This time of year always has a way of making us ready for the warm days of spring and summer, especially after the warm weather preview we got last week. And of course with those thoughts of warm months come dreams of our spring and summer vegetable garden! For the last few years, we've really made an effort to put in a substantial vegetable garden in our backyard. The children love to help pick out the seeds, plant them, water the plants, and pick the vegetables (and eat them, too), so it's a fun, educational, and tasty experience for them. We also like the fact that we get to eat our own organically grown veggies!
Our first task of the season is to go get our seeds. We try to go the heirloom route—they're so much more fun than your plain old (ahem) garden variety vegetables—and we always buy our seeds at the Petaluma Seed Bank, the West Coast outpost of the fantastic Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds in Mansfield, Missouri. They stock a vast array of seeds for a wide variety of vegetables, many of which you probably didn't know existed!
It's the new year, and that usually entails resolutions about being more healthy. But families are busy, so simple tasks like just going grocery shopping for healthy food can be inconvenient, if not downright difficult. (This goes double for new parents!) Fortunately, you can get healthy, organic food delivered right to your doorstep or to a convenient local pickup area here in Marin County through a local farm's CSA or an organic grocery delivery service. These services all feature locally grown or produced sustainable food—perfect for the healthy locavore family!
Local Farm CSAs
What's a CSA? CSA stands for "community supported agriculture", and it's a way for consumers to get involved with local farms and food producers, support their efforts, and get great seasonal food, too. Every week, or month, or whatever time period you choose, you'll get a box full of fresh produce, eggs, meat, and more, ready to be incorporated into your family meal plan. Some farms, like Petaluma's Tara Firma Farms, offer other benefits to their CSA members, like special events and farm tours.
Most of the time, the farms choose what goes in subscribers' boxes, but that's usually a good thing, since they know what's at the peak of season. Prices for CSA boxes vary depending on the farm and the size and frequency of the box.
Sound interesting? Here's our list of local CSAs that deliver to areas within Marin County. Many of them deliver or offer drop off sites in San Francisco, Sonoma County, and the East Bay, as well (check their websites for exact locations). We've made sure to note which CSAs offer delivery right to your door, too.
West Marin's pioneering producer of grass-fed beef and other sustainable pasture-raised meats provides CSA subscribers with packages that include either meat or poultry. Since Marin Sun Farms raises a variety of livestock, you might receive beef, chicken, lamb, pork, goat, and duck. CSA boxes are delivered directly to your door. More info: www.marinsunfarms.com
Like many families in Marin, we lead busy lives—so busy that sometimes important things like family meals can get lost in the shuffle. Fortunately, that's where meal delivery services come in! These local culinary life-savers provide you and your family with delicious, healthy meals as well as the opportunity to sit down together at dining table in the evening, without having to resort to fast food or some other quick solution.
Here are some of the meal delivery services that deliver to homes in Marin County. All these services deliver throughout the county (usually with the exception of West Marin) unless otherwise indicated. If we've missed your favorite, please let us know about it and we'll consider adding it to the list. With all of these services, you can place your order online via the web or a mobile app. We've personally reviewed a few of these services, so read our reviews via the links to learn more.
Chili is one of those meals that can be on the hearty, heavy side and not something you necessarily want to serve for a summer dinner—except for this fresh and healthy version. For this summer chili, I lighten things up considerably and take advantage of fresh summer produce like the zucchini growing in our backyard garden and sweet corn.
Serve this chili with a variety of toppings and add-ons so each diner can customize it to his or her taste. You can make it vegetarian (or vegan) by omitting the ground turkey and doubling the amount of beans, corn, and squash. Either way, it's delicious! And our kids even eat it, too. There's probably no reason you couldn't make this year-round, either, although you'd have to substitute frozen corn for the fresh.
Love the idea of buying your food at the farmer’s market, but don’t have the time or opportunity to make it part of your shopping routine? Farmigo is here to help! This startup works with local farmers and producers to offer families weekly deliveries of fresh produce, prepared foods, bread, eggs, meat, seafood, and more. It’s kind of like a CSA—in fact, Farmigo created the software that many CSA programs use for membership and online ordering—but one where you can choose between many different offerings.
This delicious Thanksgiving side dish has the flavors of fall—winter squash and spiced apple cider. It's easy to make, and looks pretty on the holiday table, too. If you use Delicata squash, those orange- or green-striped cream-colored oval winter squash, you don't even need to peel them, and the colors look great, too. You can also make this with cubed butternut squash or pumpkin.
I adapted this from a recipe in the New York Times but used the spiced apple cider from Trader Joe's. The spice flavors are subtle and really enchance the flavor of the squash. Feel free to substitute regular apple cider.
Whenever we visit Petaluma, we like to stop by the farm store at Green String Farm to do some grocery shopping. Located just east of town on Old Adobe Road, this sustainable local farm is just overflowing with wonderful fresh produce, especially in late summer. Their fruits and vegetables are amazing and affordable, and their farming practices actually exceed organic guidelines—they even have their own "Green String" certification program. If you haven't shopped here, it's definitely worth the trip up to Petaluma.
Green String Farm's farm store is situated in the middle of their 140-acre agricultural plot, where you can take in sweeping views of cultivated fields, orchards, vineyards, and the Sonoma County hills beyond. The farmstand carries just about every local seasonal fruit or vegetable you can imagine, from apples, Asian pears, and stone fruits to peppers, heirloom tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, string beans, greens, beets, squash, and fresh herbs.
In addition to produce, the farm store stocks other items including grass-fed beef, eggs, cheese, olive oil, nuts, artisan bread, handmade beeswax candles, vinegar, and more.
This spring and summer, the Indian Valley Organic Farm and Garden on the grounds of College of Marin's Indian Valley Campus is a great place to get organic fruits and veggies. A project of College of Marin, Conservation Corps North Bay, and the UC Cooperative Extension, this 5.8-acre certified organic education farm and garden is open to the public for produce shopping every Saturday from 10 am to 2 pm.
Bring your own bags and browse the farm stand for a wide variety of seasonal produce grown right there on-site. Right now, you can get artichokes, beets, radishes, chard, kale, leeks, and more. They also sell plants like poppies and other flowers, fruit trees, and several kinds of strawberry plants. Bring your own plastic bags, as they aren't provided here, altough you can buy washable, reusable produce bags at the stand for $1.
Here's another delicious Thanksgiving side dish recipe from our friends at Agricultural Community Events Farmers Markets, the non-profit group that puts on the Marinwood, Downtown Novato, Fairfax, Petaluma East, and Santa Rosa Community Farmers' Markets, among others. This one features everyone's favorite healthy leafy green—kale. What's great about this recipe is it tells you which farmers' market vendors you can buy the ingredients from!
5 tablespoon olive oil (Big Paw at Marinwood Community Farmers' Market has great California Olive Oil, Bannono Olive Oil at Santa Rosa Community Farmers' Market, Wylands Orchard at Petaluma East Side Farmers' Market has olive oil from Petaluma, Nan's Gourmet at Petaluma East Side Farmers' Market)
1/3 cup chopped almonds (Noeller Farms at Marinwood Farmers' Market or Redel's Almond at Petaluma East Side and Santa Rosa Farmers' Market)
2 medium red onions, sliced (Calvillo Brothers at Marinwood Community Farmers Market, Ortiz Brothers at Marinwood, Petaluma East Side and Santa Rosa)
4 clove(s) garlic finely chopped (Krout's Sunset Ranch at Petaluma East Side Farmers' Market, Laguna Farm at Petaluma East Side Farmers' Market and Ortiz Brothers at Marinwood Community Farmers' Market)