Wednesday, November 28, 2012

CSA 2012 Part 2 - The Experence

Here's our experience with our first CSA, broken down into sections.  To see the first part and pictures of most of the weeks, check out this post

1) Food differences

 First off, I had no inkling farm food and store bought food would be in any way different.  Lettuce for example.  It requires quite a bit a washing.  Five weeks in we got a salad spinner and thankfully the kids liked doing that part of the job. 


But why does it more washing than I was used to?  Besides having more of it (and it not being packaged) it actually had dirt on it!  It dawned on me- I had never seen dirt on the lettuce I typically got.  Hydroponics!  I quickly youtube'd it, and found I really am in the dark when it comes to where my food comes from.  It was a odd realization.


Second was the overwhelming potency of the CSA onions.  Never in my life has onions made my eyes sting that bad.  Friends with different CSA's confirm, it's just that it is locally grown fresh onions.  It is crazy. Next year, I get swim goggles, 'cause the lacrosse ones weren't cutting it. I'd have to cut half as fast as I could and sprint across the room to cool down for 15 minutes.  An onion took about an hour to finish chopping.

Third, I'd say was the taste of the carrots.  They were just different.  More earthy.  Still haven't figured that one out.

2) Veggie distribution

I felt we had an adequate amount of most of the common veggies (common = the ones I knew how to identify).  It was really nice to have a useful supply of lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, garlic and onions throughout most of the CSA.  I'm super happy to still have a good stock left of some of them. 

I was a bit disappointed we didn't get more corn, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, peppers, spinach, herbs and melons. There were surprisingly few.

I was really bummed we didn't get any fruits, like the apples, pears, tart cherries and strawberries that were listed on their website.

As for over abundant foods, the only one that stood out to me was too many beets (and maybe parsnips).  The other ones I feel would be a good amount... for people who like them. 

3) Variety & Use

There was plenty of new foods we hadn't ever been faced with preparing.  For some we rose to the occasion and had a good meal.  I was surprised to find I liked bok choy and collard greens.  Others, like brussel sprouts and beets....


Finding use for the food we tried and knew we didn't like was tough.  We tried to make beets work again and again, but there too many to keep up with it.  Our biggest use was making Beet-za (beet-pizza).  It turned out pretty good, but still didn't use up enough of the beets.


And at the end of the CSA, the squash was overwhelming that some of that didn't get eaten.  And Kale.  We couldn't find anything we liked that used kale.  We tried Kale chips twice to no avail.

We didn't meet our goal of not throwing out any, but that was mostly due to not knowing what to do with some foods...  or completely hating them. By October we didn't bother fighting it, and when a food came we didn't like, we just gave it away to someone who would take it before it went bad.

Sometimes, the timing was just off.  I found I'm much more likely to enjoy the lettuce after it's only been here a day or two.  Sometimes scheduling just didn't allow for quick use.

For the extra common veggies we froze them, which came in handy for quick meals on soccer nights.  There wasn't really enough extra to do any canning or sauces with them.

4) Cost

Looking at money last, we paid $565 for 20 weeks.  Doing the math, we should have been getting about $28 dollars of food each week.  Looking at the pictures here I wouldn't say it's exactly $28 dollars of grocery store veggies we got, but looking at prices at organic food markets like trader joes, it's not far off.

But the other part of the consideration is how much we didn't spend on other food because of veggies. Below you'll find a graph of what we labeled as 'groceries', which I feel is fairly accurate.

I use a program that helps automatically tracks my money, otherwise I wouldn't done this.  (lies, haha)  April is the month we paid for our share.  You can see there is a real drop for the summer months.  (Note: May was lowest and the CSA hadn't started yet.  We traveled in May so our restaurant/gasoline bills were probably higher.  Ignore May.)

Alright, I'll get to the numbers!
Before: $438 a month (ignoring May)
After: $462 a month (absorbing cost of the share)

So for an extra $23.35 a month we ate organically, ate healthy, and made some friends happy giving them the food we didn't like.  I'd say that's fair. 

When it comes down to it though, we choose to waste some (ie. fed to pigs) and could have probably bought less convenience foods at the store...  I feel it could have been a money savings.  But small steps people.  We tried.

Overall, a good experience.  Hopefully, we'll have a house with a garden next year, and be able to focus more on what we like... but we'll see!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

CSA 2012 Part I - Week by week

We decided to try a CSA for the first time this year.  We decided to take the plunge for a few reasons:
  1. To support local farms& try organic
  2. Try new varieties of Fruits and Veggies
  3. Eat healthier
  4. Get an idea of what I'll want to garden some day
1)   We decided to go with Red Manse Farm, because of their location, the list of crops on their website and because they grow organically.  I like the idea of a local farm not spraying chemicals all over the place.

We've never made any attempt to eat organically before, but a CSA seemed like a good place to start.   I support organic agriculture more for environmental rather than health issues, but I'm starting to feel sold more on health.... I'll get to that later.

2)  Beyond basic veggies my husband and I haven't been exposed to much variety and I'd like to not pass that on, and expose them to more at an early age.  Also, we focus a lot on traditional meals, and have been in a what-to-make rut for a while, so this to help break out of that.

3) Our goal was to not throw any out..  Didn't happen.  But we did eat way more veggies than we would have and our diet was substantially more varied (less pasta).  It was a shift from an occasional veggie as a side, to veggies as the main course...  like a hearty salad.

4) I decided to take pictures for our haul each week so I'll be able to remember what veggies I liked, didn't like, and what I'd like to grow when I get a garden.  I've done some gardening of typical sutff, green beans, tomatos, etc...  but not much more. I decided to post these pictures, so others can have a little guidelines to expect each week for a share of a CSA, since I had no idea.

 [NOTE: your CSA will vary.  Considerably.]

Without further ado, here's what our CSA looked like in 2012:

 Week 1 -  Lettuce x2, Napa cabbage, rhubarb, beets, radishes, maple syrup (not pictured)

 Week 2 - herbs, garlic scapes, green onions, rubarb, red russian kale, lettuce x2

Week 3 - lettuce x2, sugar snap peas, broccoli, garlic scapes, green onions

Week 5 -baby bok choy, carrots, beets, peas, sugar snap peas, garlic, zucchini, cucumber, red russian kale
(at this point we got a salad spinner...  which of course we didn't need quite as much anymore)

Week 6 - curly kale, beets, carrots, peas, zucchini, tomato, summer squash, onions, garlic, sunflower

Week 7 - carrots garlic, tomatoes, lettuce, kale, onions, cucumber, zucchini... and something else

Week 8 - tomatoes, cucumber, zucchini, carrots, beans, squash, beets, curly kale, onions, garlic

Week 10 - rainbow chard, corn, beans, carrots, onions, garlic, zucchini, squash, tomatoes (being stolen)

Week 12 - lettuce x2, Brussels sprouts, tomatos, garlic, onion, pepper, onion, potatoes, cantaloupe x2, zucchini, green onions

Week 13 - tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, squash, herbs, garlic, onions, lettuce and some other stuff...

 Week 14 - tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, onions, Brussels sprouts, radishes, lettuce, garlic, peppers... some sort of squash?

Week 15 -  red russian kale, onions, sprouts, beets, potoatoes, peppers, tomatoes, cauliflower, squash

Week 16 - maple syrup, mushrooms, lettuce, squash, carrots, onions, garlic, potatoes

 Week 17 - lettuce, Brussel sprouts, potatoes, onions, cabbage, squashes, garlic... and some mystery items

Week 18 - pumpkins, lettuce, onions, rainbow chard, carrots, potatoes... and a mystery item

 Week 19 - herbs, beets, carrots, potatoes, green onions, squashes... and more mystery items (it's hard to do this in retrospect)

 Week 20 - beets, carrots, onions, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, kale... and even more mystery stuff

Overall, the experience was good. I'll get to more details in the next post...