Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Me and the CSA: My New Adventure

Posted by Carla B. at 11:47 PM
Recently I started investigating the trend of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). I have heard about these around the Internet, as well as word of mouth. As I live in a relatively rural area of the South, and there are plenty of farms nearby as well as the agricultural university for our state (Clemson University), I figured there must be similar set-ups locally. It's not always easy to make it to the Farmer's Market, so I thought the idea of a CSA would be like a market more on my schedule.

I wasn't sure what to expect, so I started doing my own research at  Local Harvest. Their description is the simplest I have found:

Here are the basics: a farmer offers a certain number of "shares" to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a "membership" or a "subscription") and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season. 
The best part is there is a set delivery or pick-up schedule, so you aren't trying to rush to a market only to find they are sold out. You have already arranged and paid for your produce in advance, and the grower prepares your share. Nothing is risk-free of course, so the risk here is a bad growing season. You are paying for the cost of the farming - so a bad growing season means little or no produce and no refund. 

I wasn't quite ready to just jump in, since the local CSAs cost around $600.00 for a season. While that is still a good deal, due to the amount of food you receive it was a little steep for our initial step in this experiment. I look for some alternatives, and I found a wonderful one. One that is listed in our local area as a CSA is The Putney Farm. They require a flat fee for a membership, and this allows you to order throughout the entire year from their catalog of available products. The products change each week, and the members are sent an email during the ordering period of what items are available. The beauty of their system is that multiple growers and farms contribute to their "market". In fact, this is more of a direct order Farmer's Market than an actual CSA. 

My first order was this past week and it was picked up today. We received three pounds of range-fed ground beef (hormone free), goat cheese fudge, whole organic chocolate milk, granola, gluten free bread, fresh organic blueberries, whole organic buttermilk, and a homemade black bean hummus. We didn't have too many fresh fruits and vegetables this time. I ordered later in the available time allotted, so several items were already sold out for this week. I also wanted to sample several different items to get an idea of what was available across the board.

The skids and I tried several of the products this evening. The hummus was demolished in short order and all we have left is an empty container. The whole chocolate milk was a huge hit with the kids. We don't normally have chocolate milk in the house, but I decided to make a treat for them in this order. It comes from The Happy Cow Creamery, and it definitely made my own little calves very happy. I heard raves today about their cottage cheese at the drop off - so we will be trying that next time. So far, every single thing we tried we found delicious. The blueberries were the top of the pick, or they produce all perfect blueberries at that farm. They were gorgeous.

I can't wait to find out what our next fresh options are, and I will be sure to get my order in quickly. I have loved what I have discovered so far. There is an option with this farm to get a standard CSA box full of fresh vegetables. So far, I feel sure we will be ordering that next summer. This is an excellent option for obtaining quality organic produce in way that is both time efficient and cost effective. I'll keep you posted on how it goes.


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