Bartlett’s Farm on Nantucket began offering shares in a CSA in the fall of 2011. This family-infused, sixth- generation farm has a robust retail business, and the CSA is offered more as a convenience for their customers than as a traditional CSA. In addition, members are rewarded with the first produce from a crop, finding new items in their bags before they hit the retail market. Bartlett’s tomatoes are available much earlier than those grown on most farms on Cape Cod and the Islands, as there are six greenhouses dedicated solely to growing them. The first ones are seeded in late January and begin to bear around Memorial Day, and CSA members get the very first hot-house tomatoes in their shares. For two years, Bartlett’s Farm has offered shares throughout the entire year, as certified organic greens are produced on a continual basis throughout the year. The Winter CSA consists wholly of baby greens like arugula, Swiss chard, kale, mixed greens, and mixed lettuces, while the summer program has all those summer favorites like corn, tomatoes, zucchini and summer squash, peppers, beets, and carrots. The Fall CSA at Bartlett’s features winter squashes like acorn, butternut, buttercup, and carnival, potatoes, and pumpkins, as well as tomatoes from the last remaining greenhouse. Occasionally, oriental lilies and cut flowers are included in the summer CSA, and the CSA coordinator, Amy Zielinski, includes delicious-sounding, creative recipes in each week’s share. While all the produce is usually available in the market, the big convenience to the shareholder is that their share is all packed up and ready to go so there’s no waiting in line to check out!
As noted above, people join CSAs for all kinds of reasons, but the underlying motivation to join is to enrich their family’s diet with high-quality, fresh, locally-grown food. Farmers will occasionally grow something out of the ordinary, and the shareholder must be open to the experience of trying something new. How do you prepare kohlrabi, anyway? Foodies and non-foodies alike are delighted to find that organically raised pork sausage has a superior flavor that cannot be found in supermarket sausage; that the best pumpkin pie is made with a squash called ‘Long Island Cheese Pumpkin;’ that freshly-picked greens will last three times as long in the fridge as greens shipped from California; that heirloom tomatoes still warm from the sun have more flavor than any other tomato they’ve ever eaten; or that locally-raised chicken is the most delicious poultry they’ve ever cooked.
The French word terroir comes into play when talking about the special characteristics of a place. Loosely translated as a ‘sense of place,’ terroir is what gives locally-grown food its special qualities. Bartlett’s Farm states it like this: “Nantucket’s sandy soil, salt air, and humid, summer sun-drenched days provide the perfect climate for ripening our crops and harvesting them at the peak of freshness and flavor.” Undoubtedly Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod offer the same elements for producing food. People who buy local understand this, and additionally they appreciate the relationship between themselves and the farmers who grow their food. Farmer Woodruff says that while he gets lots of satisfaction from being a farmer and growing high quality food, he gets considerably more from the 20-week commitment that his shareholders make. Seeing them come up the driveway each week, knowing their names, and seeing the delight when they get their weekly shares are all measures of a rewarding farmer-consumer connection.
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