On Rocky Ridge Ranch's winter CSA


This is a guest post, written by E.J. Iannelli.

Rocky Ridge Ranch has recently opened membership slots for its 2011-12 Winter CSA program. (For more background on what exactly a CSA is, see here.)

This will mark the second year that Rocky Ridge is running the program. Last year was a trial run of sorts in which the CSA was a combined meat-and-veg offering. This year, it's been split into two separate components to better accommodate vegetarian diets.

Other lessons -- valuable ones -- were learned last year too. Winter gardening is a tricky and potentially costly undertaking; working within its limitations is something of an art.

As one of last year's members, I can honestly say that this art wasn't quite perfected at the time. We had pie-in-the-sky notions of greenhouse tomatoes in December and zucchini in March. While the first few weeks were deliriously bountiful as we reaped all the late-ripening veggies that were planted for the summer CSA, the latter stages were defined by kale, kale, and more kale. It had the air of a gulag menu.

Gary and So, the farming couple behind this enterprise, have said that improvements are already underway this year. Climate- and season-friendly vegetables will be planted, and the more finicky varieties will be in the ground earlier. The heated greenhouses are already in place and functional. But even the refined CSA still comes with the caveat: know what you're getting into. It could be tomatoes in December, or it could be yet another round of kale.

Although veggies inherently leave a lot to the Fates, Rocky Ridge's meat offerings, on the other hand, rarely fall short of excellent. Our Thanksgiving turkey -- included in the cost of the CSA -- would have fed a battalion. Even something as unexciting as ham hocks make for a great pea-and-ham soup that warms to the soul in the dead of winter.

The sign-up page outlines in a general way the contents, assured and anticipated, of each delivery and the overall schedule. The more detailed info, unfortunately, is outdated, but Gary has said that he can be reached via e-mail for specifics.

If our own plans can offer any help as a rough guide, we intend to sign up for the veggie winter CSA and supplement its lulls with Main Market produce boxes if and when they're available. We've still got a chest freezer full of meat from last year's winter CSA (which should be some indication of the quantity), so we plan on buying Rocky Ridge meat on an ad hoc basis during CSA pickups.