5 Reasons to Invest in a CSA Share from Riehm Farms

How would you like to have a bounty of fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, and dairy while also supporting a local business and farm?

I had never heard of CSA until I attended a health fair last October where I work. The Riehm Farms representatives were there and I was excited to learn about a Community Supported Agriculture, CSA, and what they offered. After learning about the local farm and benefits of participating in a CSA, took a pamphlet to to discuss the option with my husband. Since he grew up as a local farm boy, he loved the idea.

Here are 5 Reasons You Should Invest in a CSA

  1. Who is Growing Your Food?
    This is Riehm Farms’ motto, and wouldn’t it stand to reason that you might want to know who is growing your food since it’s providing nourishment to your family’s growing bodies and minds?
  2. No synthetic pesticides are used or artificial fertilizer; ground water pollution and toxic residues are avoided. Riehm Farms prefers to use organic farming practices. Not only are you avoiding many of the toxins on your foods from factory farms, but your product will be better tasting than that which is in a grocery store chain
  3.  Buy healthy local food.
    You spend money on food every week.  The best way to get the most value for your dollar is buying food that is healthy and nutritious from a local farm, instead of produce that is picked before it’s ready and shipped hundreds of miles.
  4. They seek to put extra quality care into the soil and daily procedures.
    This means they  test the mineral content of the produce you’ll receive to ensure the best quality produce.
  5. Not just produce, Riehm Farms not only sells vegetable shares, but also fruit, eggs, and beef.
    Imagine eggs that have bright yellow yolks that stand up when you crack them! Fruit picked at their peak of freshness because it doesn’t have as far to travel.  Local beef, raised in humane conditions at a family farm instead of a factory farm!

If you want more information about Riehm Farms, contact them: Riehm Farms, 7244 North State Route 53, Tiffin, Ohio 44883 or 419-992-4392.  Ask about signing up for a CSA and a tour of the farm!

What is a #CSA Food Share?

csa-food-share-box
An example of a CSA Food Share

Community Supported Agriculture, CSA, is a way to buy produce, eggs and sometimes farm raised meat directly from a local/regional farm.

You, the customer, invest in a “share” ahead of the planting season to guarantee your food harvest in the spring/summer months. Monies go towards seeds, planting and harvesting so that you get farm to table fresh food every week during the season.

One local CSA in Northwest Ohio is Riehm Farms. It’s family owned and run near Tiffin, Ohio.

A regional CSA is Yellowbird Food Shed, a partnership of area farms in Ohio and Tennessee that deliver food shares throughout Ohio.

CSA Facts and FAQs

Why should I invest in a CSA?
When you join a CSA, you make a choice to help create a sustainable food system and you have a whole season to fresh, quality food that was grown with intention and close to your home.

Locally grown vs store bought?
A CSA share is locally produced, it is rich in the valuable nutrients and flavor that is lost in transit when food is shipped from thousands of miles away.

More variety than store bought produce.
Small family farms plan a diverse variety of food that they grow on their land. This offers so many more choices that have been ignored due to the industrialized farming model. Not only is the food fresh, but regional farms offer local artisan products and heirloom varieties that you would not find at a store.

Less toxic chemicals including pesticides are used on crops.
Many CSAs use sustainable methods without the use of harsh chemicals, including  pesticides. While CSAs are not labeled certified organic by the federal government, they are in the truest sense, organically grown.

Develop a relationship with the farmer who grows your food.
Have questions about what’s in your weekly food share? Not sure how to store or use the food share? This is your opportunity to talk to the people who grow your food. Establish a relationship, and learn more about the food you’re eating. You cannot get this information if you buy it from a grocery or big box store.

 

Home Canning: Better Quality Food on a Budget

canning-food-diy

Home canning is experiencing a resurgence as an increasing amount of people want to know what’s in their food and want to be good stewards of the environment, but they are on a budget. If you are interested, there is an initial investment (to buy jars, lids, canner, etc) and time too, then home canning just might be for you.

Everything in home canning is reusable, except the food and the lids.  This helps the environment since there is less waste for landfills. The practical benefit is that after the initial investment, you’ll save more by spending less on canning supplies in the future.

What Canning Supplies Do I Need?

Jars: The jars you can get at little or no cost.  I found my canning jars from my mother-in-law who rarely uses them.  There may be someone close to you that would love to give you the canning jars from their basement, maybe even give you some tips.  Try buying jars at thrift stores, garage sales, and flea markets for even less than retail.

Bands and Lids: In retail stores, the bands and lids are about $12 for a twelve pack (depending on the jar size). The lids themselves are around $6 for twelve.

Canner: The biggest investment is the canner, which is around $20 – ­$100 depending if you want a boiling water bath canner or a pressure canner.  If you just want to can high acid foods like tomatoes, jams, and jellies, then a boiling water bath canner is for you.  However, I would suggest the pressure canner because you can preserve both high and low acid foods as it doubles as a boiling water bath canner.  I know this is expensive; however, they are made to last several lifetimes and you can always buy it on layaway.

Miscellaneous: You will also need the Ball Blue Book or Putting Food By ($6­ – $14) and a basic canning utensil kit ($8­ – $12).  All of the mentioned canning paraphernalia will last quite a few years if you take care of them properly.

 

I’ll be writing more how-to’s of home canning as well as other homesteading articles! What are your experiences with canning food?

Preserving Food: Tips to Extend Perishable Items

Imagine saving 20, 30, 50 or even 70 percent off your grocery bill every month then regrettably throwing half of that food in the trash because it went bad or you didn’t use it before its expiration date. It happens to me every month, so I was happy to learn that there are tips to preserve food from spoiling and I can continue to use my coupons on groceries.

Learn How to Keep Fresh Foods Last Longer, Prevent Throwing Away Food, and Save Money on Groceries

1. Know an item’s expiration date. Almost all canned,  bottled and packaged foods have an expiration date. Ensure you look at the date and write it on the package with a sharpie or marker if needed. Use these fresh packaged items first, or freeze them if you can.

2. Invest in an Ethylene Gas Guardian E.G.G ($25), which will extend the life of fresh fruits and vegetables. The EGC absorbs ethylene gas that’s emitted by most fresh produce. Although some produce can spoil faster from this gas, you can use it in a drawer with those separated fruits/veggies. See this article on RealSimple.com for a complete list.

EGG - Ethylene Gas Guardian Keeps Fruit and Veggies Fresher Longer.

3. Don’t cut or wash the veggies and fruit! I learned this tip awhile ago, and it’s true that if you cut and wash fresh produce days before you eat them, they will spoil. Once you cut into fresh produce, you create a breeding ground for mold by exposing the cells. Grapes are a perfect example, I only wash the amount we are going to eat right away. I keep them in a bowl on the top shelf in my frig, then wash a handful at a time.

Cook it or toss the bad apple in the bunch to preserve the other produce.

4. Toss the rotten apple or banana or kiwi. You know the phrase “One rotten apple spoils the rest.”  When 1 piece of fruit starts going bad, use it right away, so you can extend the life of the other produce.

5. Buy in bulk and freeze half. Like to use those multiple coupons, but can’t eat it all before it goes bad? This is perfect opportunity to freeze half of it. I write the date I bought it on the package or divide larger amounts and put it in freezer safe bags with the date. Then I know which package to use first. This food preserving tip works with bread, milk, cheese, meats, green/red bell peppers, onions (slice first) and many other types of food.

6. No, to organic produce. Unless you can eat organic fruits and vegetables within a week or freeze them, don’t buy those grocery items often. I buy fresh peaches, but I prepare them to freeze for the winter (minus the fuzzy skin).

 

More tips available on LearnVest.com – lots of valuable information on this site for preserving food that ultimately saves you money on groceries!

Stock Up on Hardy Winter Squash and Pumpkins for the Best Recipes

It’s nearly the end of the Fall Harvest, and as farmer’s markets and produce stands are winding down along the East Coast and Midwest, it’s time to stock up for the winter.

Buy Hardy Winter Squash Varieties that Will Last Throughout Winter

Squash – there are still several varieties of squashes available. Look for the mature varieties of

  • Acorn
  • Butternut
  • Buttercup
  • Delicata
  • Hubbard
  • Pumpkins (sugar or pie)
  • Turban
  • Spaghetti
Types of Winter Squash

Pumpkins and winter squash (over 40 varieties are available) are stocked full of vitamins and provide a healthy dose of  beta carotene antioxidants to fight off winter flu bugs. Squash and pumpkins also contain Vitamin C, Iron and riboflavin along with the benefits of being low in calories, but high in fiber. Weight conscious people will also appreciate that these orange veggies are cholestrol and fat-free.

Unlike yellow squash, zucchini and other types of summer squash, the hardier winter squash can be kept for 2 to 4 months if stored correctly, and if bought directly from the field.

Start stocking up and saving for the winter months ahead with these delicious recipes, you will enjoy the hearty flavors of pumpkin and squash soup that these recipes provide.

How to Cook Winter Squash

Butternut Squash and Pumpkin Soup

Delicata Squash Stuffed with Wild Mushrooms and Herbs

Flavorful Vegan Roasted Red Pepper Tomato Soup Recipe

Now that you have selected the most colorful and vibrant fresh veggies from your local Ohio farmer’s markets and roadside stands, it’s time to make a batch of soup for those upcoming cool fall evenings.

Savor the Flavor of Fall with a Robust & Spicy Roasted Pepper-Tomato Soup

Now that you have selected the most colorful and vibrant fresh veggies from your local Ohio farmer’s markets and roadside stands, it’s time to make a batch of soup for those upcoming cool fall evenings.

I found this delicious vegan recipe for Red Pepper-Carrot soup (I subbed fresh roma tomatoes for the carrots) from Vegetarian Times (Feb. 2010). Try this flavorful and spicy soup when the weather gets chilly in the evenings. I recommend buying or baking a hearty loaf of crusty French or Italian bread for dipping too.

Ingredients:
2 large red (yellow and orange do well too) bell peppers (1#), plus slices for garnish
2 T. olive oil
1/2 t. curry powder
1 bay leaf
1 large onion, sliced
1 pound Roma tomatoes, without skins and seeds (dip in boiling water for about 45 seconds; allow to cool slightly, then peel off skins & squeeze out seeds)
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp salt, more as needed to taste (garlic salt works well too, more to suit your taste)
2 T lemon juice (or sub white vinegar)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place bell peppers on baking sheet, and roast 1 hour, or until skin is wrinkled and blackened all over, turning peppers occasionally with tongs.

2. Transfer peppers to bowl, and cover with plastic wrap (or paper towels) for 10 minutes to steam. When peppers are cool enough to handle, rub off blackened peel, and remove seeds.

3. Heat oil in 2 qt. saucepan over medium heat. Add curry powder and bay leaf, and stir 10 seconds. Add onion,  (carrots) garlic and salt. Cover and cook 10 minutes, or until onion is translucent.

4. Add 4 cups water, skinned & seeded tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, covered for 25 minutes.

5. Transfer carrot or tomato mixture to blender, add bell peppers, and puree until smooth (I actually like it a little chunky, like salsa). Stir in lemon juice.

6. Ladle into bowls, and garnish with remaining bell pepper slices, if using.

Additional toppings may include shredded Parmesan or Romano cheese, croutons, sour cream or cream cheese (for non-Vegans) and sliced crusty French or Italian bread.

Let me know what you think of this zesty soup and additional ingredients you used or substituted too!

Seasonal Produce at Ohio’s Farmer’s Markets – Sept. to October

What produce should be stocking up on now for the winter? Here’s a list of available veggies and fruit you should buy from your local farmer’s markets and roadside produce stands.

Welcome to Autumn! Today is the first day of Fall, and if you’re in the Mid-west to East Coast, you’ll notice the leaves are turning colors and although the weather may still be warm, it’s still a great time to stock up on all the delicious produce that’s available late September to early October.

What produce should be stocking up on now for the winter? Here’s a list of available veggies and fruit you should buy from your local farmer’s markets and roadside produce stands:
Apples
Broccoli
Cabbage
Cauliflower
Corn
Eggplant
Grapes
Lima Beans
Okra
Onions
Potatoes
Pumpkins
Tomatoes

Mmmmm….these look and taste soo good when you can buy them fresh out of the garden or fields. I’m also still picking red, yellow and green peppers from roadside produce stands.

I have a delicious recipe for Red Pepper-Tomato soup as well. Look for this in my next post!

Enjoying Ohio Grown Peaches

Enjoy the succulent & sweet taste of Ohio grown peaches - ready to be picked now!

Evidently it’s the season for peaches in Ohio because many of the peach trees are full of this ripe juicy fruit.

If you’re somewhere between Connecticut and Illinois, I recommend buying Ohio grown peaches at your nearest local market or roadside stand because these fuzzy fruits are the best! We have several peach trees where I work in the suburbs, and I just had to taste these hand-sized peaches right off the tree (no pesticides are used here).

I was quite surprised to find that these little delicacies had white flesh instead of the popular golden yellow, but these Ohio grown peaches were ever so sweet and juicy just the same! I reached as high as I could to get the ones that looked to be most ripe, and gave just a little when squeezed.

According to the OSU Extension website, “Approximately 1000 acres of peach orchards are grown in Ohio, with over 75 percent of the crop being grown in north central, northeast and central Ohio.” Just 15 years ago, Ohio wasn’t even in the ranks for the top producing peach states, but now it is ranked at least 17th, and I’m sure it’s even higher in 2010. It seems like this buckeye state is a hidden gem for homegrown peaches. Watch out Georgia!

Want to have your own Ohio homegrown peaches? You can and the maturity rate is much less than apple trees. Follow this Garden Guide for growing Ohio peach trees. If the weather is good, you’ll have succulent peaches for canning, baking and fresh picking within just a couple years.

Slim Pickins’ for Raspberries this Year in Ohio

Early crop of black raspberries yields less this year. Photo courtesy of Plowcreek.org

Red, black, purple, mid-season, late-season, small, plump, sweet or tart, I love them all – raspberries that is. I’ve been watching the wild raspberry bushes along the forest’s edge every day as I walk my dog.

First, the tiny white flowers filled the hanging thorny bushes, then the small green buds appeared that eventually gained in size and started turning red just a couple weeks ago. And just today, I noticed that these same bushes that were so full of those tiny white flowers, now had several black raspberries; however, they were not very big. The bushes didn’t look so full anymore either. Usually the birds pick at these thorny raspberry vines, but I didn’t find any trace of birds on these plants.

I was under the impression that raspberries weren’t ready until late August or September in Ohio; however, an article on Cleveland.com, stated they came early this year as much as two weeks. Since the weather here in Northeastern Ohio has been hot and humid for most of July, the conditions prompted an early picking, but the usually plump fruit has yielded smaller crops and less on the vines.

I still stopped to pick what I could, while my dog was pulling me the other way. A handful of dainty sweet plump and a few tart ones too didn’t last to the end of our walk. They wouldv’e been good in my yogurt or on top of my oatmeal. Next time, I’ll bring a basket or covered container, and let the dog run in the dog park.

Here are a few places to pick your own raspberries in Ohio, and oh there is a second crop that will be ready in August, so mark your calendars to go again. Be sure to enjoy some while the raspberries are fresh and save some for later by freezing or canning them. I’ll look forward to fresh fruit when there’s 3 feet of snow on the ground and I don’t feel like going grocery shopping!

Pick Your Own Raspberries in Ohio

Rosby’s Greenhouse and Berry Farm: 42 E. Schaaf Road, Brooklyn Heights,  216-661-6102. Red raspberries in August.

Rainbow Farms: 2464 Townline Road, Madison, 440-259-4924. Small crop of black and red raspberries.

Baumhart Road Berry Farm: 2200 Baumhart Road, Vermilion, half-mile south of Ohio 2, 440-984-0141, call before you go to check on what berries are available.

Seville Berry Farm: 8925 Guilford Road, Seville, 330-335-3575. Black raspberries ready now, red raspberries in fall. Call before you go.

Greenfield Berry Farm: 2485 Major Road, Peninsula, 330-657-2924 or 330-322-4626. Limited availability, have to call for an appt. Certified naturally grown summer black raspberries and fall red raspberries.

Other locations to pick your own raspberries as well as other types of berries and fresh fruits can be found on PickYourOwn.org – great resource! Enjoy your raspberries while you can because they’re gone, you have to wait another year to get them fresh again!