Thursday, November 27, 2008

A new label to look for?

The goal of the USDA Organic Final Rule was to create a consistent organic standard that the consumer could understand and rely on. With the implementation of the Final Rule in 2000, if a product was labeled USDA Organic it had a definable meaning.
What the USDA Organic standards does not do, what it cannot do, is support local farmers. By its very nature the USDA certification standards make it nearly impossible for small farmers to participate in the organic certification procedures. For many farms, like Colchester Farm where I interned this summer, the cost of the USDA organic certification is simply too high. In order to be organically certified Colchester would have had to hire an additional staff member in order to maintain the rigid documentation that the Final Rule requires. Instead Colchester used the label "pesticide-free" despite the fact that they use organic growing practices. For some consumers the "pesticide-free" label is enough, but for die hard organic shoppers this ruled out purchasing food grown at Colchester, organic growing practices or not.

Certified Naturally Grown is a new label that focuses on the small farmer. In fact Certified Naturally Grown attempts to uphold even more stringent ideals than the Final Rule. According to their website:
We have used the USDA National Organic Program Final Rule as the basis for CNG's Certification Standards. Our farmers must also conform to the USDA's National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances.

However, Certified Naturally Grown is not in any way affiliated with or accredited by the USDA National Organic Program.

Sustainable agriculture doesn't start and stop with a commitment to allowable and non-allowable materials and practices. Certified Naturally Grown farmers reflect a commitment to work within the natural biological cycles that are necessary for a truly sustainable farming system - a system that works in harmony with the micro-organisms, soil flora and fauna, plants and animals, to maintain and increase the long-term fertility of soil, leaving it even more vibrant and alive for the next generation of farmers.

Currently there are less than a thousand farms holding the Certified Naturally Grown Certification. I am not sure that this grassroots certification will take hold, but it has its heart in the right place. I would like is see this logo become recognizable to consumers. The transparency of the organization is admirable and its commitment to sustainability ideals rather than just low input farming distinguishes it from the USDA's organic standards.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Welcome to the World of Fair Trade

Eating locally makes sense for most things. However, there are specialty goods grown for export which cannot be grown locally like coffee. If you are like me you can't give up your morning cup of joe. So, when making decisions about what coffee to buy remember that while organic growing practices are important there is an additional label to look for, Fair Trade Certified. Fair Trade Certification is important because it supports more than just good growing practices, it supports family farms.

According to
Fair Trade Certified products combine a fair price for farming families with rigid environmental standards. This means that Fair Trade Certified products are some of the most sustainable on the market, while simultaneously raising the standard of living for millions of people around the world. Buying Fair Trade Certified products gives farmers a chance to sell their goods at a fair price, which means they can cover their costs, support their families and invest in a better future.

Buying Fair Trade Certified goods is another way to support small farms even if they are not local. In addition to Fair Trade Certified coffee, tea, sugar, herbs and other products are available.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Veggies...what are they good for?

Just like Boxes #1, 2, and 3, Box #4 contained leeks, but that wasn't all. This week we also had a HUGE head of bok choy. Bok choy is a green that I have just started experimenting with in the last year. Tonight I made it with scallions from the CSA box and the last of the frozen chicken. I have decided to make the transition to vegetarianism, but while I am learning about this dietary choice I am also emptying the freezer.

Asian Braised Chicken with Greens

Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Simple Suppers: Fresh Ideas for the Weeknight Table (p. 160)

  • 1 1/2 cups brown rice
  • 2 tablespoons teriyaki sauce
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons grated peeled ginger root
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 6 scallions
  • 1 head of bok choy (about 1 1/2 lbs)
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • pinch of salt
  • sesame seeds
Cook the rice.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine the teryiaki sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, ginger, sesame seeds and garlic. Set aside. Cut the scallions on the diagonal into 1-inch pieces. Cut the bok choy on the diagonal into 1/2 inch slices (about 8 cups). Cut the chicken into bite-sized chunks.

In a large skillet on high heat, stir-fry the scallions in the oil for 1 minute. Add the bok choy and salt. Stir constantly until the greens are just tender but still crisp, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cover to keep warm.

Add the sauce mixture to the skillet and bring to a simmer. Add the chicken. Cook about 10 minutes on medium heat, stirring occasional.

Serve the chicken on a bed of rice. Top with bok choy.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Planning a non-traditional holiday menu

Recently I have been scouring the shelves at work looking for holiday meal ideas. This Thanksgiving will be the second time that I have hosted an orphan vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner. I have invited all of my friends who do not have family in town to join me for dinner.

Our menu may be a little on the non-traditional side. There won’t be any turkeys at my house, but I hope it will be delicious. Planning the menu can be difficult because like all people, vegetarians come in many shapes and sizes with many ideas about what is the "right" way to eat. Gary Null defines the different kinds of vegetarians in his book
The Vegetarian Handbook: Eating right for Total Health :

  • Total vegetarians thrive solely on plant foods. They eat not only vegetables, but fruits, nuts, seeds, grains and legumes as well. This regime omits all animal foods, including meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, and honey.
  • Vegans have an absolute commitment to vegetarianism, abstaining not only from all animal foods and dairy products, but also from using any products derived from animals, such as leather or even wool or silk.
  • Lacto-vegetarians include milk and milk products in their diet in addition to vegetable foods.
  • Lacto-ovo-vegetarians consume eggs along with milk products and vegetables.
  • Pesco-vegetarians allow fish in their diets. Prime example: the hundreds of millions of Asians who live on the staples of rice, fish and vegetables.
  • Pollo-vegetarians eat poultry (chicken, duck, game, birds) while still omitting red meat. (p. 4)

Though there are numerous dietary restrictions to take into account, it looks like the menu this Thanksgiving will include:

Cheese, Veggies & Crackers with Dill Dip

Leek Salsa & Chips

Winter Squash and Red Lentil Stew atop Couscous

Jalepeno Muffins

Pumpkin Pie

Friday, November 14, 2008

Dirt, it's what's for dinner...

As part of the preparation for my spring vegetable garden I picked up a free soil sample kit from my County Extension Office. According to the County Extension Office:

A soil test is the only way to determine lime and fertilizer requirements for your vegetable garden or lawn.

Because the sample must be completely dry before it is sent out for analysis, I set my sample out to dry for a few days. When I realized that the weather report was calling for scattered showers I decided to bring the dirt inside. I put my pan of dirt in the oven. I was thinking that at least it was out of the way.

My boyfriend and I were going to have tempeh ratatouille for dinner, so I called home and asked him if he would preheat the oven for me. Without even thinking to warn him about the pan of dirt, I told him to turn the oven on to 500 degrees. When I walked in the door after work something smelled a little funny. We had cooked the dirt!

Needless to say I think I have to start the sampling process again.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Bin Composting

One of the most easiest ways to add organic material to your soil without bringing in outside inputs is by composting your yard clippings and kitchen waste. Composting isn't just good for your soil, according to Harmonious Technologies in the book Backyard Composting:
Composting at home reduces your personal volume of trash, conserves water, increases plant growth, replaces the need for harsh chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and is also fun (p.5).
Backyard composting can be an inexpensive way to contribute to the health of your own backyard while at the same time reducing your ecological footprint, and it can be done for almost nothing. To build my bin composter I went on and found some free pallets. I then wired the pallets together to create the bin that will house my compost pile while it turns from kitchen scraps and yard waste into humus rich soil.

Backyard Composting provides several "recipes" for composting, all of which combine brown materials such as leaves and green materials like kitchen scraps. I am using recipe #2 in my composter:

3 parts Dry Leaves
1 part Fresh Garden Weeds
1 part Fresh Grass Clippings
1 part Food Scraps (p. 35)

My backyard does not have a lot trees, so I had to enlist the help of neighbors to procure extra leaves and lawn trimmings. Kitchen scraps, my green material, are much easier to come by. My coffee grounds, banana peels and other organic waste can now be food for my garden rather than being sent to a landfill where the nutrients will be lost rather than added back into the land. Composting allows me to practice good land stewardship on a personal scale.

Starting my compost pile now keeps me working on my garden even though we are in the off season. If everything turns out right, the compost will make great fertilizer and potting soil in the spring.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Veggies...what are they good for?

When I was the farmer I didn't have a lot of sympathy for the members when they complained about receiving the same vegetables over and over again. Now that I am on the receiving end of a CSA box I find myself thinking, "Leeks? Again?"

One thing I will say is that while having assigned vegetables makes cooking more challenging, it is in ways more fun. Now I have parameters to my cooking. This week's box contained head lettuce, radishes, leeks, pecans and fresh herbs. That meant that I had to think of another way to prepare leeks.

Leek Salsa

Adapted from The Practical Produce Cookbook's Onion Salsa (p. 148)
  • 8 cups peeled, cored and chopped tomatoes [canned Colchester Farm tomatoes]
  • 5 cups chopped leeks [Oakley Laurel Farm CSA Box # 3]
  • 1 seeded and chopped green pepper [Oakley Laurel Farm CSA Box #3]
  • 1 seeded and chopped yellow pepper [Tidal Creek organic produce department]
  • 2 tbsp jalapeno peppers with juice [Harris Teeter]
  • 1/4 cup minced cilantro [Tidal Creek organic produce department]
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced [Colchester Farm]
  • 3/4 cup vinegar [Harris Teeter white vinegar]
  • 6 drops hot pepper sauce [Tabasco]

Combine all ingredients in a large kettle. Bring mixture to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Ladle salsa in jars.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


Everywhere I turn there are apples. I know a few weeks ago I was complaining about the price of apples (they seem to cost as much as a candy bar), but now I am hooked! The produce department at Tidal Creek stocks many different varieties. I had no idea there were so many. Honey crisps, Pink Ladies, Galas, Fujis, the list goes on and on. How is a girl to choose?

According to the World's Healthiest Foods website,, I shouldn't have to. Low in calories (around 80 per apple) and high in fiber (approx. 4 grams per apple), there is not much here that you could feel bad about snacking on, which means I can have as many as I want! Though WHF does point out :
Most of the apple's fiber is contained in its skin, as is the majority of its quercitin. Unfortunately, in conventionally grown apples, the apple skin is also the part most likely to contain pesticide residues and may have toxic residues if covered in petroleum-based waxes. Since peeling results in the loss of apples' flavonoids and most of its valuable fiber, choose organically grown apples whenever possible.
Luckily, all of the apples that are stocked in the produce department at the co-op are organic, so I don't have to worry when I bite into one. This morning we received a shipment of local Liberty Apples. I had one with lunch today and it was so juicy I should have had a bib!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Making a Plan

As I anxiously await the 2009 seed catalogs, I have begun laying out this spring's garden plan. I am excited to see what growing food on an individual scale will entail. Deciding what we will eat over the course of the season and the year is more difficult than I thought it would be.

Last spring ,when I left Wilmington for my farming internship, my plant growing experience was limited to houseplants. Now I have helped grow food for over a hundred families. Doing it for mine however is another story. I am nervous about investing a lot of money in the project and failing to produce many vegetables.

It is with my fingers and toes crossed that I head toward planting time. Knowing how much I fear a bad season, I can only imagine what it must be like to have my income depend on the land. There are so many things that can go wrong.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Veggies...what are they good for?

Back in September, when I was working at Colchester, I gave out a Drunken Leeks recipe. Tonight, because like last week my CSA box contained leeks, I adapted that recipe to move it from a side dish to the main course.

Drunken Leeks with Sausage, Broccoli and Olives
  • 1 Package (5) chicken sausage links, sliced [Bilinski's All Natural Chicken Sausage]
  • 6-8 small leeks, washed and finely sliced [Oakley Laurel Farm Box #2]
  • 4 tsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed [Colchester Farm]
  • 3/4 cup red wine [The Magnificent Wine Co.]
  • 3 tsp red wine vinegar [Harris Teeter]
  • 10 black olives, stoned and sliced [Harris Teeter]
  • 2 cups broccoli florets [Casacadian Farms]
  • salt
  • pepper
Sauté the sliced leeks, garlic and sausage gently in the olive oil, stirring, until the leeks begin to soften and the sausage begins to brown, about 6-8 minutes.

Stir in the red wine and red wine vinegar and bring to a boil.

Simmer gently, uncovered, for 5 minutes.

Add the olives and the broccoli, and cook, stirring occasionally, for a further 3-4 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and it is ready to serve.

All in all I would give this recipe a B+. When I make it again, I think that I will use tofu rather than chicken sausage. The sausage had a strong flavor all its own that fought with the sauce and the vegetables.

As I make the transition to a more vegetarian diet (I am only eating meat about once a week), I think I am becoming more sensitive to the flavor that meat can add to a dish. Tofu on the other hand will absorb the flavor of whatever sauce you are cooking with.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Trick or Treat?

Most candy that will be handed out to kids this Halloween Eve will contain high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). While HFCS tastes great it may not be the healthiest thing to be feeding America's children. According to the Mayo Clinic:
High fructose corn syrup is made by changing the sugar (glucose) in cornstarch to fructose - another form of sugar. The end product is a combination of fructose and glucose. Because it extends the shelf life of processed foods and is cheaper than sugar, high-fructose corn syrup has become a popular ingredient in many sodas, fruit-flavored drinks and other processed foods.
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has increasingly been linked to childhood obesity and other health problems. According to Science Daily in a 2007 article:
Researchers have found new evidence that soft drinks sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) may contribute to the development of diabetes, particularly in children.
The potential health consequences related to consuming high fructose corn syrup doesn't have to rule out Halloween candy. Candy sweetened with other unrefined sugars such as barley malt, brown rice syrup, date sugar, fruit sweeteners, honey, maple syrup, molasses, stevia, suscanat and turbinado are available. All of these less refined sugars can be substituted for high fructose corn syrup, though each has its own sweetness ratio when compared to HFCS or sugar. Most home recipes call for refined white sugar. As a rule of thumb:

Sweetener/ Amount to Replace 1 Cup of Sugar / Reduce Liquid By

Barley Malt / 1 - 1 1/4 cup / 1/4 cup

Brown Rice Syrup / 1 - 1 1/4 cup / 1/4 cup

Date Sugar /2/3 cup / none

Fruit Sweeteners / 1 cup / 1/4 cup

Honey / 1/2 cup / 1/4 cup

Maple Syrup / 1/2 - 1/3 cup / 1/4 cup

Molassas /1/2 cup / none

Stevia / 1/2 cup / none

Sucanat / 1 cup / none

(NCGA Sweeteners Pamphlet, 2007)

Though the evidence regarding the potential risks of HFCS is still in debate, it cannot hurt to substitute natural unrefined sugars whenever possible. Tidal Creek stocks many of these alternatives to refined white sugar and high fructose corn syrup, and, increasingly, more main stream grocery chains are beginning to carry alternatives to HFCS.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Small Plot of Land

It doesn't look like much (yet), but this is the land that I will be farming in the spring. I have spent much of the last few weeks considering the style of vegetable production that I want to use on my small plot of land. Currently I am leaning toward biointensive methods.

Promoted by Ecology Action (, biointensive growing methods maximize yields in small spaces. Working toward sustainable solutions for growing food, biointensive methods seek to grow the largest food crop possible while still caring for the land. Ecology Action seeks to promote a system of vegetable production dubbed sustainable mini farming, which:
"nurtures soil, produces high yields, conserves resources and can be used successfully by almost everyone. Our goal is to help this system be known and used locally — on a worldwide scale."
As the current economic downtrend continues it is likely that more and more people will turn to kitchen gardens to supplement regular grocery shopping. I believe biointensive methods are one way to grow vegetables for your family while ensuring the continued fertility of the land.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A farming we will go...

It was with some trepidation that I got myself ready to volunteer at Oakley Laurel Farm (the small CSA farm which I joined) this morning. Farming on the one day I have off this week?

Though I have only been back in Wilmington since the beginning of the month, it feels like forever since I had my hands in the dirt. I wondered if I would still enjoy it. Would it feel more like work and less like play? Luckily, I liked it just as much as I remembered. I love the feeling of the sun shining down on my back as I hand weed the garden, separating baby carrots from weeds. I love looking up across the way the bok choi and the broccoli plants that I know are not so long away from my dinner table. It was great to talk to Robb, the farmer, about blossom end rot and what kind of mulching strategies work best.

Cool season farming is something new to me. I have not yet had to confront freezing temperatures. After hand weeding two of the eighteen 50ft beds, Robb and I put a thin layer of hay over the carrots, radishes and turnips. The hay insulates the root systems. We are supposed to drop into the 40s over night tonight. Hopefully this small layer of insulation will help the babies along.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Veggies...what are they good for?

Cream of Leek and Potato Soup

From The Wilson Farm Country Cookbook: Recipes from New England's Favorite Farm Stand:

Serves 8

Wash the leeks thoroughly before you start, because sandy soup isn't very appetizing. This soup, whether hot or cold (vichyssoise) is so delicious. I'm probably in the minority, but I like it better hot [As an aside, so do I. In my opinion this is a thick winter soup and should be served hot] .
  • 3 tablespoons butter [Organic Valley]
  • 6 cups sliced leeks (5 to 6 white part only) [Oakley Laurel Farm's CSA Box #1]
  • 3/4 cups coarsely chopped onion [Oakley Laurel Farm's CSA Box # 1]
  • 4 cups peeled, 1/2 inch-diced white potatoes [Colchester Farm]
  • 1 teaspoon salt [Morton's Sea Salt]
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream [Maple View Farm (a local dairy servicing the Co-op)]
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper (optional)
Melt the butter in a 4-quart pot. Add the leeks and onion and cook for about 5 minutes or until they are wilted but not brown.

Add the potatoes, broth and salt and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 20 to 30 minutes or until the vegetables are very tender.

Puree in small batches in a blender or food processor, or press through a sieve.

Return the puree to the pan, and stir in the cream and pepper. Add salt if necessary. Heat gently. This soup may be chilled, but check the seasoning just before serving (p. 52).

I found this recipe particularly appealing because it incorporates Colchester and Oakley Laurel Farms. Making this soup I was able to use the last of my Colchester potatoes and my first CSA box from Oakley Laurel Farm, literally blending the two experiences together.

I licked the spoon and it tastes great to me, but the real test will be when my boyfriend and his friends try it. I will be handing it out over the course of the next few days. I will keep you posted....

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Special Delivery

Yesterday was the first delivery from Oakley Laurel Farm's CSA. The members' boxes were delivered to Tidal Creek for pickup. Unlike Colchester, Oakley Laurel Farm does not allow its members to select the content of our boxes. Instead, the boxes are packed on the farm and each member receives a box containing the same produce. In our first boxes we received leeks, an onion, radishes, a head of lettuce. a turnip, a pear and pecans. Not a bad haul. The pecans and the pear will make a lively addition to tonight's salad.

Anyone who knows me knows that I don't have a lot of experience in the kitchen. One reason that I like the idea of receiving a CSA box is that it forces me to try out new recipes instead of sticking to the same tried and true salad that I have been making for the last several years. Salad, along with a couple of pasta dishes and a very basic stir-fry thrown into the mix, accounts for 99% of my dinners.

This morning I happily paged through some of my cookbooks to see what recipes I might like to try out using ingredients from my box. This weekend I will be making Cream of Potato and Leek Soup with the leeks from Oakley Laurel Farm and potatoes which I brought back with me from Colchester. Please check Sunday's post, Veggies...what are they good for?, if you are interested in the recipe and/or the results.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Are you an owner of the Co-op?

The first thing I ask each customer is, "Are you an owner of the Co-op?" Most of the time the customer pulls out their ownership card. But, when the customer is not an owner, I try to educate them about the benefits of owning an equity share in Tidal Creek.

"Becoming a Tidal Creek owner by purchasing an annual equity share creates many more opportunities to support a locally owned and operated natural food store AND save. Equity shares support the co-op's financial stability and makes it possible for us to thrive and better serve the community."

If that isn't enough incentive, I list the benefits to the individual:
  • Should the Co-op be profitable, based on the amount spent in the fiscal year, the owner may receive a patronage refund;
  • Eligibility for the Wild Card Discount - 5% off an entire order 6 times a year;
  • Owner appreciation day - 10% off an entire order twice a year; and
  • 10% off special orders;
The cost of an equity share is $30.00 per family per year. I know this seems expensive, but in my opinion it is well worth it. Patronizing local businesses and having access to high quality food are priorities of mine, and purchasing an equity share is a key way to support these ideals.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Veggies...what are they good for?

As it turns out, nothing this week. At Oakley Laurel Farms, the Wilmington Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm that I am a member of, the deer and the weather are causing a slow start. CSA farms are set up differently than traditional farms. Members pay in advance for a share, a box of produce, that is delivered each week throughout the season. Farmers receive the price of the share at the beginning of the season which provides them with capital and ensures that even if it is a bad season they are not bearing the burden alone. This means that if the harvest is small this year, our share sizes will be reduced. No matter what the harvest, the produce will be spread evenly among the members.

Our weekly produce delivery was set to begin the first Thursday in October. However, the start date has been pushed back for several weeks. Robb Prichard, our farmer, says not to worry. Last year she encountered similar difficulties but was up and running before the end of October. I am hoping to spend some time volunteering at the farm late this week or early next week. I miss getting my hands dirty!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Button Up!

Most of us are too busy thinking about what we need for dinner to consider the the environmental impact of our shopping bags, but the grocery bags we use really can and do make a difference. According to, Americans annually dispose of almost 400 billion plastic bags. With every 14 bags containing enough petroleum to drive a car for a mile, that's a lot of miles! As gas prices continue to rise, impacting the cost of food, one way that individuals can contribute to resource conservation is by purchasing reusable bags.

Tidal Creek offers sturdy, reusable bags for $0.99 each. Additionally, Tidal Creek runs the Button Up! Program. For every reusable bag a customer brings in $0.05 is donated to charity. At the front of the store there is a jar of buttons and two jars representing charities. Shoppers who use reusable bags can move a button to the charity of their choice. From July 1, 2008 to September 30, 2008 Tidal Creek shoppers used 5,609 reusable bags saving enough gas to drive a car 400 miles and sending approximately $280 to charity. This is a green consumer choice I can really get behind.

(My boyfriend would surely agree that I am promoting this program. Like so many of us I end up leaving my bag by the front door on my way out prompting me to purchase another. His front door is starting to be wallpapered with reusable bags. Oops!)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Just Say Moo!

According to Sustainable Table, a website devoted to educating consumers about food choice:
Despite opposition from scientists, farmers and consumers, the US currently allows dairy cows to be injected with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), also known as recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST). Developed and manufactured by the Monsanto Corporation, this genetically engineered hormone forces cows to artificially increase milk production by 10 to 15 percent. Today, controversy still surrounds whether or not rBGH is safe for cows and humans.(
The producers of rBGH want to make it illegal to label milk as rBGH free claiming that it would unfairly prejudice the consumer against milk containing the hormone. According to the Columbia News Service, "The FDA does not require dairies to indicate if their cows have been treated with rBGH. Instead, the agency has strongly suggested that dairies that do not use rBGH and claim to be synthetic hormone free to include information on their packaging that states "the FDA has found no significant difference between cows not treated with rBGH and milk from cows treated with rBGH."" ( milk)

Increasingly, consumers are seeking out milk that is free of synthetic hormones. Consumer demand has led Starbucks and Walmart to stop carrying milk from rBGH treated cows. At Tidal Creek we offer consumers a wide variety of alternatives to conventionally produced dairy products. The rBGH hormone is not used in the production of any milk sold at the co-op.

If you want more information about rBGH and its possible effects on human health check out:

Your Milk on Drugs - A film by Jeffrey M. Smith (Part 1) (Part 2)

Monday, October 6, 2008


Due to the nature of CSAs, members often encounter vegetables that they are unfamiliar with. To be honest, there were things that we grew at Colchester that I had no idea what to do with when I first got there. Our members always had good questions. What do you make with leeks besides soup? How do you pickle a cucumber? What do you do when your eggplant is bitter?

Now that I am an employee of the co-op I find that I am confronted with all kinds of new and interesting questions. Is oil of oregano good for sore throats? Why would you want to eat sprouted bread? Where do you keep the sodium bicarbonate?

I can hardly answer any of them. I guess there is always a learning curve.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Veggies...what will they be good for?

Now that I am no longer an intern at Colchester Farm, I have to find new ways to participate in the local food economy. In order to continue my producer/consumer relationship (and to eat delicious fresh, local veggies), I have purchased a share in Oakley Laurel Farm's fall CSA subscription run by Robb Pritchard. Oakley Laural Farm is located in Castle Hayne, North Carolina (just outside of Wilmington).

The cost of a share is $200.00. For 12 weeks, beginning in October and ending around Christmas, the members will receive weekly boxes of produce. The boxes will be delivered on Thursday evenings to Tidal Creek. Members will have until the store closes on Friday to pick up their box.

Unlike Colchester, Oakley Laurel Farm does not offer its members a choice regarding the produce contained in its weekly shares. Instead, cabbage, lettuce, broccoli, turnips, kale, carrots, parsnips and herbs will be making guest appearances in the boxes. I don't know how I would chose anyway. It all sounds great to me!

CSA shares require that members become familiar with many types of vegetables, which is why the traditional Sunday post is "Veggies...what are they good for?"
Now that I will be receiving a weekly box of produce, I will have to learn to adjust my menu accordingly. Next Sunday after my first share delivery, I will begin posting what I made with that week's box.

Keep it local!

Friday, October 3, 2008

How Much is that Apple in the Window?

As a farming intern I had access to fresh, pesticide-free vegetables any time that I felt a little peckish. If the mood struck, I could pick an apple or a pear off the tree, but, now that I am back in Wilmington, things have changed. Though I knew that food costs were rising, it wasn’t until my first trip to the grocery store that it really hit home for me. Organic lettuce mix at my local Harris Teeter is $3.50 for an 8 oz package, and that is on sale. I can eat that in one sitting! Then yesterday on my lunch break I decided that I was going to buy an apple and even with my employee discount it cost $1.51. I thought to myself, “How am I going to eat?”

According AFBF Economist Jim Sartwelle, “As energy costs have increased, it has become more expensive to process, package, and transport food items for retail sale. In addition, soaring demand overseas for U.S. dairy and meat products has reduced quantities available at home, resulting in retail price increases at the grocery store. ”

One way that individuals can lower their food costs is by shopping locally and in season. This cuts down on the fuel consumption associated with food production. Shopping at Farmers’ markets and purchasing CSA shares are two ways to ensure that your foodstuff is local and seasonal. An even more cost effective way is to grow your own fruits and vegetables when possible.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

My New Post

As I make my way back to Wilmington, North Carolina, I am planning to continue my work with sustainable, healthy food systems. One way that I plan on doing this is by working part-time at Tidal Creek Food Cooperative ( According to the Cooperative Grocers’ Information Network:

A co-op is an organization that takes the idea of working together and puts it into a business structure. A cooperative is a business voluntarily owned and controlled by the people who use it—its members. It is operated solely for the benefit of its members, to meet their mutual needs. When groups of people have similar needs—such as the need for lower prices, more affordable housing, or access to telecommunications services—cooperatives offer great potential to meet those needs.

A co-op is a member-owned, member-controlled business that operates for the mutual benefit of all members and according to common principles established for cooperatives.

There are three basic types of co-ops:

Producer co-ops provide goods or services to members who are involved in producing products, such as farmers or artists.
Worker co-ops are owned and controlled on a democratic basis by their employees.
Consumer co-ops provide goods or services used primarily for personal consumption. Food co-ops are typically organized as consumer co-ops.

Tidal Creek is a consumer co-op with a vision of fostering individual, community and planetary health by providing:

High quality natural and organic foods and other environmentally sound products;
A comfortable, affordable place to shop and share knowledge;
Education and training to help people make informed choices towards well being; and
A sustainable and economical model which invests in the local and cooperative communities.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Coming to an End

As we move farther into the fall season, the green beans are coming to an end and so is my time at Colchester. When I arrived in May, I had never managed to keep a house plant alive let alone grown most of the food that I eat. Working on the farm with Theresa and the other interns and having the opportunity to interact with our members has been one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life. Physically I have never been so challenged or nourished by my work.

Tomorrow is my last CSA pick-up and Wednesday I am heading back to Wilmington, NC where I hope to continue my work promoting and creating sustainable, local food systems. Please continue to visit my blog to see what I am up to.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Veggies...what are they good for?

Sweet Potatoes

The sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) is a dicotyledonous plant which belongs to the family Convolvulaceae. Amongst the approximately 50 genera and more than 1000 species of this family, only I. batatas is a crop plant whose large, starchy, sweet tasting tuberous roots are an important root vegetable (Purseglove, 1991; Woolfe, 1992). The young leaves and shoots are sometimes eaten as greens. The sweet potato is only distantly related to the potato (Solanum tuberosum). It is commonly called a yam in parts of North America, although they are only very distantly related to the other plant widely known as yams) (in the Discoreaceae family), which is native to Africa and Asia. (

Roasted Vegetable Curry

· 1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes
· 1 onion
· ½ small head of cauliflower
· 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
· ½ teaspoon salt
· 2 teaspoons grated peeled ginger root
· 2 tablespoons curry powder
· ½ teaspoon salt
· 1 cup coconut milk
· 1 cup diced tomatoes

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Peel the sweet potatoes and onion, cut them into ¾ inch chunks, and place them in a large bowl. Cut the cauliflower into bite-sized florets (about 3 cups) and add to the bowl. Add the oil, sprinkle with salt and toss to coat. Spread the vegetables in a single layer on one or two oiled baking trays. Roast for 20 minutes, stirring once after about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a bowl whisk together the ginger, curry powder, salt, and coconut milk until smooth. Stir in the tomatoes.

After the vegetables have roasted for 20 minutes, pour the curry sauce over them and stir to coat. Return to the oven until tender, about 5 minutes. (Moosewood Restaurant Simple Suppers, p. 53)

Apple Sweet Potato Casserole

· 2 sweet potatoes
· ½ cup water
· 2 large apples
· 1 cup apple juice
· 2 tablespoons cornstarch
· 3 tablespoons water
· ½ cup honey
· ⅓ cup wheat germ

Cook sweet potatoes in ½ cup water until tender about 20 minutes. Peel and slice lengthwise into ½-inch thick slices. Lay them in a casserole dish. Peel and core apples, slicing ½-inch thick. Lay apple slices on top of sweet potatoes. Bring apple juice to a boil. Combine cornstarch and water. Add to juice, cooking until sauce is clear and thickened. Add honey. Spoon over apples, then top with wheat germ. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes or until apples are tender. (Practical Produce Cookbook, p. 256)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Caring for the People

In order to make fresh fruits and vegetables more accessible to low income women and children, the USDA began the FNMP (Farmers' Market Nutritional Program). The program was established in 1992:
FMNP Eligible WIC participants are issued FMNP coupons in addition to their regular WIC food instruments. These coupons can be used to buy fresh, unprepared fruits, vegetables and herbs from farmers, farmers' markets or roadside stands that have been approved by the State agency to accept FMNP coupons. The farmers, farmers’ markets or roadside stands then submit the coupons to the bank or State agency for reimbursement.

Colchester annually updates its application to be a part of this program to make sure that our pesticide-free vegetables are available to everyone.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Caring for the Land

Colchester practices good land stewardship in many ways. In addition to being pesticide-free which reduces ground and water contamination and using crop rotation, we are also using cover crops to replenish the vitamins and minerals that the veggies leech from the soil. Theresa has chosen to plant cow peas in some of our dormant fields this season to replace nitrogen. According to NCSU:

Cover crops are grown to protect and improve the soil, not to harvest. Cover crops have the potential to improve soil tilth, control erosion and weeds, and maintain soil organic matter. They can reduce compaction and increase water
infiltration which decreases leaching of nutrients. Cover crops retain and recycle plant nutrients (especially nitrogen) between crops, provide habitat for beneficial microorganisms, and increase plant diversity.

Practicing good land stewardship ensures that we will continue to be able to produce vegetables on the land year after year.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Do You Have Lettuce Today?

Each week at the farmers' market in Chestertown, our customers hungrily, ask, "Do you have lettuce?" Happily, our answer is generally yes. In order to ensure a continued supply of our mesclun mix, we must practice succession planting:

In agriculture, succession planting refers to several planting methods that increase crop availability during a growing season by making efficient use of space and timing.

For us this has meant seeding new rounds of lettuce every two or three weeks, a strategy that is known as same crop succession planting. This has allowed for the continued harvesting of our lettuce mix.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Veggies...what are they good for?


The leek , Allium ampeloprasum var. porrum (L.), also sometimes known as Allium porrum, is a vegetable which belongs, along with the onion and garlic, to the Alliaceae family. Two related vegetables, the elephant garlic and kurrat, are also variant subspecies of Allium ampeloprasum, although different in their uses as food. The edible part of the leek plant is sometimes called a stem, though technically it is a bundle of leaf sheaths.

Drunken Leeks

· 2 Tablespoons butter
· 6 to 8 small leeks, trimmed and washed
· 1 clove garlic, crushed
· 1/2 cup red wine
· 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
· 2 Tablespoons parsley, chopped
· Dash salt
· Black pepper

Melt the butter and cook the leeks and garlic for 3 minutes over medium heat. Add the red wine and some salt and mix well. Cover and cook for 15 more minutes or until leeks are tender. Place the leeks on a serving dish and reduce the liquid left in the pan for 2 minutes. Add the wine vinegar and pepper to taste. Pour over the leeks and garnish with parsley.

Zucchini and Leek Oven Baked Frittata

· 3 medium zucchini (approximately 1 lb)
· 1 leek
· 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
· 6 large eggs
· 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
· 2 cups shredded mozzarella
· 6 basil leaves
· salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 35o degrees. Wash and trim leek. Slice in rounds. Wash zucchini and chop in small pieces. Heat the 3 tbsp of olive oil in large skillet on medium heat until hot and add the zucchini and leek. Cook until vegetables for one or two minutes (the zucchini will still have a crunch to it).

In the meantime, whisk the 6 eggs with the 1 cup Parmesan cheese and 2 cups mozzarella in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Brush the pie plate with olive oil and add the zucchini mixture. Pour egg mixture over zucchini mixture and stir to blend. Scatter the basil leaves on top.
Bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until the frittata is sent and the top is nicely browned.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Rain in Spain

Though the wet weather has finally arrived, it didn't come soon enough. We have been irrigating throughout the season to ensure that our seedlings will sprout and our plants will grow. Whenever we plant we lay drip tape at the same time. This allows us to water six 200 ft rows slowly over the course of two hours before moving on to the next crop.

According to Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations:

Irrigation is the supply of water to agricultural crops by artificial means, designed to permit farming in arid regions and to offset drought in semi-arid regions. Even in areas where total seasonal rainfall is adequate on average, it may be poorly distributed during the year and variable from year to year. Where traditional rain-fed farming is a high-risk enterprise, irrigation can help to ensure stable production.

And high risk it would have been. Theresa said that this season, without irrigation, we couldn't have run the CSA. Though I don't like harvesting in it, I welcome the rain. The crops could use a little natural moisture.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Tomato Waits for No Man

When Theresa first asked me if I wanted to can this Sunday, I said, "That doesn't really fit into my schedule." She gently reminded me that if I couldn't do it now it wasn't getting done. There will not be an overabundance of tomatoes forever. One thing that farming is helping me to understand is seasonal eating. Canning the tomatoes now allows us to extend the harvest throughout the winter.

So, Sunday was a day of canning for Rachel, Theresa and me. With the tomatoes left over after Friday's CSA pick-up and Saturday's farmers' market, the three of us spent the afternoon blanching, peeling and canning tomatoes. Though canning tomatoes takes a lot of time, having three people makes it seem more like an afternoon hanging out then working. I will get to remember the day I spent with the girls later this winter when I am making chili.

Monday, September 15, 2008

It's that Time Again

The cycle of planting is beginning again. The head lettuce, which we finished harvesting back in late June is going in the ground again. Head lettuce matures in 50 to 60 days which means in late October or early November we will have Romaine, Salad Bowl and other lettuce varieties back on our dinner tables.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Veggies...what are they good for?

Hot Peppers

Peppers are commonly broken down into three groupings: bell peppers, sweet peppers, and hot peppers. Most popular pepper varieties are seen as falling into one of these categories or as a cross between them… The chili pepper, chilli pepper or chili, is the fruit of the plants from the genus Capsicum, which are members of the nightshade family, Solanacae. Even though chilis may be thought of as a vegetable, their culinary usage is, generally, a spice, the part of the plant that is usually harvested is the fruit, and botany considers the plant a berry shrub. (

Spicy Black Beans with Bell peppers and Rice

· 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
· 1 large onion, diced
· 1 cup chopped green bell pepper
· 1 cup chopped red bell pepper
· 3 large garlic cloves, chopped
· 1 tablespoon ground cumin
· 1 jalapeño chili, seeded, chopped
· 1 teaspoon dried oregano
· 2 15- to 16-ounce cans black beans, drained
· 2 cups canned crushed tomatoes with added puree
· 1/4 cup orange juice
· 1 1/2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce (such as Tabasco)

· 1 1/3 cups raw rice, cooked

Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell peppers, garlic, cumin, jalapeño and oregano; sauté until vegetables begin to soften, about 8 minutes.
Mash 1/2 cup beans. Add mashed beans, whole beans, tomatoes, orange juice and hot pepper sauce to skillet. Bring to boil, stirring frequently. reduce heat, cover and simmer 15 minutes. Uncover and simmer until reduced to thick sauce consistency, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Mound rice in center of platter. Spoon black bean mixture over.

Corn Jalapeno Muffins

· 1 cup milk
· 1 large egg
· 1/4 cup vegetable oil
· 2 cups all-purpose flour
· 2 tablespoons sugar
· 2 tablespoons cornmeal
· 1 tablespoon baking powder
· 3/4 teaspoon salt
· 1 cup corn kernels, frozen thawed or canned drained
· 2 tablespoons minced jalapeno, or use mild chiles

Whisk together the milk, egg, and oil. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. Stir in first mixture until all ingredients moistened, then stir in the corn and peppers. Spoon into greased muffin cups. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes, or until a wooden pick or cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then remove from pan and serve warm.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Companion Planting

One strategy that organic farmers employ is companion planting. According to
Companion planting is based around the idea that certain plants can benefit others when planted next to, or close to one another.
In our leek field we planted carrots between our rows of leeks. It is thought that the carrots, through chemicals they release, will cut down on the incidence of worms in the leeks. This is called Biochemical Pest Suppression. For more information and for a companion planting chart see