By Jaimie Julia Winters
Over the summer, some Montclairites will learn how to prepare rutabaga, tatsoi and kohlrabi. What’s a kohlrabi, you ask? It’s a vegetable in the cabbage/broccoli family that looks a little like Sputnik, loaded with nutrients and will definitely be a part of your Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) delivery.
With spring and the Jersey growing season right around the corner, Montclair residents can sign up to have the best of the Garden State’s produce delivered practically to their doorsteps by joining a CSA. And part of the thrill of a CSA is not only getting seasonal fruit and veggies delivered literally within hours of picking from a local farm, but also the chance to try some exotics such at kohlrabi, purple cauliflower and garlic scapes.
There are a number of options for locals wanting to join a produce cooperative or CSA with delivery from New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey farms to Montclair throughout the growing season.
The freshness and farmers’ use of sustainable practices that are free from pesticides and herbicides leads to tastier produce, contend members. As a member you are also helping farmers stay in the Garden State.
How it works
Members pay up front and purchase a “share” of vegetables and fruits from regional farmers. Weekly or bi-weekly, from June until October or November, farmers deliver the share of produce to convenient drop-off locations in members’ neighborhoods. By paying upfront, members support local farms and farmers in planning for the season, such as purchasing new seed, making equipment repairs and hiring workers.
What to expect
CSAs aren’t for everyone. If you want strawberries in October or corn in May, when they are out of season, then stick to supermarkets and highway farmers’ markets. With CSAs, fruits and vegetables are picked and delivered during their individual growing season when they are at peak flavor. Members also need to keep an open mind, as you get what the farmer grows. Strawberries, cherries, and raspberries are harvested in July; peaches, plums, nectarines, grapes and melons are harvested in July, August and September; and apples and pears come in from August through November. Seasonal vegetables include a variety of salad greens, cooking greens, soft vegetables, herbs and root vegetables.
Be prepared to get creative with some exotic vegetables, learning how to prepare them. CSA organizers provide recipes either online or with deliveries. Some co-ops hold cooking classes.
CSA members should expect to buy from the produce section at the grocery store for staples needed weekly such as tomatoes, lettuce, onions and potatoes when those items are out of season.
On delivery days, members need to set aside time to wash, prepare and preserve the produce. As the vegetables and fruits are picked and boxed that morning, they will be delivered with dirt from the farm. Pickups need to be made during scheduled days and hours.
• At Boxed Organics, members are offered flexibility. Seasonal memberships can be purchased for spring, summer, fall or winter, with three size options: a sampler for one or two people for $150, standard for one to four people for $240 and family for $420 per a season. Eggs are included, and members should expect some rare and exotic heirloom veggies, as well.
The spring share begins April 13. An annual $30 fee is charged in the spring. Pickups are Fridays, 3:30 – 8:30 p.m., in the vicinity of Elm Street near Nishuane Park.
“Produce is gathered from a group of local farmers year round, but also go a little further afield in the depths of winter so that you will always have a full and varied box of produce in your kitchen” said coordinator Melina Macall. “Because we work with a number of local farmers we have access to a wide variety of heirloom fruits and vegetables. In addition to our ‘old faithful’ items, we introduce you to rare and unusual varieties and then show you what to do with them.”
• With the Montclair Co-op & CSA, for $300 members get 12 deliveries every other week beginning in mid-June. About 100 members have enjoyed the cooperative run by volunteers for over 10 years.
Members pick up on Fridays 12-6 p.m. at the Montclair History Center. Hepworth Farms provides the organic fruits and veggies. For extra fees members can also purchase meats and eggs from Wrong Direction Farm and local honey from Bee My Honey Apiary.
“The farmers are now a part of our families,” said coordinator Sarah Forest. “It warms our hearts that they are providing us with nutritious, organic foods that fuel our bodies. These foods are grown for us.” Co-op membership means you are part of the Montclair CSA family, with many members volunteering on pickup days with unloading and boxing. In years past, the group has also held cooking programs for the members. Last year, a fee of $50 was charged in addition to the share fee. Sign ups will begin early May on the group’s website, montclaircsa.wordpress.com.
• The Bloomfield-Montclair CSA offers its 165 members three pickup locations in Bloomfield, Cedar Grove and Montclair. Deliveries are made every Tuesday, 2:30-6:30 p.m., for 24 weeks June through November. Shares are $675 for vegetable and $345 for fruit shares. Egg and poultry/meat shares from Wrong Direction Farm is also offered. Members must provide their own bags, and bag and weigh their own shares. All members are required to volunteer three 45-minute shifts per season on pickup days.
Vegetables come from Circle Brook Farm and fruits from Tree-Licious Orchards.
Members have become so invested in supporting “their farm” that when Circle Brook Farm had a chance to purchase the property they’d been leasing and farming for decades, members raised money. Today, the land is owned, not rented.
“These farmers break their backs to give us fresh organic produce, most of the time just breaking even,” said Asa Miriglia, coordinator. The farmers also invite members to visit the farms for family events and dinners.
The last delivery around Thanksgiving is bountiful, said Miriglia. “We get loads and loads of potatoes and root vegetables.” There is a $20 annual fee. This year, members may be introduced to a mushroom farmer.
Leftovers are donated to a local soup kitchen and church food pantries.
Current members: 165
Duration: Weekly for 24 weeks
Cost: $675 vegetables, $345 fruit, $20 fee
Pickups: Tuesdays, 2:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Locations: 135 Lindbergh Boulevard, Bloomfield; 96 Bowden Rd, Cedar Grove; 86 Llewellyn Road, Montclair
Farmers: Circle Brook Farm and Tree-Licious Orchards
Sign up: firstname.lastname@example.org
Other info: Members volunteer and bag their own.
Montclair Food Co-op & CSA
Current members: 100
Duration: Every other week for 12 weeks
Cost: $300 vegetables, $300 fruit, $50 fee
Pickups: Every other Friday, noon to 6 p.m.
Locations: Montclair History Center, 108 Orange Road
Farmers: Hepworth Farms, Bee My Honey Apiary, Wrong Direction Farms
Sign up: montclaircsa.wordpress.com
Other info: Optional add-ons for meat, eggs, honey. Members are asked to volunteer for one 2-hour shift.
Current members: 90
Duration: Every other week for six-week seasons, year-round
Cost: $150 for singles (eggs included), $240 for standard, $420 for family, $30 fee
Pickups: Fridays, 3:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Locations: Elm Street near Nishuane Park
Sign up: boxedorganicsnj.com