Near Wall Street, A Different Kind of Shareholder

The CSA craze strikes southern Manhattan.

EdibleManhattan-2.4Market watchers take note: The post-Fulton Fish Market food scene is in a slump; the New Amsterdam Market’s two showings have been impressive, albeit ephemeral; and the Fulton Food Stalls are battling Health Department regulations to get open. But there are signs of a recovery.

Manhattan’s southernmost residents craving intimacy with their eats can now sign up for the community-supported agriculture (CSA) subscription service operated out of the Stonehouse California Olive Oil shop on Front Street, which had such a successful debut summer, it’s adding a winter option, which starts Dec. 15.

As most New Yorkers now know, CSAs invite members to prepay for a share in a local farm’s harvest. While such systems are typically active spring through fall, this winter CSA was the brainchild of Megan Joan Cariola, who runs the store. For $300, members will receive five monthly deliveries between December and April, featuring hearty, hibernal fare like potatoes, winter squash, cabbage, garlic and onions, all of which would be delicious with the store’s main inventory, plus eggs, milk and larder liners like pickles, preserves and canned tomatoes. “I might even enjoy this one more,” says Cariola, implying that summer was just the beginning. (Since all the bounty is locally grown, the CSA doesn’t include olive oil—but it’s for sale along with a well-edited selection of artisan comestibles like Salvatore Brooklyn ricotta, Il Forno bread and Upstate Harvest granola). Back on a sunny September day, Anne Glick, officially the 26th person to buy a seasonal stake in the harvest, came through the door with her son to pick up their piece of the produce pie. A chalkboard take on ticker tape indicated each shareholder’s allotted ounces of arugula, number of tomatoes and other returns on investment.

“I can’t believe we get a whole watermelon!” Glick exclaimed, before realizing each share included just half a melon: “That’s probably plenty for us anyway.” Her parents back in Wisconsin are also members of a CSA, though they can’t fathom one in Manhattan.

Cariola says members include “a lot of mothers from Tribeca.” Sure there are five Greenmarkets within stroller-pushing distance, and now a Whole Foods, too, but Cariola, who is also a member, says “a CSA is different. Sometimes you have to just build what you need. That’s not a selfish thing, it’s just that you see your need in others.”

As with any CSA, explains Cariola, there are value fluctuations: “sometimes more stuff, sometimes less.” But the store is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day, so there aren’t runs. Pickup, that is, “doesn’t get so crazy.”

Thanks to that annual crash known as frost, watermelon is now just a memory, so Glick is digging up kale recipes, a nice distraction from the market tremors nearby, she says. “If you have to cook, it can take your mind off things.”

Photo credit: Stephen Munshin

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Brian is the editor at large of Edible East End, Edible Long Island, Edible Manhattan and Edible Brooklyn. He writes from his home in Sag Harbor, New York, where he and his family tend a home garden and oysters. He is also obsessed with ducks, donuts and dumplings.