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We Are What We Eat: A Tour of Grindstone Farm

It’s not often we get to see what we eat outside of our homes and the grocery store. In September, a few of us had a chance to get up and personal with our peppers and onions during a tour of the beautiful Grindstone Farm in Pulaski, New York. Many Smock employees have CSA shares from Grindstone, and it was enlightening to get a good, hard look at what goes into creating our tasty, organic produce.

We spent a long time talking with Vic and Dick de Graff about what it’s like running a small organic farm in the snow belt of upstate New York, where snow comes early and often, and the local food movement is just catching on. They have adapted to the weather over the years by growing many of their vegetables in hoop houses, like the one featured above, in order to extend the growing season into November.

While Grindstone farm may look like an idyllic place to live, farming is anything but easy. One mistake, like forgetting to cover the lettuce before a potential frost, can ruin an entire crop for the rest of the year. As a farmer, your backyard is your home office, and there is always more work that should be done. But just like our love for creating beautiful, sustainable letterpress goes beyond the normal 9-5, the farmers at Grindstone choose this life because of a passion for growing and providing food for friends and neighbors, and because they want to spread the idea that feeding the world can happen one small plot of land at a time.

Interested in finding a farm like this near you? Check out for CSAs, U Pick Farms, Farmers Markets, Grocery Co-ops and more!  Want to see more photos from our trip to Grindstone Farm & our CSA pick-up spot here at Bella Figura? Check out this slideshow!

CSA Day at Smock

Today is Tuesday, which during the summer and early fall months means it’s CSA day at Smock! Smock proudly subsidizes CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) memberships for all employees through a local organic farm, Grindstone Farm. Once a week, a big van full of freshly picked organic veggies shows up at our door and we always love digging through the boxes to see what we have that week. This year we’ve been eating a lot of rainbow chard, kale, bokchoy, a variety of lettuces, onions, garlic, lots of beautiful tomatoes, potatoes, and zucchini galore.

Here is a quick peek at today’s share – parsley, patty pan squash, three varieties of tomatoes, baby carrots, two varieties of radishes, lemon basil, lots of tomatillos and the first of this season’s apples.

With tomatillos greeting us week after week, we’ve all been sharing ideas on how to best use them up. The verdict is that a great roasted tomatillo salsa can’t be beat. We love this recipe from epicurious – it’s simple, quick and tasty. Does it get much better?

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

1 1/2 pounds fresh tomatillos
5 fresh serrano chiles (or sub the peppers of your choice; remove the seeds for less heat)
3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons coarse salt

Preheat broiler or grill.

Remove husks from tomatillos and rinse under warm water to remove stickiness. Broil chiles, garlic, onion and tomatillos on rack of a broiler pan 1 to 2 inches from heat (or on the grill), turning once, until tomatillos are softened and slightly charred, about 7 minutes. Peel garlic and pull off tops of chiles. Purée all ingredients in a blender.

Allow to cool to room temperature and serve with your favorite chips or Mexican fare. Enjoy!

Green Living: BPA versus CSA – Another Reason to Eat Local!

One more reason to eat local and fresh from your farmer’s market or a CSA….turns out most canned food, even organic canned food, has substantial amounts of BPA, which has been linked to reproductive abnormalities, heightened risk of breast and prostate cancers, diabetes, and heart disease – ugh! BPA surfaced for anyone with young children a few years ago, when it turned out sippy cups & bottles (and even the hard clear hiking Nalgene bottles) often contained BPA. This new report on canned food + BPA came out recently through Consumer Reports and there’s really no excuse for companies to still be using this harmful material (other than the bottom line, I suppose).

Smock + Boxcar Press CSA pick-up

We just joined our local organic farm’s winter CSA last week, so we’ll be getting local veggies through the end of December – meaning our stock of canned food has gone pretty much untouched of late. One of the many wonderful things about eating local is you know where the food has been (a farm, a truck, then you). Plus this winter CSA has already made me appreciate vegetables that I used to shun. Who knew there were so many ways to cook cabbage! And butternut squash! And potatoes! And more cabbage! And look, there’s more cabbage! Though we have two young kids at home, we’ve managed to make cooking local a priority this year by cooking massive amounts of CSA & farmer market veggies on the weekend, and soaking and boiling a pound of beans too, maybe broiling a pound or two of tofu, and making a few easy grains (barley, quiona, brown rice, and millet have been favorites). Maybe add one easy veggie soup too. Then the meals during the week are mixes and matches – a grain, some veggies and either beans or tofu for lunch and then a different variation of the same for dinner.

My love affairs with cook book authors goes in waves, but right now the guy who holds the key to my cooking heart is Mark Bittman (How to Cook Everything Vegetarian and Food Matters are his two books on my shelves and his blog, Bitten, turned me onto the BPA article. He also writes the Minimalist for the NY Times). His recipes are simple, easy, and full of variations – I love how he says “use more or less” or substitute away depending on what’s in the fridge. Perfect for those who have a negative amount of time to cook.

Smock Green Living – Community Supported Agriculture

Taking our commitment to the environment and green living seriously, Smock happily subsidizes CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) memberships for all employees through a local organic farm, Grindstone Farm. We receive weekly deliveries of fresh, organic veggies and herbs that are typically picked within just hours of reaching us – and they’re incredibly delicious, too! Because the old warehouse we call home, the Delavan Center, is the Downtown Syracuse drop-off location, our CSA deliveries literally come right to our door. We love seeing what awaits us as we fill up our bags and head home to cook. Tuesday becomes our favorite day of the week during CSA season!

Smock - CSA Share

Usually we can count on receiving an assortment of great lettuces, kale, fresh herbs like cilantro and dill, broccoli so delicious you’ll never want to eat anything other than organic broccoli again, garlic scapes, cool daikon radishes that resemble white carrots, and lots and lots of beautiful red radishes. As the season is progressing, so are the crops, but radishes have continued to greet us every week, which led a few of us to start looking into recipes that use radishes and ideally the radish greens too. After a while, we’ve found ourselves at a bit of a loss as to what to do with them other than slice them up for salads. After some hunting around, one of our letterpress printers, Carrie, who is one of the finest artisans we know to ever run an Original Heidelberg windmill, found and tweaked the following recipe that was so good, we just had to share it in the event any of you are at a loss as to what to do with radishes. If you like food with an Asian flair, you will love this recipe.

Smock - CSA Share

Asian Hamburger Skillet

  • 1lb lean hamburger (although many of us are vegetarians so we substituted the Morning Star ground “meat” instead)
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced about 1/4? thick then cut into 2? lengths
  • 1 bunch of radishes, cut in matchsticks
  • 1 bunch of radish tops, cut roughly into 1? pieces
  • 4 carrots, julienned or cut into 1/4? slices
  • 1-1/2 tsp ginger paste
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce (although we’ve also tried General Tso’s sauce and it was delicious!)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 lime (optional)
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

In a large sauté pan, cook hamburger (or meat substitute) over medium high heat, until just beginning to brown, breaking into small bits with spatula. Stir in onion and radishes and cook another 2-3 minutes. Stir in carrots, radish tops, ginger paste and fish sauce and cook 5-10 minutes until onions are softened and hamburger is cooked through. Sprinkle with lime juice (if using) and pepper, to taste. Serve immediately…and feel free to share your CSA-inspired recipes with us and we’ll post them here on the Smock blog!

Eco letterpress = organic veggies!

Over here at Smock, we believe that environmental letterpress and eco green printing is so much more than simply using recycled paper & soy inks. If a print shop is committed to the environment, its green practices should really affect everything that company does. So we were thrilled when our parent company, Boxcar Press, subsidized a 20-week Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm subscription for employees this year. It was a perfect fit: we got to love local organic farms; love the environment; and care for our letterpress team here too via really, really good vegetables. Tuesday was the last day that these amazing bins of produce got delivered to us from Grindstone Farm in Pulaski, NY and Wyllie Fox Farm in Cato, NY. We all know the growing season in CNY is pretty much over (we had our first snow fall this week too!), but we’re sure going to miss all the veggies. Pictured below is Carrie, our office manager, who helped organize everything. Thanks, Carrie + Grindstone + Wyllie Fox! We can’t wait until summer next year.
Smock + Boxcar Press CSA pick-up
Smock + Boxcar Press: company-sponsored organic veggies!
Eco letterpress