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
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!