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Farm Fresh: Your 2021 CSA Guide

Commit now to a CSA subscription from area farms and enjoy the freshest local food each week, all summer long

Amanda Rae
For the Aspen Times Weekly

Spinach that stays vibrant for weeks in the refrigerator is but a fantasy for supermarket shoppers. For customers of Mountain Freshies, however, it’s a super green dream come true.

“Normally when you go into a store, it’s possible that what’s been picked and transported is already a few weeks old,” explains owner Nancy Scheinkman, who runs the retail and wholesale distribution service and CSA program from Snowmass Village with her husband, Greg Olsky. “When you’re buying local, it might have been picked that day or the day before.”

Locally grown food is more nutrient-dense than conventional food shipped from farther afield. And that, Scheinkman believes, is the no. 1 health benefit in choosing to support Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA. Like many others in the area, Mountain Freshies’ robust “Farm-to-Family” CSA program collects, boxes ultra-fresh harvest from multiple small farms in the North Fork Valley (including Paonia-based main producer Austin Family Farm and Taste and See, which grows that spinach). Then they transport it to member subscribers throughout Colorado for 15 weeks from July to September. (Vegetables such as beets, kale, chard, and asparagus are available via Mountain Freshies beginning on May 14; Happy Belly CSA’s special “Spring Share” is delivered to doorsteps in May, too.)



“In (the commercial) food system, even if you’re buying organic, food has often been picked before it ripens, so it can ripen during traveling,” Scheinkman continues, of the practice that stunts nutrient development and kickstarts depletion. “Fruits and vegetables literally respirate when they are separated from their life source, whether picked out of the ground or off of a vine. Because nutrients live in the water of the fruit and vegetable, when they’re respirating, they lose nutrients.”

Timing is key. By committing in spring to a summer CSA “share,” members help to sustain the local economy. Farmers benefit from an influx of capital in the offseason, which helps cover costs, pay wages, and make necessary improvements at a time when they might have little stock to sell. By operating in a small-scale closed market that bypasses the commercial distribution system, farmers typically receive more money for their crops and save precious time that’s better spent doing what they love: farming.




A major benefit to CSA and buying directly from farmers is knowing exactly where the food comes from and how it was grown. Most farmers in the Roaring Fork and North Fork valleys follow organic, sustainable, and biodynamic practices on their own, regardless of whether they have official certification. As these farmers plant a wide variety of crops that ripen gradually over the course of the summer—an effort that helps to build soil and safeguard the future of our foodshed—CSA members reap the bounty for months.

In summer 2019 I subscribed to the Farm Runners CSA as a “Flex Share” member. Each box of nine to 10 items I received, about every other week, included ingredients I wouldn’t have ever purchased on my own: Fava greens, garlic scapes, little white hakurei turnips in June; kohlrabi in July; candy-like yellow Shiro plums in August; mild, mustardy sister to bok choy, joi choi, in September. Plus: Asian pears, Bing cherries, purple daikon radish, nectarines, melons, purple “Magic Molly” potatoes, multicolored carrots, apples, napa cabbage, and spaghetti squash, among many others. “The Farm Runner” weekly newsletter, full of fun facts and serving ideas, guided me in the kitchen. (Though a weekly CSA box could be considered a one-stop shop for busy consumers seeking local food, subscribers will have to handle food prep.)

Ultimately, consumers who invest in local agriculture via CSA broadcast a clear message. “Part of the choice to join a CSA is an active decision about what you value and the community you want to live in,” writes Harper Kaufman of Two Roots Farm. “The CSA is not just a chance to get a weekly bounty of super fresh produce, but to reconnect with your food and the people who grow it.”

Aspen-area restaurants are meeting customer demand for locally grown ingredients. Farm Runners, established in 2015 in Hotchkiss by farmhands Emma and Matthew Kottenstette, fulfils this need. Considered the preferred service for local eateries and wholesale accounts, Farm Runners collects and distributes goods from more than 50 producers in Colorado. Mountain Freshies does the same, aided by a revamped website and ordering platform. “Our farm store is our virtual storefront,” as Scheinkman puts it.

As farmers have known for centuries, local food cultivates community and connection, which is only more desirable as we emerge from a pandemic. A bunch of CSAs are sold-out already, but farms welcome visitors to purchase onsite. Thirty-year-old Peach Valley CSA in Silt, the first CSA farm on the Western Slope and second in Colorado, sold out about four weeks earlier this season, in early March. Two Roots sold out as this article was about to go to press. Mountain Freshies is “ahead of pace from last year by about 50% and will sell out,” Scheinkman notes. “I think it was COVID, raising awareness around wanting to support your immune system. Staying healthy starts with clean food.”

All CSA programs are first-come, first-served and most will sell out. Many offer cash discounts and payment plans.


MULTI-FARM VENDORS

These providers source produce from multiple growers

Farm Runners, Hotchkiss, 970.872.9633, farmrunners.com

June through October (20 weeks)

Full Weekly Share (9-12 items), $850

Bread & Eggs Full Weekly Share, $1,110

Half Weekly Share (5-6 items), $500

Flex (Full) Share, $50/week

Source: Family farms within 100 miles of Hotchkiss, from Palisade to Paonia to Durango to Basalt, large and small, organic and conventional

Produce: Tomatoes, sweet corn, salad mix, peppers, onions, potatoes, carrots, greens, and many specialty crops; view sample boxes on website

Add-ons: Mountain Oven Organic Bakery breads; chicken, duck, quail eggs; chèvre, feta, cheddar, gouda, mozzarella, Jack cheese; cherries, peaches, pears, plums, apples, nectarines, grapes, citrus; meats, bacon, sausage; honey, jam, grains, tortillas, coffee, beverages

Pickup: Wednesdays: Local Coffee House, Aspen, 3-6 p.m.; Aloha Mountain Cyclery, Carbondale, noon-6 p.m.; or at The Station market and café in Hotchkiss

Food thought: “Creating a food system built on honesty and trust: you’ll always know who grew your food and how it was grown.”

Happy Belly CSA, Paonia, 970.761.0355, happybellycsa.com

June to September (16 weeks)

Family CSA Share Box (9-11 items; 3-4 people or 2-3 “ravenous vegans”): $1,120*

Regular CSA Share Box, (6-8 items; 1-2 people), $840*

Source: Multiple farms in Paonia and Hotchkiss, including Happy Belly Farm, owned by certified clinical herbalist Chloé Marcellus

Produce: Salad greens, peas, beets, radishes, cabbage, eggplant, fennel, beans, squash, potatoes, corn, herbs, apples, pears, plums, apricots, cherries, peaches

Add-ons: Dew Lily Farm flower share (16 bouquets, $28 each), egg share, apothecary share (in its third year), Farmhand’s Harvest lamb herdshare, ferments, pantry goods

Delivery: To your door; *pickup in Paonia, $15/week discount

Special: 2021 Spring Produce Share (asparagus, farm eggs, salad mix, bunched greens, radish, bok choy, rhubarb, herbs, honey, seasonal apothecary items), $70, available without summer CSA membership, delivery on Wednesday, May 26.

Food thought: “Commit to picking up and save $15 each week,” Marcellus says. “It’s a cool way to bait people to Paonia: Delicious Orchards is gonna go off this year (with) camping.”

Mountain Freshies, Snowmass Village, 970.379.9280, mountainfreshies.com

July 7 to Oct. 1 (15 weeks)

Mixed Fruit and Vegetable Box

Family (16-20 pounds; 3-4 people), $995

Standard (8-10 pounds; 1-2 people), $540

Vegetable-Only Harvest Box

Family, $945

Standard, $495

Choose 8 weeks:

Flex Family, $660

Flex Standard, $350

Source: Main producer Austin Family Farm in Paonia, which has grown natural, sustainable produce for 50 years, plus other small farms in the North Fork Valley

Produce: Tomatoes, peppers, squash, potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, beets, green beans, onions, chard, kale, cucumbers, corn, eggplant, and garlic. Cherries, apricots, peaches, pears, nectarines, plums, apples, berries, and grapes. Check website for harvest calendar.

Add-ons: Paonia Bread Works loaves, Western Culture goat cheese, juice, jam, Colorado quinoa, mushrooms, Austin’s raw honey

Pickup: Wednesdays at multiple locations in Aspen, Snowmass Village, Woody Creek, Basalt, Willits, Carbondale, Redstone, Glenwood Springs. Receive updates on the app.

Sign up deadline: July 1

Need to know: Customers sensitive to nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant) might choose early-season “Flex” boxes, as these crops are more common in August and September.

Special: Members who enroll in a 15-week program and pay in full by April 30 receive a free standard box (8-10 pounds) of orchard fruit

Food thought: “When you sign up for a CSA, Mother Nature determines the abundance we get to experience.”


SINGLE-ORIGIN CSA

Produce grown on these farms, plus goodies from partner purveyors

Borden Farms, Delta, 970.874.5383, bordenfarms.com

Mid-June to late September (16 weeks)

CSA share: $525 ($45-worth of produce for $32/week)

Source: This 14-acre family farm has grown organic produce since 1996

Produce: 100-plus varieties of fruit, vegetables, and herbs, including “Borden’s Best” tomatoes

Pickup: Aspen Saturday Market or Carbondale Farmers’ Market on Wednesdays

Bonus: CSA members receive a hanging basket or organic herb plants early in the season.

Food thought: “Fresh food like our grandparents used to grow.”

Erin’s Acres, Carbondale, 970.615.0250, erinsacres.com

16411 CO-82, Carbondale (at Catherine Store Road)

June 7 to Sept. 27 (17 weeks)

CSA share: 7-12 items, $750

Produce: 30-plus crops grown organically, including arugula, basil, beans, beets, carrots, chard, collard greens, cabbage, cilantro, cucumbers, dill, edible flowers, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, onions, garlic, parsley, peppers, radishes, potatoes, salad mixes, scallions, spinach, squash, pie pumpkins, tomatoes, and tomatillos

Add-ons: Dooley Creek Farm organic, soy-free eggs and chicken; Shepherd Breads organic sourdough; water buffalo grass-fed beef and milk from rancher José Miranda’s Rocking TT Bar next-door (10-11% more protein than cow’s milk, high in minerals, low in cholesterol; excellent for making yogurt, cheeses, ice cream).

Pickup: From the farm fridge on Mondays; in Carbondale Monday mornings or at the Carbondale Farmers’ Market on Wednesdays.

Food thought: “Supporting local meat and dairy supports the regenerative practices and soil building that we depend on in our valley.”

The Farm Collaborative, Aspen, 970.900.FARM, thefarmcollaborative.org

220 Juniper Hill Rd., Highway 82 (near Brush Creek Road)

Egg CSA: $6/dozen, three-month minimum, pickup only, “from under the chickens, if you prefer!”

Amanda Rae is a native of the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts, home to the first CSA in North America at Indian Lane Farm in Egremont in 1985. amandaraewashere@gmail.com

ALREADY SOLD OUT

Keep these popular options in mind for 2022

ACES at Rock Bottom Ranch, Basalt, 970.927.6760, aspennature.org/location/rock-bottom-ranch

Waitlist for Common Crate Share ($630, 6-9 crops weekly, June 3-Sept. 30). Meat, poultry, eggs for pickup onsite; farm tours, farm-to-table dinners; produce at the Aspen Saturday Market, Carbondale Farmers’ Market, and Skip’s Farm to Market in Basalt.

Peach Valley CSA, Silt, 970.876.2850, peachvalleycsa.com

Waitlist. Grows over 150 varieties of vegetables, 50 herbs and flowers, 12 heirloom apples, and five kinds of apricots. No farm stand or farmers’ markets this year but call to visit the farm. Sign-ups for CSA 2022 begin in October.

Sustainable Settings, Carbondale, 970.963.6107, sustainablesettings.org

Ranch Store (open Tue-Sat noon-5 p.m., or by appointment) stocked with biodynamic, organic veggies, grass-fed lamb, pork, beef, eggs, and dairy from the 24-year-old farm and ranch. Harvests on Thursday and Friday for onsite pickup on Saturday. (See “Food Matters, p. TK)

Two Roots Farm, Basalt, 970.376.6039, tworootsfarm.com

Waitlist. Grows salad greens, herbs, cooking greens, root vegetables, peas, cherry tomatoes, carrots, and more, June to mid-October. Visit the Farm Stand on Fridays, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.


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