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Not-So-Secret Garden: Covey Rise, CSA Close to Home

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If you want fresh vegetables to grace your dinner table every night, you don’t have to look far. Located about 30 miles northwest of Lake Pontchartrain, Covey Rise Farms offers vegetables that are fresh and local. During each harvest season, these vegetables are delivered weekly to a pick-up location in Covington—a much shorter distance than most of the veggies in the grocery stores have to travel!

Through the farm’s Community Supported Agriculture program, local consumers can sign up to receive fresh, vine-ripened vegetables, which are not picked until they’ve reach their peak quality. “It thrills us to be growing for the families in this community,” says Anne Sharp of Covey Rise Farms. “We provide fresh, local heirloom varieties, and everything has been harvested that day or the day before.”

Covey Rise CSA products at Simplee Gourmet.

Covey Rise CSA products at Simplee Gourmet.

The produce farm and the CSA are relatively new to Covey Rise, which opened in 1999 as a shooting preserve and corporate retreat with just one lodge facility. Today, their property includes eight cabins and 400 acres of woods, water and fields.

Originally covering 13 acres, the vegetable farm was meant to utilize Covey Rise’s land and equipment during the non-shooting part of the year and to encourage guests to visit the lodge for “field-to-table” dinners. (This summer’s dinners with Covey Rise chef J. Zink and guest chefs will be held June 23, July 21 and August 11.)

The first vegetable seeds were planted in March 2010 after a consultation with John Besh and his staff about which varieties would be most beneficial for local chefs. By May, the vegetables were harvested and delivered to New Orleans restaurants. As Covey Rise built up its clientele, which now totals 35 restaurants, it also increased the farm’s acreage to 35.

In the fall of 2010, Covey Rise Farms officially began the CSA produce subscription service that encourages seasonal eating of a wide variety of vegetables. By becoming CSA “members” or “subscribers,” customers create a relationship with the farm and receive locally grown produce, fresh and ripe from the fields.

Rebel Caplinger of Slidell has been a CSA member from its inception. “It’s fresh and it’s local—it’s better to eat closer to where you live,” she says. “I have a cabin up at Covey Rise, so the farm is in my backyard. It’s really pretty, especially when the garlic and the baby artichokes are blooming.”

Dinner at Covey Rise.

Dinner at Covey Rise.

During the spring and fall seasons, which are about 10 to 12 weeks each, Covey Rise CSA members receive six to eight varieties of veggies weekly—enough to feed a family of four. “There’s always a little something extra, such as flowers or herbs,” Rebel says. “And unique things like purple carrots and purple cauliflower, which are unbelievable—they’re beautiful. The heirloom tomatoes, dark plum tomatoes and green tomatoes—they’re spectacular.”

Simplee Gourmet in Covington became the pick-up location in the spring of 2011. “We do a cooking class the following day around 11 to show people how to use the vegetables,” says owner Melissa Whittington, recalling a vegetable quiche made out of many different varieties. “I had never seen a blood tomato—you can eat it like an apple! And the varieties of eggplant are endless.”

Members are also encouraged to share recipes with each other since the assortment of veggies varies each harvest. “You don’t know what you’re going to get that week—it makes you think,” Rebel says, adding that juicers make the greens go a long way.

Rebel’s two children enjoy visiting Simplee Gourmet after school each week to collect their share of the harvest. Besides eating more veggies than ever before, they have also participated in a Farm Day at Covey Rise. CSA members and their families visited the farm to see where their vegetables were coming from, picked flowers and enjoyed wagon rides through the fields. (CSA members can participate in this season’s Farm Day on June 10.)

Though the 2012 CSA spring/summer season started mid-April, it’s not too late to sign up to receive fresh veggies for only $30 per week. “I think for the price it’s a wonderful value,” Rebel says.

“We are hoping to reach 100 members this year,” Anne adds. “It’s all about eating seasonally—what we are able to grow at the time.”

For more information, call Anne Sharp at (985) 974-0031 or visit coveyriselodge.com.

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