(Scroll down for recipes)
Joe Langford is a one busy guy. Not only does he grow more than 35 different kinds of fruits and vegetables in more than 50 varieties, he also has a full-time job heading up the I.T. department for a major Midwest ad agency. Oh yeah, he’s also the pastor of a small church that ministers to a congregation of mostly college students.
Joe’s wife, Allison, helps out on the farm when she can and the three family dogs keep deer and other varmints away. But mostly it’s Joe out there working the fields.
So let’s see…between tending the fields, solving frazzled co-workers’ computer issues, and helping young folks find God, I guess he has lots of free time.
Joe’s Farm: Small But Highly Diversified
This is Joe’s second year as a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farmer. On his nearly four-acre farm he grows beets, broccoli, lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower, potatoes, edamame soybeans, onions, peppers, kohlrabi, heirloom tomatoes, spinach, strawberries, zucchini and much more. And it’s all consumed by ‘neighbors,’ people within a radius of just 30 miles or so. That’s the spirit of eating local in its purest form.
During our visit to Joe’s farm, we tasted some lettuce right out of the ground that had a wonderful flavor and a surprisingly spicy kick. It was unlike any we’d ever tried before.
If you’re not familiar with the CSA program, it works basically like this: the farmer sells a certain number of shares of his harvest. In Joe’s case, he hopes to sell 25 total shares. A family can buy a full share, which will provide enough produce to feed four adults, or a half share that feeds a couple. Members receive weekly deliveries during the growing season, which for Langford Farms runs from May through October—or whenever the first killing frost comes along in the fall.
For Lower-Priced Produce, Come Work in the Fields
You can pay a reduced price if you buy a working share, agreeing to help out on the farm for one Saturday per month. It’s a cool way to experience a connection with the food you’ll be enjoying and feeding your family.
The CSA concept offers benefits to both farmer and consumer. The farmer shares his produce for a fair price (lower than grocery store prices, Joe says), and also shares some of the financial risk with his CSA shareholder-customers.
Some Farmers Getting Techie
Some small farms are reaching out to potentially larger customers, such as area restaurants and institutions, using today’s technology, sending text or Twitter messages along with photos of newly harvested crops taken with their camera phones. Restaurants can then order fruits and vegetables direct from the local farmer.
The website Local Harvest helps small farmers to network with some 4 million people, enabling both restaurants and consumers to locate area farms for fresh produce options. You can read more about the emerging tech trend in this article from Wired Science.
Langford Farms is committed to the principles of organic farming, when profitable, Joe says. He uses chemical pesticides only when absolutely necessary and says he hasn’t needed any so far this season. He’s installed an efficient irrigation system and uses a plastic/mulch technique that holds moisture in while keeping weeds out.
Farm Fresh Recipes
The Food Channel has purchased a full share from Joe the Farmer this season. We’ll be developing delicious new dishes using these fresh, locally-grown fruits and vegetables and passing the recipes along to you all summer long.
Here are our first two “Joe the Farmer” Food Channel recipes:
For more information on CSA farms in your area, visit localharvest.org.