Question 1: Do you seek out quality vegetables, that actually have real flavor?
Before I worked on a farm, I never knew that carrots were truly sweet; that broccoli could be crisp and delicious. To be completely honest here, I did not like melons before farming. But all it took was to taste a "real" melon, ripened on the vine, to realize what I was missing! I believe that people who claim they don't really like vegetables just haven't had a chance to eat them fresh from the farm!
Taste matters. Putting together a great meal in your kitchen isn’t just about your skill. It starts with the ingredients: food that tastes like it should, because it’s grown in quality soil, picked at the peak of ripeness, and delivered within one-two days.
In fact, CSAs often create food snobs, because customers finally experience how vegetables should really taste, and they cannot go back to the old and tired versions available at the grocery store. Even the "local" produce from most big-chain groceries is lacking, simply because it cannot compare with the freshness offered by a CSA.
If you really love cooking and you really value taste, then you will LOVE being in a CSA. Because CSAs are all about providing high-quality, artisanal vegetables that make your home dining experience feel like an event.
Question 2: Are you willing to try new foods? (Really?)
Every CSA farm is unique. In our CSA, we focus on providing staple vegetables that you really enjoy, with special varieties bred for the best flavor, and picked fresh for amazing taste.
But we also include some unusual ingredients in the CSA shares to push your horizons in the kitchen: sweet Italian peppers, orange tomatoes, baby bok choy, blue potatoes, yellow watermelons, etc.
Part of the CSA experience means getting exposed to new and interesting vegetables and varieties. Realistically, on your own, you would never purposely put a hakurei turnip or a fennel bulb in your share. Or would you? If so, then you should just
sign up now to become a CSA member, since you've found your niche.
Learning to eat seasonally is a big part of the CSA movement. Eating locally enhances our food security and our communities. It also reduces our ecological "footprint". But to do this, we need to learn how to eat what is available in our region, throughout the seasons. CSA teaches us this.
We provide the seasonal vegetables, that actually taste great, as well as the cooking tips and recipes to help you use them! Many people find that they actually like a lot of vegetables that they have never tried before.
Here is a quote from one of our CSA members: "CSA has introduced my family to veggies that I never would have bought at the store, and I learned that we liked them! Also, it helped me become more creative in my cooking."
Question 3: Do you want to know your farmer? Do you want to know where your food comes from?
CSA originated from the
teikei movement in Japan, which translates as "food with the farmer's face on it". This is the best description for CSA that I know.
Every vegetable that comes from the CSA was touched by the farmers. We seeded it, watered it, weeded it, harvested it, washed it, and packed it for shares. Through our weekly newsletter, our members get to hear the story of their vegetables and what it takes to get them from seed to harvest. Our members think about the weather. When it rains on the weekend, even if it spoils a plan, they are grateful that it is watering the crops on the farm.
The Good Farm comes to belong to all of our CSA members, as they are all invested in its success. We grow our vegetables specifically for CSA members. 90% of our revenue comes from our CSA investors.
Here is a quote from a CSA member: "Though we may not say it enough, we appreciate all your hard work and behind-the-scenes effort that sustains your CSA's success."
Becoming a CSA member gives you an amazing eating experience, and allows you to support a farmer in your community, to keep farmland actively farmed, and to sustain the livelihood of a small family farm.
The CSA commitment is for a full growing season, to truly support the farm. This means that CSA members share the risk inherent in farming. All farmers have an optimistic spirit and a bit of faith, because every season is a gamble. We do not know what Mother Nature will bring: too much rain, drought, pests, or disease.
There is no guarantee on the exact number or type of crops each member will get. However, we plant 40 different crops and twice that many varieties, in several successions per season, to ensure a good crop. And on the other side, CSA members share in the rewards! Bumper crops do happen often, with different things each year. If it's rainy, cucumbers will do great, but if it's dry, tomatoes will be excellent. Every crop has its peak cycle too, and sometimes members get more than they bargained for. But again, we teach you how to deal with the excess that sometimes happens.
Now, our seasoned members are often clamoring for those extra tomatoes to freeze for the winter! It is ridiculously easy to do, and tomato soup made on a snowy day, in the middle of winter from frozen tomatoes, is such a treat! It is a taste of summer! You can almost smell the fresh tomatoes on the vine!
Question 4: Do you need control in your menu planning?
CSA members learn to be flexible, and to use the weekly vegetables to guide their menu planning, rather than the other way around. Instead of creating a meal plan and procuring the ingredients necessary for those meals, CSA membership asks that you take the vegetables that are available each week and then decide what's for dinner.
Many members actually say this can be inspiring and less stressful. You don't have to create a menu plan out of nowhere; you take what the harvest provides and use it. Sometimes less choice is actually more freedom - freedom to try new things, inspiration to combine vegetables in different ways, and to enjoy new meals.
My children's kindergarten teacher always said: “You get what you get and you don’t get upset." This is useful to remember when dealing with a new vegetable or a different combination of veggies than you are used to. But don't worry, we always provide detailed cooking tips, storage tips, and recipes for each share, focusing particularly on the new or more unusual veggies. We help you learn to eat "the CSA way." It will take some time and a commitment. But the benefits are huge!
Here is a quote from a nine-year CSA member: "As I look back from the early years to the present, I see how the CSA has helped us to include eating more fresh vegetables. I am thankful. Now we make wiser choices about what we are eating and have developed better eating habits. Over the years, I can see how it has impacted our overall health, helping us feel and live better!"
Question 5: Are you willing to make the commitment to learn to eat the CSA way?
Many members say they already see the results of CSA membership in their first year: their kids eat more veggies, they lose weight, and they feel better. But after a few years with us, people really start to become masters, learning how to freeze, can, or dry the bumper crops; learning which recipes actually use seasonal ingredients; and how to make substitutions in recipes for ingredients you actually have.
But the best part, I think, is getting the feel for how to cook and eat seasonally. I love the feeling of satisfaction that comes from creating a completely new recipe or meal based on the harvest, and having it be delicious, and my family loving it!
It does not have to be complicated. John and I are both working full-time on the farm and we have two kids. Let me assure you, I am making simple meals. But they are delicious, simply because the ingredients are so good, and I don't overcook the vegetables. That's the first rule of thumb, use good ingredients. Don't overcook them, except in the case of roasted root veggies, which is so easy and so delicious, and the long roasting process really brings out the sweetness of the roots!
So just realize that this will be a process. And we will hold your hand along the way. But the results will be well worth it.
Question 6: Are you looking for a “deal"? Are you comparing CSA prices to the grocery store?
First off, it is a good deal. We track the value of our weekly CSA shares in comparison to our local Wegmans grocery store. Consistently, our members are receiving $10 to $20 more for their share, than if they had shopped at the grocery store.
It is one of our goals as a farm. We strive to offer value in the share to give back to our members, for making the commitment to us for an entire season. Additionally, we make sure the CSA share contains more produce per dollar than what could be purchased from our farm stand at market. We value our CSA customers above all else, because they are committed to us. It is a win-win relationship.
Still, we want you to know that our members are receiving a greater value than just the cost of the food. Our vegetables have added value because every one of our vegetables is telling a story, of the journey from the seed to your table. Every week of your CSA share brings new lessons, in creative cooking, in patience with yourself as you learn to use the contents of the share, of forgiveness (if you don't get to all the veggies that week), and lastly, of how everything goes back to the earth.
Our veggies can become a new way of life, of healthier eating, imaginative cooking, and embracing a new culture of food. They can be the catalyst for your journey with food. The vegetables from the farm are the means to achieving your goal to prepare a great meal, better than most any restaurant fare, a meal you can be proud of. This is not something any grocery store can give you.