Farm, Meet Table: CSAs Bring Crops into Our Kitchens

Farm, Meet Table

CSAs Bring Crops into Our Kitchens

by Allison Gorman
Hilltop Hanover Farm and Environmental Center

Hilltop Hanover Farm and Environmental Center

Here’s a prediction: This summer, hundreds of local families will eat enough fresh produce to topple the food pyramid. They’ll experiment with recipes for edamame or turnips or beets. And their kids will try their veggies without being prodded.

These are the members of CSAs—Community Supported Agriculture—small farms that presell shares of the season’s harvest to the public. The burgeoning CSA movement has done wonders for the lifestyle of members, who get weekly helpings of a wide variety of fresh, chemical-free produce; save money by cooking at home more frequently; and feel fully vested in the meals they prepare and eat.

But CSA members aren’t the only beneficiaries of this arrangement. Local economies benefit, as more small farms adopt the CSA model to stay economically viable while staying true to their mission of responsible, hands-on agriculture. And the earth benefits, too, as more people choose to eat seasonally and locally (less produce trucked in from far away) and sustainably (fewer pesticides and other pollutants in the soil and water).

 

Sustaining Tradition

Elizabeth Ryder, owner of Ryder Farm Cottage Industries in Brewster, NY, says its CSA members aren’t just sustaining the earth by buying shares of the farm’s certified organic produce—they’re sustaining centuries of tradition.

“Membership in our CSA provides direct support to local agriculture and helps in keeping the history of a family farm that dates back to 1795,” she says.

Though CSAs are a modern trend, many of them operate on farms with a similarly rich history. Fishkill Farms in Hopewell Junction, NY, is a historic apple orchard that has been in the Morgenthau family for nearly 100 years. Hilltop Hanover Farm and Environmental Center, now a working crop farm and environmental education facility in Yorktown Heights, NY, is a former dairy farm whose roots reach back to the 1600s.

 

Eco-Friendly Farming

With all CSAs, the emphasis is on the land and sustainable farming practices. Harvest Moon Farm and Orchard in North Salem, NY, reflects the high environmental standards typical of CSA farms, offering only GMO-free, organically grown produce.

“By becoming a member of our CSA, you are choosing healthy, high-quality, safe food for you and your family,” says manager Christine Tartaglia.

From its eco-friendly fruits to its pasture-raised laying hens, Fishkill Farms adheres to the practices of the Northeast Organic Farming Association Farmer’s Pledge, says CSA coordinator Michelle Siefermann.

“Our apples are organically grown or certified ‘Eco Apple’ by Red Tomato,” she says. “Our stone fruit is also grown following their low-spray, eco approach.”

 

Diverse Menu

A big part of sustainable farming is producing crops appropriate to the local weather and topography, so CSA members can expect to find seasonal produce in their weekly shares. But many CSA farms also carry specialty or hard-to-find foods from other local farms.

Honey, jellies, maple syrup (in season), pie, eggs and apples are among the locally sourced foods available for purchase at Hilltop Hanover’s farm store, says board member Thomas McLoughlin.

Harvest Moon Farm regularly uses other local farms as a resource to expand the weekly menu for its CSA customers, Targalia says. “Every week our farm manager visits other local farms—mainly root-crop farms, as our soil is too rocky to grow them,” she says. “We handpick from their freshest harvests to bring home and fill our CSA members’ boxes.”

 

The Weekly Harvest

HHF 1 tomatoeOnce the CSA season begins—a date that varies by farm, along with the length of season—CSAs designate a day or two a week for members to pick up their shares. Fishkill Farms, for example, has a pickup at its farm store in Hopewell Junction on Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings, and a second Saturday-morning pickup at the Old Stone House in Brooklyn.

While some farms, like Harvest Moon, pre-pack members’ shares, others, like Hilltop Hanover Farm (HHF), have members select pre-arranged amounts, which vary by week according to availability.

“The organic crops are picked that morning, and the Hilltop Hanover Farm staff decides the allocation for each available crop,” McLoughlin says. “The weekly selections are then arranged farm-stand style, with signs designating the amount allowed per vegetable.” CSA members usually leave with two or three large bags of produce that will feed a family of four or more, he says.

Like many local farms, Hilltop Hanover operates a garden where the public can pick their own produce for purchase. Fishkill Farms operates a pick-your-own garden specifically for its CSA members, who can include some of what they harvest in their shares. Fishkill also has a separate milk, egg and cheese share.

 

Reconnecting 

Between the items grown on site and those sourced from neighboring farms, the variety of produce sold through CSAs and their affiliated farm stands (which are open to the public) is staggering. Among the four farms profiled here, for example, offerings range from edamame and nectarines to fresh flowers and numerous herbs.

People in our area are responding to that bounty in a big way. Perhaps CSAs have given back what Americans lost over the past several decades, somewhere between TV dinners and Lunchables: a connection to food and to the earth from which it comes.

 

CSAs at a Glance

Fishkill Farms

9 Fishkill Farm Rd., Hopewell Junction, NY. Second pickup site in Brooklyn

Pickups: Fridays 2-7pm; Saturdays 8-10 am; Saturdays (Brooklyn) 8 am-noon

CSA offerings: organically grown vegetables, herbs, apples, berries, fruits; separate milk, egg & cheese share

Info: 845.897.4377, csa@fishkillfarms.com, FishkillFarms.com

 

Harvest Moon Farm and Orchard 

130 Hardscrabble Rd. North Salem, NY

Pickups: Thursdays

CSA offerings: organically grown fruits and vegetables, separate milk share, plus selected produce from neighboring farms

Info: 914.485.1210, harvestmoonorchard@gmail.com

HarvestMoonFarmAndOrchard.com

 

Hilltop Hanover Farm and Environmental Center

1271 Hanover St. Yorktown Heights, NY

Pickups: Tuesdays & Thursdays 2-7pm

CSA offerings: organically grown vegetables, flowers, “U Pick ” available

Info: 914.962.2368, info@hilltophanoverfarm.org, HilltopHanoverFarm.org

 

Ryder Farm Cottage Industries 

400 Starr Ridge Rd. Brewster, NY

Pickups: Wednesdays after noon (farm) or Monday-Friday (cooler)

CSA offerings: certified organic vegetables, herbs, occasional flowers

Info: 845.279.4161, RyderFarmOrganic@aol.com, RyderFarmOrganic.com

 

Food Workshops at Hilltop Hanover Farm Summer 2014

hilltop-farmstandHilltop Hanover Farm and Environmental Center is a working crop farm and environmental education facility in Yorktown Heights. Formerly a dairy farm, and with roots dating back to the 1600s, it now serves as a regional educational hub, offering programs on healthy and sustainable food production, skills for small-scale suburban and urban farmers, and sustainable living practices for local communities. The farm features demonstration models for backyard farming, animal management, rainwater harvesting, organic composting and green-roof technology.

The farm is open Tuesday-Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and hosts a U Pick program Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The regular farm stand is open Fridays from 1 to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. All its produce, which is grown on site, is free of pesticides, herbicides and synthetic fertilizers. A list of the crops available at the farm stand and through the U Pick program is online at HilltopHanoverFarm.org

The farm offers an array of workshops throughout the summer, including “Preserving the Harvest: Pickling” (July 7 at 1 p.m.); “Couples Cooking” (July 18 at 7 p.m.); “Cheese Making” (July 26 at 1 p.m.); “Pests and Disease in the Garden” (July 26 at 2 p.m.); “Planning the Fall Garden” (August 2 at 2 p.m.); “Preserving the Harvest: Canning” (August 9 at 9 a.m.); “Couples Cooking” (August 15 at 7 p.m.); “Cheese Making” (August 23 at 1 p.m.); “Seed Saving” (August 30 at 10 a.m.); and “Fermented Foods” (August 30 at 1 p.m.). Workshop fees vary depending upon the activity.

Hilltop Hanover Farm and Environmental Center is located at 1271 Hanover St., Yorktown Heights, NY. For info about upcoming events, workshops or other activities, visit HilltopHanoverFarm.org.