Hearty Roots Puts the Community in CSAs

It’s always exciting to get farm-fresh organic produce delivered to your door through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) scheme, which have proliferated wildly around Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. But when I tagged along with a friend to her Brooklyn CSA last weekend, I saw how nice it can be when farmers deliver their vegetables and fruits to a community garden and the members gather to pick up their weekly payload.

The vegetables are from Hearty Roots, a farm written up by the New York Times in March. The farmers are city people who were drawn to the soil, and farm hand Danny Percich drives two and a half hours each Saturday from upstate New York to three dropoff locations in Brooklyn from May to November.

The dropoff point is the Red Shed community garden, where neighbors sign up to farm small plots. Six composting containers line one edge of the garden. A shed houses tools and tables, and there are a few chairs under a small roof where gardeners can sit and take a break.

Despite a light drizzle, by 10 o’clock dozens of CSA members had arrived at the garden armed with old plastic bags and reusable canvas totes. They stuffed them  with a half pound of lettuce, eight massive leaves of collards (see picture above), a bunch of dill, a head of bok choy, a pound of peppers and other vegetables. The list of how much each member could take was chalked onto a blackboard. About 75 people get their vegetables in this CSA, and many of them know each other by name.

Percich, a thin man in two layered plaid buttoned shirts, stood eating a bagel as the members asked him what to do with collard greens and how to cook bok choy. He was happy to answer questions about the latest farm news, how he cans tomatoes and peaches, and where he gets free-range meat.

By 12.30 pm the last members had taken their produce and the CSA volunteers for the week put the tables, tent and blackboards into the shed. Most of the leftover produce was to be donated to a local church. The fennel and some other vegetables went back into their plastic crates, and Percich loaded them onto his produce truck to take back to New York.

I got CSA vegetables delivered to my door in Tel Aviv once this year, and they were great. But they could be even better if Israel imports the Hearty Roots model, which creates a much more intimate space for the people who value high quality produce and want to understand where it comes from and who else is eating it.

More CSA on Green Prophet
My First Israeli CSA
Eating Organic Vegetables at Reasonable Prices

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