So, I was sitting in the delicious Baked Café in Emmaus yesterday with my friend, professional Minimologist, Colleen Warmingham. We haven’t had a true chance to chat since late last summer when I would see her at the Macungie Farmer’s Market on a Thursday afternoon, we quickly settled in with coffee, hot cocoa and yummy treats so that we could catch up.
Our conversations ran the gamut of topics, the biggest topic being food (of course) and where we get it from. I’m not sure where or how other people grew up, but I’ve been surrounded by home gardens my entire life, my grandfather had a great big garden in his yard in Summit Hill, my dad will tell you how amazing it was and how proud my grandfather was of his perfect rows and beautiful vegetables. My dad always had a garden and I remember all the fresh figs, big red tomatoes, garlic, onions and red beets. Even living in Slatington with a tiny 150 sq. ft. yard, we had a raised bed garden that boasted a spectacular fig tree. At 83 years young, my dad still has a garden and the first ripe tomato or fig of the year is absolutely one of the highlights of summer.
Over the last few years I have been intrigued by a program that some local farmers have been using to get their amazing products in the hands and bellies of people in their communities that are too busy to grow their own fresh fruits and vegetables like my grandfather grew for his family or that my dad still grows for ours but still want it to be local and not come from a truck driving here from 3000 miles away. I think it operates much the same as another great memory I have of sitting on my grandmother’s front porch on beautiful summer days when a local farmer would drive through the streets of Allentown and deliver what he grew to those same types of families that didn’t have the opportunity of having a garden in their tiny back yards.
I know I know…I’m a little wordy. But if you have such vivid memories of where your vegetables came from growing up and what it tasted like to walk out the back door, across the yard to pick that first ripe red tomato and take a bite out of it you will be wordy too.
Okay, back to business. What is this program? It is called a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), in the words of my friend Farmer Liz of Crooked Row Farm in New Tripoli, “A CSA is the idea of investing in a farm before the season begins in exchange for a weekly share of produce through the duration of the season. CSA members pay for an entire season of produce up front so your farmer can plan for the season, purchase new seed, make equipment repairs and other necessary moves for a successful year.”
2014 was the first year that I participated in this program. Every week Farmer Liz would deliver my share of that week’s harvest and it was like Christmas. I couldn’t wait to see what was in the bag. Some weeks we had a lot of field greens, pea shoots and herbs, other weeks it would be zucchini, tomatoes, potatoes and garlic. I would have the best time trying to decide what to eat when and how to honor the beauty of the harvest. Crooked Row Farm also specializes in specialty tea and spice blends, collaborates with other farmers that surround her and takes their products to small markets in Philadelphia where Farmer Liz is an active participant in The Food Trust where one of the goals is to get healthy food possibilities into underserved communities. I also love her story behind becoming a farmer. Maybe a future article…hmmm, will have to think about that.
Colleen and her husband Kevin have been utilizing this opportunity for several years and actually utilize two separate CSA programs in the Lehigh Valley, one for summer and one for winter. I was lucky enough to go with her to the Rodale store in Emmaus yesterday to pick up this week’s booty from Great Bend Farm in Port Clinton, PA and was thrilled that I got to peak in the box before she took it home (sorry Kevin). It was amazing. She pulled out some beautiful freshly picked yukina savoy, chickweed (I actually thought they were pea shoots, wishing now I’d have snagged a sample to taste), a delicata squash, carrots, turnips, kohlrabi, daikon radishes, potatoes, acorn squash and a jar of pickled garlic scapes.
Over the years I’ve met and became huge fans of several amazing farmers that offer CSA programs. One of my other favorite farmers, Heidi Secord from Josie Porter Farm is also one of those amazing people. Josie Porter Farm is located in Stroudsburg and not only has a CSA program for families, but also has a unique Work Place Farm Share that offers farm share deliveries to workplaces, community centers, community groups, and places of worship. They provide 22 weekly deliveries per season that includes a handpicked assortment of vegetables. Heidi and her staff source directly from the local family farms that they work with in PA and NJ who follow sustainable, earth-friendly farming methods. You can not only visit the farm all year round, but you can also find them at the Easton Winter Farmer’s Market on a Saturday where they partner with Chandeluna Farm to sell the most beautiful herbs and gourmet quail eggs, naturally-dyed dresses, local naturally-dyed wool and alpaca yarn, knitted and crocheted items and house wares.
So because I am interested (some might say nosey), I have to ask, do you know where your vegetables are grown? Have you met the people that spend their days and nights planning, plotting, growing and harvesting the best of the best so that you can feed your family knowing that it is safe and nutritious and didn’t spend a week in the back of a truck till it got to the big box store?
Yes, I’ve already told you that Wegman’s is one of my favorite grocery stores, but push come to shove; I still visit the locals to get the best food for the people I cook for because there is nothing like talking to the people who value our great earth like a small farmer. They know every inch of their farms and they take care of them like you take care of a child. They take great pride in the processes they follow to ensure you are getting the best value for your money because they are your neighbors, friends and family and to them a healthy community is a strong community.
The few farmers I featured in this article offer CSA programs that I am familiar with, but the list of amazing farms that have this program available is long and spread out around the Lehigh Valley so that each and every one of us can take advantage of it without having to travel too far to do it. If you are looking for someplace that may be closer to where you live, please check out The Greater Lehigh Valley Buy Fresh Buy Local webpage for a listing of participating farms.
Just really quick!!! If I would have had the pleasure of Colleen and Kevin’s box this week I think I would have been super focused on the garlic scapes. I think that they would make the most delicious flat bread pizza topping with a little really good olive oil, toasted pignoles and dollops of fresh ricotta cheese from Calandra’s in Nazareth.
See you next week!
Hugs and garlic,
facebook: My Grandmother’s Table