On Joining Not One but Two CSAs in Knoxville, TN

I could eat my weight in strawberries! Picking our own at Mountain Meadows Farm.
I could eat my weight in strawberries! Picking our own at Mountain Meadows Farm.

I have long wanted to join a CSA, or community supported agriculture share.  For one reason or another, though, I’ve never done it.  Mostly it’s because I am usually traveling half the summer and it would be a waste.  CSAs can also be pricey, and I haven’t always had the 3oo-400 bucks up front that most of these require.  And also, with more and more farms offering CSAs, it can be hard to choose.  Especially as many CSAs have been criticized for various reasons, from price point, to shorting the CSA members of the better produce in lieu of better sales at farmer’s markets.  If you’re interested in whether or not this might be right for you, Serious Eats has a good article on the pro’s and cons of CSAs.

But since we live in Knoxville now, and East Tennessee has such a long and magnificent growing season, this year we couldn’t resist.  After all, we aren’t going anywhere with our wee one on the way, and we cook 90% of our meals at home, which means we buy a ton of produce.  Seriously, our grocery bill is a constant concern, and I am continually trying to reduce it,  but then, squirrel!  I must make insert-thing-I-must-make-here.

But which CSA to join?  Well, with me already six months pregnant and only to get bigger throughout the summer, any CSA that requires volunteer work is out (and while many do and I think that’s GREAT, I am just trying to be careful of my body and pregnancy).  We picked up a local food and farm guide, Nourish Knoxville, that listed several options.  From this, we narrowed it down to two, and finally decided on Crooked Road Farm.  The pickup options for Crooked Road worked best for us, and frankly, they had me at fresh eggs.  My husband and I LOVE fresh eggs, and go through many of them a week.  Sigh.  Usually about a dozen and a half.  But we also care about happy chickens, so we want to support farms that produce happy chickens, and delicious eggs.

Also, the price point of Crooked Road Farm worked for us.  It’s $240 for a 12 week share of produce, or $300 (an additional $5 a week) for a share of produce with a dozen eggs. This works out to about $25 a week for both produce and eggs, and considering the scary bills I’ve had lately at Whole Foods, seems like it will be a savings for us in the long run, though you DO have to pay up front. Crooked Road also ends in August, in the shoulder growing season here, and resumes in the fall with a second 12 week option.  While some CSAs power right through, what you mainly get during the hot August season is a lot of squash.  I love squash, but this year I will be full term with the wee one in August, and probably not up for pureeing, freezing, roasting, and grilling ALL THE SQUASH.  Of course, tomatoes are also an August staple, but I will eat my weight in those NO MATTER WHAT.  So this year, this CSA works for us, at least on paper.  We get our first box this week, and I can’t wait to see what’s in each one as the summer progresses.  I promise to update as we go along!

But while we were dropping off our deposit to Jonny for the produce CSA at the Winter Farmer’s Market, we discovered that Mountain Meadows Farm is offering an all fruit CSA.  What the what?  I can do that?  A CSA with all the fruits I can’t get enough since I got pregnant?  Oh dear.  Can we even DO two CSAs?

Why yes, yes you can.  Mountain Meadows is a farm I’m familiar with because they tend to have a great variety of eggplant and other produce during the summer.  I can’t walk by their stand at the Market Square Farmer’s market without buying something, even though it frequently means standing in line, because their produce is quality.  This year they are planning on traveling themselves over the summer, so are scaling back their produce operation, and focusing on fruit.  They are offering a fruit CSA for 17 weeks at $375, and we can pick up at the same market we’ll pick up our Crooked Road Farm box.  That’s about $22 a week, which might not be right for everyone, but for me, even when I am not pregnant, the fresh fruits of summer are one of the best parts.  Blackberry cobbler is what makes 95 plus degree days WORTH IT.  And strawberries?  Did I eat 5 pounds of strawberries this week almost by myself?  I plead the fifth.

So I really have no idea if these will be a boom or bust for us this year, whether I will feel overwhelmed by the produce we get, or stifled by a lack of variety.  I don’t know if we’ll save money in the long term, or if our food budget just suffered a cataclysmic demise.  I DO know I like the idea of supporting local farms.  And I also know I can’t wait to get my hands on our first boxes of fresh from the earth goodness.

My husband picking strawberries at Mountain Meadows Farm on his birthday.
My husband picking strawberries at Mountain Meadows Farm on his birthday.

I’ll keep you updated as the summer progresses.  I will also let you know soon about a few local U-Pick farms, which my husband and I have been exploring this season.  We’ve picked a total of 17 pounds of strawberries so far in the last week, and I cannot should be stopped.  We’ve also made arrangements (in addition to our CSA noted above) to get broccoli, beets, and okra from a local farm.  Perhaps it IS time to invest in the canning equipment I’ve been coveting….

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