THE BEET : VOLUME 12, ISSUE 21
Today is the last pickup of the 2013 season. Thank you for being a part of the 2013 Clinton Hill CSA.
There is still room in the Winter Share--see Ted's letter below. You will receive information about signing up for the 2014 CSA sometime this winter.
See you this winter or next spring!
In this week’s BEET:
1. CSA 2013 Survey results
2. Windflower Farm News (including information for the winter share and the Windflower Farm survey)
3. Winter Vegetable recipes: Roasted Carrots with Caraway and Coriander, Root Vegetable Gratin, Butternut Squash Gnocchi, French Onion soup. Yum!
Thank you to all who completed this year's survey. Results, summarized by Ruth Katcher are below and attached in the newsletter email.
As for the vegetables, the winners of the annual popularity contest are tomatoes, followed closely by kale and arugula. While nothing else approaches the top three, the most popular runner-ups seem more evenly distributed than in the past, with double-digit votes going to corn, carrots, garlic, eggplant, leeks, peppers, green beans, and greens. Eggplant was the big winner for the vegetable members wanted more of, followed by garlic, beets, and tomatoes. As for least favorite, lettuce and chili peppers were perhaps inevitable as they were quite abundant in the second half of the season. As in the past, kohlrabi seems to elicit strong responses both positive and negative, along with turnips and bok choi. And members seem eager to showcase their solutions for vegetables they don't like, with a few requests for a swap box and many who give them away or figure out new ways to use them.
When asked directly, nearly all members said they received adequate communication from the CSA, with email the favored form of communication. A small but distinct minority preferred to receive communication on site; interestingly, very few preferred Facebook. (Members could select more than one answer in this category.). Most members find The Beet helpful; the most common request was for more recipes. A number of people asked, in different ways, for information about less common vegetables. People asked for articles about the farm, the farmer, and member profiles: I think anything that we can give them above and beyond the basics will be appreciated. When asked, members generally prefer the email form of the newsletter, but a few people preferred paper or said they were less likely to read the electronic form. I wonder if in the off-season, it might be worth taking a look at the newsletter to see if there is anything we can do to spice up the basic interface. (Perhaps a project for a potential core member, a couple of whom have computer skills?) A few people mentioned that for some weeks, The Beet simply wasn't sent out at all.
Most members seemed satisfied with the level of community, though there were some wistful comments about the fact that the potluck was cancelled, and some said they would like more but felt hampered with work commitments.
The online signup process seemed fine, with most members reporting that it was easy, in contrast to the difficulties people had with Farmigo in the past. Ted seems satisfied to continue using Wufoo, and judging from what members say, this will work for us. I was surprised by the number of comments, however, about member difficulties in figuring out what they owe, and as we take back the invoicing/signup from Ted, we should address those. Only two people answered the question about EBT use, and they seemed satisfied.
Similarly, the online volunteer signup is quite easy, and comments focused on the difficulty in finding volunteer slots for those who can't make an early shift and irritation at the number of emails asking for volunteers on the early shift! Going forward, as we discussed at the last core meeting, we need to find ways of addressing the labor shortage on the early shift and perhaps finding new ways to structure the volunteer commitment. There were complaints about the emails asking for volunteers--but at the same time, we were helped greatly by volunteers who'd already fulfilled their commitment but came anyway to help out.
I think that there is a common thread running through these responses about The Beet, the online signup with Wufoo, and volunteer signup, which is that while moving a process online comes with advantages in ease, it also can create confusion and distance, as by taking the human element out of the process. With the volunteer signup, the fact that members signed up on a clipboard meant that they could talk face to face with someone about potential conflicts, whereas now, the onus is on the core to realize a shift might not be covered. Similarly, some members felt rightly frustrated that they couldn't figure out what they owed, whereas when we handed out invoices on site, the possibility of a conversation to resolve a problem was a little more likely. Finally, some of the complaints we've received about the share makes me think that members are finding it all too easy to ignore the newsletter, which often contains information that might help them understand a situation or solve a problem (though it's also true that not everyone read the Beet in the past). And, as we all are, members feel besieged by online information; they say they prefer it in general, but in the context of many other emails, it seems more like a problem than the solution. There are good reasons not to go back to the way things were, i.e. paper Beet, clipboard volunteer signup, but we do need to recognize the problems that arise as we move our functions online.
On the convenience of location and hours, the comments are familiar: most people find pickup reasonably convenient, but those whose work schedules make it difficult to get to the site by 7:30 would appreciate a later pickup. Perhaps we simply need to be a bit more proactive in reminding them that it's the school that sets the limit on how late we can stay and that we will have bagged shares for those who arrive on the late side.
With regard to cost/value, most members say that the CSA is worth the cost--but see comments later on. This year's results for this question are almost identical to last year's, however. As for the aspects of the share that members value most, as in previous years, food quality and a local farmer lead the pack. The fact that we are a mixed-income share was third. One long-time member had a comment about the mixed-income model that is worth noting: "But I’m not sure how we actually achieve this with A&B shares. For sure, yes, we are [getting true diversity] with EBT members, but subsidizing Plan B without really getting racial or socioeconomic equality or representation of the nabe is a bit frustrating." In other words: is Plan B doing what we want it to--and is this something to discuss as we proceed with signups for the 2014 season?
The members who commented on extra shares were again reasonably satisfied, happy with the quality of eggs, flowers and very happy with the quality of dairy. As in the past, the fruit share is the most controversial, with a number of people asking for more variety or speaking about about varying quality. It's probably worth noting that this share is one for which Ted does not have direct control over the quality, since he buys fruit from other vendors. Still, I wonder if he could speak to the requests for variety in the share. I have thought that more people are taking advantage of the meat share this year, and there are more comments than in any previous year, nearly all extremely positive. As for reasons why people don't buy extra shares, cost is the most frequently cited. Of the suggestions for other shares, coffee led the pack by far, and other suggestions ranged from pasta to baked goods to pickles.
More people checked "satisfied" than "very satisfied" on the winter share this year, whereas last year the vast majority of winter share customers pronounced themselves very satisfied. Is this a problem in the making or just a minor fluctuation? But in general, winter share customers seem happy.
As in the 2012 survey, we have a lot of new members, with over 60 percent saying they have been members for three or fewer years. Over half of the households consisted of two adults without children, though a third of the households do have children. (And we do know of at least one case where two adults from a single household answered the survey on successive weeks, so this may not be completely accurate.) Still, it's worth taking into account household size when looking at the complaints about (mostly) small share size.
Word of mouth remains our most effective public relations tool, as nearly 2/3 of survey respondents came to the CSA through the recommendation of someone they knew. Most of the rest came through the internet, a website or search for CSAs. And while many of our members may be new to CHCSA, they are often not new to the CSA model; quite a few belonged to another one previously. Those who compared them mostly seemed neutral or more positive about CHCSA, though one or two said that there was more food/less cost in their previous one--but then others said we had better variety. The CHCSA community was mentioned more than once as a real asset! Of those coming to CSA for the first time, many members had some idea of what it was all about before they joined: but the fact of so many new members explains the many requests for information in The Beet, for instance.
Nearly a third of survey respondents say they shop at the greenmarkets; as we know well by now, there is a lot of overlap between our customer base. We also have quite a few food coop members (Park Slope and Green Hill both), and Trader Joes edged Fairway as the supermarket named most frequently. Whereas in previous years, the supermarkets named most were mostly the local ones: Pioneer, Associated, Met, C-Town, I was surprised to see many more upscale markets listed this time than in the past, i.e. Whole Foods, Provisions, Choice Greene, Fresh Direct,, and even Eataly and Union Market. Is our membership more upscale than in the past, or are there more upscale options available, or is it some combination?
Nearly 80% of our members said they would join the CSA again next year, but 5 members said outright that they would not be coming back, and another 9 were undecided. In contrast, last year no members said they wouldn't be rejoining, though more were undecided. While some of those who said they might leave were moving away, others spoke strongly about what they perceived as a smaller share size. More than one said that there was no longer a cost saving over the Greenmarket, significant since Greenmarket prices have risen steadily over the years. Among those who said they were likely to say, suggestions largely recapped comments earlier in the survey: later hours, larger share, less confusion over payment, fruit share issues. But it's important to note that numerous people also took the opportunity to make very positive comments. There were also requests: more consistent use of a swap box, broaden the compost program, switch the order of veggies so heavy ones are on the right!
In summary: there is slightly more discontent this year. Some of this comes from perceived smaller share size, and the fact members may not have understood how the weather affected Ted's crops. Could we have headed off some of the problem by making sure our online communication was going out reliably? Definitely, and it's our responsibility as core to be sure that our communication with members is effective, in an organization where so many members are new and come in through word of mouth. As a core, we have several fairly new online tools, and one of our challenges in the year to come is to make sure we're using them well. The survey shows a membership that is demographically probably quite different than a decade past, in a neighborhood with far more--and more upscale--food resources than when the CSA was founded. It's likely that if we want to preserve a truly diverse demographic, we'll need to devote more resources to outreach, and to think carefully about the nature of the various plans on the sliding scale. Still, the survey also shows many members who seem happy and appreciative of what Ted and Windflower Farm have to offer--superb, affordable food and a welcoming community.
WINDFLOWER FARM NEWS
Delivery #22, Week of November 4, 2013
Recipes-- Root Vegetables
Roasted Carrots with Caraway and Coriander (via Food and Wine)
This lovely dish combines a trio of ingredients from the same family: sweet roasted carrots, coriander and caraway.
TOTAL TIME: 1 HR SERVINGS: 4
Ingredients 1 teaspoon ground caraway 1 teaspoon ground coriander 2 tablespoons honey 1/2 teaspoon whole caraway seeds 1/2 cup cold buttermilk 1/2 cup cold plain whole-milk Greek yogurt 1/2 serrano chile, seeded and minced 24 thin baby carrots (1 pound), tops discarded and carrots scrubbed 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed 1/4 cup sprouted mung beans or sprouted lentils 1/4 cup salted roasted sunflower seeds 1/2 cup cilantro leaves Lime wedges, for serving
- Preheat the oven to 350°. In a small skillet, toast the ground caraway and coriander over low heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the honey.
- In another small skillet, toast the whole caraway seeds over low heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Transfer the toasted seeds to a small bowl and stir in the buttermilk, yogurt, serrano chile and half of the honey mixture. Season with salt and refrigerate.
- Spread the carrots on a large baking sheet and season with salt. Toss with the remaining honey mixture and top with the butter. Roast for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are tender and slightly charred on the bottom.
- Pour the buttermilk dressing onto a platter in a thin layer. Arrange the carrots on the dressing and top with the sprouted beans, sunflower seeds and cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.
Root Vegetable Gratin--Notes from the Undergound (via Chef John--check out the link for a video of the recipe)
PREP 15 mins COOK 1 hr 20 mins READY IN 1 hr 55 mins
"[I hope you enjoyed our first and last Dostoevsky reference] Whenever I see those big piles of rutabagas at the market, I always think to myself, “who the heck is eating all these root vegetables?”
I understand that there’ve been times when we literally had no choice – it was either gnaw on a parsnip or perish, but nowadays with so many other delicious choices, why would anyone eat root vegetables on purpose? Has anyone ever stumbled out of a smoky dorm room late at night, in search of a big plate of steamed turnips? Probably not.
So, while you’ll never catch me boiling up a batch of these fugly roots to enjoy their intoxicating sulphurous savoriness, I have been known to tolerate them in the occasional gratin.
Of course, I cheated and added some potatoes to mellow things out, but still, all kidding aside, this is a very delicious and enjoyable way to eat them, and would make a fantastic side dish for the holidays. And yes, I do know that potatoes are tubers and not roots, so save your emails. Enjoy!"
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
- Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the vegetables, and cook uncovered for 3 minutes. Drain in a colander, then immediately immerse in ice water for several minutes until cold to stop the cooking process. Once the vegetables are cold, drain well, and set aside.
- Cook garlic and butter in a large skillet over medium heat until garlic starts sizzling, about 3 minutes.
- Stir in chicken broth, heavy cream, thyme, nutmeg, and cayenne pepper; cook until mixture begins to simmer, about 5 minutes.
- Coat a 9x13-inch baking dish with olive oil and spread vegetables evenly over the oil.
- Pour broth and cream mixture over vegetables and top with half of the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
- Cover baking dish loosely with aluminum foil, place on a baking sheet, and bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes.
- Remove baking dish from the oven and top with remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano. Bake uncovered until vegetables are browned, bubbling, and tender, about an additional 30 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and let rest for 20 minutes.
Butternut Squash Gnocchi With Brown Butter and Sage (by Andrew Zimmern in Food and Wine)
Ingredients 1 head of garlic, top third cut off Extra-virgin olive oil, for rubbing 1 pound baking potatoes One 2-pound butternut squash—peeled, seeded and cut into 2-inch pieces 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature 1/4 cup fresh ricotta cheese 2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley Kosher salt 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting 1 stick unsalted butter 10 sage leaves, thinly sliced 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely chopped Parmigiano-Reggiano shavings, for serving
- Preheat the oven to 375º. Place racks in the lower and middle thirds of the oven. Drizzle the garlic with olive oil, wrap it tightly in foil and roast on the bottom rack of the oven for 50 minutes. Lightly rub the potatoes with olive oil, prick them all over with a fork and bake on the lower rack for 45 minutes, until fork-tender. Line a large baking sheet with foil. Add the squash and rub with olive oil. Bake on the upper rack for about 30 minutes, stirring once, until soft.
- Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of their skins into a small bowl and mash to a paste. Peel the hot potatoes and pass them through a ricer into a large bowl. Add the hot squash to the ricer and pass it into the bowl with the potatoes. Let cool slightly. Add the egg yolks, ricotta, parsley, 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of the mashed roasted garlic (reserve any extra for another use). Stir until combined. Sprinkle on the 1 1/4 cups of flour and gently stir it in. Scrape the dough onto a floured surface and knead gently until smooth but still slightly sticky.
- Line a baking sheet with wax paper and dust with flour. Cut the gnocchi dough into 5 pieces and roll each piece into a 3/4-inch-thick rope. Cut the ropes into 1/2-inch pieces and transfer the gnocchi to the baking sheet.
- Lightly oil another baking sheet. In a large, deep skillet of simmering salted water, cook half of the gnocchi until they rise to the surface, then simmer them for 1 to 2 minutes longer, until cooked through. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the gnocchi to the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining gnocchi.
- In a large nonstick skillet, melt the butter over moderate heat and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Add the sage and thyme and cook for 20 seconds. Add the gnocchi and cook for 1 minute, tossing gently. Season with salt and serve, passing the cheese shavings at the table.
French Onion Soup (by Tyler Florence, Food Network)
When you're ready to eat, preheat the broiler. Arrange the baguette slices on a baking sheet in a single layer. Sprinkle the slices with the Gruyere and broil until bubbly and golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes.
Ladle the soup in bowls and float several of the Gruyere croutons on top.
Alternative method: Ladle the soup into bowls, top each with 2 slices of bread and top with cheese. Put the bowls into the oven to toast the bread and melt the cheese.