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?