The CSA from Hubbard Heights Farm is different than most subscription food programs. That’s because its fields lay smack dab in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Stamford, the state’s third largest city. Consequently, most subscribers live within a few minutes of the farm, so it’s easy to drop by and watch their groceries grow.
“They really identify with the place,” says Randy Brown, the Cornel l-trained Wizard who conceived and created this one of a kind urban farm. “Because they’re sort of shareholders, the subscribers feel ownership of the crops.”
Convenient access also allows people to customize their weekly supply of just picked vegetables, greens, and flowers. “We don’t have to transport the boxes to a central pickup point like most CSA’s,” Brown points out. That allows subscribers to personalize their portions. In fact, they can even go into the fields and pick their own food. “It doesn’t get fresher than that,” Randy adds.
Easy accessibility usually turns the Hubbard Heights CSA experience into a family affair. “I love it when kids come,” Brown told us. “The little girls like to water. The boys like to pick up rocks. And of course everybody wants a ride on my tractor.”
Brown sees himself as an educator as much as a farmer, an urban Johnny Vegetable Seed. “I want city people to get closer to their foods,” he told us. “So they know how to grow their own. “ With the lack of genetic diversity in our vegetables and the concentration of farmland in a few states, he feels we are a catastrophe away from massive food shortages. “So the more parents and kids learn here,” he says, “the more likely they can grow their own foods.”
It’s not just families who rely on the farm. Restaurants also serve Hubbard Heights’ bounty to their customers. “I divide restaurateurs into businessmen and artists,” Brown confided. “ Cooks like a Michael Marchetti of Columbus Park Trattoria care about the quality of food they prepare for their customers, not just profits. “ Since Hubbard Heights sits at the edge of downtown, this is about as close to locovore cooking as an urban restaurant can get. It’s the quintessence of farm to fork.
Brown expects a bountiful crop for his subscribers this year. “There’s nothing a farmer likes better than a cold hard winter,” he confessed, slightly apologetic. The deep snow means the soil will be especially moist and the extended freezing temperatures limit the insect population.
Due to last spring and summer’s extreme fluctuation of heat and rain, Brown lost 40,000 pounds of heirloom tomatoes to the weather. “My CSA subscribers got their tomatoes,” he assures us. “But I didn’t have much left for my other customers.”
Tomatoes are the piece de resistance of his CSA package. Because Randy grafts the seedlings (domestic and foreign) onto disease resistant roots, he organically grows over 20 cultivars of rare heirloom tomatoes. The resulting fruit is so delicate it can’t be shipped, so you won’t find these species in a supermarket. Bite into one, and taste the sugars we savored as kids, once upon a vine.
Though the offerings change from June through October, Brown supplies steady portions of leaves for salads all season long. Winter squash, easily stored, also provides a constant. Because the farm abounds in flowers, most boxes throughout the summer and fall are adorned with fragrant bouquets.
Subscriptions for 20 weeks of farm- grown foods and flowers run $560, or a bit over 25 dollars a week for a family of four. That’s more than competitive with most supermarkets, and the offerings come home a Whole lot fresher. “People feel really good about doing this,” Brown says. “You can’t put a price on that.”
Full information can be found on the farm’s website, hubbardheightsfarm.com
Brown assures us there are subscriptions remaining, but cautions they should sell out fast.
The Farm is located at 202 Hubbard Avenue in Stamford. In season, the Farmer's Market opens Tues-Fri 2 p.m. - 6 p.m. and on weekends from 10 a.m. Though tending the farm is totally voluntary, getting your hands dirty is welcomed and appreciated.