Share in the Organic Farm

Buy shares in an organic collective, and get homegrown greens in return

There are a couple of caveats. Redland Organics doesn't deliver. Community members have the option of picking up the goods at Bee Heaven or at one of the farmers' markets -- Coral Gables or Pinecrest -- where Pikarsky sells to the general public. More convenient, perhaps, is if at least five community members who live in the same area (Aventura, for instance, or South Beach) have a point person who will pick up a number of boxes and distribute them. I'm going to bully -- I mean, rally-- my neighbors into forming this additional kind of cooperative, so that we can all take turns in heading south for the winter. (Note that half-shares are available for pickup at the farm only.)

Then, of course, there's the element of surprise. To paraphrase the eminently wise mother of Forrest Gump, CSAs are like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get: avocados and edible flowers from Bee Heaven Farm; heirloom tomatoes and peppers from Evertrue Farm; mamey and sapote from Health and Happiness Farm; micro-greens and sprouts from Paradise Farm; longans and lychees from Saw Mill Farm; and broccoli and cilantro from Worden Farm, to name only a few of the dozens of possibilities. Pikarsky has already worked out some of the possible kinks. "I've budgeted a certain amount so that I will always get something from someone, and everyone will have a chance to participate," she guarantees.

Still it's wise to heed the Redland Organics brochure: "We are not a supermarket! The vegetables that you find in your box are what we are harvesting at that time, and you will not be able to pick and choose as in a market.... Part of the commitment is to learn to eat what is in season in your area."

But even such stipulations have upsides, it seems. You can note preferences on a list that you submit along with your application form (see www.redlandorganics.com/CSAapp.htm) by rating your produce -- a "4" means you'd like to see cucumbers in your box every week, a "1" indicates that you don't even know what sweet luffa is. You can also expect some consistency in terms of category. Pikarsky says, "I always include some sort of green, salad makings, and an herb in each box, in addition to whatever else is in season." Finally, if you pick up your veggies at the farm, you can swap at an exchange table if you really can't bear to bring home the daikon, and you can buy extra of whatever crop is in surplus while you're there.

As added incentive for learning to eat seasonally, from time to time the box will include recipes and tips on cooking unfamiliar vegetables. As far as a school of thought goes, the CSA/Redland Organics seems to be one in the making, and this first year will no doubt be a time for experimentation and education on the part of both growers and community members. But at least the curriculum promises to be tasty.

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