Monday, January 4, 2010

The CSA experiment



Last year we started an experiment: I signed us up for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share from a local farm.  We wanted to 1) support local agriculture 2) eat organic produce 3) try new fruits and vegetables.

Every other week, I drove downtown and picked up our box.  The quality of the farm-grown produce was amazing.  Comparing it to grocery-store produce was like...comparing a tin whistle to a flute, or a Palmer's chocolate easter bunny to a Lindt truffle.  The convenience was outstanding, too.  Our CSA is different than a lot of others- they have drop off points all over the area, so I just had to make the 10 minute drive.

It was easy having someone else make the choices, too.  When faced with all the variety at a farmers' market or grocery store, it's too easy to stick to the classics.  But when handed 3 pounds of a new vegetable, it's time to look for new recipes!  We found out we don't like kale all that much, but bok choy is alway delicious.  We like our chard harvested young, and leeks are as amazing as everyone says.



I noticed our CSA brought in outside produce.  If they could find a reliable, organic source, they'd throw it in the box.  I wanted local, so I normally logged onto the website and substituted with something from the farm.  Now that we're deep in Winter, the only local offerings are things in storage: apples, potatoes, onions, squash, parsnips, carrots.   I log on and say no to the oranges, the persimmons, the lettuce.

 Another reason we chose this farm was that we could order on a week by week basis, rather than pay a large sum up front and receive a box each week for a set number of weeks.  There was also no requirement to go work on the farm.

I've cancelled this week's box: we have more than enough squash, potatoes, onions, apples, and parsnips.  I think our time with the farm is ending, as I simply can't justify the cost right now based on the amount of food in the winter box.  I'm planning next year's garden (more on that later) and we'll start visiting the farmers' market again in the spring.

Based on what we wanted from this experiment, it was a raging success.  We bought local, we bought organic, we tried lots of new things.  The boxes were expensive, but much cheaper than prepared foods or meats: our total grocery bill went down.  But, time to move on, I think!

What about you?  Have you thought about a CSA?  Do you belong to one?  Did you know what it was before this post?

11 comments:

Buckeroomama said...

That sounds lovely --to get a box of fresh, organic veggies every week! I'm not sure if we have CSA here in HK... :)

Teresa said...

How wonderful....I'm not aware of anything like that in my area- and I live in a farming community. I plant a garden every year and we have 20 fruit trees....I'm just hoping that this is the year that my home grown salad doesn't cost me a $100 =) {fighting off the creatures.}

Casey said...

We loved having our CSA subscription too. We ended up dropping it when fall came because it was mostly switching to imported items. I'm not sure whether I'll do it this year or not. I kind of like to change things up a bit.

Ticia said...

I don't know if that even exists in Texas, of course if I did it then I'd have to actually eat veggies (yuck).

Debbie said...

I actually belonged to one about 10 years ago. It was fun seeing what would show up (mine was delivered!). But, we have a garden and I realized I just needed to do more in there. Still do:)

Ticia said...

I knew I forgot to give someone this award, and it was you. So, I've edited my post to show that you get it too, go check it out.

Mama Papaya said...

Our CSA was a really great way to start me down the path towards sustainability, but there did come a time when it was time to part ways. About the time I started growing pretty much everything they provided.

I like the hybrid we have right now. Supports local farmers and supplements from small farms elsewhere. The variety and cost savings fit us well. :)

Su said...

We have a few similar programs here, although I have never really looked into it.
I'm thinking of trying a service that buys from local farmers only, and delivers right to the door. It costs between $25 to $60 a week, so I'm a little hesitant.
But that will mean I have to wait til May to get started, anyway.

Alexandra said...

That produce is gorgeous! The colors are so intense. We've got a few, but there are waiting lists, and they are pretty far away. I try to buy at the farmer's market. I think those CSAs are wonderful.

Franzine Kafka said...

I have been planning to try this out someday, although I don't do well with random vegetables. For now, it's just the farmer's market. it's funny how you can taste the difference in just one bite.

Su said...

What's your favorite leek recipe, Myrnie? I decided to be adventurous - bought leek. Now I don't know what to do with it.