Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Open letter about our CSA expriences...

Last year the cafe bought one and a half shares at One Straw Farm CSA and overall it was a great experience. This year we decided to buy one share at OSF and one share at another local csa to expand our commitment to supporting local agriculture and to broaden the variety of produce. It’s one of the great things about supporting independent businesses - ironically, shopping in smaller venues actually increases your options.

Case in point, every Michael’s Craft Store carries the same brands of yarn with only some variation in color selection. On the up side that means a limited number of items are available in unlimited quantities. But by shopping locally owned yarn stores I get an almost unlimited variety of yarns, but in limited quantities.

Yesterday marked our 5th pickup from both farms. As usual, One Straw Farm has come through in spades. Before the season even started we got an e-mail from Joan announcing the strawberries were in early! I ran by Mill Valley General Store and picked up well over a quart of beautiful berries. During the regular season we select 8 portions of produce each week - that can mean one of eight different items or 8 of the same item. Portions of each item vary. For example a head of cabbage or a watermelon may be one item, but a bunch of beets, three pounds of zucchini or a quart of beans are also one item. For about $23 a week you can feed a family of four at least one serving of veggies every day - that’s 35 meals worth so far.

Week 3: One Straw Farm CSA share on left, CVCSA on the right

Sadly, our initial experience at Cromwell Valley CSA has been ...... well, unbelievable frankly. The pre-season strawberry pickup was less than a pint of small berries. Michael and I enjoyed them on the drive back to the cafe and that was the last positive experience associated with Cromwell Valley CSA. In four pickup weeks (one pickup was canceled) we have received less produce than would fit in a five pound bag. At Cromwell Valley CSA produce is divided among share holders - everything is divided equally. One week "everything" was six immature radishes and a few spindly garlic scapes. The next week it was another bunch of immature radishes, half a pint of snow peas and a few scapes. The third week I walked away without picking up anything - there was a green identified as bok choy that had been so bug-eaten it was more hole than leaf! Week four was canceled and week five was three heads of garlic and a pound of weeds. I kid you not. Keep in mind the dandelion that is a plague on your lawn can also be eaten, this week’s allotment was a pound of lamb's quarters (to quote the csa handout “widely considered a weed in North America it is extensively cultivated and consumed in Northern India as a food crop”).

Don’t get me wrong, as an exotic treat I’m all over it, but I have this vision of the unfortunate csa interns traipsing through the forests in Baltimore County scavenging pass off on csa members.

At $27 a week (or $135 five weeks in) we have not received enough food in total to feed a family of four one single meal.

Week 5:
One Straw Farm


I wouldn’t dream of going to a new hairdresser without a referral, why did I join a csa without doing a bit of digging? Just a cursory ask among friends and customers (what csas have you joined? what did you think of it?) would have saved me $650 and a lot of disillusion.

Oh well, stay tuned. The CVCSA board declined my request to withdraw our membership. Leading a revolution is a lot like running a cafe, it doesn’t leave much time for anything else - someone else will have to lead the revolt. I just hope if a csa-curious consumer googles CVCSA they also come across our blog.

Over the next 20 or so weeks I’m going to blog our csa experience on Wednesdays. I sincerely hope that people who have not joined a csa or have had a bad experience will be excited and inspired by a local, family run farm that consistently turns out beautiful organic veggies (and some fruits), operates with integrity and occasionally throws a great party out on the farm!

Stop by the cafe facebook page for discussion, pictures and more dirt on the farms.

About 30 feet of beautiful organic produce from One Straw Farm at the Kenilworth Farmer's Market, held each Tuesday evening from 3:30 pm to 6:30 pm.