How CSAs Save Local Farms (and the world)

Seacoast Eat Local believes in supporting and promoting local foods for the health of our community, environment, economy and culture. One of the most impactful steps that any individual can take to support this goal is to enroll in a CSA Program with a local farm.

Why are CSAs so critical to farm health and sustainability?

The short answer is, “it’s economics, duh.”  The majority of a farm’s sizable expenses come at the time of year when there is traditionally the least revenue coming in. In late winter and early spring, before a single seedling has raised its hopeful head from the soil, there are a lot of bills to pay. Farmers need to purchase those future seedlings as well as  soil amendments, equipment, infrastructure upgrades and also hire staff. With an influx of CSA sign ups, farmers are granted a source of cash flow at the time that they need it most, helping them plan wisely, reduce debt loads and start their season on time, with their most critical needs met.

The BIG Picture

Your CSA share contributes to a much larger picture of farm health, as well as economic and environmental sustainability. Every CSA share is a step towards financial sustainability for farms in the new year. Healthy farms make for healthy communities and a healthy local environment, as well. A thriving farm invests more of its income in equipment and infrastructure that can increase efficiency. These kinds of investments mean more dollars circulating in our local economies and more paid jobs for local residents. Responsibly managed farmlands are also good for our environment and many local farms operate under environmental/conservation easements that maintain open lands in our communities. The more individuals that source their food locally through CSAs, furthermore, the fewer greenhouse gases are committed to transporting fruits and vegetables from far-flung places. Fresh, locally produced fruits and vegetables have added health benefits and the relationship between a CSA customer and their farmer contributes to stronger community connections and decreasing social isolation.

Looking to make a big impact? Sign up for a CSA today!

Seacoast Eat Local is working to understand local trends in CSA programming. If you’ve never had a CSA, or you couldn’t imagine your life without one, please take our survey.

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Chloe’s Post: Açai Bowls, Pitaya Bowls, Smoothie Bowls . . . Oh My!

One of the major health-food trends that has seemed to take the world by storm is the smoothie bowl. This concept that revolutionized the traditional smoothie is simple. Make a smoothie that is thicker, put it in a bowl, and then add a bunch of toppings in an artistic way. It used to be that açai bowls were the big trend, but now another super fruit has come into the game: pitaya, otherwise known as dragon fruit. The Instagram world has also embraced this trend. If you don’t believe me, just type in the search bar any one of these terms and thousands of pictures will appear: #smoothiebowl, #pitayabowl, #acaibowl (has 544,718 posts and counting)!

All the hype surrounding this trend convinced me that I should try one myself. So, I went and got myself an açai bowl. The base, aka the smoothie portion, was açai, whey protein, and soy milk while the toppings were hemp seeds, almond butter, strawberries, and blueberries. I have to admit, it was delicious and refreshing!! From a nutritional standpoint, I believe that these bowls are extremely healthful! The bases are made out of fruits and some sort of dairy or dairy-like product (milk, soy milk, almond milk etc). The toppings (strawberries, bananas, blueberries, hemp seeds, granola, and peanut butter) are things that have high nutrient content. This is a nutritious meal because you are able to get some servings of fruits, dairy, and even some protein (if nuts/nut-based products are incorporated).

One of the downfalls to these smoothie bowls is that they tend to be pricey. However, if you are interested in making your own, you can do so more cheaply and with more local goods (the localized version if you will)! Eating locally is a great thing to do, but it can be difficult sometimes. Many foods that are common in your grocery store do not grow locally, bananas for example. But,  we can all look for ways to incorporate more local foods into our usual routines if we are not already. After looking at the ingredients of an official açai bowl, I realized that a similar dish could be recreated using more local foods!

A lot of the ‘traditional’ ingredients for these bowls can be purchased at your local farmers’ market when they are in season and frozen or canned for use in the winter. These include an array of fruits like apples, blueberries, melon, peaches, raspberries, and strawberries!

There are also plenty of ‘off-season’ additions that you can find right now at the Winter Farmers’ Market. If you are a person that likes to hide vegetables in your smoothies or do not have fruit that you froze from this last growing season, you can also purchase kale and other greens to blend in! Yogurt is also sold at the market, which can help add flavor and protein to your smoothie base. Toppings like peanut butter, maple syrup and honey can also be found currently at the winter farmers’ market. Finally, you can get milk locally as well. To see what things are in season, look at our seasonal produce guide: http://seacoastharvest.org/harvest-calendar/jan/.

Steps to Making a “Localized” Smoothie Bowl:

  1. Blend some frozen fruits (you can purchase the fruits at your local farmers’ market and freeze them yourself) with some milk and/or yogurt until you achieve a thick consistency. Add in a sweetener (if you are going completely local, add some local honey or maple syrup!).
  1. Pour the base blend into a bowl and decorate with your toppings (local fruits, peanut butter, a drizzle of honey, etc.). Enjoy!

This localization of a smoothie bowl is just one example of how you can take a trending food and reproduce it while adding more local goods! I challenge you to find a dish you usually eat and try and create a localized version of it!

Till Next Time,

Chloe

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Veronique’s Post: Eat Ugly Vegetables (A PSA)

According to the non-profit organization, Feeding America, approximately 25 to 40 percent of food grown and transported to the US will never be consumed. That means 20 pounds of food is wasted per person per month, that’s a lot of money and resources going down the drain. Wasted food makes up a large percentage of our landfills, which is a major contributor to methane emissions. The amount of food wasted is even more so ludicrous when compared to the millions of people who are food insecure in the United States. Food is wasted throughout many different steps of the food chain such as processing, distribution, farming, and especially household. You can take part in reducing the amount of food wasted in your household. 

  • Cook what is already in your fridge  

  • Understand sell-by, use-by, and expiration dates on food  

  • Store food in the right places, make use of your freezer! 

  • Don’t over-serve food   

  • Eat leftovers  

  • Try canning and pickling items  

  • Implement a compost in your household (my personal favorite) 

Food waste can occur anywhere, even our own farmer’s market! Be creative with what you make and the edible scrapes left over. Such as using vegetable scraps to make broths or casseroles. Another personal favorite of mine, is when shopping don’t disregard the fruits and vegetables that look a little “different”,  consumers might sometimes be focused on finding the smoothest carrot or perfect potato, but they all taste the same in the inside. They are many more ways to prevent food from reaching our landfills and reduce food waste. 

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Emily’s Post: Gluten Free Goodies at the Farmers’ Market

As promised in last week’s blog post, I went on a little mission at the farmer’s market in Exeter this past weekend in search for some gluten free treats.  I know that I can eat all of the fresh meat, fruits, and vegetables that I want but sometimes I want a treat.  That’s not always easy when you are gluten free.  So, for my fellow gluten free folks out there I now have a guide for what is gluten free at our farmer’s markets!

I started off at 45 Market Street Bakery and Café where I first saw a table full of baked goods, which normally means gluten is everywhere.  As I was looking at the selection, the magical “GF” abbreviation for gluten free caught my eye.  There were gluten free brownies available amongst the rest of the glutinous baked goods.  So if you’re a brownie person then this is the place for you!  Next on my gluten free tour I came across the Fig Tree Kitchen which also had a lot of baked goods.  I asked if there was anything gluten free available, and I was directed to a few different options of cookies and pastries, all of which looked delicious.  This stand even had wheat free crust mini-pies.  There are also other gluten free treats hiding within our farmer’s markets including fresh goat’s milk yogurt, maple candy, and chocolates.  I’m starting to feel really spoiled with everything available to me at these markets!

If anyone at the market finds themselves wanting more of a meal rather than a treat, they could head over to Karimah’s Kitchen to grab a gluten free falafel and hummus.  To go with the fresh hummus, you could then head over to the Bread Peddler to pick a fresh loaf of gluten free bread, which I have done already because fresh gluten free bread is such a rare treat for me.  And if after all of that you’re still hungry, you can head on over to Valicenti Organics to pick up from fresh gluten free ravioli!

There are so many delicious options for gluten free guests at our farmers markets.  If you are really sensitive, however, make sure you are asking each farm about any chance of cross contamination just to make sure you stay healthy.  Being gluten free myself, I look forward to every farmer’s market so I can pick out a treat.  This past weekend I ended up getting a gluten free brownie, and I cannot wait until the next market to try another fresh, yummy, gluten free treat.

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Veronique’s Post: Blissful Benefits of Bison Meat

For two years, I took what I thought was the “heroic” path of vegetarianism. I forfeited my love of juicy burgers and sweet smoky ribs. I told myself I would be content with a veggie and grain based diet. Though many people participate in this lifestyle, it left my stomach a little empty. wholeheartedly commend those who are either vegetarian or vegan for their dedication to their cause, but it wasn’t working for me. I like to think my cause, which has led me to intern for Seacoast Eat Local, is to support those who dedicate their livelihoods to agriculture and local food. I enjoy meat and I support those who put in the time and energy to raise meat, so it was around this Thanksgiving that I decided to forgo my vegetarian diet and explore all the endless meat possibilities. Having the opportunity to work alongside Seacoast Eat Local, I have the opportunity to meet the very farmers that I advocate for and support.   

This last week in Exeter, I had the chance to nibble on bison jerky! Roaming up and down the aisles of the farmers’ market, I stopped by Hackmatack Farm’s booth, and picked up their packaged bison jerky. I initially thought how weird this product I held in my hand was, but that thought quickly dissipated once I tasted the smoky and hearty flavors of the jerky. Hackmatack Farm is located in Berwick, Maine, where they raise their bison herd on a hundred percent grass-fed diet and free of any sort of antibiotics. Their quality and care can be seen through their meat, and while I had jerky, you can get patties, steaks, and even soap! Bison meat is known for being a “healthier” meat compared to conventional beef, as it is leaner and provides more protein per serving. If you may be skeptical of bison meat, I recommend you meeting the family of Hackmatack Farm, and let them convince you of this awesome product. 

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Annual Report 2015-2016

Download a .pdf of this annual report

Download a .pdf of our 2015-2016 Annual Report

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Chloe’s Post: 7 Reasons to Go to Your Local Farmers’ Market

  1. The Variety and Specialty Goods

At a farmers’ market, you never know what you are going to find because of the variety! Things you can find include: produce, meats, cheeses, breads, pastries, drinks, authentic cuisine, cards, knitwear, and even beauty products! These products can also be considered specialty goods because they are hand-grown and handmade. Two Saturdays ago, when I was working at the Seacoast Eat Local Winter Farmers’ Market at Wentworth Greenhouses, I bought some peanut butter from Above the Dam Jam and it was, by far, the best peanut butter I have ever had! As I said, you never know what will be at a farmers’ market, which is part of the fun!

  1. The Farmers

The local farmers care about what they are producing. They put their love into what they do and it shows. There is something special about being able to talk with the individual that created your food. This building of relationships between the farmer and consumer is something that is very difficult to do in today’s commercial food system. One time I went to a farmers’ market, I ended up having a lovely conversation with a goat-cheese producer! The woman even invited me to visit the farm with the baby goats! This dynamic also exists with the individuals that do not sell food-based products. They are always open to talking about what they do and their experiences.

  1. The Sense of Community

Farmers’ markets truly inspire a sense of community. It is not like your average grocery store where individuals go around determined only to get items on a checklist. Instead, you are interacting with the people around you, commenting on the jam sample you just tried, and recommending that a person try some authentic cuisine. Everything about a farmers’ market promotes discussions: vendors describing their products to customers, customers sharing their experiences with the vendors, and customers telling other customers what they like best. The interactions that you have at a farmers’ market are one reason why farmers’ markets are so special!

  1. The Produce and Foods are Fresher and Better Tasting

Instead of being produced to have a long shelf-life, the food and produce are made and harvested fresh then brought to the market. This ensures that you, as a customer, get the freshest goods possible. When vendors run out of their inventory, they close. They don’t have any shelf inventory to restock their goods. Because these products are so fresh, it makes them taste even better too! Stay tuned for an experiment on this later!

  1. The Environmental Benefits 

The farms represented at farmers’ markets are locally based. This helps the environment because travel time from producer to stand is significantly less, thereby decreasing emissions due to transporting the product. This is especially evident when you compare the transportation costs of local farms to the transportation costs of out-of-season goods shipped from other countries!

  1. The Economic Benefits

By shopping at a local farmers’ market, more money is going to support the vendors than when you buy at a grocery store. This makes it so the vendors can survive, keep doing what they are doing, and continue to provide you with the products that you love! It’s a win-win! The money spent at a farmers’ market also goes towards the local economy rather than government subsidies for cash crops like corn, which is often made into feed for cows and corn syrup for processed goods . . . not very sustainable or local.

  1. It’s Fun, Yummy, and Lively

The atmosphere at a local farmers’ market is incredibly lively and bustling! There is lots of community interaction, live music is usually playing, and most of the tables have samples to try. Even the way the vendors’ stands are set up positively adds to the atmosphere because they are visually appealing. The markets are a celebration of local food, the community, and sustainability. The amazing products, fun nature, and community vibe is what keeps bringing people back!

 

Because of these reasons, I highly recommend going to a farmers’ market if you haven’t already! It is more than going out to buy your food. It is connecting with like-minded people, trying some delicious, new and unique foods, and enjoying yourself! You will love it! I love being back at farmers’ markets with this internship and can’t wait to explore more of the market tomorrow!

 

All the Best,

Chloe

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CSAs on the map

We’ve got lots of farmers coming to the Winter Farmers’ Market this Saturday. In addition to all of our Winter Farmers’ Market vendors selling their locally grown food,  farmers who offer CSA shares will make themselves available to customers to talk about their programs and accept registrations.

We know that pickup location is one of the most important aspects to you in making your choice about CSA shares – so we’ve made a map! All of the pickup locations that the farms participating in CSA days have are represented here. Come to the market this Saturday Feb 11 in Exeter or Feb 25th in Rollinsford to get to know these farmers in person (another really important aspect in making your decision. And if you haven’t already, let us know about your CSA experience through this survey!)

 

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Get Your CSA (and free gift!) at CSA Days!

CSA Days are coming!

The February 11 and 25th markets will host our annual CSA Days Celebration, where farms that offer CSA shares make themselves available to customers to talk about their programs and accept registrations.

If you are wondering what a CSA is, see our previous post which gives a detailed overview of what a CSA or farm share program is and how customers can find them.

This year, customers who sign up for a CSA at CSA Days will receive a free cookbook, the CSA Cookbook. SEL Staff have been using this book for several months now and we are HUGE fans. The broccoli recipes, particularly, have become staples in my house! Consider it our gift in thanks for the great gift you are giving farmers with your registration, a step towards financial security in 2017!

If you are a SNAP customer, please speak to SEL staff at the market to learn how you can redeem fruit and vegetable coupons for a CSA share!

Signing up for a CSA in the winter months is the most critically important action you can take to promote farm health and sustainability in our region. CSA registrations provide farms with desperately needed income at the time of year when they need it most, but traditionally have the least amount of income. Farms at this time of year are purchasing seed, buying equipment and investing in infrastructure, not to mention getting ready to hire a full staff. Support a farmer when they need it most and you’ll be reaping the delicious benefits all season long.

Please fill out our survey on CSA participation. If you’ve never had a share before or are a serious CSA devotee, please fill out our CSA survey so that we can better understand local trends.

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Emily’s Post: On a Mission to Find Gluten Free Treats!

Having Celiac Disease, I am not able to consume gluten or I get really sick.  So, whenever I go anywhere food related, I am always on the hunt for a gluten free treat.  When I was at the farmer’s market a couple weeks ago, I circled around with my eyes peeled for something that was gluten free.  Obviously, I could have been happily filled up if I had bought some of the numerous fruits and vegetables available at our farmer’s markets because they are naturally gluten free.  There was also plenty of fresh meats available that I could have gotten to make for dinner.

What I was really craving, however, was a gluten free treat.  I saw a lot of gluten filled pastries at many of the stands that looked delicious, but I couldn’t eat any of them.  So I have decided to make it my mission to scour the next farmer’s market this Saturday to find everything gluten free.  I will report back here in a week with all of my findings so that everyone who is gluten free has an easy gluten free farmer’s market guide!

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