Garden Coach on Community Supported Agriculture ProgramsAugust 19, 2009
I’m so appreciative to live in a part of the world where delicious, local, organic, sustainable agriculture is readily available to me. Each week, year-round, I can visit any number of farmer’s markets in the greater Seattle area any day of the week. Not only can I purchase fruits and veggies, but whole grains, fresh fish, delicious meats, eggs, honey and all sorts of great dairy are offered in these fun, friendly environments. Sure, offerings get a little spotty in winter, but the point is, they’re still available. And this time of year, summer? Well, the smorgasbord is unbelievable.
Last summer, a year when my own garden harvest was less than ideal, I found myself buying loads of fresh veggies each week to eat and even more food to preserve for winter. As I was filling up bag after bag of potatoes from one of my favorite vendors, Summer Run Farm, I spied farmer Cathryn’s sign up form for her 2009 Farm Girl Collective CSA program. In the end, after watching one of her 2008 clients empty his weekly box into his bicycle bags and seeing all the great food he was getting each week for what amounts to about $28, we signed up and prepaid for 2009 in October of 2008. By paying early in the year prior to pick up, our funds help the farmers get through winter, procure supplies, and make various repairs to their farms. Even if you haven’t signed up for a CSA yet, many still accept members at pro-rated prices, mid-season. Read on for more details on CSA programs, where to find them, what comes in a CSA box, a lemon-blueberry cocktail recipe, and more…
If you’re in Seattle, there are many farmers and farmer collectives offering CSA programs. Some, like the one I belong to, offer seasonal selections. Others provide subscriptions for year-round food pick ups. Of course, I’m a huge fan of the Farm Girl Collective, which provides me produce from three farmers working together to produce a great assortment of foods for subscribers. Consider this: for a payment of $450, I receive a box of goodies each Sunday from late June through mid-October — for a total of about 16 boxes. A few days before my pick up, I get an email telling me what will be in the box, what’s going on at the farm(s), and they even send a few recipes to help me make the most of the food they’re providing. Curious about what comes in a box each week? Here are a few examples (and odds are I’ve forgotten a few items, but you’ll get the general idea):
July 12, 2009:
- Rainbow Chard
- Red onion
- Shelling peas
- Sugar peas
July 26, 2009
- Lettuce (unbelievable heads!)
- Cilantro (lasted for weeks in the fridge, crazy!)
August 9, 2009
- Red onion
- summer squash
August 16, 2009:
- articoke (chokeless!)
- purple cabbage
- lemon cucumbers
And, what’s really fun? Some weeks we get a “you pick item”. This allows us to pick up a bit of garlic or potatoes or lettuce or whatever else we might want/need that wasn’t pre-packed for us in the box. Too, CSA members get an opportunity to visit the farm. It’s difficult for farmer’s to take time out during the craziness of the growing season, but Cathryn opened the farm to us earlier this year. And, she timed it to coincide with the open days at a U-pick blueberry farm that adjoins her land. We made a day of it earlier this year, harvesting many pounds of berries before visiting the land upon which our food is grown. (At the end of this post, you’ll find a great blueberry cocktail recipe!)
As an aside, I’ll tell you why I choose Summer Run Farm among so many other choices at the market. Well, honestly, the first time I bought from Cathryn, nostalgia drew me to her stall. As a child, I worked on a horse farm named Summer Duck Run Farm. I mucked stalls, ran fences, exercised ponies, primped show horses, and even milked the farm cow in trade for my horseback riding lessons. So, the name drew me in. But the produce and Cathryn’s willingness to answer my never-ending food raising questions that have helped me grow as a food grower formed the bond that tied my nostalgic heart, inquiring mind and my slavering tongue to her CSA program.
Sure, some of you are laughing that I pick up this food each week given how much food I’ve been growing on my own this year. But, last year I wasn’t nearly the food grower I am today, so when I pre-bought, the price really made sense to us. Sure, it’s true. At home, we’re producing more veggies in our garden than the two of us can eat this year. However, this allows us to donate several bags of produce to the local food bank each week, share with friends, eat very local, very healthy fresh food and preserve quite a bit for winter. Plus, the CSA box provides us with quite a bit of food we don’t grow ourselves — like artichokes and mid-summer broccoli and red onion and mid-summer lettuce. The extras? Well, they don’t go to waste. Instead, they are shared with the community or put up for winter as appropriate.
So, interested in joining a CSA in your area? Well, try visiting a local farmer’s market and ask vendors you already support about their CSA programs. Odds are they have one or might be considering starting one. In Seattle? Sign up directly with the Farm Girl Collective here. Or, just visit the LocalHarvest.org website to find CSA farmers near you no matter where you may live. Buying and eating locally, sustainably and organically is possible. And with our support of CSA programs, these fantastic small farmers will be empowered to grow and flourish as we enjoy the fruits of their earthy labors.
And speaking of fruit, here’s the recipe for a fantastic blueberry cocktail Bob and I put together when we found ourselves facing 20 pounds or so of blueberries after our trip to the CSA farm and the U-pick blueberry farm next door. Enjoy!
Bobin’s Lemon Verbena Blueberry Martini
- 2oz vodka
- 4 wedges lime
- 1 handful fresh blueberries, plus a few on the side
- 6 fresh lemon verbena leaves
- 1 oz simple syrup
Muddle lemon verbena leaves, lime wedges and handful of blueberries. Add simple syrup. (Can be made with verbena simple syrup in lieu of muddling leaves or to add an extra lemony punch to your drink.) Add a few cubes of ice to a cocktail glass. Pour vodka over ice. Pour simple syrup muddle mixture over vodka. Stir briefly. Garnish with a few whole berries and/or verbena leaves.