Thursday, October 27, 2011


This is a newsletter entry written by Ben.

Hello all. It has been a while since you have heard from me via newsletter...I can't remember the last time. Anyhow, I have recently become aware that the Farm Bill is being rewritten behind closed doors in record time (2 weeks vs. 1 year!). Below is a little bit of information I found on the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition website followed by the letter I fired off to our Congresswoman Renee Ellmers (R), who happens to sit on the House Agricultural Committee. This is the first letter I have written to a Congressperson, ever! I called my father this morning for advice on how to speak to issues that concern us and our farm. He is a seasoned, politically active farmer because in the dairy business, wholesale prices are supplemented by gov't subsidies which, unfortunately, are necessary for them to stay afloat as a farm. He enlightened me by telling me to speak to issues that directly concern us and not disparaging others and to directly contact the Congressional Aide for our Congressperson who deals with the issues at hand. He also suggested we attend affordable fund-raising dinners put on by our representatives and speak to them personally about issues which affect us directly, the method which tends to have the biggest impact for small folks like us. I will let you all know what becomes of my letter to Congresswoman Ellmers...

The following is from

 Last Monday, the Republican and Democratic leadership of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees sent a letter to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction suggesting a net $23 billion cut in mandatory farm bill spending over the next decade as their collective recommendation to the Joint Select Committee (hereafter referred to as the Super Committee) that is tasked with finding $1.2 trillion in government-wide cuts or revenue increases over the next decade by Thanksgiving.

Having sent off the joint letter, the staffs of the two Agriculture Committees hunkered down all week to stitch together a farm bill in what, if successful, would be record time.   Due to the brief two week window, none of the normal congressional processes for farm bills or other major legislation are being used — no hearings, circulated bill drafts, mark-ups in which committee members get to offer amendments, etc.  The primary activity has all been behind closed doors and has for the most part only involved the staff of the chairs and ranking members, not the members (and their staffs) who make up the rank and file of the two committees.

With action on the farm bill moving (at least for now) at such a rapid pace, members of the House and Senate are getting ready to introduce two major new bills this week.  One contains major rewrites of programs and policies to assist young and beginning farmers get started in agriculture.  Another proposes a comprehensive set of revisions and additions to farm bill programs to help renew local and regional farm and food systems.  Both bills promote new opportunities in farming and increase rural job creation and economic growth.  Both also renew funding for farm bill programs that currently have mandatory funding but which do not have secure funding after fiscal year 2012. 

My letter...

Dear Congresswoman Ellmers,

My name is Benjamin Shields and I am a constituent from Clayton, NC. I started Ben's Produce along with Patricia Parker, my fiancee, in August of 2009. Ben's Produce is a small, un-certified organic produce farm that sells directly to the public via farmer's markets (Western Wake Farmer's Market and Clayton Farm & Community Market)  as well as our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) with 35 member families. We also began Farm It Forward, a CSA program that provides our produce to families with children at risk of developing type 2 diabetes and teaches the participants how to build lifelong healthy attitudes about food and fitness. This collaborative program is coordinated by Advocates for Health In Action, the participants are drawn from the WakeMed Energize! program and the cooking classes are put on by the Interfaith Food Shuttle. Sixty percent of Energize! participants are low-income, which brings me to my concerns with the cuts being made to Farm Bill funding.

Every Saturday at the Western Wake Farmer's Market (WWFM), we make a number of sales to folks who receive SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits. WWFM is the only farmer's market in Wake Co. that accepts SNAP benefits. We also serve SNAP beneficiaries in our Farm It Forward program, 60% of the participating families are low income. Unfortunately, we do not currently accept SNAP payments from the Farm It Forward participants. As a small farm on a shoestring budget, every sale we make counts towards our profitability, including those sales from folks who use SNAP. I urge you to minimize funding cuts to the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, specifically the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your service.

Benjamin Shields

Monday, October 3, 2011

Fall 2011 CSA Week 1

We know that a lot of folks have a hard time sometimes distinguishing between, say tat soi and bok choy, so we like to take pictures of our CSA share items and label them, so our members have a reference once they bring their shares home. I took these pictures at market on Saturday, since I won't be home on Tuesday when Ben will harvest and then deliver your shares. We usually like to put all the CSA items together for one picture, but since we did this at market, it wasn't really conducive to our situation. Anyway, the single picture items should be somewhat helpful for identifying your CSA share items. So, as I stated in the email, you will receive the following items in your shares:

SCALLIONS                           ARUGULA
BOK CHOY                           PEPPERS
NAPA CABBAGE                  HAKUREI
LETTUCE                              TURNIPS

Note: scallions, lettuce, and hakurei turnips not pictured

bok choy great for stir-fry

tat soi also great for stir fry, but also salad

daikon radish
you can cook the greens and stir fry the root or eat it sliced, raw with salt
it's also good in kimchi

red Russian kale (aka ragged Jack)
this is good every which way
you can also save and eat the stems (they require a longer cooking time than the leaves)

great raw and cooked

French breakfast radishes
you can eat the greens cooked
the roots are great as a snack, in salad, or in a stir fry

sweet gypsy peppers
raw and cooked - either way, they're tasty!

these are my favorite sweet peppers, by far

Well, that's all folks! We'll try to post more share pictures as the season progresses. Definitely feel free to email us if you have any questions about your share items or what to do with them. We've got TONS of ideas :). Thanks for stopping by!

- Patricia

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Happy Autumn!

Hi folks! It's been a LONG time since I've posted on this ol' blog - again - but what can I say? We're busy farmin it up out here and that leaves little time for blog posts. As the weather turns colder, you can expect more posts. Until then, I'm posting one of our write ups from the first Fall CSA newsletter. It's all about greens - and I figured lots of folks might be interested in how to deal with the plethora of greens to come this season. I've been taking pictures on the farm - some of them are outdated already, but expect a picture blog in the near future. 
As usual, thanks for stopping by! 
 - Patricia 

Greens Galore
By Patricia Parker

Even for greens lovers like us, it can be a challenge to keep up with all the greens (but we like challenge) and root veggies of the fall. I’d like to share a bit of our greens wisdom with the hopes that you find some of our strategies helpful.

First and foremost, it is important to get acquainted with your greens. You’ll be receiving numerous types and varieties, each with their own unique flavors and textures. Additionally, their flavors will change as the weather grows colder (they’ll get sweeter – this goes for the root veggies too!). I recommend trying your greens every which way – starting by trying them raw. I find some greens less palatable raw than others – for instance, turnip, radish, and mustard greens are a bit too pungent raw for my taste. But, when they’re cooked, they’re delectable. And some greens are great raw – like arugula and spinach – and others that might surprise you, like kale and swiss chard (all of them are great cooked). As a general rule of thumb, the more tender the green, the better it tastes raw (and the less time you will need to cook them).

Now, there are countless ways to prepare your greens – you can steam them, sautĂ© them, stir fry them, put them in soups, chilis and stews, eat them with eggs (e.g., as a side, in an omelet or frittata), etc. We’ll provide you with recipes for your greens throughout the season to help spur along your greens creativity. We’ll also give you basic cooking instructions and storage information. If your greens ever start to feel like they’re piling up on you, remember how few greens there are in the summer. You can blanch and then freeze your greens to use them any other time you like. You can also use up lots of greens if you make them the primary course on your plate (e.g., dinner salad or beans and greens with meat on the side). Of course, you can also share with your friends, family and neighbors – and if you don’t have any takers, you can leave them with us and we’ll donate them to the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle for you.

Keeping up with your greens can be a daunting task in the beginning, but before you know it, you’ll turn pro!

Note: If anyone would like to share their own methods for keeping up with your CSA share, please send a write-up our way. We would LOVE for CSA members to contribute to weekly newsletters. You can send your write up in an email, as a word file, or as a pdf file. We’ll be sure to place it in the next newsletter.