Sunday, March 13, 2011

Eating With the Seasons CSA, Bare root fruit trees, meyer lemon marmalade

Eating with the Seasons CSA 'small' selection (plus one extra)
Eating with the Seasons is my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).  It's really an awesome experience.   We are on a 'regular' small plan now.  That means we just finished a 'trial' period.  Both the trial and our regular plan are a 4 week thing.  To be honest, I am not 100% sure of the logistical difference.  The concept is, sign up for 4 weeks to see if it works for you.  Once you decide, you can sign up for on-going 'regular' service once a week.  So, maybe I will review our trial period in an addendum post.  In a nutshell, let me summarize:

Trial Period, Eating with the Seasons CSA results:
- every single item we ordered was delicious.  I don't mean good.  I mean exceptionally delicious.  In some cases, the best I've ever had (see Pink Lady apples in the picture above).  In many cases, we continued to get the same thing the following weeks, and it was consistently stellar.
- EWTS people are just as good as the produce.  Exceptional.  Super nice demeanor, helpful, and just someone you are glad to know.
- All in all, a great addition to our week.

Our first regular order
You can chose either extra small, small, medium or large orders.  We switched from large (12 items) to small (6 items).  The last order we received, it was a bit of effort to use everything up, and, as it turns out, there is not much downside to having a small, and individually adding to it, by order, so that's what we did.  The first order for 6, we added one extra item, which was an additional $2.75 beyond the weekly rate, which may be $15.00-16.00  or so, for 6 items.

Here's our order and confirmation email so you can see how it works:

We have received your order. Thank you.
Below is a summary of the contents of your order.

1 Kiwi (1.0 lbs)
1 Fennel (1.0 loose)
1 Dandelion Greens (1.0 bunch)
1 Pink Lady Apples (4.0 loose)
1 Minneola Tangerines (4.0 loose)
1 Parsnips (1.0 lbs)
1 Dill (1.0 bunch)

Amount charged: 2.75
Date of delivery: Mar 11, 2011
Pick-up location: San Carlos

Thank you
Eat With The Seasons

Tips and Tricks of our CSA
So, using a CSA took a little adjustment.  The good news is, it didn't take long, and, it just makes life better.  It's like exercise.  After you've done it, you're happy you did it.  A few tips we wondered about, and learned:
- You have lots of choice.  Yes, you sign up to have a weekly delivery, and you have a very large number of choices of fruits and vegetables each week, so we never ran into a situation where we were wishing our order quantity was less than it was.
- Second, our CSA people are flexible when it comes to delivery locations.  Even within the week, I made adjustments, and felt like it wasn't an undue burden on my CSA peeps.
- Third, everything we ordered was delicious.  
- Finally, pick up is at a house on the front porch.  Very convenient.  Just drop by during your time, and find your name on your bag, and pick it up.  Our pick up was in our town, and handy.

Jib Jab
First, and maybe foremost, a CSA is not a grocery store.  It's not a Trader Joe's, or a Whole Foods, and of course, it's not a Safeway.  I am learning to avoid the comparisons.   Our CSA has nothing to do with commodity price comparisons.  If you are looking for something 'cheaper' than Safeway, or cheaper than whatever,  you are not going to be happy.

Shopping takes on a new meaning.  For example, you have to order and pickup.  I have heard of other CSAs who deliver to your door.  Sounds super convenient, and truthfully, expense for someone, likely everyone.  Farmer and otherwise, let alone mother earth.  Our CSA touts, it's a way of life.  As a marketeer, I read that as if it's marketing spin.  As it turns out, it's not.

You've heard the age old bumper sticker, Think Globally, Act Locally.  Yes, now you are talking CSA.  Now you've hit the center of the bull's eye.  A CSA is a way of life.  It sounds overly dramatic, and it is.  Although, speaking for myself, it's those itty bitty, teeny, tiny decisions that make the most significant difference.  I see you cracking a smile.  It's true for you too, right?!  So, yes, a CSA addresses all those things you've heard about in Omnivore's Dilemma, Super-size me, Food Inc., Slow Food movement.  all those books and movies talking about how corporations are 'helping' us with 'easier' meals, 'faster' meals, and so on.  The bottom line is, they aren't after making our lives better, their focus is on making money for a corporation.  Yes, capitalism is good.  No, it shouldn't be our society's singular or primary measure of success.  Wow.  That didn't take long for me to get on my soapbox.  Suffice it to say, the CSA is about a sustainable future.

It's about getting closer to what we eat.  It's about supporting an environment and community.  It sure sounds like the 70's all over again.  Peace, Love and patchouli oil.   It is, and it isn't.  I think there are those farmers and ranchers who are committed to a way of life, and then there are the CSA organizers, who bring a sales channel to all of us, in the neighborhood.  Yes, you have to order your food a few days in advance, and pick it up in a specific window of time, so yes, it's less convenient than Safeway.

- It's more expensive.  I'm going to get that out there right away.  Don't do this if you are out to save yourself money in your budget for groceries.  Frankly, I could have said, when you add everything up and look at the total cost, bla bla bla, it saves money.  I am sure plenty would love to have a raging discussion about this.  I think there are valid points about saving money by having quality food, and eating less of it.  I can see saving money and lowering your calorie intake by eating higher quality food, and less emphasis on quantity.

So, is the only reason to do it, to save the planet?  Not to me. Again, it's subtle at first.  It seems like the right thing to do, and I have to think about it a bit to really understand.  What do I mean?  Okay, a little story.  (I am wondering if I am going to get to bare root trees and marmalade in this post...)  the Jib Jab is kicking in...

A little story.
Why did I start with a CSA?  Is was my two daughters.  Both passionate people.  Sarah is more of a doer, and Moira more of a thinker, but both wanted and liked the CSA idea, so we did it.  To be honest, I did it more as a family thing than anything else.

First Order
Moira ordered with me.  It was fun!! You pick what you want, from an extensive list of choices from the CSA.  We had the 'large' order, which means 12 items.  We also had a dozen eggs every other week.  You pick those 12 items from about 30 to chose from.  In our email, they also make suggestions on the weekly picks, what's particularly good to them, and so on.  So, our order is in by Wednesday, and we pick up on Friday, between 3-9pm in San Carlos.  It's a person's front porch.  A bag with our name on it.  It's exciting and fun and you feel like you are a part of something.  Pouring the bag out on the counter is a bit like dumping your halloween bag after trick or treating.  What did I get!?!?!

First Glance
At first glance, I had a twinge of, geez, those are small, and, wow, those aren't very shiny.  In almost the next breath, I realized how the supermarket had conditioned me.  Big is better.  More is better.  Quantity, quantity, quantity.

I have this built-in hypersensitive part of my brain that resists being told what to do, and the alarm was going off.  Big brother national grocery store chains had influenced my decision...  So, I tried a 'small' apple.  It didn't look particularly special.  It was firm, a tiny bit dusty looking, I would call it?  So, I wiped it off, bit into it, and immediately knew I loved my CSA.  The taste is outrageously good.  Such an intense delicious dense flavor of sweet and tart.  Nirvana.

So, we've been doing this for 5 weeks now.  We've had a couple challenges.  We were leaving town the day of delivery for about a week.  What can we do?  Well, my CSA guy was so helpful working with me.  We came up with dropping it to another one of their Thursday locations, which worked out great.  The next challenge was, we forgot to order during our ordering window.  The rule says, you will get the 'default' order.  I thought, oh geez, all the stuff we would prefer not to- potatoes, onions, carrots, that kind of thing.  As it turns out, we did get some of that.  I'm glad we did too.  The carrots were absolutely delicious.  Sweet, crunchy.  Not woody, super tasty.  Really a special treat.  Yes, I am used to getting carrots in bulk for a really low price at the grocery store.  It just isn't that.  It's what you would expect if you grew a garden and harvested.  They are awesome!!  So, yes.  There have been some adjustments.  It's a new paradigm.  And I love it.

Okay, another post will be marmalade and trees.  :-)

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