Last November our family bought a share in a CSA from Napoleon Ridge Farm in Napoleon, KY. Napoleon is one of those places that you’ll miss if you blink. It’s located in Gallatin County (Kentucky), just along I-71. Owned by Trisha Houston, Napoleon Ridge Farm grows produce and flowers, and raises chickens, pigs, and cows.
A CSA, short for community-supported agriculture, has become, at least for us, one of the best ways to consistently have access to local food and ingredients directly from a farm throughout the growing season. Farmers who have CSA programs sell a limited number of shares of their harvest every year. When someone joins a CSA they pay the farmer up front for one share of their harvest.
Last winter I contacted Napoleon Ridge to indicate that I’d like to join their CSA for 2012. I sent Farmer Trisha a check for a full share of her harvest. (She also sells half shares for smaller families or couples.) Beginning in mid-May we started our weekly pick-ups of produce and other ingredients from Trisha at the Covington Farmer’s Market. Each farmer designates different pickup days and times that are convenient for them. Trisha has Tuesday and Saturday pick-ups on Covington and in Clifton.
Every Saturday morning we meet Trisha in Covington and with no further exchange of money she gives us our weekly share of her harvest – plus more. So far this year weekly share has included a variety of vegetables, fruits, and other cooking ingredients. We’ve enjoyed honey, kale, mustard greens, garlic scapes, kohlrabi, fennel, cabbage, and blackberries. One week Trisha included a bottle of olive oil from an organic olive oil producer in Lexington, We have also eaten our fill of fresh brats, pork roast, ground beef, steaks, fresh chicken, and farm-fresh eggs. In late June we grilled two of the steaks and I have to say they were some of the best steak I’ve ever eaten, thanks to Trisha and her cows, and her care of the food. From what I understand the squash is almost ready and tomatoes and corn are sure to be delivered in late-July.
A CSA arrangement is a win for Farmer Trisha and for any farmer who has a CSA program. Trisha gets her money up front which helps her cash flow for the farm. In addition, she doesn’t have to worry about marketing her produce and meat during the busy growing season, it’s essentially already sold. For us, we get ultra-fresh local ingredients for our meals. Best of all we’ve developed a relationship with Trisha – she know us and we know her. A few weeks ago when the best male cook went to Covington to pick up our box, Trisha threw in some fresh chicken livers because, “Maggie will know what to do with these”.
The idea of a CSA is simple, but the results I believe are telling for city-dwellers, like us, who live outside of an agrarian lifestyle. We have access to fresh, locally grown food. For Trisha a more secure farming arrangement is hard to beat. Best of all, we both revel in the relationship that’s developed between the people who grow the food and the family who cooks and eats it. These are all the reasons I believe in supporting local farmers is we can.
The time to prepare to join a CSA is in the fall. Farmer’s usually start to reserve or sell their shares in the wintertime. The Central Ohio River Valley (CORV) Food Guide (www.eatlocalcorv.org) provides a listing of farms in the tri-state area that have CSA programs. Their 2012 listing included the Kentucky farms mentioned here:
Weber Farms (Boone) KY
Greensleeves Farm (Campbell) KY
Idyllwild Farm (Campbell ) KY
The Farm at Holiday Harbor & Our Mother’s Garden (Campbell) KY
Napoleon Ridge Farm & Nature Center (Gallatin) KY
Hazelfield Farm (Owen) KY
Fox Run Farm (Pendleton) KY
For 2013 there might be more. According to LocalHarvest (www.localharvest.org), “Tens of thousands of families have joined CSAs, and in some areas of the country there is more demand than there are CSA farms to fill it.”