Love to eat fresh food? Have a gastronomic sense of adventure? Then joining a CSA — community-supported agriculture — may be for you.
Here’s how CSAs work: You buy a share of a local farm’s bounty before the growing season even starts. At harvest, you get a weekly box of whatever is ripe for picking.
That means you get to eat healthy fruits and veggies, know where they came from and how they’re grown. Also, you’re supporting a local farmer by literally providing “seed money.”
Variations on a Theme
Because no two eaters have the same palate and families have different needs, CSAs are different. Farmers often pair up to offer a wider selection of produce or market-style variety. Some middlemen even offer CSA-like boxes along with non-seasonal produce like citrus.
“I think there’s room in the model for a lot of set-ups,” says Erin Barnett, director of Local Harvest, a local and organic food website.
For example, at 9 Bean Rows in Suttons Bay, recipients may get a box of produce as well as specialty greens, eggs and a loaf of wood-fired hearth bread. These artisanal farmers may even throw in an occasional jar of maple syrup or jam, a bottle of wine or juice, or a hunk of cheese, all made on-site.
For those who crave organic, locally-grown produce year-round, the Student Organic Farm CSA at Michigan State University may be just the ticket. A summer share gives members additional access to the CSA’s u-pick garden for greens, strawberries, herbs, and more, while a year-round shareholder also receives produce grown in summer and stored in winter, like parsnips, potatoes and garlic.
CSA and Beyond
Craig and Mary Rapin’s 45-acre farm in Cross Village is a prime example of how Old MacDonald’s has evolved.
The Rapins’ Bliss Gardens Farm & Community Kitchen includes a fully equipped, Michigan Department of Agriculture-certified kitchen where a dozen or more entrepreneurial folks make anything from BBQ sauce to macaroons to jams to sell, says Craig.
“Last year (2013) was the third summer the kitchen was open and we get calls almost monthly,” he says. “It’s really taking off.”
Former pharmacists from Petoskey, the Rapins offer cooking classes in the kitchen and the facility can be used in conjunction with events at the farm as well, such as weddings or other gatherings, for up to 150 people. On tap for this year is a canning club.
The civic-minded couple also uses the kitchen when they invite their neighbors to a community barn dance and potluck meals.
In addition, Bliss Gardens features a store; a farm-to-school program; wholesale accounts with stores, a restaurant and caterers; and a CSA. The Rapins’ personal CSA twist includes sometimes tossing in leeks, mushrooms and other food foraged from 25 wooded acres on the farm to give their clients a walk on the wild side.
Recipe: Asparagus, Wild Leek and Arugula Micro Greens Pizza
Recipe courtesy Kristin Celeste Shroeger, The Intentional Minimalist
This recipe features local produce from 9 Bean Rows Farm, Spring Hollow Farm and locally produced products from Dennett’s Gluten Free, Food for Thought and Farm Country Cheese House.
Gluten-free pizza crust mix
1 cup local sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup local white cheddar cheese
½ cup farm-fresh local asparagus
Farm-fresh local wild leeks
Local wild leek marinara sauce
Chili pepper flakes
Farm-fresh local arugula micro greens
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare and bake pizza crust.
Shred 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, 1 cup white cheddar cheese and mix cheese together. Remove tough ends from asparagus spears and slice ½ cup asparagus. Remove ¼ cup wild leek whites from greens and thinly slice leek whites. Chop ¼ cup wild leek greens.
Spread ½ cup wild leek marinara sauce on baked pizza crust. Top pizza with half the shredded cheese. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons chili pepper flakes onto cheese. Top pizza with sliced asparagus, sliced wild leek whites, wild leek greens and the remaining shredded cheese.
Bake pizza for 10 minutes. Turn oven off and place pizza in warm oven for an additional 5 minutes. Remove pizza from oven and let set a few minutes more. Sprinkle pizza with ¼ cup arugula micro greens before serving.
Go to facebook.com/blissgardensfarm, 9beanrows.com and msuorganicfarm.org to learn more about these CSAs, and peruse farm-to-table recipes created “black box” style based on what produce is received in a weekly community-supported agriculture farm share paired with locally-produced artisan products at theintentionalminimalist.com.