Monday, May 14, 2012

Eating Floyd: Our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Share

This year Michael and I decided to get a CSA share to augment what we grow in our gardens.  One reason is curiosity.  We've never had a CSA share before and want to see just what's in our box every week.  Another reason is it may fill in some gaps we might have in our own garden.  The third reason is to offer support to local farmers and truck gardeners.  They are doing backbreaking, economically risky work bringing a diversified harvest to market for the rest of us.  If corporate food should all go south someday, it's these local folks who will see us fed.  They deserve our support.

We thought it would be interesting to report on what we get in our box: the quality, the quantity, the variety, and the price compared to the cost in a store like Harvest Moon that sells locally grown produce, much of it from the same farms our CSA sources from.
We are aware of four established CSA share providers in the Floyd county area: 7 Springs Farm, Waterbear Farm, Good Food Good People, and Riverstone Farm.  There may be others, CSAs are starting to pop up all over, but these are the ones Michael and I were aware of when we were shopping around.  CSAs tend to be "the same, but different" and a potential customer should look into how each CSA operates to choose one that best fits their needs.  Some offer whole or half shares or divide what they offer into veg shares, fruit shares, egg shares, dairy shares, that allow you to mix or match.  Some CSAs require that you do a certain weekly amount of labor in addition to, or instead of, the cost of a share.  In some cases a CSA is a cooperative or collection of small farms with a central coordinator/distributor.  These CSAs offer their customers an additional level of protection in case one farm has one of their crops fail another farm may be able to cover it.  Good Food Good People, the CSA that we chose, is this type of CSA.

Good Food Good People (GFGP) offers several different types of shares.  We chose "The Visionary: Features 40+ varieties of fresh seasonal garden vegetables and culinary herbs, 95% of which are organic or biologically-grown.  Enjoy 25 weekly deliveries May-October, $595.00."

That works out to $23.80/week.

We had already received our first box and eaten a few things from it when we decided to record what we got and compare it to what we could buy so this week I can note what was in the box and the quality of the produce but we didn't weigh it so I can't provide an accurate cost comparison.

This week's box contained:
Baby Lettuce Mix—Fertile Crescent Farm (BIO)
Kale, Red Russian or green curly—Full Circle Farm (BIO)
Tomatoes, hydroponic—Yoder’s Farm (Low-Spray)
Green Garlic—Fertile Crescent Farm (BIO)
Cucumbers, Eng.trellis—United Earth Hydroponics (BIO)
Strawberries—Harmony Hollow Farm (Unsprayed)
Asparagus, green (Moon Indigo—BIO) OR
Asparagus, purple— (Eggars’ Farm—BIO)
Broccoli - Harmony Hollow Farm (BIO)
The baby lettuce mix is gorgeous and tasty, a nice mix of mellow, buttery and spicy leaves. Unfortunately the same can't be said of the kale. It is mostly stem and what leaf there is appears old and leathery.  Michael gave the kale a medium chop and then braised it until tender in a canellini bean and garlic puree that was quite tasty over penne pasta.

There are two tomatoes, one medium and one small, one slightly riper than the other which is convenient since the greener one will ripen later in the week when we'll be ready to use it. I've trained us to expect tomatoes much later than this so it's slightly jarring to have them on the counter. We haven't tried them yet, I keep thinking they'll be like grocery store tomatoes-out of season and bland.

Green Garlic.  This stuff looks good!  I've never cooked with it before and I'm looking forward to it.  We grow our own garlic, enough to supply us from one crop to the next, but I've never thought to pull and cook it at this immature stage.  I conveniently found a Green Garlic, Broccoli and Orzo recipe which uses two veg from the box.  I'm thinking of combining it with a cucumber and tomato salad which will use two more of the box's veg.  The broccoli in the box looks good.  Two nice-sized solid heads, dark green with the florets tightly closed.  We've already sliced into the cucumber and that was nice and crisp with a mild flavor.

The asparagus looks really good.  I think it'll accompany quinoa cakes with chevre and last year's roasted herbed tomatoes.

The strawberries are a disappointment but I have a high standard for strawberries.  These are large berries, but under-ripe and too tart.  They'll need a bit of sweetening and time to macerate before reaching the table.  Definitely not for eating out of hand.

So other than the slight disappointment of the kale and strawberries, overall I'd say the variety and quality of the produce is very nice in this week's box.  I've got something new to play with in the green garlic and that's exciting.  A rough guesstimate led us to believe that we paid slightly less than we would have for the same veg from Harvest Moon, but that's just a guess.  We'll have a more accurate accounting next week when we actually weigh out what we get and price shop it.

This was the first box of the season and we were pleasantly surprised by the variety.  Michael and I agree that this box is a harbinger of good things to come and as the season progresses we expect to find lots of inspiration in our weekly CSA box!

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