Luscher Farm CSA program hosts two open houses
While October marks the end of the farmer's market season, that doesn't mean an end to organically and locally sourced fall and winter vegetables.
The Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program at Luscher Farm — where members sign-up to receive produce from the farm — is kicking off its winter session next month.
The summer session will end this month and community members are invited to attend the last two summer pick-ups Oct. 17 and Oct. 24 from 5-7 p.m. to meet the farmers and learn more about the CSA program. At the CSA open house, people will have the opportunity to sign-up for winter shares.
"For new people who sign up for the winter share we're offering them a little mini share as a sort of incentive or thank you for coming to check it out," said Laura Masterson, owner of 47th Avenue Farm in Portland, which partners with the City to run the CSA program.
Masterson, who's been farming for more than 20 years, helped the City start the CSA program at Luscher in 2005.
Masterson and her crew grow a variety of organic veggies. People sign up for seasonal shares and receive a box of food either once a week or once every other week, depending on the season.
Masterson admits that Luscher Farm's winter share is a bit unusual for CSA programs.
"It's really amazing what we can grow here in the Willamette Valley in the wintertime. It's an incredible maritime climate so we get a lot of rain but the temperatures are reasonably mild. It's a lot like Northern Europe and that's where a lot of our crops come from," Masterson said.
"In the wintertime when the vegetables are exposed to cold temperatures, the way that they harden off and make themselves more acclimatized to colder temperatures is by turning starches into sugars. That acts as a natural antifreeze in the leaf or the root, so it benefits the plant but it also benefits us because things are so tasty."
The winter share will include a mix of produce items that are grown outdoors and produce that that was stored from the summer season.
Crops include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, chard and root crops like beets and carrots.
"In winter, carrots are just so sweet and amazing and then we also do some different stuff in terms of root vegetables like parsnips, rutabaga, turnips," Masterson said. "We do black Spanish radish, we do watermelon radish, diacon, so there's sort of the staple crops that everybody knows about and knows how to use and then a few different things every week to keep it interesting."
Vegetables that are grown in summer and stored for winter include potatoes, onions, garlic, dried beans and herbs and certain varieties of squash.
People will have a choice of eight to 10 items every other week from November through April 2020.
Masterson said the CSA program offered new heirloom squash varieties this year. The Lower Salmon River squash, originally from the Pacific Northwest, is a long-storing squash. Another example of a long-storing squash that Masterson started growing a few years ago is Tetsukabuto, a Japanese squash, which translates to steel helmet — though it's no harder to cut than other winter squashes.
"The truth is that winter squash varieties were historically developed really to feed your family in the hunger gap — that is in the depths of the winter, sort of like February, March, even April. But those squash tend to be really big and most families now don't want a squash the size of a Thanksgiving turkey," Masterson said. "We've been working with Oregon State (University) and some of the seed companies and they've been developing smaller squash that still have some of these long-storing characteristics and the really amazing flavor that some of the old-time squash have."
Masterson said a big selling point for the CSA's winter vegetables is that the produce is not grown on plastic and very little is grown under plastic.
Despite the challenges that this year's cold, wet and fast-approaching fall brought farmers at Luscher, Masterson said she's excited to introduce the winter treats to people.
"We're so lucky at Luscher to be here and be able to offer this all the way through the winter. We just want more people to know about it I think and know it's available," she said. "So even though the market's closing down (Palisades), we're still going to have fresh local stuff for people because the farmer's market only has a few more weeks.
"If people want to keep getting veggies, we're here and we're happy to see people at the open house and introduce the concept and show them what we do."
People pay for a share in advance and receive a box of produce twice a month starting Nov. 7. Though shareholders are limited, Masterson said sign-up isn't full yet. There is also a "try it out share" option that's a one-week trial available until Oct. 24 for potential members to see what CSA is like.
"The community gardens are like DIY, do it yourself; CSA, we do it for you," Masterson said.
For more information on the program and pricing options, visit the CSA's website.
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