Monday, May 12, 2008

Today's the day! It's finally here!

I've been counting the days ever since we sent our application into Sandy Springs CSA in January. Today is the first day of our CSA membership. Around 2pm, I'll drive to my local pick up point and receive my weekly veggie box. I assume today's box will contain asparagus, spring mix and rhubarb.

I realized I didn't update anyone on the actual visit to Calvert Farm - the source of our CSA - last month. Here's a quick recap:

Calvert Farm's owner, Farmer Pam, and her farm manager, an Amish Elder, were incredibly knowledgeable and couldn’t have been nicer. On Saturday, April 17, they gave a very enlightening tour of the organic farm to my group which was made up of five children and several volunteers from Sierra Club’s Inner City Outing (ICO) program. The ICO participants leave their neighborhoods – often some of the roughest and under-resourced areas of DC- to commune with nature on hikes and camping trips. The farm was certainly a new experience for them. Farmer Pam set a beautiful table in the shade for us when we sat down to lunch. She dressed it with mason jars full of fresh apple and pear blossoms. Those fruit bearing trees greeted us as we turned into the farm for the first time. Pam offered us some freshly picked spinach, which was by far the most delicious spinach I've ever had. The adults couldn’t get enough of it, but I believe it might have been the first time these kids have ever tried it.

A few minutes later, we were all standing in the fields where the spinach was growing, learning about the natural ways to battle the weeds around them. First, they use a hot pepper spray made from the peppers grown on the farm. But, one particularly resilient weed to kill was thistle. Farmer Pam explained that they were trying to suffocate the thistle with heat by laying mats on them held down by bricks – allowing the sun to do its job.

As the kids were soaking all the information in, they also tried to keep track of the other tour guides which led them through the farm – 18 friendly cats! Each cat had a different personality. Some brazenly trotted alongside the cauliflower pushing it's away up from the ground. Others slept quietly in the tomato plants. One even sat on a chair with us during lunch like a gracious host.

My favorite moment of the day was when our kids discovered that mint actually grew from the ground. After smelling herbs like rosemary and basil and recalling how they were used in cooking, they were blown away when they caught a whiff of natural mint. You could see the wheels turning in their head, wondering how this scent made its way into a stick of gum!

At the end of our tour, we had the opportunity to plant spring onions. The kids took the job very seriously. They thoughtfully listened to Pam’s instructions and carefully watered the new vegetables after planting them three inches apart.


We were very honored that Pam and her workers took the time out of their packed day to spend a few hours with us. You can see how hard they all work to have a successful farm. It's definitely not a 9 -5 job.

Here's a quick FAQ about our CSA:

What exactly is a CSA?
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Our CSA is a led by volunteers and receives it's vegetables from a farm less than 100 miles away. It's usually a certified organic (and local) farm which offers shares to it's consumers. By offering shares, the farmers are able to plan their crop, limit waste and pay their expenses up front. Basically, it allows them to make a living with less risk.

Tell me more about this share....
We paid $600 in January for one share. One share provides a weekly box of vegetables and fruit for 20 weeks. With rising food costs, we'll probably be saving money along with supporting a local farm. We won't be able to chose the contents of our weekly box. It's made up of what's been harvested that week. We'll be eating seasonally and trying new things. During the summer, the box will get fulller and fuller as the crops are more bountiful.

How do I find out about a CSA near me?
I found Sandy Springs CSA by going to www.localharvest.org and typing in our zip code. I also asked questions on discussion boards like Chowhound and Cooking Light to read about other people's experiences. I mostly found that the idea was incredibly popular. People were on waiting lists to get a share!

Any other questions?
Please feel free to email me at testdrivekitchen@yahoo.com or leave a comment. I'll be sharing CSA stories on this blog as well as recipes throughout the next 20 weeks.

1 comment:

Ricki said...

Great, informative post, Karen! We don't have CSAs per se here, but our organic box is brought together by a local organic company, and I've been delighted with it. Enjoy your goodies!