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A new season in my life.

Hello my friends, So…here I am at the turning of the seasons again. I love fall! I’m not quite sure if fall or winter is my favorite season. But this year it started snowing in September and during the first week of October it snowed again. The ground is frozen and I haven’t drained my pump and water lines or gotten all the potatoes and carrots out of the ground yet.

Today I received a request from an old friend and customer to sign up for the CSA. Well, I need to ‘fess up that we are no longer doing the CSA. I thought I had deleted all links to the order form, but she found a way somehow to print one.  (Big Sigh….)

Here is my new life. I don’t do the CSA any longer. I still farm and garden, but it doesn’t look the same anymore…..I can’t tell you all the reasons right now, but I can tell you what it does look like.

We sell all our produce at the local Farmers’ Market. During the week I teach 2nd grade at a nearby Christian School. It doesn’t pay much, but being a farmer I’m kind of used to that! I also raise Newfoundland dogs….you might find that info on facebook at either Dahlin Farm, or Bella’s Newfoundland Puppies.

Here on the farm now its just me and three of my kids who help out part-time. One of them has an off-farm job, and the other two are in school full-time. The rest have flown the nest and are busy in their own lives.

We no longer raise pork, chicken, beef and turkeys to sell…although that could possibly change some day, but for now it is just produce & puppies!

 

“What I wish someone had told me before I joined a CSA.”

TIP #1:

Take the time to learn about storage early on. In our Box to Banquet document, we give you tips for every vegetable you’ll see in your shares. Try to learn it early.

There is especially two mistakes that are common to CSA Rookies.

First, “Take the tops off your carrots as soon as you can, or they’ll get soft.”

This is such a discouraging thing. You see those beautiful carrots come out of your box and you’re so excited – the highlight of your box! But then, you forget to take the tops off and the very next day you find those same carrots have become rubbery and soft. The greens have pulled all the moisture out of the roots.

So, take those tops off and use them to make pesto, or put them in your Veggie Broth Cache in the freezer. Place your carrot roots in a plastic bag, close it up and keep it in your crisper drawer in your fridge.

Second, “Watch for those green leafy things. You need to use these first because they don’t have a long storage life.”

You will likely get a fair amount of ‘green leafy things’ in your CSA box, or from the local farmers’ market. Kale, Swiss Chard, Beet greens, Spinach, Lettuce, Arugula, Mesclun mix. The refrigerator sucks the moisture out of these vegetables.

One of the best ways to keep these green leafy things is to get some “green bags.” These are made specifically to help those highly perishable foods last as long as possible, and I know the Debbie Meyer brand are re-usable up to 10 times.

So take the time to learn about the life expectancy of each veggie, plan to use the highly perishable items first, and how to store each one so you’re “not wasting food”.

TIP#2:

If you haven’t used your veggies by day 4, freeze it. Learn how to freeze each vegetable by reading that Box to Banquet document we shared with you.

Whether you fall prey to the inevitable veggie overload that happens from time to time in a CSA, or if you find a vegetable you’re unfamiliar with. The common thing is to stuff them into your fridge to deal with them later…until you end up with a stockpile.

We are very intentional in helping you with this issue. Each week we plan a Box-Opening video where we will go through each item in the box, and how you can freeze it by one of two methods. Either the “simple bag & freeze” or the “blanch and bag” method.

This strategy can help buy you some time until you can figure out what best way you want to use your food.

We also will have a few videos available in our private Facebook group to help members with things like: How to Blanch Spinach, and we’ll take you through the step by step process.

TIP #3

Keep your meal prep simple! It doesn’t have to be fancy or time consuming to be nutritional and great tasting.

We have a few CSA members who love to cook, producing 5-star gourmet meals every night. But if we’re realistic, that just isn’t all of us all of the time!

Veggies can be prepped quickly and cooked simply with just a few methods: Bake, steam, sauce, roast or grill.

Just take 10 extra seconds to meal prep, add a few spices, and you’re set with a meal worthy of any family dinner.

The goal is to help you learn how to eat well, using locally-grown, seasonal food, and to do it simply, so you meals LOOK and TASTE like you slaved over them all afternoon, but they’re really just quick and easy!

So, when 3-oclock rolls around and you open your fridge and you’re overwhelmed with “veggie overload” and you really just don’t know where to begin, don’t let it paralyze you. We can teach you some tricks to help you master this.

TIP #4:

Learn the 3 basic uses of each vegetable. I love this tip, I use it and I know that it works!

Even though some Newbie CSA members may not know instinctively what to do with garlic scapes, it only takes a couple season until they have a few go-to recipes or formulas that they can use.

Every veggie has at least 3 basic uses. Can you use this veggie in salad? A skillet meal? A sauce? Grilled?

Researching and finding 3 good basic recipes for you each food variety is a way to keep overwhelm from happening to you. So I encourage you to make it a goal to try and find 3 basic uses for each veggie.

If you take the time to set a concrete goal like this and follow through, it really helps you see your progress.

TIP #5:

Find out what’s going to be in your box before you pick it up. If you can find out ahead of time what’s in your box before you get it, either by checking the weekly e-mails, or watching the box-opening videos, or even checking the “2018 harvest projection calendar.”

We feel like people waste less food if they know what they’re going to be getting. Not only do we plan to let you know what’s going into the boxes, but we give recipes that go along with some of the veggies in your box too.

If at all possible to do this before you get your box, then you can come up with a game plan. We’ve heard CSA customers say that just reading the email the night before, somehow gives them more success when they pick up their boxes the next day.

I hope this was helpful to you. And for a freebie today, I’m offering an eBook I wrote on one of our vegetables. I am making an entire eBook library, one for each of the veggies we grow that will be made available to anyone who becomes a member of our CSA. I am attaching the one about Kale

 

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Advice to CSA Newbies

WHAT I WISH SOMEONE WOULD HAVE TOLD ME WHEN I WAS A CSA NEWBIE

Advice from past CSA members.

HELPING CSA-ROOKIES SUCCEED

 

Expect to make some mistakes! Trial and error is part of how we learn.

Take the tops off your carrots ASAP! Eat the most perishable items first, learn what they are.

Keep your menu simple, meal prep doesn’t have to be fancy to take a long time. Vegetables can be prepped quickly, and they are just as nutritious and tasty when prepared the simple ways with just a few spices.

Storage matters so much. I didn’t store things right, so I lost them.

Try to learn the basic uses of each vegetable.

Eat the most perishable veggies first. This includes things like lettuces, greens and herbs.

Ask yourself “What can we make for dinner?” instead of “What do you want for dinner?”

Learn how to freeze things to use later on in the winter. If you haven’t used it by day 4, I would freeze it.

Act quick when you get home from the pick-up. Store your vegetables properly. Deal with the most perishable items first. Take the tops off your carrots.

Get those green bags, they really extend the life of the veggies once their prepped and cleaned and will lead to less waste in the end.

If you don’t know what to do with something new, you can roast almost anything.

Plan ahead. I changed my meal planning and grocery shopping day till after the newsletter announced what was going into the box that week, so I could plan to use as much as possible of it in my planned meals.

Invest in containers used specifically for storing and extending the life of the vegetables. There are many options on Amazon, but I found ones made by Progressive are excellent.

Process the contents of the box as soon as you get home. Doing this while you’re still excited about the box will help you get over the hurdle of much of the prep work later in the week. You’ll be able to produce your meals that much quicker too.

Read the newsletter so you know what’s coming in your box. You can then start choosing recipes and determine what other things you’ll need. I suggest making your trip to the store the day before or the day after your box pick-up.

Proper storage is the key to longevity and avoiding waste. If not used immediately, roast, bake, blanch or steam whatever possible and freeze for use later in soups or casseroles.

Google is your friends. If you don’t know what to do with a veggie, think of how you would use a similar veggie and do that. Don’t be afraid to try new things or be creative.

Don’t be afraid to use a veggie for breakfast. It’s a great way to use up what you have and start your day off with a mega dose of nutrients.

Print out the guide to using and storing veggies prior to the season and keep it in an easy to reach place in your kitchen so you can access it every week. If necessary, view it each week prior to veggie pick-up so you know exactly what to do with those vegetables when you get home.

Try to clean and prep your veggies the night you get them. It will be a lot easier to incorporate them into meals on busy nights once this is done.

Grill everything! Use marinades, spices, olive oil, balsamic vinegar or whatever else you like to jazz it up.

Look up recipes for veggies you are not sure of to see how you can work them into your meals for the week.

Be willing to do recipe research and experiment with ingredient substitutions. Write down what you did and whether it was successful or not along with suggestions on the recipe page for future use.

The first year was tough. There was just so much food. And we didn’t know what we didn’t know. But you can do it! For it to work, you need to make a commitment. You have to say, “We want to do this.”

You will struggle with using it all. And you’ll feel guilty about wasting food. Realize that you will waste a bit every week, but that you can get to the point where you really feel like you don’t waste much.

It takes time to master the CSA Way. First season you are observing and learning the rhythm of the veggies. Second year you are more prepared.

 

ARE YOU READY TO JOIN OUR CSA?

Here are the next steps:

  1. Go to this link to visit our sign-up page. https://dahlinfarm.com/become-a-member/

 

  1. Decide what size share will best fit your family.

 

 

  1. Print, sign and mail your form with your payment.

Growth Through the Seasons

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This is a subject that we as Americans in 2018 know little or nothing about. I can drive to Safeway today (January 23rd in the Pacific Northwest) and find a perfect (looking) red tomato.
Supermarkets boast that they can give us any food we want at any time of the year. Well, if you can afford it, they can, but as a result of this kind of thinking, most of us have completely lost touch with eating seasonally.

  • As a farmer and gardener, I am impatient for those first tender greens of spring, lettuce, dandelion greens, spinach, asparagus, baby beets. (cleansing foods)
  •  Late spring brings such delights to our taste buds as strawberries, peas, and baby carrots.
  • At the peak of summer those heat loving plants start giving us sweet corn, tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, peppers, summer squash, and beans. And then so many tomatoes that it forces you to learn how to preserve them. (cooling foods that give strength)
  • With the cool nights of fall, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, leeks, potatoes, winter squash and even sweeter carrots than before, to make all those comfort foods that warm you.
  • Late fall brings all those vegetables you’ll need to squirrel away for the long winter, Brussels Sprouts, Kale, Parsnips, and pumpkins. (foods that provide that inner heat)

Where we live here on Dahlin Farm, our growing season is frost-free for about 90 days. We try to extend that a little with row covers, hoop-houses, and a green-house.

We are limited though, and so we have prepared a “Harvest Chart” that states what crops we expect to harvest at what time, and about how many weeks that harvest will continue. With multiple plantings, we get fresh crops to continue as long as possible.

We’d love to give you a copy of that chart, harvest chart2018

Farming is a craft – not a fad that will pass away, and together with our members, we are a community of sustainers that will regain this heritage and keep this Way of Life alive for our children.

If you’d like to learn more about our boxes of produce, Read More

Is a CSA right for you?

CSA stands for “Community Supported Agriculture” and it is one way that supporters feel they can get ‘transparent, real food’  directly from the farmer.

So what’s the difference from supporting a local farmer through a CSA or picking up their food at a road-side stand, or the local Farmers’ Market?

Everyone who considers joining a CSA should ask themselves if it’s really right for them, because the reality is, it just isn’t a right fit for everyone. Here are the six questions designed to see if CSA is right for you.

1.  Is the farmer-consumer relationship important to you? (Do you want to support a farmer?)

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  • The C in CSA is you, and most CSAs focus on the consumer-farmer relationship nearly as much as they do on the vegetables.
  • CSA members want to be able to shake the hand of the farmer who feeds them.
  • There is something rewarding about knowing that your farmer family is depending on your support, while at the same time you’re putting great tasting food into your weekly routine.
  • This means you are committed to staying with a specific farmer throughout the entire season through thick or thin.
  • Part of this includes the risk that the farmer is taking. God might send too much rain, or sun, bugs or disease and a particular crop might not be able to make it into your box that season.
  • On the other hand, there might be a bumper crop of tomatoes or cucumbers and you’ll be up to your ears in cucurbits.
  • CSA members and the farmers live with these realities every day.

It’s as much about the customer having the farmer’s back as it is about getting the full financial advantage of their share.

THAT IS HUGE

  • But it goes both ways too…your farmer will try to cultivate a connection with you too, this means that:
  • They learn your names and try to make the big CSA feel like a family.
  • They might plan events to get you to come to the farm and spend time with them.
  • They might try to add value to your life by giving you tips, recipes, and health coaching along the way.
  • They want you to succeed at eating their food.

You don’t have to take advantage of all their offers, but if you do, it becomes a richer experience for you and the farmer. The relationship is part of what you’re paying for.

2. Do you value having quality vegetables that actually taste good?

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  • Tasteless tomatoes in the winter?
  • If you’re a CSA prospect, then you know what I’m talking about.
  • Taste matters to foodies, because you know that if you’re going to put together a great meal in your kitchen, it will take more than skills.
  • It’s the ingredients.
  • The second most important quality with our CSA Masters (those who stick with their CSA) is that they really love food. Real food.
  • Food that is grown in quality soil tastes like it should.
  • If you really love cooking and value taste, then you’ll love being part of a CSA because you’ll be getting high quality real food that will make dinner feel like an event.
  • That taste experience is part of what you’re paying for.

If you’re just looking for a basic celery and cheap carrot so you can make an iceberg salad at the cheapest price, this ain’t for you.

3. Are you willing to try new foods? (Seriously?)

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  • CSAs will push you to try new varieties and flavors in your kitchen.
  • You will find new varieties that you love, and you will find new varieties that you hate.
  • Part of the CSA experience is being exposed to a wide variety of vegetable cultivars in your box. We put vegetables into your box that you may never have seen before, but we plan to help you learn how to use it.
  • OK, let’s face it. You probably wouldn’t purposely put a Kohlrabi into your box.
  • (You would? Then CSA is definitely right for you!)

It’s all part of the goal to grow with food diversity, to teach our community (and our kids) how to eat with the seasons again. If you want to learn to be more creative in your kitchen, sometimes you have to push yourself a little.

4. Do you need more control in your menu planning?

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  • You need to think this over, sometimes you won’t know what’s coming in your box until just a few days before you get it. CSA members need to be able to be flexible and work with what they get.
  • Some people love spontaneity and being creative. Others might get really stressed out over it.

Are you willing to give up control over what goes in your box, or do you need to live strictly by your plan?

  • If your menu plan says you’re going to have spinach lasagna on Thursday, and then there’s not any spinach in your box that week, will it upset you if you have to go elsewhere to supplement your box?
  • If so, then you might be better off buying from the Farmers’ Market stand or supermarket.
  • This is one of the main reasons x-members are not still members.
  • CSA works best for those who see their kitchens as their creative space, and our vegetables as the paint for their creations.

They can handle the required spontaneity, and the excitement of seeing their old meal plans come alive in new ways.

5. Are you willing to work at this CSA way of eating? (It is more of a marathon than a sprint.)

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  • It takes time to see results. I’ve heard CSA Masters say that it took them 2-3 years before they learned how to use up everything in their box consistently.
  • You might waste a little food at the front end of your learning curve.
  • Start with an adventurous spirit and be easy on yourself if you waste some of your first boxes. It can be hard to get the hang of it.
  • There will be weeks when you start out with all the best intentions of using up your box to the fullest possibility like a super-chef, only to end up eating your broccoli raw with ranch dip.

You might sometimes feel like you’re failing to change the way you eat as you planned.

  • Set realistic goals the first year and work your way through it. We plan to add some help plans along the way.

Your probably going to waste some food, especially during the first year.

  • This is a hard reality for some to face.
  • Maybe you’re didn’t get home in time to make dinner because the day was crazy…(so the veggies spoil.)
  • Or you’re running all week being a chauffeur for the kids and end up with take-out…(so the veggies rot.)
  • But if you are committed to learning how, you can do it.
  • It may take a few seasons until you’ve got it down.

Are you willing to put in the work?

6. Are you looking for a ‘good deal’? Are you comparing CSA prices to the grocery store?

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  • People who are committed to the CSA model, don’t look to their membership as a ‘bargain’ or a ‘deal’.
  • And they don’t compare the CSA experience to the grocery store price table.
  • That is important, read it again.
  • It is totally understandable to ask “How much does it cost?” then to consider the pros and cons.
  • Supporting a CSA financially is not only about doing a cost analysis to compare each vegetable in your box to that at Costco.

The added value in our vegetables is the stories they are telling.

  • Not just the story of growing, harvesting and the struggles it faced to get to your table.
  • Not just the story of the farmer and how you helped them live out their calling to the land.

Each vegetable is also part of your story.

  • A showcase of your journey with food.
  • The star attraction in your quest to master your own kitchen and turn out meals that you can be proud of.
  • No grocery store can give you that.

CSA customers appreciate this added value and are willing to pay a premium for it.

So if you’re telling yourself, “that’s more than I’d pay at _______”, then maybe it’s time to hit the ‘pause’ button.

 

How did it go? Did you pass our quiz?

Remember, the CSA model is just one way of getting farm fresh vegetables onto your table. If you value the journey, the story, the relationship with the farmer behind the food, it can be a great opportunity to change the way you eat forever!

But there is no shame in saying ‘no thanks’ and purchasing your food from the local Farmers’ Market. We do that too, we are at the Newport Farmers’ Market in season on Saturday mornings.

In fact it may be a better fit for your situation.

We want you to succeed, so make sure your expectations line up with the philosophy behind CSA before you commit.

If you think you’re ready, here are the next steps to take:

  1. Here is our Tell me more link.
  2. We’ll send you a confirmation e-mail.
  3. Mail in your payment. Payment details will be included in the confirmation e-mail. Optional payment plan is available. (Discount if paid by May 1st)
  4. Welcome!

 

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