LocalHarvest Newsletter, March 29, 2013

Welcome back to the LocalHarvest newsletter.

A little while back I was on a road trip and stopped at a coffee shop for a snack. I picked up one of the extra large cookies on the counter to see what was in it, and there, listed at the end of the usual ingredients was 'love.' I am sorry to say that my initial reaction included a tiny bit of eye rolling. It felt a little gimmicky - but it got me thinking. If we can put love into food, all sorts of possibilities open up, including how we think about good food.

We who appreciate good food sometimes struggle when it comes to describing it. Does it need to be grown within a certain number of miles? Does all organic food count? What if its parent company was a multinational? It gets complicated. Maybe there is some shorthand that would help, and maybe that shorthand is this: good food is grown and prepared with love.

What does that mean, exactly? How do we add love to our food? For myself, one important piece is simply paying attention to both the ingredients and the act of cooking. It's the easiest thing in the world to throw together a quick supper while thinking a thousand racing thoughts about everything but the vegetables in my hands. But really, it is almost as simple, and infinitely more satisfying, to close the mental door on the day, focus on the task at hand, and take note of the fact that this food - this onion, these beans, this rice - this food right here will nourish me and my family, will become the energy that sustains us. Being mentally present and open-hearted changes what happens in the kitchen. It's noticeable. My husband appreciates food and the effort home-cooking requires, and even when I've just thrown dinner together he looks at it and says, "Thank you for cooking, sweetie." But when I've really put my heart into it, he'll almost always say something like, "Wow, this is beautiful." And it is.

So love changes food and the way we perceive it. I think this is one reason so many of us are drawn to farmers markets, farm stands and CSAs. Much of this food has been loved its whole life, and some part of us knows that. While not every farmer would use the word "love" in relation to what he or she does in the fields, I think it's a fair descriptor of what's going on when someone works for months to raise a crop, poring over crop rotations and seed orders, scraping weeds away from seedlings, sifting soil between their fingers to test the moisture, and getting up at 4:00 every morning to care for animals and load trucks and do the million other things necessary to bring in the harvest. Such work requires sustained attention, and usually, what people attend to deeply opens their hearts. Crops raised in this way, like meals prepared with care at home, are good food.

When we give our full attention to that which sustains us, whether we are growing, preparing, serving or eating it, that attention becomes a form of blessing. And we too are blessed.

Until next time, take good care and eat well.

Erin Barnett

CSAware "Our sales are up..."

A few weeks ago we got an email from a well-established Southern farmer who started using CSAware this winter. He wrote, "Our CSA sales are up $90,000 over the same period last year and year before. Yea!"

"Yea!" is right! At a time when many CSAs are experiencing difficulties with both member retention and sales growth, CSAware can help. If you'd like to talk about how CSAware might work for your CSA, let us know!

From the LocalHarvest Store:

Painted Mountain Corn. Aji Dulce Peppers. Emerald Green Velvet Okra. Haley's Purple Comet Tomato. Even the names are beautiful. We have about 600 kinds of vegetable seeds in our catalog. Now's the time! And don't miss our live plant department! We have some unusual offerings there as well.

Not planting a garden this year? Join a CSA! Shop at your farmers market!

Annual Slow Money National Gathering

The Slow Money National Gathering is a vibrant assembly of people who are rebuilding local food systems across the U.S. and around the world. This year's list of speakers includes the international founder of Slow Food, Carlo Petrini, founder of The Land Institute, Wes Jackson, author Joan Gussow, among many more. There will also be investment presentations from two dozen small food enterprises, and the opportunity to collaborate with people from around the country who are finding new ways to connect money, culture and the soil. This year's gathering will be held on April 29-30, 2013 in Boulder, CO. Like to attend? You can register here.

Food From the Farm: "How to Cut an Onion"

We'll have a recipe again next month; this month, a cooking video.

Cynthia Lair is a nutrition and cooking teacher in Seattle, WA. Last fall she was invited to a local TEDx conference, where she gave a talk about what happens when we give our full attention to cooking. In it she tells the story of how she taught her students to add love to the polenta they were stirring. It is called "How to Cut an Onion."

I found her talk both funny and inspiring, and used her polenta "technique" as best I could when stirring my polenta tonight. See what you think.