Faces of Local: Julie Montanea

ASAP likes to share the stories of people who help us fulfill our mission. This month, we talk with ASAP volunteer Julie Montanea (pictured with her sister at ASAP’s Farm Tour) about why she loves her CSA. 

Q: You’ve participated in three different CSAs. Did you receive produce or other farm goods?

I received produce from all three CSAs, but from two farms I could also get eggs and meat, separate from the regular CSA box. I didn’t eat meat for many years and still never eat commercially raised animals. But I now eat some meat and poultry from local farms that I’ve visited and seen how the animals are raised.

Q: Do you have a favorite time of the season or product that you look forward to getting?

That’s like asking which of your children is your favorite! I look forward to special favorites as the year rolls along—strawberries, cucumbers, arugula, tomatoes, radicchio, shishito peppers, winter squashes. One thing I’ve learned: Even the simplest vegetables, like carrots or cabbage, are so much tastier fresh from the farm compared with store-bought factory-farmed produce.

Q: Have you ever received anything you absolutely had no idea how to prepare? What did you do?

Last year my CSA farm, Gaining Ground, grew aji dulce peppers. They’re shaped like Scotch bonnets, but aren’t spicy hot. Luckily Anne [the farmer] posted a sauce recipe traditional in Puerto Rican cooking, or I would have had no clue!

Q: How has being a CSA member made you feel connected to the farm?

It’s lovely to get to know your farmers some on a personal basis—to meet their families and the interns working on the farm. I’ve been to each of the farms with which I’ve done a CSA. Seeing and asking questions about the fields, barns, hoop houses, processing areas, and farming equipment has helped me better understand and appreciate all that’s entailed in growing the foods I enjoy in my kitchen. When hard weather comes along—too much rain or too little, high winds, early snows—I worry how it will affect the farmers. I’m amazed at their good-natured persistence in the face of bad weather, pests, groundhogs, and deer!

Q: Is there advice you would offer someone considering a CSA for the first time?

Go to ASAP’s CSA Fair to see what different farms have to offer. Ask questions about what they’ll be growing this year and what you can expect to find in your box in June and August and October. Whichever farm you choose, after you’ve joined, see if you can go visit the farm. I’m betting you’ll get more than just delicious food from your experience as a CSA member. 

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