“I Am Too Busy to Cook”

There are 24 hours in a day.  For a typical person, 8 of those hours should be spent sleeping.  At least another 8 usually go to some form of work, be it in an office, at the house, chasing kids, or some other commitment.  That’s two-thirds of your day that are accounted for.  Plus, there are appointments, traffic, errands and day-to-day obligations that keep us busy.  Oh and Americans?  We fill our days more full than most other industrialized countries.  Don’t even get us started on how busy days are for parents.  Kids bring along their own set of time commitments; playdates, soccer matches, swim practice, homework, meals, etc.  So, that means when dinner rolls around, many of us are already exhausted.  That’s why we regularly hear from folks that they’re forgoing fresh food from us because they “are too busy to cook.” Prepared meals or fast food is often easier.  Yes, we won’t argue.  We also know that you care about feeding your family healthful, fresh and tasty food, but sometimes doing so seems like such a hurtle.  Take a deep breath and keep reading, we’re here to help.

First, try a basic basket.  Pick items that you’re relatively familiar with to get your feet wet.  Slice cucumbers for dipping, tomatoes for sandwiches, and our fruit just needs a rinse!

Second, try these time saving tips to have the best of both worlds. This is especially true because our food is local and in-season.  It automatically has more flavor which means it takes less effort on your end.

Plan.  When our menu comes out on Friday, sit down and make a list for the week.  It doesn’t take long.  Jot down the meals that most of the family will be at home for.  Start, by plugging in the vegetables that will arriving on delivery day.  Then, finish off the meals with the protein of your choice (you can skip the store entirely by doing so from our list of extras.)  This may seem silly, but planning on the weekend when you have more time will save you loads of time during the week.  Driving home from work or a long day is not the time to think about dinner for the first time.  If you already have it written down, you can go through the pre-planned motions once you get home rather than having to start from scratch.

Prep – Have two recipes that call for diced onions?  Dice all of your onion at once and store the extra for the second recipe.  Why pull out the cutting board twice?

-Look up easy recipes.  We love Pinterest, and our Pinterest page has recipes organized by basket item.  Everyone is busy, and thankfully there are some wonderful folks who have shared their easy (and often kid-friendly) ways to cook fruits and vegetables.  Don’t forget that you can substitute ingredients if the recipe calls for something you don’t have on hand.

-Love thy crockpot.  If you can wake up just a few minutes earlier, you can have dinner finished before you even leave the house.  Soups, dips and stews – oh my!  Plus, you can cook in bulk and freeze any left overs for the really busy days.

Recruit Your Kids (or spouse, or roommate) – Cooking in the kitchen can be a great way to bond.  Young kids can wash the produce, and older ones can peel and chop.  Oh and spouse/roommates?  Delegate!  Two chefs are better than one, and that way cooking doesn’t feel like ignoring quality time, it just becomes part of it.

One final note: using our service actually saves you time in the long run. We narrow down your options by offering only what’s in season, which means you don’t have to do the typical brainstorming which often consists of “So, how about green beans again?” Plus, you’ll be in and out of the store quicker, only buying what you need to supplement your basket items.  Want more ideas on how to save time in the kitchen?  Check out this article  from life hacker.

Seasonally Small Carbon Footprint

A study conducted at the University of Oregon found that “large-scale organic farming operations, based on a review of almost a decade of data from 49 states, are not reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

The organic farming movement began around 80 years ago, in the 1940s.  It was born with the intention of being a more ecologically sound practice than conventional farming.  Recommended organic farming practices include crop rotation, minimal organic sprays, and the use of fertilizers derived from local compost and manure.  However, as organic farms have become a part of a much larger industry, increased pressures have led to more machinery, a higher use of organic pesticides, and a need to import fertilizers from other locations.  All of these farming measures have increased the carbon footprint that comes along with eating the organic produce that is grown across the country.

Currently, commercialized organic operations make up a mere 3% of total Agriculture lands, but “appear to contribute to increased and more intense levels of greenhouse gases coming from each acre of farmland.”  According to the study, the production of certified organic food has been profit motivated, and has not been focused on implementing sustainable farming practices.  Unless federal action is taken to increase adherence to sustainable and eco-friendly farming practices, it appears that the commercialized organic farms will continue to emit high levels of greenhouse gases.

The idea of organic food, or the idea that we should consume food that is healthier because it has been sprayed less and it has been grown with sustainable farming practices, is one that we support.   But, like many of the country’s big industries, the organic food industry has lost its way.  That’s why we put our trust in our local food from family farms.  We’ve decreased pressure on our farmers by partnering with them.  They’re able to diversify crops and spray less, knowing that our Members support them.  Plus, the fact that our food is local reduces our carbon foot print.  Our produce is always just a short drive away – 150 miles, tops!  No planes, trains or long journeys necessary.  The only way we could be more eco-friendly is if we had our farmers deliver produce on foot, but that would certainly slow down our 48 hours dirt-to-doorstep initiative, now wouldn’t it?  We focus on sustainable farming that is good for the soil, good for the crops, good for those eating the produce, and good for the environment as a whole.

Check out this article for other ways to reduce your carbon footprint; http://www.earthguardians.org/50simplethings/

To read the study’s findings for yourself, you can access the article here: http://around.uoregon.edu/content/study-suggests-organic-farming-needs-direction-be-sustainable

Eat Seasonally

It’s only been a relatively recent development that people have had access to any piece of produce at any time of year. Grocery stores have spoiled us into thinking that blueberries and peaches are available in the winter, when in fact in our area they’re naturally in season in the summer. In fact, most of the fruit in stores in the winter has traveled thousands of miles from warmer regions to be available here, losing nutrients every mile of the way.

If you shop for your produce in the grocery store, you’ll probably notice that root vegetables, squash, chard and kale are readily available in the fall and winter; they might even be on special! That’s because there is a surplus of those vegetables because they’re actually in season that time of year. Similarly, berries and stone fruits are more often seen in the summer, and you can even find great deals on them. But, if you try and buy the same fruits in the winter, they’re going to cost an arm and a leg.

Rather than importing produce from other states and countries , we ought to be eating what’s locally available in each season, that’s what our ancestors did after all!  Eating seasonally is budget friendly (because of the surplus when food is in season), healthier (less travel=more nutrients) AND it encourages culinary variety and creativity. By the time you’ve reinvented butternut squash in as many ways as you can think of (roasted, sauced, pureed, fried), a new season will have sprung bringing a whole new slate of produce to explore!

Because we partner with only local farmers, your boxes will contain what is in season, which means you are supporting sustainable farming practices, the local economy, and your budget! To help you think of creative and delicious ways to use seasonal produce, we’re publishing a cookbook to coincide with each season.  The first cookbook will feature 85 pages of spring recipes, and we’ll let you know as soon as it’s available!

Until then, you can use this chart made available by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to see when crops are in season to keep track of when your favorites will be readily available!

VA Seasonal Produce Chart

For a more detailed listing, check out this site: http://localfoods.about.com/od/searchbystate/a/virginiaseasons.html

My Box Seems a Bit Expensive

We hear you, feeding a family on a budget isn’t easy.  Even harder?  Feeding a family healthful and local food on a budget.  We won’t pretend that we can beat the prices of places like Kroger or Martin’s, but that truly isn’t comparing apples and apples.  Big grocery store chains bring in their food from all over the country (and really all over the world).  It’s being mass produced on factory farms thousands of miles away, so they’re able to sell it for cheap. If cost is your only concern, then a big super market will definitely be cheaper.  However, did you know, that as soon as food is harvested it begins to lose nutrients?  This means that the sooner it gets to you, the more nutritious it is.  Since grocery stores buy produce from thousands of miles away, the produce you get there isn’t as nutritious as what you get through Seasonal Roots.

As the saying goes, you get what you pay for.  Finding produce of our quality at the grocery store is tough, but the closest you’ll come is at places like Whole Foods and Fresh Market.  The produce at these places is often organic, but not necessarily locally sourced, so it still might not be very fresh.  We re-created a Breakfast Basket by shopping at these stores, to be able to show you a direct price comparison.

Seasonal Roots Breakfast Themed Basket: 

Notable:  All local, within 150 miles, and delivered to you 48 hours dirt to doorstep

1 Pint Blueberries

1/2 Pint Blackberries

Yukon Gold Potatoes

Sweet Candy Onions

Eastern Peaches

1 Dozen Pasture Raised Eggs


TOTAL: $32, plus tax with free delivery

Fresh Market Breakfast Bounty: 

Notable:  We lucked out by walking into a sale, but unfortunately that’s not always the case

1 Pint Blueberries – ON SALE – $4.99

1/2 Pint Blackberries – $4.99

Yukon Gold Potatoes – $3.11

Sweet Onions (didn’t have exact match) – $2.80

Eastern Peaches – ON SALE – $1.28

1 Dozen Pasure Raised Eggs – $5.99

Kale – $5.98

TOTAL – $29.87 w/tax

Whole Foods Breakfast Bounty:

Notable:  Whole Foods didn’t have the same type of onions or potatoes, so we subbed something comparable.  Plus, their peaches were from the west.  

1 Pint Blueberries – 5.99

1/2 Pint Blackberries – 2.99

Russet Potatoes – 3.78

Vidalia Onions – 1.94

Western Peaches – 6.35

Organic Eggs – 5.29

Kale – 5.98

TOTAL – $33.13 w/tax

So, this comparison goes to show you that if you shop at high-end stores focused on the quality of their produce, our prices are a pretty good deal, especially since we deliver it!  Plus, Fresh Market and Whole Foods sell non-local produce, from unknown farms, and there is no telling how recently it has been harvested.  We found that these stores didn’t have the variety that we do, which is why we had to sub our more unique items for more standard grocery store items.

We are happy to answer your questions about where your food is coming from, we think it is really important to know who your farmer is.   Our food is fresh, local, and sustainably grown – guaranteed.

Variety is the Spice of Life

We’re an online farmers market, but because we’re online we have some advantages over in-person farmers markets.  First, we partner with around 40 local farms who last season alone provided us with 480 different items.  Many of our farmers have begun to grow exclusively for Seasonal Roots, which means they’ve been able to diversify their crops.  Not only is varying crops better for the soil, but it allows us to offer you more variety.

Last season, we had 14 types of apples alone.  Last time you took a trip to the farmer’s market, I bet you didn’t have access to that many apples!  We also had 32 types of greens, 8 types of radishes (pictured is our ever popular watermelon radish), 19 types of peppers, 15 types of squash and 19 types of tomatoes.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t name 19 types of tomatoes… AND, that’s just the produce.  We also offered 25 artisan goods, 69 types of baked goods and 32 different meat options.

The good news is, this variety allows for endless creativity in the kitchen and you’re able to experience all different types of food.  Because all of our food is grown within 150 miles, you can of course expect some overlap (because this week’s crops and next week’s crops might not vary significantly.)  But, in the long run, your basket contents will vary a lot!  Your basket this week and your basket in the beginning of September are going to look totally different.  So it can take a bit of patience, but over the course of the year, you have access to hundreds of different options.  Plus, we deliver it to your door and give you tips on how to cook it.  Don’t get us wrong, when we’ve gobbled up our basket’s items for the week, we’ll stop by a farmers market to supplement.  Either way, you’re supporting local farmers and getting fresh produce.  But, we want you to know that we’re a viable and convenient source for local produce, for months that extend past the typical farmers market season.

Are We Certified Organic?

We get the question pretty much daily, “So are your farms Certified Organic?”  It’s a hard question to answer briefly because there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes in U.S. Agriculture, and there are also a lot of misconceptions about Organic Produce.  In short, we do not require that our local farms be Certified Organic.  Does this mean that our food is less safe?  Absolutely not.  In fact, we contest that our produce is safer and packed with more nutrients than much of the Certified Organic produce that you can buy in grocery stores.

We partner with local farmers, many of whom are multi-generational.  That means that they treat their farms, crops and animals with the utmost care and respect, acting as stewards of the land.  These farmers are able to continue farming on their family farms generation after generation because their practices are sustainable.  The farmers use rotational crop systems, so as to not rob the ground of its nutrients.  The vast majority of our farms do not spray at all, because doing so would jeopardize the integrity of their land.  If they do spray, it is minimal and only as required.  For example, one of our sustainable farmers has a friend who runs a Certified Organic farm not far from him.  Last year, our farmer sprayed his yellow squash one time all season because it was necessary.  His Organic friend however, sprayed his squash on a weekly schedule using a spray that is approved by the USDA.  Our farmer isn’t considered Certified Organic, but his weekly spraying friend is allowed to use that title.  On a larger scale, “it’s important to remember that “organic” doesn’t mean the food is grown locally—it may even be grown in a foreign country and shipped to the U.S. resulting in a larger carbon footprint and smaller benefit to the environment. There’s also no guarantee that the food was produced under ideal conditions for farmers, laborers, or livestock, and an organic label has nothing to do with food safety.” [http://www.sonima.com/live-fresh/clean-diet/]

There is currently a movement called “Local First. Certification Second.”  This movement focuses on knowing your Farmer, which we at Seasonal Roots fully support.  We know our farmers; we talk with them, visit their farms, and develop relationships with them.  We do our best to share their stories with you each week, so that you can know them too, even if you don’t have time to go visit them yourself.  According to the Lexicon of Sustainability, “Knowing who grows your food locally can be more valuable than any certification or stamp of approval.”

Eating local food is so important for our health and well being because “most nutrients begin to degrade the moment a fresh piece of produce is picked, so the sooner it gets to you the better. Many studies have shown that a peach or berry picked closer to ripeness is more nutritious than a fruit—organic or not—picked before or after its peak of ripeness.” [http://time.com/2970505/organic-misconception-local/ ]  This is why we strive to get you your produce as soon as possible after harvesting.  Much of the food in grocery stores has traveled hundreds or even thousands of miles to get there, losing nutrients every mile of the way.  Our food is local, which by our standards is within 150 miles of our Food Hub in Central Virginia.  It is harvested by farmers on Tuesdays and heads your way on Wednesdays and Thursdays.  48 Hours Dirt to Doorstep allows for a level of nutrient packed food that we are proud to offer.

We support our local farmers because we know and trust them and their practices.  They produce safe food for their families, our families and your families.  That is a policy that we can get behind, Certified Organic or not.  Thank you for helping us support local farmers, and our farmers show their appreciation by providing all of us with some of the very best produce and animal products within 150 miles.

Packing YOUR Basket

Here at Seasonal Roots, our week starts on Friday when we send our members their basket options for the following week.  Over the weekend, our members mull over their options, placing their order by Sunday night.  Then, on Monday, we take their orders to our 40 farmers and artisans to make sure that they harvest and bake what we need.  On Tuesday and Wednesday, your suppliers send their produce, meats, dairy and baked goods to Harvest Hill Farm in Montpelier, Virginia.  It’s at this farm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, that the magic happens.

After joining the Seasonal Roots team, one of my first assignments was to spend a Wednesday packing.  This makes sense of course, because without packing, there would be no nutritious boxes to send to our members, and that just won’t do.  So, back in May 2015, I went to pack.  I walked into the farm’s packing facility, to be greeted by a team of regulars, who can pack your socks off.  The building has two levels. On the bottom, there is a good amount of space and that’s where each week’s boxes are mass produced by a team of less than 10.  Really, it’s an old fashioned assembly line with veggie-savvy packers who are actively on quality control duty.  No machines, just us, those who want to make sure you get fresh and local produce, right at your door.

By Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon (depending on your village), most of the boxes are packed and ready to go.  They’re stored in a refrigerated room over night and sent out at the crack of dawn Wednesday and Thursday morning.  Once our Market Managers get their boxes, they zoom right on over to deliver to you.  As you happily unpack your boxes and devour your local goods, we are prepping a new menu to send to you on the following Friday.

Phew!  It really is quite the cycle, but we’ve found it’s the most efficient way to get you fresh and local produce, meat and artisan goods.  If you have any questions about the journey your order takes from the farm to your doorstep, let us know!  We’d love to hear from you.

Love Ugly Food

Haven’t you heard not to judge a book by its cover?  Or perhaps, that beauty is only skin deep?  Unfortunately, these lessons haven’t quite reached our grocery stores.  Much of the produce harvested from farms across the U.S., is deemed too “ugly” for consumers to purchase.  For example, according to an article published by NPR, an approximate 30-35% of potatoes grown in the U.S.  have imperfections that keep them off grocery store shelves.  That’s hundreds of millions of potatoes that are wasted!  Can you imagine all the delicious mashed potatoes that could have been made?  Believe it or not, ugly potatoes taste just like pretty potatoes once they’re mashed!  But instead, they’re thrown away and sent to landfills where they benefit no one.

Food waste isn’t isolated to potatoes; Americans regularly waste edible, nutritious foods.   We squeeze and sniff each piece of produce, with only the “cream of the crop” making it into our baskets.  But what happens to that apple that has a spot on its flesh?  Wouldn’t it have been perfectly suitable in the apple pie you were going to make with it?  Instead, imperfect food is thrown away by grocery stores because it’s considered unsellable and inferior.

So what is the solution?  In some places, a “love ugly food” movement has taken off.  This movement has a basis in restaurants with creative and open minded chefs.  Some of these chefs have taken ugly food, and made it trendy.  Others, have found ways to hide less beautiful food, in soups and baked dishes where the appearance doesn’t matter in the first place.

You don’t have to pass the responsibility on to your restaurant chefs though.  In your own culinary world, you can help to waste less.  This starts when you’re choosing produce; keep in mind the journey it has taken.  You might glimpse a stereotypically “beautiful” tomato, but this tomato was likely grown and picked thousands of miles from where you are purchasing it.  This means, that this tomato was picked before it was ripe, shipped, and then artificially ripened with gas to make it appear pretty on the store shelf.  Instead, try to choose local and heirloom options.  The latter have more flavor, more nutrients, and more character.

When you’re cooking, you can also make an effort to use more of each food item you bring into your house.   Strawberry tops can be tossed into smoothies, carrot tops can be added to salads, the nutritious skin can be left on your baked potato (sweet or not!), the stems of your mushrooms and broccoli are perfectly edible, and the seeds of all types of squash can be oven roasted for a snack.  Using every edible part of produce can make a significant improvement in the amount of nutrients you gain, and a serious reduction in the amount of food wasted!

Want more ideas on how to waste less? Check out Food and Wine’s article: “7 Ways to Cook with Scraps and Help Stop Food Waste” –


Saddle Ridge Farm

You know the pasture raised eggs that are in such high demand recently as a weekly “extra” option?  We’ve hit the jack pot by partnering with Culpeper’s Saddle Ridge Farm – home to 60 cows, 80 hogs, 350 laying hens and many broiler chickens – all of whom freely range the farm’s 115 acres of pasture.  Not only is pasture raising livestock better for the animals, but the end product is healthier and more nutritious for you!  When we spoke with Wendy Hasychak of Saddle Ridge, she shared with us about the farm’s humane farming practices and plans for growth to meet demand.

Wendy spent several years as a vegetarian before deciding to incorporate humanely raised meat back into her diet and you could say she went all in when she decided to partner with friend and now business partner, Keith Farrish.  Keith founded Saddle Ridge about 5 years ago, and Wendy joined him a year and half ago.  Along with two interns, Keith and Wendy run the farm’s daily activities.

Saddle Ridge has its sustainable system down to a science, wasting nothing, and keeping their animals healthy and happy at the same time.  The animals move daily from one pasture to the next, and sometimes move multiple times a day depending on how quick they eat!  The cows move first, happily leaping (Wendy says they literally click their heels) into new pasture because they know that there will be delicious un-mowed grass to graze on.  The cows freely graze but before the grass gets too low, they are moved to another pasture to start fresh.  A couple of days after the cows leave a pasture, the chickens are moved in to break up the cow patties and gobble down the bugs they find along the way.  By the time the chickens have cleaned house, the cows have moved again, and the chickens have a new field in which they can start anew.  When I spoke with Wendy, I assumed moving hundreds of animals from one field to the next would be difficult, but Wendy said that by now the animals know the routine.  Everyone now knows that moving to a new pasture means new food, so they run and leap to get there quickly!

cows (saddleridge)

This mobility has lead to some innovation by Saddle Ridge.  The farm uses mobile chicken coops on a trailer pulled by a tractor deemed their “Egg-Mobile.”  So, when it’s time to move to new pastures, they drive the Egg-Mobile and their flock of Rhode Island Reds follow suit.  Currently in the peak season, Wendy harvests between 22-25 dozen eggs daily from their flock.  These eggs move quick, but the good news?  The farm just welcomed 1000 chicks to the ranks!  That means there will be 1350 egg producing hens soon! And don’t worry, plans to build several additional Egg-Mobiles are already in the works.

saddle ridge chickens

In addition to eggs, the Farm processes their broiler chickens on site, and sends their cows and hogs off site to a trusted processor who abides by USDA standards for humane handling of animals.  There is one catch with adding meat and eggs to your weekly basket though, we rely on you as our members to leave ice packs in your cooler on delivery day – otherwise, all of the care and attention that go into the animal products sent to you by Saddle Ridge will go to waste in the summer heat.

Wendy and Keith take pride in the health and happiness of the animals who call Saddle Ridge home.  Interested in checking it out?  They welcome visitors, and will soon be conducting regular farm tours so that you can see what a great operation they run.  In a couple of months, Saddle Ridge also plans to open a Farm Store on site for those who live close enough to stop by for their pasture raised meats and eggs.