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North Shore CSA newsletter

News from Melissa Dimond, North Shore Director

This week marks the halfway point for the CSA season, and as such seems like a good time to reflect on where we've been and where we're going. I have had the opportunity to speak with many members this season - in person, by phone, and via email. So many of you have expressed the excitement and joy that comes with picking up your weekly shares. And many people have asked why the volume of food is smaller than they expected.

A Season Like No Other

It's been a season of extremes, and I cannot thank you enough for your support. The sustained rain in June hit at precisely the worst time - causing disease and crop failure on local farms all over the area, including The Food Project's land in Ipswich & Beverly. We are still feeling the effects of the crop and seedling loss in June and July.

We know from our own experience farming and running a CSA program (in Lincoln) for nearly 20 years that we have not seen anything like this before. And our colleagues on other local farms have the same message. It's unprecedented.

Why CSA's Are So Important

This season has tested our resolve here at The Food Project. We spend the better part of a year preparing for the harvests that feed our community. Nothing is more important to us than making sure that CSA members, farmers' market customers, and our hunger relief partners get the food they need and want. And for the first time since we opened operations on the North Shore in 2004, there is simply not enough food in the fields for us to meet our own projections the way we always have.

We know from the U-Mass Extension service that harvest yields across the state are currently 40% or less of what is typical at this time of year. The same is true for The Food Project. The Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model is one in which members pledge their support to a local farm up-front at the beginning of the season, thereby sharing the risk with the farmer. In a typical or even less-than-lucky year, members receive a bounty of food. It's not always the variety that we all wish for, but it's usually a great deal of food nonetheless. This year has been different. This season, your support as CSA members is more important than ever so that we can keep going for years to come.

What's in Store for the Next Half of the Season

One characteristic that is always true of the people at The Food Project -- adults and youth alike -- is resourcefulness. We have been planning and working hard behind the scenes to end the CSA season as positively as possible.

We are grateful that the variety on The Food Project's land remains steady.
Thus far, we have continued to have a good variety of greens, herbs, root vegetables, garlic, onions, & squash. This past week, we started harvesting tomatoes and peppers in enough quantities for the CSA boxes. Many local farms have lost their tomatoes and potatoes entirely to late blight, and we are grateful to be harvesting what we can.

Fruit is coming

Thanks to a relationship with a fruit grower in Lincoln, we will be providing peaches, pears and apples to all CSA members, at no additional charge. While most farms bill separately for "fruit shares", we will be including peaches and apples in the weekly boxes for everyone in order to help compensate for smaller yields earlier in the season. While this fruit is not organic, it is locally grown, and will be picked by us and distributed as part of your share as fresh as can be.

There's a lot in the ground. Pray for sun

I am happy to report that the fields are planted with many new batches of seedlings. With a good deal of sun and sustained warm weather, September and October could be our very best months. They often are in New England.

Join us for a gathering on the land

This season, we have had a team of 12 stellar Agriculture and Farmers' Market Interns. They are eager to meet you. I have been talking with one of the educators at The Trustees of Reservations' Long Hill property (the site of The Food Project's Beverly farm) to co-host a family gathering one or two Saturdays in September/October. This will be a time when CSA members 10 years and older are invited to volunteer in the field, younger children are invited to participate in age appropriate activities in the children's garden and adjacent trails, and everyone will come together for a potluck lunch.

Stay tuned for more details coming soon. This will be a great opportunity to experience the land, meet youth from The Food Project, and get to know fellow CSA members.

Thank you, again, for being a part of The Food Project community. Please do not hesitate to call or email me with questions or comments:

-- Melissa Dimond


Recipe of the Week -- Swiss Chard or Zucchini Pie

1 9-inch pie crust - fresh or frozen
1 bunch Swiss chard, leaves and stems separated, OR 1 cup shredded zucchini
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 eggs
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. Set the oven at 375 degrees. Line the pie shell with foil, pressing it firmly into the edges of the shell. Fill with baking beans.

2. Bake the shell for 15 minutes, or until the base is pale golden. Set it aside to cool; lift out the foil and beans. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees. Let the shell cool.

3. Coarsely chop the Swiss chard leaves and set aside; finely chop the stems. OR clean and shred the zucchini and set aside.

4. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the chard leaves, stirring constantly, until they wilt. Turn up the heat and cook, stirring, until the excess liquid in the pan evaporates. Transfer the leaves to a plate. [for zucchini pie, skip this step and go directly to #5]

5. Add the oil to the pan. When it is hot, add the onion, garlic, and chard stems OR shredded zucchini. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes or until stems (or zucchini) and onions are tender. Stir in the chard leaves. Transfer to the pie shell. Set the shell on a rimmed baking sheet.

6. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, salt, pepper, and Parmesan. Pour into the shell. With a fork, gently press the chard (or zucchini) mixture into the egg mixture.

7. Bake for 30 minutes or until the custard is just set in the center.

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