Blog

Dec 11, 2012

Mike's Desperation Carrot Sauce

Posted by: mikecuccaro

I know it's the time of year where people try to impress one another with their culinary expertise for pot-lucks, parties, and food blogs. I'm not above such self-aggrandizing (I roasted and served an acorn squash stew inside a pumpkin last week) but in choosing a staff recipe, I decided upon a different take: the slacker chef approach.

One winter, I found myself hungry and in no mood to go outside the house (or shower, likely). All I could scrounge around was the remains of a large bag of carrots of which I had probably only needed a couple for a previous recipe and an onion. As an Italian, I always have pasta in the house, but I had no sauce or tomatoes. I did have a can of cheap condensed tomato soup, however. So I conceived of the idea of roasting the carrots and onions and then blending them with the soup. How bad could it be? Turned out it was crazy delicious and my friends now request it all the time.

Ingredients:
10 Large Carrots
1 Onion, preferably Vidalia
1 10.75 oz. can of Condensed Tomato Soup
olive oil
garlic salt
dried oregano
dried basil.

Directions:
Chop the carrots and onion, but not too small. No reason to over-extend yourself.

Turn the oven to bake at 350 degrees. Toss the vegetables with enough olive oil to coat and some garlic salt. Arrange the vegetables flattish on a baking pan. Roast in oven for 45 minutes, stirring every 15. Put roasted vegetables in a bowl and add the can of soup (the more generic the brand the better) along with the basil and oregano. You may want to add a half a can of water. Make sure not to add too much. Blend the mixture COARSELY, until it is the consistency of mashed potatoes. A hand blender works best. I would use a hand masher before a regular blender. Pureeing will make it too liquidy! Don't do it.
This goes great tossed with pasta drained over frozen peas, or as a dip with pita or fried ravioli, or as a spread for sandwiches, or just right out of the bowl! Served hot or cold, it's orangenious!

As an added bonus, and if you're into the surreal, I cooked this recipe on television once when I worked for the local PBS station and it's pretty mind-blowing, if I do say so myself:

Dec 11, 2012

Webinar on CSA Legal Issues on December 18th

Posted by: Small Farm Central

Last month, I posted an entry about some superb sample member agreements that an agricultural law professor from the University of Illinois put together.

This group is now holding some webinars covering these issues. I joined the one that was held last night and found it to be very insightful. They covered member agreements, volunteer agreements, how to handle intern payment, and many other pertinent legal issues. Luckily, the organizers decided to run another webinar on Decemeber 18th due to the high demand for the first sesson (over 200 farmers registered).

Register for the next CSA Legal issues webinar here.

As Brian admitted during the webinar, this is not an enjoyable part of the CSA enterprise for most farmers, but an important aspect to get right during the winter when you have time to think about it!

Dec 6, 2012

Save Online Transaction Fees with Dwolla

Posted by: Small Farm Central

We are excited to announce the launch of our newest checkout option for Member Assembler: Dwolla. This is exciting because Dwolla works with ACH transactions between the member's bank and the farmer's bank and bypasses the whole credit card industry. Due to this, it only costs $0.25 per transaction with no percentage. This is essentially free as compared to credit card transactions which normally costs between 2-3% of the transaction plus per transaction fees.

Dwolla has been around for several years, but they have just launched a new featured called guest checkout that allows someone who does not have a Dwolla account to make a purchase on a merchant's site. Members who pay with Dwolla will need to enter their bank account number and routing number to make a payment, but if you explain how this saves your farm on fees, members will be happy to keep more money in their farmer's hands!

Read more on this new feature from Dwolla. We need a 3-5 early adopters to work with us to set up Dwolla on their Member Assembler sites, so please email us and we'll be in touch with next steps. After we have worked through the process of creating a new Dwolla account and connecting it with Member Assembler, we will create some comprehensive help documents with screenshots and open Dwolla up to everyone.

So, please let us know if you want to be the first to use this exciting new payment option!

Dec 3, 2012

CSA Conference in Wisconsin, January 2013

Posted by: Small Farm Central

We're proud to be sponsors of the Midwest CSA conference in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, January 10th & 11th. This is the only conference that I know of to focus specifically on CSA and I'm excited to be a part of it!

If you are going to there, be sure to stop by our table and say hi!

There is a great line-up of topics:

  • Is CSA Right for Me? Things to Consider for Starting a CSA.
  • Production Basics for Beginners - Key systems that CSA farmers have in place to ensure production.
  • Filling your box: Figuring out how to plan, provide and price a full season of CSA shares.
  • Pick-up Site Logistics - Lessons from on-farm, farmer's market, workplace, and neighborhood pickup sites.
  • Planting to packing - On-farm logistics, efficiencies, tricks, and equipment to get the work done and the boxes filled.
  • What's in your box: A moderated round-table discussion of farmers of various sizes about what and how much and how often some common items are in their boxes.
  • Mulch systems and weed control for CSA farms.
  • Member involvement-Best practices from farm events, field days, and celebrations.
  • Incorporating low-income members in your CSA farm - Recipes for success.
  • Communicating with members, Websites, newsletters, social media, and blogs.
  • Guerilla Marketing your CSA business.
  • Measuring the financial success of your CSA I: What indicators should you measure to understand if your CSA's is heading toward the point of profitability? 
  • Measuring the financial success of your CSA II - Diversification of your CSA and the CSA model.
  • Legalities for CSA farms: Liability, employment and taxes.
  • Strategies for Sustainable Growth of your CSA: Rightsizing your CSA farm.

Hope to see some of you there!

Nov 27, 2012

Simon's Refried Beans

Posted by: Small Farm Central

I thought it would be fun for us to do a series on the blog of 'signature recipes' of the staff members here at Small Farm Central. Starting with me!

Refried beans are a staple in my house for a quick burrito meal or to make nachos. I almost always have these around. Since I find myself cooking beans so often, I splurged on a spanish olla (clay bean cooking pot) this summer. This brings even more pleasure to this process.

You can buy wonderful heirloom beans from Rancho Gordo, but for these every day refried beans I use basic pinto beans from the grocery store.

This a vegetarian recipe for refried beans, but I'm sure they would be wonderful refried with lard, too!

Simon's Signature Refried Beans

Ingredients:

  • 1lb dry pinto beans (or black beans)
  • 1 large onion, peeled, roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled, roughly chopped
  • 3 stocks of celery (optional), roughly chopped
  • 2 tsp crushed cumin (for best flavor, crush whole cumin seeds in the mortar and pestle) or 1/2 bunch of cilantro, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Process

  1. Cover beans with cold water and soak 6 hours or more (or use your preferred bean soaking method).
  2. Strain the beans from the soaking water and add enough fresh, cold water to your pot to cover the beans with 1-2 inches of water.
  3. Bring the beans to a boil. While the beans are coming to a boil, roughly chop the onion, garlic, and celery and add to the bean water.
  4. Allow beans to boil for 5-10 minutes, then lower the heat to a simmer and cover.
  5. After about an hour and the beans have begun to soften, add one tablespoon of salt (or to taste).
  6. Turn off the heat once the beans are very soft (usually takes 1.5-2 hours on low simmer).
  7. Often I'll eat some of the beans at this point and then refry the next day.
  8. To refry the beans, melt the butter in a large skillet and then transfer the cooked beans to the skillet and bring to a boil. Allow the beans to boil the cooking liquid away until it reaches a pretty thick consistency. While the beans are boiling, use a potato masher to mash some of the beans (but not all! I like my refried beans a little bit chunky). Near the end of the refrying, when the beans are thick, you will need to stir often to keep the beans from burning on the bottom.
  9. When thick consistency is reached, add the cumin or cilantro and taste for salt.

Eat beans on tortillas, in nachos, or in any mexican dish that uses refried beans!

It is my habit to make 2lbs of dry beans and freeze 1 or 2 quarts of the cooked beans before refrying. Then I can pull the frozen beans out in a week or two for another round of delicious beans!

Nov 21, 2012

Happy Feasting!

Posted by: Small Farm Central

Wishes of a happy Thanksgiving weekend filled with friends and family from Small Farm Central. You've earned it this year!

Nov 12, 2012

Holiday Gift Giving - Small Farm Central Style

Posted by: shannon

It's that time of year again...time to start thinking about holiday gifts and wish lists. We keep coming across lovely goods featured on our many Small Farm Central websites, so we thought we'd do a quick post about a few products. Farm products are a great solution for the hard-to-buy-for relative or friend.


1. Beeswax candles from Full Moon Honey. 2. Lemony Sage Mustard from Twin Oaks Farm. 3. Salami Gift Box from Foothill Farms. 4. Honey Oatmeal soap from Cherry Valley Organics. 5. Peach, Tarragon, Tangerine Sage Jam from Heritage Line Herbs. 6. Maple Syrup from Spring Harvest Maple. 7. Door County Whitefish Caviar from Ruleau Brothers, Inc.

Oct 31, 2012

Get Educated on Member Assembler

Posted by: Small Farm Central

This fall and early winter, we are hosting a series of online webinars on various aspects of the Member Assembler service to make you a member management expert! This is specifically for farmers already using Member Assembler who want to learn tips and tricks, but farms interested in the service who are not current subscribers, can also sit in on the calls. The goal of these sessions is to make you more confident and successful with Member Assembler!

This will be a "screenshare" type of meeting where you will log in and be able to hear me (Simon) talking and see my screen as I talk through the topic at hand. I will try to record these and have them available at a later time. Read about the sessions and register for the ones that interest you!

Public Sign-up Process Tweaks: We'll look in depth at the public Member Assembler side (where your customers sign up for your CSA) and detail what parts of the site can be edited. This session will also include information on customizing the emails that go out to members as they sign up and using membership updates to allow members to add on shares or change contact information.
Date: Tuesday, November 6th 2012, 1pm EST

Payment Processing Options: from Credit Cards to Dwolla: Learn about options for payment processing including normal mailed checks, authorize.net credit cards, eCheck, Paypal and Dwolla. Learn about the costs and trade-offs of different approaches.
Date: Tuesday, November 20th 2012, 1pm EST

Accounting Tools: Learn about balance tracking, adjusting invoices, payment requests, and the financial reports.
Date: Tuesday, December 4th 2012, 1pm EST

Managing the CSA Process Throughout the Season: Review pickup lists, automated reminder emails, mailing list emails, and other reports that you will use throughout the season on a week-to-week basis.
Date: Tuesday, January 15th, 1pm EST

Extras and Ecommerce: Sell weekly extra items each week with the ecommerce tools. We'll cover creating a web store on your Member Assembler site, allowing members access to the store, and reporting to deliver those items to your customers.
Date: Tuesday, January 29th, 1pm EST

Register for one or all of the webinars now!

Oct 10, 2012

Sample Member Agreements for CSAs Available Online

Posted by: Small Farm Central

I came across these sample member agreements for CSAs put together by University of Illinois professor of agricultural law A. Bryan Endres and his wife. Contracts and paperwork probably are not at the top of your list, but as Endres notes, your CSA can't build community and grow food if you get put out of business due to legal problems.

"Some CSAs are highly organized, very professional," Endres said. "In my own CSA, the member agreement we signed had elements of legality, but it was very unclear. Even simple things like how much money we needed to send in and when to send it weren't clear in the membership agreement. It got me thinking that the membership agreement is a key part of the CSA, and an unclear membership agreement can create a barrier to people joining CSAs. It's actually a contract between the farmer and the CSA member who wants to get the vegetables every week, so a well-written and clear contract is much better for everyone."

These sample contracts can be downloaded at Endres' website along with a variety of other documents like worker share agreement and volunteer liability form.

The sample CSA contract is very detailed covering growing practices, expected products, risk of crop failure, crop surplus, how to pick up shares and more.

Andres is asking for feedback on these forms in a survey. Visit his website to download the forms.

Sep 27, 2012

Website Theme for Autumn

Posted by: Small Farm Central

Seasonally Fresh!

Perusing our farm websites, we spied a lovely autumn themed header gracing Brookdale Farm's website. Changing the photos in your header is an easy way to keep your website fresh and up to date. A number of our templates allows you to update the header yourselves. Just head to Display > Template Settings > Template Settings - Customize. Some of our templates might require our assistance...if you're not sure, drop our graphic designer, Shannon, a line: shannon (at) smallfarmcentral.com.


Brookdale Farm's autumnal header.


Editing a template header.

Twitter

  • If I had a diet plan, it would be: 1) cook for yourself 2) eat whatever you want at mealtimes, but cut the snacks 3) cut the desserts&sugars
    1 year 14 weeks ago
  • @AmyinOregon oh, neat. Glad you like them.. more coming soon!
    1 year 15 weeks ago