Sometime in early June I became obsessed with finding a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program to join. Living in the JerseyFresh state and having been surrounded by amazing gardens my entire life I have a deep appreciation for fresh fruits and vegetables and wanted to experience a different form of agriculture beyond my small garden, local farmer’s stands or farmer’s markets. The most common definition for CSA is an alternative, locally based socio-economic model of distributing agriculture across a set number of members who pay early on in the season to share a local harvest. The harvest can be from one farm or from a coalition of farmers distributed under one CSA umbrella. Once the harvesting begins, members receive weekly or bi-weekly shares of the crops. The typical CSA season is June to October and you can opt for a half-share or a full share. Most often, a half-share picks up on a bi-weekly basis and a full share picks up on a weekly basis.
After searching the web for several days I found a local, prorated share of a CSA. My CSA of choice for the 2012 season was Greensgrow Philadelphia http://www.greensgrow.org/farm/index.php. I joined a couple of weeks into the season and got my first taste of the CSA in mid-June. I opted for a half-share and my prorated share cost $368 for 11 weeks of crop shares which equates to about $33/week. It may sound expensive but when you factor in the cost of the cheese that you get each week, which are always amazing, and the proteins (we can choose from eggs, tofu, yogurt, organic butter or seitan) it evens out over the course of the weekly shares. I decided to choose Greensgrow mainly for its national reputation, its promise of variety and because they were trying to positively contribute to the food economy of Camden, which happens to be close to where I work.
So far, I have been fairly impressed with my Greensgrow Philadelphia CSA experience. My children get a kick out of unloading my CSA basket and asking me about all of the weekly offerings. I love the idea of a surprise every week and how it forces me to try new things and really tests my cooking skills. Some of my favorite recipes from this year’s CSA include a parsley, fennel and radish salad; grilled peaches with grass-fed Greensgrow-made ricotta cheese and we really loved the japanese plums, which were a first for us.
I am a little over half way into my Greensgrow CSA Summer share season. I have picked up six weeks of shares and I have about five more to go. Here’s a look at my shares over the past six weeks.
I have appreciated the variety of fruits and vegetables as well as the fine cheeses and occasional surprises of pasta. I have yet to see the baked goods, honey, prepared foods and beers that were promised in their brochure. I hope to get a few of these surprises in the next couple of weeks as my Summer CSA season comes to an end. Who knows, maybe I will review one of the beers for an upcoming Malt Monday post.