Thursday, May 29, 2008

Farmers Market Thursday - May 29, 2008

As I mentioned here, we are members of Tantre Farm, a community-sponsored agriculture (CSA) farm in Chelsea, MI.

What is a CSA, you ask? Here's a definition from the Local Harvest website:

"A decade ago, the definition of Community Supported Agriculture was fairly straightforward, as there were only two versions in practice. In its purest state, a CSA was a farm that was owned by a group of community members, each of whom had purchased a share of the business. Together they hired a farmer who raised crops which were divided amongst the shareholders. If crops were bountiful, everyone ate especially well. The risk of crop failure was shared as well, so the farmer was paid the same in good years and in lean ones.

Few such projects have taken root in this country, though those that have are known for the passion of their members. Much more common is the type of CSA wherein a farmer offers a given number of shares to a community, typically in the spring when the farm's cash flow needs are the highest. Members purchase a share up front, and in exchange receive a box of vegetables each week throughout the growing season. People who have joined CSAs often speak of the satisfaction they get from being 'forced' to eat both seasonally and more widely than they have been accustomed to doing."

Tantre uses the second model. This is our fourth or fifth year with Richard and Deb, and we've seen them go in different directions during different seasons, but everything has been delicious and wonderful. As with any growing season, things start up a little slowly, shares become enormous in July and August, and start slowing down again in mid-September. Tantre also offers a "Thanksgiving share" the week before Thanksgiving for an additional fee, and you can get a huge box of root veggies, squash, etc., to tide you through much of the winter.

So here is our bounty for the first week:



We received 4 or 5 huge, beautiful bunches of spinach, a nice bunch of variegated asparagus, a bunch of spring radishes, ditto of spring onions, two baby lettuces - one red leaf and the other similar to Boston, a small bunch of mixed spring greens and we had a choice of herbs, and I chose a small bunch of sage (since I grow the other herbs that were offered this week).

Each week Deb sends us a very informative newsletter that helps us to know what we'll "probably" get, and this helps me plan for the week, too. These generally come out on Mondays. Additionally, this year, one of the members set up a Ning community, where we can share ideas, recipes, discussions about CSA/locavore issues, etc. It's been absolutely delightful so far!

So, what will we have this week? Well, there will be some overlap with Saturday's post, as this was the week where we had two batches of veggies come in as our family adjusted to the Wednesday pick-up schedule.

Last night we bailed and had pizza out, so I was bummed to miss those first day lettuces, but tonight we'll have a huge salad along with some gnocchi gratineed with spinach and ricotta.

Other meals will include:

*grilled lamb chops with pomegranate molasses/sage sauce and grilled asparagus and grilled spring onions, along with homemade pita
*more salads
*spinach-pesto lasagna

For more great recipes on what to do with this week's share, check out Sarah at Una Buona Fourchetta.

On Saturday, we'll probably only pick up eggs, whatever meat we might choose for next week and some rhubarb, as we haven't had that appear in the share box yet. I may also buy some asparagus to freeze. Once our CSA season starts up, our food bills go way, way down, as we've "prepaid" and given Richard and Deb start up costs for the spring.

How many of you are part of CSAs or the equivalent? What do you do with your shares? How do you plan your weeks based on what you get, or do you not plan at all? I'd love to know how others do this!

42 comments:

Sarah said...

I'm a member of Tantré as well and have been enjoying my first box this week. :)

Last night I made a wonderful vegetable fritatta for dinner and used some of that lovely spinach. That recipe is here. I still have half of the fritatta left over and I will probably eat it for dinner tonight.

Mae Travels said...

A friend who belonged once served me a parsnip pie. She said she could get her kids to eat the greens that came in ever box if she doused them in cream and cheese. You make it sound a lot more appealing! Lamb with pomegranate molasses sounds good -- I discovered it a few years ago when researching everything pomegranate.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Sarah, thank you - I'll be over for the recipe! Sarah, you're part of the Tantre Ning group, aren't you? If not, you should join - it's fairly active.

The lamb sauce is an experiment, Mae. It just sounded good to me. I've really loved being a member of Tantre. It's a LOT of food, though.

Lilacspecs said...

CB and I use De Wassende Maan, a group here in Gent that does a weekly homegrown/organic vegetable and fruit packet. We split one of the larger packets with one of his coworkers and this week we got 2 bananas, 4 kiwi, some peas, two kinds of lettuce and a cucumber. The fruit is always organic but not always homegrown cause Belgium doesn't grow many fruits easily...mostly strawberries and apples.
But yeah, it makes us eat plenty of veg and also we try to cook it in interesting ways. Last night I threw the peas into a squash potato curry and tonight I'm making cucumber in sour cream and dill to go with the salmon I'm poaching. And fruit salad for desserts.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

De Wassende Mann sounds like some urban groups I've heard of. I think Glamah has a similar system, and I saw them in San Francisco when I visited there last summer. It's interesting to see how different people do these things.

Sarah said...

Sarah, you're part of the Tantre Ning group, aren't you?

I am indeed!

Amy Addison said...

We're joining a CSA this year. And for a little extra, in addition to our big box of veges, we get a homemade pie and homemade bread each week.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

That's so cool, Amy! We had a bread CSA in the Ann Arbor area last year - Bread and Flowers - and they had marvelous bread, but the young couple who ran it moved to Oregon, I believe.

anno said...

I love Tantré's produce and buy it whenever I can. I'd join the CSA, too, but the DIY-er in our family might see that as a lack of faith in his efforts. Which it's not. It just seems a lot easier. Sigh. The meals you're planning this week sound fabulous.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

OTOH, Anno, I think your garden will be amazing in a year or two! The question is whether the rabbits, etc., will think so, too. I must say, we've loved Tantre.

glamah16 said...

I dont know how to describe mine.Mine is Timber Creek Farm Oragnics. The deliver in a 100 mile radius to Chicago. You can also order meats and dairy through them. I like them because you dont buy shares and can adjust your oreder types and cancel or postpone when travelling. Its really tailored to your needs. The amounts are generous and Im so happy with them.Today I had a meeting outside the office and drove by the Farmers Market in Daley center. I miss not being out in the'field' now.
Those lamb chops chops sound wonderful with thepomergrante molasses!

Ben said...

Wow that is a beautiful bunch of vegetables. I looked into being part of a CSA, but the two places I looked into weren't taking any more members. I am going to start going to the farmer's market instead.

CableGirl said...

That sounds absolutely heavenly! I particularly like the idea of getting veggie when you don't know what you'll get... sort of makes it an adventure. :)

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Glamah, I've heard of plans like that, too. It's nice that you have the flexibility!

Ben, sometimes you can get on a waiting list, and even if you can't join up for this season, then you can for the next. You could also put your name in in case anyone wants to split a share, because to eat a share with just the two of you can be tough!

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

CG, it definitely does. There are some weeks when I think... "hmmm... better learn how to use X or Y". It's a nice challenge.

My only problem is that not one of us eats brussel sprouts!

Sandy C. said...

I MUST check out local CSA's here. I'm very intrigued. I'm also looking forward to how you'll be making that pomegranate molasses/sage sauce ;)

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

So do I, Sandy, hahaha. I'm going to experiment tomorrow morning. I really love CSAs, and I'm sure the Boston area has many.

jennifer said...

How I admire your energy and desire to prepare food. Something snapped in me a while back, and it feels like such a chore. Your posts are helping me get motivated.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

I've been there, too, Jennifer. And I can only imagine your feeling that way after your restaurant experiences, too. Lately, though, I've been trying to feed cooking into my writing and vice versa and trying to live somewhat holistically, if that makes sense? It's helping. But there are still nights like last night where we all went out for pizza. Even with all those gorgeous veggies!

April said...

Okay, I truly suck at this part of it. I never go to a Farmer's Market. I don't even know where the closest one is, or when they're open or anything. Keep bugging me. Eventually, my slothful butt will find a way!

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Oh, yeah, right, April. You are such a sloth. I think you do a great job doing everything you're already doing! If you want me to look into any of this for you, though, for the LA area, just e-mail me. I think you probably have your hands full, though. ;-)

Alex Elliot said...

I was just talking to my husband yesterday about doing something like this!

StickyGooeyCreamyChewy said...

I've been thinking a lot about joing a CSA. My only concern is that I'll get too many of the things I don't like and not enough of the things I do like. But, it definitely forces you to be creative!

Jane the Sane said...

When am I invited for dinner??

TeacherPatti said...

Jen, I just wanted to say how nice you are to go back and address everyone's comments. That is so sweet!
Also, before I forget, Kim (farmers' marketer) and some of us were talking about a Food Blogger Meet Up for this summer...July 12 is the tentative date. If you (and anyone else) is interested, please keep the date in mind. We'd love to meet everyone in person :)

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Alex, we love it, but it is a lot of work once the high season hits - if you have a deep freeze freezer chest, that helps.

Susan - we had that problem the first year. In our case, Richard and Deb send out a survey at the end of each season, and actually they have more "mainstream" veggies now, which is what the membership wanted, I guess. Also, sometimes you can set up swaps via a news group, or whatever. I believe our new Ning group has a place for that.

Come any time, Jane! We'd love to have you up to MI. ;-)

That's so funny, Patti, I was just thinking yesterday that would be a great idea, now that so many of us seem to be in touch. I'll put it on my calendar!

d i a n a m u s e said...

A bit off topic, but your photos (today's bounty + Wednesday's asparagus) are beautiful.

Good weekend to you.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Thanks SO much, Diana - that is a TREMENDOUS compliment coming from you. I have quite an inferiority complex about my photography, so I'm very grateful for the kind words! Have a lovely weekend.

Núria said...

HOla Jen! I know there's something similar here in Spain, but I don't know if it's worth for me to change from my usual Farmers Market and veggies shop in the corner to this boxes of veggies... I've been thinking about it only a bit... have to check how it works in Spain :D

Goofball said...

it's a great concept. It would force me to eat more vegetables.

Maria said...

This is my first year participating in a CSA, but I searched out one that's a little extra unique due to our situation. We can pay in at three different levels. They add 10% to that and then at the farmer's market each week, we pick what we want. I always take the "strange" stuff and give it a whirl. So far, I have not been disappointed, and we always have more than enough to eat and i can take extra of the stuff I want to freeze, but I have found, if we have it, we eat it, but we do not eat a lot of meat either.

Anyway, I am a proud CSA-er and I love "my" farmers! (Oh, and not only are they local, but they are organic!)

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Hola Nuria! The thing is, that where there are really active farmers markets year round, I'm guessing that small farms can make a go of it. Here we have so much agribusiness, that this was a way to support the smaller farms.

Goofball, apparently, Lilacspecs has something similar in Gent, although more of an organic co=op, I think.

Maria, your model sounds really interesting. We definitely go through our box in the spring and the late fall, but in the high season I do a lot of freezing, soups, casseroles frozen for later, etc.

Mariposa said...

I wish we have something like that here...I'm just reading and reading to learn and get familiar with it.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Don't you have open air markets and small farms, Mariposa, or has agribusiness spread to the Philippines as well?

Meg said...

You know I'm a sort distance away. What kind of beer will be served with the spinach salad?

kim said...

Jen - what an inspiring post! After seeing what you and Sarah are making I'm practically dying to get my box tomorrow.

Kim

Marianne Arkins said...

I was going to do it this year... and then put it off too long and there weren't any shares available.

Darn it.

Live and learn. Next year.

Betsy said...

I love hearing your veggie tales, Jen!

What are variegated asparagus? Are they striped, or do they have grooves on them, or what? Do they taste different?

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Meg, I think a spring salad would have to call for an Oberon, don't you? Seriously, let me know when you're next making it up this way. ;-)

Kim, I can't wait to see your ideas, too! And there were strawberries today! Although not organic, and I can't wait for Frog Holler berries.

Marianne, just get on a wait list for next year, and they'll probably contact you. Then you don't have to think about it.

Betsy... it's my poor English! I meant "a variety of" asparagus. Meaning, green, white and purple - all unbelievably yummy!

Renaedujour said...

I've been wanting to do something like this for a while. There are a number of farmers in my area who offer this, so it's really inspiring to hear what you're cooking up with your produce.

bleeding espresso said...

Love this Jen! I just wrote about CSAs in an article the other day.

Funny that this is the kind of thing that's been going on in southern Italy for ages only with no money exchanging hands. I wonder, though, now with new foreigners coming in if this could be started up with the newbies chipping in to pay the natives' costs...sometimes change is difficult round here, but it's definitely worth asking around methinks ;)

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Renae, it's a wonderful service the farmers supply, as well as a way to support those farmers. It's so worth it from our view.

Michelle, Milan (I know, the opposite end, almost) is one of the big global players in the Slow Food movement, so I'm guessing that this is going on *somewhere* in Italy, but maybe not. Even if it were an idea where folks would pay some cash to their chosen local farm during the winter or spring to help with seed purchases, equipment, whatever, and then get a discount during the growing season? Or probably your farmers are more year round, right?