Boy time flies! Yes Leah, you have been a member since 2011. When we launched home delivery in CSA that year everyone thought we were crazy--Chris Blanchard a famous farm consultant told us it would never work. We had just started Three Sisters Farm and wanted to give ourselves a competitive edge. That year we had 6 CSA members and delivered them in our Toyota Echo--Leah was one of the six. In 2019 it is hard to imagine a business existing without home delivery. Still we are exceptionally thankful for those of you who pick up at our neighborhood locations--it allows us to serve more people. Our delivery routes are very long and exhausting--yes your farmers are still the ones dropping off your box--but we still do it because we know it is highly valued. One day we hope to figure out how to out source this aspect of things and still have it be viable--but I don't know--is there value to us meeting you one on one on the delivery route? Our routes give us insight into your daily lives and if we are lucky we get to find out how the CSA is going for you. Anyway...without further ado:ALISSA What do you do for a living?
LEAH I am a surface designer, so I do textile design and fiber work. My background is really contemporary craft. Primarily, I make utilitarian objects for people out of fiber based materials. It can be fabric or paper or any kind of natural material.
How long have you been a member with Three Sisters CSA Community Farm?
My husband and I have been trying to remember if it is three or four - we feel pretty solid that it is three.
(Here Alissa informs Leah that according to Kelly, she and her husband have been members since their very first season, so more like 6 years.)
Oh wow, well I trust Kelly’s records!
What part of Southeastern WI do you live in?
In three words, how would you describe the experience of seasonal eating you have through your CSA share?
OH! Freaking Fantastic!!
When other people ask you what it’s like to be a CSA member or why you do it, what do you usually say?
I can tell you exactly what I say. I am vegan, but my husband is not. For me the CSA ends up being this fabulous mix of foods I love to eat and foods he loves to eat, but then there’s foods neither of us will touch, but they are not the same foods. There isn’t a time when one of us won’t eat everything in the box.
For example, he loves spicy foods and I do not, so I never purchase hot peppers at the grocery store but he will eat every one. And things like beets, he hates and I love, so I don’t buy them because it’s just me eating them. So the CSA becomes this Bingo of sorts for both of us!
Do you choose your box contents?
Sometimes we choose, sometimes we don’t. I like the luck of the draw. But if we’re having company and I want to meal plan a bit I will choose so I know what to expect.
What is your favorite CSA food item?
That's a touchy one - I Love it when, at the very beginning, often we will have strawberries or something and it’s just a surprise and fabulous treat. I will eat the whole carton.
Does your husband get any?
Then other things like later in fall when we get the squashes - so many times there have been squash that I’ve never seen - it looks like Frankenstein but it is just delicious. It doesn’t matter if I know what a vegetable is I’ll give it a shot. I guess I like the beginning and end of the season, the bracket.
Is there a CSA food item that most confounds or stumps you when it comes to cooking or eating, or used to before you knew what to do with it?
I have always been challenged by the kohlrabi. I always feel like every time I eat it I want it to be broccoli, but its not. I’ve panned fried it, roasted it, boiled it. I’ve sort of given up on cooking it and now just eat it raw.
Do you have a “box unpacking ritual” each week?
Yes I do. In my kitchen I have a tall stool and I always prop the box that stool and lay out all my vegetables on the stove. Then I decide what can be stored together or what can be separated. For example with carrots, I take the tops off and store the tops separately.
What do you do with carrots tops?
I chop them up and put them in salad as a garnish. Not a ton but a little.
What is your favorite thing about being a member of Three Sisters Community Farm?
Do you have a funny anecdote related to a CSA experience?
One time my nephew had come to visit me and he was probably 7 or 8 at the time. He and I always cook together, it’s always been our routine. We had gotten two big bulbs of fennel that week, and I was like “you are going to love these” - cuz he likes licorice.
So we made this pie - i’m not really sure how that happened - I thought originally that it would go the savory route, but he wanted to add vanilla and things and I thought “why not?” But it turned out to be the most atrocious thing you’ve ever eaten. But my nephew was so excited he ate the whole thing. Over the course of the week he polished that pie off.
What about being a CSA member is most important to you?
Since I’m vegan, it’s really important to me to consume a variety of nutrients. But also I want to know that what I’m spending my money on is supporting somebody. It's’ not going to ConAgra or something like that. I feel like its worth every penny to support a CSA - I’m investing in my health while supporting someone else's business.
I’m also a small business owner and I want to support as many small businesses as I can.
What’s the most delicious meal you have had recently?
Last week I got two different kinds of greens in the box - I think I got chard and curly kale. So I chopped them both up, mixed them together and I always cook them a certain way. My husband and I both grew up in the rural south so greens are a big deal to us. SInce I’m vegan I’ve worked out a system over the years to mimic the greens I grew up with. Three days last week I had that packed in my lunch and it was so satisfying.
(Get Leah’s Vegan Southern Greens Recipe below!!)
What’s the strangest thing you have ever eaten?
Whenever I travel anywhere, as long as it’s vegan I’ll eat it, I’ll fire it a shot. My brother lives out in Portland, OR and it’s pretty much the vegan capital. So I’ll go to restaurants with things on the menu and I’m like “I don’t know why you’d make that vegan”
The last time we went out to vegan Hawaiian place and there was all this fake pork and I have no idea what it was made out of. But they’d also made all those cream based tropical drinks, but vegan. So I had a white russian. I don’t know if a white russian needs to be made vegan?
What is your favorite place to have a meal?
If this was time warp, I would have said my grandparents house. My grandmother was one of those people who always had a gorgeously set table and always did a whole display on your plate. Even if we’re just having sandwiches it was the whole display.
What is one thing that is bringing joy into your life in the present?
Even though the weather is hot, I’m thrilled because I love to cycle - it’s so nice to just meander on my bike. Basically seasonal, outdoor activities.
What is one thing that is giving you pause, or reason for concern?
Swiss Chard or Kale, and why?
Swiss Chard, just because it’s so nice and delicate and it’s something you can also just put on your sandwich like spinach. It’s so tender. I love it on a sandwich - it’s delicate but crunchy.
Is there anything you would like to share about seasonal eating, local food, CSA membership or anything else related to these topics that you have never had the chance to say?
I just feel like I cannot say enough positive things about our experience with Three Sisters.
Especially the delivery of this quality of food. Everyone can get a pizza delivered, but you can’t get a whole box of nutrient dense food delivered to you. If we ever go out of town I always tell our neighbors when the box is coming so they can get it. I don’t want it to go to waste and I also want them to see how fabulous it is so if they consider joining a CSA they will think to join ours!
Leah's Simple and Vegan Southern Greens Recipe:
Wash two bunches of greens (any kind)
Shake them dry (you want them to be a little damp)
Put a couple of tablespoons of toasted sesame oil in the bottom of a Dutch Oven
Place half the damp greens in pot
Shake on a layer of nutritional yeast (around 1/4 cup)
Place other half of damp greens on top
Cover and cook very low until greens are wilted and a bit soupy
When greens are cooked down, remove lid from pot and let moisture cook off
Keep stirring at random intervals
Once the majority of the liquid is gone they are ready to eat
Jeff Schreiber has been farming organically for 10 years. In 2011 he started Three Sisters Community Farm with his wife, Kelly.