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Community Supported Agriculture

Heirloom Tomatoes

I love the idea of joining a CSA, but I’ve resisted for three reasons:

  1. The CSA’s around here fill up so fast, there are never any slots available when I’m thinking about it.
  2. That’s a lot of vegetables for a family who really doesn’t care much for veggies.
  3. It’s more costly than what I’d normally spend at the farmer’s market (mainly because of point #2).

Well, recently a farm around here started up a new CSA, and I found out about it early enough that I could sign up.  That eliminated the first problem.

And then, a little later, they decided to offer half shares, which made the second problem much less of one, and pretty much eliminated the third.

One Object 365 Days: 172/365 06/20/08

But I’m still on the fence.

There’s the romantic in me that loves the idea of visiting the farm each week with the boys, going through our box, learning about the harvest cycle and all of the different fruits and veggies grown on the farm, and then being daring about trying something new.

The realist in me is afraid that I will be dragging those children each week, and watching them gag at each new item I pull out of the box.  I worry that I will get lazy, and that all of our new produce will spoil before I get around to doing anything with it.

166/365

This has happened before.  Just ask this poor shriveled up carrot.

Still… it works out to just $18/week.  I’m pretty sure I already spend that on produce during the summer months, the only difference being, that I am picking and choosing what I want to buy, and not getting twelve pounds-worth of surprises.

I’ve only ever read positive experiences with CSA’s, so I’m very very tempted to just fill out that form already.  I’ve got visions of strawberry-rhubarb jam-making sessions dancing in my head, and valuable learning experiences with my kids (who currently think that the best tasting things in life come out of a box).

Does anybody want to talk me out of it?  I’d be interested in hearing your experiences!

17 thoughts on “Community Supported Agriculture

  1. Well, you know I love my CSA box and it really has spurred me to eat a lot of new things and try a lot of new recipes. A few things I tell people who hesitate:

    1. The vegetables tend to last longer in the fridge because they were just picked–they haven’t been sitting for a few nights in a warehouse or on the produce shelf at the grocery store, and they haven’t been handled by as many people between the field and your kitchen. Take that into consideration while you plan.

    2. At least in our CSA, the farmer is receptive and responsive to our comments. If several families say “hey, c’mon, we can’t handle four kinds of greens in one week!” he’ll usually scale back, while still reminding us that winter is the season for lettuces, and that we can do more with them than sandwiches and salads.

    3. It’s amazing what you can hide in a pureed soup. And even beets can be made into cookies. (Most of our carrots get pureed upon arrival; then they’re easily added to soups or made into a breakfasty carrot bread with raisins and walnuts.)

    4. Chances are, there will be some waste; but if you pitch the occasional head of lettuce or just can’t eat the radishes or whatever, it’s still overall a good thing for your family, for your community, etc. And if you have a compost pile, it’s not really going completely to waste…
    .-= See Penny’s latest blog post: Happy Ada Lovelace Day! =-.

    1. Very useful information as usual 🙂 Thanks. Neil has convinced me that we don’t have the money for this right now, but we’re going to attempt to plant a small garden instead. And I see no reason why I can’t apply some of your ideas to the things I get at the farmers’ market this summer – I don’t know why I never think of purees, but that’s an excellent solution for extra carrots!

  2. We participated in our urban community plot in the city and it was great. There was a fair sized plot in the community hall’s yard and the committee voted on what would be planted.

    My main issue was that I lived in a very ethnic area and a lot of the vegetables we grew were not ones in my regular diet. The cost was minimal because you were expected to put hours into it.

    We got tons of veggies, lots of recipes (they had a community kitchen program that helped people process, use and cook in bulk), some fruit (hard climate) and kept a good chunk of a very inner city neighbourhood looking pretty.

    I did end up throwing out or trading a good chunk of my veggies most weeks. Two of us couldn’t eat the amount of stuff our share turned out to be! It was nice to have cukes, tomatoes, lettuce, stuff we buy normally, that we grew ourselves.

    1. I think we’ll go the garden route, although it’s not at all my strong suit. Cucumbers, carrots, potatoes and lettuce would be my favorite things to grow, so I hope I can get my non-gardener’s brain around making that happen.

  3. We joined a CSA last year just to try different things that I never would have otherwise. Over all, it was a good experience and we would have done it again, why didn’t we?

    The farm was 20 miles from my house and pick up was on Thursday afternoons between 3 and 7….between school getting out and soccer practice some weeks we just couldn’t swing getting over there.

    IF there were a farm with in 5 miles of my house or they had a different pick up schedule we would do it again…

    This year we are farmers market bound!

    1. That’s a good point. The farm I’m considering is about 1/2-hour away, which doesn’t sound like much now, but could grow to be a real burden week after week…

  4. We joined a CSA one summer that included meat and eggs in our share, which was great….except that the vegetable selection was pretty lame. I was hoping for more variety, but all I got was a lot of tomatoes, zucchini and squash. We didn’t even pick up our last share because I was pregnant, suffering morning sickness, and couldn’t even stand the thought of looking at another tomato.

    My advice is to really quiz your farmer about what will be going into your share. Do you have your own garden? Do you have neighbors, friends, family, co-workers who regularly bring you harvests from their gardens? Also, as Molly pointed out, take the distance into account. Our CSA was 45 minutes, which wasn’t all that convenient. Maybe if the variety was better, I could justify the drive.

    That said, my sister had a great experience with a CSA near her. They allowed her to buy a 1 person share, and they provided her with recipes that incorporated many of the ingredients in her share (which had a lot more variety than mine did).

    1. Thanks for the ideas. Your post got me thinking about local friends with gardens, and how maybe a bartering system might be something interesting to think about. i.e., I can grow carrots and a friend can grow potatoes, and we can share the harvests.

  5. The company I worked for six years ago signed up for shares that were delivered from a Maryland farm into D.C. There were other offices nearby that had signed up with them so we only had to venture down to the parking lot to pick up our boxes. So easy! It was a great experience and I probably ate the best and healthiest that I ever have because I had to cook for myself, no more frozen dinners. Have fun, it will be great and there are so many tasty (and easy) recipes out there to try.
    .-= See lsaspacey’s latest blog post: 2. Black Tee – New Look 6838 =-.

    1. That must have been great – so convenient!

  6. Have you thought about starting a small garden at your house? There are many, many things you can plant in containers. Most kids will try vegetables that they’ve grown themselves even if they’d never touch it otherwise. Your kids will learn about the harvest cycle, and you’ll probably spend a lot less than you would on a CSA share. You can always supplement your own garden with trips to the farmer’s market. Just a thought.
    .-= See Dara’s latest blog post: Welcome Back to Avila Valley Barn =-.

    1. That’s exactly what we’ve decided to do. My husband thought I was crazy for the CSA idea, LOL! He suggested we try a small garden of our own, so that’s what we’re going to do. GMTA!

      1. Yay! I’ll be checking in this summer to see how the garden is going!
        .-= See Dara’s latest blog post: SLO Downtown Creek Walk =-.

  7. I guess a CSA is what we used to have in Germany brought to our front door – the Bio-Box. First I found they sent us too many weird veggies. Some things I even didn’t know the name of! Less a good recipe to prepare it! But because of our son’s condition of not being able to swallow big chunks anyway (he was born without oesophagus) we had to puree most of his meals – I could hide most of the fresh goodies. His favorite being the “Polish Potato Soup” (because he loved his Polish aupair) which was a soup with few potatoes and lots of other veggies all together pureed some butter. And I learnt so much about variety, about ‘old fashioned’ vegetables and of course many recipes because in every box you would find some ideas for the packed things. We have been living in Ireland for ten years now and I dearly miss our Bio-Box. But I still cook our smooth and tasty ‘Polish Soup’ which is my almost weekly ‘health attack’ with stuff the kids wouldn’t eat if they saw it sticking out of a bowl!
    .-= See Eliane’s latest blog post: happy ea(s)ter! =-.

    1. Sounds like that worked out well for you. I’m the only one in this house who really cares for soup, so I don’t make it very often. When I do, though, I’m right there with you, pureeing anything that looks unappetizing, so nobody can complain. We’re not particularly adventurous when it comes to trying new things!

  8. I just found out that we have a co-op here called Bountiful Baskets. I get my first basket tomorrow. I can’t wait to see what I will get! What I like already is the fact that I can choose week-to-week if I want to buy in (no membership). It costs $15 for conventional and $25 for organic (organic is only available every other week). You can also add on things like 5-grain bread, tortillas, strawberries, granola, etc. I also like that I will get just as much fruit as veggies since the other programs I looked at were pretty much just veggies. The website has forums where chefs and other people post recipes and ideas on how to use your produce each week. I plan to post pictures tomorrow on my blog if you want to check it out.
    .-= See inspiredresults’s latest blog post: Felt Egg Design Book =-.

    1. What a great idea! I’d love something like that around here.

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