In and around our fine city, CSAs are so commonplace (a wonderful thing!) that we almost considered skipping an explanation of what those initials even stand for. But for those new to the concept, and even just as a reminder for those of us who dutifully pick up our cardboard boxes every week, here goes: CSA stands for community supported agriculture. It’s a seasonal—sometimes yearlong—subscription to a farm or producer, which ensures them a steady cash flow throughout the highs and lows of the growing season and hooks the customer up with weekly deliveries or pickups of seasonal fruits, veggies and other tasty things to eat. It’s a way that, as a society, we can help independent farmers not just stay afloat, but actually thrive in the face of Big Ag. Amid a growing economy of subscription-based businesses, “CSA” has become a bit of a buzzword, and we urge you not to lose the true meaning of what it is: a symbiotic partnership between member and farmer.Read More
The Right Stuff
by Emily Kovach
For many conscientious omnivores, labels or stickers touting “organic” or “grassfed” on packages of grocery store meat and dairy simply aren’t enough anymore. More than ever, savvy shoppers want to know exactly where their poultry, beef, eggs and cheese are raised or produced, with the airtight assurance that humane practices have been used. These three CSAs are here to help.
Collective Creamery will help you craft the perfect cheese plate
A collaboration between two of our region’s finest cheesemakers—Sue Miller of Birchrun Hills Farm and Stefanie Angstadt of Valley Milkhouse—Collective Creamery is a dream for serious cheese aficionados and anyone who wants expertly crafted cheese made from the milk of grassfed cows.
Collective Creamery CSA subscribers receive special-edition cheeses that are collaboratively made by the two cheesemakers, such as their dry, savory, English-style Pennsylvania cheddar. Shares also include—and here’s where serious cheese heads should pay attention—occasional guest cheeses from food artisans throughout the region: That means dairy devotees can get a taste of local products that may be impossible to find in even the best cheese shops in the city. Collective Creamery began offering cheese CSAs just last year and immediately gained a dedicated customer base. This year, it’s offering eight pickups every other week for its summer program, which will be open for memberships in April. The shares come in two sizes: the Artisan (three cheeses per share) for $264, and Petite (two per share) for $192, and both will be prorated if new members want to jump in once the season is already underway.
While plenty of farm CSAs include some kind of cheese add-on option, Collective Creamery offers not only serious quality, but education and expertise, as well. With each share, it sends out an email newsletter packed with information about the style of cheese and its history, along with tips on how to pair the cheeses or incorporate them into seasonal dishes. The team also makes an effort to engage with their members, sometimes in person at cheese tastings hosted at pickup sites, or via email, where they are quick to respond to inquiries. With cultured butter and pairing add-ons, this CSA will ensure members are never without a supremely well-stocked cheese drawer.
From pasture to butcher’s block, Primal Supply is vetting the supply chain
There is a common adage in the locavore community to “know your farmer.” As noble an idea as it is, creating relationships with producers and growers is time consuming and not always feasible for many consumers who, nevertheless, genuinely do care about where their food comes from.
Primal Supply Meats acts as the bridge between farmers raising animals in a humane and sustainable way and the customers who want their products. Founders Heather Thomason and Cecilie May have created relationships across a network of farmers, spending time getting to know their land, animals and practices.
They’ve leveraged these connections in the creation of the Butcher’s Club, a pay-as-you-go meat-buying club that enables Thomason and May to build a sustainable supply chain in the region, to support more responsible livestock farmers and supply Philadelphia with high-quality, custom cuts of meat. It also gives them the space to hone their craft of whole-animal butchery. Thomason defines their protocols: “We source directly from local farmers who raise animals on pasture, where they are free to roam, root and graze. They are never given hormones, antibiotics or fed GMOs. Each animal is treated humanely and processed respectfully.”
The Butcher’s Club, which began in August 2016, is going strong in 2017. “We have gotten an overwhelmingly positive response from the local food community,” Thomason says. “We’ve experienced steady membership growth since our launch, with nearly a 100 percent retention rate.”
Along with their eight current pickup locations—including Crime & Punishment Brewing Co. in Brewerytown, CrossFit Rittenhouse and Malvern Buttery on the Main Line—they plan to secure additional spots in the near future to serve more customers in more neighborhoods. Starting this spring, they’ll also vend their expertly butchered cuts of grassfed beef, pastured chicken and pork—as well as sausages and stocks—at a number of farmers markets and via partnerships with other sustainably minded local businesses.
Grow and Behold offers local, humanely raised kosher meat
In 2010, Anna Hanau and her husband Naftali founded Grow and Behold, a buying club that provides the kosher community with high-quality, pastured meats, which can often be difficult for consumers to find. In their seventh year of business, their team remains committed to working with producers to ensure that the highest standards of care for animals and people are upheld along the supply chain. Working closely with farmers, Grow and Behold only accepts product that has been procured using the practices that support the natural environment, respect the natural instincts of the animals and ensure the highest kosher rates.
All of the animals are raised outdoors on pasture and have never been fed or administered hormones or antibiotics. To ensure that these standards are being followed, they visit farms and slaughterhouses regularly, many of which are located in Pennsylvania and Maryland.
Grow and Behold products are strictly “glatt kosher,” under the supervision of the Orthodox Union.
The range of meats includes poultry, beef, lamb and veal, as well as specialty items such as hot dogs, lunch meats and sausages. They host pickup sites throughout Pennsylvania, South and Central New Jersey, and in the New York City metro area. Locally, they make biweekly Wednesday deliveries to Elkins Park, Mount Airy, Merion Station, Center City and Voorhees/Cherry Hill, New Jersey, for a $5 delivery fee. There are no standing commitments; members may order every two weeks or once in a while, and shopping the easily navigable website is a breeze.