While visiting Austin’s downtown farmers market last week I connected with Johnson’s Backyard Garden (JBG), one of the local farms aggressively promoting its highly successful CSA program. Community Supported Agriculture is a win/win situation: the farmer gets a customer who pays in advance for a share of the harvest and the consumer is insured a regular supply of fresh farm-to-table products.
There are probably as many variations on this theme as there are CSA famers. While some play it safe and encourage customers to stop by their farm for pick-up, competition can be stiff. Many farms, not easily accessible to busy urban shoppers, have designed their own set of strategies to attract this growing clientele.
Johnson’s has escalated its program into serious business. Key to marketing to the community, customers are encouraged to participate in the farm’s daily chores and events. For a few hours a week folks can get in touch with the land and help out a farmer while receiving their CSA at a reduced price. Suddenly, the farmer’s family has grown exponentially; they have a built-in cast of characters for work details plus the critical additional hands necessary for harvesting, packaging, and distributing weekly CSA boxes.
If you can’t pick up your CSA, JBG will deliver to your door, for a price. They also have an elaborate network of drop-off/pick-up locations all over Austin and the outlying hill country. My pick-up location is only 8 miles away and turns out to be the front porch of someone’s home. They get the added convenience of home delivery while accommodating their neighbors.
On Mondays, the JBG website displays an attractive layout of the upcoming week’s harvest share. There are different box sizes and options to further accommodate varying household appetites, needs, and budgets. The boxes are delivered in coated cartons, designed for re-use. For shortages or those wanting a swap-out, back-ups are furnished in an auxiliary cooler.
No exaggeration, the contents of the Thursday share box looked exactly like Monday’s photo―same quality and quantity. Delivery as promised.
Beets du jour: this recipe will accommodate 2-3 pounds of beets. Since my CSA share of 1 bunch equated to five medium beets, I added 4 hard cooked eggs to the mix, and pickled it all overnight.
Pickled Beets and Eggs
- 1 small bunch beets (about 5 medium beets), greens trimmed to 1 inch of stem and washed well
- 4 hard cooked eggs, cooled and peeled
- 2 cups apple vinegar
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- ½ large white onion, cut into strips or rings
- 1 tsp. whole allspice
- 6 whole cloves
- 8 whole peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- dash salt
- Cover the trimmed beets with water, bring to a boil, and simmer for 25-30 minutes, until tender. Drain and rinse well; when cool enough to handle, trim root and stem ends, and peel off outer skin. Slice the beets and set aside.
- Heat the pickling liquid to a boil, the spices can be placed in a tea holder or cheesecloth bag; simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the spices if desired. Note: for faster cooling, the pickling water can be replaced by a heaping cup of crushed ice at this time.
- Place the beets and eggs in a glass jar or other airtight container, and pour over the pickling liquid. Let cool and store overnight in refrigerator, shake occasionally to relocate the eggs and beets.