Friday night with a seed catalogue and CSA dreams

Posted Jan 15th, 2010

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I don't know why I do this to myself.

I've been leafing through a Thompson & Morgan seed catalogue and really, I think I'm just being cruel to myself. Sure, it gets me thinking about my garden. My goodness, I've developed a wish list of seeds that would require a rather large farm to sow. But with my puny, sun-starved swath, this is a classic case of getting my hopes up for nothing.

Time for Grub Blogs - pepper

Still, a girl can dream and so I will order a few packages of the Naga Jolokia pepper — only the hottest pepper in the world, apparently. Every garden should have it.As you can see, this is why I rely on others to feed me. And, with winter's grip firmly around Niagara, I crave the veggie baskets of summer and my CSA that I get from Linda.

I know I've mused about CSAs (community supported agriculture) in the past and the profound effect being part of one has had on my life, at least when it comes to working some magic in the kitchen.

Dare I say it's also improved my diet as far as my consumption of those "superfoods" that we're always told we should eat more of. I was handed a old story from the New York Times today, called The 11 best foods you aren't eating. The top 3 were some of favourites: beets, cabbage and Swiss chard. (Take that New York Times).

If it weren't for Linda and her regular supply of veggies, granted, the title would be a little truer. I wouldn't be eating beets. But not wanting to toss any of my weekly installments of the food group that makes many noses wrinkle, I ate Linda's beets and discovered I loved them.

I didn't need any convincing with cabbage. Cabbage is the most practical vegetable ever. Cheap. One head makes many meals. Healthy. Yum yum.

As for chard, I was a fan of leafy greens before my CSA days but thanks to Linda, I certainly eat more.

Being a part of a CSA also makes you feel a part of the food production process. You experience the ups and downs the farmer does. Early in the season, the baskets are light, given not much is close to being harvestable. As spring wanes and summer waxes, they get heavier. Then comes root veggie season in the fall. That's when you're building major muscle carrying your basket from pick-up point to car. But last year, with it being so wet, some veggies only made cameos in baskets or were noticeably absent. (Carrots, come back again next year, please).

Risks aside, there are great rewards, which is why I didn't hesitate to become part of another CSA this year. I contributed $200 to Monforte Dairy's Renaissance 2010 project to build a new dairy producing Ontario goat and sheep cheese. And what a selection they do produce when going full throttle. I get a handful of $50 cheese vouchers to cash in each year as a token of thanks for my help with micro-financing an innovative business.

It wasn't a tough sell for several reasons. I can't eat cow's cheese and the soy stuff doesn't cut it. So sheep and goats are my dairy heroes. It's local (OK, Monforte's in Stratford but that's only 176 kilometres from Niagara). It's also exciting to chip in, even if it is only a small amount, to a grassroots, unique plan to get a grassroots, unique food production business up and running.

Doesn't this sound enticing?

Our philosophy is to give everyone and anyone the opportunity to be an agent of change; to have a voice in changing the politics of how quality food is produced, distributed, marketed and sold in Ontario.

CSA subscriptions have raised $340,000 to build a dairy that will be open in March and provide local goat, cow, sheep and horse farmers a place to sell their milk. The province plans to match what's raised through subscription sales. And as a subscriber, I get invited to events called Hootenannies. How fun is that? That's the community part of Community Shared Agriculture.

If you're looking to get to know your food, check out the Ontario CSA Farm Directory, Monforte Dairy, The Niagara Local Food Co-opThe Welland Good Food Box, and of course, my personal favourite, Linda Crago's Tree and Twig Heirloom Vegetable Farm.

And here's to more Hootenannies!

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