Jul 142005

Be Wise Ranch

About a month ago a coworker told Anna and I about their enrollment in a CSA program at Be Wise Ranch. She loved it, so Anna and I decided to give it a go. What the hell am I talking about? From here:

Community supported agriculture (CSA) is a new idea in farming, one that has been gaining momentum since its introduction to the United States from Europe in the mid-1980s. The CSA concept originated in the 1960s in Switzerland and Japan, where consumers interested in safe food and farmers seeking stable markets for their crops joined together in economic partnerships.

Still foggy? I don’t blame you. The basic idea is that one ‘subscribes’ to a local farm, and receives crops from it. In my case it means that I pay $20 a week to a local organic farm (Be Wise Ranch) for a box full of veggies and fruit that I pick up every Friday at the drop-off closest to me (bankers hill/hillcrest).

Why do it? Be Wise Ranch lists five reasons on their website:

    You and your family will be able to eat tasty and nutritious farm-fresh produce year-round, delivered weekly (or bi-weekly) to a location convenient to your home.
    You will enjoy a wide variety of fruits and vegetables grown organically, without the use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides.
    You will encourage sustainable stewardship of a local family farm right here in San Diego.
    You will join a community of 900 families in San Diego who are committed to social and ecological responsibility in the local community.
    You can do all this at a lower cost than buying the same produce at a supermarket!

I’d like to add a couple of my own:

    Saves my time by reducing shopping & planning
    The somewhat random nature of ingredients increases your exposure to different foods, new recipes, and new ways of cooking
    Enforces healthy eating habits, since you always have a lot of fresh produce to consume
    Education, and a reconnection with food and harvest. While not as bad as our relationship to meat, I think America is very disconnected to seasons and the actual production of food.

What do you get for your money? Its always going to be different, and produce varies by season. As an example, this is approximately what we received last week (‘small share’):

1 large bag of salad mix (enough for 6-8 salads)
3 onions
8 carrots
6 small zucchinis
Aprox 2lb of green beans
Aprox 12 small-med valencia oranges
5 heirloom tomatoes
2 large celery
5 Radishes
Occasionally there is extra produce for everyone at the drop-off point to share. Last week there were a lot of tomatoes, so we grabbed about 4lb.

As you can see by looking at our list above, your menu will change every week based on what you get in your box. For us that turned out to be lots of salads, fresh marinara, fresh salsa, green bean & tofu stir-fry, and faux-pot-roasted veggies. I really enjoy having my ingredient list already prepared for me, it makes coming up with meals a lot quicker and simpler. It also forces you to be a bit more daring with your cooking. Iron Chef here I come! Hah, no.

Our experience with BWR:

    Service – I wish you could more on their website, and they can be hard to get on the phone. Other than that, the service has been fantastic.
    Quality – The produce is the perfect ripeness/freshness and of the best quality. Needless to say, it blows supermarket produce out of the water. It also compares favorably to good vendors at farmers markets. Little things matter, like keeping the tops on carrots & onions makes the produce last a lot longer as well.
    Value – Looking at our list for last week, we get good amount of produce for $20. Considering its great quality and organic production, the value looks even better.

This is our third week doing the weekly ‘small share’, and we are definitely fans. We have been eating healthier, and the quality has been great.

More information
The UT profiled a number of CSA’s in San Diego, June 30th.
CSA at the National Agricultural Library (NAL) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Introduction to CSA
A list of CSA farms
Another list of CSA farms
Yet another list of CSA farms

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