At the start of January I set some goals for my month of meat-free eating. One of them was to sign up for a winter CSA, and I just got my first pickup from Avalon Acres. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and here’s the idea: you pay a farm at the start of a season, kind of like a loan, and they pay you back in what they produce. Your money allows the farm to purchase supplies, pay employees, make repairs, etc. For many farms, a winter CSA offers income they wouldn’t otherwise have since the farm isn’t producing as much during the colder months and many farmers’ markets have closed for the season. Plus you’re keeping your money in the local economy and you’re guaranteed to get tasty, homegrown food.
“But,” you might ask, “It’s winter – if the farm isn’t producing as much, what would I get?” I signed up for a half share of the Preserved Harvest Package from Avalon. According to their website, my bi-monthly baskets could include a mix of peanuts, apple sauce, radishes, carrots, lettuces, sweet potatoes, winter squash, and other winter vegetables as available, homemade pastas and spaghetti sauce, plus canned or frozen sweet corn, green beans, shelled peas, stewed tomatoes, tomato juice, sorghum, honey, jams, jellies, preserves, pickles, apple butter, pear butter, popping corn or corn meal. Check out what was in the first box:
From left, I got green onions, kale, broccoli, white turnips, red potatoes, cabbage, a regular turnip, beets, watermelon jelly, a radish, and parsnips! What a haul. I’ll get a box like this every two weeks.
The Avalon Acres CSA also offers mix and match packages of meat, cheese, milk, eggs and some baked good. Avalon co-ops with a network of local farmers and offers a lot of flexibility in their share options. You can specify how much of each and what kind (from breakfast sausage to premium beef, goat cheese only or a mix, etc.). I have friends who have been members of Avalon’s CSA for years and really enjoy the flexibility for their family. I intend to add meat and cheese come February.
Figuring out what to do with the veggies and preserved items I get will be a great challenge. I split a fall CSA with a friend and found that one trick to have up your sleeve when dealing with unfamiliar veggies is a good vinaigrette. It’s fun to look up proper recipes for new veggies, but in a pinch you can roast or saute most anything and then toss it with a good vinaigrette. Think roasted sweet potatoes and turnips with an orange balsamic vinaigrette, or kale or collards sliced thin and sautéed in a hot pan then tossed with a lemon vinaigrette. It might seem daunting at first, but just dive right in. You’ll be buying local, eating delicious food, and your confidence in the kitchen will be better for it.
A version of this story also appeared in the Tennessean.
If you’re thinking of joining a CSA and have any questions, please feel free to comment below or email me. I’ve just gone through the process and it’s all fresh in my mind. Fire away!
This handy vinaigrette is delicious in everything from salads and roasted veggies to pasta and tuna salads.
½ cup olive oil
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
¼ cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons honey
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Combine all ingredients for either vinaigrette in a ½ pint jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake vigorously to emulsify. Serve immediately or store in the fridge for up to 3 days.