Full Circle Farm Offers CSA Boxes for Alaskans

Full Circle Farm 015aA reader asked about Full Circle Farm (FCF), one of my sources for vegetables. The reader wondered why I buy produce from FCF since I’m in Alaska and FCF is in Washington. This picture of produce from a FCF delivery may help explain, but doesn’t directly answer my reader’s question, so here goes:

FCF is an organic farm in Carnation, Washington that provides weekly boxes of organic fruit and vegetables to subscribers of its Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.

While I’d prefer to eat locally and seasonally, this is an impossibility in Alaska for much of the year if I want to include a full range of fruits and vegetables in my diet. By October, everything in our garden has been harvested. Shortly after harvest, the snow falls and stays on the ground until at least April. The farmers’ markets end for the year in October.

Local grocery stores carry a full complement of fruits and vegetables, just not in the organic section. In the last few years, a number of Alaska stores have increased the size of their organic produce sections. Even with more room, however, the organic selection is limited to a few varieties of produce that tend to remain the same from week to week. All too often the organic vegetables are wilted and of poor quality.

Local grocery stores were not meeting my need for organic produce, so I turned to Full Circle Farm for relief. Judging from the growing number of locations where FCF produce boxes can be collected, many other Alaskans share my experience. There are now many pickup locations in Anchorage and Eagle River, and 46 in the rest of the state, including Bethel, Kotzebue, and Dillingham. [2011 Update: In some Alaska locations, FCF does home deliveries.]

FCF gives subscribers the option of receiving small, medium, or large boxes, weekly or biweekly, depending on each subscriber’s preference. I get a small box of produce every other week, at a price of $37 per box. That’s plenty for the two of us; by the time it’s new box day, we’ve pretty much eaten everything and are ready for more. [2011 Update: The sizes and prices of FCF boxes have changed; deliveries are now made only weekly.]

I like buying produce from FCF because:

  1. Except in summer when farmers’ markets are open, I get higher quality organic produce than I can buy locally and the price is comparable or better.
  2. Because I have a refrigerator full of produce after my biweekly box arrives, and I hate having food go to waste, we eat significantly more vegetables than we do when I shop only at local supermarkets.
  3. It’s easier for me to decide what to cook for dinner when I have produce in the refrigerator to inspire me. Coming up with dinner ideas is the worst part of cooking. As Peg Bracken once said, “It’s the dailiness of it” that makes menu-making difficult. The regular struggle for meal ideas is now a thing of the past.
  4. I have the option of changing up to five items in each FCF box, so if there’s things I don’t like (think collard greens), I can replace them with other produce that I prefer. I very much appreciate receiving only produce I like to cook and eat. [2011 Update: FCF now allows you to change as many items as you want in each FCF box.]
  5. Each week, FCF offers a lengthy list of extra items to order, and I regularly take advantage of this feature. I appreciate the diversity of seasonal items offered, which helps me avoid spending too much time in grocery stores: a net positive.
  6. The staff at FCF are friendly and helpful. Twice I’ve had small problems with my box — one time an extra item I ordered had been left out, and another time I didn’t like the quality of an item. Both times I sent FCF an email and was immediately credited for the item’s cost. Over the course of the past year, those have been my only problems, and I was completely satisfied with the resolution.

I buy produce from FCF because it provides tasty fruit and vegetables for a fair price, and in so doing, has simplified my life.

**This week’s FCF box, photographed above, contained: Delicata squash, russet potatoes, cucumber, celery root, carrots, beets, spinach, escarole, 3 kinds of lettuce, Braeburn apples, Bartlett pears, and crimson grapes.

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