Patti Bess
Special to The Union

Bountiful benefits of Community Supported Agriculture

These warm spring afternoons start me dreaming of grilled ratatouille and roasted peppers. But my garden get up and go has, as they say, got up and went.

I’m so enjoying the hawks in the treetops outside my office window. I’d like to have a big garden, but I’d also like more time to write and think and read instead of dig and shovel and weed. Perhaps this might be the year to buy a CSA subscription and let someone else farm for me.

In order to thrive financially, most farms have to market their products in a variety of ways — wholesale, farmers markets, on site farm stands. CSAs, or Community Supported Agriculture, is an arrangement between a farmer and a consumer.

Another way of thinking of it might be a Citizen Subsidy. I pay a local farm upfront in the spring to provide much needed spring capitol to cover their cost of production.

Then throughout the season my family receives a weekly box of produce picked and delivered fresher than fresh.

Historically, CSA’s began in the early 1970s truck farms in New Jersey were basically the concept of the kitchen garden expanded.

In the mid-‘80s a group of women in Japan, concerned about the safety of the foods available for their children, hired a local farmer to grow organic fruits and vegetables for their families. The concept has continued to grow.

“We are all fortunate to live in a rural community that has such a lively local farming community. It will continue if consumers make the choice to encourage local farms and express that either by joining a CSA, patronizing a farmers market or shopping where local produce is sold,” said Alan Haight of Riverhill Farm.

“Farms have such aesthetic value as well as providing quality. Food has a different significance in your life when you know your farmer and is a whole other experience than mindlessly grabbing things off the supermarket shelf.”

This year Riverhill Farm is implementing a system that they hope will offer more flexibility to a wider group of consumers and smaller families.

Their Friend of the Farm card works much like CSA prepay and as a debit card. It can be used at the Riverhill booth at the farmers market or to buy bulk produce or U-Pick at their Cement Hill Farm stand. U-Pick will begin later in the season on Monday and Friday mornings and the farm stand is open from 2 to 6 p.m. every Wednesday.

After three years of CSA farming, Starbright Acres Family Farm is transitioning to a similar program.

Their farm stand is located a half mile past the fairgrounds on McCourtney Road and is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week year-round.

They will keep records on an index card throughout the season and at the Farmer’s Market. They sell eggs, tomatoes, and many other varieties of produce.

Kale and Garbanzo (Chickpea) Soup

From Riverhill Farm CSA Newsletter

2 small onions or shallots, diced small

1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme or one teaspoon dried

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon pepper flakes

4 large tomatoes, fresh or one small can

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup sherry or white wine

8 cups vegetable or chicken stock

1 bunch kale, stems removed, leaves chopped small

1 1/2 cups dry garbanzo beans, cooked, or two cans chickpeas

Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

If using dry chickpeas, soak overnight. Cook them in at least four cups of water for three hours until soft. Be sure not to put salt in until peas are fully cooked. In a medium stockpot, cook the onions and thyme in the olive oil over medium until soft. Increase the heat and add the garlic, pepper flakes, tomatoes, bay leaf, salt and sherry or wine. Stew for 15 minutes. Add the cooked chickpeas and the 8 cups of liquid. Simmer for 20-30 minutes to let the peas absorb the flavors. Add the kale leaves and cook ten more minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. A spicy chicken sausage is also a nice addition to this soup.

If you’ve never tried Kale Chips you have a treat ahead. They make a tasty snack and are literally guilt free, nutritious and easy to prepare.

Kale Chips

From Sweet Roots Farm CSA newsletter

1 bunch of curly kale

1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt to taste

Paprika, to taste (optional)

Wash kale and pat dry with a paper towel; remove the stems and ribs. Cut or tear into about 2-4 inch pieces. Drizzle the pieces with olive oil until each piece is lightly coated; add a little salt and a smoked or other paprika of choice.

Spread the leaves out on a cookie sheet that has been covered with either parchment paper or aluminum foil. Bake for 20 minutes or until each piece has dried up. Remove to a bowl when cooled.

Patti Bess is a local freelance writer.


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The Union Updated Apr 24, 2013 08:16AM Published Apr 25, 2013 09:10AM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.