A restaurant-based CSA gives adventurous home chefs inspiration and recipes

Kitchen Confidential

by Emily Kovach

Is there such a thing as Chef Supported Agriculture? A new program at High Street on Market started with a couple of farmers and chefs flipping through a seed catalog. Jack Goldenberg of Urban Roots Farm in Philadelphia and Teddy Moynihan of Plowshare Farms of Upper Bucks County sat down with chefs Eli Kulp of Fork and John Patterson of High Street—neighboring restaurants in Old City that are part of the same restaurant group—and began to plan. The chefs chose specialty and heirloom items the farms would grow specifically for their kitchens: heirloom Italian red corn called Floriani, nero tondo black Spanish radishes, Good Mother Stallard shelling beans, and other such delicacies that they hadn’t seen in Philadelphia.

This partnership spawned a second idea: a weekly Saturday farmers market held in front of their restaurants, where the farmers could come with product, and other local artisans would be invited to set up stands. “We’re on Market Street where all the markets were in Revolutionary times—why not embrace that?” says Patterson.

They founded the market in spring 2015 and launched a CSA at the same time. The CSA shares added a twist to the usual brown-box-of-produce model: They paired standard local crops like tomatoes and lettuce with the more boutique items grown by Plowshare and Urban Roots for the chefs. Each box was curated to strike a balance between the familiar and the unexpected.  “We didn’t want people to feel like, ‘I’ve never seen any of this, I can’t make a meal of this!’” Patterson says. “But a few specialty items create a moment of surprise, create conversation, and that creates a community.”

Every week at the market, the farmers and chefs would talk with customers, introducing them to new produce varieties and answering questions. If shoppers were unsure what to do with, say, baby red cipollini onions or Grenada peppers, they could chat with chefs who had been working with those very same items in the restaurant kitchens. 

“We go nuts with these ingredients!” Patterson says. “It’s the perfect opportunity to talk to someone who’s using it that day.” 

For 2016, CSA sign-ups are now open, and the Saturday farmers market will begin in June. CSA pickups will be on Tuesday evenings, so that members have plenty to cook with throughout the week. When the weekend rolls around, they can visit the market to re-up on their favorites from the share and give the farmer feedback. This year, the produce in the CSAs will be exclusively grown at Plowshare Farms.

“The farmer is literally right there, talking about his passion,” Patterson says. “You can see the entire path of the product.”  

Register at plowsharefarms.com or by calling Teddy Moynihan, of Plowshare Farms, at 203-979-8546. A full share is $910 ($35/week for 26 weeks) running from May 31 to November 22. A half share is $455 and runs for the first 13 weeks.