CSA's - Who is YOUR favourite farmer?
As we finish the last remaining Jerusalem artichokes from our garden, my thoughts turn to finding a good CSA.
Years ago, in another city on another continent, we had the CSA of our dreams. Once a week a big, cheap, cardboard box of dirt-clad produce that had been picked that morning would show up on our doorstep. It was always a surprise and we were always pleasantly surprised. The occasional "weird" veggie came in small quantities and with some recipe ideas.
I know it can never be this good here in the far north, but would still love to hear recs for a good CSA. I *LIKE* surprises and don't overly mind "winter veggies"(during the winter, that is).
Last year we tried Jardin des Anges (don't even know if that actually counts as a CSA), and, while it provided us what we needed in terms of convenience (we have no car and I am the main grocery shopper and was 6 months pregnant and just couldn't walk home with all the groceries at a certain point), I found it a bit pricey and extremely depressing to get plastic bags full of packaged vegetables.
It would be best if you mentioned the area you live in if you are looking for suggestions. The one I have in the west island does not deliver anywhere else and so makes it unrealistic for you to come pick up your share every week if you live in the east end for example.
Probably the best place to start figuring out your options would be Equiterre:
For 20 weeks last summer/fall we had a basket from André Samson (who is part of the Equiterre network):
It was our first time receiving a CSA basket, so I have no points of comparison with others, but the quality was generally excellent and quantity ranged from fairly modest at the beginning to unbelievable in the middle (two large shopping bags), always with a decent amount of variety. The cost was around $25/week, which seemed very reasonable. Few surprises (thanks to a weekly e-mail update) and not much dirt, but still really good.
Last season they had quite a few drop-off points around town, and I assume they will again next year. No winter baskets.
There is also a year-round urban-rooftop-based operation called Lufa. No experience at all with them, but this might be of interest:
re: Mr F
I've been using Lufa since September and really like them, but they're also my first experience with CSA baskets. I've been most impressed with their greenhouse tomatoes. It's nice to have a taste of summer in the middle of winter (although I think they're nearing the end of this cycle, so they may be a bit light on tomatoes for the next few weeks). The blog on their web site will give you a good idea of the produce they offer. They've had a few hiccups in terms of services, but seem quite responsive to feedback.
I'm interested in this CSA, they have a drop off location near me, and i've just waiting to pull the trigger until I talked to someone who has been using them. Have you been happy with the quality and variety of produce for the most part? I don't want to get stuck with 8 lbs of root vegetables and parsley, ya know?
I agree entirely with hala. The quality is excellent and the variety's been great. They give a nice mix of tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers from their greenhouse, salad and other greens, and more common winter vegetables. They also have nice extras in the baskets some weeks such as organic flours, honey, or jams (I have the small plus local, so I'm not sure if these extras are always available if you don't have the local option.)
Ah, the pick-up points, those are important! We live in Villeray, near Iberville metro. Since this isn't really an area that is very central, we are willing to go to the Jean-Talon area, Rosemont or the Plateau to pick up a basket.
I should also mention that, ironically enough, I am interested in the basket mostly for winter and spring (say October through June), since in the summer I have more vegetables than I know what to do with from my own garden.
Who is YOUR favourite farmer?
Lufa delivers all over Montreal. A few years ago we tried a different CSA and we hated it in the winter. Frankly, I am not used to eating seasonal produce in the harsh Quebec winters and all we got with our former CSA was tons of root vegetables, cabbage, leeks and onions (picked in the Fall and stored for weeks) . We loved some of the things we got, but after the third weeks of 4 leeks a week, I was begging people to take my leeks. So, no more CSAs in the winter for me.
This year, we joined Lufa farms and we love it. They grow their veggies in a greenhouse in Hochelaga and deliver them the same day that they are picked. This week's basket included Boston lettuce, tomatos, garlic, red peppers, a few hot peppers, onions, cress, chard, apples and turnip (not sure If I forgot anything), Last week, we had lettuce, watercress (not the same as cress) argula, thyme, carrots, cucumbers, cabbage, tomatos, celriac (I am sure I am forgetting something from each week). So, the proportion of root veggies is low and you have more of a variety each week and from week to week. Most things are picked the same day (not picked in the Fall and stored like other CSAs). Some things are bought from other CSAs (apples, root vegetables...), so, it's nice to be helping more than one farmer.
I know a lot of people don't like the taste of greenhouse veggies. But, we live in Montreal and not much can grow in the winter.
Hala, thank you for sharing! Can I ask you which basket and size you signed up for? They seem to have 4 options.
2 years ago I had baskets from Potager Andre Samson. It was not an ideal summer and the produce was alright, but not what we expected and that's why we didn't do it again last year.
I have done summer with regular farmers and loved it. But here in Montreal, I prefer to shop at the different neighbourhood markets in the summer.
I have their smallest size I have really limited time this semester and I wanted to have a CSA share, but I did not want to end up spending too much time researching menus and figuring out what to do with what they gave me. I supplement their basket with stuff from the grocery store, but I do that on purpose since I did not want to have too many veggies that I don't normally buy. So, I plan my menus for the week, I get my basket, plan one or two things around it and use the rest of what's in it in my regular recipes. This way I experiment a bit but I use my recipes most of the time. Like I mentioned earlier, convenience is very important to me. I did not like it when my share was only seasonal winter food. This is what makes Lufa ideal for me. Hopefully when my kids are older and I have more time to cook I will get a bigger share.
For those of us who live in the Townships, hands down it's Potage d'Emylou. Their baskets are affordable, full of variety and while they have pick-up locations around Sherbrooke and Magog (I think re: Magog), it's worth it to make the drive to their farm, where they sell their produce. They also work in conjunction with other local producers; you can get cheeses from La Station, amazing bread from a boulangerie in Waterville (I adore their kamut bread, but now it seems so does everyone else!), and organic meats for those of you who are carnivores. Remy and Emylou are incredibly kind and gracious. I look forward to signing up every spring/summer for a basket full of delicious treats!