Farmer Dave’s CSA 2010 Review

(NOTE: I also wrote a review for the 2011 CSA Season with Farmer Dave’s)

I was so excited to join the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) at Farmer Dave’s this season.

red leaf lettuce from the local farm's CSA

So, what is a CSA anyway? Here’s a great explanation, but in my own words, you the consumer are prepaying for a “share” of the future growing season’s bounty. You pay in the winter/spring before the season starts, and in return, each week during the spring/summer/fall, you receive a generous portion of produce. There’s no further expense unless you want to purchase extra food. Both the consumer and the farmer benefits, so it’s a win-win situation! Granted, you are definitely taking a chance. If the growing season is poor, then your share will be smaller. But on the flip-side, if the growing season prospers, so will your share!

Farmer Dave’s in Dracut, Massachusetts offers several local pickup locations for 20 weeks, starting in mid June. CSA pick up locations include Beverly, Burlington, Lanesville, Dracut, Lawrence, Tewksbury, Somerville, Putnam Investments (for Putnam employees only), Downtown Gloucester, Boston Medical Center and Jamaica Plain.

There are several share options ranging from Small Vegetable (1-2 people) to Super Family Vegetable. There are also Fruit shares, plus Winter Vegetable shares.

Since there are just two of us, we opted for the “small share” which was $300. There is also a $50 annual CSA membership fee, plus depending on your location, there could be a $50 “Delivery Fee”. (Note: 2011 prices are a smidge bit higher and they rolled the membership fee into the cost of the share. 2011 small share is $375 plus $50 delivery fee if applicable.)

All locations offer the option for the boxed pick-up, where the farm staff pre-packs your vegetables into a crate, and it’s ready for you to easily pick up. Our location offered a “Choose Your Own” option, which I loved. The customer is allowed to pick and choose the produce. There were sometimes straight picks, like 2 tomatoes, and there were also “choices” offered, like choose between turnips or beets. There was also a “trade” box offered where you could trade a vegetable for another you liked better. I always looked for beets in the trade box!

Check out the video Farmer Dave’s created that explains the “Choose Your Own” option. (Not all locations offer this option)

My First CSA Season

So onto the details of my CSA experience.

First off, let me say that the staff at Farmer Dave’s is outstanding. They are always cheerful, helpful, and friendly. They work extremely hard and each week, the pickup is managed with professionalism and perfect organization!

I found great tips from other CSA members over at Farmer Dave’s profile on Facebook. One tip that stands out, was a shared youtube video on how to wash and store lettuce. It was a lifesaver (and time saver) for storing lettuce for many days, while camping in the RV. I didn’t wash in the sink, as the video suggested, but I did roll in paper towels and store in plastic bags and it stayed very fresh!

Health, Knowledge, Joy & Overwhelming Pressure

This blog post should really be titled 20 Weeks of Health, Knowledge, Joy, & Overwhelming Pressure.

Health: It was so easy to eat healthy when fresh local produce was arriving to your kitchen every week!

Knowledge: Each week, I learned something new about a nutritious vegetable. Whether it was from the weekly newsletter from Farmer Dave, or from a google search, there was always something to learn. My mind was opened to unique vegetables like Garlic Scapes, Kohlrabi, Tatsoi, and Kousa Squash. It also opened my tastes to unique flavors. Vegetables I’ve never tried or enjoyed before, like turnips and radishes.

I also learned so much more about “seasonal” eating, discovering the growing patterns of vegetables and fruit. I also discovered that my body craves food seasonally. Salads in spring/summer, soups in fall/winter. Blueberries in summer, butternut squash in the fall. If you allow it, your body will tell you what it needs, and it makes sense (and cents $) to eat that way!

Joy: It was exciting to arrange the week’s share on my counter to reflect on the contents, and take a photo to preserve it! I felt like I was doing the best for my family. I enjoyed preparing my meals and tried a lot of new techniques and recipes.

Overwhelming Pressure: haha! I learned quickly that my kitchen counter and refrigerator produce drawers needed to be empty (or close to empty) to prepare for my weekly pickup. The food share for 2010 was massive! Wow! I was truly overwhelmed with the amount of food each week. I didn’t really understand the benefit of “blanching and freezing” until later weeks, and next season, I will definitely take better care to preserve the freshness. I tried so hard not to throw anything away, but I admit, there were some weeks that I just couldn’t cook it quickly enough and possibly some nutrition was lost. But for the most part, produce is very hardy, so it lasts in your fridge!

In the initial weeks, we got massive amounts of lettuce. haha, I confess I was getting sick of salads quickly! But it started to taper off as the weeks went forward.

Compared to the organic offerings at Whole Foods, Farmer Dave gave us much larger heads of greens and the farm’s regular prices for greens were cheaper than Whole Foods too.

Read on to find out what we received each week! Keep in mind, I had a “small share”. The larger shares received at least double the amounts, and depending on the pick up location, the variety could be slightly different.

Week One

Keep in mind, I had a “small share”. The larger shares received at least double the amounts, and depending on the pick up location, the variety could be slightly different.

beets with greens, tatsoi, garlic scapes, snap peas, kousa squash, zucchini, radishes with greens, romaine lettuce, green leaf lettuce
first CSA share pickup

Week Two

red leaf lettuce, garlic scapes, green peas (assorted including snap peas), Hakurei Turnips with greens, kousa squash, zucchini, basil, spinach, plus I picked up some blueberries, strawberries, and tomatoes. That’s what’s great about the CSA. You can easily purchase more fruit or veggies to add to your bounty!
CSA Week 2 pickup

Week Three

beans, turnip, chard, squashes (summer, zucchini, & kousa), lettuces, cucumbers, mint. I sauteed zucchini and garlic scapes for dinner that night.
CSA Week 3 pickup

Sauteed zucchini for dinner
CSA Week 3 sauteed zucchini

Week Four

squash, cukes, basil, radishes with greens, scallions, spinach, beets w/ greens, lettuce. Beets are definitely one of my favorite veggies. I love the greens as well as the roots!
CSA Week 4 pickup
CSA Week 4 pickup

Week Five

We were on vacation for week 5. My inlaws picked up our share, so I am not sure what was offered. But the newsletter stated: Beets,
Cucumbers, Radishes, Lettuce, Zucchini, Scallions and Basil

Week Six

green string beans, lettuce, turnip, corn, spring onions, cuke, cubanelle & green peppers, zucchini squash, mint, corn on the cob. It was exciting to get corn on the cob, I ate all three ears by myself RAW!
CSA Week 6 pickup

Week Seven

green beans, cucumber, cubanelle peppers, eggplant, summer squash, tomato, corn on the cob, chili pepper, onions, Thai eggplant (freebie) lettuces, basil
CSA Week 7 pickup

Week Eight

We were on vacation for week 8. My inlaws picked up our share, so I am not sure what was offered. But the newsletter stated that Sweet Corn, Assorted Squash, Bell Peppers, Cubanelle Peppers, Eggplant, Slicing Tomatoes, Basil and Scallions were scheduled for the share.

Week Nine

Keep in mind, I had a “small share”. The larger shares received at least double the amounts, and depending on the pick up location, the variety could be slightly different.

corn, beets with greens, Bell Pepper, Cubanelle Pepper, chili peppers, garlic, onion, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, basil, eggplant, green beans
CSA Week 9 pickup

Week Ten

green pepper, wax beans, tomatoes (including heirloom and husk cherry tomatoes), basil, beets (traded eggplant for extra beets), romaine lettuce.
CSA Week 10 pickup
CSA Week 10 husk cherry tomatoes

Week Eleven

Another week on vacation. My inlaws picked up our share. The newsletter stated that Corn, Beans, Eggplant, Beets, Peppers, Cherry Tomatoes, Slicing Tomatoes, Basil and Onions were scheduled for the week.

Week Twelve

red pepper, kale, red lettuce, basil, aji dulce peppers (take as much as you can use), leek, radishes with greens (or turnips), beets with greens, baby eggplant, summer squash (or choose zucchini or kousa), slicing tomatoes, plum tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, Seconds tomatoes (take as much as you can use), corn on the cob, green beans
CSA Week 12 pickup

Week Thirteen

Keep in mind, I had a “small share”. The larger shares received at least double the amounts, and depending on the pick up location, the variety could be slightly different.

green beans, green leaf lettuce, cherry tomatoes, garlic, beets with greens, eggplant, zucchini squash, kohlrabi, tomatoes including take as many as you need seconds, corn on the cob
CSA Week 13 pickup

Week Fourteen

poblano pepper, jalapeno peppers (as much as you can use), seconds tomatoes (as many as you can use), wax yellow beans, cherry tomatoes (or choose husk cherries), cilantro, zucchini squash, (traded baby eggplant for extra zucchini), corn on the cob, carrots complete with green tops (or choose beets), swiss chard, radishes with greens, escarole greens.

The carrots were so cool. I loved their natural rootie uneven shapes!
CSA Week 14 pickup

Week Fifteen

bok choy (as much as you can use), beets with greens (choice of turnips), tatsoi, Cubanelle pepper, zucchini squash, onions (traded my radishes for more onions), slicing & plum tomatoes, seconds tomatoes (as much as you can use), cranberry shell beans (need to be shelled), wax beans (as much as you can use)

Tatsoi is one of my favorite veggies now, and I never would have tried it if it weren’t for my CSA share!
CSA Week 15 tatsoi

Week Sixteen

tatsoi, cherry tomatoes (or choose husk cherries), slicing tomatoes, onions, beets with greens, (traded arugula for extra beets), wax yellow beans, green beans, poblano pepper, brocolli crowns, patty pan squash (or choice of summer squashes)
CSA Week 16 pickup

Week Seventeen

celery with greens, green beans, cranberry shell beans (traded turnip for more shell beans), lettuce (or choose bok choy or arugula), mint, serrano or jalepeno peppers (as much as you can use), poplano pepper (or choose other green pepper), zucchini (or choose other summer squash), tomato.
CSA Week 17 pickup

Week Eighteen

turnip tops, beets with greens (traded turnip roots for extra beets), tatsoi, poblano peppers (as much as you could use), chili peppers (as much as you could use) , aji dulce peppers (as much as you could use), green pepper, cranberry shell beans, green beans, corn on the cob, green tomatoes, green leaf lettuce
CSA Week 18 pickup

The aji dulce peppers are mild chili peppers. They freeze very well, just wash, dry and pack them whole (raw) in a freezer bag.
CSA Week 18 aji dulce peppers - not hot

Week Nineteen

Keep in mind, I had a “small share”. The larger shares received at least double the amounts, and depending on the pick up location, the variety could be slightly different.

Green beans, shell beans, broccoli (or choice of cabbage), chard (or choice of tatsoi), green leaf lettuce, green peppers (choice of Cubanelle), scallions, green tomatoes, corn on the cob, aji dulce peppers (as much as you can use)
CSA Week 19 pickup

There’s nothing like broccoli fresh from a local farm! The little attached broccoli leaves are so “natural”!
CSA Week 19- broccoli

We received a huge batch of chard in a rainbow of colors. I blanched and froze it in a couple of freezer bags so we can enjoy it at a later date. Chard is delicious in soup!
CSA Week 19 chard

Week Twenty

green peppers, Hakurei turnips, carrots with greens (or choose potatoes), shell beans (traded escarole for extra beans), butternut squash, turnip greens (or choose bok choy), red leaf lettuce – I also purchased a few fingerling potatoes, an extra 2lb bag of large carrots, pickling cukes, bag of seconds red tomatoes, red onion, and garlic for $10
CSA Week 20 pickup
CSA Week 20 pickup

That night, I roasted the fingerling potatoes, green peppers, and red onion for dinner. Delicious!
CSA Week 20-roasted fingerling potatoes, green peppers, and red onion

Now that the last share has been picked up, part of me is sad that it’s over but the other part of me is relieved. Yes, I would have loved to participate in the winter share, but I knew it would be too much food for just the two of us. Plus, I think I need a break from all the extra work. Organizing vegetables can be time consuming, and it’ll be a relief just to relax and begin eating the stock of veggies I put up in my freezer! I have enough shell beans to last through winter for sure! Yippee!

CSA In the Future

So, bottom line, yes yes yes, I will definitely be signing up again for the CSA at Farmer Dave’s next season. If you are nearby to one of the pickup locations, I highly recommend joining next seasons’ share. If not, then please check out http://www.localharvest.org/csa/ or your own state’s agriculture web site for a CSA near you. You won’t regret it!

I admit, in a few of the earlier weeks, I thought maybe the food was just too much for us to consume, and it was stressful, trying to get it all organized. I thought that maybe a trip to a farmer’s market each week might be a better fit. But soon I realized that the CSA was a true bargain, and besides that, we were supporting a local farm!

It comes down to organization and a commitment to take the time each week to plan your meals. If you don’t think you can use something within the appropriate time frame, then blanch and freeze it as soon as possible to retain freshness. Since most produce will keep frozen for up to a year, it’s possible to enjoy summer vegetables in the winter months!

I purchased a stainless steel blanching basket for less than $20 at Amazon and it made a world of a difference. Next year, I’ll be even more prepared.

For more info on blanching and freezing, check out the pickyourown.org web site. It’s packed with information. It’s also a great resource for canning and preserving.

6 thoughts on “Farmer Dave’s CSA 2010 Review”

  1. Thank you for sharing your experience with this CSA. We’re looking into joining one this season and was wondering exactly what the amount of food would look like. Thanks for all of the photos. I’m amazed by the amount of food you got for a “small” share. We are a family four – myself, my husband, a three year old and a one year old. I’m thinking that the small share may be good to start out on this season.

  2. Hello Tanya! How exciting! I think the small share would be great for your family, and yes, it is a great way to start out. You can always get a larger share next time if more food is needed.

    I hope next season is just as bountiful!!! Fingers crossed the sun and rain will cooperate!

    Thank you for visiting!

  3. Thanks for all of your helpful information! I’m looking at Farmer Dave’s and wanted to make sure I was making a good choice and you’ve definitely convinced me! And thanks for the tip about freezing, I’m already anxious about eating all the food. Here’s hoping for a great growing season!

  4. Hello Laura, I am so glad my post helped you decide to go with Farmer Dave’s CSA! I had my doubts initially too, and I’m so glad I went with it!

    I am so looking forward to this spring. I am definitely going through fresh local food withdrawal!! haha.

  5. Thank you so much for sharing your experience!! I have a CSA in Indiana and as I plan to relocate to Boston, I was looking for a CSA in Boston.
    Your testimonial helped me to make up my mind

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