Friday, February 26, 2010

Contest: Name Our Newsletter & Win a T-Shirt!

"Local Food News" is our placeholder for now, but we want to give our newsletter a name that's a little more inspired. And who better to come up with a great name than our readers?

Send us an idea or suggestion! We'll collect them and hold a general vote on the blog in a month or two. The winning entry will become the official name of the Buy Fresh Buy Local South Central PA newsletter, and we'll send the winner a Buy Fresh Buy Local T-shirt for their trouble.

Leave your suggestion as a comment on this post, or email us by replying to the newsletter.

We can't wait to hear your ideas!

If Life Gives You Snow, Make Snow Ice Cream!

In honor of the record-breaking snowfall we've had this month, we bring you this snow ice cream recipe from It's local, it's free, and it certainly is abundant.

1 cup sugar
1 Tbl. vanilla extract
2 cups milk

Put a large bowl or pan outside to collect snow; approx. 1 gallon.

In a saucepan, heat sugar with vanilla extract, and milk. Heat gently until sugar is dissolved. Put outside (or in refrigerator) to cool.

Once enough snow is collected, add sweetened milk mixture and stir until desired consistency is reached.

You can substitute maple syrup or honey for the sugar/vanilla (use about 1/4 cup) and half & half for the milk (use about a cup).


Thinking of Joining a CSA? 5 Tips for First-Time Members

This month guest blogger Emily Gilmore was kind enough to give us some helpful hints on how to decide whether joining a CSA farm is right for you. It's something she knows a thing or two about, since she's the former Program Manager at the Robyn Van En Center, a national CSA resource center.

So it’s getting to be that time of year again when farmers are preparing for the upcoming CSA farm season. This is also the time of year when old and new members are considering whether or not to join for the new season. If you’ve heard of the concept of CSA, but aren’t sure whether you’d like to join, here are some tips for helping you decide:

  • Consider a half share: If the price of a full share seems a bit intimidating, or if you just want to test the waters to see if joining a CSA works for you, you’ll be pleased to know that many farms offer partial or small share options. There may also be other ways to reduce the cost – some farms offer working shares, where you can help out at the farm in return for some or all of the cost of your share. And remember to divide the cost of a share by the number of weeks in the CSA season to get a clearer picture of what you’re getting for your money.
  •  Visit the farm and meet the farmer of your prospective CSA: most farmers are happy to meet potential members and answer questions about their farm.
  • Be open minded about the variety of local, seasonal foods available: CSA farms are limited by what grows well in our area, so shares may not include all of the produce you’re used to seeing at the supermarket. On the other hand, you’ll be getting vegetables at their freshest and CSA farms often grow tasty heirloom varieties that aren’t available in stores.
  • Talk to other people who are familiar with CSA and/or who are already members: If you don’t know anyone who is already a member, the farmer should be able to put you in touch with some of his or her members.
  • Remember that a choice to join a CSA has many benefits, just to name a few: it supports a local grower, it is kind to the environment (many CSA’s growing practices use natural methods, and food does not have to travel as far to get to your home), sustains the local economy, builds community and provides healthy, fresh and nutritious food.

    If you’re not sure if there is a CSA near you, there are many ways to locate them. Check out Buy Fresh Buy Local South Central PA, Local Harvest, or visit the Robyn Van En Center .

    Good luck finding a local CSA and making your decision. If you decide to go ahead and join, enjoy your share and get involved - it will enrich your experience!
    Emily is enthusiastic about local food and sustainable agriculture. She also would like to have the opportunity to educate people about food system issues . While serving as the program manager for the Robyn Van En Center, she also worked part time at the Fulton Farm CSA. She is currently looking for employment related to her background and interests. She can be contacted at

    A CSA Farm in Winter

    A Peek Behind the Scenes at Shared Earth Farm, Mechanicsburg, PA

    Most of us have an idea of what farmers do during the spring, summer and fall. We’ve been to CSA farms, farm stands and farmers markets. Maybe we’ve chatted with a grower about the weather and the work to be done that week on the farm.

    But what do farmers do during the long, cold winter months? Do they just putter about the house in their pajamas, waiting for the snow to thaw? Or is there a whole world of farm work being done behind the scenes to make the summer’s bounty possible? I talked to Amy Leber of Shared Earth Farm CSA to find out.

    “There’s about two weeks of just putting your life back together after the growing season has ended,” said Leber, who works up to 14 hour days, 7 days a week during the growing season.

    So the first couple weeks of the winter are a time to tackle ‘spring’ cleaning, repairs and projects around the house, and general family to-do list stuff that piles up over the spring, summer and fall.

    Then it’s back to work on the farm, but during the winter Leber only works 8 hour days and weekends are off-limits. The first thing she does is evaluate the previous season. She decides where mistakes were made and what was done well, and thinks about what they could do differently this year.

    "We get a lot of ideas in the summer, but we just don’t have time to fully evaluate them until winter,” Leber said.

    Next she starts laying out her plans for the new year. Deciding what she wants to grow is fairly easy, she said. “The harder part is deciding how much. So how many weeks do we want to give out kohlrabi before people get sick of them?”

    She plots out each stage of the growing season, working backwards from harvest to planting. It's an exercise that involves several spreadsheets and takes a long time.

    Finally, Leber orders the seeds and prices her shares.

    A peek at Leber’s Off-season To-Do List:
    • Remove stakes, weed suppressing plastic and other materials from fields
    • Inventory current seeds
    • Order new seeds
    • Source potting soil
    • Catch up on bookkeeping
    • Answer member emails
    • Fix machinery (fertigator, tractor) & perform maintenance
    • Clean and organize greenhouse. Patch any tears & clear fans of bugs.
    • Compile recipes for CSA members
    • Brainstorm some newsletter/blog article ideas

    And the growing season gets underway sooner than you might think. By mid-February, Leber and her mother, Sheila, start planting the spring crops under indoor grow lights.

    “We already have some seeds planted – mostly spinach and stuff that’ll grow in cool weather,” she said. “Onions, leeks, shallots and parsley should be starting right now.”

    And in about two weeks Leber plans to dust off the plow and start preparing the fields.

    "Winter is still very busy, but it’s a different kind of busy. It’s not sweaty work outside in the sun. It’s a lot of thinking, not so much doing.”