Monday, April 4, 2011

CSA Season is Upon Us!

What is a CSA, you say?

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture

Buying into a CSA allows you to get a variety of local, seasonal, super fresh and usually organic produce directly from the farmer once a week - typically for about 20 weeks (the peak growing season for your area). 

You buy a share of the farmer's crops for around $600 (average), which should feed a family of four a few meals per week (you will still need to hit the grocery store).  It works out to about $30 a week. 

Typically you pick-up your box or bag of food at a Farmer's Market, although some farmers allow pick-up directly from the farm.

It's important to do your research, as there are several options to consider:
  1. Do you want fruit?
  2. Do you want free-range eggs?
  3. Do you want a meat share?
  4. What kinds of produce is the farmer specializing in?
  5. Does the farmer offer a half share for couples at a reduced price?
  6. Does the farmer offer bi-weekly pick-up?
  7. Is the farmer delivering to a Farmer's Market near you?
  8. Is the pick-up day and time convenient for you?
  9. Does the farmer require volunteering?
  10. How long has the farmer been offering a CSA?
I found my farmer through  This site is like an online countrywide Farmer's Market. I was able to narrow my search to my location and then read customer reviews on various farms.

By putting in a little time into researching various CSAs, I was able to find the perfect farmer for me.  My farmer happens to be on Facebook and sends out updates and recipes.  I like having a community to interact with because receiving a mystery box of produce once a week is scary enough, I need some ideas!

A CSA is not without risk, if your area has a drought or anything else that results in a bad harvest, you will not receive a refund and could receive less food than anticipated.  Instead of investing in the stock market, think of it as investing in your food health - there could be ups and downs depending on what Mother Nature has in store.  You also get what you get, there is no calling ahead and placing an order for this and that, these are farmers not grocery stores.

This is my first year participating in a CSA.  I'm taking it on as a challenge to expand my vegetable palette, eat in more and broaden my recipe arsenal.

To prepare for this uncharted territory, I have been embarking on a challenge over the last month of cooking one to two vegetables per week in which I have never prepared- I call them the Mystery Veggies of the Week.  I must say I have gotten very creative: Zucchini Quesadillas, Spaghetti Squash with Marinara, Kale Chips to name a few.

Most CSAs begin in May and many have limits as to how many shares they will sell in order to ensure their customers get their fair "share", so you better get on it if this is of interest for you.

Don't be afraid to email the farmer and ask questions - this gives you an opportunity to gauge the responsiveness and personality of the farmer and see if this is someone you want to conduct "business" with for the next 20 weeks.

Now go get your CSA on!
The Hoff

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