Saturday, June 8, 2013

My CSA Farm: From Farm to Table; Why I Joined a CSA

Two Septembers ago, our co-op preschool class went on a field trip to a local farm, where the kids got to walk around and pick some organic produce to take home. I loved their little farm stand, and decided to join their CSA for the last month of Summer Share.

A CSA (Community-Shared Agriculture) is where a farm sells "shares" of what they produce each year, usually by season, since many people opt out when their own gardens are starting to produce veggies, or if they're in an area with limited growing seasons. The advantages of joining a local CSA is that you get to enjoy fresh, local, seasonal, usually organic produce while supporting a local business. And you get to discover strange new things you may never have tried or even heard of before! Plus it's usually cheaper than buying the same items at the grocery store.
The disadvantage is that you get whatever they're growing, so there may be a looong stretch of summer squash or leeks or something, and you might get tired of them near the end of their growing season! So while the food overall might be cheaper than if you had bought it all at the store, you probably wouldn't have chosen all those items specifically! And since you get a share of what they grow, if there's a drought or flood or other environmental issue that affects the farm, you run the risk of getting little food. On the flip side though, you also get to share in the bounty of a bumper crop!
Just four weeks and I was hooked! Most CSA or produce co-ops hand you your box of produce each week. But at this one, we go down the counter and choose and weigh our own from each box, based on the amount on the sign above each item. The one disadvantage some people might find with this method is that they have to actually drive to the farm, instead of at a closer designated drop-off point or Farmer's Market, or even home delivery. But to me, the advantages far outweigh the 60-minute round trip!
One week's Spring Share
  • I get to choose items from each option to cater to our tastes. There might be several options in the basket of greens, and I get to pick which bunch I want. Or for "1 lb root veggies," I can choose rutabaga and sunchokes over the (to-me) more bitter parsnips. 

  • I get to choose which specific items I want from each basket. I can choose larger carrots from my carrot share, for example, to make using mini cookie cutters on them easier. Or a smaller eggplant (blech!) because I haven't found a recipe that I've liked yet!

Choosing our apples is usually E's job. She rarely gets past choosing (and eating!) the first one!
  • Bonus stuff - During the Summer Share especially, there are often bonus items based on an oversupply. Last year we got at least 4 dozen free organic eggs over several weeks because their hens were producing like crazy for some reason. And near the end of Summer and early Fall, we got to go pick our own cherry tomatoes until we filled the container they provided. And in October, each share member gets to go to their orchard and pick a bucket of apples!
  • "Trade" table - Our farm has a little table with a basket that you can put items from your share you won't be using, and if there's something in there you would like, you can take something too!
  • "Day Old" - Because we're picking our share up from the actual farm, they often have deals or "Free! Take some!" baskets of stuff going to seed or over-ripening - stuff either to take home and plant (like potatoes with too many roots or garlic growing sprouts,) or stuff that needs to be eaten, like, now! I love snagging over-ripe bananas super cheap and tossing them in the freezer to use in smoothies later!
  • Year 'round u-pick - Our farm has a blackboard that lists greens and herbs currently available for any share member to harvest, any time the farm is open! They even have snippers you can borrow! This is perfect for me, since I don't tend to use an entire bunch of, say, basil in one recipe. I can just go get the few leaves I'll need for whatever recipe I had planned that week. Or grab some more kale to toss into our smoothies, since we usually turn our one weekly greens share bunch into kale chips!

  • Farm stand - This particular farm also has a farm stand that is open to the public, so I can supplement my weekly share with specific items I would also like, and avoid a trip to the grocery store for their hit-or-miss organic selections.

  • Meet the animals! Our farm is a "working farm," where the owners live there and grow their own meals as well! So they have goats for milk and chickens for eggs (and dinner, eventually...) Plus some ducks and turkeys, just for good measure. So we can walk around the farm and visit the animals, and feed them their favorite weeds from the other side of the fence! The also have farm cats. My kids loooove to chase pet their cats!

  • And most importantly, packing your own share box means the kids can get involved. When kids help select foods, whether it's planting and harvesting your own garden, finding something new to try at the grocery store or Farmer's Market, or picking and weighing out your share of carrots, it gives them a sense of ownership and pride over their food, which in turn increases the likelihood that they'll not only try a new food or dish, but also enjoy it! 

Baby E and I usually get our farm share each week while Z is at school, but we all got to go together during Spring Break. Z was so excited to help pick and weigh all the foods, and even had a plan!
Z: "We can make a soup! 'Dese carrots will be perfect in our soup!" Me: "But you hate sou... I mean, yes! What a great idea!"
And we made soup that night. And she did as much of the work as I was comfortable with. And she ate it!

You can click here to see some of the fun and strange new vegetables we've gotten in past shares, and some of the lunches and recipes I've used them with! (My salads are all mostly CSA greens and veggies, and I forget to tag them most of the time.)

Interested in finding a CSA near you? First there are some questions to ask yourself - and them - before joining a CSA. Then check out LocalHarvest to find Farmers Markets and family farms near you, or here for a few more links to search from. 

I was not compensated in any way for doing this post. I love our farm and how this process works and want to support them and all the family farms out there working to get fresh, local, seasonal produce and farm goods from their land to your table!


  1. To me, there is nothing greater than being part of a CSA. It is truly the most amazing experience and opportunity, and I recommend everyone join one if it is available! I think it is very cool that you pick up your produce directly from the farm.

  2. Love the concept of the CSA and I love seeing kids get excited about their healthy food! I wish we were able to participate in one :D


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