Letterbox Farm Introduces The CSA Meal Share
By Jamie Larson
With a long hard winter finally behind us (knock wood), it’s time again to sign up for a CSA share from your favorite local farm. With regional produce and high-quality, ethically produced meats better and more widely available than ever, choosing a CSA has become an increasingly fraught, if enviable, dilemma.
Making that decision harder (or maybe easier) is the newest addition to the CSA scene in Columbia County, Letterbox Farm Collective. The three-year-old farm’s new CSA has garnered a lot of deserved attention with a brand new idea — the “Meal Share.” This thoughtfully engineered CSA will provide weekly offerings of produce and meats geared towards specific meal plans, timed with the seasonal growing schedule.
“It’s really just based on the way we want to eat and how we get to eat as farmers,” says Faith Gilbert, the Collective’s founder and co-owner. “It’s a beautiful and holistic cooking experience.”
While this is its first year as a CSA, Letterbox’s quality of both produce and protein has already been recognized and put to use in the restaurants of top local chefs at Fish & Game, The Crimson Sparrow, Swoon Kitchenbar, Hudson Food Studio, Bonfiglio & Bread, Panzur and others. They also provide ingredients for world-renowned Momofuku Ko in Manhattan. These are endorsements not to be taken lightly.
“I think we have a reputation for quality because of our scale and amount of preparation,” Gilbert continues. “We know exactly what you’re going to get every week. The age of just throwing stuff in a box is over. We are offering a particular experience in eating.”
Along with a CSA schedule geared towards providing members with a seasonally balanced offering of vegetables, fruits, herbs, starches and extras each week, the Letterbox share also includes weekly chicken or duck eggs, a whole chicken every other week and 75 “points” that can be used towards the farm’s meat options each week. Letterbox will offer cuts of pork, fowl and rabbit, and extra points can be used to supplement other things you might want beyond that week’s allotment, including honey from the farm’s own bees and soap made from the farm’s goats’ milk.
Here’s an example of a meal share week CSA members can look forward to:
Letterbox founder Faith Gilbert.
August 8: Pizza Week
Choose your eggs (chicken, duck or quail)
Choose your meats (i.e., 1 lb. pork sausage and 2 pork chops)
Bundle of alliums and herbs: 2 onions, summer savory and oregano
Choose twenty-green salad mix or baby red spinach
1 Prosperosa eggplant
1 qt. Carmen peppers
2 lbs. heirloom tomato mix
1 lb. Sparrowbush Farm whole wheat flour
The idea sounds more complicated than it is. For the CSA member, picking up and cooking Letterbox goods is simple and intuitive by design. CSA members will also be supporting a farm with a modern sustainable ethos.
The Letterbox Farm Collective: Audrey Berman, Faith Gilbert, Nichki Carangelo, Laszlo Lazar and Moo.
“We share a lot of the values of other young farmers,” Gilbert says. “For us, the continuation of sustainable food production is such an important issue. We want to live in a community of producers, not just consumers. It’s important that we figure out how to keep farming this land while maintaining expectations for our quality of life.”
Being able to pull off a plan like this is a testament to the hard work of the young but experienced Letterbox team. Laszlo Lazar and Nichki Carangelo worked a small livestock farm in Connecticut and as Army Corps of Engineers park rangers before coming to join the Collective with Gilbert, a long-time friend. Gilbert herself clearly uses her years of farming experience as well as her academic background in research and community organizing. She literally wrote the book on Cooperative Farming for The Greenhorns. The newest member of the collective is Audrey Berman, who previously worked as assistant manager for Sisters Hill Farm, a highly respected CSA farm in Dutchess County; she excels at systems and infrastructure design, skills vital to this formative year of development at the farm.
“We’ve built a great team. Everyone has something different to offer,” Gilbert says. “We are career farmers.”
This is also the first year the collective owns its farm outright, receiving funding assistance from regional ag organizations and Scenic Hudson, which supported Letterbox’s philosophical goals to be responsible stewards of the unique acreage. The farm is set on a rolling slope with a beautiful view of the valley and the Catskills beyond, and the Collective plans to protect and enhance the beauty of the landscape as part of their long-term growth plan.
The members and staff of the Letterbox Farm Collective are excited about the potential for this season but also see this year’s CSA as the start of a lifelong career in community-engaged farming. If their humble, hardworking and inventive approach to the Meal Share is any indication, the area — and especially CSA members — have a lot to look forward to for decades to come.
Full meals for $52/week
Pickup location: Letterbox Farm, 4161 US 9, Hudson (2 miles from downtown)
Pickup schedule: Saturdays, 10 a.m.-noon, June 6-Oct. 17
Price: 20 weeks for $1,040, payable by June 1.
Letterbox Farm Collective
4161 US 9, Hudson, NY
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