I previously wrote a post about my disappointment with Grow Alabama and how I was looking for new options. I recently canceled my subscription to Grow Alabama and am just receiving the last few boxes. Let me tell you, the box I am getting this week has ONE item from Alabama in it - iceberg lettuce. PATHETIC! It also had cucumbers and cherry tomatoes! I haven't had one parsnip yet this season. I plan to talk more about neglected winter foods soon enough - stay tuned. I like to think that the items not coming from Alabama (mostly North Carolina this week) are from small farmers as well, but I am just not sure. Ever since the avocado, my trust has been completely broken. I constantly analyze my produce and wonder "Are you from California?" Most of the produce I receive in the summer seems kind of dirty like it was "just picked", but this produce has been perfectly cleaned and pruned. Like that, it makes me think they are just ordering off a food truck like a restaurant does.
For those of you interested, I receive(d) the medium sized box (Silver Share). When I bought it, the share was $118 and some change (that included my delivery fee). However, the price has gone up since then. Yes, it's convenient. No, it's not organic (they won't even say they are pesticide free). Yes, it's a good cause. No, I would not recommend it for any true local sustainable food advocate. I am all about growing pains and I know that they need the financial support (and demand) now to get Alabama farmers to grow winter produce - but something about the company doesn't taste right. Maybe I just need a little more Alabama dirt in my system and I haven't been getting enough for months now.
Okay, now that we're done with that. Let me talk about some options I found. Sadly, no one has winter produce. So the only thing I can tell you is to grow your own, put up a lot of surplus, and support the few farmers that sell their wares sporadically at Pepper Place. I am even thinking about creating a make shift root cellar (who am I?!).
Jones Valley Urban Farm - I love their general mission, but man oh man - these guys can't send back an e-mail. I contacted the person in charge (via e-mail) twice about starting a CSA with them. First e-mail was sent days before Christmas. Second was sent at the end on January after I saw on their website "Hurry and contact XXX. Shares are filling up!". I am not sure if they just don't want my money - but I won't be getting a CSA from them this year. I will, however, stop by after work and check out their produce stand. They usually put out a few things for sale.
Snow's Bend Farm - This is who is now going to provide my CSA. A small sustainable farm in the Tuscaloosa area (gotta support West Alabamians!). I had heard from Amanda Storey that they had a waiting list. I am not sure if the fates realized my desperation, but I managed to get a share this season with no problems. I am pretty excited to be getting all my produce from one farm. I know that my money will directly help a local farmer. I've cut out the middle man by about 99% (it would only be 100% if I decided to grow my own food). My friend Summer is going to split the share with me and we'll alternate weeks. This will help me reduce my food waste (cause I never could seem to keep up with my Grow Alabama box - especially in the summer), reduce the general cost, and give Summer and I another reason to talk about food. You guys will hear more about Snow's Bend once the share starts later this spring.
Pepper Place Market - One of the reasons I wanted to find someone to share the box with was so that I could go to Pepper Place and really do some shopping. Before, I would go maybe two or three times a summer. Mainly to enjoy some delicious strawberry cake. I can visit the market on my off weeks and splurge on some really good honey, cheeses, and - of course - produce!
All in all, I am really happy with my decision to leave Grow Alabama. I am really grateful to them for everything I have learned. I have gained all my current cooking skills using their produce. However, for the principles that I stand for I need to be able to completely trust my produce. And sorry, Grow Alabama, you are just too two-faced for me. So, I don't see it going anywhere for us. We're done. Best of luck to you!
What are you doing to support your local food system? Please share in the comments section!