Support your local farms!
My first exposure to the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model, about 15 years ago, was an unexpected catalyst for starting our own vegetable garden. At the time, the typical offering was a pre-packed box of whatever the grower had to offer that week, take it or leave it. I really wanted to get on board with “eating locally,” but feared getting a box of stuff I disliked or didn’t know what to do with. So we began growing our own veg and shopped at farmer’s markets when we could.
Surprisingly, it was three years of city living that made me a CSA convert. I found an organization that worked with a number of area growers to bring fresh produce to city dwellers. Their selection encouraged me to try new things, and gave me the flexibility to adjust quantities, add a la carte items, and put the subscription on hold if we were going out of town. This CSA was a godsend when the pandemic hit and they expanded their service to deliver fresh food right to our doorstep.
Now we live in an area with many small farms, and we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to CSAs. We subscribed to a brilliant vegetable CSA last year, and decided to renew this year even though we have our own garden. That’s how much I love it!
During the summer season, our CSA uses a “market basket” model. Each week the whiteboard shows what’s available and the quantity that counts towards our quota. Our share entitles us to 9 items that can be mixed and matched any way I please. If I wanted to stock up on onions and nothing else, that would be perfectly fine, although I usually choose a variety of items. Sometimes I’ll challenge myself by taking something I haven’t cooked before. It doesn’t always work out, but it was eating beets from the CSA that inspired us to grow beets this year.
When the season began I wondered whether our CSA share would be redundant to our own gardening efforts. It’s early days yet, but in the first few weeks our garden offered only lettuce while the CSA was a cornucopia of goodness. If we do this right, in the coming years we will continue to expand our own garden while using the CSA to fill in gaps. Sounds like a winning combination to me.