Sign me up for a CSA!

February 28, 2011 § 2 Comments

It was a pretty fun and eye opening week for me looking into CSAs (community supported agriculture). I’ve made my decision and I’m planning to join a couple of them. There were a few factors involved in the decision:

what kind of food do I want? I decided to join the Monroe Organic Farms CSA for their summer produce share as well as their honey and fresh eggs. All of the farms I looked into were organic. Monroe Farms is the oldest organic farm in CO and also one of the longest running CSAs at 19 years. I trust that.

what else do I want besides food? It was a hard decision between Monroe and Pastures of Plenty Farms, so I decided I would do both. I am going to sign up for the flower CSA at Pastures of Plenty. It’s one example of other great perks you can get through CSAs.

It will be so nice having fresh flowers in the house each week.

who grows the food? Getting out and meeting some of the farming community was important to me. I met a lot of wonderful people this week but I especially had a soft spot for the Monroes. Jacquie and Jerry Monroe are great people, and I like knowing their family has been tending to that land for 3 generations.

They reminded me a lot of the farmers I knew growing up in South Carolina and  it will be fun to get to know them better through the CSA.

 

 

how involved do I want to be in the farm? I think one of the interesting parts of joining a CSA is that many farms offer working shares. You not only get a discount on your food for the season but you get to be a part of the inner-workings of a farm. It was nice to see people bringing their kids out to help so they have a better understanding of food.

I haven’t decided whether I can do the weekly 4 hours of work since I live a little far away, but maybe it would be worth trying out.

I would definitely encourage people to look into CSAs nearby. Even if you can’t join one there are lots of ways to support local farms. I’m looking forward to lots of good food this upcoming season. It’s already starting to feel like Spring in CO!

From the farm to the table

February 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

A great way to figure out which CSA to join is to take a look at who is supplying local restaurants. In Boulder, I’m lucky to be right down the street from some great farm-to-table restaurants.  The farm-to-table movement grew from a number of concerns: poor quality, flavor and nutritional value of shipped food, the rise in pesticides and genetically modified foods and the disappearance of small farms. Alice Waters from Chez Panisse in Berkeley was one of the first advocates of the movement. It’s definitely caught on and it’s fairly easy to find options nearby in just about any city nowadays.

In Boulder, The Kitchen is not only a great restaurant but also very active in the raising awareness of local agriculture in the community. They support a number of local farms for everything from produce to meats and cheeses. It’s interesting to take a look at all of the farms they support; it makes you realize how much there is available locally beyond veggies with CSAs, like  local peaches, honey, milk,etc.

While a lot of restaurants work with multiple farms, some local restaurants also own their own farms.

In Boulder, Chef Erik Skokan owns both Black Cat Restaurant and Black Cat Farm which supplies a lot of the food he serves. Their menu changes everyday and is a nice reflection of what’s in season. As part of the farm, they offer their own CSA which they like to think of as a season-long culinary experience from 4-course dining experiences to weekly recipes and cooking tips.

I have not been to Fruition restaurant yet in Denver, but we’re going to try to check it out tonight. Last year, Chef Alex Seidel was named one of the top 10 new chefs by Food & Wine magazine . He also owns his own farm in Larkspur, CO where he grows much of the restaurant’s food and has even expanded into cheese-making.

Even if joining a CSA isn’t really for you, there are lots of ways to still enjoy and support local agriculture.

I wish Pastures of Plenty Farm would adopt me.

February 24, 2011 § 1 Comment

Today I visited Pastures of Plenty Farm and it is just such a beautiful place. Lyle, the owner, was one of the founders of Alfalfa’s, a natural and organic food store which is reopening this Spring after being owned by Whole Foods most recently.

Lyle bought the farm in 1993 and his family is only the 3rd family to have lived on and farmed the property dating back to the 1800s. It’s a beautiful place. His house is built from the original 1890s homestead house as well as another house of that same time period he bought and had moved when he found out the property owners were just going to demolish it. Lyle lives good food; in addition to growing fresh produce he also owns a catering business and hosts special events on the farm (especially weddings). His farm was featured on Bobby Flay’s Food Nation to introduce people to the farm to table concept; Lyle’s farm was one of the first to adopt that practice.

I am a total sucker for fresh flowers and one of the special parts of the farm is that they grow all kinds of gorgeous flowers throughout the season. They use them for the weddings and events they host, but as a CSA member you can also get a weekly supply of fresh flowers. Lyle showed us gorgeous pictures of his fields covered in peonies last Summer.

As part of the CSA, Lyle also does cooking classes throughout the season as well as farm tours to explain more about organic farming. There is great outdoor event space with a wood burning oven where he hosts the events.

For me this week, I’m already able to tell that I not only want to join a CSA to get better food and support local agriculture, but also to feel a connection with where that food is coming from. Lyle’s place is a great farm and is a very welcoming place. It just has a good vibe.

I would be remiss in not introducing the welcome wagon, Bucket, a 1 year old rescue who likes to give big hugs. It was a nice change from the head-butting pygmy goat from yesterday!

It is going to be a hard decision to make at the end of the week. There are so many amazing farms in this area.

Permaculture and pygmies

February 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

Today I visited 63rd St. Farm as I continue learning about CSAs and met this little guy, a pygmy goat, who seems to be the real owner of the place. The human owners were out of town this week. They have a very informative website, but I thought I’d take a drive out just to see the place. There were a couple of other people waiting to meet with someone so I walked around a bit. I think my new pygmy friend likes to protect the chickens and his other little pygmy friend. Or he just doesn’t like his picture taken.

63rd St. Farm offers the typical fare of seasonal produce (tomatoes, squash, onions, peppers, etc).  This week I’m learning that joining a CSA can also mean supporting a philosophy about food as well. At 63rd St. Farm they use the approach of “permaculture“.  I had never heard of it, so I did a little further research. Permaculture is about sustainable land use design. It’s not only thinking about what you want to grow but how those things relate to each other in order to minimize the work and maximize the result. It is sort of a harmonious approach to farming I guess you’d say.

As part of its permaculture philosophy this farm has a Retreat Center where you can stay and live the concept of sustainability. It looks like a pretty peaceful place and is right in the midst of the farming. I also noticed 2 wood burning ovens they make pizzas from when you pick up your weekly shipment. Yum.

It has been interesting to see the differences between the farms and what they offer. Farms can be very different than they appear from the outside. I look forward to visiting some more this week. I’ll be watching out for pygmies.

Getting to know the farming community

February 21, 2011 § 1 Comment

It’s hard to imagine eating produce like this right now in Colorado. One of the things I miss most about living in LA was the ability to get amazing produce year round at a number of farmer’s markets. There is hope on the horizon and now is the time to plan ahead for the local harvest and join a CSA.

I had heard of CSAs back in New England but never really looked into them at the time as it seemed like too much of a hassle living in Boston. You definitely tend to hear about them a bit more in Boulder. I’m also fortunate enough to have a few good friends I’ve made since moving here who are on a mission to become farmers themselves and have given me a little nudge in that direction.

What is a CSA? CSA stands for community supported agriculture. It consists of a community of individuals who pledge financial (and sometimes physical) support to a local farm where all parties share in the risk and reward of food production. CSAs became popular in the 60s both in Europe and in Japan. They arose out of concerns with food safety & the urbanization of agricultural land. In Japan, it was also a fear of the rise of imported food. In 1984, the concept was brought to the US by Jan VanderTuin (pictured) who co-founded the Great Barrington CSA. Since then there are now over 13,000 CSA farms.

When I was a kid in PA, my grandfather would drive us around the countryside in his antique cars to local farms and we’d pick up eggs, fresh corn, cider and pumpkins to carve. They were fun trips and my grandparents would always share a laugh with the farmers. This week I’m going to make my rounds to a few farms and look into joining a CSA. There are many different kinds from those that offer strictly veggies to those that include flowers, honey, meats, dairy and also offer special events at the farms. I have a list of 6 I want to check out from a helpful article my farming friend, Alicia, sent me.

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