Every Friday, instead of heading to the supermarket, I pick up a box of farm-fresh, organic veggies from the front porch of a neighbor and marvel at the bounty. What will I be cooking for my family this week? Broccolli? Carrots? Celery hearts? That was a stumper at first, but luckily the Community Supported Agriculture farm (CSA) that we subscribe to, Full Belly Farm, also has a website archive of recipes. I found a recipe and made the best Cream of Celery Heart soup! I never would have considered doing that on my own, and that is one of the top things that I love about subscribing to a CSA.
The USDA reported in 2007 that there were 12,549 farms in the US marketing products through a CSA arrangement. Consumers in such an arrangement buy a “share” of the farm, and pay for the share monthly or quarterly. In exchange you get a box (or bag or basket) with your “share” of the farmer’s crops. The farmer benefits by having a steady flow of income, by not having to spend so much time marketing, and by building a relationship with the members who share in his work.
The members benefit by having the freshest, local produce, learning about new vegetables (like celery root), and developing a relationship with the farmer. The newsletter that we get every week in our box always tells of the goings-on at the farm: when the lambs start to appear; how well the fruit on the peach trees set this year; how the recent weather affected the tomato seedlings. I feel so much more in touch with the seasons and the effect that the weather has on what I eat everyday. After having been a member for over a year now, I can really appreciate when asparagus season is coming, or the unbelievably sweet crunch of the first spring carrots. And many farms give their members a chance to visit the farm at least once a year, so you can really get a feel for where your food comes from.
But besides what I get, I also like the fact that I am supporting the folks who are tending to the earth. Healthy soil is the basis of life for all of us, and we all have a responsibility to support the small percentage of folks who are working hard to grow the highest quality, most nutritious food while preserving the highest environmental quality and soil health.
Want to find a CSA in your area? Check out the Local Harvest website, which has a CSA search function. Give a CSA a chance, and you may find that (like me) your new favorite vegetable is Red Russian Kale!