What would you say if you could support Connecticut farmers and small business entrepreneurs, reduce your carbon footprint and enjoy a wide variety of locally grown, farm fresh food with just a few clicks of your mouse? “Bring it on!” comes to mind.
Which is just what I did when I heard about CT Farm Fresh Express. This wonderful service recently arrived in Fairfield County, bringing Connecticut grown produce, meat, dairy, baked goods and other products right to your front door.
Now, you can leave the shopping and the driving to Deb Marsden, who began her service, CTFFE, in February ’08 with 8 customers; last week she delivered to 61 people, including 12 here in Fairfield County. Deb is fueled by memories of visiting local farms each week with her mother to buy fresh food for dinner and by her passion to preserve local farms. Deb feels it is “vital to keep Connecticut farmers active” and launched CTFFE to fill the gap inherent in farmers’ market shopping. As wonderful as they are, farmers’ markets have limitations: you may not be able to make it to the market hours in a given week and your selection is determined by the vendors who choose to sell at specific markets. Enter: CTFFE. According to Deb, “We are the missing link and your personal supplier. It’s that simple.” And it is that simple.
CTFFE connects you to 58 Connecticut farmers and vendors offering a wide variety of goods from the expected: Fruits, Vegetables, Dairy, Meat and Seafood to the unexpected: Coffee, Potted Plants, Health and Beauty, and Cleaning Products. There are no memberships, no minimums, no maximums, only a delivery fee ($15 to Fairfield County). You can place your order from Friday evening through midnight Tuesday when the “store” closes so orders can be processed. Then, Deb and her team of 14 hit the ground running to order from the farmers on Wednesday, procure, sort and invoice on Thursday and deliver the fresh goods by Friday afternoon all across Connecticut.
CTFFE’s website is easy to navigate. The ordering screen includes a side bar that lists general product categories along with helpful delineations like New Items, All Organic, Gluten-Free and Soy. Each product is accompanied by a photo, its source, the quantity, the price and a brief description. In this way, you know that Braising Greens are from Urban Oaks Organic Farm, $7.75 for a 1 lb. bag and include Kales, Kohlrabi, Chicory, Dandelion, Mustard, Endive, Escarole and Parcel.
According to Deb many farms are organic; those that aren’t, use organic farming principles and consult with the CT Dept. of Agriculture to use a minimal amount of chemical when dealing with a specific pest. She has established relationships with her vendors and provides feedback based on customer input to ensure the quality of the produce/products she offers.
An invoice is e-mailed on Thursday evening, along with a projected delivery time; payment can be made by credit card, Pay Pal or cash/check upon delivery. Friday morning, I left a check, a cooler with ice and a basket for the dry goods on the porch, but delivery was on the early side of my 10:00 – noon window, so I had the pleasure of meeting David, CTFFE’s Fairfield County driver. He graciously brought my items into the house and seemed to enjoy his part in the farm to home delivery system.
Home delivery of such beautiful food was a bit like the tooth fairy paying a visit. I left a cooler and a check rather than a tooth, but I was as pleased as my daughter is when she finds a $1.00 gold coin under her pillow. The quality of all the fruits and vegetables was exceptional and without having to hunt and gather, I had more time to create a dinner from my doorstep bounty. The scallops were a joy from the minute I opened the package, with a slightly sea-salty and sweet perfume. I sautéed them in olive oil and accompanied them with sautéed cherry tomatoes, basil and parsley from my garden; the braised greens were marvelous. All in all, it was a rewarding dish on multiple levels.
Once you’re a customer, you’ll receive weekly emails telling you what’s new (see below). I usually don’t like retailer announcements crowding my inbox, but I was delighted to get a head’s up about what’s currently available in the market. The biggest disadvantage of seasonal eating is missing the opportunity to get the goods while they last; now, that’s not a problem.
The figs from Urban Oaks that were talked about in a recent NY Times article are finally available. They also have a hot Cubanelle pepper and Poblano's. Whitegate Farm has sweet potatoes. From Grande Marquis Farm beef, all cuts of beef are available, except ground beef. Cedar Meadow Farm is back in the pork business. In a few weeks we will see the smoke house products but for now we have fresh pork to offer you. Footsteps Farm has a few chickens this week. Funny Farm and Staehly's Farm have new apple varieties. Bosc pears are at Roses Berry Farm, Lyman's Orchard and Staehly's. My personal favorite apple, the Macoun, is out! Staehly's has 2 new Heritage varieties, Liberty and Wolf River; they also have field grown lettuces. Hidden Brook Gardens has apple butter sweetened with agave nector. Ladybug Soapworks changed the price of the laundry detergent and added a larger size. Stonewall Apiary has a wood wax made from bees wax and mineral oil.
The bottom line on having an in-house farmers’ market: It is a slightly pricey experience, but not much more than shopping at the Farmers’ Market. Deb buys her food wholesale and the mark-up she takes is minimal. And, your cost is offset by the wide selection, convenience and time savings. Come winter, when most farmer’s markets have packed up their tents, Deb will continue to deliver all meats and cheeses, dry goods like granola, pasta sauce and salsa, lettuces from Two Guys in Woodbridge and apples, squash, onions, garlic and carrots as long as they last. Now that I have more choice to eat local produce and support our Connecticut based farmers, rather than pay a grocery chain’s mark-up on apples shipped in from New Zealand, I’ll have to quote Dorothy and say, “There’s no place like home.”
CT Farm Fresh Express Call 860.917.7627 or email firstname.lastname@example.org