CSA 2010 – Week 7: Small Town, USA

Philomath, Oregon

Year-round population of about 4,500. We have a library, post office, diner, bar, a great annual rodeo, and a museum that spotlights local history. There used to be one main street that split the town, but now there are two, one going in each direction. Other then that, not much appears to have changed in the last couple of years. The schools are still full of kids, and even though the economy is down, most of the small businesses managed to keep their doors open. Sounds ordinary, right? Classic small town America. But when compared with overall rural growth trends, its really not. All over the United States, small towns like this are packing up their bags and dragging their feet into the urban sprawl of the nearest big city, but strangely Philomath is growing – its population is up 17% since 2000. What is the glue that holds small towns like this together? And why are so many place like it falling apart? Maybe its not glue that sticks communities together, but food.

Canned goods, honey and herbal supplements come from local Willamette valley producers

In what we always seem to idealize as the golden years in our nation’s history, the 1950’s, about 12% of the total labor force claimed farming as their principle occupation. The total number of farms back then (as counted by the government) was 5,388,000. In the last 50 years that number has fallen to where it is today; now less than 1% of the labor force claim farming as the way they make their living, and the overall number of farms in the United States is about 2 million. Could this shift away from small scale farming be a big factor in the break-up of so many small communities?

Kali Lamont stocks produce at the farm stand.

While I don’t completely believe that the sole reason for this small town’s growth is Gathering Together Farm, I think it is undeniable that the presence and success of our farm has and will continue to build community support and connections that positively effect the area. Communities are built on issues of common ground or interest, such as local politics, or town development. But farms affect us on a level that goes beyond our petty differences: they produce food, and everyone has to eat. The greatest obvious commonality in a small town is the fact that the food source is shared. John and Sally have farmed here since 1987; they have sent their children to school here; they know their neighbors, fellow business owners; they know their customers; and in return everyone knows them. I think this investment in community goes beyond economic or demographic growth. It fills a need that we don’t always recognize because it is rapidly disappearing: the practice of looking out for the best interest of the people you share space with.

Regular customer Irene picking up GTF sausage, a favorite among her grandchildren.

Take our Farmstand for example. The diversity of local products reflects how community bonds are strengthened. Of course we sell vegetables that are grown on the farm, but there are also fresh eggs and cheese from neighbors, free range meat from several local providers in the greater Corvallis area. Canned goods from Sweet Creek farms, seeds from our sister company, Wild Garden Seeds, wines from local vineyards, and honey from both Blodgett and Corvallis. The list goes on, but the point is that all the people who produce these products have something to bring to the table. These small producers are given a venue to sell their wares, and we in turn have something special and unique to offer to the public that we otherwise would lack. When people help each other out like this, everyone benefits. It’s a lot harder for communities to fall apart and individuals within the community to fail, because people are literally invested in the health of a community, because of this they will go to greater measures to make sure that both issues and people aren’t falling through the cracks.

One of the original activists for a local food movement, Wendell Barry wrote on the idea that farming should be done by the measure of nature, that is, the nature and history of a place. This means that farmers tend farms that they love, farms that are small enough to know and to love, using tools and methods that they know and love, in the company of neighbors they know and love. Historically farming has been at the heart of small communities, and neighbors whose efforts help to feed other neighbors are going to care a lot more about each others’ well-being. With society changing like it is, it seems most communities could use a whole lot more of this food for the heart.

Devon Sanders, CSA Coordinator

What’s in the box?

  • 2 medium Siletz Tomatoes
  • Pint of Blueberries – Thank you Wilt Berry Farm, Corvallis, OR.
  • 1.5 lbs Yellow or All Red Potatoes
  • 2 Cucumbers – See recipe.
  • Carrots
  • Basil
  • Beets – See recipe.
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Baby Onions – You can use every bit of these onions, from bulb to the tasty green tops, just slice then into little rounds, sauté, or sprinkle on top of potatoes, eggs, or salads.
  • 2 Zucchinis
  • Summer Squash – You should have one of either the cocozella (a long striped green variety), magda (pale green and eggplant shaped), yellow crook neck, yellow patty pan (resembles a space ship), or zapallito (a round green variety).

Recipes:

Veggie Salad Wraps

These wraps are so easy to make, plus  they are light and refreshing on hot days when you don’t feel like turning on the stove. All you need are spring roll rice papers or wraps, which you can find in almost any Asian market, or co-op, or even the Asian foods aisle of many grocery stores. They are made out of rice flour, so no cooking is necessary. Just soak one at a time in a shallow container of luke-warm water (I use a pie pan) for about 15 – 20 seconds, until they are soft, but not too soft. Once the wrap is soft, remove it, and move to a flat plate to add your filling, then roll it up. Below are some suggestions for fillings, but you can put whatever you like in them. To really fancy them up, try shrimp and chopped mint, or cilantro on top of what I’ve suggested below.

The number of  wraps you want to make will affect the amount of veggies needed. The below suggestions will make between 10 and 15 wraps depending on size.

4-5 carrots (grated)
2 cucumbers – sliced into long thin strips
Green tops of one bunch of baby onions, chopped into 1/4 inch rounds
One head of lettuce, shredded thinly
Your choice of dipping sauce – Spicy peanut is my favorite

Place a line of veggies down  the center of one of  your  pre-soaked wraps, just like a burrito, leave about one inch on either side, and enough space on the top and bottom to roll closed. Carefully fold the bottom of the rice paper wrapper over the vegetables. Turn in the sides and keep it rather tight as you continue rolling up from the bottom.  Slice in half and serve with dipping sauce.

Roasted Beet and Beet Green Salad

1 bunch beets with greens
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped onion
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
a sprinkle of feta cheese
a sprinkle of chopped green onion tops

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Wash the beets thoroughly, leaving the skins on, and remove the greens. Rinse greens, and set aside.
  • Place the beets in a small baking dish or roasting pan, and toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
  • Cover, and bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until a knife can slide easily through the largest beet.
  • When the roasted beets are almost done, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat.
  • Add the garlic and onion, and cook for a minute.
  • Tear the beet greens into 2 to 3 inch pieces and add them to the skillet.
  • Cook and stir until greens are wilted and tender.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Cut beets into bite sized pieces, mix with greens and vinegar, this is great warm or cold,  garnish with a sprinkle of feta cheese, and onion tops. Yum!

Tomato, Zucchini Caprese Salad

2 vine-ripe tomato 1/4-inch thick slices
2  thinly sliced zucchini
1 pound fresh mozzarella, 1/4-inch thick slices
1 bunch (or a little less) fresh basil
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Coarse salt and pepper to taste

  • Layer alternating slices of tomatoes, zucchini, and mozzarella, adding a basil leaf between each, on a large, shallow platter.
  • Drizzle the salad with extra-virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper, to taste.