Tuesday, June 29, 2010

First Shipment from Tipi Creek CSA

Radishes, spinach, and green onions from Tipi CreekLast year Lisa and I joined a CSA, which usually stands for community supported agriculture, but at Tipi Creek Farm stands for community shared agriculture.

Here's the skinny. In March we pay a flat fee. Three times between planting in May and the last harvest in September, we go to Tipi Creek and spend a few hours helping out. This may involve planting, weeding, or harvesting. In return for our money and labour, every week from roughly July to the end of September we get a shipment of vegetables.

Last year we received salad greens, spinach, Swiss chard, onions, leeks, kale, radishes, peas, beets, cucumbers, zucchini, broccoli, rhubarb, corn, pumpkins, squash, watermelon, potatoes, kohlrabi, beans, basil, and dill.

I learned a lot about vegetables. Last summer was the first time I tried leeks, kale, kohlrabi, and Swiss chard. I became familiar with different varieties of otherwise common vegetables. For instance, on the last harvest day in September we left with Hopi, Buttercup, and Godiva squash. Most importantly I learned about produce quality. Corn that is broken from the stalk, husked, and eaten within a minute (which, by the way, I didn't even know you could do, since we always boiled the cobs at my house) is impossibly sweet. After picking, the sugars in the corn quickly turn to starches, and after a day most of the sweetness is gone.

While there is a certain amount of risk involved (you pay the same amount no matter how well the crops do that year), it's mitigated by the variety of vegetables planted. Last year, you may remember, was very dry, and a few crops, like corn, suffered. However, for some reason the cucumbers responded extremely well to last year's conditions, and we received several kilos worth. This year has been extremely moist, so we are expecting a very good haul.

Which brings me to the quantity of vegetables received. Besides a few heads of lettuce and ears of corn passed along to Judy, and a really bitching Thanksgiving dinner for ten, Lisa and I didn't really share the produce. It's a lot of food for two people. Thankfully most of the items lend themselves to preservation by freezing, canning, or dry storage. Last year was the first time I made natural (fermented) vegetable pickles and the first time I canned and dried food. Honestly it was a lot of work. On shipment nights we would spend almost an hour blanching and freezing vegetables. The vegetables that don't take well to preservation (leafy greens) were a little more troublesome. I made a lot of really bad lettuce soup last year.

Lisa and I renewed our membership in Tipi Creek, and this week we received our first shipment. We got radishes, spinach, green onions, and rhubarb. This year we plan on weighing every vegetable that comes into our home, and finding the cost per weight for comparable items at the grocery store and farmers' market, just to see exactly how much money we're saving. I suspect that our CSA is cheaper than the farmers' market, but much more expensive than the supermarket (though obviously the quality of produce is better...) We'll have to crunch the numbers and get back to you.

Further Reading

Tipi Creek was recently featured in See Magazine. (It's a good article, though I don't remember receiving any "choragi" last fall.)


  1. Nice to see someone else interested in doing the math on produce. I weighed, spreadsheeted, and did a price comparison on everything that came from the garden last year. If you do crunch the numbers, I'll be eager to see them.

  2. I love me some number crunching. I will be very interested to see your results (they'll make me feel extra smug as a gardener).

  3. I have become so interested in getting involved in a CSA; the fact that it is mandatory that I get out there and earn my keep, as it were, sweetens the pot for me!

  4. The other good thing about it is we sometimes ended up using different parts of the vegetables than we normally would. For example, when you get beets from a store, they don't always have the tops attached (or you don't want to eat them if they are attached, since they are all wilted and drab). However, when we get beets from the CSA with the beet tops attached, they can be cut off and treated like other green leafy vegetables, such as spinach. I think I even remember making a soup with carrot tops in it last year. When you have such beautiful, pesticide free produce you don't want to let any of it go to waste!

  5. Kevin and Court - I love promising to do something on my blog, because then I have to do it, or risk looking like a flake. Weighing every vegetable is tedious (as you know, Kevin), but the data will be gold. Numbers forthcoming.

    Bianca - The fact that we got to work at the farm was one of the main reasons we chose Tipi Creek. It's not as glamourous as I thought it would be (I don't know why I thought it would be glamourous...), but it's a valuable experience. As a coddled city kid, it was the first time that I performed what I would call labour in order to procure food.

    Most years a couple shares are vacated and become available: you should definitely consider joining next spring.

    Lisa - Excellent point. Broccoli greens were also good. Hopefully this year we get some decent-sized corn husks to dry!

  6. Working on a farm will instill value of the food you "get" or buy and eat like nothing else will. It is real. It is not easy, and it is so worth it. You definitely do not want to let ANYTHING go bad, or toss it in the trash, meaninglessly, like so many do in this day and age.

  7. I love your photograph, Allan. It is very pretty with the blue and white tea towel as a background. If the cooking thing doesn't take off you can always go in for photograpy as a side line. I do have great expectations for your cooking taking off though, having eaten you ribs and your ham.
    Have I mentioned that I'm ready to retire from OT and take up waitressing again?

  8. Thanks, Judy! The truth is I don't like taking pictures, and I kind of resent having to stop cooking, eating, and writing to take obligatory snapshots of everything (unless the photos are in some way instructional, and not just a splash of colour on the page).

    Is that a horrible thing to write on a food blog?