Cooking Your CSA: Week Six

This past week we entered the sixth week of our workplace CSA with Plainsong Farm. Since June, we have been heading down to the Fulton Street Farmers Market on Wednesday afternoons with our bulb crate in tow. There we greet farmer Mike and grab our veggies before heading back to the office to divvy up our bounty. As a staff we have been sharing recipes and tips and tricks with each other as we try new veggies and attempt to get creative with some mainstays. Below are a couple of simple and quick recipes that we tried this past week. Enjoy!

Spicy Quick Pickled Radishes


  • 1 bunch radishes
  • ¾ cup white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • ¾ cup water
  • 3 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (this yields very spicy pickles, so use ½ teaspoon for medium spicy pickles or none at all)
  • ½ teaspoon whole mustard seeds (optional)
  • Optional add-ins: garlic cloves, black peppercorns, fennel seeds, coriander seeds
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To prepare the radishes: Slice off the tops and bottoms of the radishes, then use a sharp chef’s knife or mandoline to slice the radishes into very thin rounds. Pack the rounds into a pint-sized canning jar. Top the rounds with red pepper flakes and mustard seeds.

To prepare the brine: In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, honey or maple syrup and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally, then pour the mixture over the radishes.

Let the mixture cool to room temperature. You can serve the pickles immediately or cover and refrigerate for later consumption. The pickles will keep well in the refrigerator for several weeks, although they are in their most fresh and crisp state for about 5 days after pickling.

Recipe courtesy of Cookie and Kate


Mixed Greens Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette 


  • 5 oz. bag of spring mix or greens
  • 10 grape tomatoes
  • ½ cucumber
  • ¼ cup feta cheese, crumbled or cubed
  • 2 tablespoon toasted pumpkin seeds (optional)
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • ½ tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp. salt (or to taste)
  • ¼ tsp. ground black pepper (or to taste)
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Make the dressing: Combine the balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a small bowl and mix well. Set aside. In a large salad bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Pour the dressing into the salad and toss to coat.

Recipe courtesy of Ahead of Thyme


Green Bean and Cashew Pâté


  • 1-½ tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-½ cups chopped onions
  • ¾ cup toasted cashews
  • 1 cup steamed green beans, cut into 1-inch lengths, or 1 cup thawed frozen cut green beans
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
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Heat the oil in a medium skillet. Sauté the onions slowly over medium-low heat, stirring frequently until nicely browned. Combine the onions with the remaining ingredients in the container of a food processor.

Process until smoothly pureed, scraping down the sides as needed. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve as suggested. Store leftovers in an airtight container, and bring to room temperature before serving again.

Recipe courtesy of Veg Kitchen


Garlic-Herb Pattypan Squash 


  • 5 cups halved small pattypan squash (about 1-¼ pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
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Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place squash in a greased 15x10x1-inch. baking pan. Mix oil, garlic, salt, oregano, thyme and pepper; drizzle over squash. Toss to coat. Roast 15-20 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with parsley. 

Recipe courtesy of Taste of Home

Businesses demonstrate positive impact in West Michigan

Since launching the Good for Grand Rapids campaign in January, we've collected some impressive numbers from the businesses who have taken the Quick Impact Assessment.

“Our data show businesses of all shapes, sizes and industries are making a significant positive impact in our community,” said Elissa Hillary, president of Local First. “We’re thrilled to see so many Grand Rapids businesses taking the Quick Impact Assessment and making it a priority to use their business as a force for good. We encourage more businesses to take the assessment and get involved with Good for Grand Rapids this year!”  

Since January, 47 businesses in multiple sectors, including service, lifestyle, manufacturing and retail have become Good for Grand Rapids by taking the Quick Impact Assessment. Fifteen of these businesses took the assessment before Good for Grand Rapids launched and again during the campaign, and demonstrated significant growth in the following areas:

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    45 percent showed an increase in positive impact on workers (increased benefits, review process, living wages, etc.)


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    55 percent showed an increase in impact in governance (creation of mission statement, diversity statement, procedure manual, etc.)


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    55 percent showed an increase in positive community impact (percent of profits donated, diversity of ownership and spending on local suppliers)


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    67 percent showed an increase in positive environmental impact (waste/recycle management, building greening initiatives, energy and water usage efficiency programs)


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“When I first took the Quick Impact Assessment, I initially thought to myself, ‘There’s no way I’ll be able to accomplish everything the assessment is asking me to do.’ The assessment ended up being an eye-opening experience that helped me evaluate and improve my business practices,” said Dick Zaagman, owner and founder of Community Automotive. “I’ve always been committed to social, environmental and community issues, so the assessment helped me identify ways my business is already making an impact and how we can grow our impact.” 

The Quick Impact Assessment, developed by Local First, B Lab and Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE), is a free, confidential online tool that helps companies measure their positive social and environmental impact in their local community. The online assessment, which can be taken in about 60 minutes, looks at how companies stack up to best practices including employee wages, community involvement, philanthropy and environmental impact, and can compare their companies to other similar companies around the world.

For many companies, taking the Quick Impact Assessment is the first step in determining where they might improve their business. It also helps businesses connect to other businesses making a positive impact in Grand Rapids, like area B Corps. As a part of Good for Grand Rapids, Local First launched its Measure What Matters Workshop and Mixer series which provides support, tools and resources for businesses looking for ways to make a positive social and environmental impact while earning a profit. Find out when the next event is at

Beyond books: Libraries bringing community together

The library has been my favorite place to go since I was a child. Being an avid reader and writer, I have always loved visiting the library for hours to look at the endless amount of books. I never left without a new book in hand.

A library is a local place for the community to gather and share ideas. It is welcoming to all and eager to assist people. At the library, there is something for everyone!

Since I now live in Coopersville, the Coopersville Area District Library has been the place for me to go. The library opened back in 1949, and though it is small, there is still a big selection of books! The library is about “Preserving the past, providing technology and education for a lifetime of learning, and promoting culture and community through literature and the arts.” I love how libraries hold things from the past, present, and future. No matter where you turn, there is something new to learn, and a new way to grow.

Besides supplying various books to people of all ages, they also host events throughout the year. Some of their events include book clubs, story time, movies, film workshops, and even crafts. There is always a new free event going on for the community to join in. Next month, they’re having their Friends of the Library Used Book Sale, which I attended last year. All funds raised in the three days go toward buying new materials and also programming for the library.

The library isn’t only about books and events. They also supply computers and internet for public use. Their website is full of ways to help people find scholarships, jobs, homework help, and much more. Music and movies are also available to check out, which reaches out to people who don’t enjoy reading. The library continues to find a way to bring the community together; even people with different interests.

The Coopersville Area District Library is located at 333 Ottawa St. in Coopersville. You can learn more at or on Facebook

Local First awarded eighth grant from the Grand Rapids Community Foundation

The Grand Rapids Community Foundation’s Board of Trustees recently approved a grant of $250,000 to Local First Educational Foundation for its “Good for Grand Rapids” campaign. The goal of the grant is to increase the number of businesses having a positive impact on the community with regard to job creation, equitable employment practices and living wage jobs through the efforts of locally-owned companies.

“Local First is committed to connecting West Michigan companies with the resources they need so they can use their business as a force for good,” said Elissa Hillary, president of Local First. “We are grateful for the Community Foundation’s generous support of Good for Grand Rapids. This grant will allow Local First to amplify the amazing work so many businesses are already doing right here in West Michigan.”

“Good for Grand Rapids” inspires, equips and celebrates Grand Rapids companies that use their business to create high-quality jobs, stronger communities and a healthier Great Lakes region. It is designed to engage all companies in the discussion about how they can make a positive environmental and social impact while earning a profit, regardless of their size or industry.  “Good for Grand Rapids” also encourages local companies to take Local First’s Quick Impact Assessment and learn how they can use their business as a force for good.

“This project addresses Community Foundation priority issues around creating an inclusive economy through entrepreneurism, access to good jobs and racial equity. It includes improved diversity and inclusion in local businesses, minority procurement policies and working with neighborhood businesses to hire residents,” said Diana Sieger, president of Grand Rapids Community Foundation.

In 2014, another major grant was awarded to Local First and the success from that work built the basis for the recent award. “Local First achieved positive outcomes with its previous grant. In addition to increasing the number of certified B Corporations, they increased the number of businesses that took the Quick Impact Assessment and the number that took it multiple times; increased the number of minority-owned business members by 70 percent; and completed an internal planning process around being more intentional in their own diversity and inclusion practice,” said Program Director, Laurie Craft.

Since 2006, the Local First has been awarded eight grants from Grand Rapids Community Foundation. 

A beer for every person, a brewery for the people

Brewery Vivant is an innovative, small, independent craft brewery. Owners Kris and Jason Spaulding have a strong community commitment that’s focused on bettering the economy and promoting small businesses.

Before setting up shop in East Hills, the Spauldings traveled through Europe and saw how breweries brought communities together. They wanted to bring that same feeling back to Grand Rapids. So when they returned from their trip and saw a former funeral chapel up for sale in a neighborhood with a lot of potential, they knew they’d found their spot.

Today, Vivant uses an “artful approach” when crafting their beer. This approach is most evident in their farmhouse style beer, Farm Hand. Affectionately referred to as the People’s Beer, Farm Hand is inspired by Southern Belgium and Northern France, and focuses mostly on the rustic nuances from the beer yeast, making the beer approachable and light.

When stepping into the pub, you may forget that you are in Grand Rapids. The vaulted ceilings and lighting transport you to the European countryside where the pub is the center of the community. Breweries in Belgium and France are an essential part of their community, which is what Brewery Vivant strives to be in Grand Rapids. They use Michigan grown products and processors, which support local agriculture and manufacturing. They also use aluminum cans because they are infinitely recyclable and better for the environment. Cans are also better for their beer. The opaque cans block out both light and air, keeping the beer fresh.

And speaking of keeping things fresh, Vivant is coming out with a new way to enjoy the People’s Beer. This summer, you can stop by the pub and pick up the new 8-pack of Farm Hand. Bring it to a summer gathering, stock your fridge, or split it up and share it with friends. Totaling a full gallon of beer, it’s sure to be the Gal Pal you’ve always wanted.

From a trip to Europe to a Midwestern neighborhood, Brewery Vivant continues to bring the community together one beer at a time.

If you like Vivant’s business model, make sure to pick up a copy of Small Giants by Bo Burlingham. In addition to being Mayor Rosalyn Bliss’ book of the year, it also contributed the Spaulding’s dream of entrepreneurship. It profiles companies that chose to be great instead of big. By remaining small, several companies were able to delve deeper into their own community instead of expanding. Local Bookstores