Tag Archives: Community Supported Agriculture

Meanwhile, Back At The Farm…

The holiday open house is over. The Aitkenheads are back home.

But Wakeman Town Farm is hardly settling down for a long winter’s nap.

There’s plenty going on at the sustainability center on Cross Highway.

For example, registration has just opened for the “Farm Apprentice” program. Middle schoolers learn all about organic farming and gardening through hands-on instruction — from seed to harvest.

Spring session activities include garden planning, seed starting and planting, garden preparation and maintenance, and composting.  Students also help care for chickens, rabbits and bees. (Enrollment is very limited — for more information click here, call 203-557-9195, or email wakemantownfarm@gmail.com)

Orders are still being taken for the winter Community Supported Agriculture program. Run through Winter Sun Farms, the CSA works with small local farms to distribute to distribute delicious frozen and preserved vegetables and fruit.

Members pay in advance for “winter shares.” Pickup is the 2nd Thursday of every month (1-7 p.m.), now through April. (For more information or to join, click here.)

Also in the works: a new WTF website. And a membership program, offering advance sign-up privileges for programs and events, plus discounts.

Finally, this news: Carrie Aitkenhead has ordered 7 gorgeous baby chicks — all different breeds. They’ll arrive in April.

There is indeed plenty new under the Wakeman Town Farm sun. Even if, in winter, it’s up for only a few hours a day.

Enjoying The Bounty

Who can argue with the idea of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) — a project through which people purchase shares in local farmers, and in return receive weekly boxes, bags or baskets of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season?

Westporters, apparently.

Responding to an “06880” story about a similar effort involving area restaurants, one reader wrote:

Unfortunately, we do not get to choose what we get in our shares as the restaurants do.  I have had more than my share of collard greens and kale, to say nothing of garlic.  I would have liked to have seen more beans and carrots for example.

One week I got four carrots, not even one inch long that someone actually put a rubber band around!  We got one week of white beans and that was it.  I don’t know that I will buy a share next year.

Three Westport families take a less grumpy view.

Recently, they got together at Peter Propp and Suzanne Sherman’s house to enjoy what Anne Hardy calls “the weekly and bountiful CSA box.”

Peter Propp preps.

Each family brought the food they’d received.  They dumped it on the counter, then started prepping and cooking.

The goal was to try to use all of it, in one way or another.  They nearly succeeded, leaving only a few ears of corn, a couple of onions and a small bag of cherry tomatoes.

Peter masterminded what was dubbed “Group CSA Top Chef Dinner.”  His CSA chicken dish — cooked according to a 15-year-old recipe from Joan Baez’s tour manager — was a special hit.

“It took the boredom of prepping vegetables — something you have to love with this box scheme — out of the equation,” Anne reported.

“And it was fun!”

RSA Takes Root

Farmers like to grow things.  They don’t like to market, advertise and transport them.

Bill Taibe likes to cook.  He loves using local ingredients — the fresher the better.

The convergence of area farmers and Taibe is good news for diners — and not just fans of Le Farm, Taibe’s Colonial Green restaurant that earns raves for showcasing market-based food cooked and presented in a homey, comfortable and very sustainable atmosphere.

Bill Taibe wears his convictions on his chest.

Thanks to RSA — “Restaurant Supported Agriculture,” a concept that Taibe knows needs a zippier name — 5 local restaurants now offer the best in local products.  Banding together, they guarantee farmers a market for their goods.

Promising to buy takes pressure off the farmers.  They reciprocate by planting what the chefs request.  Make no mistake:  It’s not just lettuce, tomatoes and corn anymore.

Taibe — who built 2 previous restaurants on the barter system, and admits he “may have been born in the wrong century” — explains that RSA is based on the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model currently enjoyed by many Westporters at the Wakeman Town Farm.

RSA is less structured –shares are not bought in advance from farmers — but the concept is similar.

Once a week — via the Green Village Initiative — 5 restaurants (Le Farm, the Boathouse and Dressing Room in Westport, plus Wilton’s Schoolhouse and Fat Cat Pie Company in Norwalk) receive a list from local growers of whatever’s ripe.

By 4 p.m. each Monday the chefs respond with their own list:  what they want.

The farmers pick the crops on Tuesday morning; by 2:30 that afternoon GVI volunteers have gathered it, transported it back to Wakeman Farm, and it’s ready for pick-up by the restaurateurs.

“We sit around there for half an hour talking, eating each other’s tomatoes, and sharing ideas,” Taibe says.  “It’s fantastic.  Do you know how hard it is to get 5 chefs together any time?”

Then they head back to their restaurants, to cook.

Taibe enjoys working with RSA partners. “There’s a lot of jealousy and competition in this business,” he admits.  “But people don’t eat at just 1 restaurant.  They go to other places.  I prefer they go to places with like-minded owners and chefs.”

Taibe gives huge props to GVI.  “They get nothing out of this, other than fulfilling their passion.  I only wish to be so good-hearted.”

He also loves the “circular economy” that RSA helps develop.

“This gives hard-working farmers a guaranteed place to sell their products,” Taibe says.  “If we can get them delivered to us, they can stay and do what they do best.  And not worry about the rest.”

The Hickories in Ridgefield and Stone Gardens in Shelton are RSA’s 1st mainstay farms.  Soon, Taibe hopes to add milk, cheeses — and maybe protein and livestock — to the list of farms.

Right now, he says, “We need farmers to trust us, so they can plant what we want.  Everyone today grows a lot of the little stuff — kale, bell peppers, whatever’s safe.  We want to branch out.

“The key is for us to guarantee we’ll purchase what they buy.”

He hopes to continue the concept through the winter.  “Farmers have greenhouses,” he notes.  “We’ll keep getting products from around the state.”

RSA is, Taibe says, “a really simple formula.  It’s sure to grow.”

And, like all the food prepared and served so freshly and creatively at the 5 RSA restaurants, it will grow with love, care and goodness.

Meet The Farmers

The average piece of food travels 1,500 miles to your refrigerator.

A group of Westporters wants to cut that to 100.

Last year, the Unitarian Church sponsored a Community Supported Agriculture program.  Over 40 families bought full ($600) or half ($300) shares.  On a rotating basis, from early June through the end of October, each family drove to Stone Gardens Farm in Shelton. They returned with enough food for 8 families.

The bounty was enormous:  sweet corn, plump tomatoes, kale, peas, beets, Swiss chard, squash, pickles, onions, peppers, eggplants, peaches, plums, apples, potatoes, spinach, squash and much more.  Most weeks there were tasty eggs; sometimes chicken, even grass-fed beef.

The families got a great deal on fantastic food.  They shared recipes, and a harvest feast at season’s end.

The farmers — Fred and Stacia Monahan — appreciated knowing there would be a constant demand for whatever they grew.

This year, organizers are expanding the idea.  A hundred families have already signed up — and it’s likely there will be a co-op drop-off spot in Westport, eliminating the Shelton run.

Tomorrow from 12:30 to 2 p.m., the Unitarian Church is hosting a lunch.  Interested residents can meet Fred, Stacia and CSA members, and enjoy fresh, homemade soup.

Crumbs, beware!

(For more information, contact Rebecca Howe: heres-howe@mindspring.com)

Checking out the goods last year in Shelton

Checking out the goods last year in Shelton