Ask yourself these questions to determine if a CSA is right for you
Before I grew my first vegetable garden, I never knew that carrots were truly sweet; that broccoli could be crisp and delicious. To be completely honest here, I did not like tomatoes before farming. But all it took was to taste a "real" tomato, ripened on the vine, to realize what I was missing!
I believe that people who claim they don't really like vegetables just haven't had a chance to eat them fresh from the farm! Taste matters. Putting together a great meal in your kitchen isn’t just about your skill. It starts with the ingredients: Food that tastes like it should, because it’s grown in quality soil, picked at the peak of ripeness, and delivered within 1-2 days.
In fact, CSAs often create food snobs, because customers finally experience how vegetables should really taste, and they cannot go back to the old and tired versions available at the grocery store. Even the "local" produce from most big chain grocery stores are lacking, simply because it cannot compare with the freshness offered by a CSA. The taste at the grocery store is often referred to as "blah" or "mush" after trying the taste of a freshly grown organic vegetable.
If you really love cooking and you really value taste, then you will LOVE being in a CSA. Because CSAs are all about providing high-quality, artisanal vegetables that make your home dining experience feel like an event.
Every CSA farm is unique. In our CSA, we focus on providing staples, vegetables that you really enjoy, with special varieties bred for the best flavor, and picked fresh for amazing taste. But we also include some unusual ingredients in the CSA share to push your horizons in the kitchen: Sweet Italian peppers, Orange tomatoes, baby bok choy, blue potatoes, yellow watermelons, etc. Part of the CSA experience means getting exposed to new and interesting vegetables and varieties. Realistically, on your own, you would never purposely put a Hakurei turnip or a fennel bulb in your share. Or would you? If so, then you should just Sign Up Now! to become a CSA member, you have found your niche.
But learning to eat seasonally is a big part of the CSA movement. Eating locally enhances our food security and our communities. It also reduces our ecological "footprint". But to do this, we need to learn how to eat what is available in our region, throughout the seasons. CSA teaches us this. We provide the seasonal vegetables, that actually taste great, as well as the cooking tips and recipes to help you use them! Many people find that they actually like a lot of vegetables they have never tried before.
CSA brings you much closer to where your food comes from. At Brokaw Family Farms, you get to meet your farmers, ask them questions, and see how your food is grown. Whats even better? Your farmer will be at every single pickup location. You can ask any questions you may have about how your food is grown, what kind of varieties will be harvested soon, or even change your member information as you pick up that weeks share.
Becoming a CSA member gives you an amazing eating experience, and allows you to support a farmer in your community, to keep farmland actively farmed, and to sustain the livelihood of a small family farm. The CSA commitment is for a full growing season, to truly support the farm. This means that CSA members share the risk inherent in farming. All farmers have an optimistic spirit and a bit of faith, because every season is a gamble. We do not know what Mother Nature will bring: too much rain, drought, pests or disease. There is no guarantee on the exact number or type of crops each member will get. However, we plant 50 different crops and over 100 varieties, in several successions per season, to ensure a good crop. And on the other side, CSA members share in the rewards! Bumper crops do happen often, different things each year. If it's rainy, cucumbers will do great but if it's dry, tomatoes will be excellent. Every crop has its peak cycle too, and sometimes members get a little more than they bargained for. But again, we teach you how to deal with the excess in Veggie University to help with the extra harvest, not to mention you get to learn how to dry, can, prepare freezer meals, and more. Now, our seasoned members are often clamoring for those extra tomatoes to freeze for the winter! It is ridiculously easy to do, and tomato soup made on a snowy day in the middle of winter from frozen tomatoes is such a treat! It is a taste of summer! You can almost smell the fresh tomatoes on the vine!
CSA members learn to be flexible, and to use the weekly vegetables to guide their menu planning, rather than the other way around. Instead of creating a meal plan and procuring the ingredients necessary for those meals, CSA membership asks that you take the vegetables that are available each week and then decide what's for dinner. Many members actually say this can be inspiring and less stressful. You don't have to create a menu plan out of nowhere, you take what the harvest provides and use it. Sometimes less choice is actually more freedom, freedom to try new things, inspiration to combine vegetables in different ways, to enjoy new meals.
Many members say they already see the results of CSA membership in their first year - their kids eat more veggies, they lose weight, they feel better. But after a few years with us, people really start to become masters, learning how to freeze, can, or dry the bumper crops; learning which recipes actually use seasonal ingredients; and how to make substitutions in recipes for ingredients you actually have. But the best part I think, is getting the feel for how to cook and eat seasonally. I love the feeling of satisfaction that comes from creating a completely new recipe or meal based on the harvest, and having it be delicious, and my family loving it!
It does not have to be complicated.Andy and I are both working full-time on the farm and we have two kids. Let me assure you, I am making simple meals. But they are delicious simply because the ingredients are so good, and I don't overcook the vegetables. That's the first rule of thumb. Use good ingredients. Don't overcook them, except in the case of roasted root veggies, which is so easy and so delicious, and the long roasting process really brings out the sweetness of the roots! So just realize that this will be a process. And we will hold your hand along the way, posting everything you need to know in Veggie University, that includes recipes, tips and tricks on using your harvest every week. The results will be well worth it.
One of our goals as a farm is to strive to offer value in the share and give back to our members, for making the commitment to us for an entire season. Additionally, we make sure the CSA share contains more produce per dollar than what could be purchased from our farm stand at market. We value our CSA customers above all else, because they are committed to us. It is a win-win relationship. Still, we want you to know that our members are receiving a greater value than just the cost of the food.
Our vegetables have added value because every one of our vegetables is telling a story, of the journey from the seed to your table. Every week of your CSA share brings new lessons, in creative cooking, in patience with yourself as you learn to use the contents of the share, of forgiveness if you don't get to all the veggies that week, and lastly, of how everything goes back to the earth. Our veggies can become a new way of life, of healthier eating, imaginative cooking, embracing a new culture of food. They can be the catalyst for your journey with food. The vegetables from the farm are the means to achieving your goal to prepare a great meal, better than most any restaurant fare, a meal you can be proud of. This is not something any grocery store can give you.
So how did you do? Did you pass the quiz?
Remember, CSA is one way to get fresh farmer food onto your table. We think it is the best way for those who truly love cooking and eating great food; who value the story, the journey, and the farmer relationship behind the food. CSA can change the way you eat forever. We have many members who say, now that they have tasted this food, they cannot go back to grocery store vegetables.
But if CSA doesn't fit your life, you can still get farm-fresh food from the farmer’s market. You can visit us at The Fulton Street Farmer's Market on Wednesday and Fridays from 8 am - 3 pm. We hope you enjoyed this little quiz. We want to set you up for CSA success, to make sure your expectations match up with the reality of CSA before you commit.