Dining A La King: Why I became a vegetable fairie
Posted: 10/22/2012 at 1:15 am
By: Marshall V. King
Dining A La King
Dining A La King
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White radishes were available to customers of Rise Up Farms this summer in Elkhart. (Truth Photo By Marshall V. King)
Cilantro and other herbs were part of this summer's CSA at Rise Up Farms, Elkhart. (Truth Photo By Marshall V. King)
Nicole Mellinger picks produce on a Tuesday in early summer. She was one of the CSA customers this summer at Rise Up Farms. (Truth Photo By Marshall V. King)
Heirloom tomatoes came from the gardens of Rise Up Farms this summer. (Truth Photo By Marshall V. King)
Swiss chard awaits pick up from customers this summer at Rise Up Farms.
Truth Photo By Marshall V. King
A vegetable quesadilla includes produce from Rise Up Farms. (Truth Photo By Marshall V. King)
Piles of basil resulted in pints of pesto this summer after the rains came to Elkhart County and the plants on Rise Up Farms started producing more. (Truth Photo By Marshall V. King)
Swiss chard was one of the prolific products this summer at Rise Up Farms, Elkhart. (Truth Photo By Marshall V. King)
For a time this summer, I was a vegetable fairie.
It didn’t come with a costume. I didn’t sneak zucchinis on the porches of unsuspecting neighbors. But I had vegetables to share.
It was because of Rise Up Farms. It was because I was a member of its CSA, which stands for Community-Supported Agriculture but essentially means you buy a subscription to a farm.
Rise Up Farms grows food along S.R. 120 between Elkhart and Bristol. You can see the rows of vegetables, the stone wall and the historic barn. But if you’re a customer, a whiteboard and a stone table linked the field to the kitchen.
The board listed what customers with a half-share were to take home, such as a dozen tomatoes, eight potatoes and one bunch of Red Russian kale, among other things.
When the drought was at its peak, there wasn’t a lot on the board or the table. In week six, it was two squash or tomatoes, seven potatoes, some purslane, one bunch of chard and some dill.
After the rains came in August, the garden was more vibrant. In week 13, there were tomatoes, basil, swiss chard, turnip, rutabaga, kale, cucumbers, squash, garlic, ground cherries, tomatillos, peppers and several melons. It took several trips to get everything from the table to the car.
The summer CSA ended last week after 20 weeks. Nicole Bauman, who is in charge of Rise Up Farms with Nick Simons, said the year ended pretty well, all things considered.
She wishes there had been more carrots, but the drought kept them from germinating.
She’s heard from customers that they didn’t know what to do with all the bunches of collard greens, kale and swiss chard.
Even on the last week, a friend who was also a CSA member was struggling to know which green was which and what to do with them.
Some of the greens are still in my refrigerator. Some are in my freezer. Most of them have or will go into green smoothies in the morning. No matter what else I eat or drink in the day, my body has appreciated the healthy dose of vegetables, fruit and protein nearly every morning.
The funny thing is I didn’t share many of the greens. Once I learned that collard greens, chard and kale all worked as a base to blend with fruit, I had plenty of use for them. And despite the drought, Nicole, Nick and their volunteers had plenty to share.
When the farm was at its peak this summer, I had tomatillos, tomato and basil to share. I offered the produce to any number of people. I took it to the office. I left it at friends’ houses.
I made six pints of pesto one night with more than a pound of basil leaves. A pound of leaves is a lot in any form and I kept making pesto until I was out of basil. When the holidays come, I may be a pesto elf delivering some of summer’s bounty to friends as gifts.
Bauman said she made a bunch of pesto this summer, too. “I love basil always,” she said.
I heard some grumbling from a few customers this summer when the weekly harvest was slim. They had paid the farm $300 or $550 expecting 20 weeks of food, but not really knowing how it would go. The weather made it tough. Clay Bottom Farm east of Goshen had a good year for its CSA customers. It’s also further along when it comes to irrigation and experience than Rise Up is.
“We’re so new to this still,” Bauman said. This is the third year for the farm and CSA and Simons’ first there.
Customers encouraged Bauman and Simons during the hot, dry weeks of the summer. Customers said they understood what it meant to eat seasonally better because of Rise Up and the drought. “What’s felt really positive is getting feedback from shareholders who are expressing a deeper sense of connection to their food,” Bauman said. “This is what real food is and what farming is and what life should be connected to.”
Bauman said the weather was the biggest struggle of the summer, but it brought lessons. But it also means that the farm is struggling financially. Bauman and Simons planned to sell surplus to restaurants and a South Bend co-op after supplying CSA customers, but they had no surplus to sell.
“We’re out of money, basically,” she said.
They’re hoping to raise money in two ways:
• A fall CSA will feature fall crops that are still bountiful and bread made by Anna Mast. It’ll start the first full week of November, go for five weeks and cost $160. If you’re interested, call 574-312-9261.
• A fundraiser is planned for Nov. 17 with food, music and perhaps locally made beer and wine. “I think it’s going to be a great day,” Bauman said.
I’m glad I was part of the Rise Up CSA this summer. I ate more vegetables because of it. I saw how hard people worked to grow food during tough conditions and how they’re building community by gathering people around this farm.
But I still don’t know what to do with a raw turnip, despite how many the farm provided me.
I’m hungry. Let’s eat.
Marshall V. King is news/multimedia editor and food columnist for The Elkhart Truth/eTruth.com. You can reach him at email@example.com, 574-296-5805, on Twitter @hungrymarshall or via Facebook.