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
by Emily Kovach
No one is going to say no to the coming parade of farm-fresh summer vegetables: Bring on those sweet peas and crispy carrots. But partnerships are popping up all over the place that will help you share in the full bounty of our local farms by adding staples like eggs and cheese or bread baked in small batches.
Prepare your pantry with the Green Aisle CSA
Perhaps you’ve been to one of Green Aisle Grocery’s three locations in Philadelphia to pick up an artisanal product, like a jar of lavender honey, bags of locally roasted coffee or a hunk of bean-to-bar chocolate. The pleasure of shopping at Green Aisle for fine, small-batch goods can now be experienced on the regular with its biweekly CSA program. It’s now taking reservations for the spring session runs, which cost $300 and include a total of six pickups on the first and 15th days of April, May and June.
Much like shopping in the store, every share includes an array of specialty items, ranging from the practical to the fabulous. Owner Adam Erace notes, “We’re like a hybrid CSA and BirchBox [a boutiquey cosmetics subscription service].” Each pickup will include a dozen pastured eggs from Roundtop Farm (located in Honey Brook, Pennsylvania); two cups of supremely creamy yogurt from Pequea Valley; local, organic produce; and then, the extra fun stuff. Selections may include preserves, pickles, meat, cheese, coffee and chocolate. Among these “value added” items are things you almost certainly won’t find in other CSAs, such as Stargazy broccoli cheddar pot pies, hummus from Dizengoff, Green Meadow Farm roasted peanuts, and D’Artagnan cherry-and-venison sausage. Are you hungry yet?
Red Earth Farm partners up to give you the whole package
In some ways, Red Earth Farm’s CSA appears to be pretty conventional. Once a week or every other week, members receive a box of seasonal produce grown on their lovely farm in Kempton, Pennsylvania. But that’s really just the beginning. In addition to fruits and veggies, Red Earth has partnered with many other purveyors to offer a wide variety of options to stock your kitchen with an abundance of locally sourced groceries.
Love fruit? The fruit share adds succulent seasonal tree fruit (apricots, peaches, pears and apples) to each box. Want to make tasty egg-and-cheese sandwiches for brunch every weekend? A dozen eggs from the egg share and the Hillacres Pride or Farm Fromage cheese shares have got you covered. The artisan bread share, compliments of partner Daily Loaf in Hamburg, Pennsylvania, keeps members flush with beautiful fresh loaves including specialty flavors such as sweet potato wheat, onion rye, beet wheat and sesame kale. Yogurt and kefir shares from Wholesome Dairy Farms are another tasty add-on.
Red Earth’s CSA runs for a generous 22-week season from June to November. Pickup locations are thoughtfully peppered across town, including in Queen Village, University City and Fairmount.
by Charis Lindrooth
When Don arrived to work with us at Red Earth Farm, I was skeptical. Now bear in mind, we employ an eclectic mix of people, but Don won the prize for the cleanest-shaved and neatest dressed. His spotless button-up was tucked into crisp khakis. His boots squeaked. His hair was carefully combed, his enthusiastic grin irresistible. Some might say this man was in the thick of a midlife crisis. At 45, he left the food industry to pursue his dream: farming. His only obstacle? He knew nothing about it. Our farm provided the solution to his lack of know-how. One year later, he bought an acreage and launched Dancing Hen Farm. If it weren’t for the same heartwarming grin, you would hardly recognize him—now, he looks like a farmer, because he is one.
Todd, another employee, spent his teen years perfecting his skills as a skateboard aficionado. He came to us in his mid-20s and fell in love with farming. He lived with us and worked on our crew for four years. After a summer hiatus in Maine working with a farmer who mentored him on how to farm with horse and plow, Todd returned with beautiful Mary. That summer, after the echinacea bloomed, Mary gave birth to their son in the summer kitchen. They now manage a CSA using horse and tractor. I cried the day they moved out. I then realized that a deep caring for those who work with us has grown alongside the vegetables.
After my husband Michael and I purchased our farm in 2006, our heads bubbled with plans and passionate ideals about connecting people with the land. Community supported agriculture (CSA) was in its early days, and we found our niche by letting our customers order what landed in their weekly boxes. We studied compost, soil chemistry, organic pesticides and pored over glossy pictures of vegetables. We were all about growing produce for enthusiastic vegetable consumers.
We didn’t realize at the time that the farm would produce more than vegetables. As our CSA expanded, so did our crew. We now feed nearly 700 families and employ 20 people. Some of them have shared our living space in our 1890s farmhouse. Together, we ate bounteous lunches gathered around rickety tables. Vegetable soups, zucchini lasagna, copious salads, homemade pickles and vats of curried veggies satisfied our bellies. Cucumber lemonade refreshed us while laughter echoed against the barn.
Working outside on pristine days in May can fill one’s soul with hope and joy. The blistering heat and backbreaking demands of July can be brutal. Sweltering bodies find relief in mischief. Those in the lower fields had to be ever-mindful of rotten tomatoes, hurled by impish pickers from above. Cases of liquid were won in habañero eating contests. The annual after-hours pingpong tournament, with a hundred dollar bill taped to the center net, always ended in a ferocious match with Farmer Michael.
These antics, combined with shared meals and long days, forged a bond. When we were younger, the bond felt sibling-like. As we mature, it takes on a parental feel. Michael and I have grown as well. We have learned to roll with the weather, anticipate the unexpected, worry less and sleep more. We never could have imagined that beyond feeding our vegetable-crazy customers, our small farm would become a haven for the wanderer, an incubator for future farmers, a place of healing for the part of humanity that spends a season at Red Earth Farm.