Get Some Green From a Hudson Valley CSA
My parents have a biodynamic farm in Maine.
What is biodynamic farming?
Biodynamic is beyond Organic. You use only what you find on your own land to fertilize and support what you produce, animal and vegetable. So how has it come to pass that I have the blackest of black thumbs? It seems I can't even grow parsely, and I have a herd of deer that live in my backyard. Right now I have so many home improvement projects on the docket that even considering adding building a fenced-in garden to the list makes me feel....well.....not nice. However I grew up spending summers eating my Mom's yummy veggies. She used to chase me out of the garden because I would eat all the peas off the vines before she could pick them. So how does this kale-loving girl reconcile my need for freshness with my need to NOT GARDEN? A CSA.
For several years my family has belonged to a CSA from Hudson Valley Farm, Talliaferro Farms. What is a CSA you ask? Well it stands for Community Supported Agriculture.
Terrific! What on earth does Community Supported Agriculture mean? Please stop with the incomprehensible farming lingo! - you say.
Here's how CSA's work: At some point in the Winter or early Spring you buy a "share" (enough to feed a family of vegetarians for the week) or a "half share" (enough produce for a family that also eats meat and dairy for the week). When you buy your share you pay for the full season up-front. This allows the farmer to have an up-front investment that helps them get their crops planted and plant the correct volume of produce. Each farmer is unique in what they offer. Some farms offer vegetables and fruits as part of the share, others have add-on options for fruit and eggs. (Egg photo by Eric Bean)
In the Hudson Valley farmers begin to harvest produce at the end of May/beginning of June. In general farms schedule pick-up days where you visit the farm with your little cloth bags and pick up your weekly shares. Produce is picked that morning so you are getting the freshest of fresh freshness! Some farms have alternative pick-up locations. Taliaferro Farm is in New Paltz. We don't live anywhere near New Paltz! But our share gets delivered to a volunteer's front porch about a mile and a half from our house. When we go to pick up we always run into neighbors and friends. Sometimes people just don't like something in the share that week (I'm a zucchini hater) so you can end up with some extras (I take the kale-haters kale and give them my zucchini). Some farms have community service days and open houses where you can help out on the farm and get to know your farmers and fellow share members a little better. Even though I'm not growing my own veggies I feel great about supporting a local farmer, great about the food I'm feeding my family, and great about the reduction in my carbon footprint because I'm buying local.
Top 5 Reasons to Join a CSA
Health - Because you are getting vegetables at the peak of freshness you're getting the maximum nutritional benefit from them. They haven't lost nutrients because they've taken several days to get to you, been flash frozen, treated to ripen, colored, handled, packed in plastic, or anything else offensive. Many of the farmers who offer CSA's practice organic and sustainable farming. Fantastic! However, my Mom will be angry if I do not remind you to properly clean your veggies regardless of what farming methods were used. Dirt is dirt. Wash your lettuce.
Supporting Local Business - Giving your grocery dollars to a local farmer gives you a warm fuzzy feeling. Spending your grocery dollars on tomatoes that taste like cardboard and have traveled more than you have in the past month gives you a cold prickly.
Reducing Your Carbon Footprint - Buying locally grown produce that you pick up with a recycled baggie of your choice means that less gas and packaging were used to get your food from the farmer to you. If you have carbon footprint guilt like me, this is a great way to assuage it.
Teaching Opportunities - How many little kids do you know who wouldn't know a carrot top if they tripped over it on the side of the road? Good food comes from plants. It takes space and soil and time and nurturing. It doesn't have to come wrapped up in cellophane on a Styrofoam plate. If you believe our children are our future as the late Whitney Houston did, it's important that we teach them the impact of our food consumption and growing techniques. CSA's provide a great way to do that, without having to dust off your gardening gloves.
Making New Friends - Sounds silly, I know. But when you participate in a CSA you are participating a community that includes members with some of the same values you have. There's a pretty good chance you're going to really like some of them.
Ready to sign up for a CSA?
Lots of farms are still accepting new members. Chronogram Magazine put together a list of Hudson Valley CSA's, it's very comprehensive. You can browse for farms that offer just what you're looking for in a share.
The One Downside
I would be remiss if I did not mention the single downside to a CSA share. If you are a gourmet cook whose weekly meal plans are a gastronomic trip around the globe, a farm share might pose some challenges for you. Some weeks you might get 3 cucumbers, 3 bunches of swiss chard, 6 carrots, 4 tomatoes and some spring onions. You might not be able to make the tappas you planned for on Tuesday! If you are not going to be happy finding several different ways to make swiss chard in a week, because you really wanted to make avocado salad instead, then the farm share may not be for you. Instead, head for the farmer's markets. On each of our community pages we have a list of farms & markets either in or very nearby that town. At a farmer's market you'll get the largest selection of what's available locally so that you can cook your gourmet grub with as much local food as possible.
Either way; if you join a Hudson Valley CSA or shop a local farmer's market, your summer lunch can be as crunchy, delicious, fresh, and vitamin packed as mine! Happy crunching.
Amy Wallace - Marketing Director
Coldwell Banker Village Green Realty