Monday, November 30, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
Firstly, I'm a current shareholder in a CSA in Balch Springs (more to come in a later post complete with pictures, interviews, thought, etc.). Investing in a CSA is much more difficult than simply saying "if I pay x amount, then I get x amount of food." It's not the grocery store, it's real life, and real life depends on sunshine and rain. Any guarantees made by a farmer should be taken with the utmost caution.
In the CSA formula, the farmer is the most important variable as this is where your investment is going. The idea is that with your investment money, the farmer can devote 100% of his/her time to growing quality food for you instead of spending a significant share of their time and resources marketing themselves at farmer's markets, restaurants, etc. What your investment money can't do is change the weather by importing peppers from Holland (that's what super markets are for).
Drew highlighted a local CSA, Tucker Farms. Here's a line straight from their website:
Be aware that buying a share is not an iron-clad guarantee of vegetables every week. If a freak storm or bad drought destroys the crops, there may be little to “share.” And usually, there’s no money back guarantee. It’s a shared risk.
That's about as clear cut as it gets, but I'd like to add to it this:
"WE LIVE IN NORTH TEXAS. When was the last time we went for a year without a freak storm or drought? And there's NEVER a money back guarantee. Also, if you don't like eating leafy greens in the winter, you'll need to move south of the equator or go to the grocery store, because that's a big part of what grows in the winter in real life!"
All I'm saying is that you shouldn't expect a 1/2 bushel of anything if it rains over 24" in a month (like it did way back in........oh yeah, October).
Ok, now that I'm done scaring you, I want to tell you why I am (and why you should be, if it's right for you) in a CSA.
1. I love my farm and my farmer.
I believe in supporting local businesses, in reducing my impact on the environment, and eating quality organic produce. My farm and my farmer enable me to do all of the above. In addition, my farmer can answer questions that the produce guy at the grocery store can't. She can tell me definitively when and how what I'm eating was produced and how I can grow some of it at home (should you be in to that sort of thing).
2. Nothing tastes better than produce picked that day.
3. I get to try new things.
Apparently we don't get to see but a fraction of the total catalog of edible produce in the super market. It's all dictated by huge supplier's profits on common, popular fruits and veggies. Your local farmers don't believe in that kind of thing. They plant stuff you've never heard of in addition to the regular stuff. And very typically plant unfamiliar varieties of things you have heard of. They're all good.
4. If you want farming to go back to its roots, you have to be part of the solution.
My farmer can't compete with the huge producers, no more than you or I could. But, when you can gather some like-minded folks to help share the risks of the single farmer, that farmer can flourish in their own right. It's an amazing concept (not surprising that everyone in the Northeast and on the West Coast are way ahead of us on the concept, but we're catching on!!).
5. While Whole Foods might be organic, this stuff is ridiculously organic.
Hand plowing, hand weeding, on-site irrigation, natural & organic pest control. This is so environmentally friendly, it's ridiculous. My farm has a homemade wind and solar-powered water pump. How cool is that?
A good resource for finding a CSA in your hood is http://www.localharvest.org/. Just be sure to know what you're getting into. Things you need to do/decide:
- If the Fall is rained out and there's a drought in the Summer, will I be going hungry because I spent all my grocery money on the CSA? (The answer should be no.)
- Am I willing to share with friends and/or learn how to can food lest the occasional onslaught of food go to waste? (When the weather is nice, folks have been known to have more food than they know what to do with. This is, of course, a good thing.)
- Can I cook or am I at least willing to try? (If you can't, what are you going to do with all these veggies?)
- What crops will be produced and when? (You may get sick of eating the same things over and over during certain seasons, but, again, this is real life - nothing is grown year-round like it is in your nearest super market.)
- Is "Organic" important to me? (Not all CSAs are organic.)
- Is "Local" important to me? (If you're joining CSA, it should be).
- Are you grossed out by people talking about locally-raised, grass-fed meat and raw milk? (You shouldn't be because CSA farmers generally run in circles with the folks who produce those products and often offer their products at additional costs to their shareholders. I think it's a wonderful thing - I just join the other vegans on my farm by not purchasing their goods.)
- Commit to visiting the farm before joining and understanding how things are done.
- Commit to meeting the farmer before joining - this is where your investment is actually going!!!
Ok, all done. Now get out there and eat local (after some research, of course).
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Here’s the concept in a nutshell: a farmer offers a certain number of “shares” to the public. Purchasers make payments before the growing season and in return receive proportionate amounts of produce each week throughout the growing season.
EatGreenDFW reports that Jerry Tucker of Tucker Farms is offering shares right now! Depending on the growing season, he is planning on a 32 week growing season, but it may even last longer! By my calculation, that’s almost 8 months of farm fresh produce, weather permitting. You can expect 40 to 50 different varieties of vegetables, and herbs, upon request. Tucker will speak with you in advance, to ask you your likes and dislikes. He says that you can even customize your selection each week by email.
Both half and full shares are available with the half shares priced at $300 (or less than $9.50 a week) and the full shares at $500 (or about $16 a week). A full share is supposed to yield a half bushel (about 13"x13"x6" box) of seasonal vegetables, and can be paid off in installments of $125. More details are available here.
Here’s the catch: Tucker Farms is near Ennis, about 45 minutes south of Dallas on Rte. 75. If there’s anyone out there who wants to join the group or knows of any other good CSA’s, we’re trying to arrange a local pickup here in the DFW metroplex. Give me a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested or leave us a comment.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
It’s that time of year again when the question abounds - “what are you thankful for?” This year, I’m fortunate to be thankful for many reasons – one of which is to be introduced to such a great organization – the Dallas Humane Society Dog & Kitty City no-kill animal shelter (DKC for short).
DKC is the city of Dallas’ only no-kill shelter, providing a home for so many dogs & cats that otherwise may not have had a chance to live, much less the opportunity of finding a forever home with a loving new family.
Each year the holiday raffle is one of DKC’s most successful fundraisers, and hopefully this year is no exception. Raffle tickets go for a mere $5 a piece and offer the chance of winning some great prizes, including items such as:
- Professional pet photo session with blue mutt photography
- $100 gift card to Whole Foods Market (where you can buy a plethora of vegan goodies)
- 2 $75 gift cards to Bolsa MarketCafeWine Bar – a favorite of Dallas Vegan
- An obscene amount of wine – we’re not absolutely sure whether or not it’s all vegan – but after you finish the first of 2 double-magnums of doghouse chardonnay, you may not remember much in the morning anyway
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Just a reminder, Dallas Vegan Drinks is this Thursday, November 12th, at Idle Rich Pub.
Our first Vegan Drinks was awesome, so we’re looking to keep the momentum going.
What is Dallas Vegan Drinks?
Dallas Vegan Drinks is a continual work-in-progress designed for you, the DFW vegan community. We want everyone to come out and talk-up an organization you belong to, or maybe a new restaurant you found - anything having to do veganism and all that implies. With your continued participation and feedback, we’re sure this will become a fun monthly networking & social opportunity for all of us.
New for November
This month, we’ll be trying something a little different. The “official” event at Idle Rich lasts from 6-8pm, but some of us plan to move on and grab a bite to eat afterwards. This time we’ll be heading to Cosmic Cafe. Feel free to join us and continue the conversation with some new friends.
Find us on Facebook
Dallas Vegan Drinks
Thursday November 12th, 6-8pm
Idle Rich Pub
2614 Mckinney Ave
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
I had not been to Celebration for many years, and at least since I’d turned vegan. I remembered the place as a meat-and-potatoes, homestyle-type, southern American restaurant where we would go for large gatherings. With all this hubbub about them holding a farmers’ market, I decided to do some investigation to see if there were any decent options for us vegans.
It appeared as if there might actually be some good vegan items, since according to the restaurant’s mission statement, Celebration is “striv[ing] to become a leader in the Dallas environmental movement by supporting local farmers and vendors by taking conscious measures to reduce our carbon footprint.” Among those measures, they claim to use local ingredients whenever possible.
Celebration is also holding a “Dinner with Dialogue” on the second Monday of each month. On November 9, for example, Pamela Walker, author of Growing Good Food to Eat in Texas is scheduled to speak about sustainable agricultural practices, and also Michael and Debbie Sams of Full Quiver Farms and Dairy.
Given the promise of potential vegan options, I made a reservation for 13 people, and we were fortunate enough to snag one of the private rooms that I remember so fondly. The place itself is a stone building and it’s got a very camp feel. The menu features mostly meat items with only 2 vegan options: spaghetti and a vegetable plate, which was a little disappointing.
The lack of selection in entrees is made up by the fact that they are served with your choice of soup or salad, and you can order free “seconds” (and thirds, and fourths, in our case). The Light Basil Vinaigrette with Garden Salad and Fresh Vegetable Soup are both vegan, and we ordered both:
The vegetable soup had a slight metallic taste, although it was chock full of veggies. The salad was a hit-even without the croutons, which we did not verify whether they were vegan.
For entrees, we chose the spaghetti and marinara, since we could order it with our choice of veggies, and, as you can see, it was nothing fancy:
The veggies available on our visit included spinach, broccoli, new potatoes, local acorn squash and okra. We were told that the vegetables are typically steamed with light seasoning and olive oil, but you should probably check for specifics upon your visit.
Since we ordered them steamed, they were very simple. You could probably request that they be sautéed, if you prefer.
Overall, I enjoyed the simplicity of our meal and the selection of veggies, including local ones. But, I didn’t feel like the restaurant has yet fully realized their goal of being a “leader in the local environmental movement.” Most on-menu items contained one of our typical plot spoilers, which here included some type of meat or dairy. Vegan options could have been more clearly delineated on the menu, which still proved to be a bit confusing for us and our server, despite my advance preparation. In my opinion, being a leader in the local environmental movement would necessarily include a greater focus on vegan options. I hope to see the menu here continue to evolve to meet this goal.
Celebration Restaurant, Catering, & Market
4503 W. Lovers Lane
Dallas, Texas 75206
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
So here’s the deal—we’re putting Veg-Head of the Week on hold for a bit. Just too much on our plates at the moment. But we promise VHotW will return shortly.
Check out what's happening for veg-heads in Dallas this week...