Friday, October 30, 2009

CSA reflections

I picked up my last Tantre Farm share this past Wednesday (sorry, no photo--I had a sick kid this week and obtaining the share was challenge enough). I thought it would be appropriate to reflect a little on the CSA experience.

Question: Was it worth it economically?
Answer: Yes, for the full 20 week summer share. No, for the 3 week autumn share. I learned a little something about my cooking moods and temperament by signing up for both the summer and fall extension. We saved a LOT of money over the summer by ordering virtually no carry out. It works out that each week's share is $30 and that is at least how much we'd spend on one Chinese or Middle Eastern carry out meal. My grocery bills for the summer were pretty low, more than a $30 reduction. And we ate more healthy and tasty meals with much less meat. The autumn share suffered both from the vegetable selection (hard squash and loads of brassica are ok, but didn't really get my creativity going) and from my own increase in rigidity

Q: Was it stressfull having to deal with all that produce at once?
A: Sometimes. Though I did learn that when the greens threatened to overwhelm me, I could always blanch and freeze them. It did take a significant amount of time planning meals so that the produce would be used in the right order (carrots can wait until the following Monday, spinach must be used pretty quickly), but I did enjoy that part, particularly prowling about for new recipes which were worthy of the vegetables.

Q: Discover any new likes or dislikes?
A: Turnips! Oh my lord do I love fresh turnips now. I had bought grocery store turnips before and liked them well enough but the small, fresh tender ones we got in the farm share were transformative. Brian and I would fork-battle for the last one. I also loved the black-veined peppermint--it made the best tea ever. The only thing I disliked was the kohlrabi bulb (the greens were just like kale so I was fine with those): however I prepared it I would think that another vegetable would be better. Roasted? Prefer potatoes or parsnips. In stir fry? Harmless but just filler. Raw shredded? Prefer cabbage. True, I didn't try it pickled. Maybe next summer that'll convince me of its worth.

Q: What about the control issue?
A: My summer self found getting the box a thrill. I looked forward to seeing what would be in there and letting it challenge me preparation-wise. As I mentioned before, my autumn self found it tiring.

Q: What about variety?
A: Tantre is very good at balancing the week's share so that there is variety from week to week (different varieties of potatoes, onions, greens, herbs each week). I think it would have grown tiresome if every week the same curly kale was there. There isn't a big difference between the three kinds of kale that I received but enough so that it didn't feel monotonous. There weren't very many times that I wandered through the market looking at the offerings from other farmers and wishing that something else had been included in my share box.

Q: Wishes?
A: I wish there had been more garlic in the shares and some green zucchini. I know summer squash is almost identical in flavor, but I missed getting the green torpedoes. I also could have eaten turnips every week, but I know that not everyone feels that way.

Q: Knowing what you know, what will you plant in your garden next year?
A: Absolutely NO potatoes or basil! (Folks warned me of those bounties and they were right). I'll plant tomatoes--definitely green zebras and romas, my own turnips (since I can't get enough), leeks, and peas.

Q: What about the critters?
A: Sigh. The farm share did not magically transform my kids into vegetable lovers, but I'd say they are marginally more tolerant of different produce. In order to get their weekly allowance, they had to try one new thing from the farm share box and even though this was often accompanied by squinched up faces and minor gagging, they did it. And didn't die.

Any questions you have about the CSA experience?


Spencer said...


We were members of the Community Farm of Ann Arbor for 19 years, from their founding in 1988 through 2006. As the kids grew and we got busy, it stopped fitting our lifestyle, but it was really great for many years. When the kids were younger, we particularly liked going out to the farm for pickups (which, I guess, you don't get with Tantre, and which would be a plus now.)

I too, learned the "blanch and freeze" trick with greens. I always looked forward to the final fall distribution, with lots of root veggies and hard squash. Some of those would last us into midwinter. I've been watching a coworker pick up her CSA share every Wednesday and thinking it might be good to get back into that groove. But with the kids at college, I don't think the two of us could finish a share every week.

Cynthia said...

I did a CSA once season - split a single share from Needle Lane. It was very economical, especially as compared to the others around this town. But my family doesn't eat enough veggies to make it worth my while, so I am back to farmer's marketing every weekend to get what they will actually eat. (I eat everything but rutabagas). I found managing the pickup to be stressful.

Anonymous said...

I did Needle Lane, too, because it was the least expensive. It did get hectic trying to get the pick up worked out and then trying to figure out what to do with all of the produce. At the time, I was teaching in the summers and so I was busy. I found myself not enjoying the process so I stopped the CSA thing. Like Mom, I like the process of going to the farmers market, picking out what I want, at my own pace....
I think this has a lot to do with my whole life philosophy which is that I love to do what I love to do and hate to feel like I "have" to do anything.