Have you ever thought about participating in a CSA? Whether to expand your vegetable repertoire or to just get healthier, a CSA or Community Supported Agriculture is a popular way to buy seasonal, local food directly from farmers. Participating farms sell a limited number of “Shares” to the public. A share is like a membership to the farm, where each week, for a set number of weeks, “Share” holders get a box of fresh, local produce. This past spring I decided to purchase a full share from a local farm. I really liked the idea of buying local and eating fresh organic produce all summer long.
Being a “newbie” I quickly realized there are pros and cons to participating in a CSA. Here are a few tips I learned from my first year.
- Plan your meals around the ingredients not the other way around. Pro: Planning meals around the ingredients is very cost efficient. Con: it can be a challenge some weeks to cook with what was harvested, but now is your chance to plan out your meals for the week and save yourself time and money. I had never heard of kohlrabi before, but a quick online search told me it’s similar to cabbage. I found a variety of coleslaw recipes but ultimately went with a great kohlrabi kimchi recipe.
- You may find yourself with an abundance of an item some weeks. Pro: This is your chance to expand your go-to side dishes. Take lettuce for example it isn’t just for salads, you can also use it for wraps, or try juicing it. Con: You may get a lot of an item several weeks in a row, consider canning or freezing the extras. I received zucchini and summer squash 3 weeks in a row and I couldn’t eat another bite so I froze the extra. Now I look forward to enjoying it in the middle of winter!
- Dare to be creative with your harvest. Pro: you’re more likely to eat fresh vegetables to get all the goodness they offer. Kale is wonderful superfood that goes great in soups, salads, smoothies. Con: You may have to spend some time researching recipes. Kale is wonderful superfood and everyone knows it goes great in soups, salads, smoothies, but have you ever tried kale chips? They are so simple to make and an amazingly tasty treat.
- My final tip as a CSA newbie is, not to get discouraged. Pro: You get fresh, local product every week. Con: farmers are at the mercy of Mother Nature, so your share may be larger (or smaller) some weeks. This also goes for the season. I was disappointed with the results from my first season’s CSA, because it was predominantly greens and root vegetables and I was really hoping for more summer veggies like tomatoes, cucumbers and corn.
While I was a little disappointed with my first season’s selection and yield, I really liked eating fresh, local produce while supporting local farms. I found many have vegetables that I now enjoy eating, and I look forward to participating again next year with a much better understanding and appreciation for local farmers. While I would’ve preferred a different selection of vegetables I did find that the cost of participating in a CSA was worth it, especially when I considered what I would’ve paid for the same organic veggies at the supermarket or co-op. The cost would’ve been double, even triple what I spent compared to the CSA. If you’re concerned about the upfront cost of a CSA, consider going in on a share with a friend or family member or consider purchasing a half share. After the first couple of weeks, it was very easy to work with each weeks share and I only purchased a few veggie staples at the supermarket every couple of weeks.
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