Community Supported Agriculture

You might think it's too early to start to think about your garden but the seed catalogs are already in my mailbox and that means - IT'S TIME!!! Woo-hoo!! Think about those juicy tomatoes and crisp cukes and - wait a minute, I have a confession. I really, really would like to be one of those people that have a garden. Two things stand in the way. First, we have about two square feet of backyard and that's on purpose. Secondly, I'm really bad with plants. I kill them. Truly. Right now I'm looking over at the plants that I've brought inside for the winter and they are in sorry shape. Poor things. 

So what does a plant-killing, non-gardener do for fresh summer veggies? You join a CSA. CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture, is a farm in which you receive a share of the weekly harvest through the growing season. Generally, you pay for your share up front when the grower needs the money for seeds, maintenance, etc., and then over the course of the season you share the harvest with the other members.  Just like all aspects of farming there are risks - extreme weather could adversely impact the harvest, but our experience- even this past year - in which our state was in an official drought was with a plethora of produce and some weeks with a box that was so heavy it definitely needed two hands to carry.

What are some of the drawback to joining a CSA? Cost. In our area the range is $500-675 for the 20-30 week season. Also, shares are limited due to small farm sizes. That's why this post is being written in January! If you are interested, start looking now. Shares in popular CSAs may already be sold by this time of the year and wait lists will be starting to form. 

What is the bonus of joining a CSA? I will spend next to nothing on vegetables all through the summer. Seriously. We will work hard to eat from our share and let nothing go to waste. Unless, there is a very bad harvest all summer long we'll have fresh organic vegetables that are free to us from May to October.

Why is this a Cool Idea? Because local farming is always a good idea - as a way of life and as a way of providing good and nutritious food that doesn't travel all the way across the country to reach us. Besides, I like the idea that there are farms willing to do the work and not use pesticides to farm responsibly, thinking about what the land will need in the future and not just what we need now.

It's also a Cool Idea to keep a variety of veggies in the Food Chain and not allow producers to allow a handful of varieties of tomatoes or corn or beans to be cultivated. Varieties exist for a reason and so do those unusual veggies that are usually relegated to the back rack of your grocer's produce shelf. Sadly, kohlrabi has been known not to make it out of my crisper alive. I just can't fathom what it tastes like - it reminds me of the Sandman from Star Wars - but I can appreciate that it has a place in our food supply.

Is this a Cool Idea for you but the cost is out of reach? Split a share with another family. That's what we do. Not only does it keep the expense more manageable but when the bounty of midsummer production arrives and the box contains 3 lbs of potatoes, 5 lbs of tomatoes,  and I don't want to count how many cucumbers we got in one week - in addition to the handful of yellow squash, peppers, and other lovely veggies - we split it up and half of it went to someone else's home. It also works well if there are veggies you don't enjoy. Luckily our friends enjoy eggplant. They ate our eggplants. We ate their cucumbers. I think it was an even trade in the end - purple for green:)

How do you find a CSA in your area? Visit Local Harvest and click on CSA and type in your zip code. You can find all kinds of locally produced products that are available from this list. We have friends who buy their meet, eggs, and fruit locally as well as their summer veggies.  It depends on what's seasonal where you live, but give it a look. It may surprise you and it's definitely a Cool Idea.


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