The garden can seem overwhelming to a newcomer. Start small to improve the soil, manage weeds and get a taste for the satisfying work of growing vegetables.
Select varieties that are suited to your climate. Seeds must be planted at the right time to produce a good crop.
Many Pottstown community families are already getting stocked with fresh, seasonal, organic produce every week through Mosaic Community Land Trust’s grant-funded Community Supported Agriculture program. Mosaic partnered with Tine and Toil Farm, North Coventry, that’s in its ninth growing season, to provide the CSA shares.
Owned by Nathan Hasler-Brooks and his wife, Kerry, who is also a college professor, their 4-acre farm dedicates 40 percent of what they grow to the Pottstown families participating in Mosaic’s program.
“We are a 45-member CSA and 20 each week are going to Mosaic,” said Hasler-Brooks.
Along with their CSA share, customers receive a Tine and Toil newsletter that includes a few recipes featuring some of the produce they’re receiving that week. Given some vegetables might have you more stumped than others on how to prepare them, the recipes can help guide you to a tasty way to enjoy them.
“We have it in mind that people might not know what to do with garlic scapes,” he said, adding they are tender and have a mild garlic flavor that is not as pungent as a clove.
“We like to put olive oil on them and grill them like asparagus — they are chewy, sweet and a little garlicky.”
Hasler-Brooks, his wife and their two children will eat them as a side dish, adding salt and pepper, or they might throw them in pasta, or chop them up to put on pizza.
They recently harvested hakurei turnips that Hasler-Brooks describes as an in-between turnip.
“It’s mild and has a sweetness more than a peppery taste,” he said. “Last night I quartered them and did a quick sauté with butter and salt and put a little honey on them in the skillet, so they have a glaze to them.”
Okra is another vegetable that Hasler-Brooks said can pose a challenge to customers, which they will start receiving in about a month, after summer officially begins on June 21.
“We cook it very regularly when it’s in season,” he said. “We do a quick sauté and they have an al dente crunch to them — our kids will eat them.”
Relationship with Mosaic
Tine and Toil’s relationship with Mosaic started at the Pottstown FARM market.
“I used to do the farmers market and in 2015 I met some folks from Mosaic and it was a few years before we started the CSA partnership,” he said.
Prior to becoming a farmer, Hasler-Brooks was a foster care social worker in his previous career.
“I like non-profits and the idea of working with a non-profit,” he said. “The CSA partnership is something I’m pretty proud of and I hope to be able to continue to do it.”
He said his job as a social worker fulfilled his sense of purpose, but it was also stressful and sad. Interested in gardening at the time, Hasler-Brooks was living in Philadelphia where he was working with children and saw people not interested in fresh food or have any kind of familiarity with it.
“I saw kids being surprised that carrots grow under the ground,” he said.
As his interest in gardening grew, he decided to switch professions and began commuting outside the city to work for a non-profit CSA farm for many years before moving and starting his own farm in 2014.
“I fell in love with farming and there were times where I love it so much that it feels selfish,” Hasler-Brooks said.
Today, in addition to Pottstown community members, they also feed four families that live right on their road who are CSA members and the rest are within their 19464 and nearby 19465 area codes.
“It really is a business model that has a lot of value in it,” he said. “We are a little farm and play a little part in that.”
That includes extending their reach to Pottstown.
“We were able to extend that community into Pottstown and get food to people who would not otherwise be able to get food from us on a weekly basis and that’s important,” Hasler Brooks said. “It makes me feel good knowing we are doing a good thing.”
Tine and Toil is a family-run farm committed to providing organically grown fruits, vegetables and flowers to their neighbors, friends, and customers. While their CSA shares are sold out this season, you can find their produce at the Eagleview Farmers Market on Thursdays from 3 to 6:30 p.m. at Eagleview Town Center in Exton.
For more information, visit www.tineandtoilfarm.com.
More information on Mosaic Community Land Trust can be found at www.mosaicclt.org