Happy National CSA Day

Friday, February 23rd is National CSA Day!  This holiday always falls on the last Friday of February and is meant to publicize CSA’s and their benefits to the community.

First, let’s define what a CSA or Community Supported Agriculture is:  It’s a farming model that creates a partnership between a local farmer and local community members who purchase a seasonal crop-share, and essentially eliminates the middleman. CSA shareholders or members receive an abundant allotment of fresh, locally grown produce from their farmer on a weekly or bi-weekly basis in exchange for their pre-paid membership. This arrangement provides the farmer with predetermined number of customers to grow for which makes planning and growing the proper amount of vegetables more efficient.

CSA’s vary from farm-to-farm – there are flower CSAs, meat CSAs, even mushroom CSAs – but the most common is a Vegetable CSA, which is what Yellow Stonehouse Farm offers.  Within the Vegetable CSA category there are differences as well – the most obvious one being those that grow their vegetables conventionally and those that chose to use USDA certified organic growing practices. 

CSA’s also differ in how they distribute their produce – do you get to personally select your produce from a market-style CSA or is a pre-packaged box provided to you?  Other CSA variables to consider are location, the size of the CSA, pick-up day choices and hours, the variety and specialties unique to a specific CSA, and other features such as whether you get special items such as recipes, herbs, or Pick-Your-Own (PYO) vegetables, flowers and herbs.

The benefits of being a CSA member are many – both for the members and their community.  We have found that there are three primary reasons that our members join Yellow Stonehouse Farm’s Organic CSA:

  1.  Our members want to eat a Healthy Diet that is:
    • Chemical, herbicide and pesticide free USDA certified organic produce – the chemicals used in conventional farming have been shown to be carcinogenic and endocrine disruptors and are particularly bad for children and pregnant women.
    • Freshly picked and locally grown – fresh produce tastes better and lasts longer, especially if it isn’t being transported cross-country and refrigerated for weeks.  Plus, organic produce is grown in organic soil and the natural microbes and other attributes of the soil boost both nutrition and flavor.
    • Seasonal – eating seasonally means that we are eating what we need when we need it, and provides a mix of tastes, textures and nutrition. YSF grows a great assortment of vegetables, field fruits, aromatics such as garlic and gingers plus herbs that changes weekly.  We grow a combination of new cultivars and unusual varieties, plus heirloom and native vegetables to provide a fun and interesting selection for our members. 
    • Delicious – not only are the vegetables fresh, they are delicious! A lot of conventional produce has been bred to look good not taste good, many wonderful varieties aren’t grown for the supermarket because they may not last as long or are more fragile.  AT YSF, we pride ourselves on the number of different varieties and types of vegetables we grow – and on the wonderful taste and flavors.  We also provide weekly recipes with every share so members can prepare delicious dishes from the produce they receive.
  2. Our members want to be Environmentally Responsible by
    • Supporting farming and maintaining open space for agriculture and recreational use today and into the future.
    • Decreasing CO2 emissions due to decreased energy used in transporting and refrigerating produce across long distances.
    • Eliminating herbicides, pesticides and chemicals that are polluting our environment and decreasing important populations of pollinators, amphibians, birds and other species.
    • Maintaining water quality by eliminating herbicides, pesticide and fertilizer run-off into local water courses and aquifers.
    • Sharing the farm experience with children and creating life-long health by teaching them about where their food comes from, better nutrition, and benefits of fresh and locally grown produce.
  3. Our members are looking for a Good Value – better food at a reasonable price
    • CSA’s are surprisingly affordable compared to supermarket prices for organic produce.  Research conducted at Cornell University in New York estimates the costs savings to be approximately 20% over the cost for a comparable amount of conventional vegetables purchased in a supermarket – and the savings are even more for organic produce.
    • Knowing your farmer and the farm where your vegetables are grown provides the extra reassurance you need to know that you are providing the best possible food and nutrition for your family.
    • Reaping the bounty of the harvest when the vegetables are at their peak is truly a joyous experience and one that YSF is dedicated to sharing with every mem
    • Yellow Stonehouse Farm believes in providing a great experience for our members.  We enjoy getting to know our members individually and providing a level of customer service that makes membership in our CSA a special experience. Growing someone’s favorite vegetable is just one way we cater to our membership.

Hopefully this edition of Farming Matter’s has helped you to better understand how CSA’s work and how membership can contribute to your family’s health & enjoyment through eating fresh, organic vegetables.  Check out Yellow Stonehouse Farm Organic’s Facebook Page or email the farm at yellowstonehousefarmcsa@gmail.com for more information.

Happy Easter with thoughts on Spring, farming and open space

Happy Easter!  What a difference two weeks makes.  The last Farming Matters blog was March 21st when there was over a foot of snow on the ground.  Now it’s Spring, 80 degrees and flowers are starting to bloom everywhere – just in time for Easter!

It is a lovely time of year; early Spring bulbs like crocuses and daffodils refresh one’s entire being – as well as providing winter lazy bodies incentive to get out there and begin tending the flower, vegetable and herb beds.

Prepping the vegetable fields is late this Spring due to the snow and rain accumulating in the fields and surrounding meadows.  Check out this picture of the flooding we experienced when a blockage on the nearby ponds was removed, causing a rush of water to roar into Brick Yard Brook and our meadows.  Amazing what a big effect the actions of another can have on someone else’s water and land.  A good reason for cooperation among citizens and neighbors to safeguard natural resources.

Protecting the natural resources of our farm is one the reason Yellow Stonehouse Farm’s organic CSA was established – it was a way to continue as a working farm and maintain the open space for agricultural use.  Did you know that our farm and just a few others are all that are left of Westfield many farms?  Farming was a huge part of Westfield’s history – in fact, our section of town is called East Farm’s because it was basically all farms at one time.

Sustaining farms and open space are important for our community.  These few remaining swaths of farm land not only protect the flora and fauna but maintains the recharge area for the aquifers which supply us with clean water – lately a big issue in Westfield.  Farm’s and open space need protection to safeguard natural resources such as our air and water so they are there for future generations.

Membership in Yellow Stonehouse Farm’s organic CSA is a way to support open space and farming in Westfield – while enjoying delicious certified organic vegetables and field fruits. We also offer community members free activities such as the guided bird walk coming up on May 7th for those who want to explore the property and see the array of birds and other wildlife resident on the farm. Other activities available to members include hiking, pick-your-own vegetable and flower picking, and member gatherings like potlucks.

There are still a few organic CSA shares available – though some pick-up days are filling up fast.  Call us at 413-562-2164 or email us at the farm at yellowstonehousefarmcsa@gmail.com for more information or come visit during our Open Farm day this Saturday, April 15th between 10:00 am and 3:00 pm.  Hope to see you then and Happy Easter!

The Lovely Month of June

strawberries in spring

June is when I celebrate my birthday and also when Summer starts – so of course, June is a favorite month of mine!  You can’t blame me – there are the fabulous flowers of June: irises (my favorite!), peonies, roses and wisteria (which unfortunately didn’t bloom well this year due to that nasty freeze in March); Spring fruits: strawberries and rhubarb for sauces and pies (which can replace birthday cake anytime for me); and the first luscious vegetables: asparagus, tender lettuces, sweet peas and the mint the flourishes at just the right time, along with the spicy radishes that add a special crunch to salads.

For our CSA members in June, we also grow bok choi aka Chinese cabbage, dandelion greens, Spring turnips, kohlrabi (which didn’t make it due to a great wave of flea beetles, we think because of the warm winter), kale, mizuna and Spring raab (bitter greens that are so good for us), Swiss chard, and tatsoi – a type of oriental spinach.

What’s interesting to me, is most of these vegetables are packed with nutrients we all need to stay healthy.  Take rhubarb, for instance – did you know that it’s been used medicinally for thousands of years?  Folklore credits Benjamin Franklin for first importing rhubarb to America in the 1700’s, but it originated in Asia over 5000 years ago.  Its’ roots and rhizomes were used in Chinese medicine to treat everything from liver complaints to senility.  More recently, rhubarb’s beneficial qualities have been validated by modern science who’ve found a slew of compounds that may prevent and fight cancer & senility, anti-oxidants, anti-inflammatories, vitamins such as C, K, and B-complex plus the minerals calcium, potassium and manganese.

ysf rhubarb in spring

This brings me to an idea that at first may not seem appetizing – food as medicine!  My herbalism teacher Jade Alicandro Mace, of Milk & Honey Herbs, recently introduced me to the concept that what we eat not only provides us our day to day sustenance, but can also actively support our good health.  I am so enthusiastic about this idea.  In future columns, I plan to start introducing some of the power house vegetables that we can all eat to protect and improve our health!

We still have a couple EOW shares available for a couple of pick-up days even though the season has started!  Please call us or stop by the farm Tuesday through Saturday.