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Vegetables Fresh off the Farm
By Michele Lynn
For the past two years, Diamond Street resident Jan Wyrick has bought most of her vegetables from Terra Firma Farm, right here in Noe Valley.
"The food is fantastic," she says. "It really tastes wonderful. And I get fun things like dino kale and antique varieties of vegetables -- for example, beets that look like candy canes when you slice them. I just polished off these fabulous cherries!"
A farm in Noe Valley? Well, no. Terra Firma is located in Winters, California, just outside of Davis. However, the farm makes regular deliveries of freshly picked, organically grown produce to sites throughout the East Bay and San Francisco, including two drop-off points in Noe Valley.
For $66 a month or $190 for three months, Terra Firma clients can pick up a box of mixed seasonal vegetables once a week, each box containing enough vegetables for a household of two vegetarians or four nonvegetarians. And in late June, the farm started offering subscribers the option of receiving a box every other week for $35 a month.
Terra Firma has been growing organic vegetables on its 90-acre farm since 1986. The delivery service is part of the farm's Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project, which encourages city dwellers to support a small local farm while saving themselves the time and energy of tracking down fresh, certified organic produce.
According to Marcy Freedman, coordinator of the project, "CSA gives the consumer a direct relationship to the farm. Our subscribers are invited to the farm for two parties each year and to participate in workdays each summer. It gives people a real connection to their food." Terra Firma, a member of the California Certified Organic Farmers Association, benefits by having a steady source of income while being protected from fluctuating market prices for produce.
A delivery last spring included avocados, salad mix, a head of lettuce, green garlic, arugula, peas, baby spinach, walnuts, spring onions, and carrots. Typical summer offerings (which often run into November) include sweet corn, tomatoes, basil, zucchini, summer squash, cucumbers, eggplant, hot and sweet peppers, green beans, okra, watermelon, cantaloupe, cherries, and figs.
Fall fare usually consists of winter squash, spinach, beets, carrots, fennel, turnips, parsnips, sundried tomatoes, walnuts, satsumas (a type of tangerine), and apples. Winter crops bring broccoli, cabbage, a variety of greens and root vegetables, as well as oranges and kiwis.
Certain vegetables, such as onions, potatoes, radishes, and various herbs, are available year-round.
Freedman likes to point out that Terra Firma polls its customers once a year to determine what changes they would like to see in the mix of vegetables.
"People learn to eat seasonally," says Freedman, and they often develop a taste for exotic vegetables from around the globe. "It's an affordable way for people to eat organically all the time."
Clients also learn how to prepare unfamiliar vegetables with help from recipes included in the farm's weekly newsletter. In addition to culinary tips, the chatty newsletter gives current weather conditions and a description of what is being planted and harvested at the farm.
"It's great," enthuses customer Wyrick. "I like supporting the farm because of my politics. I am anxious to see less pesticides in the environment, so I support groups working toward that. I believe that what we need grows where we live. The healthiest way to eat is to eat what is grown locally."
Wyrick adds that she likes knowing she's "getting food that hasn't been shipped all over hell and gone. Eating in season is really important to me, and," she says with a laugh, "I'm terribly lazy. When I remember to buy groceries, it's usually midnight. With Terra Firma, I have built-in variety, of what's fresh and current."
Noe Valley subscribers can arrange to pick up their produce at one of two sites: on a doorstep at 27th and Church streets on Tuesdays, or at 24th and Douglass streets on Thursdays.
For more information, call Marcy Freedman at 826-7198. You can also check out Terra Firma's Web page at siva.captech.com/~terrafirma.