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Monday, June 25, 2018

For the love of farms - Stone Acres Farm - CSA Review in Stonington, CT

Living in the beautiful town of Stonington (in the most quaint little borough) has so many perks from dining at its great restaurants to diving off the local beaches and wharfs.  But one of the best parts of living in this little borough by the sea is having access to some of Connecticut's freshest seafood and excellent local farm produce.  While living in Stonington, I had the opportunity to try out Community Supported Agriculture at a local farm just a few miles from my house.  Today's post is my review of a summer CSA from the beautiful Stone Acres Farm. Read about what CSA is, see exactly what you can expect, and see if a CSA is the right pick for you. 

Stone Acres Farm

The Farm and The Restaurants... Stone Acres Farm is located in historic Stonington, Connecticut.  If you don't know the farm, you certainly know the farms
 three award-winning sister restaurants, Oyster Club, Engine Room, and Grass & Bone located in historic Mystic, Connecticut.  If you know me, you know I frequent these three restaurants often.  Fantastic seafood and 1$ oyster happy hour at the Oyster Club and Treehouse, tasty old-fashioned and amazing burgers at the Engine Room, and the meatloaf sandwich and ramen at Grass & Bone butcher shop/restaurant - need I say more?  The farm itself dates back to 1765 when it operated as a dairy farm.  Starting at approximately 225 acres, this farm has been in continuous operation since before the Revolutionary War.  Learn more about the farm and its history here

A snapshot of a share for two 

So what is community supported agriculture?  It sounds confusing but really, it is pretty simple - a farmer offers a certain number of "shares" to the public. A share is a container of fruits, vegetables, and herbs from their farm.  Sometimes you can add on shares of local dairy, bread, or even wildflowers.  Interested consumers (like me!) purchase a share (aka a "membership" or a "subscription") and in return receive a box (bag, carton, etc) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.  You have no control over the choice or selection but will get a share of what was harvested that week.  You pay one upfront cost (it is currently $500 for the small share) and for 14 weeks, you pick up your freshly picked fruits, vegetables, and herbs from the farm.  You will also find a fantastic email from "Farmer Andy" which includes a detailed list of whats in your basket, and a recipe featuring some of those ingredients. Emails from Farmer Andy may have been my favorite part. 

Before we get too far into it, let me start by saying this year's summer share has started and is sold out.  But, all this juicy information will be perfect for purchasing a fall share, or if you just need some more time to consider if a CSA share is right for you.  

A snapshot of a share for two (including a flower share)

How Much?:  First, you pick a size.  Last year I did the small share (now called the full farm share).  This year's price for the small share for two people is $500 for 14 weeks.  

What you get:  A membership share includes 14 harvests (Memorial Day to Labor Day) of over 200 varieties of fresh vegetables, herbs and fruit.  Each week, with your freshly picked harvest, you will receive a recipe card from the chefs at Oyster Club and Engine Room restaurants featuring items from that week's share, a harvest list, and a subscription to the Farmer's Newsletter.  You can expect 6-12 different types of produce and/or herbs in your bag each week

How it works:  You will pick up your share at the Stone Acres farm stand or the satellite location in Westerly.  The farm stand is located in the yellow farm building, down the farm lane on the right-hand side, across from the historic farmhouse.  This is also where you can purchase any extra veggies or herbs you may want or need.  There will be signs to where you should park.  The share will be packaged up for you in a reusable, insulated tote bag and with the exception of the two different sizes, all the shares will be the same.  Each week you'll bring back your empty bag and exchange it for a full one.  On the day of your share pickup, you get an email with the harvest list, a new recipe, news from "Farmer Andy" and something fun like information on the farm, the produce, or where the seeds of your produce are from.  

Fresh peppers and onions from one of the shares

Pick a pick up: You have a few options to pick up your CSA.  To pick it up locally, choose Saturday or Wednesday  3:30-6:00pm at the farmstand.  If you prefer, you can also pick up at their new satellite location in Westerly  - Longo Specialty Market, 84 High Street in Westerly, RI (Fridays: 5 -7pm, Saturdays: All day)

Find the farm:  The farm and farmstand are easy to get to, right off North Main in the borough of beautiful Stonington.  385 North Main Street, Stonington, CT  06378
Phone: 860-415-9947.  The farmstand is open Wednesday through Sunday, 10am to 6pm.

Cant pick up?If you can't make it one week to pick up your share, let Stone Acres know. You can have somebody else take your share for the week.  However, if you cannot pick up your share, Stone Acres will donate your food to a local non-profit kitchen that serves hot meals.  If you miss your pickup, and don't get in touch with us by the following day, your share will be automatically donated to avoid having any good food go to waste.

Stone Acres Farm

Want More?  Stone Acres Farm also offered a flower CSA (10 weeks for $120) which we took advantage of and new this year, a seafood CSA (7 weeks for $240).  Maybe you want more produce or maybe 14 weeks isn't enough....  Sign up for a fall share! 

My favorite pick from the flower share

Pros and Cons 
 + a great variety of seasonal produce from a farm right down the road (local local local!)
 + one upfront fee and the CSA is paid for for the term (it comes down to $36 a week)
 + forces you to try new produce and get more creative with your cooking 
 + a good amount of produce for two people 
 + support a local farmer instead of a mega-chain grocery store 
 + grown without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers

 - large upfront cost ($500) 
 - you have no choice over your produce so this is best for open minded/less picky types 
 - sometimes you get a lot of one thing (we had scallions for weeks) or two little of others (one sad eggplant!) 
- the pickup hours can be limited so it can be tough to schedule pickups 
- a little harder to meal plan when you don't know what you are getting in your basket

Week 1 share - these greens made for a fantastic salad 

Harvest List - Week1  June 17th, 2017
Mixed baby greens (mustard greens, orach, nasturtium, arugula)
Lacinato kale
Swiss chard
Deer Tongue bibb lettuce (an old Amish heirloom)
Red Sails red leaf lettuce 
D'Avignon radishes
Fresh dill 

Recipe 01: Pesto 

Wek 2 - we were excited for more greens and these fresh herbs 

Week 2 Harvest List -  June 24th, 2017
Mixed baby mustard greens
Blue Curled Scotch kale
Green pointed cabbage
Red Kitten spinach rosettes
Craigs Giant jalapeƱos
Summer Savory
Heirloom eggplants
Corsican and Purple Opal basil
Garlic scapes

Recipe 2- Aioli
Chris Vanasse, Engine Room

Week 3 - this lemon balm made excellent tea

Week 3 Harvest List July 5th, 2017 
Adriana and Skyphos butterhead lettuce
Bright Lights swiss chard
Shunkyo chinese radishes
Fresh parsley
Anise Hyssop
Lemon Balm

Recipe 3- Lemon-Herb Vinaigrette (Dave Vacca, Oyster Club)

Week 4:  lavendar and marigold was a fun new item and this weeks recipe included a cake featuring both of these ingredients

Week 4 Harvest List July 12th
Nevada summer crisp lettuce
Blue Scotch Curl kale
Celery stalks with leaves
Desi summer squash
Fin De Meaux cucumbers
Oregon Giant snow peas
Jade green beans
Bok choy
Mexican Mint marigold
Fresh lavender

Recipe 4: Mexican Marigold Pound Cake with Lavender Icing  (Jules Elfedayni-Connell, Engine Room)

Week 5 - this was a fantatsic basket featuring purple basil and some amazing cabbage and kale 

Week 5 Harvest List July 19th 
Green pointy cabbage
Nero di Toscana kale
Jade green beans
Oregon Giant snow peas
Heirloom eggplant
Zucchino Rampicante or Desi summer squash
Fresh Red Marble onions
Fresh Inchellium Red garlic
Dill blossoms
Green coriander on the stem
Purple basil

Pickled Dilly Beans  (Amee Hussey, Oyster Club)

Week 6 was the start of many (many) bunches of scallions/"fresh onions"

Week 6 Harvest List July 26th 
Swiss chard
Chioggia beets
American Pickling and Lemon cucumbers
Red Long of Tropea fresh onions
Tatume Mexican or Zucchino Rampicante Italian summer squash
A mix of sweet peppers
Cascabel Cherry chili peppers
Porkchop yellow, Japanese Black Trifele or Cosmic Eclipse tomatoes
Pipicha, a fresh mexican herb
Lemon balm

Recipe 6: Mikey's Squash Bread (Mike McHugh, Engine Room)

Here is just a 6-week preview of the 14 weeks of amazing produce we received from this farm.  You may be wondering Would I do it again? and the answer is YES!

Rainbow carrots in a weekly share

The CSA program has its perks (this much fresh product each week) but it does have some drawbacks like its large upfront cost.  However, if eating local produce and getting a variety of amazing products from a farm right down the road is important to you, then I highly recommend buying a share of your local CSA.  If you call the borough home (or the surrounding areas) then you have a fantastic option, buying a share from Stone Acres farm.  We were so happy with our weekly bounty of fresh vegetables, herbs, fruits, and flowers.  

If you don't live near this fantastic farm, use this link to find a CSA near you.   Eat better, eat local, and support your local farmer with a CSA!  

As always, thanks for reading and happy travels,

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