Saturday, 17 September 2011

Aside #3: Community Supported Agriculture

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Community Supported Agriculture OR Food Box Programs OR Veggie Hot Line (Hmmm... decisions, decisions)

I've been doing quite a bit of research on local Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) farms and am thinking about signing up for one for the 2012 season.  I thought I'd post my research to date here and keep adding to it as I find out more information about CSAs, with websites and location.  In doing this I've also come across alternatives to a CSA, and note those below as well.  There's even a directory of Ontario CSA but the print is mostly unreadable when you search by location.  

------------ Oh yeah, one more thing, I've only included CSA or interesting others if there is a website listed and accessible.  No website.... off my list anyway.  

------------ Oh yeah number two... I've added information and links but not a lot of photos yet.  Turns out that when I add photos from a mac you can't see them on a PC.  Go figure ..... so I end up redoing all the photos on my PC at work and they can be viewed on a mac and PC.  Go figure again....... As I've said, I'm new to blog and obviously still a few quirks for me to learn.  So photos will follow.  It will make this quite a dynamic posting.  

So, what is a CSA anyway?

From website entries:

----- CSA is an approach to growing and purchasing food products in which the farmer and consumer are working cooperatively in a CSA, the farmer grows food for a predetermined group of consumers.  The consumer enters into an agreement of purchase with the grower prior to the start of the season.  The farmer gains a guaranteed market; the consumer gains high quality, fresh food, as it becomes available.  CSA farms usually offer weekly delivery or pick up of vegetables.  Sometimes also flowers, fruits, herbs and meat products.  The consumer-producer relationship is strengthened through the increased involvement of the consumers on the farm and with the farmer. 
----- The CSA concept is appealing as a consumer paying in advance at the start of a season for a share of the produce in a farm.  It's like a set pre-order of produce on a weekly basis for 14-17 weeks.  It seems most of them are organic although not all are certified.  This doesn't bother me at all.  A number also carry heirloom produce and I am quite captivated by that.  My small inner city property doesn't support growing my own vegetables and herbs and I simply don't have the time to rent a piece of land and tend it myself, which I've considered from time to time.  Prices seems to range from $300 to $500 for a season, and I know I spend far more than that in any season compulsively buying at a farmer's market (bad!)  
----- It also appears to have started in Japan, by women who were concerned about food getting directly to the consumer. 
----- So, CSA seem like a fine alternative, local, sustainable, organic, varied, time saver, not expensive... the benefits far outweigh the one downside I haven't quite figured out.  I'm a bit worried about this as I tend to be the only one in the household that really eats vegetables or uses herbs.  Perhaps it's possible to go into with someone and split a basket between us.  

Why CSA? 

Most CSAs are based on the philosophy that, as the Rainbow Heritage Garden site said:  "People are increasingly separated from the source of their food.  CSA is a creative response to this crisis.  It is a model that emphasizes locally grown, which promotes a local economy, and a safe food system.  Participation in a CSA leads to a deeper understanding of our interdependence one another and the land.  The farm supplies not only fresh, nutritious food, but an opportunity for a community to come together to develop a sense of place, to reconnect with one another and the rhythms of the seasons, and to preserve open green spaces as working farms.  
What's in Season?  When?

Share Size
Around Ottawa, here is the best summary of what I found for a schedule:
------------ Early Season: salad mix, spinach, arugula, peas,  radishes, sweet turnips, green onions, kale, chard, strawberries, fresh herbs:  cilantro, parsley, basil etc. 
------------ Mid Season: the above plus tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, broccoli, string beans, garlic, onions, summer squash, zucchini, cucumbers, carrots, beets, potatoes, raspberries
------------ Late season:  the above, plus apples, elderberries, cantaloupe, watermelons, leeks, winter squash, cabbage, brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes, rutabaga

Good Resources and Links
CSA farms (US):
What's a Food Box Program? 
Basically, it's a variation of the CSA structure. The food box differs in the consumer need not necessarily commit for an entire season, the payment is usually due on a week by week basis and the consumer often has less say as to what is grown and what goes into the box.  Each farm and farmer runs the CSA or food box a little differently.

Other Options? 
The Veggie Hotline is an interesting alternative to the above.  I only saw one mention of this i.e., let's you customize your order weekly or bi-weekly or whatever.  I need to find out more about this option as well.

The List Below
As I'm still researching, I thought I would do a list of what I've found in this area. There seems to be about a dozen CSA to be considered, with a short of three I'm interested in really pursuing but not ready to commit yet ... I like heirloom and varieties I can't get readily at a supermarket.  The list below is mostly CSA farms (prominently noted with ****) OR just interesting farms where you can order on, say, a Veggie Hot Line every week.  Plus, bonus, I've thrown in a few organic meat farms (beef), cheese, and even, gasp, bread.  

It's in alphabetical order.  Obviously just click on the name of the farm to get to their website :)  All photos are from their sites until I take some pictures at Lansdowne or other locations. 

1) Acorn Creek Garden Farm
These folks are not far from Ottawa, near Kanata, are open 7 days a week, have a variety of produce, and have a stand at Lansdowne.  Not sure if they do CSA though.  Will check back.  I like the variety.  Good website. They also have a neat feature called a 'Veggie Hot Line'.  Order 4 hours in advance and pick up your produce at farmer's market.  This just MIGHT be an alternative to CSAs if that doesn't work out.  They are not far from here i.e., just in Carp so are definitely an option. 

2) Bryson Farms 
Bryson's Farms are not listed as an official CSA But they do home delivery weekly or biweekly ALL year round.  There's a map with what day of the week (I would be Tuesdays).  They are also certified organic and have organic beef, which I believe I've bought at Saslov's from time to time.  They also produce a line of frozen foods.  Like many of the sites, there are recipes, a customer blog etc.  They are located in the Pontiac region of Quebec.  Downside for me is that the baskets are for two people so I would choose biweekly at $50 and paid on-line.  (((Update:  I've signed up to try this). 

3) Bunching Onions (****CSA****) 
This one is a bit of a distance i.e. Rockland, Ontario.  The interesting fact about this CSA farm is that it is part of Tucker House, which is a charitable retreat and environmental learning centre.  The website takes a bit of navigating but once you get to the CSA (under programs), there is a fairly comprehensive list of what they put in their 16-week baskets. Their price is $575, with delivery about $100 more so they are on the high end  They definitely say the baskets can feed 4 omnivores or 2 vegetarians .... so splitting at least into two is a must for a one-omnivore-vegetarian sometimes gal.  

4) Covenant Farm (****CSA****) 

This farm is located at Clarence Creek, about 45 minutes outside Ottawa, and is a small family-run business.  Their website has an entire 17-week schedule of what would be available and photos of their big baskets. Their costs are a bit more $550 a season, plus $125 for delivery.  The baskets look like they could be easily split.  BTW, I'm discovering new vegetables doing this research.  This entry taught me about "Bunching Onions".  It's not just a bunch of onions, or the name of another farm (see 4.) above but it is also an oriental green onion.  

5) Hoople Creek Farm (****CSA****) 

This Farm is definitely a CSA, located about 85 km outside of Ottawa along the St. Lawrence River.  The price list for a weekly basket is not shown but the interesting thing about this site is the basket doesn't look too big (photo is this week's basket they are offering) so perhaps vegetables for one person a week is possible.  It would take a bit more research.  They too are at St. Paul's and Lansdowne markets every week so could check them out.  They have a great blog that details what is in each week's basket.

6) Just Food:  Buy Local, Grow Local (****CSA****) 
The group is arguably the most political of the CSA sites I've viewed (definitely with a vision and mission to have Ottawa become 'food secure', with food for all).  The interactive maps shows all the local CSA farms, community gardens, the retailers selling the produce and producers. Plus, it's at least the second site with ads looking for 'interns' (want hard work, for young folks, interesting as hell, and for very little money).  Very well done video of CSAs around Ottawa can be found here:  Just Foods video

7) McGregor's Produce (****CSA****)

McGregor's Produce - An Ottawa Valley Family Farm since 1856An Ottawa Valley family farm since 1856!  Five generations.  Website features a 'Ripening Calendar'.  Unlike other sites, they seem to have completed their hiring and aren't looking.  They don't appear to have any information on how they run the CSA.  

8) Our Farms (****CSA****)
Katie and Mat - Proud owners of Our FarmThis one has a tagline of:  "Providing sustainable, naturally grown and organic (non-certified) food for West and Central Ottawa in a CSA model.  It is located in the Dunrobin/Constance Bay area, offers choices and a full range of what looks to be basic vegetables i.e., not much Asian or heirlooms varieties.  The prices quoted are the 2011 prices, not yet 2012.  Each bin is $25, but those purchasing a full share receive a 10% bulk discount.  Their blog and recipes are extensive. 
--------- A full share, or two bins full of veggies every week (enough to feed a family of four or two adult vegetarians) for 20 weeks is $900.
--------- A half share, or one bin full of veggies every week (enough to feed two adults who enjoy cooking, or one adult vegetarian) for 20 weeks is $500.
--------- A half share, or one bin full of veggies every two weeks (enough to feed two on-the-go adults who tend to eat out fairly often) for 10 weeks is $250.

9) Riverglen Biodynamic Farm (****CSA****) 

store front glow
Very close to home... 112 acres near Carling and Moodie Drives.  Very unique too ... it's in the Ottawa greenbelt, owned and operated by the National Capital Commission.  The owner, or probably, leasee, is responsible for upgrades to heritage buildings etc and seems to feel the weight of this.  The website is loaded with valuable information (actually one of the best I read) about CSAs, how they work, commitment etc., methods, recipes, philosophy, produce etc.  I also realized I missed another event on September 11, 2011 at the Canada Agriculture Museum at the Central Experimental Farm.  Local farmers and chefs around Ottawa team up to create an original and organic feast for the public to celebrate the local harvest.  Called "Feast of Fields", this year's theme was "From our Organic Fields".  Must have been choc-a-bloc full of information.  Sounds fairly new (second year) and hope they don't burn out..... This one has a philosophy of 'biodynamics' which means farms as living organisms so everything that happens on the farm (animals' manure etc) are part of the rhythms of life and farming.

10) Rochon Gardens (****CSA****) 
Rochon Gardens is located in Edwards, Ontario (? where?) the site says they offer strawberries, raspberries, salad greens, asparagus, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, sweet corn, beans, melons, eggplant, unique cauliflower, broccoli, potatoes, and more!  He too is unique as a member of Savour Ottawa, part of an Ottawa Tourism venture.  He is clearly one of the farms operating at the new Fieldhouse at the Ottawa Parkdale Market this year.  It's opened at odd times (for me) but features local grown meat, produce and savouries like maple syrup etc.  Obviously part of the attempt to revive the Parkdale market, which is losing to the organic farmers' market (definitely I'm part of the migrating crowd).  Rochon Gardens shares are competitive with others.  

11) Roots and Shoots Farm (****CSA****)

This CSA is a hoot!  Great name with a "We Dig Vegetables" tagline.  They are obviously popular -- their 2011 CSA is full and they have already started a waiting list for 2012.  They give a good overview of which vegetables are available which month, and quantity.  To do this CSA would definitely mean splitting with someone as the basket are targetted at 3-4 vegey eating adults.  They have a list of about 21 vegetables they grow, including one Tatsoi I've never heard of --- looks a bit like bok choy and likely from that family.

12) Roots Down (****CSA****) 

The entrance to Roots Down Organic Farm
Drats.   Missed the event of the season near Kingston.  Heirloom Tomato Tasting on September 10.  It's an annual event, tasting some of the more than 90 different varieties of tomato that they grow.  They also had sweet corn and watermelon.  So, yummm.  Mark it for next year.  Oh yeah, the CSA.  Pricing for 18 or 9 weeks.  A full share is $550, half share $285.  One intriguing note is work-trade shares.  In exchange for one day a week of farm work, help at market or pick-ups you receive a full share plus extra veggies for canning.  I like that.  Very Canadian.  Not very organized in terms of posting information, bit erratic for the past few years. 

13) Rainbow Gardens (****CSA****) 

The old barn.
Better known as Rainbow 'Heritage' Gardens, they are one of my favourites and I follow them on 'Rural Rainbow Ramblings' which is at the bottom of my blog.  They farm out of Cobden Ontario and have a blog with some of the best vegetable recipes I know.  I'm discovering (slowly as it's just me) all of the intricacies of kale, swiss chard, bok choy, dandelion greens etc.  I'm becoming addicted. The other reason I like them is the large variety of 'heirloom' vegetables, hence the name.  I get tired of regular vegeys we all grew up with ... time to experiment!  

14) Veggie Underground  (****CSA****) 
They are very new and looking for new CSA members.  No real photo I can easily copy to give a little look at the sites.  You just have to love a website that start with a kitty on the splash page, with the words "swipe me".  How cute is that!  Anyway, these folks have a good sense of humour, and for me anyway, a really interesting array of veggies ... like blue potatoes, chioggia and golden beets, purple haze carrots and tomato medleys.  That intrigues me.  I can buy the standard stuff but the heirloom and other types are often the ones my recipes call for and I can't find.... so more research..... their CSA is small, they are just in year 2, their 2011 CSA was completely booked fast, and they are located in Vars.  Specialized in in-season food for the local climate.  They are at St. Paul's farmer's market on Saturdays.  Their CSA baskets are full and half share and competitive with others, minus the delivery charges.  

15) Waratah Downs Organic Farms (****CSA****)

I wasn't sure about this one.   Waratah?  What is it?  Why is it a name for a farm?  Turns out a Waratah is unique to Australia and is the 'other' national flower of that country.  It is revered for its 'tangible features of strength, beauty and colour and its symbolic qualities of health, firmness, endurance and independence.'  The Aboriginal People's of Australia consider it a symbol of regeneration, healing and strength.  It is a truly lovely red colour.  The folks on the farm are of Australian heritage hence the name.... :) They have a comprehensive calendar and pick up spots for boxes.  Definitely would need to split boxes from what I saw on site ... also have beef, eggs, lamb etc.  Lovely ordering on line too.  

--- Things to go with vegetables ..... 

Just because I'm no-carb/low carbing it, which site do I stumble across?  The one for best bread in the country.  Here's their website Artisan Bakery and they specialize in the neatest breads like fennel, 12 grain, rosemary and garlic etc.  Ottawa Bagelshop Ottawa Bagelshop always has a great selection but it goes so fast each day that it is best to get there early to get what you want.  The Bakery itself is located in City Centre, not a building I know.  Anyway, I'm including it here as a way of salivating as I think "no carbs, low carbs, yeah carbs".  Sigh.

A unique site, with a selection of wonderful looking soups.  I also like the ingredients they put in their raw sushi (i.e., not fish but mushrooms etc.)  I would go for that.  Customers can order and they will bring your order to the farmer's market.  Interesting...

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