“I feel like I’m giving my kids an advantage, not only in serving them organic food, but that they will know that food doesn't come from a grocery store.” — Kelly Oggenfuss, Highland
Huguenot Street Farm in New Paltz offers unlimited “U-Pick”
to their shareholders, and their vegetable season lasts for 22 weeks. Visit
hvparent.com for a complete list of CSA farms in the Hudson Valley.
A $500 or higher
grocery bill might make most budget-conscious shoppers feel faint. Paying that
amount up front, sometimes months before seeing a single item of food, may in
fact seem downright horrific.
However, for a growing
number of Hudson Valley families, this is actually an ideal way to procure the
freshest foods grown by local farmers, and to ensure a farm-to-table experience
for an entire season.
These are the families
who purchase community supported agriculture shares directly from farms.
It works like this:
farmers sell a predetermined number of shares before the growing season begins.
Each week of the growing season, those who purchased a share receive a portion
of what was grown on the farm. This amounts to several pounds of fresh, local
produce guaranteed each week.
Looking for a CSA near you? Check out our list of Hudson Valley farms offering CSA shares.
Good for farmers
Selling produce this
way is beneficial to the farmers, since they are paid up front and do not have
to worry that an unexpected storm or unusual weather pattern may decimate their
finances for that season. It also allows them to take some risks and try out
new plants. Also, since they do the bulk of their marketing early in the season
they have more time to devote to tending their crops.
The benefits to
families who join are numerous. The first and most obvious is the local fresh
food, guaranteed for approximately 20 weeks, depending on the farm.
Kelly Oggenfuss of Highland has been a member of the
Huguenot Street Farm CSA program for 10 years. Her sons, Adrian, 4, and Julian,
1, help her pick the food. “They're excited to sit down at dinner and
proudly tell their dad that they helped pick those green beans.”
This freshness guarantee
is one of the reasons that Kelly Oggenfuss joined Huguenot Street Farm in 2004.
“I love having local and organic produce in season,” says the mother of two
from Highland. “It is often more flavorful than grocery store produce. I also
love knowing the farmers and what exactly they put on the produce. We get a weekly
newsletter about what they're doing, what crops are doing well or poorly, and
what techniques they're using to combat pests or disease.”
Good for kids
Diana Hill Brooks of
Red Hook has belonged to Hearty Roots Farm for the past four years. She says
that eating the fresh food from the CSA share with her family was an invaluable
lesson for her children.
“As a result of
the abundance of fresh local produce, my children have learned very healthy
eating habits and even in college understand the importance of fresh local
produce and seek out the farmers markets,” she says.
children are 4 and 1, agrees.
“I feel like I’m giving
my kids an advantage, not only in serving them organic food, but that they will
know that food doesn't come from a grocery store,” she says. “It comes from a
farm. They pick and eat their own fruits and veggies right in the field.
They're excited to sit down at dinner and proudly tell their dad that they
helped pick those green beans.”
Because members never
know from week to week which vegetables they will get and in what quantity,
they get to expand their palates and culinary skills.
“I learned to pickle,
make jelly, and freeze veggies so we've been using the share still in the
winter,” says Briana Maloney, who joined Kelder’s Farm in Kerhonkson last year.
Maloney, also of Kerhonksen, says her 3-year-old has developed a taste for kale
chips because of the quantity of kale her family received as part of their
Brooks, too, says her
family has been exposed to new vegetable choices. “I have learned to can and preserve
the produce so that we can enjoy it all year.”
Good for community
Joining a CSA is also a
chance to expand your community and get to know your farmers. Oggenfuss says
that the sense of community is one of the reasons that she has been returning
to her CSA for 10 years. “I love exchanging recipes in the pickup line, the end-of-the-year
potluck, and letting the kids play at the farm.”
A CSA box from Kelder’s Farm in Kerhonkson.
Kelder’s Farm offers special incentives for families, including a free season’s
pass to their jumping pillow for shareholders.
Lastly, for those
parents who struggle with getting a wiggly toddler into a shopping cart while
avoiding a meltdown in every aisle, CSA members say the scheduled pickups are
often enjoyable for children. Some
farms that offer CSA shares even offer special incentives for kids. Kelder’s
Farm includes a free pass for their jumping pillow with the cost of the share. “It
became my Tuesday afternoon ritual with my toddler to go to spend time on the
jumping pillow, feed the animals, and pick up our share,” says Maloney.
Though there are many
benefits, those who purchase shares do acknowledge that there are some
drawbacks. First, since you don’t get to choose the vegetables that were grown,
members sometimes receive an abundance of vegetables that they don’t enjoy.
“I often give some
away, but when I don't, I feel wasteful composting it,” says Oggenfuss, whose
family doesn’t particularly like greens or beets. She also points out that the
food often does not have the shelf live of grocery food. “Farm lettuce starts
to spoil after four days in the fridge, while grocery store lettuce can last up
to two weeks.”
There is also that high
upfront price tag. For those who blanch at the idea, there are options. First,
many CSAs offer half shares, which allow you to pay half the cost of a full
share and receive half of the food. This is an ideal option for smaller
families. Even if the CSA that you choose doesn’t offer a half share, you can
work with another family to split the cost between you.
If the cost is still
prohibitive, Jacob Diaz, who owns Slow Roots Farm in Kingston, suggests talking
to the farmers, who may be willing to barter or may have some discounted shares
Dawn Green is a freelance writer and mom to two boys in