CSA is Community Supported Agriculture. I am fortunate enough to live in an area where local farms and CSA programs abound. When I lived in Portland, I discovered that CSA's fill up by January at the latest. Here in Eugene, there is a bit more time, but they still fill before the growing season begins. If you live anywhere near farm land, I would wager there are farms doing CSA near you. For a helpful place to start looking, check out Local Harvest.
Their are many lovely perks from being a part of a CSA. I LOVE supporting my local farms, eating local produce, and eating seasonally. I enjoy having new vegetables to master in the kitchen (who knew we all LOVE the parsnip). This is real food grown naturally by the real earth. It is nutrient-dense, and it tastes superior to it's off-season, non-organic counterparts. Additionally, it is fresh, it doesn't travel far, there is not much packaging and it is cheaper than buying from the farmers market or grocery store. If there is an abundance of a harvest, you enjoy a share of that surplus (my fingers are crossed for this to happen with strawberries this year).
The drawbacks, for those thinking about switching, is that you are at the mercy of the farms harvest, if a crop fails, you absorb that loss along with the farmer (though I have never experienced that), further, you are constrained by what is seasonal. Most americans have lost all connection with eating foods according to season (instead have we have substituted sports to feel in tune with the changing seasons?), so for someone transitioning to CSA for produce, it might be a major change to your menu repetoir (like our current abundance of lettuces). The biggest hurdle, for people with limited cash flow (like ourselves) is that most require payment for the season up front. However, do not let that deter you, for farmers are realizing that the more they can work to divide up the payments, the easier this is on gaining customers. We were fortunate enough to find one here that allows you to pay week by week, though it remains a full season committment to do so.
This week we received:
A large bag of field greens
A large bag of spinach
A flat-leaf kale
Bunch of baby parsnips
Bunch of various radishes
Head of red leaf lettuce
Bunch of parsley
Collection of chive blossoms
Head of celery
I meant to take lovely photos of each of these items, but our box comes right before dinner on Monday nights, and many of the items get chopped up so fast there just is not time. I will try to be more dutiful with the camera next week.
Right now we are swimming in lettuces while I am really the only one in the family who enjoys them (actually, my eldest enjoys salad too, but he can only eat so much as a nearly 4-year-old. my two-year-old is still missing his back molars, so lettuce is a challenge. Husband will eat salad, but begrudgingly unless it's Caesar, though last nights was rich with bacon and sharp raw cheddar, which helped). I am glad that we began getting our CSA boxes before planting our garden this year (I was previously disappointed we did not plant earlier), as my original growing plans included many lettuces. We have now decided not to grow any lettuce, trusting the CSA box to keep us amply supplied with salad greens, and relying on the garden to supply me with harvests I can preserve for winter (and lettuce will not keep).
There will be more on the garden coming soon. Hopefully next week I will get back to Menu Plan Mondays which will be mapped out once we receive our harvest box.