Monday, October 17, 2011

Our CSA

We joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) for the first time this past spring not completely knowing what to expect.  I mean, we knew we'd get fresh veggies and fruit, but not exactly how it all works.  Our particular CSA attends farmer's markets all over the Baltimore metro area and a lot of their CSA members pick up at those locations, but we're lucky enough to live just down the road from the actual farm, so we get to pick up at the actual farm every week.  The kids really like going because you never know what you'll see - usually "farm dogs", sometimes a pig, random chickens, or just something else you don't see in the regular suburban environment.

The fruit and veggies have been great and apparently this has been a TERRIBLE year for the farm, so I can't imagine what a more normal year will be like next year.  Given the extreme heat in the early part of the summer a lot of their lettuces and berries went to pot really early and then all the rain of August forward killed off all of their tomato and squash plants way too early.  They usually get tomatoes into the early part of November!  That said, it was our first year, so we had nothing to compare it to.

Pickups started in early June with an array of late spring veggies/fruits.  Kale, spinach, beets, cabbage, berries, and early squash.  We also opted in for the eggs produced right there on their farm too and those have been great! Free range chickens make such wonderful eggs - all different colors and shapes!  At first the CSA had our basket ready when we came to pick up and we liked that because it gave us things we might not ordinarily try.  But as the summer grew on and the farm got busy, we had the opportunity to pick our items from the farm stand.  By mid-summer it was all the stuff you'd expect - tomatoes, peppers, squash, CORN!, potatoes, onions - such a beautiful array!

And here we are in the final month of the summer/fall CSA and we're getting broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, potatoes, carrots, apples, and green beans.  The summer/fall CSA ends in early November and then we'll have a few weeks before the winter/spring CSA begins.  They keep telling us how much they will like the winter/spring items.  Not only will we get fresh veggies that keep through the winter and start producing in early spring, we'll get canned and frozen items from the summer like their heirloom tomatoes and frozen ears of their delicious corn.  They make a wonderful pepper relish and delicious corn salsa too!  And what's even cool about the winter/spring is that they deliver it to you instead of having to pick it up which will be nice when it gets cold although I know I'll miss the farm stand.

I've learned so much this season - the farmer and his wife are the nicest people you could meet and they always tell me something I had no clue about in terms of farming.  They work so hard at producing and are so proud of their product - no pesticides!  Yesterday the farm hosted their first Fall Fest and I took the kids (Caroline opted out).  They had pumpkin painting, face painting and all kinds of things to check out.  The first thing we got to see were baby chicks and ducks which was pretty much the highlight of our afternoon.  I'd never seen one in person before!  So fluffy and cute.  Farmer George told us that these chicks were the "feeder" chicks that they'll put out in the fields (free range) and will be used for meat.  He said the "layer" chickens grow much more slowly.

Next we headed over to see our friend the pig and to the "layer" chicken coop.  The kids had a ball feeding them and then one got out and Piper chased it all over the place and kept saying "chasing a chicken, chasing a chicken!"  I couldn't help giggle when she'd get close to it and then it would elude her again.  Who needs toys when there's a chicken to chase???

The last thing we did was to go on a farm tour riding on hay on a trailer pulled by Farmer George's tractor.  He pulled us all around his fields and one of the guys that works on the farm pointed out things to see.  We saw where their fall crops are, where the organic, free range turkeys are being prepped for Thanksgiving, and where the tomatoes and summer squash should still be (Irene wiped them out!).  They pulled celery and Brussels sprouts right out of the field and the kids tasted them.  I've never had such deep green, peppery, celery - you can smell it when you're downwind.  You can't get it like that in the grocery store.  They pulled out some baby beets to show us too.  The kids were fascinated and enjoyed the ride.  I just felt so lucky to have this opportunity to be a part of something like a small farm and keeping it going and producing good things for people.  And I was so glad I hadn't spent any money to go to one of those over-crowded fall farms and get gouged for a cup of apple cider or pumpkins. 

So if you have the opportunity to join a CSA, I highly recommend it.  I felt like we ate decent amounts of veggies before this but we eat a lot more now.  And while the kids don't eat huge amounts more they are trying more which I hope will eventually result in them being veggie eaters - I sure wasn't as a kid.   My SIL picked up our share for us when we were on vacation and liked it so much she and her husband are going to do the winter/spring also.   I think my parents would really like it too, my mom just hasn't had a chance to go and check it out and I really think if she did, she would be all over it. 

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