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This Weeklyish is all about community.  And lentils and naan.  First, Chad gets to participate in a community of experts, to serve a community of farmers and growers.  And you can join, too!  Next, we take a look at Community Supported Agriculture, because this is CSA week.  Then, we explore the last of the eight forms of capital, Cultural Capital, which can only be formed and held by a community.   Finally, we wrap things up with a recipe that is best enjoyed together with your community.  Join us!

Order Deadlines

Delivery Option     Deadline
Home delivery | Thursday     Tuesday, 10pm*
Pickup @ Culver Farmers' Market | Saturday     Thursday, 10pm
*Sourdough orders for delivery require an additional 24 hours
Shop Now

Join us Tonight!

(photo credit: Certified Naturally Grown) If you've been following along on social media, you probably know that I've been selected as part of the expert cohort for Certified Naturally Grown's Film SEEDS professional development offering for farmers.  I've participated in the previous two sessions, as well as behind-the-scenes preparation. But, if you've been waiting to see me live, in the Zoom-flesh, and more prominent, tonight is the night!

I'm honored to join Gwendolyn Washington of Phoenix Gardens in Atlanta, GA, and Rebekah Rice of Nine Mile Farm in Delmar, NY.  Together, we represent a huge diversity in farm sizes, crops, farming techniques, climates, soils, and pest experience. We have way more to say than time to say it in.  It should be a lively, entertaining, and informative time!

If you'd like to learn more about controlling pests without toxins and synthetic chemicals, or any of the many remaining topics, it's not too late to register for Film SEEDS. You'll get access to recordings of the sessions you missed, as well as the opportunity to ask the experts your questions in the remaining sessions.  It's a rare opportunity to collaborate and learn from farmers from all across the continent (and Hawaii and Puerto Rico, so far!), in real time. Add in the breakout rooms and the optional "post-game hangout," which many of the experts from all of the sessions stay for, and it becomes an educational and entertainment bargain you're unlikely to match!

CSA Week

(photo credit: CSA Innovation Network) In the United States, more shares in CSAs are purchased in the last week of February than any other time.  So, we celebrate National CSA Week this week.

CSA is an acronym for Community Supported Agriculture.  It is a movement born in Japan of the 1960's, where it was known as Teikei. Several mothers were concerned with the limited availability of local, organic food at an affordable price.  Unable to find any other solution, the group joined together to purchase some land and hire a farmer, then shared in the labor, the risk, and the produce of the farm.

The idea spread to Europe, where it evolved further, and from Switzerland and Germany it immigrated to the Northeastern US.  There, the model thrived and evolved, before spreading to upper Canada and the Madison, Wisconsin area in the 1980's.  It grew more prominent nation-wide in the early 2000's. 

In the traditional CSA model in the US, members purchase a share of a farm's produce before the growing season begins, then receive a periodic, usually weekly, box of the farm's production throughout the growing season.  Members gain secure access to high quality, fresh, nutritious food at better pricing than they could otherwise get.  Farmers get income during the time of year most of their expenses occur, as well as a guaranteed outlet for the production of their farm.  Both share in the risk and rewards: An early, warm spring with no late freezes means extra strawberries for everyone, though no extra income for the farmer.  A July hailstorm means fewer tomatoes for everyone, but the farmer does not lose his livelihood. 

And, a community grows around the farm: more than just customers, CSA patrons are Members of Their Farm.  CSA members have a direct connection with their farm, building personal connections with other members, the farmer, and the entirety of the community around that farm.  Members therefore have a greater influence on the farm and its operations than customers.

Today, CSA's come in a dizzying array of variations.  Some offer the original model of a fixed selection of produce each week.  Some offer various "subscriptions," whereby members can start with a seasonal veggie subscription, then add a salad subscription, an egg subscription, a flower subscription, a meat subscription - I've even seen a wool subscription and a recreational time fishing on the farm pond subscription.  Some offer "work shares," where all or part of a CSA subscription can be paid for with work on the farm.  Some require all members work.  Others do not allow any member work on the farm.  Some offer trading and "swap tables," where members can trade items they don't prefer for those they do with other members.  Some are fully customizable, either offering a set dollar figure that can be spent in any way a member chooses at the farmers' market, or allowing members to make edits to a pre-designed share online, before it is packed.  Some even use artificial intelligence to build custom boxes each week based on the member's food preferences and the available items on the farm, which members can then edit to further "educate" the AI!

We began Hole in the Woods Farm as a CSA farm, allocating 60% of our production to a traditional CSA.  This model did not work out well for us at the beginning.  We were a bit "ahead of the curve" for our area, with few people ever hearing of the idea, let alone being comfortable with paying for food in advance.  And, the demands placed on the farmer, to have a wide and ever-changing variety of produce every single week, is a real challenge on a new farm or for a new farmer.  We stopped the CSA when we began to actively increase the scale of our production, in 2014.

However, recent events have made CSAs leap in popularity around the nation.  Many CSAs now have multi-year waiting lists.  We are also much more secure in our production systems, and so better able to support the constant need for a wide variety of items.  We've also added home delivery to our options, and the combination of CSA and home delivery makes a lot of sense.  So, we are considering bringing CSA back to the farm in some form in the near future.  It is primarily a factor of technology cost: the software to manage a CSA with the kind of member support we would hope to provide, without an unsustainable increase in management work needed to do so, at a price both the farm and members could afford.

What do you think?  Are you a member of a CSA?  Would you like to be?  Is there one even available in your area?  Let us know your thoughts.  We'd love to know what you think as we contemplate a return of the model here.

Cultural Capital

We've reached the end of our look at the eight forms of capital, an important part of our annual review.  If you're just tuning in, or have been ignoring our annual review series in previous weeks, please check the December 28 Weeklyish for a description of the process, and the eight forms of capital.

I intentionally saved cultural capital for last, and placed it in the center of our graphic, because it has always been a prime motivator for our farm.  It is also unique among the eight forms of capital.  The other seven forms of capital can be held or owned by individuals.  As such, whatever our goals may be, they have at their root a basis in scarcity and power imbalance.  Cultural capital, however, can only be gathered and grown by a community of people.  It is rooted in abundance and empathy.

Cultural capital is the shared process and values of a community.  It is the songs we sing, the stories we tell, the rituals we share, the ability to come together in celebration or struggle.  It is impossible to build cultural capital alone: it requires exchanging the other forms of capital among a group of people, be it a town, a region, a country, or a group of people who come together around an activity or set of goals.

From the very beginning, we built our farm with the intention of fostering community.  Long before hearing about the concept of cultural capital, it was at the center of our goals and aims.  I feel we have had uneven success in building this sense of community.  However, it has always remained the essential characteristic behind our goals and dreams, the raison d'etre for our business, and thus something we've always tried to be intentional about fostering.

But here's the challenge: we can't hold it alone.  We build and share it with you, our community.  So, we can't really evaluate where we stand in cultural capital without your help, either.  We need you to tell us: are we a valued part of your community?  What values and rituals do we share?  What are some of your favorite shared stories?  Please let us know via email.  Then we'll be able to consolidate your responses to evaluate our shared cultural capital.

While we're talking about shared values, can we ask a question?  We want to know what is important to you, so we can provide more value, giving more of what's important, and maybe paring back things you don't care about so much.  So, we have a small survey where you can let us know, why do you like Hole in the Woods Farm? We would love it if you would fill it out - it'll only take a couple of minutes.


Lentil Stew with Turnips, Parsnips, and Onion Naan

The continued cold demanded a hearty, warming dinner.  The snow meant sticking with what we had on hand, not really even wanting to go to the walk in cooler and shovel its door out.  And, the pandemic means it's been forever since we've been to an Indian buffet for lunch.  The result?  This hearty lentil stew, inspired by Chana dal, with some hearty root veggies, served alongside onion naan.  Yum!

The Stew

(makes about 4 large bowls, or 8 side-dish servings)
1 lb Red Lentils
1 Turnip, peeled and chopped
1 Parsnip, peeled and chopped
6 C Veggie Stock (could substitute chicken stock, or water)
4 Bay Leaves
1 1/2 tsp Ground Cayenne Pepper
2 tsp Salt
1 Tbsp Turmeric
4" piece of Ginger, peeled and minced, divided
1/4 C Olive Oil
1 Onion, chopped
1 1/2 Tbsp Garam Masala
1 Green Bell Pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
1 15oz can Red Kidney Beans, half of the liquid drained

Put the lentils, turnip, and parsnip in a large pot.  Cover with stock, and bring to a boil.  Skim any froth that forms.

Add bay leaves, cayenne, salt, turmeric, and half of the ginger.  Reduce heat to low, and simmer, partly covered, for about an hour, stirring frequently.

Heat the oil in a small skillet.  Add the onion, remaining ginger, garam masala, and bell pepper.  Saute until the onion begins to brown a little, then add to the lentil pot.  Add the kidney beans, and continue to simmer for another 20-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the:

Onion Naan

(makes 8 pieces)

3 Tbsp Butter, divided  (could substitute oil for a vegan meal)
1 Onion, minced fine
1/2 C warm water
1 teas Salt
1 1/2-2 C Bread Flour

Melt 1 Tbsp butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions, and reduce the heat to very low.  Cover, and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and translucent, but not brown.  Remove them to a small bowl to cool to room temperature.

Melt the rest of the butter, and pour into a large bowl, along with the onions, water, and salt.  Stir, then add the flour, 1/2 C at a time, incorporating fully each time.  At the end, you'll need to do this with your hand.

Dump the dough onto a floured surface, and work into a ball with your fingertips, until the dough becomes slightly firm.  Don't knead: you only want a little gluten to form.

Heat a cast iron skillet over the hottest burner you can find.  While the skillet is heating, divide the dough into 8 pieces, and roll each into a ball.  Roll out each ball into a very thin, approximately 8", round.  If the dough fights  you, move on to the next ball, then return to each in turn for a second (or third) attempt.  The gluten will relax while you're working on the others.

Check the heat of the skillet.  A drop of water should vaporize immediately.  One piece at a time, drop the round into the skillet.  Cook 2-4 minutes on each side, until it begins to brown.  It will brown unevenly with little dots and circles that are darker than others.  This is a good thing!

Use the naan as a scoop for the lentils.  Yum!


Order Deadlines

Delivery Option     Deadline
Home delivery | Thursday     Tuesday, 10pm*
Pickup @ Culver Farmers' Market | Saturday     Thursday, 10pm
*Sourdough orders for delivery require an additional 24 hours
Shop Now
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