If “farm-to-table” sounds like something only restaurants with reclaimed wood seating and industrial lighting can pull off, think again. Becoming a member of a Community Supported Agriculture program can turn your kitchen into its very own farm-to-table dining room.
A CSA is a partnership between a farmer and community members interested in buying the most local, seasonal produce available. Each CSA functions a little differently, some deliver produce to your front door, but the food is from farms located outside of Westchester County. So, in honor of World Farmers Day, a time to celebrate all of the contributions that farmers have made to our society, we took a look at how Hilltop Hanover Farm and Environmental Center in Yorktown Heights runs its program and why it’s worth trying out.
First, here’s a quick explanation of how Hilltop’s CSA works. Anyone can become a member by paying a fee up front. Once you become a member, you go to the farm to pick up your vegetables any Tuesday or Thursday between 2 pm and 7 pm from June through November.
As part of the deal, members share the same risks that farmers face. For example, if there is tomato blight, you share that loss. But members will tell you, it is a risk worth taking in exchange for the bounty you enjoy every week for half the year.
Here are eight good reasons to try it out:
1. Fresh, Local, Seasonal Veggies
Your best bet for seasonal produce is at your local farm, straight from the source. A typical early October farm share pick at Hilltop would include:
Beans and Peas
At Hilltop, you pay $700 for 20 weeks of fruits and vegetables. Each week’s supply provides a week’s worth of produce for a family of four or for one or two adults who eat a lot of vegetables. Once you do the math, $35 a week for the most nutritious parts of your family’s meals is reasonable. Plus, there is no check-out line, which means no candy, chocolates, or tabloids to tempt you to waste money or calories while you wait to pay.
Hillside also offers the added benefit of being a “farm-stand style” pick up. So, you get to choose which vegetables fill your bags. Sometimes it’s a choice between varieties of a crop (purple versus orange carrots), and other times, you can choose between a few different but similar crops (leafy greens, chard, or kale). While it gives you more choice, it also allows the farmer to plan for a steady supply of crops.
Just by going to the farm, you will learn about which crops are in season. But, Hilltop also educates its members with regular classes, tastings, and events. You also have the opportunity to meet the farmers who will teach you the best way to use their crops in the kitchen. Hilltop supplies its members with recipes for their weekly pickups, samples, and educational materials so they can become knowledgeable cooks.
Farm Director Lucille Munz
4. Environmentally Friendly
When you bring your own reusable bag to pick up vegetables that never needed to be packaged, trucked, flown or preserved, you are significantly reducing the amount of energy needed to deliver your food. You are also supporting a business dedicated to growing quality food for community members, and to sustainable environmental practices and lifestyle. Everyone wins.
5. Farms Are Cool
Visiting a farm weekly helps you get outside to enjoy the fresh air and the bucolic scenery. On a clear day, you can immerse yourself in Hilltop’s three-and-a-half acres of hiking trails AND enjoy a distant view of New York City. The CSA pick-up season is during the warmest months of the year so you get to enjoy spring as it blooms and fall as it settles, and indulge in the land’s bounty. That’s pretty cool.
6. You Support the Community
Since Hilltop is an Education Center, the CSA also helps them fund a lot of young farmers and helps educate students. Additionally, at least 10 percent of what they grow is donated to food pantries and soup kitchens. “The CSA is the backbone of the farm in terms of financial seed money,” Farm Director Lucille Munz explains.
7. It’s Simple
Essentially, members pay in advance for about 20 weeks of produce, which helps farmers with money needed early in the year to buy their seeds. It also gives farmers more time to focus on growing during their growing season, as it frees them up from having to sell while they grow. Registration to reserve your spot begins this December. You can contact Hilltop for an application.
Hilltop Hanover Farm and Environmental Center
1271 Hanover Street
Yorktown Heights, NY 10598