Posted inEat, Food+Drink

Time to sign up for your spring CSA


April means that the spring harvest is right around the corner, and farms will soon be delivering CSA boxes chock full of sweet berries, mild spring onions, and tender green peas.

Joseph Fields Farm has got you covered for your fruits, veggies, and herbs.  His “Pick Your Own” CSA allows customers to choose whatever vegetables they wish to consume for the week by weight and his participation in farmers markets all over town makes it easy to collect food as needed. His farm is almost as local as it gets without being downtown, located on River Road in John’s Island.

Another close to home grower, Lowland Farms, offers you an option of a small ($250) or large ($400) CSA package, available in late April. They have a veritable rainbow of everything from wildflowers and cherry tomatoes to onions, radishes, and carrots, which are also sold at the downtown farmers market.

Legare Farms operates one of the oldest CSAs in Charleston, with plenty of potatoes, onions, beets, turnips, kale, and broccoli available this spring. For those of you interested in their antibiotic-and hormone-free chickens, eggs, pork, and beef, they have a similar CSA-type option from $250-$1000. Depending on the weather, they plan to start the spring CSA the week of April 22.

A popular seasonal CSA for downtowners especially is the one offered by Rosebank Farms — probably because if you have a 29401-3 address, they’ll deliver right to your porch. Their spring CSA runs from April 18-July 6 and will offer over 30 regional treats, from arugula and collards to strawberries and blueberries.

Compost In My Shoe has a CSA with naturally grown herbs and vegetables. Their farm share comes with options for a full share (1-2 people) or a Deluxe share (3-4 people). The goods come once a week to a local drop off point in the city, or for an additional charge, to your doorstep.

A friendly farm with singles and students in mind, Ambrose Family Farm offers a “tiny share” CSA for those committed to produce over pizza, but who can only afford (or consume) enough veggies for a couple of meals a week. There are 26 non-private drop-off points in Charleston to make pick up convenient. Although the spring CSA started this week, you can still sign up for a prorated rate.

Our Local Foods at Thornhill Farm may be a mouthful to say, but they also deliver a mouthful of fresh produce with their seasonal CSAs. Their Spring/Summer CSA will open up April 15 and each week will bring new goods. Expect yummies like berries, delicate spring greens, and hearty root veggies this Spring. Their CSA options are 14 weeks long and you can choose from medium ($350) or large ($460). Medium comes with 7-8 pounds of produce weekly, good if you’re in a couple because it provides just enough for 2, and large comes with 9-10 pounds, sufficient for a family of four. There are 10 pick-up locations in the Charleston area both downtown and over bridges.

Newcomers to the farm scene, Wabi Sabi is offering their premier CSA after a successful first year of farming. They’ll offer seasonal treats like squash and, for the first time, strawberries.

Gruber Farm is best known if not for Coach Stanley Gruber, than for his CSA offerings. A farmer/football coach, Gruber harvests his own goods at his farm in St. George, but has 9 drop-off points here in Charleston. His produce is guaranteed fresh and hand picked the day prior to delivery. He’s got over 40 crops to keep those hungry stomachs full of fresh veggies.

For their spring CSA, Hudson Farm is offering your choice of over 30 crops, from tomatoes to sugar peas. Hudson sends CSA participants weekly emails with what will end up in their box, along with some recipes to try with the goods. A good-hearted farm, Hudson offers a tax write-off to those willing to send a CSA box to the Lowcountry Food Bank, and if you’re gone for a few days, CSA members can donate their box o’ crops for the single week. The spring CSA was set to start this week, but due to cold weather they won’t start delivering until April 16.

Although CSAs are usually dedicated to providing locals with the freshest produce, Keegan-Filion Farm decided to breach the standard and offer a CSA entirely dedicated to naturally raised meat in 2012. Specifically, Keegan-Filion raises pastured poultry, hogs, and grass fed beef. A typical monthly share consist of enough meat to throw a dinner party fit for the knights of the round table with 2 whole chickens, ground beef, stew beef, a beef roast, a combination of bacon, brats, and several kinds of sausage, thick cut pork chops, and a pork roast-totalling at a whopping 15-20 pounds of meat. If you’d like more of one thing and less of something else, feel free to give them a heads up and KFF is happy to oblige.

Posted inA La Carte, Food+Drink

Time to sign up for your spring CSA

Warm weather makes us think about the spring harvest and that, my friends, makes us think about signing up for a CSA. Over the last couple years, Community Supported Agriculture programs have really taken root (har har) around here.

A CSA is essentially an investment in the local farming community. You pay the farmer in advance, and when the harvest comes in, you’ll receive a bountiful box of produce each week. But as with all investments, there are risks. If all goes well, you’ll be rolling in the tomatoes, but should the crops get damaged by a late frost? Well, you’ll end up feeling a bit of the farmer’s pain and will have less to show for your money. The spring season brings asparagus, radishes, broccoli, onions, turnips, collards, and strawberries along with peanuts, mixed greens, and beets.

Last spring and fall, we bought into the Pinckney’s Produce CSA and wholeheartedly recommend this farm’s program. They’re highly organized (with cute green bins), very receptive to suggestions, and work with other farms in their area to provide interesting alternatives (like kiwis grown in South Carolina!). At their drop sites, they’ve set up swap boxes for subscribers to trade items. Hate yellow squash? Put it in the box and help yourself to whatever else is in there. They are currently accepting subscribers for their spring (April 19-July 15) season and prices range from $234 for a small share to $559 for an extra large one.

If you’d like a little bit of local color with your CSA, then by all means, sign up for Rosebank Farms CSA. What you’ll get in return for your investment is a weekly newsletter written by Louise Bennett, who shares charming stories and delicious recipes. Rosebank has a spring, summer, and fall season, each running 12 weeks. You can subscribe for an entire year, or sign up for spring (first week of April through mid-June). Seasonal shares range from $200 to $400. Rosebank also has an egg share (unfortunatley, it’s full), a flower share ($64 for spring), and a Giddy Goat Cheese share ($50-$100).

Thackeray Farms on Wadmalaw Island has a similar time frame and price structure as Rosebanks. Kenneth “Skinny” Melton writes a regular blog during the harvest, and you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook too.

Legare Farms does things a little bit differently. Their CSA share is for 15 weeks: nine weeks in spring and summer and six weeks in the fall, with a mid-summer break when the heat and sun do nothing but burn up the crops. Prices range from $355 for a full share and $245 for a half share. At its five drop sites, Legare farmers are on hand to answer questions and get to know you. They also have beef for sale.

Babs and Pete Ambrose have a CSA at Ambrose Family Farms, along with a healthy list of guidelines for city slickers interested in signing up. My favorite: “Beauty is only skin deep. It might be ugly, but it’s still got character. This spring season, we harvested fresh garlic. It was ugly, stinky, and dirty (all the things that make great produce a real pleasure). It didn’t look like garlic but it sure smelled like garlic. A lot of members threw it away and complained about the stinky ugly dirty ‘thing’ in their box. But those who surmised from the smell that it might be garlic and tried it, had one of the most pleasurable experiences in their lives — fresh garlic. If you have questions about an item and cannot figure out what in the heck it is, check the web site for possible answers or call! Don’t just throw it away.”

You get the sense that they have little patience for ignorant city slickers — and who can blame them? Why would you throw out garlic!? They have a list of what they plan to grow for the spring season, which includes a nice variety of fruits, vegetables, flowers, and whatever Pete decides to experiment with. Ambrose also allows CSA members to pick-their-own herbs, blackberries, and other crops that are too expensive to harvest. Share prices range from $208-$611.

If you’d like to support more than the farmer, think about the Our Local Foods CSA at Thornhill Farms in McClellanville. The farm out there is home to the Adaptive Gardens of the Lowcountry, a program that lets people with disabilities and special needs get their hands dirty, planting and harvesting. They also offer a locally sourced food delivery program called Kitchen Table Cuisine where you can order a wonderful variety of hard-to-find items like McCucheon Farms grass-fed beef, Keegan Filion Farms pastured pork and free-range chicken, lamb from Ovis Hill, fresh-made sausages, free-range eggs, Happy Cow Creamery milk and butter, goat cheese, Rio Bertolini pasta, Anson Mills heritage grains, McCrady’s soups, stocks, and sauces, and locally roasted coffee. KTC makes weekly deliveries all across town.

For more CSA options, visit Lowcountry Local First’s website, which has a list of area CSAs, from St. George to St. Helena and all points in between.