Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Winter Not the End of Nature’s Bounty for NCR-SARE Farmer Rancher Grant Recipient

Source: Columbia Daily Tribune
By Cathy Salter

With our own meadow garden now fully at rest, Kit and I continue to find our kitchen filled with greens and vegetables. Seems impossible this could be so given the fact that December is on the horizon. But this is the magic of belonging to a winter subscription farm, or CSA (community-supported agriculture). From October to April, Jennifer and Keith Grabner from Wintergreen Farm deliver a box of fresh greens and vegetables to our door late every Friday afternoon.

I first met Jenny when she and her colleague Lesli Moylan began a schoolyard garden at Ashland’s Southern Boone Elementary School, two miles east of Boomerang Creek. The garden, a volunteer operation, has grown to be an integral part of the life of both the elementary school’s curriculum over the past three years and has earned the support of the community, as well as local and state legislators.

It also was recently featured in The Geography Teacher magazine, a publication of the National Council for Geographic Education, along with first lady Michelle Obama’s White House Kitchen Garden and organic chef Alice Water’s Edible Schoolyard Garden in Berkeley, Calif.

When the Southern Boone Learning Garden is in operation, Jenny and Lesli visit classrooms and hold after-school garden classes twice a week, teaching children their peas and cucumbers by putting them to work planting, harvesting and cooking up what they grow.

Like others from the community and school who help out, they are volunteers.

This would be quite enough time in the garden for most mortals, but Jenny is cut from that amazing cloth from whence farmers come. With the help of her husband, Keith, and their three children, she has made gardening and backyard organic farming not only her own passion but also a family operation.

Their family garden, Wintergreen Farm, is located on 5 acres off Route MM near Ashland, just a hoot and holler from Boomerang Creek. Jenny and Keith use small, unheated hoop-style greenhouses (cold frames) to grow greens and vegetables throughout the fall, winter and early spring months.

The cool-season crops include several varieties of lettuce, spinach, chard, carrots, beets, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, turnips, kohlrabi, radishes, green onions, leeks, mustards, collards, arugula, bok choy, several Asian greens and cabbages, and a few herbs, including parsley, cilantro, fennel, dill and chives.

They also try to include a few winter storage crops such as garlic, potatoes, winter squashes, onions and sweet potatoes.

The last week of October, we received our first e-mail announcing the beginning of this year’s winter CSA. Jenny and Keith listed what would be in the veggie box for the first week — butternut squash, sweet potatoes, lettuce and mixed Asian greens.

The second Friday, our box contained red-leaf lettuce, Swiss chard, baby carrots, golden Hubbard squash and cilantro. We also had a few other items offered on a first-come, first-served basis — shiitake mushrooms, fresh eggs (“if the ladies are laying”) and rabbit meat. And should we need some ideas on cooking up a Hubbard squash or collard greens, Wintergreen Farm’s website includes recipes to get us started.

As I write, chunks of Hubbard squash are simmering in a soup pot on the stove along with a butternut squash delivered the first week. Combined with onion, red bell pepper, pear, apple, ginger and chicken broth, they will purée into a golden harvest soup served with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of Spanish paprika.

While the soup is cooking, Jenny’s latest e-mail arrives with this week’s harvest — turnip greens, Chinese cabbage, mixed salad greens, Tokyo turnips or radishes, parsley or cilantro, and more butternut squash. I’m already dancing as fast as I can looking up creative recipes for the bounty that will arrive on Friday.

So, let the first snow fall white on our meadow garden. Our kitchen will be filled with local greens all winter long.

To read more about the Grabners' NCR-SARE Farmer Rancher Grant project, visit the SARE online reporting site at: http://sare.org/mySARE/ProjectReport.aspx?do=viewProj&pn=FNC07-668

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