Farmers in San Diego say they feel pressure to offer additional benefits in their CSAs – to sell different sized produce boxes, to provide various sign-up periods and to allow add-ons and weekly cancellations – all of which require additional time to manage.
During a panel on CSAs at the recent California Small Farm Conference, a question came up: Why are CSAs on the East and West coasts set up so differently from each other – and is it worth it? I was wondering the same thing, after researching the choices in San Diego, and noticing how unlike my experience with and knowledge of Virginia CSAs – where I received bags of turnips when other crops were suffering, and other CSAs doled out bushels of corn during the summer. In San Diego, I receive the same amount of produce in each box, and the contents thus far have be fairly standard.
It seems to boil down to the problem of retention and a difference in the underlying understanding of what a CSA even is.
“The trend in California is people want to choose what they want, and they don’t want what they don’t want,” said Robin Taylor, owner of Suzie’s Farm in Imperial Beach.
In the days leading up to our first CSA pick up in San Diego, I cleared out much of the lingering produce in the fridge, and did my diligent research: How to best store greens. Which produce to use up first. What the heck to do with cabbage.
I had resolved this time around to better use all the produce, and hopefully I’m off to a good start, inspired by the variety and quality of the organic fruits and vegetables. Since our box contained a little of every season – eggplant! berries! citrus! cauliflower! – it was far different from my first experience last summer. So many of those boxes contained turnips. More than a few, unfortunately, went to waste. Sharing meals also helps use up more of the yield; a CSA isn’t really ideal for one person.
I wasn’t really sure what to do with all the greens hanging out in the fridge. A few were reserved for a roasted beet and goat cheese salad for dinner, but a bag of lambs quarters, leftover sauteed sugar snap peas and several spring onions still lurked on the shelves, waiting for their turn on the table.
But then I saw Deborah Madison’s recipe for scallion crepes with stir-fried greens. Aha, a new use for some of my CSA stash!
I’ve been looking forward to this week for months, after learning about Terembry Farm, a two-year-old organic farm in southern Fauquier that’s focused on heirloom produce. Unlike many CSAs that you hear about, this one didn’t seem like it would leave my kitchen drowning in produce for 10 people that needed to be used exactly this instant. A half-share was described as about the size of a brown paper grocery bag–which sounds perfectly reasonable for one gal cooking for just herself. (Though, I’m sure I won’t be able to resist buying additional produce at the farmers market, and will have to remind myself that I can only eat but so much!)
Sidebar: Thank goodness Robyn was able to pick up the crate Saturday morning for me, since I was in Roanoke with relatives for a little family reunion. And for Spanish tapas, paella, pancakes and to see my dad’s band!