Sunday, November 2, 2014

I was crazy and joined 2 CSA's this year.

Disappointed with our CSA choice in 2013, this year we opted to join 2 different CSA’s to taste the options available to us.  From my research, I knew that they each would be a little different, and each would have its own set of perks. I wish that I had kept a running tally of what we received each week, but that would have required some advanced thinking.

The first CSA was with Wickum Farms, this one we actually split with another family of 6 that we know. They had participate in previous years and knew that splitting was the best option for both of us. Here I only had to drive and pick up every other week, and because it was located almost a half and hour from our home, I appreciated the bi-weekly pick up. Each week we would split the harvest, but our gas tanks only suffered partially. This CSA was a strictly farmed, so the crops were only those that were in the fields, meaning the only fruits we saw were watermelon, cantaloupe and tomatoes. However, the vegetable varieties were vast, numerous greens, lettuces, different varieties of carrots and squash to just name a few. The method of pick up was the select your own as you traveled around the tables, although you were instructed how much of something you could have. Each week they offered a recipe of the week using something that you would be receiving in your share. It would be offered to sample as you signed in, and if you liked it, you could grab a copy of the recipe on your way out. A bonus with Wickum is their u-pick option. Every week (after the first few) you can u-pick selected crops for no additional cost. Some were restricted to a gallon or a quart depending on quantities, but once production was in full tilt, it was pick as much as you can use. For someone like me, I took full advantage of the beans and tomatoes for freezing and juice, one day my daughter and I picked 16 gallons of tomatoes. When it comes down to it, I did enjoy the produce, even when it was grossly overwhelming, but the drive was just too far. The u-pick option alone would be enough to go back if we lived closer, but the lack of fruit would be difficult for us when we consume so much of it. So although we enjoyed it, we will not be participating here again.
One week we got to keep everything. You cannot even see everything in this photo.

The second CSA we chose to go with is just under 10 minutes from our home at a much larger scale farm. Honestly I was hesitant to chose Lagoner Farms, because of the size of their production, I didn’t want to fall into a place that was adding things to just increase profits. However, I decided to give it a shot because of the fruit component promised with the share. Here, I experienced for the first time a share that was already portioned out, and all I had to do was grab and go. For me that was great when the kids had other activities and I needed to get it quickly. We also had the option to u-pick, but on a much smaller scale. A few weeks we were given the option to double our fruit share if we picked it ourselves, of course I grabbed this offer and ran with it. In addition, we could then pick any additional quantities for purchase with a 10% discount (this also applied to any purchase within their retail store). I wish that the u-pick option would have been offered more often, but I know that I use larger quantities of some things than other people. I was thrilled with the weekly fruit share, it would almost make it through the week, and I didn’t have to worry about waste. I wish that it had been a little heavier in the veggie department. I can foresee us needing to add to it a bit for us next year without the other CSA picking up the slack, but we are a family of 6, in reality I could do a double share, but financially I don’t know how I could afford that. I truly enjoyed Lagoner for many reasons, although a large farm, it is family owned and the current owners approachable and visible. A few times I was permitted to sneak in early for u-pick and got a chance to chat with them, you could tell that they love what they do, and truly enjoy talking about it with you.  They may have a lot of things going on at the farm, but you can see that they are doing it for the joy and exploration rather than the potential profits. I am looking forward to when they receive the final licenses to sell the hard cider they are making (can I have that in my CSA tote?)

When it comes down to it, I think the decision to participate in both was the best for us this year, I gave me the ability to really focus on what I do use and need and plan better for the 2015 season. We are going to continue with Lagoner, and I am going to put in a garden with the items that I would need to use in large quantities (cucumbers and tomatoes primarily). My husband says I should just plant everything we will use, and perhaps someday I will, but I need to start small, I know I have a tendency to jump into things to quickly and then get overwhelmed. I don’t want to have that problem here and lose control.

The stats:

Wickum Farms                                                                         Lagoner Farms

o   18 weeks                                                                                - 20 weeks                 
o   $595 for a full share/ half share available                             - $600 full share/half share available
o   primarily vegetables                                                              - FRUIT!!! and vegetables
o   awesome u-pick                                                                     - some u-pick
o   long drive                                                                               - location is close (Williamson)
o   recipes!                                                                                  - farm market available
o   even splitting sometimes too much!

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