthwise and then submerge them in a big bowl of water - where I rinse and swish them to loosen up any dirt. Drain and repeat if needed. Then chop/slice.

2 cups cabbage, finely shredded
1 cup leeks, well washed and chopped (see head notes)
2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or apf flour)
a couple pinches of fine grain sea salt
2 eggs, beaten
1+ tablespoon olive oil

Garnish: toasted slivered almonds, chives/ herbs

Combine the cabbage, leeks, flour, and salt in a bowl. Toss until everything is coated with a dusting of flour. Stir in the eggs and mix until everything is evenly coated.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add a generous splash of olive oil. Scoop the cabbage mixture into the pan, and using a metal spatula press it into a round pancake shape, flat as you can get it. Cook for 4-5 minutes, or until the bottom is golden. To flip the okonomiyaki, slide it out of the skillet onto a plate. Place another plate on top and flip both (together) over. If you need a bit more oil in your skillet, add it now, before sliding the okonomiyaki back into the skillet. Again press down a bit with a spatula and cook until golden on this side - another 3 -5 minutes.

When you are finished cooking, sprinkle with toasted almonds and chives, and slide it onto a cutting board to cut into wedges. Enjoy immediately.

 

Lebo Moore

Food Hub Manager

Minnesota Food Association/Big River Farms

651-433-3676 ext.21

Posted 8/4/2016 7:25pm by Minnesota Food Association.

Its here!

Finally, the time of year when the CSA box looks and smells like summer. We have tomatoes, eggplant (!), jalapenos, and arugula, oh and beets! 

There are so many options for cooking, feasting and sharing with friends. Speaking of friends, I wanted to draw your attention to a fun local food resource. From The Ground Up North is a great local food clearing house of sorts. They write stories about farmers, non-profits and local food business. They publish a calendar of local food events, Hint: The Garlic Festival in Hutchinson, MN is happening soon! And they are engaged in a variety of research projects regarding different barriers to building local food systems. 

Big River Farms will be featured as one of the farms later this year, but this month there is a great story about one of our partner organizations Urban Oasis. I highly recommend checking it out and plugging into the local food scene.

p.s. Urban Oasis has hosted an Edible Streetscapes project this year planting all sorts of traditional food crops along East 7th st. You can sign-up for a walking tour! In addition, there will be a gallery opening of photos taken by East Side residents of gardens in the neighborhood. The photos present a new understanding of what urban space looks like and how food can be part of urban design. 

Farmer of the Week

For Chairesia, a guiding principle in her life has been the dictum, “Let thy food be thy medicine” (Hippocrates). For her that means building bridges between health care and healthy eating. “How can food prevent illness? How can we get the most nutrients from food? I think organic farming is one way to do that.”

Continue reading Chairesia's story....

 

 

 

 

 

 Whats in the Box

Summer in a box??!!!

  • Arugula, Beets, Potatoes and Zucchini from Karen Family Farm
  • Green Beans, Beets and Eggplant from The Early Birds 
  • Green Beans Kale and Zucchini from Bhutanese Farm
  • Cilantro, tomatoes, sungold tomatoes, Jalapenos and Cucumbers from Sebra Farm
  • Cucumbers from Mhonpaj's Garden
  • Kale from Rome Farm
  • Beets, Cucumber, Onions and Zucchini from 1st Karen Farm

In the Kitchen

I have been waiting with anticipation to put a recipe for beets in the newsletter. Not only is this dip delicious, but it is also magenta in color, looks fabulous on the dinner table and will wow your friends.

Here is a recipe from Lucky Peach ( a great food journal) for a beet yogurt dip.

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb cooked beets (not in vinegar)
  • 3 T ground coriander
  • 1/2 oz mint, leaves finely chopped
  • 16 oz Greek yogurt
  • 1 t nigella seeds
  • + olive oil, for drizzling
  • + flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

PREPARATION

  1. Drain the excess juice from the beets and blitz them in a bowl using a handheld blender until they are broken down to a coarse purée. Add the ground coriander, a generous seasoning of salt and pepper and the chopped mint (reserving a generous pinch of mint for garnish) and mix well. Now stir in the Greek yogurt until it is evenly incorporated.

  2. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve with a sprinkling of nigella seeds, the chopped mint and a drizzle of olive oil.

 

If I was meal planning, I'd likely drift toward mediterranean cuisine this week on account of the beet dip and the eggplant. Are you familiar with the glory of the Jerusalem cookbook? If not, I'd say it is a pantry staple. Here is a recipe that can use your eggplants, onions and even jalapenos as a subsititute for the green chilli.

Ingredients

2 large eggplants (about 1 2/3 pounds)
2/3 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper 
4 onions (about 1 1/4 pounds), thinly sliced
1 1/2 green chiles
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. sumac
1 3/4 ounces feta cheese, broken into large chunks
1 medium lemon
1 clove garlic, crushed

 

Instructions

 

Preheat oven to 425. 

  1. Halve the eggplants lengthwise with the stems on. 
  2. Score the cut side of each eggplant with a crisscross pattern. 
  3. Brush the cut sides with 6 1/2 tablespoons of the oil and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Roast on a baking sheet, cut side up, for about 45 minutes, until the flesh is golden brown. (A tip: Place a shallow pan of water at the bottom of the oven to prevent the eggplants from drying out.)
  4. While the eggplants are roasting, add the remaining oil to a large frying pan and place over high heat. Add the onions and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cook for 8 minutes, stirring often, so that parts of the onion get dark and crisp.
  5. Seed and chop the chiles, keeping the whole chile separate from the half. Add the ground cumin, sumac, and the whole chopped chile, and cook for a further 2 minutes before adding the feta. Cook for a final minute, not stirring much, then remove from the heat.
  6. Use a small serrated knife to remove the skin and pith of the lemon. Coarsely chop the flesh, discarding the seeds, and place the flesh and any juices in a bowl with the remaining 1/2 chile and the garlic. Transfer the roasted halves to a serving dish, and spoon the lemon sauce over the flesh. Warm up the onions a little, and spoon over. Serve warm or set aside to come to room temperature.

May your meals be shared and delicious! And start planning your dish for the CSA harvest party!

 

Lebo Moore

Food Hub Manager

Minnesota Food Association/Big River Farms

651-433-3676 ext.21

Posted 8/4/2016 6:51pm by Minnesota Food Association.

~Story  by Mike Rollin; photos by Laura Hedeen & Patricia Cumbie 

Chairesia, a Minnesota native, grew up in Minneapolis. Her parents are originally from Texas, where her mother grew up on a family farm that raised cotton, vegetables, and livestock. After working in the technology field for many years, Chairesia decided to pursue a lifelong interest in health, nutrition, and wellness. Then last year a friend told her about MFA. “I got excited thinking I can farm organically!”

For Chairesia, a guiding principle in her life has been the dictum, “Let thy food be thy medicine” (Hippocrates). For her that means building bridges between health care and healthy eating. “How can food prevent illness? How can we get the most nutrients from food? I think organic farming is one way to do that.”

In her first year farming at Big River, she has planted a big variety of vegetables, including hot peppers, tomatoes, squash, carrots, beets, and peas. Also, in a nod to family history. cream peas, similar to black-eyed peas. Her mother told her, “If you can’t grow them at the farm, you have to grow them at your house!”

While she had always gardened wherever she lived, farming is a much bigger scale. “You can’t just let things go. You’re managing all the planning and costs.” She hasn’t been alone. Siblings who live in the area have pitched in, along with nieces and nephews and friends. “They’re pulling weeds and Snapchatting.” Her mother has also been a frequent visitor to the farm, providing company and keeping an eye on the cream peas.

MFA support has been invaluable. “I like that they take people in with all levels of farming experience. There is a strong support system, and its great they have past graduates of the training here assisting us.” She also appreciates the genuine way farmers help each other. “When people here offer help, they’re not looking for something in return. When they ask about your crops, they mean it.”

In addition to her vegetable plot, Chairesia is also growing a second plot with herbs, both medicinal and culinary, including holy basil, chamomile, mint, and calendula.

Her goal to make plant-based healing teas, tinctures, and oils, and to market herbs to practitioners of alternative medicines. She is also looking into creating a hybrid CSA model for her vegetables. “I always wanted to get a CSA, but couldn’t find a way. I want more people to have access to healthy food.” Her future plans include getting a bigger plot at Big River next year, focusing more on fewer crops that are the most important to her, and building markets for her produce and products.

Down the road, she’d love to buy some land and start a teaching farm. “Organic food is expensive—how can you grow your own? I want to pass this knowledge along, I want to give back. It’s hard work at the farm, but at the end of the day you feel good, you feel peaceful.” 

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......