It’s Father’s Day so I got a chance to do one of my favorite things: cook! I love doing bulk cooking on Sundays with what I’ve gotten in my Harvie share from Rivendale Farms and had doubled up my order of pearl onions and chard this week to cook a big pot of beans. That’s the best thing for me about Harvie. The meal-planning aspect! Instead of figuring out what to do with 9 different things, I’ll narrow my choices to fit my narrow window of opportunity. So, let’s set to it.
First thing I did was cut up those pearl onions. But they were so beautiful whole, I couldn’t bring myself to chop them fine. Instead I figured I’d try quartering them. Because they’re going to get slow cooked and pearl onions taste good boiled whole I figured this could be a good compromise. Then, I got to the chard. One reason why I often swap kale for chard is that I don’t have any use for the kale stems but chard stems make a great soup base. I rip the leaves from the stems and then chop the stems up fine. At this point I get out the crock pot and fill the bottom with olive oil. Then I throw in the onions and chard stems to coat and get the flavor started.
While that’s going on, I go down to the pantry to select a bag of beans. We make regular orders to Rancho Gordo in California. I know it’s not local but these beans are amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever had even a single bad bean, much less a batch. I picked out some Goat’s Eye beans which are one of my standbys. You still have to rinse them up but I never presoak them. They are so good they don’t need it. Then, partly because it saves on counter space and partly because I enjoy the act, I rip up the chard leaves with my hands rather than chopping.
Next, I pour the soaked beans into the crockpot and mix them around with the savory veggies. I pour enough water over top to cover by about 2 inches. I never measure how much this is. Sorry. This is also the point where any bad beans will float up to the top and say, “I’m a bad bean. Get me out.” None floated up of course.
Last, I take the torn chard leaves and pile them on top. These are great for weighing down the beans and keeping them submerged so they’ll cook well. Then, just lid it and quit it! “Hey, where’s the salt, dude?” you might ask. That’s the trick to good dried beans. NO SALT until the very end. Otherwise they’ll harden on the outside.
After maybe half an hour after the chard has steamed down to a manageable pile I’ll submerge the leaves around the edge of the crockpot so they’re not burning to the sides of the crock pot. After a few hours I’ll check the level of the water but otherwise just leave everything alone. In maybe another hour more I’ll test a bean. If it’s tender, then at this point I’ll add some salt and turn the beans down to warm until dinner time. We might serve with rice or bread or pasta. Meals for the week!
This particular day my wife had reminded me that we had some vegan chorizo that should have been eaten a few days earlier. So instead of spicing up the beans, I just browned the chorizo and let the beans mellow out the flavor and serve with chips.
I’d like to say I then enjoyed my Father’s Day gifts of the new release of the Who Live at the Fillmore East with some Dewars on the rocks after I got the kids to sleep but instead just passed out myself as soon as they were down. Real talk, right??
Buying a farm share from a Harvie farmer is a great first step to culinary adventures and eating healthier, but now you need to take that beautiful, farm-fresh produce out of the box or bag and put it to good use in your kitchen!
Our philosophy at Harvie is that cooking is not about intimidating recipes and elaborate meals. Our obsessions with food TV like “Iron Chef” and “Chopped” make us feel like only the professionals can make food taste good. False. You can do this. Any chef knows that the ingredients make the dish – whether it’s a simple omelette or beef wellington. The point is, the quality of ingredients matter more than the number of ingredients and in your Harvie farm share you have the best ingredients!
Each week Harvie provides recipes and cooking ideas (look at the bottom of your emails) based on what your farmer grew for you that week. However, even more important is to get in the right mindset.
Here is Harvie’s Cooking Philosophy:
Fresh, high-quality ingredients from your local farmer is a great start for a simple and healthy meal
Every great meal, no matter how simple or complex, starts with high-quality ingredients. I find the joy of cooking is turning simple foods into something incredible. A simple omelette using farm-fresh eggs, spring asparagus and local goat cheese isn’t out of your reach: it’s exactly the way nature intended us to eat.
Back to Basics
Food should not be complicated. Taking a minimalist approach to preparations and recipes not only saves you time and your sanity, it allows the taste of the food to shine through. Don’t worry about making an Indian curry with 9 different spices (unless you want to!).
For example, with my first farm share of the season from Rivendale Farm in the Pittsburgh, PA area, I cooked up my kale as a simple stir fry and served it over rice noodles.
Helpful hint: Stir-fry of any kind is a simple way to use up veggies you have on hand. The right sauce makes the dish. Here is a staff favorite for homemade stir-fry sauce.
Learning how to substitute different vegetables or make variations of the same recipes to achieve different results is a way to keep your taste buds happy and your food waste low. In the stir-fry example, you could substitute swiss chard or spinach for the kale, and swap out rice noodles for cauliflower rice, brown rice, or soba noodles.
Learn techniques over recipes
As you start cooking more, you’ll become more comfortable with going off the script of a recipe. Learn some simple preparations and techniques like how to make a salad dressing or how to make vegetable soup, then these techniques can be applied to anything you have in your refrigerator. Be creative, it’s OK to fail.
Helpful Hint: Coming in July, Harvie is teaming up with Cook With What You Have to bring you a monthly lesson in basic kitchen techniques.
Embrace leftovers, cook ahead
Cook, wash, and prepare in bulk when you have time and put the leftovers in the refrigerator. For example, when I get my lettuce home from my farm share, I immediately wash a big bowl of lettuce and put that in my refrigerator and then every time it is time for a meal, I have lettuce ready to eat. This means I eat a lot more lettuce because it is convenient and ready to go.
Slow down and enjoy the physical act of cooking. So many of us work in front of computers all day moving around 1s and 0s in digital space, but with cooking we have an opportunity to feel the food, to hear the sizzle of an onion, and the percussive pleasure of chopping a carrot. Take a little time to reflect on that carrot: it was grown in a particular field, on your farmer’s farm, weeded, watered, harvested, and washed by a person and delivered to you. Each carrot ties us to the land and the farm and the earth. Cooking is a moment to slow down and enjoy these connections and the timeless art of nourishing our bodies. It’s not a chore, it is one of life’s pleasures.
If you really don’t like something, don’t get it
For me, it’s beets. I want to like to beets, I really do. And everyone tells me that I will love them if I just figure out how to cook them. I’ve tried everything and I still don’t like beets. That’s OK, I simply mark my beets as a “0” in my preferences in Harvie and I’ll get more of something else I do like.
So, get out there and cook!
Are you having trouble with a particular item in your share? Send me an email back and I’ll try to help!
Did you cook something delicious with your Harvie farm share? Post your photo on social media tagged with #harviefarms or @harviefarms and send me a link!
In the coming weeks, we will open a Harvie member community on Facebook to allow you to share your creations and help you when you are stuck, so look out for an email on that soon.
By Julie Inman, Harvie Sales and Implementation Specialist
If you are growing chives or getting them in your farm share or CSA in the spring, you will start to see these beautiful, purple, ball-shaped flowers emerge from the middle of the plant called chive blossoms. Ever wonder what you can do with them? One great idea is to infuse them to create a tangy, onion flavored vinegar!
The ingredients are simple! All you need is:
1 1/2 cups champagne or white wine vinegar
2 1/2 cups chive blossoms, snipped right beneath the head
Glass pint jar
Lets get started!
Plunge the flowers in a bowl of cold water and gently swirl them around to shake off any dirt and bugs that may have found their way deep into the blossom. Toss them into a colander and shake off the excess water.
Heat the vinegar in a small saucepan over low heat until just warm, but don’t let it boil. The warm vinegar will coach the subtle flavor out of the blossoms.
Stuff the pint jar with the blooms.
Pour the warm vinegar into the jar to submerge the blossoms. Push the blooms down until they soak up all the vinegar and don’t float to the top.
Let the vinegar cool. If you have a pint jar with a glass hinged lid, then seal the jar. If you have a metal lid, place a piece of parchment paper in between the jar opening and the lid and then seal it. That way, the vinegar won’t erode the metal lid.
Allow the vinegar to steep in a dark, cool spot for about 1 – 2 weeks.
Taste the brew to see if you are satisfied with the flavor. When you are ready, strain the blossoms and toss them. Pour the vinegar into your favorite, glass bottle with a rubber stopper and display prominently. Enjoy the beauty too!
Be sure to stay tuned to our blog for many more features on seasonal food ideas!
What is Harvie? It’s an online platform that connects local consumers to local farmers through a customer-friendly CSA / farm share model, including customized shares, payment plans, a Cooking Suggestion Engine and more! We want you to love your farm so your farmer can build a thriving business that takes care of the farm family, their employees, and their land. It’s been a long journey for me to get to this point: the story of why I created Harvie started almost 13 years ago.
In 2005, I helped a fruit farmer in western Colorado start a CSA / farm share program.
(CSA or Community Supported Agriculture refers to a model where local consumers buy a membership in a local farm and get deliveries of produce from that farm throughout the growing season. Harvie is based on the CSA model. For the rest of this article, I will refer to this concept as “farm share.”)
Thomas, the farm owner, was inspired at the Tierra Madre conference in Italy to start a farm share. With some good local connections, we got a story in the newspaper and the local TV station came out to do a segment. In a few weeks, we had over 100 families in the area signed up and we were up and running!
The community was hungry for fresh, local, and tasty fruits and vegetables. The appeal is obvious: get just-picked fruits and vegetables directly from a local farmer who you know and trust. There is no better way to eat seasonally and ensure that your kitchen is always stocked with high-quality delicious food.
For me, as an aspiring farmer, the appeal was obvious too.
I grew up on a small farm in southwestern Pennsylvania and all the farmers I knew had off-farm jobs as coal miners or teachers. It was clear to me as I learned more about sustainable agriculture that it is not a part-time job. To really steward the land and grow a thriving farm business takes 100% commitment which is difficult while juggling off-farm employment. In farm share, I saw a path for farmers to be full-time farmers.
In 2006, after two seasons spent on the farm in western Colorado, I started my company, Small Farm Central, based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania joining my passion for developing technology products with my passion and experience in agriculture. In the intervening 12 years, we have served 1000s of farmers with our technology products that help farms directly connect with their customers.
In those years, farm share programs grew dramatically across the US and Canada. In 2015, there were an estimated 5,000-7,000 CSA farms in the United States alone. This model was becoming an integral part of keeping small and medium-scale farms in business.
Everything looked rosy through 2012 and 2013. Farms were able to grow their membership and replace the members they lost. However, around that time I started to hear rumblings of trouble from certain farms that never had trouble filling their membership and growing each year — they were losing members year-over-year. We released a report based on farms using our software that showed the retention rates of farm share programs was 50%.
Clearly there was a problem. Members were joining their local farm and then not sticking with it. Why were members leaving? In 2015, I started to take the problem seriously because I realized if I didn’t figure out a solution to the problems my farmers were facing, I was going to be out of business too!
First off, the food buying landscape had really changed since I worked at Rancho Durazno in the mid 2000s. The consumer demand for local food had changed the marketplace. There were a lot more farmers markets than ever before. Whole Foods had stores around the country. Local grocery stores were touting their local produce. Meal kit delivery services like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh were big news. Smartphones and apps had become ubiquitous. Two day shipping from Amazon Prime was becoming the expectation.
I spent time with the research papers on farm shares that came out of universities, I did large scale surveys with current and former farm share members, and had 1-on-1 long form interviews with members. I talk about my findings in-dept in “CSA: We Have a Path Forward”, if you are interested in more detail from the farmer perspective.
I was trying to find solutions. My idea was that to help the farmers I work with, farm shares had to better fit into people’s lives.
In my research, some common barriers to farm share membership came up repeatedly:
Too much food / wrong kinds of food / food waste
Almost all farm share programs use a standard share model where each member gets the same items in their box. However, none of us are “standard”. We all have likes and dislikes. If you don’t like beets (for example) and you get beets in your share, then you are either forcing yourself to eat the beets, giving them away to a friend, or throwing them away. All of these are bad experiences and I don’t blame you for leaving a farm share program because of this!
Shares from Harvie farms are customized based on your preferences and even allows you to swap items in and out of your box and purchase extras if you like! We have developed a system that makes this easy on the farmer, in the past this providing customized boxes was too logistically complicated to be viable.
Many farm share programs require paying the seasonal balance of the share up-front because this gives the farm capital to buy seeds, start field work, and get through the months before harvest actually starts. However, this high up-front payment is difficult for many families to afford.
Harvie allows you to purchase a share for 25% down and the rest of the cost is spread out over the season to keep the up-front commitment as low as possible. This a good compromise between giving the farmer some capital to start the season and member budgeting needs.
Figuring out what to cook is challenging
Cooking should be fun and simple, but we live in this fast-paced world with long hours at work, hectic child activity schedules, and everyone is begging for more of our time. It is difficult to carve out the time to focus on cooking and if you buy a farm share, you will need to do a little cooking!
Harvie’s Cooking Suggestion Engine provides storage tips, simple preparation techniques, and easy-to-cook recipes delivered by email based on the contents of your share each week so you can cook with confidence! The great news is with fresh, delicious ingredients that start with, it’s easy to be a good cook.
Changes expectations around technology
Members expect to sign up online, pay with a credit card, get regular emails related to their share, maybe even use a mobile app to communicate their preferences with their farmer.
Harvie farms sign-up is online, accepts credit cards and more is coming in the future. For example, we’ll send you a text message when your share is delivered and a native mobile app for Android and iOS is coming this year.
Vacations / schedules
When members go on vacation or cannot pick up their share for any reason, in a classic farm share program the member simply misses out on that week. That is not a good member experience and many people leave or do not join because they cannot commit to be at the pickup site each week.
Harvie allows members to move their delivery schedule around vacations or place shares on hold. Also more complex delivery schedules like every-other-week are available for members who travel more often or don’t need as much food.
With these barriers in mind, my team and I started development of Harvie in late 2016.
In the 2017 growing season, Harvie farmers delivered 7,000 shares. In 2018, we are growing quickly with over 100,000 deliveries scheduled and it is only May! Our farmers are selling out of shares early and increasing their retention rates. This keeps them in business so they can steward their land, take care of their employees, take care of their families, and keep growing food for you.
Clearly, there is still a hunger for accessing fresh and local food and I believe that farm share is the best way to do that for both farmers and consumers. Harvie aims to make it easier to be in one of these programs, we want you to love your farm share.
In addition, when you buy a share from a Harvie farmer you can be sure you are buying from a real local farmer (at least 75% of the share must be grown on the farm) and the farmer has the experience and infrastructure to deliver a quality share to you each delivery of the growing season. If you ever have any issues with your share, reach out to Harvie support or your farmer and we’ll make it right.
Not only are you getting the highest quality local food in your kitchen each delivery, this is a purchase you can feel good about. The USDA just released their most recent “Farmer’s Share of Dollar” report which looks at the amount a farmer is paid for each $1 spent at a grocery store. It reached an all-time low this month of 7.8 cents of each dollar. With Harvie, 100% of your dollar goes directly to the farm.
Our mission at Harvie is two-fold: to bring you local food as conveniently as possible so you continue to buy from your local farm. Your purchases help us fulfill our second mission, to keep small and medium scale local farms in business.