I’m going to be honest – my fridge was a total mess after a little gathering we had here. We bought food so our guests wouldn’t go hungry, but of course they all brought food, too, so in the end there was too much food. In the days following, I was thinking, “What is all this stuff in my fridge, and why can’t I find anything to eat?” We took care of those leftovers just in time — our weekly farm share deliveries have begun for the season!
What is a farm share?
For those who may not know: a farm share or CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is a way of buying food directly from a local farm. We pay our farmers in advance for the summer season and get weekly deliveries of whatever they grow. In this way, the community supports the farm by providing income in spring when it is needed and by promising to consume whatever the farmers manage to grow. Farm shares are great for preventing food waste on the farm level and for preserving open land and local food production capacity. Also, it’s totally #ZeroWaste! We pick up food from a wax-lined box and leave the box there. Unfortunately, farm shares do present a challenge in terms of avoiding food waste.
We have been doing farm shares since about 2007. My first one was with Keystone Farm, which delivered amazingly full boxes of veggies, fruits, eggs, meat, and cheese to the Clark Park Farmer’s Market in West Philly. There is always an element of challenge to using the random things you get – I remember Keystone Farm introduced me to horseradish cheddar (yum!!) and rutabagas. One week we got a big stalk of Brussels sprouts which I found so overwhelming that I gave the whole thing to our neighbor.
This year, we are eating food from Skinny Kitty Farms on Fir Island, WA. I’m already a little overwhelmed by the greens, but our house guest helped me make a lovely Asian salad with Napa cabbage, so that was a good start. Here’s what I try to do to make sure this summer bounty doesn’t become food waste:
1. Find ways to give away what I can’t finish
Roommates are a real blessing sometimes, especially the ones who love eating leftovers. Then there is the strategy of splitting farm shares with friends. This worked really well for us in Philadelphia – meeting weekly to split our share was a nice ritual of meeting up with friends. It also worked because everyone has different food preferences, so we could each take what we most liked while limiting the items that were challenging to use. Finally, splitting a share gives you automatic backup for weeks when you’re out of town or just don’t need any more food.
In Seattle, our Buy Nothing group has been great for giving away items we know we won’t be able to use. I have designated people who serve as my back-ups for weeks when we are not around or for veggies that we just can’t keep up with. Taking veggies next door to share is also nice because it’s an easy way for people to try out new veggies that aren’t that popular in stores. This week, we were given a lot of kohlrabi (karalábé in Hungarian), which I love but others have never heard of. I shared some with our neighbor who loves radishes but had never tried it. You just peel the bottoms and eat raw or salt and let sit first. Hungarians also make it into soup.
2. Keep a fridge inventory
I’m nowhere near detail-oriented enough to keep a full inventory of everything in my fridge. But especially when those boxes of farm share veggies start rolling in, I’ve found that having a list of them on the outside of the fridge helps me remember what I need to cook and eat. Then of course making plans for how to use them is good, as well. I don’t really like managing physical things like food online, but I did just hear about an app and website called Supercook, where you can save the ingredients you have at home and then search for recipes by ingredients, with filters for dietary restrictions.
3. Canning and Preserving
This is an area I need to explore more. What are your favorite ways to put away greens like kale, spinach, collards or other farm share items? Tomatoes are only going to be an issue later this summer, but I’m hoping to get some salsa and tomato sauce put away this year. Right now, my main strategy is to make things like minestrone soup that contain greens and freeze well. I’ve enjoyed taking frozen mystery-soup to work (I was too lazy to label it properly) on weeks when I haven’t had time to cook!
I know none of these ideas would be news to our grandmothers, and that many of my readers know more about using up garden bounties than I do. But I know in our urban and suburban neighborhoods, there is sometimes little sharing and canning going on. I look forward to hearing about your experiences either way.