Farm school brunch and how I was inspired to sign up for a CSA (and you should too!!)

Hi friends! Before I dive into a post about a super special brunch I attended a few weeks ago (as well as provide you with some info on why you should support your local farm by signing up for a CSA – just like I did!), I wanted to say a huge THANK YOU for all the incredible comments and best wishes on my new business venture. Through my private healthy cooking lessons I hope to make Boston a healthier place and I am really thankful for all of you that took the time to say something nice to me and even spread the word. So yeah, thanks!!!

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If you live in the Boston area, you definitely know about Boston Brunchers – a group established by Renee of Eat.Live.Blog that has grown to over 300 local food bloggers. Pretty amazing! And if you don’t live in the area, well you know what it’s all about now… and don’t worry – there  is still some good info for you here (and some drool-worthy food photos and even cute animal pics!) Smile I haven’t been out with Boston Brunchers since a fabulous brunch at The Cottage, but this Farm School brunch was extra special.

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[Pastries from Iggy’s]

What’s a Farm School? Well, I’m glad you asked my friends Winking smile  The Farm School is actually 2 farms located in Athol, MA (about 1.5hrs from Boston) – one providing 2.5-day programs to visiting schools, involving kids on whatever is need on the farm during those days. The kids get the real hands-on farm experience for just a few days and hopefully a new appreciation for fresh produce and humanely raised animals. Most of the food on this farm is grown to just to feed all the visitors (they get about 1,500 children every school year!). The second farm offers a one-year learn to farm program for adult students that want to live on a farm for a year and learn all the ins and outs of becoming a farmer. This farm grows organic produce, meat and eggs sold to CSA members and farmers market. Pretty amazing stuff!!

[Bloggers mingling before we sit down for brunch]

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[Farm fresh eggs]

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[Adorable animals from the farm. Omg I want to die - these are so cute!!]

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[Maple tree planks used as serving plates]

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Our hosts for the day:

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Brunch time!

Peach Bellini from peaches from the farm (I couldn’t say no to that!)

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Pork belly two ways

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Pork schnitzel, adirondack red pototoes, soft boiled eggs with dill holondaise and sauteed spinach which was so sweet (naturally) that it seemed like a completely different species. And can you see how bright yellow this egg yolk is?

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Boston Brunchers brunching Smile

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Last course: maple bread pudding made with Iggy’s brioche bread and Farm Schools eggs and maple syrup

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The food was seriously outstanding! Obviously the recipes were fabulous but I would largely contribute this to the high quality of ingredients. Every bite was incredible but I was especially surprised by the spinach and the potatoes. They seemed so simple but I honestly have never had spinach and potatoes this delicious. Farm School grows 30 kinds of vegetables and 100 varieties. This is one of my favorite benefits of eating locally – you get to experience artisanal produce, varieties of fruits and vegetables that have been mostly lost to mass production.

I left the brunch with a high (it was also an unseasonably warm day out so everyone was extra happy soaking up the sunshine). I’ve been thinking for a long time about signing up for a produce CSA but was too nervous about getting a box of onions or other produce I had no use for. Actually speaking to the farmers and learning about the programs this particular farm supports, as well as literally tasting the difference, made me reconsider. Here are the pros and cons of a produce CSA as I see them.

Cons:

  • Expensive compared to supermarket produce + you pay upfront for the season (this covers seed money and pay for the farmers)
  • Quantities fluctuate depending on the weather and how bountiful the season is
  • Most CSA boxes are pre-packed so someone else decides what you’ll be eating that week.
  • You may get produce you do not enjoy or know what to do with, which may contribute to food waste.
Pros:
  • Your money goes directly to the farmers, cutting out the middle man.
  • You are essentially a small shareholder of the farm for the season, so if the season is especially bountiful, you get to reap the benefits
  • You get to support your local economy and a farm you believe in, in a way that may not be available otherwise (outside of the CSAs, Farm School for example only sells produce at the Belmont farmers market which is not convenient for me).
  • Since the food is grown and distributed locally, it is picked at the peak of its freshness – which is extra delicious and nutritious (compared to imported produce that is picked when it’s still green and ripens in trucks and grocery stores. Green bananas and avocados are my biggest pet peeve ever.)
  • If you buy most of your produce at farmers markets, it should actually be cheaper.
  • You may try new types of produce or varieties of your favorites you’ve never even seen before!
  • Pre-packed boxes add a challenge. This could be a great way to be “forced” to experiment in the kitchen. I’m up for it! :)
I’ve been thinking of taking the plunge for a while, but what really sold me on Farm School was that they actually have the option of picking your own box for the week. I love that! They basically set up a farmers market type stall (specifically for CSA members), and you get to choose your own 10 different veggies for the week. No onions for me! :D I also love that all the produce is organic. I checked other organic farms in the area offering CSAs, and Atlas Farms is cheaper but does not have a pick up location in or near Boston. They do have a stall at the Copley farmers market so I’ll still be able to support them if I need to supplement my loot from Farm School (Sienna Farms is amazing but is in contrast a lot more expensive).
So there you have it. This brunch (which by the way was complementary… obviously, they don’t even offer brunch normally) was incredibly inspiring. I am so happy to have met the people behind my future summer produce and to have had the opportunity to share what they are doing with you!
Hope your week is off to a lovely start!! See you soon, I promise! :)

To educate or not to educate? That is the question

I had an interesting encounter in the bathroom at work yesterday. One of my co-workers was wearing a fur scarf around her neck and the other one expressed how gross that is that some poor animal had to suffer for this. What, ladies at your workplace don’t just chill in the bathroom and talk about anything and everything (such as animal rights)? lol. I considered saying nothing for a second but then decided to (very politely) probe a bit…

“I agree. Are you a vegetarian by any chance?” I said. [Any guesses as to her answer??]

“No, I know, I know. I thought about it… but but…I don’t eat much red meat!”

Again, I paused, wondering if I should take it any further. I’m not usually in the business of educating my co-workers about nutrition or food ethics but then I figured it wouldn’t hurt to just mention something. Just this one thing.

“I’m not a vegetarian either.” (I’m sure that was a relief for her to hear. I think when people know that they could be doing something better but are not, they’re afraid they’re being judged when the topic comes up). “But I really try to only eat humanely raised meat.”

We then got into the discussion of how I know where my meat comes from; where I shop for it, etc. I casually mentioned my meat CSA and she genuinely seemed to be interested to hear more about it. I think I blew her mind by making her realize that there is no need for black and white: vegetarianism (or even veganism?) or full on I-kind-of-care-but-want-to-do-nothing-about-it carnivore. This was a quick conversation that may change at least some of my co-worker’s purchases going forward (or at least give her food for thought). I do not plan on preaching about it to any other unsuspecting citizens, because generally people want to talk about the weather, your next vacation plans, complain about being tired/overworked or brag about the fabulous party/dinner they recently attended/hosted. And that’s ok. Instead, I’ll try to make a small difference one post at a time… here on Healthy and Sane. Lucky you! haha

Do you ever talk about food ethics/healthy eating/fitness/etc to people that normally have no interest in this subject, because you think they may benefit? I think it’s a delicate balance (especially with co-workers!) but you may have information they would actually appreciate so sometimes it’s worth sharing!

By the way, that was actually an incredibly long intro to a discussion I wanted to have on sustainable seafood, prompted by a sample of RainCoast Trading tuna and salmon I recently received for review.

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The subject of sustainable seafood has been on my mind for a while. There are so many different parties to consider- our choices impact the fishermen, the fish and our environment. I’ll cover what I learned on the subject in the next post (check back tomorrow – there will even be a giveaway of some seafood for you!!). Until then…

What do you know about sustainable seafood?

PS – I’m also at Russian Bites today with a beet salad with walnuts recipe. Check it out! :)

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