So! My first foray into CSAs has proved absolutely delightful (to no one’s surprise). I began with a trial two-week subscription to Terra Firma Farms, not only because it was well-reviewed but for reasons of convenience. For one thing, you’re able to choose the size of your box, depending on your household’s cooking and eating habits. More importantly, though, the CSA has multiple drop-off sites, including one at my workplace, making it painless to grab a week’s worth of produce in one go. After all, what’s the point of joining a CSA if you have to expend tons of time and energy picking up your delivery? A CSA should make life easier on you — and this one did.
Terra Firma Farms is a certified organic operation based in Winters, California, about 1.5 hours northeast of San Francisco. Paul Holmes started the farm in the late 1980s, and has since partnered with Hector Melendez-Lopez and Paul “Pablito” Underhill to grow the small farm into one of San Francisco’s favorite suppliers. They provide produce to beloved sustainable establishments like Rainbow Grocery, Chez Panisse and Zuni Cafe — but it’s clear that they value their household CSA subscribers (which currently number 1,300) tremendously, too.
Terra Firma takes customer service very seriously, making it very easy to sign up and manage your subscription. What’s more, they use technology to connect with their client base. Each week, I’d receive an email from Pablito detailing the contents of the boxes (with suggested recipes) and the state of the farm. When they decided to increase costs in light of minimum wage raises, they sent out a thoughtfully written rationale. When they began offering home delivery in response to popular demand, they dispatched an announcement promptly. I felt appreciated, and I wasn’t alone. When I ran into a fellow subscriber at my pick-up site, he had only words of praise for his three-year-long relationship with Terra Firma Farms.
The people are clearly great — but what about the produce? While not a bargain, per se, it was also a very reasonable amount price-wise. However, I would have liked more cooking greens and fewer fruit. In fact, I’d chosen the medium-sized box precisely because it was designed for “occasional” cooking (as opposed to the small “snacker’s box,” which looks very fruit-heavy, and the large, which seems too much for two people). Of course, being part of a CSA means that you don’t get a choice; you rely on and trust the farm to provide you with whatever is freshest and most plentiful. My preferences are irrelevant to the seasons and Mother Nature’s whims. With that in mind, I really enjoyed the quality and quantity of the produce.
- Carrots (5): Mild, tender, delicious, slow-cooked with lemon-basil chicken.
- Tomatoes (3): stir-fried.
- A bag of arugula: Arugula’s bitterness can be off-putting for me, but I still liked these in salads and stir-fries.
- Yellow summer squash (1) and zucchini (2): stir-fried.
- “Painted serpent” cucumber (1): Weird-lookin’ and totally tasty — fuzzy skin, wiggly structure, and all.
- Eleven apricots (11): It took all my willpower not to demolish these super juicy gems in one breath.
- White onions (2): Slow-cooked with lemon-basil chicken.
- A bunch of basil: Super fresh and fragrant; slow-cooked with lemon-basil chicken.
- Tomatoes (1 “lemon boy” heirloom and 5 red): cooked into seafood stew.
- Sweet corn (3 ears): roasted in the oven. Jay commented that they weren’t very good, unfortunately.
- Red grapefruit (2): tart, delicious.
- A bag of green beans: sauteed with a bit of garlic for a simple side.
- Red onions (4): One of the onions had a bruised, rotting (and pretty foul-smelling) patch. I cut it off and carefully inspected the rest of the onion, which seemed perfectly intact. I cooked some into the seafood stew without any adverse effects.
- Peaches (5): We made a bit of a mistake by refrigerating these before ripening them, so they were not yet juicy. I still really loved them (as I do nearly all stone fruit).
- New potatoes (14): roasted these with olive oil and S&P. Jay devoured.
- “Eight ball” green summer squash (1) and zucchini (2): cooked into seafood stew.
- Carrots (5): stewed these in the roast broth until tender — delicious.
All in all, I was quite happy with Terra Firma — but my CSA sampling wasn’t quite over yet. Next up: ~MyStErRYy BoXeS~~~