LocalHarvest Newsletter, October 30, 2015
Eating Through the Winter

Welcome back to the LocalHarvest newsletter.

October is harvest season in many parts of the country. Corn, soybeans, wheat, sweet potatoes, winter squash, pumpkins, apples, pears, and many other crops are being harvested right now in a flurry of activity in farm country. Farmers and their employees are working long hours, often into the night, to get their crops out of the fields and orchards. Fall is also a popular time to harvest many livestock species as well, after a summer of fattening up and before the cold winter sets in making the raising of livestock more challenging, if not impossible in some areas.

In my region of Oregon and many parts of the country, farmers markets, CSAs, and farmstands wind down for the season. If you have a garden, you are probably harvesting the last of your crops, perhaps planting a cover crop or a few hardy winter crops like garlic and kale, and calling it good for the year. Yet, despite all these places we procure fresh produce from closing down for the year, WE STILL EAT! In fact, cooler weather often means we eat more, make more home-cooked meals, and pack on a few extra pounds to hibernate for the winter (at least, that is what I do!). However, in all my years of selling meat, eggs, and produce myself, I see this precipitous drop off of demand once the rains or winter weather sets in. Where does everybody go to get their food now?

I'm sure many of your realize this, but farmers have many months of very low to zero cash flow in the winter months. In some parts of the country, it may be 6 months before they see any income coming in, making it very difficult for them to start their next season, let alone survive. Do you make any efforts to continue to support your local farmers during the off season?

A few ways that farmers and communities are trying to partially solve for those 'lean months' are:

  • Winter Farmers Markets- more and more communities are setting up indoor farmers markets. Some are still weekly, others are once a month. In community centers, grange halls, schools, churches, and other locations, these winter markets not only help the farmers generate some income in winter but are also a great way for consumers to get out of the house and socialize on what can be dreary, dark, and cold winter days. Look for crops such as frozen meat, cheese, jams, pickled things, winter squash, root crops, onions, garlic, and leafy greens. Some also have grains and beans, prepared foods, homespun yarn, art and crafts.
  • "Fill Your Pantry" Events- an increasing number of towns are setting up these one time events in which farmers try to clear out the bulk of their harvest and consumers stock up to fill their pantry, larder, or root cellar for the winter. Often bartering is acceptable, bulk discounts available and pre-orders taken. Think bushels of apples, boxes of potatoes, sacks of dry beans, bulk bundles of frozen meat, and the like. Bring boxes, a cart, and a bundle of cash to these events and "stock up"!
  • Winter CSA shares- some intrepid farmers continue to offer CSA shares through winter, or even offer a special winter seasonal share to customers. They may focus on animal products, storage type crops, beans and grains, or other items. I know one farm that does a CSA just in winter with storage crops, eggs, and meat. Other farmers in warm climates like Florida can grow a wider selection of crops in winter than they can in summer, due to excessive summer heat that causes most crops to bolt or wither. Look around in your region- you may be surprised by the variety of winter CSA shares available in your area.
  • Other winter events- some farmers do other things in the winter to bring in income, such as hosting workshops, on-farm dinners, barn dances, and other "farmy" events. Pie Ranch in California holds barn dances once a month all winter. We used to offer meat butchering workshops in winter. Still other farms (like Love Apple Farm) offer cooking, canning, and fermentation classes in the "off-season". These can be a great way to connect with your local farmers, enhance your DIY skills, and have fun when there might not be a lot of other exciting things going on in your region.

So as much as possible, given inclement weather, shorter days, busy schedules, and the like, please continue to support your local farmers and ranchers throughout the 'lean months'. Not only does it make for fresher, tastier food for you and your family, but you will help to keep your local food system thriving. Sounds delicious!

Want to find a winter CSA in your area? Search LocalHarvest's directory.

-Rebecca Thistlethwaite

Lets Act for Better School Food

Farm to School is a common sense approach to child nutrition that empowers children and their families to make healtheir food choices while strengthening the local economy and regional agriculture. As part of the upcoming Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization, Congress should build on the success of Farm to School by strengthening and expanding the program's scope and by providing additional mandatory funding. Please consider endorsing this Act as either a citizen or organizational representative. Read more here.

From the LH Store

It's that time of the year when we think of putting an order in for a Thanksgiving turkey Since organic, heritage, and pasture-raised turkeys are raised on fairly small-scale farms, it is possible that these birds are already sold out. Thankfully the Local Harvest store still has a few choices for you. Check out the options here, from pasture-raised to heritage breeds to regular broad-breasted white birds, we have you covered! And next year consider putting your order in early for a bird raised locally in your area!

It's late October, and still harvest time in many parts of the country. The cranberry harvest is getting under way, just in time to make a star appearance in your Thanksgiving relish and holiday quick breads. Organic cranberries are hard to find, but we have plenty.

The fall nut harvest is also upon us, so fresh walnuts, pistachios, chestnuts, pecans, and almonds are all ready for holiday snacking.

Use CSAware and Get New Members Through LocalHarvest!

If you have a CSA or customers to manage, you should check out our CSAware software. It can save you countless hours of managing spreadsheets, putting together delivery sheets and running credits cards, plus so much more. Save yourself the hassles so you can focus on the farming and building your business.

If you'd like an online tour, let us know.

Recipe: Doug's Really Good Fish Tacos

Here's a recipe to help you test your 'buy local' skills. We were able to buy at the farmers' market, grow, or raise pretty much everything (except the pineapple and mango, but both can be substituted or omitted). It's a 'one dish' meal, perfect for a crowd (most of it can be made well ahead of time), and really fun to make! And if that doesn't convince you, they are delicious and nutritious!

Fish Tacos