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CSA Season 2014

27 Apr

It’s CSA season once again!!!  I’ve tried a few different options over the years and I’m excited to try something new this year.  While thumbing through Edible Allegheny this month, I noticed their CSA guide and I think its an important resource to share with you guys.

What is a CSA?

CSA stands for community-supported agriculture.  You sign up to receive a weekly share of food grown locally by people in your very own community.  These growers plant crops based on how many shares they have committed to selling.

One of our early CSA shares from last year with Clarion River Organics.

One of our early CSA shares from last year with Clarion River Organics.

How does a CSA work?

Each week, the growers drop off shares at locations around the city.  Some offer the option to pick-up on site for a lower price.  Most times, you simply show up, sign off on your share, and take your loot home!

What are the benefits of a CSA?

There are so many benefits to joining a CSA.  You will be supporting a local grower, providing jobs and commerce within your region; you will be connected with your food and not be wondering what mystery chemicals and additives are in there;  you will have the chance to truly eat seasonally; your food is fresh (as in just picked and deliveries basically to your door); you lower your carbon footprint by depending less on the fossil-fuel driven industrial food system; you pay a fixed price throughout the season for produce; do I need to keep going or have you all ready skipped ahead to see where you can sign up??!!

As with anything else, the best way to chose a CSA is to shop around.  Figure out what you’re looking for and what your price point is.  Some CSAs offer more than just veggies and fruits.  You can add on options like eggs, cheeses, honey, mushrooms, flour, and herbs.  As urban CSAs become stronger and build a bigger customer base, they gain the ability to provide more options to consumers.  Call, write an email, ask a million questions!  I promise, growers love to talk about what they do.

Get to know your grower – you’ll be surprised how much more connected you feel to your region and to your food.  Every time you reach into our fridge a grab some fresh, locally harvested produce you will feel pride knowing that you are helping your region prosper.

Below you will find a list of CSAs which provide drop-off locations in Allegheny County.

Blackberry Meadows Organic Farm  724-226-3939

Butter Hill Farm  412-221-9275

Christoff’s Greenhouse  412-874-5900

Churchview Farm  412-496-5623

Clarion River Organics 412-589-9276

Dillner Family Farm  724-444-6594

One Woman Farm, CNG  412-913-7709

Penn’s Corner Farm Alliance  412-586-7577

 

Do you belong to a CSA?  If so, which one?  If not, what’s holding you back?

Our CSA: How It Works

12 Jun

Remember when Amanda and I went to the Farm To Table Convention?  Well between that and a networking event that she♥ and I attended at Chatham, we had a lot of options regarding what CSA to chose from.

After meeting with so many different growers and comparing all the variables between packages, we♥ finally committed to Clarion River Organics!

A lot of people asked us, what factors affected our decision?

1.  The price:  The full share is $25/week.  The half share is $15/week.  The CSA runs for 22 weeks, which means we♥ will be spending $550 for all of our locally grown, organic produce.  We pick-up our share in the South Side, which is only 5 miles away from the house.  That saves us the gas we would have to spend driving to the farm (yeah, right)!

2.  The options:  Clarion River Organics allows you to add on bread and eggs to your order!  Not all CSAs have this option.  We added eggs:

3.  The portions:  Each week, we were told to expect 6-10 different items.  Here is the photo which we are provided with in our “what to expect email”:

We received:

Pretty happy with what we received, its just exactly what I thought we were going to get and it has been the perfect portion for us throughout the week. Since its early in the season, we received corn flour instead of a fruit or veg.  This was a pleasant surprise!

I would have never purchased corn flour in the store, but now I get to experiment with it AND feel satisfied in knowing that its locally.

4.  The people:  The way these guys handle CSA members is great!  Each time I was confused about something, it was addressed and cleared up right away!  They send a weekly newletter letting you know what’s happening in the 10 CSA farm participants, specs on the vegetables, recipes, etc.  The volunteers at the pick-up location are really nice and helpful as well (we pick up in South Side).  The whole experience has really opened my eyes to new kinds of dishes.

BONUS: Since we are not huge veggie eaters, this is a way that we have been integrating more SOLE food into our day to day meals.  AND we are creating urban partnerships with regional farmers who strengthen our food system.  I am 100% happy with our choice!

Things I’ve Learned:  Collard Greens are huge!  There are these things called garlic scapes.  I have to return my CSA bags next week – I took mine home by accident!  Its cool to try something out of your comfort zone.  There are things that grow in my community that I never knew existed.

 

Have you ever thought of joining a CSA?  Did you?

What affected your decisions to join/not join?

Farm To Table 2012: Recap 2

28 Mar

814-755-3911
Tionesta

412-526-1300

Web/Phone Unknown
Sold in Pgh area

Sold in local grocery stores

724-459-0123
Blairsville

It may just be my opinion, but I like to save the best for last.  A small non-profit farm was at the conference called Quiet Creek farm.  It reminds me a lot of the Robert A. Macosky Center at SRU, an educational farm where you can go to learn how to be more self-reliant in ways you perhaps couldn’t do by reading.

Here are some of the wares they were peddling to raise money for the farm:

Kutztown

I, as someone who has never purchased dehydrated mushrooms, was interested to know that all you have to do is simply soak them in warm liquid for 10-15 minutes.  They reconstitute well AND you can use the liquid in your cooking.

The nice young lad from Quiet Creek Farms did a Shiitake demonstration on FTT Day 2.  It was super cool!

Basically, he showed us how they innoculate substrate (aka hardwood) with a healthy bark.  The bark should be healthy so that invasive fungi and bacteria can’t ruin your mushroom crop.  Before the demonstration, we had a chance to check out the logs they had innoculated and were selling.  The ones on the left were one year old and hadn’t flushed yet.  The one on the left is a 2-year old log which has obviously flushed.

Basically, you want to find a log approximately 3-4 feet in length and about 4-6 inches in diameter.  Its best to innoculate within 2 weeks of cutting to reduce the chances of bad fungi ruining your creation.

During the demonstration, he mentioned that a healthy log can sprout shiitakes twice a year!  These logs can be used year after year.  At the farm, there are 7-8 year old logs which are extremely lightweight.  The mushrooms feed on the nutrients deep inside the log.  Pretty cool stuff…

Here’s the DIY:

First, you have to drill holes into your log, which can be done using 1 of 2 drills:

Or, for the more experienced toolmonger, an angle grinder, which goes about 400 rpms and is really scary.

He told us to drill holes in an off-set diamond pattern 4″ over and 2″ offset.  He said the holes do not need to be any deeper than 1.5 inches.  (Think maxing out your cookie sheet while you are baking cookies, people).

Once the holes are cut, mycelium (white blotchy stuff that looks like sawdust) or mushroom plugs can be inserted.  You just cover the holes and any holes in the bark/areas where branches were cut/top/bottom with beeswax.  Lock that baby down like Fort Knox, cuz you don’t want some wandering fungus to steal your Shiitake gold!

You can put your log in the basement, shed, garage, wherever you have that is 60% in the shade.  Just protect the log from wind and sun and spray it lightly with water to mimic being in the forest.

Even though they take 8-10 months to fruit initially, we bought one anyway 🙂

And for those of you Dahn-towners, it was fun to carry this 20-30 pound baby from the David L. Lawrence Convention Center to the Federal Courthouse, where we were able to park for free because the MIL has super special powers.  (I assume you know that its medium far to carry a piece of forest.)

Here is our log sitting on the side of Grant St. while people stared at me and yelled: “Nice log!”

If they had gone to the conference, they would have been yelling “Nice mycelium!”

Newbs.

Bottom Line of the last 2 posts:  Farm to Table is an amazing experience and I learned a ton of cool stuff.  I think we were also able to chose a CSA finally, got some great swag, networked our little butts off, GOT A SHIITAKE LOG, and overall had a great time.  Next year (schedule permitting, of course), we will try to make it to the food tasting.

Did anyone make it to the tasting and want to brag a little?

Farm To Table Conference 2012: Recap Part 1

25 Mar

Farm to Table was one of the best experiences I’ve had since I began my journey into sustainability.  Events like this are so amazing because it allows people to connect with growers and find out about the REAL FOOD CHAIN, learn about how to be more self-reliant, network with other community members, and to LEARN LEARN LEARN.

Most of this recap will be told in pictures (which are worth 1000 words, right?) because much of my time was spent in the Exhibit Hall talking to awesome greenies like me!!  I will try to link most of the pictures to the company’s website, so don’t be shy 😉

412-965-0435
Allison Park

412-673-6457
McKeesport

412-589-9276
Sligo

1-800-USE-HEMP
Columbia

(814) 303-9663
Tionesta

724-459-7527
Blairsville

814.443.2415
Somerset

I think that’s about all you kids can handle for right now.  If I overwhelm you, you might get loosey-goosey…

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