Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Announcing Summer 2011 CSA!

Ben's Produce offers vegetables, strawberries & flowers of the highest quality and taste in the Triangle. Our mission is to strive for healthier people, community, agriculture and planet by growing and sharing the best tasting food we can. Our farming practices may surpass organic guidelines but we choose not to be certified because we are confident the quality and taste of our produce, as well as our direct relationship with you, speak to our commitment to healthy food and holistic agriculture. 2011 will be our second year farming as Ben's Produce, though we have been farming with family and friends for many years.

Community Supported Agriculture

CSA is a mutually beneficial relationship between us. By making a seasonal investment in our farm with a CSA share, you become a seasonal farm member who shares the rewards and risks of the harvest season with us, your farmers. Your investment allows us to afford annual start-up costs, to pay ourselves fair wages, and to share the many risks in growing food. In return, we provide you and your family with abundant, fresh, healthy and local food. Our food not only tastes better and lasts longer, it's also helps us all nourish local agriculture, economy and environment.  Taste the difference!

Is CSA right for your family?

It is good to be aware of the rewards and challenges involved in CSA. If you and your family want to explore the wonderful tastes of our farm-fresh food by eating it straight from your CSA pickup bag or transformed in a wonder dish you cooked, CSA is for you! If you want to expand your taste-bud horizons and strengthen your skills at cooking and preparing fresh food, CSA is for you! If you want to be surprised with new vegetables, CSA is for you! If you want to eat healthily and enjoy eating, CSA is for you!

Please understand that nature's abundance varies. What you receive is based on our harvest schedule which is subject to the weather, pests, disease and a large myriad of influences. Some weeks your CSA share may be less than the retail farmers market value we try to maintain. However, we usually provide more bounty than you could buy at market value. If you find yourself with too many items, do not despair, share the bounty with others! .

How It Works

Join Ben’s Produce CSA by purchasing a CSA share at the beginning of the season. You then visit the weekly pickup site to pack your own vegetables from the harvest table. We will post a guide at the stand explaining what each share contains that week. The CSA harvest season runs for 20 weeks from late-April through September.

We shortened the length of our Summer 2011 CSA to 20 weeks because we found 23 weeks too long and fatiguing, for both you and us. We are also experiencing higher fuel prices as well as the need for livable salaries. Last year, we worked for minimal wages (in the case of Ben) to no wages (in the case of Patricia). Shortening the length of our CSA is our best solution to these challenges we faced in 2010.

Pickup Sites & Times: We have two weekly CSA pickup sites. Our main pickup is Tuesday evenings from 4pm to 7pm at the Raleigh Five Points CSA site, 1911 Bernard St., Raleigh 27608.  We also offer limited pickup every Saturday morning from 8am to 12pm at the Western Wake Farmers Market, 1225 Morrisville Carpenter Rd, Cary 27519. Please consider signing up with the Raleigh Five Points CSA Yahoo Group through the link above, to access information regarding the pickup site and opportunities to support the other farmers who attend as well as local food events and information.

Sharing with others: Some members find it enjoyable to split CSA shares with other families and friends. We also like to share food and enjoy such arrangements. If you choose to split a share, please let us know on your registration so we may avoid confusion.  

Flexibility: We know you may miss pickup for many reasons. We prefer 24 hours notice, if possible. You may send friends or family in your place to pickup if you wish. Missed pickup is forfeit of that weeks share but we will try to make other accommodations if possible.

Communication: Our main mode of communication is email. We will send all members weekly emails usually a day or two before pickup. Our emails are meant as pickup reminders and usually include farm updates, a list of that weeks veggies, a link to our latest blog entry and any notifications regarding pickup. Our blog functions as our farm newsletter that includes farm news, anecdotes, reflections, recipes, photographs and more.

Feedback: Your satisfaction is very important to us and our business. Please give us your feedback! Please give us your suggestions and tell us your concerns. We want our CSA to be fulfilling and pleasing for everybody!

Refunds: We will make no refunds after shares are paid in full. Shareholders are welcome to sell or give away their shares to others. We can provide assistance in transferring shares to others.

Weekly Share Contents

The available produce will change as the season progresses. Regular Shares will contain about 5 to 8 items each week and Full Shares will contain about 8 to 12 items each week.  Ben’s Produce determines the contents of each weeks share. We will try to include all the veggies listed to the best of our abilities.

Vegetable Availability

April:  Arugula, Asian Greens, Green Onions, Kale, Kohlrabi, Lettuce, Peas, Radish, Rutabaga, Salad Greens, Spinach, Strawberries, Swiss chard, Turnips.

May/June: Arugula, Asian Greens, Beets, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Cherry Tomatoes, Sweet Corn, Flowers, Green Onions, Herbs, Kale, Kohlrabi, Leeks, Lettuce, Peas, Radish, Rutabaga, Salad Greens, Spinach, Strawberries, Summer Squash, Swiss Chard, Turnips.

July/August: Beans, Cherry Tomatoes, Sweet Corn, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Flowers, Herbs, Okra, Onions, Potatoes,  Summer Squash, Tomatoes, Tomatillo, Assorted Melons, Hot Peppers, Sweet Peppers, Special Hot Weather Greens.

September: Arugula, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Flowers, Green Onions, Herbs, Lettuce, Okra, Potatoes, Summer Squash, Tomatoes, Tomatillo, Assorted Melons, Hot Peppers, Sweet Peppers, Radish, Salad Greens, Sweet Potatoes, Winter Squash.

Regular Share - $400
 Our Regular Share is a suitable amount of produce for a small household of 1 to 3 people, or one well eating vegetarian to eat for one week. 

Large Share - $600
Our Large Share is a suitable amount of produce for a large household of 4+ people, or a couple of well-eating vegetarians to eat for one week.

Payment Options

Our CSA is first come, first serve. You must send payment to secure a share. We prefer you send us Full Payment but our Payment Plan of a deposit and consecutive payments are accepted for your flexibility.
Full Payment - Enclose a check for the total due.
Payment Plan - Enclose a deposit to secure your share. Please send the amounts listed below 30 days and 60 days after the date of your deposit.
Due Date
Regular Share
Large Share
30 days
60 days

You can find our Summer 2011 CSA Brochure here. Please use the brochure to sign up with us. Please enclose a copy with your information and payment. We hope you will afford us the honor of being your farmers in 2011 and we are looking forward to a great year. We wouldn’t be able to be farmers without you and your support!

Benjamin Shields & Patricia Parker

Thursday, January 13, 2011

2011: Year of Inspiration, Motivation, and, most importantly, FUN!

Goodbye 2010, Hello 2011! 

Well, howdy do! We're caught up in the spirit of the new year around these parts. Saturday we'll begin having more than 10 hours of daylight (10 hours and one minute, to be exact) and that means things will begin growing again. Most of our produce has been slumbering beautifully and cozily under our low tunnels and row covers. 

Yesterday we were rewarded for all of our care and attention and love for our hens and roosters with our first little brown egg. Th e chickadees are 5 months old and it's about the right time for them to slowly begin laying eggs, although the lack of daylight also slows down their production. We got our second little brown egg this morning. Ben and I are planning on making a little ornament out of our very first egg by hollowing it out with two holes on each end. We're so proud of them, you'd think we layed them ourselves!! 


Since all of the plants in the ground are currently hibernating, we've been spending most of our working time planning. Ben is planning Spring and Summer crops so we can order seeds. We went through the seed catalogs over the holidays and we're pretty pumped about all the awesome veggies we're growing. We're going to have a few trial-run half rows this time around too. Ben has also been looking around and talking to folks for and about tractors. At the moment, we have the walk behind. We'd like to expand our production a bit more this year and we'd also like to have the efficiency the tractor affords. We're hoping to get implements that are potentially capable for use for horse or mule farming someday in the future - maybe when we "retire" :). By the way, if you're interested in that type of thing, definitely check out the Small Farmer's Journal. It's hard to make a decision one way or the other, because the system you choose is often difficult to get out of...In addition to the farm planning, I've been doing some academic planning as well. This semester I'm studying for the preliminary exam for my main area, globalization and social change. At the end of the semester, I'm taking a 24 hour written exam, answering three comprehensive questions in 10-12 pages each. That means I'll be prepping for that feat for the next 16 weeks. Today, with a friend and colleague, we wrote up a plan of action and a study schedule. It feels pretty awesome to know what we're doing in the next few weeks - all around. In addition to all of this planning, Ben and I have also decided to designate Sundays aa FUNdays, and we're vowing to keep working throughout the rest of the days of the week so that we can reward ourselves with a full day of leisure one day of the week. As farmers and students (and also as a distance education instructor), it's particularly difficult to separate work and home and to ensure work isn't being done all of the time. We need our FUN time! We've also taken to taking walks on the acreage (350 acres). There are plenty of woods, a creek, and a beaver pond. It's vast and gorgeous out here - even in the dead of winter. This Monday, Ben, Charlie (the dog), and I went for a stroll and pine cone collection walk. I brewed us some tea and put it in our nifty new large size and portable tea/coffee mugs, we bundled up, and we went to gather. On our walk, it began to snow. It was quite nice indeed. The snow did get a bit harsh at the end and we were a ways from home, so we decided eventually to cut through the woods and make our way through the bramble. It was quite the adventure! 

We also went on a Boxing Day Blizzard adventure when we went to visit Ben's family for the holidays. We spent time all around the state and I even got to go ice skating on a frozen pond! Apparently that's old news for New Englanders, but for a girl who has spent most of her time in the South, that was quite the scary and exciting fun day...actually night.It was a combo skate party, ice skating, Christmas Eve eve celebration. 

Here's Ben with his parents at the dairy farm in Middleboro.

And here are a couple of Ben and I in the snow on the farm. 

The farm house. 

Charlie having fun with all the snow. 

Ben's mom with her grandson (and Ben's nephew). Isn't he adorable?!

When we came back from Massachusetts, Ben and I were happy to attend market. We hadn't been to market for almost three weeks!!! Here are some pictures from last weekend's market and some from the farm. 
 Everything is grown with love!

Here's a close of the said "magical" mesclun mix:
baby arugula, mizuna, baby tat soi, flat leaf parsley and curly parsley - YUM!

The winter spread :)

With Ben.

With me.

Assorted lettuces up close and personal.

Purple top turnips, real baby carrots and Hakurei turnips.

Kohlrabi and watermelon radishes.

We sold out by 10:30! 
We would love to bring more, but since things are slowly moving along here, given the hibernation of winter, it's going to be a little while before we'll have two tables full again - but it'll be here before we know it!

Well, this is the sunset. 
Thanks for stopping by. 
Good bye for now and good night.

Happy New Year to you!
From: Patricia Parker and Ben Shields