Wednesday, June 13, 2012

CSA: Yay or Nay?


For the past few years I’ve participated in a CSA (that’s Community Supported Agriculture). At the beginning of the summer I bought a share in an organic farmer’s harvest giving a local farmer guaranteed business and guaranteeing me fresh veggies every week through October. It’s a pretty awesome idea. I love seeing the different crops come into season and cooking with new-to-me vegetables like kohlrabi(!) but it’s also kind of a pain in the you-know-what...
The biggest harvests of the year are in the summer through the fall with the nice weather and time off in the summer, that’s also the time when we’re most likely to be out of town or invited to a barbecue or picnic. With the CSA the vegetables KEEP COMING. You have to keep up with your greens. You become a slave to your own produce. You can’t freeze lettuce! CSAs are a shared risk situation. If the farmer has a good season, you’ll reap a little extra. If it’s not a good growing season, well, you tough it out with the farmer. From where I stood, last year didn’t seem as good as years past.

My mother: “All of your vegetables have holes.”

Me: “It’s organic, Mom.”

My mother: “Well, something is eating your organic vegetables and it’s not you.”

This year, I didn’t immediately sign up for my CSA as I've previously done. Partially because, um, did I mention we’re writing a book and we have no time for anything else save the occasional eating and personal hygiene? Partially because the task of picking up the vegetables (the site is a 20 minute walk from our apartment) usually turns into “I thought YOU said YOU were picking up the vegetables.”

But at the last moment I had a change of heart. I signed up for the waiting list. I was informed I got a slot. Then I was informed someone else took that slot. Then I was informed there was another slot. Then I was informed there actually wasn’t another slot. It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions.

Yay fresh vegetables! But ah, it’s such a commitment. Boo, no fresh vegetables, but now we can eat out all the time! I still have no idea whether I’ll be CSAing this year or not and that's ok. Let the chips fall where they may, I say. With my several year commitment to the CSA I’ve spent less time at the greenmarket choosing my own produce and I miss it. If I don’t get a CSA here’s my new plan, I’ll set aside the money I would have spent on my CSA as a weekly greenmarket fund and shop for that much worth of groceries on a weekly basis (or an as-is-convenient basis). If I do get into a CSA, please send me your best recipes for collard greens, turnips and lettuce-intensive salads.

Do you CSA? If so, how do you manage not to end up with what Blondie calls organic compost? Let us know your tips for maximizing your haul!

(*I couldn't find any photos of my past CSA hauls, so that's a pick of the farmer's market that I look forward to returning to soon!)

UPDATE: I got a slot. Looks like I'll be CSAing this year after all. Keep those tips for maximizing your produce coming!


Jennette said...

Oh, Lordy. CSA is practically all I blog about (since 2009). I kept up really well the first year. Then I got pregnant. Then I had a newborn. I'm trying again, but I'm feeling kind of weary. One CSA I joined didn't give me enough food. One gave too much. I'm trying a new one this year and we'll see how it goes!

The one thing I don't mind is the shared-risk aspect. If the corn has worms or tomato blight means I can't have tomatoes, that's okay. It's all part of supporting a farm and farmer through the ups and downs of the growing season. So I will put up with less-pretty produce. It usually tastes better even if it has holes, I find. ;)

Jen Anderson said...

My husband & I get a half share and it's still an effort to keep up with it. It helps that we have several pieces from Tupperware that make produce last longer. We also cook and freeze what we can.

With our CSA, members fill their own boxes, and we have a swap box, so that cuts down on waste. But yeah, some things still end up in the compost.

Jordan said...

I hate to be the edit police, but how can you write "I won’t mince words here…" and then immediately follow it up with "it’s also kind of a pain in the you-know-what…..." The second part of the sentence is the very definition of mincing words.

Hungry said...

A couple of years ago, I signed up for a CSA. That farm is no longer offering CSA's which is why I don't do it now. I enjoyed the bounty of vegetables as it forced to eat more healthy and cook with new things. I made a lot of stir fries, salads, and soups. Soups work really well because you can freeze them. Did you know you can put lettuce in your soup as base?

Also, you can also cook lettuce. Asian people do it all the time. Just a quite blanch in salted boiling water. Then service under your favorite dish with sauce. Or serve plain with some soy sauce or oyster sauce.

Brownie said...

Keep the comments coming! I appreciate all the tips. I signed up for a CSA initially because I wanted to eat more veggies and support farmers. I still strongly believe in that but putting it into practice is harder than I imagined.

@jordan: Haha. Right you are! I'm mincing words all over the place. Whoops! Late night writing plus self editing as I compose to keep my salty language to a minimum = plenty o' mincing. I should have said, "don't want to mince words" instead of won't. :)