June 7, 2008

Week 40

I had a lot of fun in Bakersfield last Saturday while making sure the truck got off on time. There were a couple of ladies there excitedly going through their boxes together so I got to tell them about each farmer who grew their produce and how to handle it at home and stuff. Then one said incredulously, “I couldn’t get near this much stuff at the farmer’s market for this price!” (Despite your best intentions, you probably wouldn’t force yourself to buy all Organic either.) That made me think that there are probably a lot of our subscribers who could use a short course on California/U.S. farmers markets historically as well as economically from a farmer’s perspective.
Don’t ask me why, but you can’t just ship your produce to a store in any old container. Oh no comrade dis vould be verboten! There are federal and state container and markings laws that have to be followed. As a matter of fact, each commodity has a board or panel that must recommend to the feds any new packaging or markings. It’s a lengthy process that takes about a year. It’s not as bad now as it used to be, but a couple times in my career, I’ve had an idea that I felt would give us a competitive advantage and found myself in the difficult position of having to get permission from our competition who conveniently delayed approval until they could get up to speed themselves.
Enter our beloved “Governor Moonbeam” late 60’s early 70’s with the farmer’s market exemption. Basically, if I pay some fees to the ag commissioner of the counties I farm in, he certifies that I actually grow certain things and that gives me the privilege of selling my own product and that of two of my neighbors at a “certified farmers market” (more fees) where they charge me fees to sell at their market. The neighbors of course aren’t allowed to pay me for selling their stuff. No, we all just love each other and they sell my stuff in return for my selling theirs. It has become a viable option for some farmers and a lot of fun for many communities. The economic advantage a farmer has vs. selling wholesale is this reduction of packing costs as well as keeping the retail mark-up for himself. The consumer benefits by getting a fresher product and the perception that “this guy grew my food”.
I did farmer’s markets one year after hail messed up my crop and frankly had a blast at it. Both of my brothers have done ‘em, one for over 10 years.
Here’s the bottom line. You can’t move more than a few boxes of any one item during the 4 hour course of a market. To the extent you’re at the market, you’re not farming and to move any amount of product or provide for your family, you’ve always got to be at some market. You find yourself in this catch 22 of wanting to farm but never having the time. The big addictive plus is the customer interaction.
The reason we’re able to do this as we are and as we grow even better, is that each farmer is able to be a professional at what he does, efficiently producing Organic farm products yet marketing them directly to you guys with greatly reduced packing costs in most cases. The second advantage is that he’s getting a fair price immediately at harvest instead of the common 6 weeks and now we’re at a level where we can estimate volumes and set price before planting. Lastly, as you in the south valley can see, as we’re able to shift to larger trucks, we can get it from the farm to you for less than a cup of fuel / box, beating out even a Prius! I hope this helps and wasn’t too boring.

Depending on your age you may remember helping your mother “string” the beans before she cooked them. The “strings” that gave these beans their common name, string beans, is seldom found in our modern varieties. Green beans are one of only a few varieties of beans that are eaten fresh. They are picked while immature and the inner bean is just beginning to form. Green beans are a classic favorite and can be eaten raw or cooked, hot or cold. They are great in salads, casseroles, sautéed or steamed and from summer to early fall they are at their very best.
You wouldn’t know it to look at them but green beans pack a power punch when it comes to nutrition, and at the same time they are very low in calories. You can eat a whole cup of green beans for only 43.75 calories! If you are looking for an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K and manganese you will find it here. Want a good source for vitamin A, dietary fiber, potassium, folate and iron? Here it is. When you add to that magnesium, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, copper, calcium, protein, phosphorous, and omega-3 fatty acids you know you are serving your family nutrition.
Store unwashed fresh green beans in a plastic bag kept in the refrigerator crisper. Whole beans stored this way should keep for about seven days.
When you are ready to use them, wash them off and snap or cut off the ends and then snap or cut into preferred lengths.

“Gosh, I know I ordered add-ons but since it was almost a week ago I don’t remember exactly what I ordered.” Do you ever find yourself thinking that on delivery day? Or, perhaps you had someone else pick up your order but they didn’t get all of your add-ons. Maybe you got home and realized that you had ordered 2 dozen eggs but only got one. Have you ever experienced one, or all, of these scenarios? Your host has a list of what you ordered, and will do everything possible to make sure you get your whole order, but it is critically important that you check, before you leave the site, and make sure you have everything you ordered and paid for. A tool that can be used for this is the Invoice that is emailed to you each Monday. On that Invoice is a list of all of your add-ons. We suggest that you bring a copy with you and, before you leave, make sure you got everything on the list. If you are having someone else pick up your order for you, forward them a copy of the invoice and ask them to bring it with them so they are not in doubt.

Here is what you will find in this week’s box.
-Seasonal Stone Fruit
The Peterson Family, Kingsburg
-Red Onions
-Summer Squash*
Ginger Balakian, Reedley
-Green Leaf Lettuce*
California Organic, Lamont
-Mediterranean Cucumbers
-Red Batavian Lettuce
-Green Beans
T & D Willey, Madera
*Denotes Large Box Only
Contents may vary due to availability on date of delivery.

Organic produce does not have chemical residue, but Mother Nature has a way of adding unwelcome elements to our produce since it is grown outdoors. All produce should be washed before you eat it.

When you visit the add-on pages you will see a new addition. If the grower providing an add-on has a website there is a link available so you can check them out.

Greek Pasta Salad
12 oz dried penne (4 cups dry)
1 medium cucumber halved lengthwise and sliced
½ - 1 red onion sliced thinly
1/3 cup pitted olives, green or black, halved
Cook pasta according to pkg. directions, drain in a colander & rinse with cold water. In a bowl toss together the cooked pasta, cucumber, onions and olives.

½ cup olive oil ½ cup lemon juice
2 Tbsp fresh basil or 2 tsp dried & crushed 4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp fresh oregano or 2 tsp dried & crushed ¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper 1 cup feta cheese (4 oz)
In a jar that can be sealed combine the olive oil, lemon juice, basil and oregano, garlic, salt and pepper. Cover and shake well. Drizzle over pasta mixture, toss to coat. Cover and chill in frig for at least 2 hours. Add feta, toss and serve. Halved cherry tomatoes may be added as an option

String Beans with Shallots
1 lb fresh string beans, ends removed Salt
2 Tbsp butter 1 Tbsp olive oil
3 shallots, diced ½ tsp freshly ground pepper

Blanch the string beans in a large pot of boiling salted water for 1 ½ minutes. Drain immediately and immerse in a bowl of ice water.

Heat the butter and oil in a very large sauté pan or large pot and sauté the shallots on medium heat for 5-10 minutes, tossing occasionally until browned. Drain the string beans and add to the shallots with ½ tsp of sat and pepper. Heat only until beans are hot.

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