Remember my dream…
The one where I live at Chez Panisse? I fantasize about homesteading some day, growing glorious produce, raising chickens and milking our own cow. But for now my bucolic little rêve is satisfied with weekly baskets of farm fresh produce from our CSA.
CSA stands for Community Sustained (or Supported) Agriculture which is a fancy way of describing a relationship between a farmer and a local consumer. Before the industrial revolution and later the evolution of creating mass produced, processed food for convenience, communities relied on their local farmers as the only source for food. So what is currently vogue could really be considered vintage.
Joining a CSA is easy. I actually participate in two local farms Tecolote Farm and Johnson’s Backyard Garden. Here’s how it works. About this time of year, Tecolote Farms sends out a subscription notice to existing members. As I member I pay in advance for produce that will be delivered directly to me, or a neighborhood hub, at the peak of it’s growing season. The payment in advance allows the farm to invest in the current season when it is most needed during planting and harvesting. In late March, I’ll begin receiving a basket of fresh produce each week straight from Tecolote Farms. I’ve written oodles about my love affair with Tecolote Farms and have provided links to these previous written posts & recipes at the end of this one.
Tecolote Farms has a defined growing season from March – July/August. (Although this year, Katie informed us that they are adding a fall season!) I also recently joined Johnson’s Backyard Garden (JBG) as this local farm provides year-long produce to it’s CSA members. Unlike Tecolote’s upfront subscription, Johnson’s Backyard Garden allows members to join in weekly, monthly or annual increments. I love the a la carte flexibility of JBG and I can add on other goodies like fresh eggs and citrus too. Check out JBG’s amazing website which gives you the flavor of being part of a local farming community. Recipes, tips, and benefits of eating locally come to life on the pages of this well-written site.
I snapped this photo of Johnson’s Backyard Garden’s stand at our local Farmer’s Market this past Saturday. Farmer’s Markets are also amazing ways to enjoy the benefits of farm fresh produce, and generally farms with CSA’s are also well represented at local markets.
Ten Reasons to Join a CSA
1. You’ll eat more VEGGIES! When a basket of fresh picked vegetables shows up at your doorstep, you are more inclined to eat them. The benefits of a plant-strong diet are clear and even if you aren’t ready to ditch meat (like my carnivorous Husband!) your health will improve by adding more vegetables to your diet.
2. Eating Seasonally. There is a reason for the season! For example, strawberries aren’t in season in the winter. If you are enjoying them now in January, they’ve been force-ripened. Off season produce is picked before it’s ready and forced to ripen on the road, so to speak. Now let’s be honest, I buy strawberries off season, but they taste dim, cost more and are less nutrient dense than those I get fresh picked from the garden in season. CSA’s provide what’s in season.
3. Eating Locally. On average the produce at your local grocery store has traveled 1,500 miles. Think of the impact this has not only on the quality of the food you will buy, but the environment. Planes, Trains & Automobiles is a hilarious movie, but it’s not the best method for delivering food. In my case, being part of a CSA ensures a 5- 15 mile travel distance farm to plate.
4. Eating Organic. Most local farms use organic farming practices. Before the 1930’s all farms were naturally organic and soils were nutrient rich. There was no need for chemical pesticides, growth hormones, or synthetic fertilizers that dominate our food practices today. Eating organic literally means going back to the roots – real food, nothing added.
5. Fresh! Most produce in CSA baskets is hand picked the day of or the day before it is delivered. Bite into a tomato straight from the vine and you’ll have a hard time ever going back.
6. Community. There’s something about sharing recipes, cans of fresh made preserves, and inviting friends to share in the bounty of farm fresh vegetables. Chatting with fellow ‘basketeers’ at the neighborhood CSA hub has given me a new community of fellow foodies to know.
7. Supporting the local economy. Keeping dollars invested in your farmer’s pocket is not only good for your health, it supports your local economy.
8. Know your farmer. Personally, I like knowing where my my food comes from. Every bite you eat has a story. If you don’t know the story behind your food, don’t eat it!
9. Go Green! Not only are you eating green, food from CSA’s travels less and reduces negative impact on our environment. Being good stewards of our land and supporting farmer’s who do so is a responsibility we must all take seriously.
10. FUN! Being part of a CSA is truly an adventure. Not knowing what produce will arrive each week forces us to get creative in the kitchen. Teaching the Littles about rutabagas, turnips, and swiss chard is exciting and watching them eat roasted beets with fresh goat cheese and chives is nothing short of a miracle. Believe me.
Here are a few of my favorite posts and recipes from our CSA adventure.
Let’s Retake Our Plates (be sure to watch the trailer for the film Nourish: Food + Community)
I hope you are encouraged to explore the possibility of joining a CSA in your community. Bravo if you are already on the adventure! What recipes or tips for using CSA produce can you share with us?