While many people have heard of Community Supported Agriculture, not everyone can participate due to the logistical challenges of getting to a faraway farm at the same time each week. Enter Swine & Sons, who have partnered with Frogsong Organics in Hawthorne, FL to serve as a local pickup spot for CSA members.
Memberships are $28 for an individual box and $47 for a family box; register and pay online then simply pick up your box at Swine & Sons on Wednesdays anytime from 3-6:45pm. Frogsong and other local producers will also sell items a la carte in the Swine & Sons parking lot during those same hours.
Below, Frogsong’s farmer/owners John Bitter and Amy Van Scoik share their insight on the benefits of CSA membership.
What’s the most common misconception about CSA programs?
A true farm CSA is a place-based relationship with a living, breathing, complex organism of a farm. Our CSA membership more than a subscription and delivery service that brings the grocery store to your home. Just like a friend or loved one, each CSA and each farm has its own character, strengths and weaknesses.
I think a lot of folks imagine they’ll get to pick and choose what they get each week, and that is not how our CSA model works. We pack all of the shares the same for all the members. The CSA is a way to eat what is in season, and that means the items that are abundant that week. Sometimes that means strawberries and carrots, and other times that means radishes and turnips. Getting the most out of a CSA membership means learning to appreciate all types produce, even if it’s not something you’d typically pick out in the store. We are a true farm CSA, not a buying club, so we cannot source items like bananas or apples when people desire fruit in January. The key part of CSA is the “supported” part of the acronym. It really is about mutual support. Members fees help us even out cash flow in a production model subject to risks of weather, and we work our butts off to feed everyone nutritious, flavorful food.
How does your CSA program help your business?
Memberships sold during the Winter help us pay for the crops we are planting and tending. For example, we did over 40 hours of frost protection work last week. This is work that costs money, but doesn’t produce any revenue until the crops are ready. In this case, CSA revenue helps us cover those costs, and the members can then look forward to mature peas and lettuce which were protected as baby plants. Another example is our strawberry plants. We purchase transplants in September, but we don’t harvest strawberries until maybe late February or March. CSA members are like a community-based lending system. They put money in our bank, which we invest into the ground in the form of crops. Everyone benefits when they eat the food!
Many of the farms we see in and around Orlando grow just a few crops; how are you able to offer such variety throughout the course of the season?
We plant, plant and then plant some more! We source seeds from several different companies and save some of our own. We seek out unique and ethnic varieties of produce to try out. We utilize hoop houses for protected micro-climates. We also practice a large amount of crop rotation to reduce disease and insect pressure in our fields. In a given year we may produce over 80 different crops. We just really like to eat, so we grow all the foods we can possibly produce in our climate. We’re always experimenting. Sometimes things don’t work out. We also produce some items that are not really profitable, but they are interesting and tasty. Our diverse model may not be the most profitable since diversification means less specialized equipment and labor. But it is more stable as we never have all our eggs in one basket, as they saying goes.
What’s your favorite method of preserving leftover produce?
Fermentation! Who doesn’t love a crunchy, sour kimchi bubbling with life? We also enjoy making jams, vinegar-based pickles, frozen pesto, and dehydrated sliced fruits. Freezing is great too, for green beans and strawberries and roselle (hibiscus).