Last Thursday I sent an email to my CSA farmer. It was after 8pm. I worked late on my farm share pick up day, for the third week in a row. The pick-up times came and went. My big brown paper bag full of produce sat all alone on the shelf. She would have to go down to the farm stand and put it in the mini-fridge for me, again.
In my email I told her I felt like a farm share failure. I told you and my farmer and myself that if I tried another CSA, I’d commit hardcore to picking up my share on time, every time. How am I doing? Well, I do pick it up. It just takes me two days. What do I deserve? An outright F or like maybe a C+?
Set up for success
All of the elements for success were there. The farm I chose is on my way home from work. My pick-up window is open until 7pm. My local farmer is patient and welcoming.
Yet, we are more than a month in, and I only managed to pick up my share on time twice.
And while I’m confessing
I blew my other rule. The plan was that if I didn’t use the veggies within two days, they’d all go into a Farm Share Soup. For two consecutive weeks, I made delicious batches of soup.
Farm Share Soup is just everything and anything that didn’t get eaten right away thrown into a pot with some chicken or vegetable broth.
If you looked in my fridge today, it’s overflowing with veggies from not one, not two, but three weeks of CSA produce! Oh come on, Tiffany. You just lost that C+.
Accepting sunk costs
Economists teach a concept called sunk costs. You incurred the cost. You can’t do anything about it. What’s done is done. Move on.
Which really means, don’t spend time staring into the rear view mirror.
So, I’m not going to. Instead, I’m going to look forward. What can I do now?
And anyway, what’s the big deal?
Hey, if I go all season and never make another pickup on time, oh well. My farmer isn’t too upset with me. It’s not too late to eat the veggies. They’re all still pretty fresh when I get to them.
A little voice inside me is still annoyed with myself that it’s disrespectful to not follow the rules. I am somewhat inconveniencing my farmer.
But, if I listen to that voice too closely, I’ll quit the farm share all together, just like I did the last time.
Accepting my reality means I can’t just leave work early and tell my boss I’m blowing off some big account to go pick up my CSA produce.
And since I already have my family members picking up my kids, bringing them to sports and camps, it’s not fair to ask them to cover for me on my farm share pick up every week, too.
No, I will just forgive myself and choose to be content with doing the best I can week after week. I will stick with the farm share and not let my guilt force me to quit again, leaving my local farmer with one fewer, albeit imperfect, customer.
Next time you visit a farm stand, try playing a little game. Rank the top five items! You’ll feel more mindful of the freshness of the food. You’ll probably notice a few items you might overlook if you just rush through your visit.
It’s fun! I make a farmstand5 ranking for every stand I visit. Here are the five best things to buy at a quaint, roadside farm stand in New England! Today I poked around the Log Cabin Farm Stand in Eastham, Massachusetts, a little more than half way up Cape Cod.
#5 Fresh (and cheeky) corn on the cob
Yes! Fresh corn season arrived. Notice the cheeky sign above the corn. In New England, we pull off the husks, boil it for about half an hour, then eat it right off the cob. My friends from France always thought it was so funny. Guess they always cut the kernels off first. How do you eat your fresh corn?
#4 Assorted potatoes
Love the colors. What a beautiful potato salad these three kinds of spuds would make! It makes me want to chop up some celery and pickles for a potato salad tonight. Oh yeah, gotta have pickles in my potato salads!
#3 Adorable, colorful cherry tomatoes!
The Log Cabin Farm Stand only had two little containers of these brightly colored rainbow cherry tomatoes left by midday! Guess everyone wanted a fresh, tomato salad side dish with dinner tonight. There was a big container of fresh-picked basil to slice up and add to the tomatoes, a little sea salt on top, yum!
#2 Seasoned firewood
Firewood is just one of those special farm stand finds I had to highlight here. At $10 per bunch, they’re a good money-maker for the farmers. Plus, everyone loves a bonfire on a cool summer night. In Eastham, you can wake up early (I mean E-A-R-L-Y) and wait in line for a permit to make a bonfire on one of the National Seashore beaches! Makes for an amazing night, staying warm by the fire, watching the seals swim by.
#1 Handturned wooden bowls
A local, Cape Cod tree cutter turns his extra wood into handcrafted bowls. So beautiful. I held each one and looked closely at the different grains. A tag on every bowl identified the species of wood. The fourth one in – the one with all that grainy character – lives in my kitchen now.
A quick preview of Apple season before you read on…
Our neighborhood got its first CSA share program (Community-Supported Agriculture) about 10 years ago, and I was an early subscriber. But, but, but…after a couple of seasons, I quit. Here’s why I quit my old CSA share program years ago and why I joined a new one this year!
Oh you people and your acronyms
CSA, or Community-Supported Agriculture, is a fancy way of saying I pre-ordered a summer full of farm-fresh but unpredictable weekly produce.
A local farmer gets some money up front to buy her seeds without going into debt, and I feel good about supporting her while mentally committing my family to cooking with farm-fresh produce all summer.
Not my first (CSA) rodeo
I quit a CSA six years ago, not because it wasn’t good but because it was too good. We got an abundance of produce. Produce fell out of our fridge. Organic produce that was ripped from the ground that day and needed to be washed and washed and washed.
My dad pitched in for produce pickups, as did my mom and sister. It became more and more difficult to find someone to help us to make it to the farm before it closed, fill our bags and drop them off. It was even harder to find a volunteer to wash it and prep it for cooking.
What brought me back
A new farmer opened up a business in my neighborhood. She’s inspiring. I tried her farm stand last year, and she sold all varieties of beans, squash and eggplants I never saw before (and I’m always looking for great farmstand finds!) She impressed me with her interesting choices.
Buying a share of her CSA program lets me support a local startup farm, connect with my neighbors and expose my family to some really unique produce.
Also, I am a lot more realistic with my ambitions now. If we don’t eat it within two days, it becomes a soup.
Here’s what I did with my first week’s share
My favorite were the fresh pea shoots, which are just the tops of the pea plants snipped off. Delicious if you just mix them with salad dressing. I added chopped onions, chive blossoms, and mint, too. The chive blossoms came with my CSA share, but they didn’t add much flavor, just a light purple color.
Field garlic got smashed into a soup made from the maitake mushrooms. I added chopped carrots and celery.
Radishes are one of my favorite vegetables. A nice helping of radishes showed up in my CSA share. I quartered and sautéed them with olive oil, sea salt and black pepper. After the radishes softened, I threw the washes radish greens on top and sautéed those, too!
Another thing I liked about this CSA, I don’t have to subscribe to flowers separately. She included a posey of mixed flowers.
And finally, the mixed bag of baby braising greens – bok choy, beets, chard and kale. My farmer suggested a stir fry or sauté, but since I didn’t eat the greens within two days, I’m going to follow my rule and make a soup.
As far as I can tell, Field View Farm is the second oldest continually-operating farm in the US that is still held by the descendants of the original owner, Thomas Hine. Incredibly, the 12th or 13th generation of the Hine family is running it today.
When a farm is this old, the claim that it is the second oldest American farm comes with some caveats. There are older farms in the US, but most of those farms are no longer in the hands of the original family or had interruptions in farming operations over the years. The only older operating farm I found is Shirley Plantation in Virginia established 1613, which is still home to the relatives of Robert E. Lee, the Confederate General who surrendered to end the American Civil War.
Back in Connecticut, Field View Farm is a gem. I pray that it does not change hands or fail in our lifetimes. Please go buy some milk or some transportation services.
Wait, why transportation services?
In 1996, there was a devastating fire at Field View Farm. I was just a teenager then, but I remember the fire. They never really restored the historic main barn back to it’s prior glory, too expensive. Instead, in addition to the farm stand, ice cream shop and milk production, the Hines’ put increased effort into a transportation equipment company.
Field View is picturesque but not beautiful or pristine. If you are looking for a perfect, Martha-Stewart-lives-here farm, you won’t find that level of pristine glory at working farm like this one.
What you will find are cows. Sometimes, I drive around the corner and see the cows in the field as the sun sets behind the trees in the distance. It’s a beautiful scene. I find it hard to look away, but I have to because, no driverless cars.
When we bring our kids to Field View for ice cream in the summer, they like to walk down past the cow stalls to see all the animals. And, I am reminded that cows scare me. They are enormous. They don’t look that big when they are moseying through a field. But get up close, and you realize just how easily they could crush you.
There are lots of other cuter, cuddlier animals at the farm. When I was about eight years old, I got two little kittens from Field View, Snowball and Bubblegum. Yes, that’s right. I even get my kittens from farm stands.
The Hine Farm a.k.a. Field View Farm preexists the towns that sprung up around it. Here’s a map of Orange, CT, in 1858. Oh man, I love old maps. Look to the left, above the oval labeled Grassy Hill, between the Y in Derby and the W in Woodbridge, you’ll see a dot for A. Hine’s farmhouse. All of the surrounding land belonged to the Hine family. Then, as it does today, the farm stretched into three cities, Derby, Orange and Woodbridge.
In case you needed more proof of my affinity for old maps, from the University of Connecticut’s Map and Geographic Info Center (MAGIC), you can view aerial photos from 1934 along side a Google map of the present day. Field View’s historic Colonial farmhouse sits just above that X on the left side of the photo. There is an arched driveway behind it in the present day. Some of the local farm land was sold to developers over the years. You can see the swirling 55+ community across the street from the old Hine’s farmhouse. It used to be a massive corn field.
I can’t believe more people aren’t doing articles on this farm. CBS Sunday Morning should be doing a feature on this incredible plot of American soil, and the family that has farmed it for centuries. The New York Times did do a short article on them in 1989. Relative to the age of the farm, I guess that wasn’t so long ago.
If it was summer, I would be writing about the farm’s ice cream shop. It’s delicious, but now that the weather turned colder, this farmstand5 is doing double duty. It’s highlighting my finds from a classic, working farm and breaking new ground by debunking the myth that farm stands are a ‘summer thing’. Keep scrolling to get an idea of the finds you can haul home during the colder months.
#5 Bales of hay
If you’re feeding livestock, planting grass seed or trying to create that perfect farm-style vignette for a wedding or Autumn decoration, you need good old fashioned bales of hay. The Hines’ hay several fields around town in the late summer. Hey, when you’ve got the equipment, you might as well use it.
#4 Brown eggs
Farm fresh eggs are one of my weaknesses. If I see an egg stand, I’m probably going to stop the car and buy some, which I clearly did as this photo was taken on my kitchen table, not at Field View Farm.
I have a confession. I just can’t get into plain yogurt. My husband used to eat it with honey, and my sister really likes the tart flavor. What I do like though are yogurt sauces, and this homemade yogurt from the farm is perfect for a recipe.
#1 Fresh milk
Talk about living life like our ancestors did. Raw milk is just like it sounds with minimal processing from cow to jug. My husband is a huge fan of raw milk. You pretty much have to take it away from him, or he’ll chug it. Things could get messy. The farm stand offers raw milk with a bunch of required warnings, but it’s pretty special. As far as I can tell, there is only one other farm in New Haven County that offers raw milk. Prefer pasteurized milk? Don’t worry, Field View offers pasteurized milk as well.
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Since one of you just asked me this question, I assume other people are wondering. What will a Connecticut-based, farm stand blogger write about in the winter? It’s a little cold for farm stands. Yeah, I hear you.
The story is: I’ve got a few ideas brewing, but I’m more interested in what you want to see!
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment down below. Let me know…
Are you most interested in:
easy, cheap natural skin and body care you can make with stuff that’s already in your house?
interviews with real people who run farm stands?
unsponsored, IMO (in my opinion) handmade product reviews?
my 230 year old New England farmhouse?
following the developments in my brand new kitchen herb garden?
creating a farmhouse kitchen inspired by Early American design?
vintage and antique shop finds?
winter farm stands (you know this is on the agenda either way, of course)?
farm-stand home decor? It’s not farmhouse style (farmhouse is just so covered these days)
bestseller lists of handcrafted, garden or skincare products?
kid stuff? I have two of them. It’s going pretty well.
generalized autoregressive conditional heteroskedasticity? I didn’t think so. I’m so wasting my time on a doctorate in finance. I get bored just saying that stuff.
What did I miss?
Do you have a problem related to healthy eating, skincare, motivation, inspiration, decoration?
Comment all winter long. I’ll see it! I’ll respond to you.
An hour before the opening of the Seymour Farmers Market behind the historic Seymour Congregational Church the massive Gazy’s Brothers farm stand truck comes rolling down the big hill from Oxford to set up. The farm itself is nearly 100 years old, a sort of “newer farm” by New England standards.
Gazy’s Brothers farm stand has a certain unpretentious charm about it. The produce signs are occasionally mixed up. Cucumbers might be under a sign for bell peppers. Acorn squash might be marked as spaghetti squash, oooh closer.
But the variety is impressive, and their clientele is loyal. One Tuesday, I waited for five minutes in line to buy two bags of produce. Not because the farm stand attendant was moving slowly, just because she was processing many orders and taking questions along the way. It’s wonderful when a farm stand community buzzes like that!
Leave a comment to let us know what you think about my Top 5 picks from Gazy Brothers farm stand.
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#5 Big, beautiful Blue Hubbard squash
What does an ordinary cook do with all that squash? These Blue Hubbards were massive. Each one was the size of two footballs (American or European, close enough). I was intimidated by the idea of trying to lug one back to my car. But these squash have such a beautiful golden interior, it’s worth the struggle to get one home and bake it. Rachel at Simple Seasonal suggests a controlled drop to a hard stone or tile surface to crack the heavy Blue Hubbards. I like the idea even though it’s kinda wacky. Uh oh, am I in pun prison now?
The wonderful thing about farm stands is how affordable they are. You can pick up one of these big Blue Hubbards for less than a faux Autumn wreath and add it to your seasonal decor. My first thought was how nice these would look next to some vibrant red-orange squashes on my front porch. The cool weather usually keeps the squash pretty well. We can always cook it , harvest the seeds or compost it later.
#4 Sweet potatoes
As much as my kids and I love sweet potatoes, I’m surprised it took me so long to pick them for a farmstand5. The small sweet potatoes sold at the Gazy Brothers farm stand are perfect to poke with a fork and microwave. A quick farm-stand fresh dinner. Easy.
The other thing I love about this picture is the strong contrasting teal blue baskets make for lovely produce displays. The baskets are sturdy and utilitarian, for sure, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be pretty.
Fun fact. When I was pregnant with my son, watermelons were my main craving. My husband will tell you that I called him at work (which I rarely do) and told him he had to go to the fresh market to pick me up more watermelons. I only had half of one at home, and I was freaking out because that wasn’t enough to get me to the next day. After that, he made a habit of stopping to pick up watermelons pretty frequently. And yes, our boy loves watermelon, too.
The reason I these pretty little melons are my #3 pick is that I was impressed to see the pile of fresh watermelon at this farm stand well into October in New England! It’s not really what you’d think of as a Autumn fruit, and I am not complaining. The variety offered at local farm stands is often surprising and always interesting!
Case in point…
#2 Mashed potato squash
Ignore what the sign says, these are mashed potato squash, a squash that cooks up like a dish of mashed potatoes. How do you feel about a squash with a secret identity? A double life. By day a mild mannered white squash. But by night, transformed into a fluffy pile of not-quite potatoes. Do you think you could fool your relatives on Thanksgiving?
I sliced these little sprouts off their stalk and ate them as soon as I got home from the farm stand. The long, curvy stalks of Brussels sprouts make me the gitty kind of excited. The little sprouts seem to have a richer flavor when they’re fresh off the stalk. I love to bake them a little too long, until some of the leaves burn a little, and the whole dish takes on a roasted crunch. You can find lots of recipes online for Brussels sprouts. Here’s one I just pinned myself. Cozy dinners by the fire. Thanksgiving with family. Brussels sprouts make a wonderful Autumn side dish.
Oh, you read that city name right. Enjoy this #farmstand5 from Zhangjiajie!
(close enough prounounciation “jong-jya-jyay”)
Across time and time zones, farmstand culture highlights how small farm stands and farmers markets are a cohesive force in communities. Whether you’re south of Boston in Cape Cod or in the shadows of the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, there are neighborhood growers with small stands and fresh, local produce. When you visit these farm stands, you get a better sense of the people and the culture of the place.
Thanks to my cousin’s recent trip to China, we can enjoy the absolutely stunning photos of offerings at the Biao Zhi Men market stands. I owe her a big “thank you” for being so thoughtful, to take the time out of her vacation to give us beautiful images and insight into the variety offered at farm stands in Hunan, China.
Spoken language creates a barrier here, but shopping the variety of the local farms helps to break barriers down. One thing you notice right away, neighborhood shoppers at Biao Zhi Men market demand a wide variety of fruits. Stunning. Delicious. Brilliant fruits. I’m happy to show you some varieties you may not see all the time.
Red Pomelo (Chinese grapefruit)
There is a much larger variety of grapefruits in this world than we thought. Pomelos come in different sizes and colors like green and yellow. When sliced they might be white, green or red inside, like these. The thing is, these are not a hybrid. Pomelos were crossed with other citrus, like oranges to create the hybrid fruits we know today. Grapefruits are believed to be the offspring of pomelo, not the other way around. Wikipedia highlights the voyage of this non-hybrid, Asian fruit around the globe.
#4 Hand-roasted cashews
One of the favorite photos in my house is of a heavily-wrinkled man roasting nuts in a market in Europe. For my #4 farm stand find in Biao Zhi Men, my cousin found a similar moment in time with a local vendor roasting cashews. Look closer. His heat source is an old utility bucket attached to a gas line. That makes me a little nervous. I hope it doesn’t give him any trouble.
Have you tried persimmons? Other than the cost, I cannot understand why this delicately-sweet fruit isn’t more popular in the US! I’ve got a persimmon story for you. Last week, I sat down at a community table cafe at my office and a Ukrainian immigrant asked if anyone knew the name of the tomato-orange-plum-looking fruit he brought from home. I did. He was so happy to get the English translation. He said it’s his favorite fruit. But, now I could use help. Do you know the word for them in Mandarin or Cantonese?
Considering that in American English the word pomegranate is used for a deep reddish-pink color, I didn’t realize until I started doing research for this post how many colors and flavors of pomegranates exist in this world. America, guess what? The tart, hard-seeded fruits we are used to are not nearly the best pomegranates have to offer. I hope your local farm stands carry a better variety than our grocery stores.
Bonus! There’s a little glimpse of kumquats in the lower left corner of this pomegranate photo. I used to eat these right off the bushes when I lived in Florida. In a post on forgotten herbs, I mentioned kumquats had a similar flavor to sorrel, only kumquats have a stronger citrus kick.
#1 Kiwano (aka Horned Melon)
How could I possibly pick anything other than the fabulous kiwano horned melon to be our #1?! Is it straight out of Dr. Seuss. Inside, the seeds look more like a glossy, green interior of a tomato than what we might think of as a melon. These may not be that unusual to a large part of the US. In fact, they were trending as a Google topic in Colorado and Arizona in 2017. Interesting. I wish I knew how that got started.
It is so wonderful to explore these photos from the Biao Zhi Men marketplace.
Here are some bonus pics.
Add a comment if you can identify these. The green-brown plum-like date in the lower left corner is jujube. I’m not sure about the others.
All summer I tried and failed to make it over to the Seymour Farmers Market behind the historic Seymour Congregational Church about 25 minutes drive from New Haven, Connecticut. You should see it. Ok, I should take some pictures so you can see it. There’s a powerful terraced waterfall in the Naugatuck River across the street. The church itself is tall and white, a true classic New England meeting house of worship.
The farmers market is only a half mile from the 18th century preserved Seymour Antiques district. When you walk down the streets in the district, you can feel what it was like to take the same stroll 100 years ago. The buildings have hardly changed, including the little gem that houses Lizzie’s Corner, a handcrafted and specialty gifts shop.
On Tuesday afternoons, the curators at Lizzie’s select some of their finest goods and set up a display at the Seymour Farmers Market. Here are my top picks from Lizzie’s Corner.
Goat Boy Goat’s Milk Soaps
It’s enough to make you wish you could get a breath of these fresh scents through the phone or computer screen right now. Goatboy Soaps started 17 years ago. The handcrafted products are produced in small batches using fresh goat’s milk. There is goat’s milk soap in my shower right now. It’s so soothing.
#4 Vintage bottles re-imagined
A charming home craft turned into a business, these are Bookworm Bottles. Decorating with vintage items is a win-win. Your house looks like a designer planned it, and these old bottles get a new chance at life. The littlest ones would be so cute at a wedding. The warm brown bottles would be beautiful down the center of your table paired with candlesticks and vases of cut twigs or greens from your backyard.
#3 Elderberry apple shots
Oh stop, you can make gummies with these. Or cocktails. Or shoot some non-alcoholic Elderberry Apple Shots as they’re intended, as part of a healthy lifestyle. Healthy, Tiffany, not boozy. You’ve already read the ingredient list, more or less: elderberries and apple cider vinegar. Both are organic and produced by the small farm that makes the shots, Fat Stone Farm.
#2 Swedish dishcloths
Swedish dishcloths aka eco-friendly cleaning cloths are really starting to pop up in shops, and it’s wonderful! They are all-natural, last for 6-9 months and then biodegrade. Mine will go into the compost bin someday. Google trends shows searches for “swedish dishcloth” started to increase in June 2016. I first saw them in the gift shop at a nature center in Cape Cod. My first one is still going strong after three months. You can machine wash them, but I just put mine in the dishwasher sometimes. They don’t stink like sponges. I’m going to do a whole article on these because I use and love them. In the meantime, see what all the fuss is about. You don’t need a 10-pack, just pick up a few to start.
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#1 Homebrew maple syrup
When it’s time for comfort food and the warm smell of cool-weather baking, enter organic, local maple syrup. In New England, it’s popular to drizzle some maple syrup over sliced, baked acorn squash, another farm stand favorite. My kids and I make pancakes from our own modified recipe almost every weekend. My little daughter licks the plate clean of maple syrup if you don’t stop her. Ahh, childhood.
What’s the difference between a farm stand and a farmers market?
It’s like the difference between a thread and a shirt. It’s like the difference between a room and a home. You can’t really have a farmers’ market without a collection of individual farm stands.
Still, the stands at farmers markets are not the same as the permanent stands in fixed locations at the farm or the end of the driveway. It’s easier to offer a bigger selection and make more intricate displays if you have a stationary farm stand, which means that there is something unique about the selection at the stand at a farmers market.
While preparing for a market, the farmers have to be choosy when it comes to what goods and produce they will offer. Over time, they will learn the preferences of each unique community they serve and change their offerings to suit their customers.
Your neighborhood farm stand may moonlight at three, four, five farmers markets each week! It’s tough work. There might even be subtle differences between the goods they offer at each of those markets. Top sellers can differ even if the markets are just across town from each other. A town can be so different from the east side to the west.
There are some great things that just won’t travel well. My favorite fruit is mulberry. It’s so sweet and delicious right off the tree, but it would squish and ferment if you tried to transport it any distance. I’m actually surprised that more farm stands don’t offer mulberry. One mature tree could produce a small fortune in pints. I never got sick of eating mulberries as a kid. The walk from my house to my grandmother’s had several neighborhood trees hanging over the sidewalk, offering fruit to passers-by.
Am I wrong? Are farmers markets really, truly more than a collection of individual farm stands? Maybe the market itself takes on a persona? I could wrap my mind around that.
The personalities of the individual farms might change just a bit when they come together in a community market. It’s not that different from anything humans do, really. We all use different language when we are out with our friends than we would in a professional atmosphere. Wild and crazy sports stars fall in line just enough to lead their team during a championship.
The idea of the individual farm stands as a thread that winds through and around all of the others until it makes up the fabric of the farmers market is probably right. It’s a beautiful synergy.
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