A few years ago, friends of mine talked about being members of a CSA in New York City. Within 5 minutes I learned that CSA stands for “community supported agriculture” and is a 25-year old tradition set up like a subscription service to a farm. Signing up for a season allows a person to support a local farm while stopping by once a week to pick up a delicious box of in-season, freshly picked produce. If you’ve ever lived or worked or visited New York City, you know what a dream this sounds like. Farm fresh food? Yes, please. But they exist all over the country. A visit to the Local Harvest website can help you find one near you.
Year after year, I told myself I’d look into it, sign up, and become the type of person who could whip up delicious, fresh food as quickly and easily as I hailed a cab.
But I never signed up.
Truth is, I didn’t think I could do it. Plenty of people see me as the type of person who a CSA is built for. They imagine me floating over to a farm, gathering some food in a basket and running home to dream up a perfect 7 course meal. What these people forget is that I am a planner. A serious, plan-as-far-in-advance-as-possible kind of planner. Otherwise known as a control freak. “On a whim” is hard for me. Especially when it comes to meal planning and worse yet, being handed ingredients I’ve never heard of. So, I chickened out for years.
Perhaps it was moving to suburban New Jersey, or small business exhaustion haze, but either way…I took the plunge and signed up this year. Oh dear.
After a quick online search for organic farms that also support CSA programs, I found Alstede Farm. Perfect! This is a place my daughter’s preschool visited last year for pumpkin picking and hay rides. I am already hooked. For some reason, I chose a “full share” program. This is essentially the largest option. The down sized options are half-share or individual. What possessed me to select FULL share, I may never know. Probably being an over-achiever. Nevertheless, full share it is.
Although the farm is a 40 minute drive from our house (a worthy trip, but difficult once a week) there are convenient pick-up spots within 15 minutes of our house. Last week was week 1. My husband and I packed the girls in the car and told them we were going to visit a farmer to pick up an amazing box full of delicious food. Little did I know (or expect) but our farmer turned out to live in a house that looks like yours or mine on a cute little street in the middle of a neighboring town. (You should have heard the story I had to dream up, explaining that he is a farmer’s helper and the vegetables didn’t actually grow in the garage). Dan, the farmer is a great CSA ambassador. He has a brood of well behaved kids, milling around his back yard, the oldest ones at-the-ready to explain any and all CSA related questions and is a relaxed, friendly, helpful kind of guy. I eyed the boxes on the table in the garage and noticed that mine, the largest, was next to a table full of smaller boxes. Clearly waiting for their more intelligently-minded owners.
Sigh. Back to the car.
Once we got home, the girls happily helped get our box into the house. No small feat.
Once in the house, we spread out the contents and were amazed.
Serious deliciousness. And a few things I’d barely heard of, let alone cooked with.
I tried not to look too nervous as I opened the letter that was tucked neatly inside the greens. A welcome note, list of contents, and suggested recipes from the Alstede farmers. Although I felt totally overwhelmed, the warm, fuzzy feeling you’d expect from something like this delivered on all accounts.
Yes, I freaked out and immediately gave my husband marching orders for washing and storing each item according to instructions from the farmer so nothing would go bad (some went bad anyway). Yes, I pulled out 4 cookbooks at once and started looking for recipes containing leeks in the index. Yes, I ended up throwing away a few things that I had no idea what to do with. Yes, I felt guilt and horror and shame for that. Then I got over it enough to tell you about it and moved on.
But I also made some DELICIOUS recipes I probably wouldn’t have tried any time soon. For me, it was (and is…and will continue to be) stressful to come home and decide, “what next?” But it’s also pretty fun, since I do really love to cook and try new recipes. Especially when I’m working with fresh food that tastes as good as it ever will. It’s also an amazing thing to give my daughters. Not only trying new food, but learning about farming and what really comes from the ground, right off a farm.
Stay tuned for details on those yummy recipes. I promise they don’t disappoint!