Tag Archives: organic

Dan Moore of Farmshares Interview (part 1)

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Spring has sprung and if you are curious as to how you can eat better and support your local farmer, a CSA might be the perfect solution for your family. Recently, I asked Dan Moore of Farmshares.info a series of questions that will help you dive further into whether a CSA is the right choice for your family.  I also asked a few of you in the community if you had further questions about CSA’s and those questions and answers will be in the next post.

danscsaLilly: What is a CSA and what is the main reason to join one?

Dan: CSA stands for community supported agriculture and is a direct relationship between a farmer or rancher and the end customer with a risk sharing component.  You give the farmer money early in the year, and they give you produce, meat or other food throughout the growing season.

The main reason to join a CSA is to learn more about who grows your food and how it is done.  CSA provides a level of involvement with your food that is deeper than anything other than gardening.

Lilly: What is the most common question or concern you hear from people interested in starting a CSA?

Dan: The most common question is “how do I pick the right farm?”.  Just as with any major purchase (share prices are typically in the hundreds of dollars and can be up to three thousand) you have to both know what you are looking for and do your research.  

To the first point, many people are romantic about “getting food directly from the farmer” and ignore that they don’t like to cook, or travel often during the season, or work a job that will make a weekly pickup hard.  There is enough variety in CSAs available, so think about what you need. If you want to learn the basics of CSA, I have put together a free email course

To the second, while there are similarities, each CSA differs in what they expect of their members, the types of food they provide, and where you can pick up the share.  So while tools like farmshares.info can help, you really need to review each farm’s website, talk to current and past members and mesh what the farm/ranch offers with your needs.

Lilly: What has been the biggest change you have noticed since you first became a CSA member in 2007?

Dan: Two big changes: 1) the widening of the CSA market, both in number of farms and products offered.  It’s amazing to see new farms and new products be available in the CSA risk sharing model. 2) the turnover of CSA farms.  I think the skills needed to be a successful CSA farmer include all the skills of a regular farmer, plus marketing and sales skills (plus management once the farm is a certain size).  I see a lot of CSAs start up and run for 4-5 years and then shut down, either because the farmer is moving off the land or because they are focusing on other markets (farmer’s market, direct sales of a product, wholesale markets).

Lilly: How soon after joining a CSA did you realize the need to create coloradocsa.info which has recently expanded to become farmshares.info? What was the driving motivator?

Dan: I started out with a list of farms on which I had done research, and quickly realized that it would be helpful to others.  A friend also joined a CSA in Denver about the same time and shared her list.  After combining the two, I had a simple web page that received some traffic, indicating there was interest.  After about two years of updating that page and fielding questions about CSAs in Colorado, I decided to build ColoradoCSAs.info in 2010.  In 2015, my wife and I decided that the existing national directories were not as useful as they should be, and spent some time and money re-working and re-launching ColoradoCSAs.info as FarmShares.info, as well as pursuing affiliates and sponsorships.  

The driving motivation for the redesign is that CSA membership, for me, was a fundamental shift in how I viewed food and the food system.  I wanted to share that with people beyond Colorado.photo-52

Lilly: What is the advantage of using a tool such as farmshares.info versus just jumping on the Google?

Dan: Farmshares.info gathers data from farms, standardizes it, and makes it very easy to compare farms that meet your needs.  I always advocate contacting the farmer directly once you have narrowed your choices to two or three, since CSA information can change from day to day (for example, shares can sell out).  

When you start at Google, you find farms that are best at showing up in Google, as opposed to the farm that might be closest to you, or have the type of share you want.

Lilly: How has the transition from coloradocsa.info to farmshares.info been? Can you give us a sneak peek of what to expect in the coming months or years?

Dan: The transition from coloradocsas.info to farmshares.info has been smooth–the launch affected our traffic slightly, but it has bounced back as we head into the prime signup season for the mountain west (Jan-May).  

In the future, you can expect more features, greater coverage of the mountain west and eventually the entire USA, and more partnerships with companies that support local food.  

Lilly: Most of us now think of CSAs in terms of produce, but ‘community supported’ has evolved in recent years to include other products. What are some of those changes?

Dan: I’ve seen two main changes in the offerings from CSA farms over the years.  The first is a far wider selection of  farm-to-consumer products available.  These range from soap to meat to fish to bread to coffee–at least 40 different types of food are available via CSA.  This is fantastic because it lets consumers support local farmers and ranchers even if they can’t commit to a season of vegetables.

The second is the rise, especially in farms selling produce, of the market share.  Instead of the farmer picking out vegetables and boxing them up for you, you pre-pay for credit at farm stands and farmer’s markets.  It’s a way to support a farm and share the risk of poor crops without losing choice.  (The customer still shares the risk because if the farm has a poor season, or doesn’t produce much of a popular crop like tomatoes, the customer is still committed to purchase from that farm.)

Lilly: Can you forecast any predictions for the future of CSA’s in the US?

Dan: I think that CSAs will rise and fall as interest in home cooking rises and falls.  CSAs just don’t make sense if you aren’t eating at home.  The recent trend of people re-learning how to cook (see Michael Pollan’s books) makes me optimistic about the long term future of CSAs.danpam

Zucchini for Xerxes and Anyone Else with Too Much Zucchini

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This photo of zucchini above was sent from my husband the day that our kids and I got on a plane for a vacation. I imagine by the time we return, Xerxes will be exhausted by our zucchini. The scary part is this photo is only about the fourth day of harvesting. The zucchini takeover has only just begun.

So, I am actually not writing this post for you at all today, because I imagine you did not overdo the number of zucchini and summer squash you planted just a couple of months ago. I know you are not contemplating ways to eat it in absolutely every single meal for the next month. Xerxes on the other hand is needing some help. Fortunately, he is an awesome cook, especially anything Italian, and so I decided to put together a list just for him. I am sure he would love more help, so please leave a comment with your favorite way to gobble up way too much zucchini, too. Of course, if you decide to try any of these recipes, I would love to hear about that as well.

Without further ado, here are some zucchini recipes for Xerxes… and you:

Crispy Zucchini Sticks Love fried zucchini? Try them a bit more guilt-free in the oven.

Zucchini Soup My family’s favorite. This is an essential recipe for anyone with too much summer squash.

Cheese & Mustard Zucchini Delights This is an ode to the Cheese & Mustard Delights that my best friends from college taught me to make & love.

Skillet Zucchini & Potatoes Lighten up a potato dish with a bit (or a lot) of zucchini.IMG_5412

Grilled Zucchini Meatballs  Zucchini is stuffed in the meatballs and around the meatballs, giving each ball a little zucchini hug.

Grilled Zucchini & Peaches Stone fruit & zucchini become magic on the grill, then they are drizzled with lemon basil goodness.

Lemon Summer Squash & Walnut Pasta For the pasta lover (hey, Xerxes!)

Swiss Cheese Zucchini Melt A recipe inspired by Julia Child. Yes, it is meltingly decadent.

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Summer Squash Pancakes The classic zucchini pancake.

Zucchini & Tomato Bread Salad Leftover bread? Leftover Zucchini? Make this panzanella salad… pronto!

Zucchini Antipasto Salad Your favorite antipasto platter and your favorite summer squash tossed into salad form.

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Bread My favorite zucchini bread recipe… probably because it is packed with chocolate.

Zucchini Corn & Quinoa Wraps These balanced wraps travel well for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Peach & Summer Squash Quinoa A pretty little salad that celebrates one of my favorite summer combinations: squash and stone fruit.

What do you make with your zucchini abundance? Tell me below!

Cook seasonally. Eat consciously. Live well,

Chef Lilly

Mint Almond Cherry Salad

Mint Cherry Almond Salad

The memory of crawling up on to the perfect low hanging branch of our cherry tree as a child comes back to me in whispers whenever I find myself searching for my happy place. I enjoyed the cherries well enough, but really it was about the climbing, perching and imagining the possibilities that became precious in my heart.

Typically we would pick as many of the wee fruit as possible, hoping to not find any worms, and then one day my Dad would come in with a big ladder and swoop the rest into buckets and subsequently into his Cherry Wine. Which is another story for another day.

When the tree came down, I was thankfully not home, but it was a bit like finding out my childhood pet had passed away. Sadness. But, such is the cycle of nature, goodness is fleeting and you hope the memories are solid. I can still feel the trees cool, smooth skin, my legs dangling and I am overwhelmed with gratitude.

The memory of crawling up on to the perfect low hanging branch of our cherry tree as a child comes back to me in whispers whenever I find myself searching for my happy place. I enjoyed the cherries well enough, but really it was about the climbing and perching and imagining the possibilities of living in a tree that became precious in my heart.

Typically we would pick as many of the little fruit as possible, hoping to not find any worms, and then one day my Dad would come in with a big ladder and swoop the rest into buckets and subsequently into his Cherry Wine. Which is another story for another day.

When the tree came down, I was thankfully not home, but it was a bit like finding out my childhood pet had passed away. Sadness. But, such is the cycle of nature, goodness is fleeting and you hope the memories are solid. I can still feel the trees cool, smooth skin, my legs dangling and I am overwhelmed with gratitude.

Another memory during that time was the abundance of mint lining the side of our house. That mint in my parent’s yard, having been periodically pruned into submission, is not going away anytime soon. I embrace the memories of attempting mint sun tea and brushing against the bush accidentally only to be coated by the loveliest of smells. I like to think it was the combination of these two memories that made this salad come together.

While visiting my childhood home, I must have been longing for that tree. Thankfully, Washington is abundant with cherries and my parent’s yard is flush with mint. This salad soon took form and became a way to channel my sweetest, youngest days.

My original intentions were to create a cream-y-ish vegan dressing, not too sweet, that would play well with fruit. So it starts with what is basically a thick almond milk and ends with a slight emulsification of the olive oil. Play around with this salad, try a stone fruit that is more abundant for you this time of year or maybe one that bursts with memories: apricots, nectarines, peaches, pluots, and more.

1/2 cup almonds, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup mint
1/8 cup lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon honey, optional
4 cups lettuce, wash, dried and torn into pieces
1 cup cherries, sliced, halfed and pitted

Place half of the almonds in a blender with the water. Whirl around until smooth. Add the mint, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Blend until thick and evenly combined. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while blending at a very low speed. Avoid blending it too long as it can cause the delicate oil to become bitter. Taste. Add the honey if it could use a touch of sweetness (we usually skip it).

Tear the salad greens into pieces and spread into one large or individual salad bowls. Drizzle on the dressing, the remaining almond slices and a sprinkle of the cherry halves.

Now, your turn… Which stone fruit holds the most memories for you?

Cook seasonally. Eat consciously. Love well,

Chef Lilly

Trying to decide what produce to eat these days goes beyond choosing a particular type of fruit or vegetable. There seems to be endless controversy about whether you should go local, conventional, organic or what?! In my home, we keep to a basic set of guidelines about what we choose to buy on a regular basis.

1.  Seasonal 

Starting in season means local or organic are actually more affordable and abundant. Organic tomatoes out of season are not going to melt in your mouth the same way they will if sun-ripened on the vine. And it will cost more for that disappointing quality, too. Most groceries meet consumer demand by providing zucchini, cucumbers, eggplants, peppers and more all year long. Determining what actually is in season can be a challenge. Many groceries have the seasonal items on display in large quantity at a discount, which helps. If you are stumped, Lilly’s Table is designed to keep you cooking and eating seasonal produce through recipes and weekly meal plans.

2. Local

Just as the seasons effect when produce is available, location can open up a new world of possibilities. Support your local economy and get to know your farmer. The easiest way to buy local is through a CSA (community supported agriculture) Farm Box where you buy into a share in exchange for locally produced, beautiful vegetables & more on a weekly basis. Another option is to purchase food from your Farmers Market every week. I do both as the CSA is a magical surprise of goodness every week, while Farmers Markets allows me choice and an opportunity to chat with my farmers.

3. Organic

This is a great next choice when you are not able to get close to your farmer. Keep in mind, organic produce traveling from South America or elsewhere has a huge environmental impact. Also, other countries are not met with the same stringent organic labeling standards as American farmers. Getting produce from another part of the world in a different season means it is traveling quite a distance, making the carbon foot-print larger than buying conventional. When selecting produce with the organic label, do your best to find out where it was originally grown.

4. Conventional

There are times when buying in-season conventional produce makes sense especially if it means eating vegetables instead of eating processed food products. I personally would choose to eat conventional produce over organic food products. Fresh fruits & vegetables, whether or not pesticides are used, are better than not eating them at all. An easy aide for deciding when to buy conventional or organic is the Dirty Dozen. Print out cards or download it to take with you when you are at the store and stumped about which is best. This guide let’s you know the produce that is safest to eat conventionally with the Clean 15 list as well as the Dirty Dozen to avoid.

Extra tip: Check your PLU code stickers on all of your fruits & veggies. If it starts with a 9, it is organic. An 8 is a GMO (Genetically Modified Organism), although this labeling is not required so it is rare to see it. Any other number, often just 4-digits, are conventional. I have seen fruit with a big sign declaring it was organic only to notice the PLU stickers on each fruit was conventional. I am sure it was just an employee stocking error, but it is nice to know what you are getting.

We each have an opportunity, several times per day, to vote with our dollars about the types of food we would like to be available. The choice is yours, but when you demand the highest quality produce, while supporting your local economy you are letting the food industry know what you would like to see more of. Together we can all make a beautiful impact on our food system.