posted by guest blogger Jennifer Armentrout
Oh, joy! I just got the season’s first distribution from my CSA at Fort Hill Farm in New Milford, Connecticut. It was a long winter and spring suffering through the dreary produce selection at the supermarket, and I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I was to be back on the farm.
I say “back on the farm” because my CSA works a little differently from the typical CSA system wherein shareholders receive a boxed selection of produce chosen by the farmer and dropped off at a point close to home. Fort Hill Farm offers that option, but they also have a mix-and-match program where we shareholders get to go to the farm and make our own produce choices. There’s a pick-your-own element to it, too. It’s a great solution to the big complaint some people have about CSAs, namely getting stuck with a whole lot of cauliflower or some other vegetable you hate.
Here’s how it works: You arrive at the farm once a week and head to the barn, where you learn what’s available that week. Then you stroll out to the fields to do your picking—PYO crops include strawberries, green and wax beans, edamame, cherry tomatoes, pumpkins, herbs, and flowers. Along the way, you greet all the other happy shareholders, and maybe exchange some cooking tips. Then you get down and crawl around in the plant rows, hunting for the ripe ones, getting dirt on your knees, feeling the sun on your shoulders, and forming that feel-good connection with where your food came from.
Just when you’ve reached your PYO limit, you head back to the barn where the remaining, already harvested crops are laid out farm-stand style and you fill the rest of your share with whatever you like. If a certain crop is scarce, the farmer places a limit on it, but otherwise you could walk away with your entire share consisting of turnips, if that’s your thing.
The CSA is a bargain, too. I split a share with my friend Miyako, and it costs us each $12 a week. It’s early in the season so the share is a little light right now, but here’s what I got for my $12 this week: a big bunch of broccoli raab, 3/4 lb. baby bok choy, half a bunch of scallions, half a bunch of radishes, 1/4 pound of salad mix, and a pint of the best strawberries ever, all of it organic.