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Winter CSA Help Needed

I joined Farmer Dave's fruit and vegetable CSA three weeks ago and am pleased enough about it that I want to continue receiving my produce after it ends in October. To that end I have been researching Winter CSAs. I have found other farms that interest me as well as Farmer Dave's. I see there are different types of Winter CSAs where some are weekly and some are a few very large pick-ups. I am concerned about the storage of the larger pickups, though Shared Harvest seems like a great value by the look of their website. I am enjoying Farmer Dave's but theirs ends mid-December. Enterprise Farm seems to offer the most extended weekly service. I've done a lot of reading on these boards but feel I still need more information.

I am wondering if members would share their past experiences with Winter CSA's, particularly those with pick-ups North of Boston.

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  1. I did a winter CSA last year with the Food Project and was quite pleased, although I didn't store some things properly and suffered some losses. There are two large pickups for their shares in Lincoln. Now that I have chest freezer I think I could make better use of what I got, but generally was happy with the produce. I am enjoying their CSA this summer for the second time, although I wish there were more fruit and am jealous when I hear that people get eggs in their shares. I feel good about supporting the Food Project's mission and the times I have missed the pickup for my share I am glad to know that it goes to someone who needs it more than I do.

    My recommendation is to have some time to devote to planning and executing what you will do with your share because if you don't you will definitely have some waste.

    13 Replies
    1. re: suzysue2

      I'm a current member of Enterprise and my share ends in December. I've been loving having a surprise of veggies everyweek and it makes my trips to the grocery store few and far between (and much cheaper). I'm thinking about continuing through the winter but I'm curious as to what I should expect in a winter CSA. Obviously potatoes and squash and some leafy greens, but is there enough other things to keep it interesting or should I understand that that's basically what to expect?

      Suzy, are you talking about root cellar style storage? What did you end up with a glut of?

      1. re: Klunco

        I got Enterprise's winter CSA last year (we're on the year-round plan). There was a good variety of food because they source produce from up and down the east coast. There were still times when I had to store the potatoes and butternut squashes in the oven because I didn't have any room elsewhere (I have a small condo), but there was still a good mix of food.

        You can see some of their winter lists here: http://www.enterpriseproduce.com/arch...

        1. re: sdwr98

          I wish they had information about this past winter rather than 2010. I wonder why they stopped posting their information in November 2010. Or am I missing it?

          1. re: cpl100

            I'm with you cpl100. The other posts do give an idea but I'm really stuck if I want to continue and do winter with them or do the dogma box through Boston Organics and have the option to change to non-dogma if I get too overrun with root veggies. I am a vegetable eating machine, but I'm still only one man and I know how roots in particular tend to stockpile fast. Added plus of the add-ons on Boston Organics, but I do like all the people at Enterprise.

            Storage wise, I've heard of people filling coolers with some damp peat moss and making faux-root cellars. Anyone have any experience with this? Could I put the cooler on my porch to save space? It's that or in my apartment (usually around 64 degrees in winter)

            1. re: Klunco

              Klunco, I treid to reply to this a while ago and then forgot that it never went through, sorry...I have done the cooler-with-peat-moss thing. It worked very well for carrots, turnips, and celery root - all veggies that like cold and damp. I have a dark closest in the corner of our cellar that is ~50 degrees F in the early winter, dips to 40-45 degrees F in the dead of winter (January).

              I boiught a couple of styrofoam coolers, spread some wet peat moss in there and put the carrtos stand up on end (like they are in the ground). Filled in with more peat moss and kept the tops off of the coolers, Every week I'd pour a cup or two of water over the top of the peat moss to keep everything damp.

              I think you could put the cooler on the porch, as long as the temp stays above freezing - carrots, turnips, etc like cold and damp conditions. It would buy you a few weeks or even a couple of months time, I think, especially if you put the styrofoam cooler inside a larger box and threw a blanket over it on cold nights :-)

            2. re: cpl100

              They moved to a different publishing format, but those examples are pretty representative. Here's what I got the week of January 17 of this year:

              Rainbow Carrots: Atlas Farm, Deerfield
               Arugula: Dalponte Produce, Lake Placid, Florida
               Cilantro: Dalponte Produce, Lake Placid, Florida
               Tangelos: Eagle’s Nest Grove, Crescent City, Florida
               Strawberries: Wish Farms, Plant City, Florida
               Baby Spinach (Sust): Equinox Farm, Sheffield
               Yellow Onions (CV): Long Plain Farm, Whately
               Butternut Squash: Riverland Farm, Sunderland
               Beauregard Sweet Potatoes: ECO, N.Carolina
               Braeburn Apples (IPM): Apex Orchards, Shelburne

              and this is March 7:
              Apples, Apex Orchards, Shelburn, MA
              Braising Mix, Atlas Farm, Deerfield, MA
              Strawberries, Wishnatzki Farm, FL
              Baby Bok Choi, Lady Moon, FL
              Red Cabbage, Deep Root Coop, VT
              Red Leaf Lettuce, Lady Moon, FL
              Mesclun Mix (sust.), Equinox Farm, MA
              Red or Dino Kale, Lady Moon, FL
              Dandelion Greens, Lady Moon, FL
              Portabella Mushrooms, Country Fresh Mushrooms, PA
              Zucchini, Bryson Farm, FL
              Bunched Beets, Lady Moon, FL

              1. re: sdwr98

                Thanks for the details. I'm assuming you are a full share (or large share) customer? Just checking.

                Sara

                1. re: owen_meany

                  I actually get a half share, so I didn't get everything on that list - but as far as I know, the full share people did.

                  1. re: sdwr98

                    Thanks.

                    I pulled the trigger and signed up. The list that you provided sealed the deal. :-)

                    I compared a bunch of the CSAs and the combo of provisions + pick up location + good reviews + opportunity to sign up now + timing of CSA for Enterprise was definitely the winner.

                    Thanks again for your help! Sara

                2. re: sdwr98

                  Thanks sdwr! Decision made, I'm going to stick with Enterprise through the winter. That's plenty of variety for me and I like the Enterprise people and the quality of the produce.

            3. re: Klunco

              Yes, my previous basement was too warm and my previous fridge/freezer too small. I was absurdly busy last year and what ended up going to waste were small items that needed lots of scrubbing (turnips and potatoes). This year since I have a bit more time and space I will be more aggressive about making large batches of soups and casseroles and portioning them and freezing them rather that trying to find the perfect spot to cellar them in.

              1. re: suzysue2

                is scrubbing needed for keeping roots/tubers? I have no idea, as I usually don't keep large amounts of roots/tubers and am looking into doing a winter CSA.

                1. re: tammyh

                  Actually, I thought I'd read that it was recommended that items NOT be scrubbed until time of use for longer storage.

          2. I joined First Light Farm's first winter CSA last year, and will do it again. It was inexpensive ($150? don't remember exactly) We had monthly pick-ups. I had expected mostly potatoes and beets and carrots - but Mike manages fresh greens from his hoop house, too. We didn't have a pick-up for February (remember how insanely cold it was? nothing was growing!) but Mike extended the season another month, and threw in a bottle of made-in-Topsfield maple syrup as a bonus.

            -----
            First Light Farm
            94 Locust St, Danvers, MA 01923

            2 Replies
            1. re: pastrytroll

              pastrytroll, I am reading your post to mean that you had mostly potatoes, beets and carrots as well as some fresh greens. Is that correct? What quantities were there of these items? Thanks.

              1. re: pastrytroll

                Can you give an idea of the quantity of food each distribution? Thanks. I clicked on your name to see if it took me to a place to ask you personally, but I don't see that option.

              2. What are your storage concerns? I wouldn't be too worried. For my first three years with Shared Harvest, I lived in a third floor apartment with no storage space other than a closet floor (hardly ideal climate) and medium-sized fridge, and we still somehow managed. This year, we have a full-sized fridge and a proper basement, and I am ecstatic about the storage possibilities! The new SH pickup location is right off Rte 2, so a bit more accessible than it previously was, if you are not right in the area.

                -----
                Shared Harvest
                Belmont, Belmont, MA

                5 Replies
                1. re: chevrelove

                  chevrelove, Can you give more details about Shared Harvest? Was it really heavy on potatoes and cabbage? (We are not eaters of cabbage and not nearly as many potatoes as most families.) Did you feel like there was a very good value? (I'm sure you were at least satisfied since you continued for three years.) My basement tends to be a bit damp which is my main concern. Also, I read their storage suggestions and although I have a basement and a refrigerator, I don't have any of their other suggested storage areas (such as a bulkhead or a spare, barely heated room, or attic) nor is my basement dark.

                  -----
                  Shared Harvest
                  Belmont, Belmont, MA

                  1. re: cpl100

                    I had an excellent experience with Shared Harvest last year. I put together a root cellar type thing with milk crates for storage but actually could probably have done without it. (There was a swap box, so you could likely swap out potatoes for squash, celeriac, apples....) I am with First Light for the summer and will probably stay with them for the winter this year, but that is not because of any dissatisfaction with Shared Harvest. They were great and the quality was great.

                    -----
                    Shared Harvest
                    Belmont, Belmont, MA

                    1. re: fesenjan

                      Would you mind explaining the milk crate root celler concept please? (And thank you!)

                      1. re: cpl100

                        You bet. Stacked up milk crates we've had sitting around since college in 2 different places in the basement to make a sort of shelving unit. Duct taped some big contractor-type trash bags over them to keep it dark. Put the stuff that needs some humidity near the sump pump, put the stuff that needs less humidity in the middle of the room (Shared Harvest gave us a list of optimal storage conditions for all the produce). It wasn't pretty, but it worked fine,

                    2. re: cpl100

                      Cpl, apologies, I am just seeing your reply now. While I echo the others' comments below, I would add I don't think Shared Harvest is heavy on potatoes. I find that I always need to buy more, and we probably consume an average amount of potatoes. You'll get a fair number of beets and butternut/other squash (per your comment below), but overall it's a nice variety. You could swap your cabbage for my beets. : ) If you have a basement (even on the damp side) at all, I think you'd be fine.

                      -----
                      Shared Harvest
                      Belmont, Belmont, MA

                  2. Also, could those responding please give some idea as to what was in the Winter share, including the percentage of potatoes and cabbage? (not fond of those) Love beets, Brussels sprouts and butternut squash though! Thanks very much for any and all information and help.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: cpl100

                      Here's a detailed list of the Shared Harvest 2010 share:
                      http://sharedharvestcsa.com/csa/csa-d...

                      No guarantees, though...that's the nature of a CSA!

                      -----
                      Shared Harvest
                      Belmont, Belmont, MA

                      1. re: owen_meany

                        Oh , yes. Thanks. I read that. It's informative but ambiguous which I guess is the nature of CSA. For example 2 pieces cauliflower. I've seen some minute ones and some huge ones at farmers markets.

                        1. re: cpl100

                          This is the 3rd year I am doing Shared Harvest. I love it. I wanted to let you know that they do have a swap box so if you don't want your cabbage you can perhaps swap it for something you do want. I do the 2-month share and end up using a lot of the November stuff for Thanksgiving. I recall getting a few pounds of a lot of different veggies instead of 10 pounds of one vegetable and not using it up.

                          -----
                          Shared Harvest
                          Belmont, Belmont, MA

                          1. re: chicken pot pie

                            Thanks. That is very helpful information.

                    2. Does anyone have experience with Heavens Harvest Winter CSA? Thanks.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: cpl100

                        I have not done HH's winter CSA but a few years ago we did the spring one and we were pretty disappointed. The produce was not particularly plentiful or in good condition upon pick up. That being said, YMMV, of course, it was a few years ago so perhaps things have changed and it was our first experience with a CSA so maybe we were just not organized enough, and perhaps it was a bad harvest year in general.

                        Here is a recent comment on the HH spring CSA:
                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/708367

                        1. re: owen_meany

                          I read that and posted a reply. Thanks for the heads-up. I guess maybe Heavens Harvest is not a good choice. Very disappointing because they look really good on their website.

                      2. Just adding new info to this - First Light Farm just put up their winter share info today - 10 pickups between Jan-May in Topsfield or Lynnfield, $200, no pickups in Feb or Mar.
                        http://www.firstlightfarmcsa.com/join...

                        -----
                        First Light Farm
                        94 Locust St, Danvers, MA 01923

                        8 Replies
                        1. re: fesenjan

                          Thanks! The online form is still set for summer. Mike told me he'd fix it soon, but in the meantime, sending an email is the best way to reserve a place. The cost is more than last year, which was a flat out bargain, but still -- I'm signing up, as well as some of my friends who belong to other summer CSAs.

                          1. re: pastrytroll

                            It looks like the info I posted has now been tweaked a little on the website - maybe it was a draft. It now says $150 for 5 pickups. I'm definitely signing up!

                            1. re: fesenjan

                              Me too! Already sent an email to hold my place. AlsoFirst Ligiht sent an email saying they are going to revise the size of the boxes and pricing for next summer's share, too.

                          2. re: fesenjan

                            Has anyone done the First Light Farms Winter CSA in the past? I am wondering about the actual share size each month. Is it a week's worth of food? It's a monthly pick up but I don't see how they could give a month's worth of food at one time.

                            1. re: cpl100

                              First Light's first winter CSA was last year. I did it, and signed up for it again this year, and think it's a great bargain - and wonderful to have fresh greens to serve for Christmas dinner. No, it didn't supply all our vegetable needs for the whole month (the summer one is a true challenge to use it each week) but there was a generous amount that we were able to use comfortably. And I know you're going to ask 'what's generous'. Maybe someone else kept better records/had a better memory than I. I do remember the bottle of maple syrup at the end!

                              1. re: cpl100

                                I have the same question. My CSA is not distributing next year I am interested in participating in First Light and I am interested in the winter CSA as well. Pastrytroll, how large is your family? For me it would basically be me and my husband participating so if it is a good size for a family of four it might be too much...

                                1. re: Ladycale

                                  My family is also me and my husband, and we went with First Light this summer and *just* were able to use it all every week -- but they are going to a "mid-size" share next year, at a lower price ($500). I would rather keep the big one, but I think many people will be really happy about that change. As I said above, I have also signed up for the winter share with First Light.

                                  Ladycale, what CSA were you with that is ceasing to distribute? Just interested to know, as the trend had seemed to me to be in the direction of more CSAs rather than fewer.

                                  1. re: Ladycale

                                    My husband (who is not a veggie lover!) and I split the large summer share with our son and his girlfriend; worked well for all of us. We won't be splitting the winter share - I thought it was good for two people. Don't think we will split the medium share next summer: the kid will be on his own!

                              2. I've just become aware of another possibility but can't find any reviews. Has anyone done the CSA at Green Meadows Farm in Hamilton? Or does anyone know anything about their CSA? Or possibly someone else knows of a review in another forum. (I did try google but got zilch.)

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: cpl100

                                  These comments apply specifically to the winter/fall CSA at Green Meadows only: I did it one year - 2 yrs ago? - and at that point they were buying in a fair amount of produce/fruit from other East Coast farms (not just local farms) and the quality was not the best -- had some wilted stuff, things I needed to use very quickly. It looks on their website like this has changed, though, and they are only doing local things now, which should be easier to keep quality high on. Their in-house stuff is very high quality, and being able to pick up anytime they are open is super convenient.

                                  The quantity on the winter CSA at GM was less than I'd hoped for for the price. The price on their site now ($320 for 8 pickups) seems higher than other winter CSAs I've looked at the past couple years. This is consistent with the impression I had being with them for the summer for a few seasons, when it seemed to me that the price kept rising while the quantity got smaller and a few things that used to be free for shareholders ceased.

                                  Finally, the Green Meadows farm stand is a nice place to go if you enjoy shopping for prepared foods, gifts, local products, upscale packaged food, etc -- and young kids really like meeting the animals.

                                  1. re: fesenjan

                                    Thank you for that review. I did think their price seemed higher than others. I'm doing Farmer Daves now. It's my first CSA and it's not organic so I thought maybe the difference in price would be because of it being organic (but still large quantities). I love what I'm getting at Farmer Daves. I have the half share and the fruit share. It's plenty of both and they offer a varying number of 'extras' most weeks. I have never done a late fall or Winter CSA but want to do it this year.

                                2. I made a decision! I signed up for the Farmer Dave's Fall CSA which is 7 weeks beginning the first week of November. I am splitting that (full) share with another family. That leaves me short for the rest of the year. So, I also signed up for First Light Farms Winter CSA which is once per month on the third week for the months of Nov., Dec., Jan., March and April. So, I will get one duplicate during November. Then it begins in December the week following the end of Farmer Daves. I still don't have February and March. I am considering also signing up for Red Fire Farms CSA which is twice per month in January, February and March. Their deliveries in January would not be the exact week as First Light but it is within a week.

                                  What do you all think of that plan? We are a family with two adults and one college age son. Some weeks he eats at home a lot and others not very much so very unpredictable.

                                  1. Since it is coming around to Fall and Winter CSA time again, I thought I would come back and share my experiences with the four farms I used over last Fall and Winter!

                                    Farmer Daves Late Fall Share: This was a 7 week pick up from November into December. They had a swap box every week. We shared this with another person and it was plenty for all most weeks. I was very pleased with both the quantity, the quality and the staff. (IPM) Large share
                                    First Light Farm Fall/Spring Share: This was once per month during November, December, March, April and May. The November share was the biggest. Each month was a bit different and excellent in both quality and quantity. It was not a month's worth of food for us (3 ppl) but it was great to have these items from the farm rather than the store. During May it was our only pick up and we were longing for those goodies! (Organic) No swap box. (one size share)
                                    Red Fire Farm Winter Share: Two pickups each month during January, February and March. For us, we got too many potatoes in this share. I am sure others found it great, though, as we do not eat close to what many families consume. They mix their fresh produce with some they have frozen during the summer (no more than one item per week and not every week) and/or something not fresh such as pickled beets, gourmet cheese, maple syrup. The cheese was outstanding and would love to have more of it rather than the 'jarred' items. I would do it again, though. (organic) (no swap box) (one size share)
                                    Enterprise Farms: We did this one for five weeks to get us through the end of March and April. The quantity was less than the other shares (though the price was not). They advertise that they source from the entire East Coast and I was expecting some citrus or strawberries which did not appear during my weeks. The quality of the food was good, though. Had I not also had the monthly pick ups from FLF, I would not have had enough food. (organic) (no swap box) (small share)

                                    It would be great if others would post their experiences this past winter. I am considering doing Shared Harvest this year and maybe First Light Farm as well.