In this season of Thanksgiving, Bethany and Micah are on my list.
Last September, our Master Gardener group took a tour of their Plowshare Produce in McAlevys Fort.
What we saw were rows and rows of some of the most beautiful vegetables I have ever seen stretching over three acres. Micah showed us their hoop houses and fields. Nearby, sheep grazed on the rest of the farm. Bethany talked about how they met in Washington, D.C., she working as a farm and food advocate, he working in a soup kitchen. They spent two years in a farm apprenticeship and then decided to come back to her family’s 60-Acre farm in Huntingdon County to raise a family and farm the land.
They’ve had the CSA for eight years and the pleasure of being able to raise their two sons there while earning a living. A CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm sells seasonal shares, you pay upfront, they use the money to buy seeds and other supplies, and each week, or two, shareholders get a portion of the harvest.
Bethany showed us a sample of a share basket. As she was talking, toddler Daniel couldn’t resist. He grasped a Hakurei turnip in his tiny hand and took several bites. Then, he switched course and started on a red bell pepper. What an advertisement! Bethany smiled and didn’t skip a beat as she talked about the email newsletter they write, the seeding charts that enable them to grow a rotation of 50 types of vegetables, and their successes and failures in the field.
A few days later, I emailed Bethany and asked to be included on her email newsletter list, even though I wasn’t a member of the CSA. No problem, she said. So for several weeks I read about the boys splashing in Stone Creek, the steam that runs through their farm, looking for crayfish. She wrote about the abundance of the fields, bursting with goodness. Of Micah working into the evening light, growing weary from harvesting 50 bushels of frost-sweetened carrots. I got swept up in the poetry of the farm and rural living, and got a chuckle when she talked about the valley’s hard frost…”good riddance, galinsoga.” (Bethany and I share distain for the annual weed that torments vegetable gardens.)
The newsletter also shares how-to storage and prep tips for under utilized vegetables such as rutabaga and parsnip, and gives operating instructions for vegetables you have never tried, such as Watermelon Radishes. Bethany suggests peeling their skin, cutting them into thin round slices and then cutting the slices in half to see why they’re called watermelon radishes—they are bright magenta on the inside and pale green on the outside. And, she features several recipes. One I’m saving for next August is called Farmer Mike’s Zucchini Crabcakes.
Then, I got the issue featuring their Winter Share program. Every two weeks, from mid-November through January, they deliver their CSA produce to several locations, including a Mennonite church about two miles from our home. I’ve always avoided CSAs because I still grow so much in my garden throughout the season…but a winter share would be perfect for us when all I have in the ground are shallots and garlic buried under a blanket of leaves snoozing until spring, and a few pots of herbs.
Ta-da-ta-da, our first Plowshare Produce cornucopia! I couldn’t resist taking a photograph of our Plowshare Food Pyramid—well, more of a swag, the rounded sides of turnips and beets and watermelon radishes don’t make for easy stacking…
Besides the wholesome goodness that filled two refrigerator vegetable bins and a cool storage area in the garage, we’re set for Thanksgiving. My chef-phew Wille is coming up from Washington, D.C., with a heritage turkey he plans to roast in Nonno’s outdoor pizza oven, and I just can’t wait to see what he does with our Plowshare. Happy Thanksgiving! Laurie Lynch
A Recipe for Now:
Beet Salad with Caramelized Onions and Feta
(from Mama’s Minutia)
4 cups boiled or roasted beets, cubed
2 large onions
3 oz. feta cheese
¼ cup toasted pine nuts
2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
¾ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
5 tbsp. olive oil
While the beets are cooking, cut onions into thin slices, then quarter the stack of slices. Heat some olive oil and add onions, sprinkle with salt, and stir on medium high heat until they start to blacken. Turn the heat to low and continue to cook for 30 minutes until the onions are caramelized. Mix dressing ingredients from vinegar to oil, toss the beets with the dressing and sprinkle with the onions, feta and pine nuts.
Stocking Up: My mother and I had a wonderful treat this week. A chipmunk was helping himself to the orange berries from an espaliered Pyracantha shrub above our deck. (He’s braver than I. There’s a reason Pyracantha’s common name is “firethorn” as I found out one year pruning it and ending up with a painful rash on my arms.) Anyway, this little guy was comical as he climbed the branches and stuffed his cheek pouches with berries. Sometimes he disappeared, probably stashing his harvest in his little den. Then he’d return for more and gobble them down right in front of our picture window.
Written on Slate: “Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-times take twelve minutes. This is not coincidence.” Erma Bombeck