No, I'm not calling for a new Confederacy in the Southern US, it's time for us to re-up with our local Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) provider. If you're not familiar with this term, CSA is a concept by which you can receive naturally grown, farm-fresh produce from a farmer in your area for a monthly (or, in our case, seasonal) fee. I'm not sure where exactly I first heard about it, but I think I read about it in a magazine sometime around last Summer. Now, I don't profess to be a hard-core green living enthusiast or against large-scale, corporate farming (after all, we do enjoy a good Big Mac around here); I did, however, like the idea of getting really fresh fruit and veggies grown within 100 miles of the homestead, so (with approval from Mrs. Hackknife) I signed us up for the past Fall season. During the warmer months, I like to frequent the area farmer's markets in search of good produce, but making the time to get over there with (or without) the kids can definitely be challenging. With our CSA membership, I only have to trek once a week to a nearby drop point to pick up my box of stuff and bring it home.
Our CSA provider is Genesis Growers near St. Anne (not far from Kankakee) Genesis Growers. There weren't a whole lot of options to choose from in the immediate area, but apparently I picked a well-regarded one since I later found out they also supply produce to a number of good restaurants in town (including Great Lakes Pizza, a Hackknife favorite). Once we signed up, on Wednesdays I would get an email from Genesis talking about what was happening at the farm, listing the fruit/veggies that we would be receiving in our box that week, and even a recipe or serving suggestion sometimes. On Thursdays after 1 pm, I would drive to a nearby carpet store (only 5 minutes from the house) to pick up the shipment. Why a carpet store? Well, they have an attached, marginally temp-controlled warehouse that Genesis identified as a good drop point, so they became a participating partner in this whole endeavor (and probably are getting a cut of the action - either $$$ or onions).
(Side note - I always imagine the hipsters working in the carpet store making snide comments about the tree huggers, health nuts, conspiracy theorists, etc. passing through their showroom on Thursdays to get their produce boxes. Since I'm usually in my grungy, unshaven stay-at-home parent persona when I go there, I wonder if they think I just live in my minivan or something. I'd love to be a fly on the wall.)
Once I got the box home, it was time to figure out what to do with the newfound bounty on my counter (believe me, $225 for 6 weeks buys you A LOT of farm veggies, usually more than we could comfortably use). I had to get creative with those items (carrots, squash, and onions, mostly) that we typically received in large quantities (carrot muffins, anyone?) and got a chance to work with several items that I'd never tried before (kohlrabi, brussels sprouts, beets, various strange greens). Luckily, my Joy of Cooking book has recipes for just about every vegetable that's ever been invented. I found that I kind of enjoyed planning dishes around the ingredients that were provided to me as opposed to the other way around, which, at the end of the day, will probably make me a better home cook.
We should only be a month or so away from our first shipment of Spring produce, so I'll definitely be posting about it when the time comes. Cheers....