The Freedom Choice: My Summer 2012 CSA

The beauty of okra – a much maligned and under-appreciated veggie. Seeing the beauty of our food and where it comes from excites interest and broadens our food palate.
Three Swallows Farm, U-pick field, Danby, NY.

Interested in just picked fresh local organic veggies bursting with flavor at a reasonable price? Try a CSA.

This summer I signed up for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share with the Full Plate Farm Collective. (Note a photo album of my CSA is available – click on “photo album”.) Now CSAs come in a variety of flavors, but this is how mine works for me.

Every Wednesday I go to Stick & Stone farm to pick up my grocery bag of veggies: a weeks worth of veggies for a family of 4 – 2 adults and 2 kids.  I check out the “Free Choice” and “Limited Quantity”  veggie lists as I need to make sure that if they limit, for example, garlic to 1 clove, or green beans to 1 quart, I don’t take more of those.  Then the exciting part.  I dive right into the open boxes/containers of veggies and help myself to what and how much of what I want – one grocery bag worth.

This way of getting ones weekly veggies is wonderful!  If I am not a fan of spicy greens on the “Free Choice” list and there are field greens listed as well I can just take field greens. If I am traveling that week I can take less. So everything I get is consumed and there is no waste. This “freedom to choose” is what distinguishes Full Plate from the typical CSA arrangement of providing a box of veggies packed for you.  When you get a box what happens if you don’t like or don’t want a veggie given? Tough luck! A couple years back I tried a winter CSA that did the box thing. I wasn’t too happy and decided that this wasn’t for me.

What makes this “Freedom Choice” CSA even better is the upick! At the Stick and Stone and Three Swallow farms there are rows and rows of flowers and veggies that one can pick. I have picked cutting celery, flat leaf Italian parsley, green and purple basil (purple basil is great for Thai), okra,  cilantro, tomatillos, sungold tomatoes (I rarely leave with many of those outside my tummy), heirloom tomatoes and hot peppers (cayenne, Hungarian wax, jalapenos, banana, and Thai), plus flowers to brighten my home daily. I also am looking forward to Roma and big beef tomatoes when I am ready to use them.

I did start out saying a CSA is reasonable. Well, it is great to have better tasting and healthier food, but at what cost? A farm pick up share at Full Plate is $515 for the season, which is about 6 months from June to November, or 26 weeks, weather permitting. That is 20 dollars a week! I do one better splitting my share with a friend and so I get veggies a plenty for 10 dollars a week. Combine the grocery bag and u-pick portions and you won’t get a better deal at any grocery store.

Healthier, better tasting, and cheaper veggies sourced locally! Cheers!  Time for you to try out a CSA too?

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