One of the first things I did when we moved was search for a CSA to join. We’ve got tons of options here and I'm happy to support our local farmers. We signed up for both veggies and fruit (you can check out my farm here) and have been happily enjoying the plentiful growing season here! If you’ve ever been curious about joining a CSA (or maybe you’ve never heard of one) and want to know what exactly you get, read on!
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Basically, CSAs allow the community to support local farms and in return, share in the harvest. You pay a lump sum for a season and each week, you get a share of whatever is growing. CSAs vary widely depending on the farm and the area you live. You can get veggies, fruits, meats and even flowers from CSAs.
Reasons to love CSAs
Support local farms: let's face it, our food system is broken in many ways. But each dollar we spend determines the future of our food. Supporting our local farmers lets them know we value their products and practices. CSA dollars are collected early in the season, allowing farmers to invest more money for a successful harvest.
Eating locally & seasonally: investing in a CSA means your food is coming from just down the road and unless you've got a garden, it doesn't get any more local! CSAs also naturally promote eating with the seasons since everything you get is currently growing on the farm.
Adding variety to your diet: if you ever feel like you buy the same produce each week, CSAs are a great way to mix things up. Since you don't get to choose what goes into your box, you are likely to get a few things you normally wouldn't buy. This is a great way to branch out or expand your meal repertoire. I love searching for new recipes (or creating them!) when I get a veggie I don't normally buy.
As fresh as it gets: ok, if you've got your own garden, you can step out your door and collect your dinner, otherwise you won't find anything fresher! Farms harvest the CSA shares on the same day you pick up your veggies. This means you are getting maximum nutrition from your food since it hasn't been sitting around for weeks on a shelf in a store. This makes a huge difference in taste and how long the produce will stay fresh in your own fridge.
Cost: I know cost is a big factor in how most people determine what they can eat. Luckily, CSAs can be very affordable. We pay around $25 a week for our huge box of veggies. I do supplement this with extras since we eat so much produce, but a smaller family could easily use it as their sole source of produce each week. If I bought the same produce at the store or farmers market, I would easily pay double that!
Choosing the Right CSA for You
Not all CSAs are created equal. There are a couple things you'll want to consider when joining a CSA. First and foremost, check out their farming practices and make sure they're inline with what you want to eat and support.
You'll also want to make sure they've got a farm share that’s right for you, whether that be small or large. Check out when and where you'll have to pick your veggies up to make sure it's convenient for you too.
I also highly recommend visiting the farm and meeting the farmers. Part of the wonderfulness that is a CSA is getting to see who actually grows your food and even helping. Some CSAs require members to volunteer a certain number of hours each season while other just appreciate the help if you’re able. Some farms also offer shares in return for volunteering at the farm. If you live somewhere where it is difficult to garden, this is an awesome alternative to having your own garden space.
So what’s in my CSA box?
You can check out this week’s box as well as a list from last week.
This week's box:
Walla Walla onions
Green or purple peppers
Last week's box:
As you can see, we get a little variety each week along with a steady stream of seasonal standard produce. This works well for us and normally everything is used up within the week. I like to meal plan after I find out what's in my box for the week. I fill in any gaps from our farmers market later in the week. This allows me to really plan my meals around what's in season!
If you've got a CSA share, I'd love to hear about all of the fabulous things you've been getting!