As Philadelphia emerges from yet another snowstorm, I once again (constantly?) find myself looking forward to springtime. Had there not been snow on the ground or five pairs of slushy shoes by the front door, the three hours of bright sunlight we had this afternoon would have fooled me into walking outside without a jacket. Or in sandals. Or with sunscreen on. Instead, the windchill was still 25 degrees, so I took a nap.

In any event, this afternoon I remembered to do some research on Philadelphia-area community-supported agriculture (CSA). A CSA is basically a crop share organization in which people who aren't farmers (unfortunately, me), pay a seasonal or yearly fee to help support small, independent, local farms. In return, you receive a box of fresh, in-season fruits and veggies every week, available for pickup at a local distribution point.

Back in Boston, I envied my avid CSA-er friends and their fully-stocked refrigerators, but my living situation (one person probably has a hard time eating, say, 3 heads of lettuce in a week) and transient college lifestyle kept me from joining up. I also investigated joining one in DC, but I could never reconcile the cost with the inconvenience of the pickup points (hello? People live in NE, too!).

However, things are looking up in Philadelphia this year. Philly has an impressive number of CSA farms; some of the better-looking ones I found here. I live in much closer proximity to (multiple) pickup points. Best of all, I live with Hank (read: another mouth to feed), who is generally supportive of my cooking experiments. Furthermore, we could both use more produce in our lives.

So I did some research this afternoon and settled on this one: Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative is an organization of small-scale farmers in Lancaster County, many of whom are Amish or Mennonite. I am going to go for the half-share, which at most places feeds 2-3 people, along with a fruit share. I was hoping to find one that combined fruits and veggies into one share, but oh well. The best part, I mean, other than getting a great selection of produce for less than $20 a week, is that my local pickup point is at Metropolitan Bakery, one of my favorite local foodplaces. (Mmm, bread. Mmm, cheese).

You may be asking, "why, with all of the wonderful vegetables you plan to grow on your own, do you want to buy even more??" Well, let's be honest here. Container gardens don't grow all that much. And when they do, you have 3,000 cucumbers in the span of two weeks. Furthermore, because many CSAs come from multiple farms (I think LFFC has over 50), the variety of produce is incredible. I'm crossing my fingers for some watermelon this year! Om nom nom.

Last but not least, here is my obligatory spiel on buying local. Although locavorism (it's a real term, I promise) has its benefits, it is not without controversy. This article sums it up pretty well: no commercial food production enterprise, no matter how small or how local, is ecologically or nutritionally perfect. However, there are certainly steps one can take toward the elusive goal of carbon neutrality. For me, however, the idea of buying local appeals more to my desire to support small farmers. Perhaps I've read too much Michael Pollan, but the idea of big business agriculture troubles me enormously. In short, I believe that maintaining diversity in agriculture is crucial for a healthy economy, a healthy environment, and a healthy populace. So, I will do what I can do. And eat yummy foods while I'm at it.



Hello, world.

Not much is new in the way of the gardening project, but the end of February is rapidly approaching. I think I'll wait until after March 1 to get the little guys going, just to be on the safe side of the frost, considering my 'hood has been looking like this lately:

Truth be told, I haven't actually seen any of my deck, the various planters, and remnants of last summer's projects in quite a while. I'm assuming they're still there. Just buried under three feet of snow.

In lieu of anything exciting going on garden-wise, I have been keeping busy experimenting in the kitchen. I'm working on incorporating more produce into the meals I make (rather than just the veritable whole-fruit basket I bring with me to campus for lunch). Last night I made a decent mushroom-based stew, and carrots have recently made a reappearance in my life. Obvious, I know, but I'm the kind of person who will pair broccoli with just about any meal just to get some greenery in there. But veggie variety is good!

That's all for now. Check back in a few weeks for the seedling start play-by-play.



Predictably, graduate school took over my life already. Fortunately, there haven't been any huge developments on the garden front. However, in the spirit of, well, having something to write about while I'm waiting for Hank to finish dinner, here is what is new:

1. I finally received my mini-greenhouse trays. Ultimately, I settled on two smaller trays rather than the behemoth tray mostly because only a few of my plants will start indoors.

2. I recently received a care package from my parents that included (among other things) a few more books (Park's Success With Seeds, Park's Success With Herbs, and Secrets of Plant Propagation). Until I get a chance to read about something other than 20th-century urban history, I won't have a lot to say about them. However, upon a quick flip-through, they all seem like informative resources, despite the fact that the links to the two Park books are likely the least informative links I will ever post on this blog. Thanks for the books, Dad. Mom, thanks for the warm winter socks.

3. I also received catalogs from both Burpee and Territorial last week. So now I can not only gawk at their prices, but also drool over things I'm not actually going to grow this year. So there's that.

And now, back to grading undergraduate reflection on globalization. Is it summer yet?