Community supported agriculture (CSA) is a partnership in which individual farms are supported by customers/members who pay up front for a season of vegetable deliveries. We have belonged to a CSA for 21 years, since our son was born. Our first farmers, Hugh and Hannah from Threshold Farm, stopped making city deliveries after 7 or 8 years to concentrate on their local community and their orchards (but we have followed their progress and family over the years and still buy delicious apples, dairy products and vinegar from them when in Columbia County). Our current CSA – Roxbury Farm, to which we have belonged for more than 10 years now, was one of the first to start coming to New York. We receive not only amazing vegetables every year, but also learn so much about farming and the farming life from their thoughtful and insightful weekly newsletters, including recipes for each week’s bounty.
Our current farmers are not only organic but also biodynamic (as were the first), so they farm without pesticides. Their knowledge and practice provide us with a steady source of nutritious and tasty food, including their own lamb, pork and beef which can we order from their website. Every week we pick up whatever 8 – 12 vegetables they picked that that were ripe that week, except in the fall when there are squash, garlic, and onions, etc. that have been aged appropriately so we can store them. We get everything from sugar snap peas, scallions and asian greens like mizuna or tatsoi to basil, dill, cilantro and parsley to tomatoes, broccoli rabe, sweet corn and buttercup squash, to name just a few.
Since we get whatever they grow, I try things I might never have purchased because I wasn’t familiar with them or didn’t think I liked, such as beet greens, celeriac, and Swiss chard, all of which I now have learned to prepare and enjoy. Because their newsletters keep us informed of their weekly struggles (like equipment, insects and the effects of weather on crop outcomes), as well as interesting essays on farm life and work, our farmers have become the rock stars of our summers and autumns; They provide us not only with produce but also remind us of the hard work and commitment demanded in cultivating the land, growing, harvesting, and delivering those vegetables. We feel deep gratitude to Jody and Jean Paul, and their crew, as we collect our share each week and when we eat it.
In recent years, we have subscribed to their winter box program, a 30 lb. box of winter storage vegetables that comes monthly December through February. That means we have local carrots, beets, cabbage, onions, sweet potatoes, celeriac, garlic, watermelon radishes, squash and potatoes for most of the winter. All I have to do is supplement with greens or frozen veggies until the spring crops appear at the farmers markets.
If you are interested in joining a CSA, check out the Just Food website – justfood.org/csaloc – for NYC. For locating a CSA in the tri-state area, localharvest.org is a useful site. Different states and areas of the country have their own websites. Just search CSA and the name of your state or part of the country. Or try https://pubs.nal.usda.gov/organizations-and-websites-related-community-supported-agriculture. It’s an easy way to support local farms, get fresh, local produce directly from the farmers and connect to a community of people who care about well grown food and the people who provide it.