Community supported agriculture (or CSA) memberships can be a crapshoot when it comes to variety and quality for the price. Die-hard locavores will usually persevere out of loyalty to local farms, even if weekly produce boxes become a boring slog through filler vegetables in between major harvests. But a few local businesses have banded together to deliver a mixed box to appeal to food and beer lovers as well as those who want to support Denver producers. Community Supported Artisans of Denver involves a brewery, a bakery, a cured-meat maker and a hydroponic farmer on the west side of the city.
Jesse Brookstein, co-founder of Call to Arms Brewing in the Berkeley neighborhood, conceived the idea after working with two other neighborhood artisans for the Holiday Rumpus Market held in the courtyard outside the brewery last winter. Raleigh Street Bakery, owned by David Kaminer, and Il Porcellino Salumeria (just a few blocks south of Call to Arms at 4324 West 41st Avenue) both sold their artisan bread and meats at the market, and Kaminer continued to sell bread on Mondays at the brewery. Brookstein had read about other brewery CSAs around the country, and he thought his neighbors would respond well to a similar concept in Denver. The only thing missing was a good source of produce.
Fortunately for Brookstein, Mas Kaos Taqueria and Pizzeria had just opened next door to Call to Arms, and the manager there told him about the excellent hydroponic produce coming from Rebel Farm, a small greenhouse farm just off Sheridan Boulevard and West Evans Avenue that supplies the restaurant with some of its greens and herbs. Brookstein contacted Daryl "Talon" Goode at Rebel Farms, and a deal was brokered. The four companies banded together to form a CSA that will deliver a variety of artisan goods for a small number of interested customers.
Each week, the CSA will put together a 64-ounce growler with a choice of four core beers (and additional small-batch options), proteins from Il Porcellino, a loaf of sourdough from Raleigh Street Bakery, and a variety of vegetables and greens from Rebel Farm.
Brian Albano of Il Porcellino says his shop will mix it up from week to week, with cured sausage and cheese, whole roasted chickens, fresh sausage for grilling or even a breakfast box with local eggs and housemade bacon. Kaminer's bread is made in the Old World pain levain style, meaning that no yeast is added and the dough ferments and rises through the activity of naturally occurring microflora. His weekly loaves will contain a variety of grains, seeds, dried fruits and sometimes even beer from Call to Arms. And Rebel Farm is growing heirloom varieties of zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, cucumber and other vegetables just for the CSA.
"Something like this features the whole gamut of local products," Good explains.
"The customers feel our energy," adds Brookstein. "All four companies are pumped about this."
Community Supported Artisans of Denver begins on June 20 for customers — capped at thirty for the inaugural season — who sign up by June 17. Membership will cost $600 for twelve weeks. Pick-up times will be from 4 to 7 p.m. every Monday at Call to Arms (4526 Tennyson Street). You can sign up on the Call to Arms website or stop in to fill out a form. An additional service fee will be applied to credit-card purchases, but if you pay in cash at the brewery, you'll get a free ten-ounce pour of beer.
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Raleigh Street Bakery is also selling bread at the Union Station Farmers' Market every Saturday this summer. Rebel Farm's produce can be found on plates at some of Denver's top restaurants, including Linger, Root Down, Table 6, DiFranco's, Spuntino and Guard and Grace. The farm is also dedicated to veterans' issues; a portion of its proceeds go toward Veterans to Farmers, and unsold produce goes to We Don't Waste.