Get Localized: Community Supported Agriculture, Urban Farming, and Foods Local to Minnesota

Sample of a weekly CSA share from Driftless Organics

Many of us eaters tend to be pretty distant from the natural rhythms of food growing in our area.  We are used to having a ceaseless access to a myriad of fruits and vegetables from around the world.  When apples from Washington run out, New Zealand fills the gap.  Our favorite yogurt brand may be importing their organic raspberries all the way from China.  All this happens in an uninterrupted flow barely perceptible to shoppers.  Buying a CSA share is a great way to learn and gain access to food that is the freshest, most nutritious, and most efficient from a transportation stand point.

What is CSA?

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  You can directly support local farmers by buying a share of their farm, which translates into a box of the freshest produce delivered to a drop site near you, weekly or bi-weekly during the growing season.  Many farms offer the choice of shares or half shares, and some also offer additional fruit, egg, or meat shares.  Different farms have different season lengths; some running May-November, but many also offer “peak-season” shares that run from June-October.  There is still time to choose a farm for this season, and some offer “flex” shares or “two-weeks off” shares for supporters with summer travel plans.

Featherstone Farm CSA Sample Box

Danger, Will Robinson

Buying a CSA share can be a little scary.  Yields are dependent on growing conditions and the skill of your farmers, and tend to start slow until peak season is reached.  Your produce is compiled depending on what is ready for harvest, and some of it you may have never seen before.  But therein lies great opportunity for learning; and farms often include recipes to inspire and facilitate.  It’s a gastronomic adventure!  For more on choosing the right CSA, read Selecting, and Surviving a CSA Share.

Box of Produce from Burning River Farm

Ready or not?

I have considered buying a CSA share the past couple years, but instead opted to buy as much as possible from local farmers markets.  This is another excellent option for supporting local farmers while obtaining the freshest local food.  Gardens of Eagan offers a flexible Farmer’s Market CSA plan for the non-committal.  Instead of buying a share, you buy a $50 membership card, which is good for $55 worth of produce at their Midtown or Fulton Farmer’s Market stand.  You can buy as many cards as you want during the season to get the discount price.

Be an urban farmer

Growing Lots Urban Farm hosts bi-weekly community work days, so all of us city slickers can come get our hands dirty.  Their mission is “to create an economically viable series of urban micro-farms, using under-utilized and non-traditional pieces of land (ie.. a parking lot!), and transforming them into verdant and bountiful growing spaces that feed & nourish the surrounding community.”  They have two sites in the western Seward neighborhood:  one at the corner of 22nd St and Snelling Ave, and the other two lots north of 24th St/Minnehaha Ave.

Urban farming event

The City of Minneapolis recently created new policies making it easier for residents to grow and sell produce from their yards and vacant lots.  Learn about new urban farming opportunities and methods and enjoy a breakfast buffet at Environment Minnesota‘s Urban Farming Revolution event, held at the Red Stag on Tuesday morning, May 22nd 8:00 am to 9:30 am.

Start seeing local

‘Tis true, the long Minnesota winter is lean on local produce.  But by keying into what is available year round,  I still managed to make local foods a major component of my winter diet.  I stocked up on apples and tomatoes in the late fall, and preserved them by freezing and dehydrating (and came to wish I had preserved far more!).  I scored some chicken of the wood mushrooms foraged and frozen by Jeremy Messersmith (Thanks Jeremy!).  I found that local red cabbage was available all through December, and of course ate lots of winter squash and root vegetables.  But also I became more aware of the grains and legumes grown right in my home state.  Buying from the bulk bins at the Wedge makes it easy to see local.

Arguably my favorite legume, I use chick peas in hummus, soup, pasta and even stir fries.

I love making overnight oatmeal with whole oats. Bring a cup of oat groats to a boil in 3 cups of water, and allow to sit overnight. In the morning simmer to desired tenderness, adding more water if necessary.

overnight oatmeal with diced orange, chopped walnuts and cashew milk

Pop your own popcorn instead of buying chips shipped across the country in disposable bags. Did you know you can make kettle corn by adding a tsp of sugar into oil poppers?  Vanessa Messersmith turned me on to brewer’s yeast on popcorn.

Many of you are already familiar with my love affair with sprouted buckwheat.

Try perfect protein salad from the Moosewood Cookbook. Yum!

I’ve never cooked with spelt before.  Any recommendations?

0 to 60 on Barley

It was bothering me that many of my meals depended on brown rice grown in California when I live right here in the grain belt.  My most profound dietary adjustment of the last year was changing from a staple grain of brown rice to hulled barley.  Now I use barley in any of the dishes I formerly made with brown rice.  It has a nuttier flavor and, and a more chewy texture.  Give it a try!

Spring Fare

I’ve been anxiously awaiting the arrival of spring produce in the stores, and recently purchased ramps and turnips for the first time ever.

Harmony Valley ramps: where have you been all my life?

Wisconsin Turnips

I diced and roasted the turnips in olive oil, salt, & pepper. Hard to go wrong.

Another local score; Vanessa gave me some eggs raised by her mom in Wisconsin.

Eggs from Vanessa’s mom

Vanessa pointed out that you only see yolks this brightly colored from home raised hens.

ultra local: eggs with ramps

We made plenty of roasted asparagus for Mother’s Day

And pasta with tarragon…

and green garlic; a spring delicacy.

These spring delicacies were a little out of my price range.

But luckily, our friends found some in their yard while mowing. Thanks to bro-in-law Mike Crabtree for sharing them in a delish morel pasta last night.

Thanks for reading the Wednesday Post.


2 responses to “Get Localized: Community Supported Agriculture, Urban Farming, and Foods Local to Minnesota

    • Excellent question, Rheezy, and this topic would make a good blog in itself. Beer and anything liquid is very heavy to ship, so first off, finding a local beer you like is something nice you can do for the environment. Also drinking tap beer is a huge reduction in packaging compared to bottles. Another consideration is aluminum recycles WAY more efficiently than glass–so cans are also better than bottles. I think the environmentally friendliest way might be to make your own beer from local organic grains and keg it?

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