Sunday, November 16, 2014

CSA stories

I snuck out of the house before anyone was awake, and wheeled my bike silently out of the shed. Going to my first CSA pick-up felt like a little adventure. 

Twenty minutes later I arrived at the Main Street School, in Irvington. What does a CSA even look like, I wondered. 

Then, behind about two dozen cars I saw a very mini farmer’s market. I told the woman with a clipboard my name, and then followed others, shopping as the signs directed. “One bunch.” “3 fruits.” “2 bags.” I didn't even need to get out my wallet.

CSA stands for community supported agriculture, which means that people prepurchase a portion of a farm’s harvest. Northeast OrganicFarming Organization says CSAs emerged in Japan and Europe in the 1960’s, driven by consumers who wanted quality food and to support sustainable agricultural practices. It arrived in the US in the mid 1980s. Local Harvest estimates that there are now 4000 CSAs in the US.
All of the produce I picked up was grown on Rexcroft Farm, in Greene County, near the Rip Van Winkle Bridge. It was picked within the last few days, and driven by the farm’s owner, Dan King, to two central meeting places, where volunteers distribute it to approximately 200 members from the Rivertowns as well as far away as White Plains and Yonkers.

 Later that morning I rolled back onto our patio, lifted the green grocers bag out of my back-of-bike basket, and carried it into the kitchen. My daughters, now awake and sensing breakfast, gathered round. I reached in to display our farm fresh food. But, what was this orange goo on my parslane? I opened the bag and saw small smashed heirloom tomatoes everywhere, like sticky popcorn on the floor of a movie multiplex. The peaches, however, nestled against the red-leaf amaranth, were intact. So were the half-dozen pullet eggs.

My mistake was packing my grocery bag the same way I always did, when it just had to travel from cart to car trunk to kitchen. It had been so fun biking home, bouncing on the Aqueduct’s root bumps past joggers and dog walkers, I didn’t give my cargo a second thought.

There are other differences between a CSA and shopping in a grocery store. Els van den Bosch, who has been a member the Rexcroft Farm CSA since it started, about seven years ago, sums up the biggest complaint. “For many people the drawback is that one can’t chose what one gets.” 

She continues, “Most of the time, though, I have enjoyed the challenge. It means that I go on the Internet in search of recipes and I have made dishes I would otherwise never have made. For example, I made my own (raw) sauerkraut, and stuffed poblano peppers are now a favorite snack. My kids have learned to appreciate the wider choice of vegetables, and to be agreeable to eat what is being served even if it is new or not exactly as appetizing as their favorite fare. Do I like everything? No. But I freeze what my family won’t eat and serve it when we have guests who will love the Brussels sprouts.”

“We would not have eaten kale if it hadn’t been for the CSA and when my daughter told us about the kale she bought and cooked in her dorm room I knew that I had given her a valuable example.”

The variety of produce in each CSA share turns out to be a benefit for many. Kathy Dean, who has been a 
Rexcroft Farm CSA member for five years, notes, “Besides having incredibly fresh vegetables, we have learned to love kohlrabi which we had never tried before. Many new recipes have become favorites, Macaroni and Cheese with Spinach, Cabbage and Mushrooms and Cauliflower Kale Pie to name a few."

My family had eased into the CSA with the lowest commitment level, the 15-week half share of vegetables and fruit for $347.50, because I wasn’t sure if it would be a good value. But the fact that the Old Croton Aqueduct connects my home in Dobbs Ferry to the pick up site, at the Main Street School, in Irvington, sealed the deal. Even if I was paying farmers market prices for the produce, I reasoned, I could bike there. I’d get some exercise and good food and add absolutely nothing to my carbon footprint.

last CSA pick-up of the season
Now, I’d say it was the best $23.16 I spent each week.

Dale Williams, who, with Betsy Anderson, was the other part of our first-time half-share, lists his top three CSA highlights: the fresh food, the local connection, and the camaraderie at the pickup

He adds, “I love that mixed in with the lovely local versions of the produce I buy regularly there's often one item that I don't know or wouldn't have thought to purchase. Who knew I'd love red leaf amaranth (and that it's so pretty), red shiso, or lemon cukes? Every week I look forward to finding out what bounty we'll receive.”



To find out more about Rexcroft Farm CSA visit www.rexcroftfarm.com or email dan@RexcroftFarm.com




the cover crop emerges

Back in mid October, children gathered in the Kitchen Garden
during church school to gather the last harvest for the Dobbs Ferry Food Pantry. At midday, an infusion of adults came, pulled up the last of the plants and made a big compost pile, and planted a cover crop.

Here's a peek at the day, and at the cover crop that has emerged.



wouldn't want to meet this crew in a dark garden…
















The cover crop for the winter. This planting will winter kill giving a nice underground biomass, decaying organic nitrogen fix in the spring and a perfect ground cover to plant into in the spring. Read more here. 

the butterfly that emerged at Naomi and Anya's house from a chrysalis found by MJ in the Kitchen Garden

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

enriching the earth

We gather to enrich the earth of the Kitchen Garden on Sunday, October 19, at 11:30. Join us!

Enriching the Earth

by Wendell Berry

To enrich the earth I have sowed clover and grass
 
to grow and die. I have plowed in the seeds 

of winter grains and of various legumes,
 
their growth to be plowed in to enrich the earth.
 
I have stirred into the ground the offal 

and the decay of the growth of past seasons
 
and so mended the earth and made its yield increase.
 
All this serves the dark. I am slowly falling 

into the fund of things. And yet to serve the earth,
 
not knowing what I serve, gives a wideness
 
and a delight to the air, and my days 

do not wholly pass. It is the mind's service,
 
for when the will fails so do the hands
 
and one lives at the expense of life.
 
After death, willing or not, the body serves,
 
entering the earth. And so what was heaviest
 
and most mute is at last raised up into song.

"Enriching the Earth" by Wendell Berry, from Collected Poems. © North Point Press, 1985. Reprinted with the permission of the author. 


 Critics and scholars have acknowledged Wendell Berry as a master of many literary genres, but whether he is writing poetry, fiction, or essays, his message is essentially the same: humans must learn to live in harmony with the natural rhythms of the earth or perish. MORE

Monday, August 4, 2014

Garden Party Recollections

We had a potluck dinner in the Kitchen Garden last week to celebrate the harvest and our community.  We had a loose agenda for everyone to talk about their gardening traditions.  But mostly we just wanted to have fun.

The evening unfolded freely, and the discussions happened on their own with no programming other than a warm introduction from Lenore.


We had a great turnout, including Roots & Wings regulars, Dobbs Ferry Food Pantry volunteers, Cabrini Immigrant Services families, some of whom use the pantry and some of whom have worked from time to time in the garden, staff and kids from Children's Village who grew some of our plants in their greenhouse, Spring Community Partners, Springhurst School, Transition Hastings, Curious on Hudson (which has hosted permaculture and sustainability events), and some South Church families who until that night weren't quite sure what Roots & Wings was about.


Robin Larkins, of Cabrini Immigrant Services, told us that some of the Cabrini families did not know what a potluck was, but when they learned they were happy to come. And come they did, some with empanadas, many with kids. There were lots of interesting dishes.

Marcello led a garden tour.  The kids picked cherry tomatoes with great excitement.  One proudly displayed an eggplant he picked. As the sun set, they roasted marshmallows and made s'mores and ran and played in the playground.  People felt safe and happy and full (in spirit as well as stomach).


Organizers of community gardens say:
Community gardening is a resource used to build community, foster social and environmental justice, mitigate hunger through increased food security, empower communities, break down racial and ethnic barriers, provide adequate health and nutrition, promote and enhance education and otherwise create sustainable communities. For many across the country, a community garden is the only connection they have to outdoor space.

Our event emodied all of this.  The Kitchen Garden is evolving from a well intentioned community food pantry where users were somewhat timid and apprehensive and people were unsure how to relate to one another, to a community where families and food workers are known to one another, where there is openness friendship and respect and support, where there is excitement about fresh food from the garden, sharing of recipes, sharing of stories of working on family farms in other countries, rekindling of warm memories, renewed interest in being in touch with the land and working side by side with people in the community.

There were lots of cultural connections.  I spoke with a man from El Salvador who met his wife, from Ecuador, in Yonkers at church.  He talked about chores on his grandfather's farm in El Salvador and said he wanted to come and help us.  Two Barbaras talked to two Marks about music and food in Jamaica.  One Children's Village kids asked about an unfamiliar taste in one of the dishes (Els put an edible weed called lambs quarters into something that looked like spanakopita).  But we came to find out that they grow all kinds of stuff on the Children's Village campus and are not strangers to exotic vegetables.  Other people talked about the importance of food in cultural events and festivals.

The caring and the cared for seemed to share a warm embrace.


Robin Larkin talked about progress in attitudes in our community. It used to be people did not like seeing the word Immigrant on the door of their office because of what it connotes.  She has gone from fear of losing her office space to a new relationship with a new building owner who is glad to have them there, who was drawn to the community because he wants to live sustainably, walk to train, and share stories with neighbors.  She talked about how Cabrini has relationships with people from 150 countries.  How she partners with other groups in the community, like Spring Community Partners, and how they share their talents (she helped incorporate them as a 501c3). How they energize and look out for one another.


These were just some of my discussions, and my bet is that everyone there was having similar discussions enriched by the multi-cultural fabric.

- Mark Pennington