Thoughtful Food


Oversized or just right? by Leda

My new favorite thing to do with “oversized” summer squash or zucchini is to make stuffed squash. In fact, I have been so excited about this new venue for cooking creativity that I utter a silent cheer every time I harvest a squash that is just too big to sell.

The basic recipe goes like this (Thanks Alana for the inspiration!):

1- slice the ends off squash and cut in half lengthwise. Hollow out each half by scooping out the seeds with a spoon.

2- fill your squash canoes with your favorite filling. and

3- bake in an oiled glass casserole dish at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes (or until the squash is tender). It is a good idea to check this half way through the cooking time just to be sure that the squash is not sticking to the bottom. You may have to drizzle with a little olive oil if this is the case.

A few of my favorite fillings:

spicy lentils and rice (pictured below)

sausage meat with spices

bulgar wheat with herbs (fresh rosemary and basil).

Any other good filling ideas?

-Farmer Leda

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Market Shenanigans by Leda
August 17, 2010, 4:26 pm
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Farmer’s markets are like yard sales for vegetables. First and foremost, the goods that you are selling are dear to your heart. It is hard to sell the first real bike you ever had for $20 when you move. But, that’s life, and so is selling a bunch of beets for $3. Not just any beets; the beets that you have seeded, irrigated, cultivated, thinned, and finally hand selected, bunched, and washed. Those beets mean more than the $3 price tag. A farmer’s market is the perfect venue to capture that meaning. It is so satisfying to sell that bunch of beets directly to a couple who wants to tell you all about how they are going to prepare them for dinner that night.

In order to enjoy a market, you have to let the excitable folks outshine the complainers. There is not a market that goes by where someone does not comment on the “high” price of our produce. “Oh my, $4 for a basket of strawberries!” Yes, $4 is what it costs to nurture those strawberry plants without chemical fertilizers, weed and tend them by hand, grow them no farther than 1 hour from where they are being sold, and deliver them to this market stand no later than 24 hours after they were hand picked at the peak of ripeness.

On the other side of the spectrum (and luckily these encounters are more common) are those people who are just so pleased to see organic farmers. I have even begun to take for granted the comments about how beautiful our produce looks (see picture above, it does look good doesn’t it?). I must say, though, that my favorite conversations are with people who are just encountering this kind of quality food. I smile every time I think about the surprise on that little girl’s face after biting into a sungold cherry tomato and discovering that I wasn’t lying when I said they taste like candy.

If you haven’t been to a farmer’s market this season, please go check one out!

Four Frog Farm sells at these markets:

Nevada City Downtown 8AM-Noon, Saturdays

Nevada City Presbyterian Church, 3PM-6PM, Tuesdays

Truckee River Regional Park, 8AM-Noon Tuesdays

Grass Valley Downtown 5PM-8PM, Thursdays

Auburn Oldtown 8AM-Noon, Saturdays

Hope to see you there!

-Farmer Leda



Can you make a living as a small farmer? by Leda
August 7, 2010, 4:59 pm
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A little over midway through our internship experience, this is the question that Matt, Stephanie, and I are all wrestling with. I think that each of us has confirmed our initial suspicions that small-scale farming is a very satisfying and worthwhile pursuit. However, at the end of the day, we must decide whether or not making a career out of farming is economically feasible.

Currently, there seems to be no monetary incentive to become a small farmer. The reality that I have heard over and over again from small farmers is that they are worried about making it financially. These farmers seem to belong to two different groups: those who are financially independent from their farming endeavors (i.e., do not need to make money farming because of inheritance or previous earnings in another career field) and those who are struggling to support themselves. The USDA reports that 85-90% of the income brought in by farming households is earned off the farm. Thus, in their words, “for the majority of U.S. farm households, the availability of off-farm income is a more significant factor for financial well-being than are returns on farm production,” (www.usda.gov/documents/FARM_FAMILY_INCOME.pdf).

Despite these pessimistic reports, there are those people who contend that it is possible to earn enough on a small farm to support a family. Two of these people are Eliot Coleman, a successful and respected organic farmer in Maine, and John Ikerd, Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Economics at the University of Missouri Columbia. Eliot Coleman, in his book, “The New Organic Grower,” suggests that a family (or couple) can successfully farm on 5 acres if they can limit purchased equipment and maximize their efficiency of labor. Ikerd also supports the notion that small farms can be successful. However, he does not predict an easy path and cautions against borrowing too much money or trying to expand to quickly.

Maybe the single largest hurdle a young farmer faces financially is the start up cost of farming. The costs of land and infrastructure (i.e., tractor, implements, irrigation, greenhouse, etc.) are often prohibitive unless one has access to family land/money or decides to take out a small business loan. In speaking with other young farm interns in this area (Nevada County, CA) about our collective futures in farming, I can say that the problem of finding land is the first topic discussed. Certain young farmers I have talked with have parents or friends with land that they are considering farming. For the rest of us, finding land to farm remains a huge first step in pursuing this lifestyle.

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to the question of whether farming can support me financially until I start looking into the specifics of land cost (to lease or own) and infrastructure/equipment appropriate to that land. I think that for now the best I can do is to focus on improving my farming skills and knowledge every day and remain optimistic about my ability to make a living as a small farmer.

-Farmer Leda