November 12, 2007

Week 10

I’m going to be a bit more verbal this week because there’s just so much to cover.
FUYU persimmons are the Chinese type. They’re sweet and crisp and you eat ‘em like an apple. (honest). They’ll also keep a month as table decorations.
If you’re new (1 month instead of 2) our family has been farming here in Kingsburg about 115 years. We grow stone fruit, (peaches, plums, nectarines apricots) table grapes and chickens. There’s a lot we don’t know, but I’m going to speak about what I do know from daily experience and what we’re trying to accomplish here with Abundant Harvest Organics.

Organic farming is all about the soil. This is a most important and most overlooked key. We are privileged managers of this living world beneath our feet. The compost and amendments we use to feed the soil provide a complete living nutrient rich diet for this world. What you’re enjoying so much each week tastes so great and is so nutritious because it’s coming from a nutrient rich living soil. You are experiencing nutrient density plus freshness that your taste buds rejoice over. I could have told you that 2 months ago, but it never would have resonated the same. However, the greatest benefit of Organic produce in my opinion is the lack of fungicides. Everybody talks about pesticides and herbicides, but fungicides are applied post harvest to keep produce from spoiling. If it kills microbes on the produce, it’s gotta kill ‘em in your gut as well and the microbes in the gut are the center of your immune system.
Now, let’s talk about organic chicken. What’s the difference, and why the price? Well, there’s the stuff anybody would think of. The feed they eat is organically grown, and costs almost double. They’re “free range” (a weasel word because legally any bird that’s not in a cage is free range). But here’s the bigger deal. *These chickens are fed a “vegetarian diet” so we don’t blend in animal protein. That gives you a more natural leaner chicken.
*They’re much healthier. We’ve got no plan B with their health, so the production focus shifts from feed conversion to bird health. As an example, on our home ranch, we have 65,000 chickens where we used to grow 100,000 but we also give them outdoor access. When I was there yesterday afternoon, 90% of them were outside pecking and scratching and taking dust baths and basically “being chickens”. Their color was bright. My manager had the feed shut off because “they’re all outside”. Birds that are eating less are gaining less, and they’re taking longer to achieve market weight. But they’re healthier by far.
*No antibiotics. That’s the reason we have no plan B. If we crowd ‘em or let litter conditions deteriorate, we can’t medicate. If the flock does get sick and we have to medicate, that flock goes to conventional which means you’ve got 250% higher feed cost coupled with ½ the yield/sq’d (less birds +slower gain) yet you’re paid conventional which =’s economic suicide. Healthy, healthy, healthy is the only way it works. And folks, just like the fungicides on the produce, the greatest benefit, in my opinion from our organic chicken is the absence of antibiotics.
My friend Sherri Glaum uses
exactly the same approach with her Organic eggs.

Why are we doing this crazy thing anyhow?
When I’d talk to people, especially moms, about Organic food, there was an excitement usually followed by “it just costs too much and the quality and flavor are disappointing”. I thought “If we could take these products straight from the farm to the fork in a day or two that would solve the flavor problem and if we could bypass all of the unnecessary packaging and unnecessary distribution costs I bet we could deliver Organic at the price of conventional. We could with one project make healthier families and healthier farms and restore a connectedness between the two that’s been missing at least two generations now.”
Well, we’re going. This week has been especially trying for Kathy because of the add-ons. It seems that every solution creates its own problem in e-world. Stuff that worked quit or messed up. All of you got messages and charges and vacations and who knows what all that have created a full time job for her to sort out and help debug. I’m sure you can see we’re working real hard to progress. Know that anything wrong will be fixed. You have my word on it. Also let Kathy know how much you appreciate what she’s doing. Tal and I get to have all the fun meeting you and passing out the goodies. She’s stuck all day dealing with problems she didn’t create and can only bring to the web guy’s attention. They are building a very sound web product and there’s not a good model for adding weekly one time orders to recurring orders so they’re working from scratch. (That’s their story anyway) Here’s where we really need even more of your help. This is entering a critical period as we embrace the add-ons and I want to continue to be as honest and open and frank as we’ve always been with each other. If we need a lot of product from a farmer, he will rearrange his harvest schedule, and bring it to us in a reusable container that keeps our cost down while his return is up. Win/win. If we need a little bit of product, we get it from his broker at their distribution center in standard packaging. Lose/lose. Bottom line folks we intend with your help to change the way America produces and sources its food. Our little white truck doesn’t look like much in the face of giant food chains but it’s a start and this project you’re participating in is worthy and righteous from any angle you want to slice it. We are going south from Kingsburg first and expect to be in southern California after Thanksgiving. Share the dream with your family over Thanksgiving dinner. You love ‘em and they deserve the best. Take them to the website enter their credit card # and they’ll have one more thing to add to the “I’m thankful for…” list next year. By the way, we’ve got a few fresh Organic Turkeys available for next week’s delivery so get ‘em while you can. We’re also supposed to have “rate the produce” on the website in a day or two which will be critical information for our farmers and us so we can keep improving. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support and patience.
Eat Healthy! Vernon

Spaghetti squash can be stored at room temperature for about a month. After cutting, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 2 days. Spaghetti squash also freezes well. Pack cooked squash into freezer bags, seal, label and freeze. Partially thaw and then steam for about 5 minutes.

Here is what you will find in this week’s box.
-Field Tomatoes
Chateau Fresno, Caruthers
-Colossal Garlic
Christopher Ranch Organics, Gilroy
-1 liter Carrot Juice*
Wm Bolthouse, Bakersfield
-Fuyu Persimmons
Olsson Family, Kingsburg
-Crimson Royal Seedless Grapes
-Royal Autumn Grapes
The Peterson Family, Kingsburg
-Braeburn Apples
Ridder & Son, Watsonville
-Sweet Basil
-Romaine Lettuce*
T & D Willey, Madera
-Russet Potatoes
Family Farm, Madera
-Spaghetti Squash
-Red Onion
-Red Leaf Lettuce
Dynasty Farms, Salinas
*Denotes Abundant Box Only
Contents may vary due to availability on date of delivery.

Be sure to check out the add-ons available for next week’s delivery. Orders must be placed by 9:00 am on Monday.

This Week's Recipe
1 Spaghetti Squash
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt & freshly ground pepper
Approx 4 cups marinara sauce

Preheat Oven to 450º
Split the squash in half and scrape out the seeds. Line an oven tray with foil. Season the spaghetti squash with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place flesh side down and roast for 30-40 minutes until fully cooked. Remove from the oven and let rest until cool enough to handle.

When squash is cool enough to handle, using a fork, flake out the strands of squash from the inside of the skin. It should appear like spaghetti. Heat marinara sauce (Alfredo sauce, sautéed vegetables such as mushrooms, tomatoes, broccoli, onion, garlic, and carrots; and shrimp sautéed in garlic and butter garnished with grape tomatoes also make great toppings for spaghetti squash) and place on top of the prepared spaghetti squash. Serve as a main dish or a side dish.

Spaghetti squash can also be prepared by placing it in a steamer on top of the stove for approximately the same amount of time or until it can be pierced with a fork.

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