It’s springtime and here in the Northeast, things are greening and leafing and my thoughts are turning to locally grown vegetables. After a long winter of trucked- and flown-in produce, I’m ready for locally-grown: It’s flavorful, fresh-picked and fabulous. How to get your hands on some of that? The Belmont farmer’s market is a super source, and you might like strolling around, meeting up with neighbors, talking to the merchants and picking out your produce each week. Or you might want to join a CSA.
We’ve belonged to at least one CSA for the past four years now – starting with the Shared Harvest CSA for late fall shares and then joining up with the Picadilly Farm CSA for summer shares. CSA stands for “community supported agriculture.” Farmers have locally-grown crops they would like to make available to the public. You sign up with a farm, and every week you get a box filled with local veggies (and sometimes fruits). If the farm is nearby, you might be offered the chance to visit, meet the farmer(s) and pick out some of your own veg. Different farms have different delivery options – if once a week is too much for you, look for once a month. Another option is to split a share with another family. There are organic, conventional and IPM options available.
There is a potential downside – by joining a CSA, you share the risk of crop failures – if the vegetables get eaten by insects, for example, your delivery will be smaller. A drought or too much rain can wipe out a farm’s yield for a particular crop. On the flip-side, if the farm has a good year, you’ll be supporting local agriculture and enjoying some of the tastiest, most nourishing food available in your community.
Why do we love our CSA so much?
- Everything tastes better. Instead of a zillion-mile journey, CSA produce travels less than 50 miles to get to you. Short of growing your own, it’s the freshest produce you can get, full of vitamins, minerals and enzymes. You’ll taste the difference, honest.
- It’s a veggie party in a box, every single week. You never know what you’re going to get! Did you know that most people eat fewer than a dozen vegetables regularly? Cooking with new veggies broadens your horizons and helps you expand your repertoire. I’d never had kohlrabi before my CSA, and I love it. Ditto celeriac. Google is your friend for finding good-looking recipes to use, as is my favorite blog, Semi-Sweet!
- You and your family will develop a closer relationship with food. Belonging to a CSA will enable you to form a relationship with your farmer, understand how your food is planted, grown and harvested and how it gets to your table. It will take you back to a much more simple way of eating – one that dominated before processed foods and rapid-transit. Many farms will have opportunities for you to visit – why not go to the source, and if you have them, take your kids? Nothing like pulling a fresh carrot out of the ground or seeing row upon row of bright leafy lettuce to inspire future generations of great eaters.
If you think you’re interested, check out Local Harvest to find a CSA that’s near you – but get on it quickly. Popular CSAs may have sold all their shares for this summer already . . . if you identify one you like and it’s full, email the farmer and get on a waiting list, just in case – and make sure you calendar the signup for next year so you don’t miss an ounce of veggie goodness.