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Local Food Boxes make for a Healthy You and a Healthy Community

When spring comes in northwest Washington, there seems to be a communal sigh exhaled across the land. More rain ahead, yes, but the occasional sunny and almost-warm day gives us the glimmer of hope to keep forging ahead.

Spring to me means thinking about all of the seasonal food that’s on its way. First in April and May with the tender shoots, sprouts, crisp and spicy greens, radishes and peas. June starts berry season galore with one right after the other: strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries…while all the while tomatoes and peppers start to ripen, and in August can be enjoyed. Soon, we see sweet corn and eggplants, and into fall when winter squashes, hearty roots and alliums abound.

Spring is also the time to sign up for a Community Supported Agriculture share with a local farm. When I first moved to the Pacific Northwest 10 years ago, I got introduced to the concept of a CSA share—essentially a box of local food you receive each week throughout the season after signing up with a farmer in the spring. It’s one of the best ways I’ve found to connect my eating with the seasons, try a variety of fresh new produce and other local goods, and support local farmers at the same time. #winning.

The CSA model is a relatively new concept—getting its start in 1960s Japan with a CSA equivalent called teikei, which translates to “partnership” or “cooperation.” According to justfood.org, it was first developed by a group of women concerned with the use of pesticides and the increase in processed foods and corresponding decrease in the farm population.

Similar models spread through Europe and the first CSA was born in New York in 1991. The model is based on the concept that a farmer and customer share in the risk and reward of the harvest. Customers sign on with farmers before the start of the season, helping farmers to buy the seeds and necessary implements to grow the food. In return, customers get a bounty of local items each week—most CSA farms run a 20-week season starting in June and ending in October.

In Whatcom County, Cedarville Farm pioneered the CSA model, starting the first one in 1993. Today, there are more than 25 CSA farmers in Whatcom and Skagit counties offering CSAs.

Available to individuals and families, many businesses and workplaces are getting involved, with CSA drop-offs right to their offices, making local and nutritious produce more accessible to employees. In addition to being a good fit for health-andwellness programs, along with the sheer convenience of getting groceries delivered, we’ve heard some unexpected joys of participating in a workplace CSA, like the surprise of “What’s in the box?” and the adventure of expanding the palate.

For us at Sustainable Connections, it feels a bit like Christmas in the office each week when they arrive—“What did we get?” Farmers often provide a newsletter and recipes to go with each box, to make it easy and delicious to use items that may be less familiar.

For me personally, I’ve noted the quality of the produce has been outstanding—always freshly picked and delicious. I also love being able to add on eggs or meats to many of the shares available. And, through market research compiled through Sustainable Connections, we found that CSAs on average are 25 percent less expensive on average than buying those same organic products elsewhere. Win-win-win.

This month’s recipes are straight from the kitchens of two local farmers who offer CSAs, and are leaders in the local agricultural community. Perfect for the cool days of winter and early spring, the squash with lime butter is a savory delight, and the massaged kale salad makes a lovely side dish or main meal when spruced up with the protein of your choice.

Want to learn more about CSAs? Don’t miss the CSA Fair on March 18th at the Bellingham Farmers Market. See the full list of 2017 CSA farmers at sustainableconnections.org.

 

Recipes from the box:

MASSAGED KALE SALAD WITH PEAR, CRANBERRY & HAZELNUTS (SERVES 4)

Recipe courtesy of Farmer Anna Martin, Osprey Hill Farm

INGREDIENTS

1 bunch Dinosaur (Lacinato) Kale
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
Juice of 1 lemon, divided
¼ tsp sea salt
1 Tbsp honey
¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 large pear, core removed and diced into ½” cubes
½ cup dry cranberries
¼ cup roasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped

INSTRUCTIONS

Rinse and dry the kale leaves. Trim out the inner stems and discard. Slice the kale leaves into ¼” thick ribbons and place in a large mixing bowl.

Add 1 Tbsp of the olive oil to the bowl with the kale, along with the juice of ½ the lemon and sea salt. Using your hands, squeeze and massage the kale for three minutes, until it has wilted considerably.

Stir in the remaining olive oil, lemon juice, honey and black pepper.

Gently fold in the diced pear, dry cranberries, and chopped hazelnuts.

 

BAKED DELICATA SQUASH WITH LIME BUTTER (SERVES 4)

Recipe courtesy of Farmer Mike Finger, Cedarville Farm

INGREDIENTS

2 delicata squash, halved and seeded
3 Tbsp butter, softened
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp chili powder, or to taste
½ tsp lime zest
Salt and black pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place squash cut side down into a baking dish. Pour water into the dish to about ¼” deep.

Bake in a preheated oven until squash pierces easily with a fork, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, blend the butter with the lime juice and chili powder in a small bowl. Mix in the lime zest, if desired. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon the butter mixture into the cooked squash, serve immediately.



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"It's one of the best ways I've found to connect my eating with the seasons, try a variety of fresh new produce, and support local farmers"