This spring, we’ve joined a Community Supported Agriculture association. We pre-pay a certain amount (due in the late winter since it helps buy supplies) and then get fruit and veggies from a farmer’s cooperative from May until November. It’s not quite local, but it’s not too far away and we’ve heard from friends who did this last year that the taste is vastly superior to our local grocery store’s veggies.
It’s certified organic, though I’m never sure how much that means or how much better for you it is. I think it depends on the type of food and the farmer. I doubt the veggies will be any worse for us and it’s quite possible they’ll be better.
We bought 1/2 a vegetable share and a whole fruit share (which is smaller than a vegetable share) because we’re only two people. I’m a little worried that in the richest months we’ll end up with more food than we can eat. In that case, I’ll be looking into preserving it and see if a couple nearby friends would like some.
Why We’re Doing It
1. We want to eat more fruit and veggies.
I think we already eat pretty healthily. I prepare almost all of our meals. One major meal a day has meat and the other generally has some kind of beans for protein. Even when we’re eating meat, I make it stretch (and we can both tell the difference when we’re eating elsewhere or in a restaurant).
I stretch meals using veggies and (generally) brown rice. Sometimes couscous or quinoa. I’ve become stuck in a rut, however, and I’m looking for ways to branch out. So far I’ve had some real successes and am looking forward to what I have to work with this summer.
And we almost never buy fruit. I like fruit very much, but the area we live in is rather poor and it’s reflected by our grocery store. It’s very hard to find good fruit there. We can drive farther away or even farther to the Farmer’s Market, but it seems a waste just to look for fruit. I’m really looking forward to that!
2. I need to expand my recipes.
I didn’t start cooking regularly until I got married in the summer of 2007. Even at times when I was cooking frequently for my parents, it was still my mother who came up with ideas. I just made whatever she told me to make.
Many people start cooking what their parents ate, but I’m limited by price and by not wanting to cook every night after work (my mom was a SAHM and she developed excellent cooking skills). I like recipes that make good leftovers and keep well. As I said above, I’ve gotten into a bit of a rut.
Lucky for me, we got a copy of Simply in Season as a wedding present to go with our More With Less cookbook. More With Less has been great, but I haven’t really followed the seasons in my cooking. Now that I’m going to be getting all these in-season foods, I’m hoping for a lot of help from Simply in Season.
3. We want to support the community.
Micah believes very strongly in voting with your dollar. If these people are growing better food, then we should patronize them if we’re able (and we are). We’ve heard good things—and if they don’t pan out then we won’t buy from them next year. The first year is a risk, but that’s where friends’ recommendations come in.
And I want to support this group for even more reasons. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m a Mennonite. I’m not “Plain,” nor am I Old Order or even Conservative. Many of these farmers are Mennonites and Amish, and even if we’re not all the same sort, we’re all part of a community. The farming branch of our community feels a real pinch at times, family farming is not always financially successful even when the crop is good—so I want to make what difference I can.
The fresh stuff is nearly always better. We’ve already found this with farmers’ markets.
Why Not Use a Farmer’s Market?
“Because I’m lazy” isn’t a good answer, is it? Convenience is a motivator, however. There’s a co-op close to us that we sometimes patronize for veggies (it’s hard to tell ahead of time what they’ll have), but all of the farmers’ markets are farther away and driving in this area sucks. I used to work near one, which was convenient…but then I had to take the food with me on the metro.
Anyway, the local CSA drop-off is much closer to us than any of the farmers’ markets, which is a big point in its favor.
I’m also looking forward to the spontaneity of basing our meals around what showed up this week. This could turn out to be incredibly frustrating, but I’m feeling optimistic.
Have you even been in a CSA? How did it work out for you?