A CSA kind of person values real food and real community. If you take joy not just in knowing where your food comes from but also in knowing the growers, if you like the idea of buying local and reducing your carbon footprint by eating foods that require less fuel to get to your table, then CSA is right up your alley.
If you like to eat and if you like to cook (or if you are interested in learning how to cook), then you are probably a CSA kind of person. Even if you’re not the best cook in the world, you’ll be amazed at what a difference fresh, local vegetables make in any dish. When your green beans come out of the frozen foods section at the grocery store, it takes a lot of work to make them taste like much of anything. Enter complicated recipes for green bean casseroles (for example) with so many ingredients that the green beans are more like an afterthought, the flavor concentrated in the cream of mushroom soup and the french fried onions on top. But if you get your green beans fresh from the farm, picked that very same day, you’ll wonder why you even bother cooking them at all, they taste so good. Steam them for a minute, toss them in olive oil and a bit of salt, and you have a side dish worth singing about. People will wonder what your secret is, and hopefully you’ll tell them – the secret is the neighborhood farm. Aside from the prep work, using fresh, local vegetables often makes cooking easier – not harder – and certainly more rewarding.
Some folks feel as though they don’t have time to cook. For some people that’s true, but for many of us, all that we need to do is change our perception of cooking a bit. If we get the whole family involved in cooking dinner, it becomes something different than a chore. In the kitchen we laugh together, work together, goof off and collaborate. Instead of sitting in front of the TV together, we end up building relationships around the table. Eating seasonally is an excellent way to get every member of the family excited about each fruit and vegetable as their harvest times arrive, and hopefully get them into the kitchen to taste, cook, and dine together.
But CSA isn’t for everybody. If you are a very picky eater, you might prefer to shop the farmers market for fruits and vegetables you know you like. Part of the fun of being part of a CSA is being introduced to new foods and finding recipes for vegetables you wouldn’t normally think to buy. Most of our shareholders are amazed at the way their palate expands once they join a CSA. If the only place you’ve ever bought vegetables was at the grocery store (stale and shipped from other parts of the world), you’ll find that fresh local vegetables taste altogether different, and you’ll be surprised at what a variety of tastes you end up enjoying as a CSA member. If you are on the extreme end of the picky-ness spectrum, though, you may just be happier shopping at the farmers market. Either way, you support your local farmers, so choose what’s right for you!
Along those same lines, if you have lots of allergies to vegetables and fruits, you might prefer to shop at the farmers market where you can be sure to stay away from foods you can’t eat.
If you absolutely DON’T have time to cook, or if you love going out to eat multiple times a week, you might find that you end up wasting some of your share due to spoilage each week. In this case, again, you might do better buying small amounts from the farmers market.
The other thing that keeps people away from CSAs is one scary word: commitment. Folks wonder if they will pay for a whole season only to have a drought or other issue significantly reduce production. It’s true that CSA is an investment, and that when we buy a share in our farms, we are all in this thing together. When our farmers suffer, we suffer. If there were some sort of catastrophic agricultural event, we would be able to return some of the shareholders’ investment, but not all of it. This is because shareholders are just that – shareholders. By purchasing a share, you commit yourself financially to the well-being of our local farms. Should the worst happen, your money will help local growers get back on their feet and be in a position to produce again the following year. Any decisions in a worst-case scenario like that would be made in consultation with you and other shareholders. You have a say in the way this all works because you have a share in it!
Here are some words of reassurance: Last year was a rough one for our growers (and anybody with a lawn, for that matter). But with over two months of almost no rain last season, our master growers still produced an ample supply of fruits and vegetables for CSA subscribers. Last year was also a rough one for squash in farms and gardens all over the region. But our growers still yielded successful harvests. One of the benefits of having small, diverse farms is that pests don’t pervade so thoroughly. Where one crop suffers, other crops flourish and fill in the gaps.
CSA is a delicious investment in your community that yields good returns. If you think you might be a CSA kind of person, head over to the sign up page and get involved!