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Live Earth Farm (Com)Post
1st Harvest Week, Winter Season 4
Thursday December 3rd, 2009
in this issue
Welcome everyone!
What's in the box this week
Nature's Seductive Seeds
Good organizations to know about
Notes from Debbie's Kitchen
2009 Calendar

" What existential difference is there between the human being's role [in growing a garden] and the bumblebee's? "

- Michael Pollan, from 'The Botany of Desire'

Welcome everyone!
Welcome members and friends of the farm, to the first newsletter of our Winter Season! We particularly want to welcome all new members, including the new group from Cabrillo College [you know who you are] :-)

Do keep in mind that just because you're receiving this newsletter doesn't mean you are signed up for a winter share -- this newsletter goes out to everyone, so that even if you're not signed up for winter you can still stay in touch with what's happening at 'your' farm.

Those of you who ARE signed up for a winter share - remember, your first pick-up is this Thursday, Dec 3rd! All winter members should have received an email from me with the address, directions, pick-up time and instructions for your particular pick-up site White beans on a pumpkin (addresses are not posted on the website, remember!) ;-) If you have not, do email me at the farm ASAP so I can re-send it to you.

So, without further ado -- on with the newsletter!

CSA coordinator

What's in the box this week
Occasionally content will differ from this list (typically we will make a substitution), but we do our best to give you an accurate projection. Any produce not from Live Earth Farm (LEF) will list the name of the farm in parentheses after the item.

[go to recipe database]

Winter Share
Apples, Fuji +
Apricot jam (Happy Girl Kitchen, from LEF apricots)
Golden beets
Brussels sprouts
Green cabbage
Collard greens
Fennel (Lakeside Organic Gardens)
Lacinato kale
Red Russian kale
Romaine lettuce (Lakeside Organic Gardens)
Baby turnips

Preserves Option
(all items made with LEF produce and prepared by Happy Girl Kitchen)
1 jar apricot jam
1 jar crushed mixed heirloom tomatoes
1 jar pickled sweet peppers

Bread Option
This week's bread will be Whole Wheat and flax seed

Nature's Seductive Seeds
I am defenseless in the face of nature's seductive power and it is in large part the reason why I farm.  I can't explain it any other way; no sooner did we finish our regular CSA season a couple of weeks ago when I caught myself eagerly leafing through a stack of new 2010 seed catalogs that have been arriving in the mail.  I look forward to Seed catalogs as others might wait to receive their favorite fashion magazines. For me Seed Catalogs are essential winter reading to prepare next season's crop plan.  Not only do I make sure I have access to seeds for all our most reliable varieties but I am equally excited to check out any newcomers "wearing" particularly attractive traits, whether it's color, shape, taste, yield, or adaptability to growing conditions particular to our farm environment.  The Garbanzo beans for example were a hit with many of our members and will be featured again next year. The Padron peppers we grew for the first time were also a popular new addition to our pepper "family" and for next year we figured out how to pick them so they're not so spicy hot. Cantaloupes, Watermelons and more Sweet Corn are worth keeping in the mix and I personally missed growing Fingerling Potatoes and will make sure they're back again next year.  Winter is a good time to seduce any farmer into committing to grow to something new or different, so if there is something that you would like us to try out, please send us your suggestions as we compose next season's crop plan.
It is one thing to be seduced by glossy pictures and promising descriptions of a crop inside a catalog, and yet another to hold the actual seeds in one's hand. Just this last weekend I was sifting through the dry beans we grew for seed, admiring their colorful and mottled patterns, when all of a sudden I felt this strong desire to plant them. The spell was easily fought off with a look outside, where everything is preparing for winter dormancy, but I thought of Michael Pollan's compelling argument in his Book "Botany of Desire", where he stipulates that it is not us humans who are necessarily controlling the destiny of plants but that it is the other way around, where plants have successfully seduced and used humans as their primary vector to spread and multiply. Who knows, this may be the answer to my addiction to farming: I am just playing my part in nature's evolutionary conspiracy theory. On a more practical note, it may also have influenced our desire to keep farming through the winter season, and offering what is now our 4th Winter CSA.

We have done our best to plan for a bountiful harvest of wonderful hardy winter crops. Most of our winter crops were purposefully planted on a staggered schedule, so as to mature at different times. Crops such as Carrots, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Beets, Broccoli and Brussels sprouts were planted in August and September and are maturing so as to be ready for harvest now and over the next few months. More recent plantings will take much longer - almost twice the normal time - to mature [shorter days, less daylight, colder temperatures all contribute to slower growing], so we don't expect their harvest until the earlier part of the New Year. During the winter it is the weather that's calling the shots; whether it's freezing, flooding or equipment breakdowns, winter conditions can make field and therefore harvest conditions more unpredictable - which in turn can translate into more variability and uncertainty in the quality, quantity and diversity of crops in your shares. To offset some of this uncertainty, we will add preserves of the summer crops we grew, as well as supplement with produce from other local growers, to keep the shares you receive interesting and representative of what is in season at this time of year.
I am excited that we are sold out once again for the Winter. Your commitment to this farm has been wonderful and for that I am deeply grateful.

- Tom

Good organizations to know about
Hi all, Debbie here again. I would like to introduce our greater community to two organizations that work hard on our behalf to support and further the cause of organic and sustainable agriculture in this country. They are the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, and the National Organic Coalition. At first blush, they sound quite similar, and being concerned about overlapping (and possible duplication) of efforts, I contacted Liana Hoodes, the policy coordinator for National Organic Coalition, to request clarification. I was extremely pleased with her prompt and enlightening response and wanted to share this with you all, because I felt that once you saw the scope of what these two organizations are doing for us, you might consider getting on their mailing lists so as to educate yourselves (like I have been trying to do for myself over the years). This is your opportunity to be informed about ongoing issues of government policy that directly affect our farm (and your food!) and others like us... and also be in a position to possibly contribute your voice, when needed, on these issues.

Here is Liana's response (with my highlights in color for emphasis):

"That's a great question Debbie, because we work very hard with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition on many of our issues, and work hard to collaborate, not overlap.  In fact, we have a MOU [memo of understanding] between us about this collaboration.

"For instance, on Food Safety: the issue(s) is just too much for either organization. This past year, we decided to 'join' our committees, and divide the work.  We (NOC) took the lead in the National Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement issue at USDA, hiring a lawyer to help us with the hearings, and getting folks from both organizations to testify at 7 of the hearings (see our website for testimony).  NSAC has taken the lead with the legislation, HR 2749 and S510, working with staffers to hone the legislative language, and coming back to all of us to see what our needs are.  Where voices are needed to Congress, both organizations use our DC staff, as well as members from both organizations who are appropriate for an issue/district.

"You'll see that NSAC took the leadership on the NRCS [Natural Resources Conservation Service] EQIP [Environmental Quality Incentives Program] Organic Initiative, but NOC takes the lead on National Organic Program/NOSB [National Organic Standards Board] issues such as program oversight, and standards/materials issues (we've held meetings prior to NOSB since 1998).  We both work on Appropriations and Farm Bill, with NOC staying very organic-specific, and NSAC going broader, although NSAC member Organic Farming Research Foundation takes the lead on national organic research, which we (NOC) follow.

"In a sense, much of organic is just too detailed for NSAC to focus as closely as we feel it needs to be, and the big picture sustainable ag policy is too broad for NOC to attempt to cover.

"Well, I didn't mean to be so long in that explanation, but I wanted you to understand that this is a conscious maneuvering we do between the two organizations, and we are very happy to work together.  We are thankful for your support of either or both organizations."

Liana Hoodes
National Organic Coalition

Notes from Debbie's Kitchen
Click here to go to the recipe database.

Oooh, I love that Tom has invited us to suggest new goodies to grow for next season... I've already submitted my list! ;-) But the first box of the winter season looks bounteous and I am SO READY for it! How about you? - Debbie

Now, I'm not going to cover everything on the veggie list, but I would like to highlight the more unusual veggies (well, unusual to some of us!). First, I'd like to talk about the baby turnips. They look like a bunch of large white radishes, but radishes they are not (although they are both in the brassica family). When you get them home, separate the roots from the greens but don't discard the greens! They are a great cooking green. My favorite yummy way to prepare them involves using those greens. You'll want to do this while the greens are still fresh, so, ideally within a few days:

Debbie's honey-kissed baby turnips and their greens
1 bunch of turnips 'n' greens will serve two. Takes maybe 15 minutes to prepare.

Wash turnip bulbs and trim tops and tails. They do not need to be peeled. Cut in half (or thirds or quarters if larger).

Wash green tops, separating out and discarding any yellowed or discolored leaves and keeping the fresh green ones. Spin off excess water and chop greens.

In a heavy-bottomed skillet (I love cast-iron), melt some butter and add a blorp of olive oil. When butter has melted and starts bubbling, add turnips and stir/shake pan to coat and distribute oil/butter. Let cook over medium heat, stirring and turning periodically, until turnips begin to soften and lightly brown. Sprinkle moderately with sea salt, then add a small spoonful of honey. This will melt quickly so stir to distribute, then toss in the greens along with their clinging water. Continue to stir and cook until greens have wilted. Season to taste with additional salt and several good grindings of black pepper; stir and serve!

This dish also keeps warm nicely so you needn't serve it right away like other greens dishes where there is acid involved (lemon or vinegar) which causes the greens to turn an olive color after a short while. You can also refrigerate and reheat the next day no problem.

What about those Brussels sprouts?? If you are new to all this and have some old memory from childhood that these are icky yukky foul-tasting vegetables, you are in for a BIG surprise. Fresh Brussels sprouts are absolutely marvelous and tasty, and don't pay any attention to those recipes designed to make them 'taste good' by completely masking their flavor. The idea is to bring out their nuttiness and play it up big. And here's something even more radical: I love to eat them for breakfast!! Yes, and you will too, once you try them this way:

Debbie's breakfast Brussels Sprouts
minimum ingredients:
Brussels sprouts
herbes de Provence
butter and olive oil
salt and pepper
cheese of some sort: I prefer feta or chevre, but another cheese will do in a pinch
extras (i.e. optional):
sweet peppers (did you freeze any from summertime? If not, you could probably cut up some pickled peppers if you're getting this week's Preserves Option)
a little sweet onion or scallion... or some of the leeks in this week's box

This recipe is very scalable. Only cooking for one? just use a handful of sprouts and one egg. Cooking for more? Use a bigger pan, more sprouts and eggs. It's pretty simple.

Cut base off each sprout and peel off one or two outer leaves; just enough so as to get a clean little sprout. Cut sprouts in half.

Whisk up eggs and add some herbes de Provence (I like to rub the dry herbs in my fingers to bring out their flavor).

If the sprouts are bigger, you can steam them for maybe 2 minutes to soften just a bit, but if small, I don't even bother to do this. Again, heat a heavy-bottomed (cast-iron) skillet and melt some butter and add a modest bit of olive oil (don't be skimpy on the butter and olive oil). When bubbly, add sprouts, cut side down if you can manage it (and cut up peppers and/or onions or leeks, if using. Totally not required). Saute over medium heat until just starting to brown. Sprinkle with salt and grindings of black pepper.

Pour whisked eggs over the top of everything, turn down heat to low, cover and cook until eggs are just barely set, then lift lid, quickly distribute cheese over all, put lid back on, turn off heat and let sit for a minute or two until cheese gets melty.

That's it! Serve 'em hot (eggs and sprouts will be browned on the bottom but this is good!), with a side of toast and some of that fabulous apricot jam!!

Here's a recipe sent to me by friend and member Alie Victorine. She got it through the Peninsula Open Space Trust:

Golden Crusted Brussels Sprouts with Cranberries and Pistachios
1/4 C raw pistachios, shelled
1 medium tart apple, diced
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 lb. Brussels sprouts, quartered
1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 C vegetable broth
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 C dried cranberries
1 1/2 tbsp. maple syrup

Roast the pistachios in a 325-degree oven for 6-8 minutes. Soak the apples in a bowl of lemon juice and water to keep from browning.

Heat oil over med/high heat. Add Brussels sprouts and cook, covered, for 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once the Brussels sprouts are nicely browned, add 3 tbsps. of vegetable broth and cover to steam for 3 minutes. Add garlic and continue cooking for 30 seconds. Remove to a plate.
In the same pan, add the drained apples and cook for 3 minutes. Add the Brussels sprouts, 2-3 tbsps of broth, maple syrup, and cranberries, and cook for approximately 2 minutes, or until the sprouts are tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and mix in the roasted pistachios. Enjoy!

Lastly, here's a recipe from my clippings file good for using your cabbage and cilantro!

Crispy Black Bean Tacos with Feta and Cabbage Slaw
modified slightly from a Bon Appetit clipping

1 15-oz can of black beans, drained
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
5 tsp. olive oil, divided [aw, ya don't really need to measure this that carefully!]
1 tbsp. fresh lime juice [or lemon, if you don't have lime]
2 C shredded cabbage [add some grated carrot for good color!]
2 green onions, chopped
1/3 C chopped fresh cilantro [stems and leaves]
4 white or yellow corn tortillas
1/3 C crumbled feta cheese
Hot sauce of your choice

Place beans and cumin in a small bowl; partially mash. Mix 2 tsps. olive oil and lime juice in a medium bowl; add cabbage [carrots], green onions and cilantro and toss to coat. Season slaw to taste with salt and pepper.

Heat 3 tsps. olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add tortillas in a single layer. [You may need to do these one at a time?] Spoon one quarter of the bean mixture onto half of each tortilla; cook 1 minute. Fold tacos in half. Cook until golden brown, about 1 minute per side. Fill tacos with feta and slaw. Pass hot sauce alongside.

We don't have any farm events scheduled during our Winter season, and have not yet set up our calendar for 2010, however, we DO expect to continue our Community Farm Days, Seasonal Celebrations (Summer Solstice and Fall Harvest), Canning Workshops with Happy Girl Kitchen Co, and more next year; and of course there are also the educational programs via our new nonprofit, the Live Earth Farm Discovery Program (LEFDP). See below for the popular "Wee Ones" program, for example, which is monthly.

And do visit our calendar page on our website for photos and videos of past events if you would like to get the flavor of what it is like visiting the farm!

NEW in 2009!! Live Earth Farm Discovery Program for WEE ONES
3rd Tuesday of every month, 10:30am - Noon
(free for children 0 - 3 yrs; $10 - $15 per adult)
LEF Discovery Program logoMothers, fathers, grandparents, caretakers of any kind... bring the babe in your arms to experience the diversity of our beautiful organic farm here in Watsonville. We will use our five senses to get to know the natural world around us. The farm is home to over 50 different fruits and vegetables, chicks, chickens, goats, piglets, and the many wild members of the Pajaro watershed.

For more information, contact Jessica at the Live Earth Farm Discovery Program (831) 728-2032 or email her at lefeducation@baymoon.com.

Contact Information
farm phone: (831) 763.2448