Thursday, June 26, 2014

Starting a school CSA

I’m thrilled to share a guest post from my friend and colleague, Christina, who writes about starting a CSA program (community supported agriculture) at the public middle school where she is a teacher:

Swiss chard at the school CSA from Monkshood

Food and school both play a big role in my life so it is not surprising that I spend a good deal of time thinking about both. I have already found a couple of ways to marry the two in a school garden and a healthy lunch program. This year I have been working on a third way to bring better food to our school, a CSA. For anyone not familiar, CSA stands for community supported agriculture and is also known as a “farm share”.

In starting the CSA, my hopes went beyond just connecting people to food, I wanted to connect people to people. I felt that this was a unique opportunity to bring together people who rarely have contact with one another, but have plenty in common. I envisioned students coming in to pick up their family’s vegetables, parents and teachers swapping recipes, and everyone eating healthier by increasing the variety and amount of fresh vegetables they eat.

French breakfast radish at the 
school CSA from Monkshood 

So far, the experience has been all that I hoped for. I get to hear people gushing about their vegetables and all the wonderful recipes they are trying out. Both teachers and district parents bring their children, who are happy to point out what vegetable each bin contains. Teachers from different buildings are getting to know one another, and I am getting to know everyone!

An additional benefit of the CSA is that it improves the quality of food available to people in need in our area.  Any left overs, or shares that people do not pick up are donated to a local food bank. While the food bank is a recipient of a good deal of dry goods, patrons do not otherwise get any fresh produce.

Since it was my first time orchestrating something like this, I looked for help. Just Food, a NYC based organization that works to connect farmers to consumers in the city, proved to be a great resource, even though my school is located outside of NYC. They offer free workshops on how to start a CSA and connected me with the farmer from Monskhood Nursery in upstate NY. I am hoping to work with the farm over the summer to get certification to accept SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that used to be called food stamps) so that shares will be an option for people from a greater variety of economic means.

Some people questioned why I did not work with a more local farm since there are several nearby that have CSAs. Although I am certainly a big proponent of supporting local farmers, I was even more interested in creating something uniquely ours. The local farms already have CSAs with pick-up at their farms.  I thought it was more important to work with a farm that would deliver the CSA shares weekly to my school so that parents, teachers and staff in my school district would have an opportunity to connect with each other at school. My hope is that as the CSA grows, each of the elementary schools will start their own, and we can start to partner with more local growers.

(This post was shared on Green Thumb Thursday and Healthy, Happy, Green & Natural Party Hop.)

Green Thumb Thursday

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Growing, Harvesting and Seed Collecting

The beans I planted last week have already grown their first set of true leaves.    Below is a photo of the seedlings, grown from the black beans I collected last year.  I love how they grow with the seed coat still attached!   The tendril is from the Cascadian snap peas.  

Seed coat is still attached to the bean plant!

This week we ate our final installment of asparagus, along with lots of lettuce, kale, chives, cilantro, strawberries and some peas and garlic scapes.

Peas, asparagus, strawberries, lettuce and cilantro

Peas, garlic scapes, chives, cilantro, kale and strawberries

Elsewhere in the garden:

Clematis and rose

Mock Orange (Philadelphus) in all its glory

I've started collecting columbine seed (Aquilegia canadensis L.).  Lots of columbine are still in bloom, but the early bloomers have gone to seed.

Columbine seed pods, plus one visitor.

When the seed pods turn brown, it's time to collect the seed.   The small black seeds will rattle around and fall right into your hand if you turn them upside down.  The green seed pods are not yet ready for collection.   

The columbine seed pods start out green and closed,
and then gradually turn brown and open up. 

Columbine seeds ready to be collected.

I like to toss the seeds in areas that could use some more columbine color.  I save some seeds for later, but I seem to have the best success with columbine when I  scatter the seeds now in early summer, and let them over-summer, over-fall and overwinter outside in place.

(This post was shared on Harvest Monday at Daphne's Dandelions and Green Thumb Thursday.)

Green Thumb Thursday

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Harvesting and planting more

Yesterday I went out to pick some basil leaves to have with dinner, and I discovered a handful of Cascadian snap peas were ready to be picked!  
Cascadian snap pea

I'm glad the peas are ready, because it's almost time to stop picking the asparagus.
Although this week we had no shortage of asparagus:

lots of asparagus this week

More lettuce, asparagus, strawberries and cilantro.
Today I harvested more peas, strawberries,
chives, cilantro, and lots of kale.

Aside from the basil which I planted from seed this spring, everything else that I harvested this week was either a perennial that I planted in a previous year (asparagus, strawberries, chives) or a volunteer that seeded itself from plants that went to seed last year (lettuce, kale, cilantro).

This week, the Reduce Footprints Change the World Wednesdays challenge (#CTWW) is to plant some food.   I decided to plant some of the bean and squash seed that I saved from last year.  

Black beans saved from last year, still in their pods.

A mixture of beans I saved including black beans and scarlet runner beans. 
Butternut squash seed saved from a particularly delicious squash.
 I planted the bean seeds along the fence where the peas are now so they'll have something to climb, and I planted two kinds of squash in small hills of compost right next to the beans - sort of a modified three sisters garden minus the corn.
compost hill

I encourage you to plant some food for the Change the World Wednesdays challenge and to check out the wonderful harvests at Daphne's Dandelions.  

 Elsewhere in the garden, the roses are in bloom along with foxglove, columbine, geraniums, irises, oxalis, forget-me-nots, bleeding heart, peonies, and more!


(This post was also shared on Healthy, Happy, Green & Natural Party Hop.)

Monday, June 2, 2014

Harvest Monday

This week I've been harvesting a lot of asparagus, kale and chives.  

Asparagus,  kale, and chives from the garden

To the kitchen

Straight into a frittata.  Very yummy!

Also, we had some lettuce

in a salad with chives

And, our first garden strawberries of the year!

I'm happy to have discovered Harvest Mondays at Daphne's Dandelions, where we can share what we are harvesting each week.  Some of the posts are beautiful - take a look.