winter csa and farm produce options

IMG_5405 Since I grow a garden most of the year and buy in bulk for preservation projects, I don’t opt for a summer CSA (community supported agriculture farm produce share). But since I get extremely busy in the fall and extremely cold and wet in the winter, I happily rely on winter CSAs to get me through.

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IMG_4010For the past few years, I’ve bought a share in Open Oak Farm’s winter CSA because they grow vegetables I like, plenty of escaroles, and offer a bean and grain supplement with locally grown dried beans and whole grains and flours. Alas, they have decided to stop the CSA this year, and you can see why from the photos above of their seed development activities at a recent farm open house. All these vegetables need to be cleaned and turned into seed over the wet months.

Alas, winter CSAs are few and far between.  I’ve also enjoyed Good Food Easy from Sweetwater Farm in the past, which has a flexible CSA paid monthly, and a variety of good vegetables and fruits through the winter.  Farm management has recently shifted from Farmer John and his lovely partner Lynn to their wonderful manager Erica Trappe, so we’re expecting even more good things.  Note to low-income folks: they even accept foodstamps!

To branch out a little, I have chosen Telltale Farm this year, a small woman-run concern out River Road owned and managed by Tatiana Perczek.  They offer some wonderful options, including wildcrafted mushrooms, a Deck Family Farms egg supplement (much appreciated now that my egg trade friend has divested from his chickens), and, best of all, a “small” option just perfect for one cook.

Another welcome winter CSA is the Lonesome Whistle Farm bean and grain share CSA.  They don’t seem to have a link on their website, so here is some information and a link to their Facebook page.  (Again, I implore local businesses to make announcements in a concise paragraph that’s easy to cut and paste for social media — you will get more free advertisements if you make it simple for others to help your PR):

As a “shareholder” in [Lonesome Whistle’s] Grain and Bean CSA, you pay upfront and share in the harvest – getting a one-time distribution of 64 pounds of various heritage grains, polenta, popcorn, and heirloom beans. The crops have been planted, harvested, processed, and cleaned by December. Shareholders get to choose between a Farmer-Ground Share, or a Home-Millers Share. This year’s Farmer-Ground Shares will include:

Red Fife Wheat Flour: 8 pounds
Dark Northern Rye Flour : 8 pounds
Steven’s Soft White Wheat Flour: 8 pounds
Abenaki Corn Polenta: 12 pounds
Corn Flour: 4 pounds
Dakota Black Popcorn: 8 pounds
Emmer berries (AKA Farro): 8 pounds
Heirloom Beans: 8 pounds

Home-Millers Shares will be the same as above, except it will be all in the whole grain form for you to mill at home. […]Shares will be ready for pick-up at our CSA Distribution Farm Party on Saturday, December 14th between noon -5pm at the farm. Grain & Bean Shares cost $292.00 each. More information: jeffandkasey@lonesomewhistlefarm.com or 541-234-4744.

Looking for other fall farm produce this winter?  May I suggest apples, squash, and frozen berries for fall canning from Hentze Farm in Junction City?  It’s a century farm open until Christmas, and like Lonesome Whistle, they’ve had a hard year.  Gordon Hentze is a major supporter of Lane County Extension programming, donating bushels of produce to Master Food Preserver classes, which are essential in keeping costs low to serve our community.  Join them for a hot air balloon ride, wagon rides, and live music at their Fall Festival on October 12 and 13!

On your way up River Road, be sure to check out the new Groundwork Organics farm stand across the street from Thistledown Farm.  It’s a renovated dairy building that I understand will be open for a short while to test out the possibilities, then will reopen next year.  Check out photos of a recent CSA open house in the building and information here.

IMG_4052IMG_4050 IMG_4047And last but not least, help the grain farmers at Oregon-Innovators-award-winning Camas Country Mill, who give so much to our community by donating local beans to food banks and have played a dramatic role in reviving local grain production in Oregon, raise money to restore a one-room school house on their property.  The school house will be used for community programming.  Flexible funding campaign details for the School House Project here.  It’s really moving — check it out!  We dined on farm grains at a fundraiser a few weeks ago (cover photo).  Delicious food courtesy of Party Downtown (above, sprouted lentil and basil cheese spread on wheat crackers and sun-dried tomato flax crackers (served with salami bruschetta); barley risotto carbonara). And that’s Farmer Tom Hunton being sweet to his mother, if you weren’t convinced already.

What else is out there for winter farm produce options?  Please help out and share your favorites in the comments.

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planting seeds: good, bad, ugly

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IMG_2698 IMG_2701Seed catalogues for 2013 are now out.  The Willamette Valley is one of the richest seed-producing areas of the country, so we’re fortunate to be able to have close and intimate relationships with several farms and businesses cultivating seed crops.  Seeds that are adapted to Northwest gardens or heirloom varieties from maritime cool climates elsewhere in the world that grow well in our fair state are plentiful.  I’ve listed my favorites, and welcome your suggestions for others.  You also might want to be aware of vegetable hybrids that are owned by Monsanto.

Monsanto-owned brands (these may be distributed by other seed companies, so look at names of particular varieties):

Northwest-friendly, bred in Oregon:

  • Territorial Seed (Cottage Grove, OR): This is the big boy in the crowd, but still a solid local business.  They’ve stopped stocking Seminis seeds as of a few years ago, so the rumors of a Monsanto connection aren’t true.
  • Adaptive Seeds (Sweet Home, OR): Also Open Oak Farm, specializing in beans and grains and roots and all kinds of wonderful things for the PNW.  The pictures above of cool vintage farm equipment and the field used in their seed operation were taken a couple of months ago during a tour of the farm.
  • Wild Garden Seed (Philomath, OR): Also Shoulder-to-Shoulder Farm and related to Gathering Together Farm, specializing in lettuces and flowers, too.  Farmer Frank Morton developed my favorite variety of kale, White Russian.
  • Log House Plants (Cottage Grove, OR): excellent plant hybridizers responsible for the grafted tomatoes and a range of unusual seeds; check out their new Drunken Botanist collection.
  • Nichols Nursery (Albany, OR).  “New and Unusual” features sugar beets and a great romanesco-type zucchini.
  • Siskiyou Seeds (Williams, OR): Also Seven Seeds Farm.  Lists a number of cooperative seed growers locally and in WA and northern CA, too.

Others:

  • Chinese/Japanese/some Thai produce: Kitazawa Seed Co. (Oakland, CA): These are often sold in big Asian supermarkets on the West Coast.  I’ve seen them in Uwajimaya in Beaverton, but not around Eugene.
  • Italian produce:  Seeds of Italy (Italy): Absolutely gorgeous range of Italian varieties of vegetables and herbs.  Be careful on the growing seasons for some of the hot weather crops.

And if you’re thinking about learning more about gardening by volunteering, check out the Food for Lane County Gardens Program, which reports a record-breaking year in 2012. 190,000 pounds (their largest yield ever) of produce distributed to meal sites and pantries!  Contact Jen Anonia, Gardens Program Manager, janonia@foodforlanecounty.org or 541-343-2822.  Or just donate to FFLC!  There’s a terrific 1-for-1 matching program for the month of February.  All donations will be matched by an anonymous donor.  We’ll be interviewing Executive Director Beverlee Hughes this Sunday on Food for Thought on KLCC.

the last thing we need: gmo canola oil in the willamette valley

Edited to add:  Sign the signon.org petition here!

Attention kale lovers and anyone who grows cole crops!  From the farmers and seed saver entrepreneurs at Open Oak Farm/Adaptive Seeds comes a disturbing call to action.  A coalition of organic and other small farms in the Willamette Valley are joining together to fight an ODA decision to greenlight canola, a commercial, often GMO-seeded crop that cross-pollinates with other brassicas and will thus destroy the pure seed cultivated in our valley. Until the past few months, we’ve had a canola exclusion zone in the WV; let’s work to keep it that way.  Read more here.

Your haste is appreciated: write to the legislators listed below by Friday, August 10.

We here at Open Oak Farm are not big on sending out mass e-mails, but have made an exception today: There is an immediate threat to our food supply because the Oregon Department of Agriculture has fast-tracked the approval of canola production here in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.

As many of you may know the Willamette Valley is one of the top 5 places in the world for growing and supplying specialty seed and maintaining seed diversity. Seed grown here not only is sold by local Oregon companies, such as Adaptive Seeds, but is also bought by other seed companies such as Johnny’s, Fedco, and lots of others both nationally and internationally. Basically, seed grown here supplies the world with food.

One of the specialty seeds that the Valley is perfect for is brassicas, which includes broccoli, cauliflower, arugula, rutabaga, turnip, radish, kale, cabbage, etc. Canola is also a brassica but spreads rampantly and cross pollinates with a lot of other brassicas with detrimental effects. Oregon State University has conducted research proving that canola will cross pollinate with many different crops including turnips, broccoli raab, some kales, rutabaga, and possibly radish and broccoli. Meaning the presence of canola production in the Willamette Valley will definitely contaminate and destroy those other seed crops. Without doubt.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) has previously maintained a canola exclusion zone in the Valley. However, in the past few months there have been a series of meetings held behind closed doors to change this zone to allow canola (including genetically modified canola) to be grown in the valley unchecked and with disregard to existing seed pinning map isolation guidelines. ODA only just released a press release on Friday, August 3rd saying they will grant a temporary rule to allow canola this Friday, August 10th. By issuing a temporary rule the ODA is avoiding the requirement for public comment and therefore behaving unilaterally with only special interests in mind. Not only does this decision harm seed growers but GM canola cross pollination will also potentially threaten the livelihood of any of the certified organic growers in the area. There are good reasons why canola has been banned in the Willamette Valley by ODA up to this point, and pressure on ODA to lift these bans needs to be countered.

Please contact the ODA and Governor Kitzhaber yourself and make your voice heard! It does not matter if you are not an Oregon resident, this decision effects everyone in a huge way and they need to be reminded of that.

And spread the word!

ODA phone number: (503) 986-4552
ODA Director Coba: KCoba@oda.state.or.us

Governor Kitzhaber: (503) 378-4582; or email [on his website form.]

Remember, we only have until this Friday, August 10th to change this decision!

fast food lunch

Tacos with arugula from my garden and Open Oak Farm purple barley and ‘Marfax Swedish Brown’ beans sauced in a rich deep mole poblano from Barcelona Sauces out of Bend, OR.  I love these beans.  They’re beautifully plump and round, and they hold their shape well for recipes like frijoles de olla or baked beans.

please, sir, i want some more: whole-grain morning gruel

Living with 100 lbs. less of a husband, and a newly minted marathoner yet (training for his first full one), causes some food clashes in a house formerly dominated by the taste principle of cooking.  Alas. But even with my weak willpower and distaste for nutritionism in American food rhetoric, I had to admit that my 20-year habit of eating a big white bagel in the morning was Not Good.  I would often start to crash and need a small snack around 10:30 a.m., and then turn into a raging bi…g white bagel if I didn’t have lunch by 1 p.m.  I had tried many times to change and found myself crashing even harder with cold cereal or oatmeal.  Adding cream cheese or butter to toast didn’t seem to help, either, and I found anything heavy and savory, like eggs, revolting in the morning.

I’ve really come around on the eggs issue, though, and after my strict debagelization training regime with Retrogrouch, I now usually can eat a fried egg with a piece of thin pumpernickel German toast in the morning, as long as it’s not first thing.

But he’s taken, lately, to making an overnight porridge with whole grains, not the chopped or rolled version you see in packaged grain porridge.  I took to calling it gruel as a joke because of its austerity, but it’s anything but thin and watery. [Edited to add: he has switched over to the crock pot, thank god.  It affects the texture and makes it slightly more gluey, but it’s still good.]

The gruel usually features oat groats that we get locally from Camas Country Mill.  He’s also done it with ryeberries from Open Oak Farm, also local, and occasionally with Open Oak’s wonderful purple barley, which we’ve been eating quite a bit of since he’s returned from his leave in Seattle.  What these grains share in common is that they are not processed at all but left whole and un-pearled or rolled, processes that break down the groat so it is more easily digestible, but removes some of the nutrients.

Retrogrouch makes his gruel even more healthy with the addition of flax meal, which may not be to everyone’s taste.  Whole grains lack the starchy quality of those that have been pre-digested.  I find flaxmeal tastes like mealy wheat germ, and the texture is difficult for me, but it does add some “stick to your ribs” quality that using whole grains lacks.  He also adds whole flax seeds and chia seeds, the latter currently trending in pop nutrition circles, which add crunch and a pleasant slipperiness.  He adds no sugar or salt, but I think it would benefit from a pinch of salt.

It’s critical to note that the gruel cooks very, very slowly for about 12 hours.  He claims it is better than the version he’s tried at half the time, because the grains finally break down and yield a creaminess (see above).  However, at 12 hours, I constantly worry about him burning the bottom of the pot.  So far there have been no casualties.

He likes to add frozen thawed blueberries and walnuts as a topping in the morning and eat gruel as a snack throughout the day.  I, being my own weak self, prefer cream and brandied apricots with a little vanilla powder, and can’t fathom eating it more than once every few days.  But surely there’s a happy medium.  And it’s really quite good.  I wouldn’t be surprised if you couldn’t go back to regular oatmeal (or god forbid a bagel) after trying it.

[ETA:  You can find oat groats in the bulk section of better supermarkets, including Market of Choice.  Retrogrouch also wants me to explain that he uses oat groats not merely because he likes the flavor, but they have more protein than other grains. Chia seeds add protein and fiber; chia and flax also are high in Omega-3 fatty acids]

Do you like this kind of information/post?  Let me know in the comments.  I don’t want to turn this into a health food blog, but if you like Retrogrouch’s very different approach, I’m happy to include more from him.

Whole-Grain Gruel

  • 1 cup oat groats (best from Camas Country Mill)
  • 4 tablespoons Chia Seed
  • 2 tablespoons flax seed
  • 2 tablespoons flax seed meal
  • 4.5 cups water

No need to presoak the grains.  Bring all ingredients to a boil, stirring frequently to incorporate the meal and to break up the chia seeds, which tend to clump. Lower temperature to the lowest setting (we use our gas stove’s simmer burner) and heat gently for 12 hours.  If you have an electric stove, you may want to use a crockpot instead.  Once you have the technique and your own stove’s capacity down, just stir every couple of hours, but you might want to be more vigilant to make sure nothing is burning on the bottom of the pan.  Be particularly careful in beginning of the cooking process because the flax meal goes to bottom and may stick.

For cooking in the crock pot, just add all ingredients and cook on high for the first couple of hours, stirring every hour or two to integrate the water that rises to the top and scrape the sides, which cook more rapidly. Turn to low for 3-4 more hours to finish cooking.  Won’t be hurt if it gently cooks overnight.

Makes about 4-5 cups of gruel.  Can be refrigerated for several days.