These days, it seems every restaurant has embraced a farm-to-table philosophy, building their menus around locally grown or butchered foods. You can embrace this practice at home by signing up for one of the many community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs popping up in the area. Consider it a farm-to-kitchen table approach to home cooking.
When you sign up for a CSA program, you’re buying a “share” from a local farmer, who throughout the season delivers to you fresh, delicious produce, dairy products and/or other items straight from the farm. Often times these small farms are organic, and many arrange for picks up at various convenient locations around the area.
Shares are generally broken down into full and half—full are generally ideal for families, half for singles and couples. The type of share will vary from farm to farm and can include the following (or some combination of the following):
Boxed-style: The farmer divides his weekly crop yields among members and delivers it to them in share boxes. Most of the time, the box shares are the farmer’s choice, but some CSA programs allow the member to designate a preferences ahead of time.
Market-style: Members buy into a CSA in the beginning of the season and are given an account by the farmer. Each week they select which products they would like, and the amount is debited from their account.
Pick-your-own: Members are invited to pick their own produce at the farm.
Many farmers also offer dairy, eggs, flowers, herbs, meat, and/or bread with their shares, and some request that members volunteer time on the farm to help planting and picking (some shares require it, others offer discount incentives).
In addition to promoting local agriculture and business, CSA benefits the community by helping to reduce the farm’s carbon footprint—farms shares eliminate the need for transporting produce cost country.
As a farm-share member, you not only bolster the local economy, but also guarantee a bounty of fresh (and generally organic) produce ideal for anyone’s diet. And, you just might fall in love with new foods in your share that you normally would have shied away from in the grocery store (kale, anyone?).
Of course, you could always approach each delivery a Top Chef Quick Fire Challenge, inspiring you to invent new dishes with each delivery—minus the presence of Tom and Padma in your kitchen.
Here are some CSA programs in the area, or visit localharvest.org to look for more.
A mix-and-match system picked up at the farm weekly for full-share members and every other week for half shares.
Pick-up: Farm in Wrightstown, Pa.
Price: $410-$760 (Wrightstown residents), $430-$800 (non-Wrightstown residents)
Duration: late May–mid-November
A market share program, where you pick out your own items at the Doylestown Farmers Market.
Pick Up: Doylestown Farmers’ Market, Doylestown, Pa.
Price: $250 to $750
An array of seasonal fruits, vegetables, cheeses with some choice involved, work-share discounts and pick-ups offered in several locations.
Pick-ups: The farm in Perkasie, Glenside, Doylestown Farm Market, Montgomeryville
A market-style CSA where members pick out produce at regional farmers markets.
Pick-ups: Princeton, Rutgers, Pennington, and Stangl Factory farmers markets (Flemington)
Honey Brook Organic Farm
Boxed shares delivered to pick-up sites throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Pick-ups: N.J.: Basking Ridge, Collingswood, Cranbury, Flemington, Highland Park, Lambertville, Maplewood, Medford, Metuchen, Moorestown, Morristown, Mountainside, Ocean, Pennington, Princeton, Princeton Junction, Shrewsbury, Somerville, South Orange, Spring Lake Heights, Summit, Titusville, Trenton; Pa.: Newtown, Yardley
Griggstown Quail Farm
Locally harvested vegetables, flowers and herbs picked up at the farm, with a “pick your own” option.
Pick-ups: The farm in Princeton
Price: $299 to $650