inside a japanese csa
One of the things I have been envious of for a long time is the easy access to CSAs that has sprung up back home since I moved out of the country. Sure CSAs existed back when I lived in San Francisco (I actually almost joined one about a year before I moved) but they weren’t as common, and the expense was a little too much for my puny college student budget to handle at the time– especially since I was in the midst of saving up for my year abroad. In the last several years, though, it has seemed like everyone and their mother has access to a CSA and is actually taking advantage of it. Even my own mother became a member of Eatwell Farm in the Bay Area earlier this year.
Although the CSA movement was technically started here in Japan, it is a lot more low-key than the current CSA movement in America. The internet is not quite as ubiquitous here as in the States, so most small farms do their business entirely offline through word of mouth, with only the bigger delivery services having full online support. This has made locating a decent CSA extremely difficult. Throw in my not so perfect language skills, and I’m sure you can understand why, despite dreaming of having CSA boxes and farm fresh eggs delivered to my door for the entire time I have been a resident of this country, I never quite made it happen.
Enter 風の丘ファーム (Kaze no Oka Farm, literally Windy Hilltop Farm).
I found my way to their modest website a few weeks ago after another fit of online searching. Kaze no Oka Farm is located one prefecture north of Tokyo in Saitama Prefecture. They are a small farm that offers CSA-style vegetable boxes for delivery to surrounding areas in the Kanto region (Eastern Japan, for those unfamiliar with Japanese geography). Boxes come in two sizes, small (2-3 person families), and large (4-5 person families), and delivery can be arranged to fit your needs.
I tried looking around for more options to see what would suit me best, and came across the major organic home delivery services I’d seen countless times, but in the end I kept returning to this particular site. I had some reservations about it– the biggest one being that this particular farm grows vegetables exclusively, so I would not be getting any of the beautiful farm grown fruit I’ve seen so many others gush over when opening their CSA boxes, but overall it seemed to be the best choice for me. I decided I would like to try them out and see how I felt from there.
It took me about a week to find the time and courage to sit down and call up the farm, but finally on Friday of last week I buckled down and ordered. In the end I ordered their small Otameshi Set (trial set) with 10 egg option. I scheduled delivery for Sunday morning and settled down to wait.
Morning delivery in Tokyo technically means 9 am to 11 am or 12 pm, depending on the delivery service, but I have found that 75% of the time it actually means the door ringing at about 9:05 am. This was not the case on Sunday morning. The doorbell did not ring at 9:05, 10:05, or even 11:05 am. I began to get very antsy and worried that something had gone terribly wrong. When 12:05pm passed and still no box had been delivered, I convinced myself that I must have given them the wrong address on the phone earlier in the week.
Thankfully, at 12:25 pm, 5 minutes before we had to head out the door to go to music session where Eric would be singing and playing guitar for an odd selection of songs (really – Duran Duran, A Flock of Seagulls, some Japanese band I’ve never heard of, and Gackt), the doorbell rang.
We had just enough time to open it, see what was inside, and put the perishables in the fridge before running off. I was sad not to have adequate time to tear through the box and take pictures right then and there, but very relieved that it had actually shown up as scheduled.
So, what exactly comes in a Japanese CSA box in early October?
• a couple of small white onions
• a few tokachi kogane potatoes
• a bunch of naganegi (Japanese long onion – think leeks)
• a miniature kabocha
• a small bag of satoimo (taro root)
• three small carrots from thinning
• fresh, young ginger root
• nira (garlic chives)
• mabiki kabu (immature turnips w/ turnip greens from thinning)
• piman (Japanese green peppers)
• a handful of okra
(click to see these in their full pulled-fresh-from-the-ground dirt-covered glory)
Want to know what I plan to make with my bounty of farm-fresh Japanese vegetables? Check back a little later in the week!