Category Archives: CSA

5 things to do before your CSA starts

The first pickups of the Snead’s Farm CSA 2017 season will be May 1 for Braehead Farm and North Stafford customers, and May 3 for Snead’s Farm customers. You can still join the CSA by downloading the contract here. This post is written by Emily Freehling, who writes the weekly e-mails that offer tips on how to use the Snead’s Farm CSA. 

Snead's Farm CSA Box

This will be my family’s seventh year participating in the Snead’s Farm CSA. In that time, I’ve come to anticipate the start of this season.

It signals the end of bringing home plastic clamshell containers of tired, flavorless lettuce from the supermarket and the start of a time when I’ve got an abundance of vibrant, fresh greens to build menus around. It means weekly trips to the farm and a vegetable list that gives me a head start on the week’s meal planning.

It’s true that a CSA membership is something to be carefully considered. You will have to cook, maybe more than you are used to.

But if you take the month of April to make a few preparations, you’ll be set up for success, and can make the most of your investment.

Here is my pre-CSA to-do list:

  1. Sign up for the Snead’s Farm e-mail list. We send an e-mail every Sunday that gives you a list of what to expect in your CSA box for the week, along with recipes and tips for using your produce. Click here for the signup form, and make sure to check the box for your CSA pickup location if you want to receive the weekly CSA e-mail. To ensure you receive these e-mails, make sure the e-mail address news@sneadsfarm.com is on your accepted senders list (Don’t send e-mails there, though; you’re better off calling the farm or sending a Facebook message.). If you use gmail and you find these going into your promotions tab, simply click on the message and drag the e-mail into your primary inbox if you want the weekly CSA list to appear there.
  2. Clean out the fridge. You’re going to need fridge space for all the good stuff that’s coming your way, and you’ll want to put this beautiful produce in a clean fridge. So clean out all those old jars you’re never going to empty, wipe down the surfaces to get rid of those random spills that have solidified over the winter, clear the dried lettuce leaves and shriveled berries from the corners of your produce drawers and make way for the good stuff.
  3. Assess your equipment. My big kitchen splurge this year will be a second salad spinner (Crazy, right?). I have found over the years that if my greens are washed and ready, I’m a lot more likely to use them in smoothies, on sandwiches, and in any other spur-of-the-moment concoction I might be making. So when I bring home my box, I immediately fill my spinner with cold water, prep my chard, kale, collards, beet tops, lettuce or other green (with chard, kale and collards, this means separating the leaves from the stems and tearing them into bite-sized pieces) and let them soak in the water. You might need to fill the spinner two or three times if there’s a lot of dirt on your greens. Then I spin them dry and store them in the spinner in the fridge. This is why I need a second spinner, because I’ll either have more greens I want to prep this way, or I’ll want to use a spinner to wash and dry other produce, like sugar snap peas. Here are some other pieces of equipment to make sure you have on-hand:
    • a good, sharp chef’s knife
    • a paring knife
    • two to three solid cutting boards
    • a vegetable peeler
    • a box grater (or a Cuisinart, if you prefer)
    • at least two solid metal sheet pans for roasting batches of vegetables
    • zip-top bags or freezer-safe containers for storing soups, purees, pestos and other ways of preserving surplus produce
    • an 11-inch cast-iron skillet (I use this for stir-fries, frittatas, quesadillas and really just about anything else I cook that doesn’t involve tomatoes. It lives on my stovetop.)
    • smaller colanders for berries and other vegetables
  4. Stock up on staples. I like to try to make fewer trips to the grocery store when I’m getting my CSA box. One way to do that is to have lots of staples on-hand that can make a meal out of just about any produce you happen to have. Here are some ideas:
    • Tortillas and shredded cheese – because you can saute just about anything and put it in a quesadilla.
    • Grains – Wheat berries, farro, rice, couscous, bulgur, quinoa…and any other grain you can think of can be tossed with roasted bite-size vegetables and feta cheese, drizzled with olive oil and either vinegar or lemon juice and made into a delicious salad. Grains can also be a nice addition to frittatas, soups and other dishes you might make with your CSA bounty.
    • Beans – Whether dried or canned, having lentils, black beans, garbanzos, canelinnis, pintos and other beans around means you’re never stuck if you forgot to take the meat out of the freezer. Make soup, a burrito, a salad and more with this cheap protein.
    • Soy sauce, rice vinegar and brown sugar – These three ingredients plus your vegetables are all you need for a stir-fry. Adding grated ginger (keep it in the freezer) and chopped garlic makes it even better. It’s worth investing in a bottle of toasted sesame oil to drizzle on top of the finished product.
    • Good olive oil – buy a good bottle and use it only for making dressings or drizzling over dishes just before you eat them. Buy a cheaper bottle for cooking.
    • Salad dressing ingredients – You may have your favorite recipe, but homemade dressing is the perfect complement to fresh spring greens. I always start with a dollop of Dijon mustard, add a pinch of salt and pepper, some chopped herbs if I have them, then one part vinegar and three parts olive oil (more or less, depending on your taste). Shake or stir it up and you’re ready to go.
    • Flour and yeast – mainly for making homemade pizza dough.
    • Lemons – A squeeze of lemon can make most things taste better.
  5. Get excited. Participating in a CSA is a wonderful way not only to eat more vegetables, but also to educate yourself and your family on where food comes from. Farming is very weather-dependent, but Snead’s Farm partners with other local farms to ensure the highest diversity and quality of goods offered, all grown locally. In addition to Snead’s Farm, produce in this CSA also comes from C&T Produce of Stafford County, The Canning Farm and Steve Minter Farm of King George County, Timber Ridge Fruit Farm in Frederick County, Va., Westmoreland Berry Farm and Braehead Farm of Fredericksburg. Your support of this CSA helps keep all of these small farms in business, keeping land in farm use and benefitting the local food system and environment.

Mark your calendars for May 1 or 3 and don’t miss that first pickup. Happy eating!

 

Our 2017 CSA starts May 1

Sneads Farm CSA

The Snead’s Farm 2017 CSA starts in less than two months!

Once again this year, we will be offering pickup at Snead’s Farm, Braehead Farm and at our North Stafford location.

To join the CSA, click here to download the contract, and send it in with your payment. Then don’t forget to come pick up your delicious box of farm-fresh produce on your first pickup day.

 

 

CSA Week 11: July 11 and 13, 2016

In the box:

2 pints blueberries
2 pints blackberries
2 peppers
1 eggplant
1 dozen eggs
1 bag squash

OPTIONAL BONUS: (please note that pick-your-own berries are for CSA members ONLY.)
On Wednesday, July13:
2 quarts pick-your-own raspberries, to be picked between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m. at Snead’s Farm
2 bouquets pick-your-own sunflowers (15 flowers per bouquet), to be picked between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. at Snead’s Farm

On Sunday, July 17:
4 quarts pick-your-own raspberries, to be picked between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m. at Snead’s Farm
2 bouquets pick-your-own sunflowers (15 flowers per bouquet) to be picked between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. at Snead’s Farm

Total retail value of this week’s box: $170
Total value of goods distributed so far this year: $837

Meal Plan:

Congratulations! All CSA members have now broken even on their investment! That means you can think of the rest of the summer’s bounty (and your quadruple fall box) as “free!”

Night 1: Sticky blackberry honey hot wings
Night 2: Summer Salmon Cakes with Zucchini-Fennel Slaw (I made these last week and added one egg and a few more cracker crumbs to the cake mixture to make the cakes a little heartier) Wonderful use for zucchini if you are starting to get sick of zucchini.
Nights 3 and 4: Portobello and Summer Squash Lasagna (This recipe is a go-to every summer for me. I often sub out the mushrooms for hot Italian sausage. The key to any good lasagna is to splurge on good fresh-made ricotta and high-quality marinara sauce.)
Night 5: Make Baba Ganouj, then assemble a Mediterranean Mezze Platter for a non-traditional dinner. My kids love “snacky” meals like this. Buy some pitas and cut them into triangles, open a jar of kalamata olives, and try some of these ideas from Martha Stewart to fill out your platter.
Night 6: Eggs in a pepper. Have a side of fresh berries and serve up some biscuits (homemade r from the fridge) and bacon to complete the meal.
Night 7: Raspberry Grilled Cheese (The recipe I have linked to uses Brie. Brie is delicious but seems a little rich to me for summer. I think tart raspberries would be nice with a good sharp cheddar. If you can’t find brioche, try a good, crusty sourdough.)

 

CSA Week 4: May 23 and 25, 2016

In this week’s box:

10 pounds asparagus
2 pints blueberries
4 bunches kale
2 bunches green leaf lettuce
2 bunches onions

Total value of this week’s box: $78
Total value of goods distributed so far this year: $335

Meal Plan

Night 1: Salmon and asparagus stir-fry, served over rice. Remember the key to an easy stir fry: Read your recipe and have your ingredients ready to go before you start. And always start the rice first.
Night 2: Kale salad with apples, cranberries and pecans
Nights 3 and 4: Asparagus lasagna with a side salad and some good bread.
Night 5: Breakfast for dinner or a weekend brunch:Lemon Ricotta Blueberry Pancakes
Nights 6 and 7: Kale and Black Bean Enchiladas, topped with chopped onions (You could easily add chopped asparagus to the pan when you cook the kale if you had any left to use, or just wanted to bulk up this dish.).

Need a dish to take to a Memorial Day potluck?Try this blueberry walnut salad with your lettuce and berries.

North Stafford pickup available for 2015 CSA customers

We are happy to announce another new pick-up option for our 2015 CSA. This year we will offer Monday afternoon pickups at a home in the Poplar/Mountain View area of Stafford County for all weekly pickups (The Oct. 7 quadruple fall pickup will still be at Snead’s Farm for all customers.).

Pickup hours at this location will be noon to 6 p.m. This box will be the same as the box that our customers receive at the Braehead Farm Monday pickup. If you’re interested in the Braehead pickup, click here.

There will be a surcharge of $72 ($4 for each of the 18 weekly pickups) for this option. Space on the truck going to Stafford is limited, so we will cap the number of customers in this pickup.

Interested? Here’s how to sign up for North Stafford pickup:

  • If you have already signed up for the 2015 CSA and you want to pick up in North Stafford:
    • Send a check for $72 (the surcharge for all 18 deliveries) to Emmett Snead, 18294 Tidewater Trail, Fredericksburg VA 22408.
    • Please include the primary name on the CSA account on your check so we can put you on the right pickup list. We would like to receive checks and requests by Friday, May 1. 
    • If you had already requested to be part of the Braehead Farm Monday pickup by sending in a $36 check, but the North Stafford pickup sounds even better to you, then you will only need to send us $36 more for the North Stafford option.
  • If you have not signed up for the 2015 CSA:
    • What are you waiting for? Download the contract here. The base price for pickup at Snead’s Farm is $800, but if you would like to be included in the North Stafford pickup, make your check out for $872.
    • We’ll know which pickup you want by the amount on your check, but feel free to write it on the contract as a friendly reminder.

*To protect the privacy of the individual who will be hosting the North Stafford pickup, we will disclose the exact location when you sign up for it.

Emmett Snead

Area cultivating community supported agriculture

This month’s column contiues a discussion of how community supported agriculture developed in the Fredericksburg area.

DOING A community supported agriculture effort has dovetailed into my farming operation better than any single marketing tool I have ever known in my 51 years of retail farming.

There has never been a problem selling all the produce I can grow and pick Thursday through Sunday mornings, retail. Those are the days when the vast majority of retail produce shoppers are shopping for fresh fruits and vegetables at roadside stands and farmers markets. During the ’90s a farmer could sell excess produce picked the first part of the week to chain stores at a price at or just above the cost of production.

Around the turn of the 21st century, competition between chain stores and big-box stores began to really heat up. At the same time, out West and around the world, large farms became even larger. From an economies of scale point of view, this became very efficient. Big-box stores could price their “purchases” (with the advent of the Internet and computers located at their warehouses) across the global market.

In other words, they could find the cheapest price for an airplane load or a tractor-trailer load of produce from a mega-farm anywhere in the world, and expect you, as a small local farmer, to match the price they found in Timbuktu. Not likely.

Big-box stores have won out over chain grocery stores and smaller big-box stores. So, now the real goal of big-box stores is no longer to beat competitors on price, but to beat themselves on price.

That means the wholesale price is never cheap enough, so the price farmers receive from the big-box store is always going down. Consequently, the retail price a consumer pays for produce in a big-box store generally has nothing to do with the wholesale price the farmer receives for the produce sold to that store. It’s a total disconnect.

That’s why farmers need to directly reconnect to consumers. Many thanks to people who are fed up with their produce coming from Timbuktu.

 

And so the localvore/CSA movement was born. I was able to create a new weekend day on Wednesday (CSA pickup day). Besides the fruit and vegetables that are given out weekly to the CSA, a la carte sales at the roadside on Wednesday are now stronger than any weekend day.

The “double weekend” setup allows me to have a constant, even flow of fruits and vegetables for full-time retail sales without having to sell wholesale below the cost of production. The only occasional complaint I get is, “Why [or how] do you put so much fruit and vegetables in your CSA?”

I can answer that question with a question: If you were me, and you could choose between selling produce below the cost of production to a company that pays you when it feels like it and doesn’t care if you live or die–or you could put it in your local families’ CSA share who paid you in advance and would like nothing better than to see you and your family succeed at farming–which would you do?

I have told all the farmers I know that they should be doing a CSA. The more CSAs the better–because it keeps more family farms in business and gives families more choices and locations to choose from locally.

You’ve heard the saying, “High tide raises all ships.” Well, family farms now have a business model that can beat out the biggest of the big-box stores on price, quality and value while keeping local money in the local economy. Slaying Goliath is almost as much fun as farming itself.

 

Apples

How the CSA idea bore fruit locally

BY EMMETT SNEAD

FOR THE FREE LANCE-STAR

MY WIFE, ELLEN, and I first met Stavroula Conrad, Heidi Lewis and DeLaura Padovan at the Cosner Park community center sometime during the late ’90s. We were giving a talk about some aspect of farming to a group of farmers.

Afterward we were approached by these three articulate young ladies with very engaging smiles. The best part about giving pep talks about farming is the eclectic collection of people you meet.

They introduced themselves and said they wanted to start a CSA in the Fredericksburg area. The first thought that went through my mind was that they must be in disguise, because they didn’t look like they were representing the Confederate States of America.

I had never heard of community supported agriculture, but Stavroula explained it to us enthusiastically in great detail. It is always a gift to learn.

I asked her what her long-term goal was concerning the CSA business. She said, “There would be CSA growers dotting the local land to feed the local people.”

What an extraordinary concept, I thought.

I explained to her that at that time I was going to four different farmers markets—seven days a week—selling to chain stores and restaurant groups, running a daily roadside stand and selling pick-your-own pumpkins and cut-your-own Christmas trees.

However, my long-term goal was to one day (it occurred in 2010 with the advent of my CSA) sell 99 percent of my fruit and vegetables at my farm location only. Stavroula said they needed someone to do eggs for their CSA.

I asked my daughter Jessica (she already had a few chickens) if she would be interested in selling eggs to the Fredericksburg CSA. She jumped at it.

The organizers of the Fredericksburg CSA first brought the CSA concept here in 1995 and their first harvest was in 1997. Most of the CSAs in this area got their start either directly or indirectly from the Fredericksburg CSA. The Fredericksburg area is truly blessed, with more CSAs and farmers markets than many other areas.

Stavroula Conrad, Heidi Lewis and Delaura Padovan, the King George market manager, were and still are ahead of their time. They had a dream that has become reality and continues to grow bigger all the time.

When I was growing up, most everyone I knew had a grandparent, an uncle or an aunt who had a farm they could visit during the summer. Now, the locavore movement, agritainment, sustainable farming, CSAs and the desire to protect and promote local green space have all come together to connect with modern families that no longer have farming kin, but want to know both where their food comes from and the farm family that grows it.

Suddenly, it seems to me, families have discovered new ways to visit a farm, have fun planning a meal around the food that came from that farm, save money and save the earth all in one whack-a-moley. It also fits perfectly with with a farmer’s desire to share an understanding of what he does. Everyone wins.

Families are finding out why food grown on a family farm tastes better than that purchased from a grocery store. Varieties of fruits and vegetables grown on family farms are selected for their superior taste and flavor over varieties purchased from chain stores that were selected for their superior shipping and storage qualities.

Fruits and vegetables picked at peak ripeness have more vitamins and minerals in them, which make them not only more tasty but also a healthier choice.

There are as many kinds of CSAs to choose from as there are farmers who do them.

You should check out the local ones online first. Narrow them down to the ones that appeal to your personal taste and needs. Then go out and visit those farms to make a final decision.

Another major thing to consider is risk assessment. Most CSAs do not really guarantee X amount of product. This is because crop yields are subject to the whims of nature, insects and disease. Some CSAs have greatly minimized their risks. They have spread those risks by joining forces with other farmers in the area to offer a broader variety of fruits and vegetables. Look for farms that are able to irrigate their crops.

Also, farms that pursue sustainable farming through best management practices (BMPs) and crop rotation cut down on insect and disease problems naturally. Farmers who have learned to minimize risk tend to have more bountiful crops, which in turn will give CSA members a larger share.

On price, in order to compare asparagus to asparagus, check out how many items were given out per week in past years. The value of the kinds of items is important, too. For instance, fresh fruit is generally more valuable than fresh vegetables. The track record of the CSA or the reputation of the farmer should be investigated. A lot of this can be done by word of mouth and by researching online.

Next month, we’ll continue in House & Home with how easily the CSA concept has blended with my existing farm business.

Emmett Snead operates Snead’s Farm along Tidewater Trail in Caroline County.

 

 

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