Winter Supplier of the Season. School Farm CSA; organic community farming

Organic Community Farming in Dartington, near Totnes, South Devon. Organic veg grown for the local community by incredible women on a small but productive market garden farm.

It seems a little incongruous to have School Farm CSA as our winter Supplier of the Season as their season ended last week, but as winter started in December (in my mind) and I have veg from my box last week still and it’s early February, I think it fits.

“Community Supported Agriculture is a membership farming scheme. Members of the farm  commit to buying a share of the farm’s harvest for 12-months at a time. This approach allows the farm to invest in the year ahead, knowing that is has the support to continue and that the produce will all be eaten as we can grow to meet the demand. This system is very beneficial for the farm. It allows the growers to concentrate on what they love; growing food, rather than worry about marketing, processing, branding etc as well. This time can then be spent ensuring that the growing is as ecological and sustainable as possible. Ensuring no artificial inputs are used and most work is done using human labour rather than machinery.”

Every year since the scheme started, The Kitchen Table has been a member. Through the months of June – January, we have used their delightful, delicious and organic vegetables in our small catering jobs. We have grown as they have, and the friendship, support and development we have shared over the years has been invaluable.

This year, they are expanding yet again. Last night I went to their first AGM and was heartened to learn about the increase in their land acquisition which means they can grow for more members (67 this year, an increase from 20 in the first intake 3 years ago!). Membership is still open – if you live in or near Totnes, I strongly urge you to contact them. Each week you get fresh, local and organic veg, you get to hear about the trials and tribulations of being a farmer in Devon, the challenges that weather presents, learn with the women about what works and what doesn’t (through the newsletter), have an abundance of produce and meet other members who love the scheme as much as you do! It’s really unique to have input in what crops will be grown, to have an insight into seasonal farming and harvesting, to know how tough and wonderful it is to provide organic produce for a local community – I am not a grower and don’t want to be, so it is great to have an understanding of it all.

One of the most interesting outcomes of last night’s AGM was the discovery that people like turnips!! I don’t – I wanted them to grow less this year, but it turns out I am in the minority so they’ll be back in the soil this year again. I have however, enjoyed pickling turnips and in this form, I find them delicious! Here is the recipe from David Lebovitz that I used;

Pickled Turnips:

750ml water
70g sea salt
1 bay leaf
250ml white wine vinegar
1kg turnips, peeled and chopped into batons
1 small beetroot, peeled and chopped into batons
3 garlic cloves, sliced into thin slivers

In a saucepan, heat about one-third of the water. Add the salt and bay leaf, stirring until the salt is dissolved.
Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Once cool, add the vinegar and the rest of the water.
Cut the turnips and the beet into batons, about the size of French fries. Put the turnips, beets, and garlic slices into a large, clean jar, then pour the salted brine over them in the jar, including the bay leaf.
Cover and let sit at room temperature, in a relatively cool place, for one week. Once done, they can be refrigerated until ready to serve.

In our outside catering, we serve them on smoked mackerel pate canapes at weddings, with home-gravadlaxed fish for dinner party starters and chopped up in sandwiches for business lunches and their pink, delicate flavour is always a hit with our customers!