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.: reviews --> terra firma farms

Terra Firma Farms

[ ****1/2 ] recommended
pros: local, fresh, organic produce delivered close to home; good value
cons: seasonal means repetitive; if you get the small box, you might have to supplement your produce. on the other hand, you may end up with just a little bit too much all the time.

At the end of May, I decided to give Terra Firma Farms a try. Community Supported Agriculture appeals to me for several reasons: it's local, it's organic, and eating seasonally appeals to me aesthetically. I'm also notoriously bad at working fruits and vegetables into my diet, and I thought having produce selected and delivered to my door would force me to expand my repertoire.

The basics: Terra Firma Farms is a small farm that delivers organic seasonal produce once a week to pickup spots around the Bay area and Northern California. There are three box sizes, and it's easy to upgrade or downgrade if you need a different amount. There is a one-month minimum to try the service. If there is no pickup spot near to you, call them anyway. If you can host a pick-up, you will get a discount on your box.

Terra Firma works on a basis of trust, and you can call to subscribe and begin receiving produce immediately. When you go on vacation, you need only let them know a week in advance whether you would like a credit or to have your box donated to Food Runners, which will take your box either to a homeless or a battered women's shelter. All of the produce is organic; on Tuesday or Wednesday you can read the newsletter to see what will be delivered later in the week. The website itself is decidedly low-tech - it would be nice to be able to search back through time to find all the recipes, for example, that use a particular ingredient. But it's a great convenience to me to see a day or two in advance what I'll be receiving.

I started with the small box ($52/month). It was instantly apparent that the small box would never do. I don't know who would be satisfied with this amount of food: a single person who only cooked on the weekends? It contained:
- 2 small yellow zucchini
- 2 small green zucchini
- a bunch of spinach
- a large red onion
- a cucumber
- some cherries
- some apricots
- some new potatoes

Delicious, but not enough produce for two people for one week. I immediately upgraded to the medium sized box ($78/month) for June.

To be honest, I was disappointed in the first medium box I received. It didn't contain as much food as I had hoped, but I decided to be very systematic in evaluating what I was getting for my money. I happen to live within easy walking distance to a natural foods store, so it was easy to check prices and calculate the equivalent cost of buying my produce the old-fashioned way. The second and third medium boxes contained what seemed to be more food, and carried us mostly through the week.

Overall, I am very pleased with the produce and with the box variety. I did receive an overabundance of garlic (7 heads in two weeks!). One apricot and one head of garlic were spoiled (it was a bit of a relief about the garlic). The rest of the produce has been in fine condition. And as you can see from the chart below, I am getting a good value on the produce I receive from Terra Firma Farms (possibly better than is indicated: in a few cases, I had to completely guess on the retail price).

I am finding it challenging to think of things to do with the same vegetables delivered week after week, but that's part of eating seasonally; I would have the same dilemma if I had a garden. I am also having a bit of a problem storing the produce I receive. Mostly that's because my current apartment is equipped with a teeny-tiny refrigerator. But you will need to store most of it in the refrigerator or at least in a cool spot, if you have one. If you cook like I do, you will need to supplement your box. I bought celery, carrots, yellow onions, mushrooms, and parsley to supplement the produce that was delivered in June; since I make risotto weekly, I need these staples for making vegetable stock.

Having tracked the cost of buying equivalent produce in my own neighborhood, I am confident in recommending Terra Firma Farms to those who live in their subscriber area, especially for those who do not have a natural foods store nearby, or who tend to pass by the fruits and vegetables while shopping. With this subscription, we have finally made the leap to eating organic, and I feel good about supporting a local farm. I intend to continue subscribing, and I look forward to beginning to think about food less in terms of what I need, and more in terms of what I have.

june 2001: medium box ($78/month - approx $19.50/wk)
Legend: (?) = I guessed

06/05/01 ..... $19.31 retail
0.5   lb   salad mix .... $1.50 (?)
1.75 lb   potatoes .... $2.26
0.5   lb   fresh garlic (3) .... $2.50
0.8   lb   summer squash .... $1.03
1      lb   cherries .... $5.99
2      lb   apricots .... $4.38
0.6   lb   cucumbers (1) .... $1.43
0.5   lb   onions .... $0.22

06/11/01 ..... $23.97 retail
1      lb   green beans .... $4.69
4 ears of yellow corn .... $2.76
bunch of basil .... $2.00 (?)
1.4   lb    cucumbers (2) .... $3.35
1      lb   fresh garlic (4) .... $4.99
1      lb   carrots .... $0.79
1.6   lb   summer squash .... $2.06
0.8   lb   cherries .... $4.79
2      lb   apricots .... $4.38
1.25 lb   potatoes .... $1.61

06/19/01 ..... $24.91 retail
0.8 lb   cherry tomatoes .... $3.19
1    lb   green beans .... $4.69
1.3 lb   sum. squash (5) .... $1.68
6 ears of corn .... $4.14
2    lb   apricots .... $5.98
huge bunch of basil .... $4.00 (?)
2    lb   onions .... $1.38
1.3 lb   beets (7) .... $1.55
0.3 lb   fresh garlic (1) .... $1.50

06/28/01 ..... $24.48 retail
1    lb   green beans .... $2.99
2    lb   tomatoes .... $3.58
2    lb yellow finn potatoes .... $1.58
6 ears of   corn .... $4.14
0.6 lb   carrots .... $.47
2    lb   cucumbers .... $3.38
2    lb   yellow finn potatoes .... $1.58
3    lb   canteloupe .... $2.97
2    lb   yellow onion .... $1.38

rebecca blood
june 2001


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