Previously we shared why we as farmers love growing for our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) members, but this week we wanted to share why we think CSA is a great option to try as a customer. CSA has a lot of advantages for members, including some that overlap with the reasons we love CSA as farmers:
1. Freshness, Quality, and Flavor:
CSAs generally have some of the freshest food around! We grow a mix of different crops and varieties, often for their great flavors. Most vegetables are harvested the morning of the CSA pickup, and washed and chilled until it's time to pack and send the boxes of veggies out into the world. Because of this super-short supply chain, CSA farmers are able to grow varieties for things like taste rather than how they hold up through shipping out to stores.
2. Great Variety and Mix of Produce
One of our main focuses is to make sure each week's shares have a good mix of different standard crops (like salad greens, cooking greens, root crops, and "fruit" vegetables) that are easy to handle and use. We also focus on adding some variety and a fun or particularly interesting item each week so folks can try new things, without it being overwhelming.
3. It's the next best thing to having a garden
If you can't have your own garden because of your space, work, or vicious deer assaults to defenseless backyard vegetables, CSA (especially if you get a chance to come visit the U-Pick garden) is the next best thing. We also welcome volunteers if you want to spend an hour or two in the fields!
4. It's a fun summer adventure/ritual
Two things that we love to hear from members is how opening your weekly share becomes like a present of food, and how nice it is to visit the farm and relax in the U-Pick flower garden at the end of the week. Our farm is open Friday and Saturdays during the season to CSA members (and other times by appointment) and it's a nice chance to see how small scale farming works in the northeast, wander the fields, or visit the pigs and chickens. We want the CSA to be a fun place for you, with an interesting and fun mix of food to inspire your meals!
5. Kids have fun!
Along the same note, if you have kids or grand-kids (or nieces and nephews), CSA is a great way for them to learn about food and vegetables and farming. Most of the time, kids love getting to see (and help harvest if you visit the U-Pick) where their veggies come from, and hopefully it inspires them to eat more produce! We also notice that fresher, local vegetables taste a LOT sweeter, which is generally a selling point for to get kids to eat them. We have pigs and chickens hanging around the farm all summer, which is fun for children to get to see them grow.
6. Discover Eating with the Seasons
One of the fun things with CSA is that you get the opportunity to explore and learn about what's best to eat when. Grocery stores are fine since you can find the same things all year long, but with a CSA you really get the chance to see how extra-amazing food tastes when it's the precisely prime season. Nothing is as good as sugar snap peas right off the vine (late June/early July), the intense flavor of a ripe heirloom tomato (August), or the unbelievably sweet post-frost carrots of fall (October)!
7. Get to Know Your Farm and Your Farmers
While we love the opportunity to meet our CSA members and learn what you want us to grow for you, we also hope that you feel free to take the opportunity to visit the farm if you like and get to know us! Like many CSAs, we have a weekly newsletter to share recipes and cooking ideas, as well as the ups and downs of the growing season. Our CSA members are the cornerstone of our farm--we really appreciate your support and enjoy sharing our working family farm with you. We have U-Pick hours on Fridays and Saturdays from July through October and welcome folks to walk around and check the fields out!
It's also our members' CSA as well, so we really like to hear member feedback. We definitely add and subtract crops each year due to member input, and we hope that thinking about how your CSA can best serve your needs is fun for you!
8. Good Value for Farmers and Members
CSAs are also a good value for members. When you join the CSA you become in a sense a shareholder in the farm for the growing season. We appreciate your support and strive to give you a good return on your investment. Typically (in good and average years), shareholders receive 10 to 15% more vegetables than you pay for over the course of the season. And shareholders also receive a 10% discount on your vegetable purchases at the farmers markets as well.
9. Eat Healthier and Learn about Preparing Vegetables
We got into farming because we like to eat, and we like to share our love of food with you. In the weekly newsletter we share ideas on how to prepare and enjoy that week's share, and we love when members share their favorite recipes with us. As farmers, our summertime can get pretty crazy, so we focus a lot on meals that are easy and quick to prepare and can be simple for folks and families also caught in the summertime rush.
Having all the fresh CSA vegetables around can also be a great inspiration to cook more and push a little outside your comfort zone. We have had a number of members over the years initially join because the commitment to a share would be a good impetus to cook more and eat healthier, and we love hearing feedback that it works! (The small share is a good size if you want to start challenging yourself to use more vegetables at home--at 5 to 7 items a week, it isn't too overwhelming to take on a veggie item a day!)
10. Good for the Community and Environment
CSAs by their nature are very tied with the local environment and community. We look at building our CSA and our farm as a long term commitment to the region. We want to grow and adapt with our members to provide the crops that you want, and we want to work with our land to improve it every season so that each year brings a better harvest and a healthier ecosystem. We do this by using a range of organic farming practices, including crop rotation, cover cropping, encouraging good bugs, and a whole lot more (please ask us anytime about how we farm!). We also are committed to the local community and want to make sure that everyone in our community can afford local, healthy food (ask us about our flexible payment plans). When you join a CSA as a shareholder, you help farms build their community and improve their ecosystems--thank you!
We hope you consider trying out a CSA this season! Learn more about Hartwood Farm CSA at the links above!