June 1, 2011 § 1 Comment
I realize that I forgot to write a recap last month. I guess I was busy planning for vacation. This month I will reflect on some of the things that have not gone quite as planned since the weeks that I tried them.
Compton had a short-lived life. After only having him less than a month, he split in two and I had to take him back to the store & exchange him. Bamboo is not a good material for dry climates like Colorado.
He was a good composting bin while he lasted.
Sadly he’s been replaced by a much less attractive ceramic composting bin who’ve I’ve decided will go nameless for now.
Aside from the Compton casualty I am still composting and it has significantly reduced the trash that goes out each week. I actually find it easier and more enjoyable than recycling because I imagine it ending up in someone’s garden.
I’m mad at myself for this one. I’ve been known to procrastinate from time to time and instead of joining right away, I put it off with excuses. I’m conflicted because I think it is a very worthwhile thing to invest in but for some reason I kept putting it off. I think I wanted to save the $ for our vacation at the time and then I started thinking about the fact we would be gone a number of weeks this Summer. I wondered whether it was worth it ultimately for us. I’ve decided in lieu of a CSA this year, we’ll make a trip to the farmer’s market each week to support our local farmers. If we are traveling less next year, then I’ll revisit whether a CSA makes sense.
I did not learn as much Italian as I had hoped before going on vacation to Italy. While I would love to speak multiple languages other than English, I think I need to be honest with myself that I should be investing in my Spanish. I used to be fluent and now I struggle to have casual conversations with people. Trying to learn Italian was really just making my Spanish that much worse. At least when I was over there I was able to understand a bit more than I would have but speaking is an entirely different thing that takes a lot of time & dedication. It’s time to get my Spanish back up to snuff because it’s something I’ll actually use here in the US.
I think those are enough confessions for now. It’s easy to want everything I spend time and energy on to work out perfectly but it’s no big deal when they don’t sometimes. For the things that don’t work out from this project, there are 5x as many things that do, so that’s worth it to me. The things that don’t work out also sometimes push me towards the things I’d rather do anyway, like brushing up on my Spanish vs trying to learn a whole other language.
I guess the important lesson I’ve learned so far is that it’s more worthwhile to have something fail when you’ve actually tried it or looked into it than when you’ve just made an excuse not to try in the first place.
February 28, 2011 § 2 Comments
It was a pretty fun and eye opening week for me looking into CSAs (community supported agriculture). I’ve made my decision and I’m planning to join a couple of them. There were a few factors involved in the decision:
what kind of food do I want? I decided to join the Monroe Organic Farms CSA for their summer produce share as well as their honey and fresh eggs. All of the farms I looked into were organic. Monroe Farms is the oldest organic farm in CO and also one of the longest running CSAs at 19 years. I trust that.
what else do I want besides food? It was a hard decision between Monroe and Pastures of Plenty Farms, so I decided I would do both. I am going to sign up for the flower CSA at Pastures of Plenty. It’s one example of other great perks you can get through CSAs.
It will be so nice having fresh flowers in the house each week.
who grows the food? Getting out and meeting some of the farming community was important to me. I met a lot of wonderful people this week but I especially had a soft spot for the Monroes. Jacquie and Jerry Monroe are great people, and I like knowing their family has been tending to that land for 3 generations.
They reminded me a lot of the farmers I knew growing up in South Carolina and it will be fun to get to know them better through the CSA.
how involved do I want to be in the farm? I think one of the interesting parts of joining a CSA is that many farms offer working shares. You not only get a discount on your food for the season but you get to be a part of the inner-workings of a farm. It was nice to see people bringing their kids out to help so they have a better understanding of food.
I haven’t decided whether I can do the weekly 4 hours of work since I live a little far away, but maybe it would be worth trying out.
I would definitely encourage people to look into CSAs nearby. Even if you can’t join one there are lots of ways to support local farms. I’m looking forward to lots of good food this upcoming season. It’s already starting to feel like Spring in CO!
February 26, 2011 § Leave a comment
A great way to figure out which CSA to join is to take a look at who is supplying local restaurants. In Boulder, I’m lucky to be right down the street from some great farm-to-table restaurants. The farm-to-table movement grew from a number of concerns: poor quality, flavor and nutritional value of shipped food, the rise in pesticides and genetically modified foods and the disappearance of small farms. Alice Waters from Chez Panisse in Berkeley was one of the first advocates of the movement. It’s definitely caught on and it’s fairly easy to find options nearby in just about any city nowadays.
In Boulder, The Kitchen is not only a great restaurant but also very active in the raising awareness of local agriculture in the community. They support a number of local farms for everything from produce to meats and cheeses. It’s interesting to take a look at all of the farms they support; it makes you realize how much there is available locally beyond veggies with CSAs, like local peaches, honey, milk,etc.
While a lot of restaurants work with multiple farms, some local restaurants also own their own farms.
In Boulder, Chef Erik Skokan owns both Black Cat Restaurant and Black Cat Farm which supplies a lot of the food he serves. Their menu changes everyday and is a nice reflection of what’s in season. As part of the farm, they offer their own CSA which they like to think of as a season-long culinary experience from 4-course dining experiences to weekly recipes and cooking tips.
I have not been to Fruition restaurant yet in Denver, but we’re going to try to check it out tonight. Last year, Chef Alex Seidel was named one of the top 10 new chefs by Food & Wine magazine . He also owns his own farm in Larkspur, CO where he grows much of the restaurant’s food and has even expanded into cheese-making.
Even if joining a CSA isn’t really for you, there are lots of ways to still enjoy and support local agriculture.
February 24, 2011 § 1 Comment
Today I visited Pastures of Plenty Farm and it is just such a beautiful place. Lyle, the owner, was one of the founders of Alfalfa’s, a natural and organic food store which is reopening this Spring after being owned by Whole Foods most recently.
Lyle bought the farm in 1993 and his family is only the 3rd family to have lived on and farmed the property dating back to the 1800s. It’s a beautiful place. His house is built from the original 1890s homestead house as well as another house of that same time period he bought and had moved when he found out the property owners were just going to demolish it. Lyle lives good food; in addition to growing fresh produce he also owns a catering business and hosts special events on the farm (especially weddings). His farm was featured on Bobby Flay’s Food Nation to introduce people to the farm to table concept; Lyle’s farm was one of the first to adopt that practice.
I am a total sucker for fresh flowers and one of the special parts of the farm is that they grow all kinds of gorgeous flowers throughout the season. They use them for the weddings and events they host, but as a CSA member you can also get a weekly supply of fresh flowers. Lyle showed us gorgeous pictures of his fields covered in peonies last Summer.
As part of the CSA, Lyle also does cooking classes throughout the season as well as farm tours to explain more about organic farming. There is great outdoor event space with a wood burning oven where he hosts the events.
For me this week, I’m already able to tell that I not only want to join a CSA to get better food and support local agriculture, but also to feel a connection with where that food is coming from. Lyle’s place is a great farm and is a very welcoming place. It just has a good vibe.
It is going to be a hard decision to make at the end of the week. There are so many amazing farms in this area.
February 23, 2011 § Leave a comment
Today I visited 63rd St. Farm as I continue learning about CSAs and met this little guy, a pygmy goat, who seems to be the real owner of the place. The human owners were out of town this week. They have a very informative website, but I thought I’d take a drive out just to see the place. There were a couple of other people waiting to meet with someone so I walked around a bit. I think my new pygmy friend likes to protect the chickens and his other little pygmy friend. Or he just doesn’t like his picture taken.
63rd St. Farm offers the typical fare of seasonal produce (tomatoes, squash, onions, peppers, etc). This week I’m learning that joining a CSA can also mean supporting a philosophy about food as well. At 63rd St. Farm they use the approach of “permaculture“. I had never heard of it, so I did a little further research. Permaculture is about sustainable land use design. It’s not only thinking about what you want to grow but how those things relate to each other in order to minimize the work and maximize the result. It is sort of a harmonious approach to farming I guess you’d say.
As part of its permaculture philosophy this farm has a Retreat Center where you can stay and live the concept of sustainability. It looks like a pretty peaceful place and is right in the midst of the farming. I also noticed 2 wood burning ovens they make pizzas from when you pick up your weekly shipment. Yum.
It has been interesting to see the differences between the farms and what they offer. Farms can be very different than they appear from the outside. I look forward to visiting some more this week. I’ll be watching out for pygmies.
February 22, 2011 § 1 Comment
This week is already making me realize I’ve been pretty disconnected from food despite being fairly knowledgeable about it. When buying food, I’ve typically just thought about it in terms of finding a reputable grocery store & farmers market. Today I visited Monroe Organic Farms, the oldest organic farm in CO. In researching CSA programs to join I knew I would be thinking a lot more about where my food would be coming from. I knew I wanted to go and see the farms. After my visit today I also left thinking a lot more about the idea of who is feeding me. I realize I’ve been completely disconnected from the people producing the food I eat. After talking with Jacquie and Jerry Monroe, I would be more than happy to have them feeding me. I think that is one of the special things about a CSA. You not only know where your food is coming from but who is growing it. When you meet the Monroes you realize they are completely connected to the land. You get the feeling they tend to your food rather than just produce it.
Monroe Farms has been in the family for generations and dates back to the 30s; they’ll be celebrating their 75th anniversary this year. It is also one of the oldest CSAs in the state going on its 19th year. I chose to learn more about them because I think of them as a full service CSA if you will. You not only get produce shipments but they also provide eggs, meat, honey and winter shipment as well. You even have the opportunity to work the farm as part of the CSA.
I met a few volunteers today who were packing up the weekly shipment. It’s nice because many people bring their kids so they can understand more about where food comes from. I’m learning how hard it is to be a farmer – the amount of work it requires for little pay (typically 19 cents on the dollar) and the knowledge it all rests fully on your shoulders. Jacquie confided the stress they went through when their daughter had to have a number of surgeries over the past couple of years and their gratitude to the volunteers who helped them get through when they had to be away from the farm to tend to their daughter. They’ve built a true community around their farm. Joining a CSA helps farmers to make a decent living and focus on the food.
Jerry showed me around the farm, explained the equipment they use and also talked about how owning a farm often involves a bit of experimentation. I think one of my favorite “experiments” of the farm was the straw chicken hut. The chickens seem to be quite happy in them; there were even a few lounging around in “hammocks”. Jerry sent me home with 2 dozen fresh eggs which I can’t wait to try. I haven’t had fresh eggs in years.
There is so much more I could write about my visit. For me, I’ve wanted part of this project to be about feeling more of a sense of community after living in various cities over the past decade. I think joining a CSA like the one Monroe Farms offers is certainly a step in the right direction.
February 21, 2011 § 1 Comment
It’s hard to imagine eating produce like this right now in Colorado. One of the things I miss most about living in LA was the ability to get amazing produce year round at a number of farmer’s markets. There is hope on the horizon and now is the time to plan ahead for the local harvest and join a CSA.
I had heard of CSAs back in New England but never really looked into them at the time as it seemed like too much of a hassle living in Boston. You definitely tend to hear about them a bit more in Boulder. I’m also fortunate enough to have a few good friends I’ve made since moving here who are on a mission to become farmers themselves and have given me a little nudge in that direction.
What is a CSA? CSA stands for community supported agriculture. It consists of a community of individuals who pledge financial (and sometimes physical) support to a local farm where all parties share in the risk and reward of food production. CSAs became popular in the 60s both in Europe and in Japan. They arose out of concerns with food safety & the urbanization of agricultural land. In Japan, it was also a fear of the rise of imported food. In 1984, the concept was brought to the US by Jan VanderTuin (pictured) who co-founded the Great Barrington CSA. Since then there are now over 13,000 CSA farms.
When I was a kid in PA, my grandfather would drive us around the countryside in his antique cars to local farms and we’d pick up eggs, fresh corn, cider and pumpkins to carve. They were fun trips and my grandparents would always share a laugh with the farmers. This week I’m going to make my rounds to a few farms and look into joining a CSA. There are many different kinds from those that offer strictly veggies to those that include flowers, honey, meats, dairy and also offer special events at the farms. I have a list of 6 I want to check out from a helpful article my farming friend, Alicia, sent me.