fresh fork market csa: one month in

CSALast year we began researching CSAs. We wanted to find one that was right for us and seek out what others thought of their experience. By the time we felt we had enough info, the season was almost over. But in that process, I became familiar with Fresh Fork Market, particularly Trevor Clatterbuck who started the CSA. During our conversations, we decided to work in trade. In exchange for a few posts and an honest review of the program, we would participate in the weekly CSA which runs May – October (traditional small; $25 week).

It’s been one month now since we joined. After getting to know Trevor and learning more about the farmers he has been cultivating relationships with, as well as his involvement with Parker Bosley, I had high expectations. And to be honest, he’s met them.

Each Friday, I meet Trevor and his truck of local goodness at the Beachwood High School parking lot (there are several pick-up locations), along with other CSA members. And within 15 minutes, I leave with a reusable bag filled with seasonable items from participating farmers (70 in total). The process itself is almost painless, and if I didn’t arrive promptly at 3:30 p.m. each week, which is right when pick-up begins, it would likely be 100% painless (mad dash of people trying to get in and out; he warns of this early on and encourages you to come a little later; he’s there till 6:30 p.m.). For basically being a one-man show, he runs an impressive operation, despite a few hiccups early on. And each week he works to improve and fix upon things that didn’t go as well as he would have liked in the previous week.

So far we’ve enjoyed: fresh eggs, milk, several types of cheese, garlic scrapes, cherries, strawberries, beets (the best beets I’ve ever had!), radishes, lots and lots of greens, sausage, whole wheat pasta, bacon, a whole chicken, herbs, pea shoots, apples and green onions.

Aside from an abundance of greens (even for me – and I drink green smoothies constantly as well as daily salads), I’ve been really happy with our selection – especially the cheeses (Mayfield Road Creamery), milk from Snowville Creamery (which I now by regularly at Heinen’s), chicken, beets, radishes, butter from Hartzler Dairy and sausage. I would eventually like to try the Berkshire pork chops and grass-fed beef one week, but they have run out before I’ve had a chance to buy any (you have the option to add to your bag).

Some have shared they don’t like the idea of not knowing what you are going to get, though Trevor does offer an optionchicken where you can pick out your goods. I have to admit, I have really grown to like this aspect of the program. It’s kinda of fun getting the e-mail from him mid-week disclosing the contents for the week, and then reviewing his weekly newsletter for recipes from Parker Bosley and cooking tips/ideas. Being part of this CSA has added to our commitment to eating as much local as we can, eating in season and supporting area farmers. We still make regular trips to Heinen’s and Miles Market as well as weekly visits to area farmers markets. Even if we did the traditional large bag, it’s simply not enough to feed our family (not to mention all the things we need that we can’t get from a CSA or market), but it’s a good start.

The one area that has changed over this past month that I wasn’t anticipating is in the way I cook. I love to cook and we cook often – but I am a stickler for recipes.  Each week, I’d select what dishes I want to make, fill out my grocery list and buy just what I need to make a week’s worth of meals. You see, I need recipes to cook – I need someone to tell me what goes in the pot and for how long. I’ll make and try just about anything, as long as I have a recipe to fall back on. But this past month, I’ve taken a lot of what we’ve picked up from the CSA and just started experimenting – because I didn’t have recipes to fall back on. I whipped up a pasta dish one night with greens, herbs from my garden and some other pantry staples; I shoved some garlic, lemon, more herbs and an onion in the chicken one night and was grinning ear to ear with how good it came out. I know – this doesn’t sound like much and you probably do this all the time. But for someone like me, someone that relies on the crutch of a recipe, this was a cooking milestone of sorts. It’s only been a month, so I still use an abundance of recipes, but not as much – I’m definitely getting more confidence in making things up and experimenting. And I think I have Fresh Fork to thank for this.

Have you joined a CSA this summer? Which one and how’s it going for you?

8 Comments

  1. steve
    Posted June 22, 2010 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    Michelle,
    You are using recipes, they are just in your head. You already know some of the things that work well together and otherwise you are making it up as you go along. Have no fear in the kitchen and most things will come out fine. Always have some wine ready just in case.

  2. Posted June 23, 2010 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    We’re members of the FFM CSA this year as well. Check out our blog as we cook through our share.

    I am less enthused about next weeks share than this week- I loved the greens!

  3. Posted June 23, 2010 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    @Steve – Oh, there’s plenty of wine always on hand! Funny how many e-m ails I received from people yesterday that were so surprised to hear how much I rely on recipes. Kinda funny I suppose, considering how into food we are – but true (though getting better each day!).

    @Kate – I personally can’t wait for this week’s pick-up – might be the best week yet, imo.

  4. Cathy
    Posted June 23, 2010 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    While I do not buy the weekly CSA, I pick and choose from what’s available and just love it!
    So I pre-ordered the grass fed beef chuck roast for example this week. And looking forward to the beets. Also, love trying different types of produce every week.

  5. Michelle
    Posted June 24, 2010 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    My boyfriend and I signed up for the Fresh Fork CSA – also the small share – and we’re absolutely loving it. This is our first CSA experience, and we’re picking up our share at Menu6 on Larchmere.

    I’m a fanatic for greens, so this week’s share was pretty exciting. The kale went into a pasta dish with sun-dried tomatoes and sausage from the Shaker Square farmer’s market, and the collards and mustard greens are slated for a dish with black-eyed peas and wild rice.

    The chicken really stood out because it was so large. I poached it, which yielded a ton of homemade chicken broth in addition to enough meat for a pesto chicken salad, a few other salads and chilaquiles.

  6. Peggy
    Posted June 25, 2010 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

    I LOVE my fresh fork.. I too struggle with coming up with “on the fly” recipes.. but as I get out of my comfort zone, I think that Im getting the hang of this!! I have been trying to rely on the weekly basket alone, with very few add ons.. I went vegetarian for a month while doing this (never in a million years thought I could go without meat.. I love it too much!) and have been having wonderful sucess.. The only thing.. I THINK I put mustard greens in my smoothie this morning.. ummm it was a bit radishy.. it was weird. I couldnt drink it. .so I need to get into Greens 101 and learn what they look like, because the kale was fabulous!!

  7. Stephanie
    Posted June 29, 2010 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    We did some research late last year and early this year, but chickened out again. After reading your post, i am wanting to re-consider. Thanks for the review!

  8. Posted July 10, 2010 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    Last year I went with the City Fresh CSA and loved it. This year our pickup location started it’s own CSA and isn’t part of City Fresh anymore (East Side Veggies). We get the single share for $15/week and it’s just produce. I really look forward to creating with the food we pick up every week. They have a weekly newsletter and offer up different programs for members to participate in. Another thing I really like about this CSA is that you don’t have to pay for the whole season up front. You can pay for a 4 week block at a time.