by Kelly A. Dumke
The temperature has dropped, the snow has started to fall, and the crowds have bundled up. Winter is definitely here. Although the shock of the cold may still tickle our noses, farmers and growers have long-been prepared for the changing seasons. As with any season, produce selection varies and availability changes. Find out what’s available, how much, where to go, and some tips on eating seasonally this winter.
CSAs, in the winter?
Yes, indeed! Community Supported Agricultures (CSAs) still exist during the cold winter months. Rather than showcase only fresh fruits and vegetables, winter CSAs often distribute preserved goods or hardy, stored produce. Many CSAs stash these foods in sustainable and economical root cellars during normal harvest months (September-November) to make them available in the winter. Root cellars are underground storage spaces dug into a hillside or below the frost line. The cellars naturally maintain an optimal temperature (32-40 degrees F) and humidity (90%) that can keep hardy vegetables fresh from mid-October until spring. Dark greens and root vegetables are available freshly harvested in winter months from CSAs, and canned tomatoes and fruits may be available from earlier harvests.
Where and what you will find:
Winter produce includes potatoes, cabbage, carrots, squash, onions, leeks, beets, parsnips, turnips, rutabagas, celeriac, kale, collards, and other hardy produce varieties. Some reasonable CSAs that may still be available or that you can get a head start on for next season:
*Brookfield Farm Winter Share: Brookfield Farm promotes environmental sustainability, uses no pesticides or herbicides, and views the farm as a living system and maintains a strict composting and crop rotation pattern. The Farm is owned by the non-profit Biodynamic Farmland Conservation Trust, which promotes farmer training and education.
Price: Brookfield Farm’s winter share costs about $125. Included in this price are 30 pounds of seasonal produce each month from December through March.
Distribution: Boston-area distribution centers include Arlington, Cambridge, Lexington, Jamaica Plain, and Newton. Produce is usually self-serve from a root cellar and available once a week.
*Drumlin Farms: Drumlin Farms offers a winter share with a unique twist: you have to work for it! A small, 8-hour fieldwork component is required for all CSA members (otherwise, an additional fee is charged). During mid-October, members of the Drumlin Farms Winter CSA help harvest and store produce that they will consume during the winter months including garlic, potatoes, and squash. This is a fun opportunity for all the green thumbs out there and a great way to learn more about farming.
Price: Drumlin Farms offers half shares for $200 and full shares for $400.
Distribution: Drumlin Farms requires members to pick-up produce at the farm location at Lincoln Road, which is accessible via the MBTA commuter rail.
*New Entry Sustainable Farmer Project: This CSA is right in our own Tufts backyard. The New Entry Sustainable Farmer Projects, a partnership between Tufts University and Community Teamwork Inc., teaches new farmers sustainable growing practices and promotes sustainable farm development. The project supports an alliance of the program’s newly graduated farmers called World PEAS Cooperative. Through this cooperative CSA has been developed with produce coming from the local farmers at independent sites or the training locations. Winter shares are available through the program’s “Extended Season Share.”
Price: For about 2-3 months of produce, the price for an Extended Season Share is $120.
Distribution: Boston locations, including a Chinatown distribution center on the Tufts campus are all available.
Markets and Local Produce
Beyond the CSA:
CSAs are not the only way to get fresh winter produce and support local farmers. Several food distributors around the Boston area specialize in seasonal produce from local farms. In addition, simply learning about the produce and ingredients that are available in winter can help you avoid high prices at your own local supermarket.
Russo and Sons: Located in Watertown, MA, this family-run grocery store maintains close relationships with local growers and promotes seasonal produce. The store offers fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables from nearby New England farms, meats, artisan cheeses, homemade pastries, flowers, and other local specialty products. Prices are also reasonable to benefit both consumers and growers.
Check out the Russo and Sons website for produce available this week.
Johnny D’s Fruit and Produce: With friendly owners greeting any and all customers, Johnny D’s Fruit and Produce provides more than a fresh daily selection of seasonal fruits and vegetables. The family-owned shop is located in Brighton off Washington Street. Although the shop does not specialize in organic produce, it does support local farmers and seasonal eating. The small but organized store lines its shelves with a budget-friendly seasonal showcase of winter produce. Check out the website for the daily produce selection.
National Resources Defense Council (NRDC): Deemed one of the nation’s most powerful environmental groups, the United States National Resource Defense Council, is an environmental action organization dedicated to promoting wildlife, sustainability, environmental protection, and healthy lifestyles. NRDC advocates choosing seasonal produce that is harvested locally. The website is easily designed to allow visitors to select their location and season to find a list of local produce and seasonal ingredients.
As you try to stay warm this winter, remember these tips for buying locally, eating seasonally, and perhaps getting a jumpstart of next year’s CSAs.