18 October 2006

Join a CSA and have fresh produce to delivered to you each week

In: Mealtime

Kris shared her experience belonging to a CSA:

We belong to a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and receive fresh produce every week during the growing season (May to November in Utah) that was hand-picked that morning. It's pesticide free and mostly organic and because we get whatever is in season, our share usually includes a wide variety of veggies and fruits. This has had obvious benefits for our son, who is six months old and is just getting started on solids. I have a fresh, inexpensive way to supply him with organic, pesticide-free food sources (just steam and mash!) and he gets the added benefit of trying veggies I would never have bought or prepared otherwise because our family isn't fond of them. It's also a great way to support local economies and agriculture in your community. Here's a link to help you find a CSA in your area:
http://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/csa/

Jennifer and Jill also mentioned their CSA memberships in the comments on the post in which I whined about my finicky children. I have several friends who swear by their CSA boxes, brimming with the farm's best picks that week. I shared a subscription with a friend when my son was a baby, but, despite being vegetarian, I had a hard time adapting my cooking to fit the surprise contents of the box. It was a chard-heavy season when I joined, and at one point my husband begged me to never bring chard in the house again. I also found I was carrying around a fair amount of guilt, like, how could I have let a perfect head of cauliflower rot like that?

I wish it worked for me. I love the idea of getting local, fresh produce while supporting a family farm, but alas, I'm too attached to deciding what I wanted to cook first and then shopping for the ingredients.

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My wife and I ran our own organic farm for three years following the employment implosions of 2000-2002.

We considered doing a CSA, but it's a lot of work - even more work than selling at farmer's markets. And the big downside of CSA is exactly what you described: sometimes you get a LOT of one thing. One CSA we knew of sent out pounds and pounds of winter squash late in the season, prompting the same sort of response from their customers: NO MORE SQUASH!!!

However, there are many ways to enjoy local produce. Patronize your local farmer's markets! Eat at restaurants that buy local produce. Buy products made with local produce. Shop at a local grocery or co-op that sells local produce.

Visit local farms to buy pumpkins, pick your own produce, or take an autumn hayride. Buy local grass-fed beef, or pick up an organic free-range turkey for Thanksgiving. Get a sustainably raised ham for Christmas!

You can find all of these at http://localharvest.org by simply entering your zip code.

LocalHarvest has been around since 1998, and has a huge database of farmer's markets, family farms, CSAs and restaurants that serve local produce. Plus they also have an online store where lots of farmers sell their products that ship well.

Steam cauliflower until soft, mash and season like potatoes. Depending on the "brassicosity" of your particular cauliflower, most folks won't even notice the difference, especially if you don't tell them.

We joined a CSA this year and mostly enjoyed it. There was far too much chard (I started "donating" it to the compost heap as soon as it arrived) but I loved getting unusual treats like garlic scapes and baby beets and turnips, not to mention the occasional eggs or goat's cheese. And we loved going to the farm once a month to pick up the veggies and see the chickens and goats. Other weeks, we picked up the veggies at my daughter's school, which was very convenient.
However, my kids did not start eating ANY new vegetables, so I often finished off everything myself. My daughter finally started eating cherry tomatoes after getting them for weeks and weeks from her school garden, which she helped plant. So I suspect that planting your own veggies, even in a pot on a balcony, may do more to influence your kids than getting CSA veggies from a farm.

Many CSA-like services - for example, Planet Organics and Organic Express - let you set up a "no-list" of foods you don't want, or otherwise customize your box. They're middlemen between you and the local farmers, granted, but it's still a great setup for farmers, the planet, and your family.

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