Ranting. But in a positive way.
For the last four or five years, I’ve belonged to a CSA near my work. CSA, for you neophytes, stands for “Community Supported Agriculture.” Here’s how it works. Early in the spring, you join a CSA. The main thing this requires is money, although some CSAs do have a work requirement. Then, throughout the growing season, you receive fresh, locally grown produce each week which you generally pick up at the farm. Some CSAs have other pickup points as well.
This type of program works well for locavores (people who strive to eat only locally grown foods), vegetarians, and foodie types because you don’t select your weekly produce. It’s selected for you based on what is in season. There are many advantages–you know where your food came from and you’re supporting local agriculture, to name just two. But, if you’re someone who is more inclined to buy what you want to cook rather than cook what’s fresh in season, then this probably isn’t for you.
A friend and I split a share and it worked well. For one thing, the cost of belonging can be a little hard to come up with all at once and for another, no one in my family likes beets. (Alas, it turned out she didn’t either). Also, we go away during the summer and so does she so we trade off those weeks with one person taking the whole box when the other is out of town.
Not normally an adventurous cook, I’ve enjoyed experimenting with Swiss Chard and Leeks and other things I’d never eaten before. And I really like the idea of helping keep local farms afloat. You see, by guaranteeing a market for their product and supplying some of the money for seed, their income is more stable which enables them to concentrate on growing good food.
I first saw encountered the concept in England at Ryton Organic Gardens, an attraction in my husband’s home village of Ryton-on-Dunsmore, near Coventry, England. ( http://www.gardenorganic.org.uk/gardens/ryton.php). After touring the place, I remember trying very hard to convince my mother-in-law that she should purchase her fruit and veg this way. She remained unconvinced.
At various times after that, I’d read articles about the idea and search online for one near me, always unsuccesfully. But, when we moved out to Medina County, I learned that a local farm near my work was starting up a similar program. I jumped at the chance and convinced a colleague to leap with me. (http://www.beriswillfarms.com/)
Make no mistake. I was happy with Beriswell’s but their market lies on the other side of my workplace, rather than between my home and work, making it an additional little drive every week. So, this year, I’m joining a new one that’s nearer to home. (http://www.whitehousegardenscsa.blogspot.com/)
I’m already looking forward to some home grown spinach and spring onions!
If you’re interested in pursuing a CSA or even just discovering where you can buy fresh produce near your home, visit http://www.localharvest.org/.
When I first found a CSA, I also traveled quite a distance to pick it up. Fortunately, I now have one closer and so much more convenient. It’s fun to try new things and my kids actually know the difference between kohlrabi and parsnips which according to Jamie Oliver, is a rare skill amongst American youth. I hope you’ll post on some of your experiences with the produce.
Thanks for your comment! I’ll try to remember to share my experiences with the produce–might make a good follow-up posting!