Going to the local farm stand was a normal part of life when my wife Katie and I were growing up; she in the fertile lands along the shore of Lake Ontario in Central New York and I in the Rondout Valley nestled between the Catskills and Shawangunks just south of Kingston, NY. Both of us had close high school friends who were vegetable and dairy farmers. In fact, to this day we good naturedly debate over whether Oswego or Ulster County sweet corn is the best!
But once we moved to the North Country, we found the opportunities for buying local produce were few and far between. That is until the last couple of years when several communities, including Lake Placid, began holding farmer’s markets during the summer months. That movement has grown and now there is a market almost every day in a community nearby, and some markets have even extended their seasons indoors into the winter months. We have been active shoppers at the various markets during past summers and the time was right for us to take the next step.
This past year we took the plunge and joined a CSA for the season. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and it is a growing initiative for consumers to bridge the distance between themselves and their food sources. CSA members share in the risk and also reap the rewards to allow small farms the upfront capital funding to survive. In our case, we purchased a full share in Fledging Crow Vegetables in Keeseville, NY. In exchange for providing needed funding for Fledging Crow farmers to buy seeds and hire staff, we gain access to a reliable source of fresh food from a farm whose practices are sustainable and that operates under certified naturally grown guidelines. Fledging Crow uses the free choice model, meaning each week we could hand pick the produce we wanted from a list of vegetables posted at their stand at the local market here in Lake Placid. If we did not particularly care for an item we could substitute. Once the harvest is in full swing it was usually open choice and we could fill our wooden crate with whatever we desired.
We purchased a full share and this gave us enough veggies each week to preclude buying any more from the commercial market in town. And once you have tasted a juicy, meaty, heirloom tomato you will never again be satisfied with one of the baseball hard, pale, tasteless ones that has been shipped cross country to your grocer. A further bonus was the chance to try and learn to love a variety of vegetables we would not normally have added to our shopping lists. Broccoli rabe, kale, beets, fennel, celeriac, shallots, and more varieties of herbs and greens than knew existed are just a few examples. We explored new recipes and each week when we brought home our crate of goodies we began a culinary adventure of research and tasty rewards. For 23 weeks, from June through October, our fridge was bursting with healthy goodness and our diets improved considerably by choice. Our full share cost us about $30 per week, which was likely less than we would have spent on vegetables anyway, and got us about five times the quantity and a hundred times the quality of commercial offerings.
On top of that, we got the satisfaction of helping a local small business succeed in an ever increasingly corporate world. When I gave our farmer, Ian, our deposit for next year’s share, he beamed and said, “You, my friend, have just made it possible for us to buy carrot seeds for next year.” So I figure I have dibs on next year’s carrot crop! Here at the Adirondak Loj, our two chefs are working more locally sourced items into the menu and adding a real fresh flavor component to our recipes with great results. Fledging Crow is a vegetable farm, but there are many other CSA’s and small local farmers that offer everything from naturally fed, free range meats and poultry to all types of cheeses and dairy products. All of them deserve our support and ADK is doing its share to incorporate local products for our guests benefit.
So this Thanksgiving, as you sit down to the bounty that so many of us enjoy, take a moment to think about where all that food came from and give a quick thanks to the hard working farmers behind it all. And maybe check out and support one of your neighboring farm’s CSA next summer. I can guarantee you will be thankful that you did.