A few months ago, I decided to take the plunge and sign up for my first CSA. A CSA is basically a crop share. You pay a local farm a certain amount of money before the harvest season; they use that money to fund their farm; and you get small or large share of the harvest for a certain number of weeks. The farm I purchased my CSA from is near where I work and my work actually volunteered to be a pick up site for the boxes -- which means every Wednesday at work, I get a big box of fresh produce. My parents and I are splitting the box and I thought I'd share what I've been getting, as well as 10 reasons why you all should totally sign up for a CSA next year!
1. You can try new things, without having to stress about what to pick. I have so far tried (and found I love!): collard greens; hardneck garlic; kohlrabi; yellow cauliflower; and sauteed radishes. This week, I received a few new things, including leeks -- which I've never eaten before!
2. It's not all crazy stuff. The first week I received carrots and zucchini, two of my big favorites. I've also received cucumbers, onions, and lettuce, which makes it really easy to plan meals.
3. Everything is fresh and organic. Most small, local farms that offer CSAs are organic, which is awesome. Beyond that, getting fresh produce every week means it was grown that week... not several weeks ago and shipped to a grocery store.
4. Going to the grocery store is a pain and let's be real, trying to pick produce is even more of a pain. Is this too much broccoli? Is this onion from three weeks ago? Who has time for this? By getting a CSA, you're getting a work's worth of veg for almost zero effort; all you have to do is pick up your box and then wash and prep all your veggies. Easy peasy.
5. Mo' money, less problems. The total cost for the Large CSA box I got was $450. Ok, that sounds like a ton right? Well, my mom and I split the cost so I only paid $225. The CSA lasts from July through October. That's four months. $225 divided by four months is roughly $56; that's $14 a week for fresh veggies. It's a big investment at the start, but you're getting a lot for your money and saving yourself money in the long run!
6. Getting to know your local farmers. If you're looking for start buying more veggies from local farms, a CSA is a great place to start. You can get to know the people who grow your food and you can learn about what they use (and don't use), why things cost what they do, and what season you can get your favorites.
7. Getting to know your neighbors! It's great to get to know people in your community and nothing brings people together quite like food. One of the most fun parts of CSAs is meeting other people as their picking up their boxes. The variety of people who get CSAs is really fun and it's a great way to get involved in the local food community.
8. You'll feel fancy. There is always one mystery vegetable in my CSA box. This week, there was some kind of mystery green that I could not figure out. It had roughly the texture of kale, but the ribs and stalks were red and the edges of the leaf weren't curly... they were kind of, well, thorny. And the taste? Not great raw. After a lot of research, I realized I was in possession of Red Russian Kale, which is pretty much the best name for a vegetable ever. I can't wait to make something and tell people, "Oh, yeah, that's red Russian kale" and feel like a superhero.
9. Contribute to the local food economy. Wal-mart and chain grocery stores are fine, but it feels pretty good to know I'm supporting a small local business through my food consumption. It might actually make the vegetables taste better.
10. You're getting healthier and educating yourself. More veggies = more life. More education = more opportunities to be healthy. By eating more veggies and by always having veggies around through a CSA, you'll eat more, you'll learn about different kinds of veggies, you'll find new recipes, you'll make more veggie-licious food, you'll eat more veggies... get what I'm saying? CSA = a healthier you, no ifs ands or buts!
Have you ever bought a CSA? What was your experience like?