Full Plate C.S.A. – Ithaca, Tompkins County, New York

Community Supported Agriculture. CSA. Farm share. What do these terms mean?

‘Farm shares’ are a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from farm. Before the growing season starts, farmer offers a certain number of “shares” to consumers. Typically the share consists of a box or bag of vegetables, but other farm products — flowers, eggs, you-pick opportunities — may also be included. Consumers purchase a share and receive a bag or box of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.

This system is great for both farmers and consumers. The farmers have an income before the crops come in. They don’t have to worry about marketing their goods when the growing season starts – which leaves them little time to do anything but work with crops.

Consumers are even luckier. They get right off the vine/plant produce, usually organic, at great prices. Remember: the fresher the food, the more nutritious it is! They reduce their carbon foot print — the crops are grown locally, not shipped cross-country.

Farm shares can also be considered ‘adventures in cooking.’ Every season I get vegetables with which I’m unfamiliar. I get to research new recipes and fabricate new uses.

This is one of the many reasons I love the CSA of which I’m currently a member. Full Plate Collective provides organic food throughout Tompkins County. Not only do they produce wonderful vegetables, they also publish an on-line newsletter with recipes and serving suggestions.

Full Plate CSA is a 3-farm enterprise, which means members get a large amount of diverse vegetables every week. And their ‘U-pick’ each season equates to a freezer full of tomato sauce, green beans, eggplant, squash, and other yummy edibles.

Pick-up is also easy: there are multiple, easy-to-reach locations from which one can retrieve their week’s goodies. And yes, by notifying the CSA coordinator, you can switch locations! Full Plate also offers a slightly more expensive drop-off option.

My favorite aspect of Full Plate is the ‘mix and match’ option. Rather than being handed a bag of pre-selected veg, you chose what you prefer. Vegetables are displayed in large tubs, and I can select more of one and less of another, depending on my preferences.

I also like the idea of ‘shared risk.’ I plunk my money down well before the growing season begins. No one knows whether the harvests will be bountiful or scarce. CSA farmers — and particularly those at Full Plate — tend to feel unbelievably responsible to their members, and will do what they can to make up for short-falls, bad weather, blights and insect problems.

My Full Plate pick up day is Wednesday. And every Wednesday during the summer, it feels like Christmas.

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