ABCs, 123s and CSAs

 “If you tickle the earth with a hoe she laughs with a harvest.”- Douglas William Jerrold 

“We used to be a nation of farmers, but now it’s less than two percent of the population in the United States. So a lot of us don’t know a lot about what it takes to grow food”.– Judith Redmond, Full Belly Farms

I went for a walk the other morning and actually saw daffodils popping up and snowdrops in bloom. My first thought was “Poor things. They don’t know what’s going to hit them.” But then I thought…”maybe not?”. Winter apparently flew South for itself and now we are surging into…maybe?…dare we say it?…..early, early spring? As someone who loves Spring and Fall and is so-so on Winter (sorry “B”), I am hopeful that this is the course of events. Yes, it’s only mid-February, but miracles can happen (see prior post re: kale) and, however you slice it, we are in the homestretch of Winter.

Along with the flower and plant catalogues appearing in my mailbox at this time of the year, another winter-is-waning thought to consider-that I always think about too late- is a CSA. It’s not an abbreviation for the newest Law & Order spin-off or a pre-college test…but Community Supported Agriculture. Ask a handful of people on the street and most folks may not even know what that is. BUT, it’s worthwhile to know about and at the very least, consider. With a CSA, you essentially buy a “share” of a farm from a farmer. This purchase helps him to plant and maintain his garden. You, in turn, are given weekly boxes of the produce that he is growing throughout the season (which usually stretch from May/June to October). I honestly don’t know how long CSAs have been happening, but they certainly seem to be picking up steam these days, which is a good thing. It’s just like that bumper-sticker I see every once in a while (but never have the chuztpah to actually stick on my car. I’ll just commit verbally to an idea, ok?) that says “No Farms. No Food”. Can’t get much more succinct than that, now can you? I’ve mentioned farmer’s markets and such a few times now and as you can tell, I’m all for it. Yes, I love modern conveniences and advances in technology but I also believe that because of that, we need to slow-down as a society in certain areas and go simpler and back to the basics. As we have all seen, McDonald’s is not necessarily a good thing. I think you get my point.

Back to the CSAs. Personally, I’m a little torn on the idea. Well, not the idea of it, but the logistics of it in my life and that’s why I haven’t actually signed up to participate in one. Yet. Hey, a month ago I didn’t have a blog and now here I am typing furiously away, so obviously, change can happen. I think CSAs are wonderful. Support the farmer. Help grow his land. Get your kids to try new things. Get YOU to try new things. Kohlrabi? Hello? There really is no bad-thing about this deal. My only hang up so far has been two things: 1. getting saddled with copious amounts of produce and not being able to consume them quickly enough or figure out what to do with them quickly enough and 2. controlling what I am buying. Honestly, I think if a box containing a boatload of zucchini showed up on my doorstep, I could rise to the challenge. But it’s more about me choosing what looks good in a given week at the farmer’s market or what I’m even in the mood for. I never fancied myself a control-freak, but maybe in this arena I am. Maybe it’s because I like a fair amount of planning (find a veggie, look up recipe, make recipe etc.) rather than a virtual produce ambush. This week you get daikon! Figure it out! But then again, I love surprises…..see, you can understand why I am torn. I’ve also discovered a little trick with my kiddos…the first time I told them last summer we were going to the farmer’s market, all I heard were squawks. Then, I mentioned that they would probably have samples and we could get lunch there. Ok, sold. Got them out the door. Turns out we had a really good time at the farmer’s market. Thankfully, I have curious kids. I also gave them carte-blanche to each pick out 2 NEW things that looked interesting to them and we would figure out how to cook them. My kids turned into consumers before my very eyes. We walked the whole market, sort of doing a “produce-recon” as we called it, then doubled-back to the stalls that had items that interested them. That day, we came home with gooseberries, yellow carrots, white currants and a giant english cucumber. What was amazing to me was that if I had plunked these items on our dinner table, getting my kids to try them might have been a bit trickier. Yes, they are curious, but to a point. They are still kids after all. BUT, since I gave them the power to choose what looked interesting to them (my only requirement for this little assignment was to choose something they had never eaten before. Ok, the cucumber slipped by.), they took an actual interest, made their choices and then, as a result, found some new things that they liked. The carrots and currents were a big hit, gooseberries were meh. And see, this ties back to my control-issue with the CSAs. The produce will be given to us based on what’s been harvested that week. Same happens at the farmer’s market too, obviously, but you choose what you are buying. It might work better for me if it was just my husband and I consuming the produce, but I don’t want to have to hard-sell it all to my kiddos when it shows up on our doorstep. That sounds exhausting on a weekly basis. But then again…the surprise of it all? Kids love surprises. A quandary.

I love a good farmer’s market, but a CSA is a worthwhile consideration too, and one that I may certainly try someday soon. A friend of mine said she just signed up for one with a friend of hers…that’s a great idea! Share the mystery, the wealth and possibly even the disappointment if it turns out to be a less-than-stellar growing season. All things to consider. There is research to be done with a CSA for sure and questions to be asked of your farmer. How long have you been a CSA? Do you use pesticides (just because he’s small doesn’t mean he’s organic)? Do you have to volunteer at all during the season? Do you deliver or do I have to pick-up? You don’t want any surprises along the way.  Also be prepared to be totally in tune with the growing seasons so as not to be disappointed….you’ll be getting lighter things in the spring (salad greens, sweet peas, green onions etc.) and the heavier stuff later in the season (tomatoes, squashes, big greens, beans) as this is New England. If you google CSA and your area, you’ll get listings of participating farms.

Lots to ponder but all paths point directly to more goodness around your table!

(p.s.-Happy Friday, everyone! Come back tomorrow for some good weekend recipes)

6 thoughts on “ABCs, 123s and CSAs

  1. We did a CSA in the city two years ago and loved it (it is actually where the kale salad emerged from! Never would have tried it otherwise). They had options for full or half shares – you could maybe start with a half share to see what you think? I think you would be perfect for the creativity of creating dishes made from items you may not have chosen otherwise…would love to read about them. I say go for it! 🙂

  2. Hello Emily of the Kale! Hmmm….good thoughts, indeed, and glad to hear that you had such a positive experience! Hadn’t even considered the notion of writing about a CSA….could be very creative, in a myriad of ways…..hmmm….

  3. I’ve been a CSA member for years. I love it because it forces me to cook. I am constantly googling things like “boat load of sweet potatoes” or whatever seems to have arrived in abundance. Over the years, I’ve added a juicer and a dehydrator to my tools. It’s wonderful to pull a jar of dehydrated leeks out to use in soup. I also make stock fairly often and freeze it. If you’re not sure, starting with the half share is a good strategy.

    1. Great ideas! I’ve always been curious about dehydrators (how often do you say that in a week?). After my post, a friend approached me about sharing a share and I just might jump in…stay tuned…

  4. Sport Hill Farm is an amazing, wonderful organic farm in Easton (just a couple miles from the Merritt exit 46). Now, they have an awesome program called “Crop Cash.” You pre-pay (which helps them with start-up costs) and then have a credit (and discount, I think) at the store. So you’re supporting the farm and then choosing what you want, and in what quantities. It’s like a CSA without the kale? Wait that doesn’t sound right. But you get the idea.

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