The Square Circuit

Academia, parenthood, living in a bankrupt city, and what I read in the process.

Monday, November 13, 2006

end-of-season report

So, I hemmed and hawed about whether or not we were going to subscribe to a CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) farm this summer, and I solicited opinions, and in the end we decided to do it. The Pittsburgh farmers' market system is only half-adequate, and some of them (the Wilkinsburg market, for instance) are just bad. The Highland Park market is probably the best, but it's only okay, and even though I like being downtown during the workweek the Thursday noon market at Market Square is also halfassed. I guess there's not enough of a clientele for these markets, but I don't quite understand why--western PA seems like great farm country. I didn't see all that many Amish farmers at these markets either, which makes me think that there is some kind of disconnect there, as well. The only farmers' market that's reliable and worth hitting weekly is the Farmers Co-Op Market across from the East Liberty Home Depot--the one where the Kennedy farm has a stand.

Anyway, so that's why we went with the Kretschmann Farm. We got our first delivery in April, probably, and the last one arrives tomorrow. It's been well worth it (at about $475 for the year, that's saying something). I've written previously about my conversion to the idea that one should buy locally produced food--that local production is even more important than "organic" status--and anyone who's read Michael Pollan (from whom I got the idea) knows this. So Kretschmann already had that going for them. But we discovered that they really did give us almost exactly what we should--not COULD, but SHOULD--be eating in terms of vegetables every week. Our boxes forced us to come up with innovative ways to cook strange vegetables. I had never cooked kale, chard, beets, fennel bulbs, beet greens, acorn squash, and several other of the things we received before this summer/fall, and I'm pleased to say we did a lot of experimenting. I'm still not fully a convert to the beet--there was one endless pot of "creamy beets cooked with mustard" that sounded good but was hard to get through, and there's a gallon of Ukranian borscht in the freezer waiting for some winter's day--but I don't even flinch when I see a bunch of kale or chard anymore. That's a small victory. We also ate many more vegetables than we usually do, and there's nothing bad about that.

Still, the drawback is the price: that's a lot of cash. I see it, though, as the cost of modernity: in a world where calories themselves are cheap, we must pay a premium for GOOD, nutritious calories, and not just more HFCS. The premium isn't that great--hell, they're charging almost a dollar per lemon at the Iggle!--and another fringe benefit is that we, or at least I, felt a lot more in tune with the progress of the seasons. Provided that we're HERE next summer, and not off on various fellowships and family trips, we'll definitely do it again.


  • At 4:27 PM, Blogger zp said…

    I love how you reserved judgement until the end, while I raved impulsively all summer . . . As another first timer, I too would buy veggies from the Kretschmann's again.

    As I figure it, our "small" fed two non vegetarian adults who eat 1-2 meals each at home per day with veggies for 19$ a week, which is about how much I spend on veggies anyhow. Seriously.

    We had to move our Giant Eagle shopping day to Thursday, so it followed the box day, so that we could plan meals and shop to accomodate what came . . . and I got in the habit of reading the Kretschmann's email to help plan the week's meals too.

    Another accomodation, my partner in crime figured out how to cook beets to a salad tender perfection in our microwave. Microwaving corn on the cob (which I never before would buy or prepare) was also a quick summer time thing.



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