There’s a long article in the food section of Sunday’s SF Chronicle exploring the culinary possibilities available by subscribing to a local CSA, including a series of recipes featuring seasonal produce. The article focuses primarily on one of our sister farms, Mariquita Farm in Watsonville, but includes a list of a dozen or so others including Terra Firma.
If you’ve been a TFF subscriber from the beginning, as I know some have, you may remember a much shorter article in the Chronicle back in 1995 or 1996 introducing people to the concept of Community Supported Agriculture. At the end of the article was a very short list of CSA farms. Only two of them actually serviced San Francisco — Terra Firma and Live Power. When the article came out, we had just 150 or so subscribers. By the next week, we had over 500 — more, it turns out, than we had produce to feed. It was late winter or early spring of a wet El Nino winter, and we had a pretty limited variety of vegetables. We lost many of the new subscribers who signed up, but by the time the dust settled and our summer crops were at their peak, we had twice as many customers as we had before.
I was happy to see some farm names on the Chronicle’s latest list that I didn’t recognize. While we are still open to new customers at TFF, we have no plans for major expansion. But I think it is important that CSAs not become an exclusive club, and that the market keep expanding. My main concern right now is that access to farmland around the Bay Area has become so difficult that many new CSA farmers are choosing to locate elsewhere. I hope that this article will help a few new CSAs find the type of customers that have made our farm a success.
Which brings me to a few names that I was happy to see excluded from SF Gate’s list: Planet Organics, the BOX, Farm Fresh to You and other distributors of organic produce who sell mixed boxes of food directly to consumers. Most of these companies take advantage of customers who are not entirely clear on the difference between getting produce directly from a farm and getting it from someone else who bought it from a farm. The average consumer in the Bay Area doesn’t know that raspberries don’t grow in Northern California in the winter. Unfortunately, if they sign up with one of these extremely convenient delivery services, they are unlikely to learn the truth about growing raspberries — or any other crop — locally.
Only a tiny percent of people in the Bay Area or most urban areas in the U.S. get their produce directly from a farm — whether through a CSA, farmers market, or other method. But the important point is that that percentage is higher than it was 20 years ago. That trend — buying locally produced anything — flies firmly in the face of our society’s overall direction of outsourcing everything possible. And you, my friends, are on the right side of that trend. Thanks for subscribing!
In Your Boxes
Winter’s (we hope) last hurrah last week really put a…damper on things at Terra Firma as well as on farms from Oregon to the Mexico border. In the span of seven days, we had three nights of frost and four solid days of rain. The combination was not kind to our first planting of peas — the field that produced the Snap Peas you received in your boxes last week. We were fully expecting our pea harvest this week to easily exceed last week’s. Instead, in the aftermath of last week’s storms we found that slightly frost-damaged peas had simply exploded when subjected to so much non-stop rain. We barely managed to harvest half as many peas today as we did last Monday.
We have several more fields of peas — both Snap and Shelling — and we are optimistic that in the following weeks they will produce abundantly for your boxes.
Now, spring appears to have sprung all over the farm — finally — and with it, we say hello to Spring Onions and goodbye to Leeks. Just a few weeks ago, these onions were skinny and short; now they are tall and buff and starting to make bulbs. In just a month or six weeks, they will be ready to harvest as dry onions. But in the meantime, they are a seasonal treat with a unique taste all their own.
Although spring onions are related to leeks, in practice they are very different: tender, mild and juicy. You can eat them raw in salads, grill them whole, or chop and cook. If you saute them until nicely browned, they will reduce in volume significantly — one cup of raw onions may end up as just a tablespoon or two of cooked.
We have lots of spring-planted salad greens planted on the farm that should be sizing up for harvest in the next few weeks. The first out of the gates is a field of Arugula that we planted back in February. The cold weather of late has definitely stunted the leaves a bit — you’ll notice that some of them have a purple tint which results from a lack of phosphorus. (Many plants, arugula included, have a tough time getting phosphorus out of cold soil.) The warm weather this week — 90 degrees forecast for Saturday! — should push the arugula into high gear, along with spinach, salad mix, radishes and other crops that are not quite ready this week. It will also accelerate ripening of our strawberries…keep your fingers crossed.