I'm going to be doing an ongoing series of entries this summer regarding our CSA, or farm share. Hubby and I decided this year to buy a farm share, and after picking up our first shipment last night I realized what an adventure it's going to be. I say that not because we got stuff we'll never eat, but because there are new ways to PREPARE what we are getting. We do not, for example, cook greens at home very often. Usually it extends to me throwing them into something else... So I thought I would document what we're getting and what we do with it.
So, a little background. Yesterday I tweeted that we would be getting a CSA, and I had several people on Facebook ask me "what's that?" CSA stands for Community Shared (or supported) agriculture. It began in Europe and Japan in the 60's by people who wanted more security regarding their food safety and purity. When a family purchases a CSA what they are doing is essentially purchasing part of a farm...when everyone buys a part of that farm they are all supporting the growing and harvesting process with their dollars. I believe I heard that about 50 families are together in our CSA...so it's a rather small one. The dollars go toward supporting organically grown local food. Members of the CSA sink or swim, so to speak, depending on what grows and what doesn't do so well. Some farms have a "work share" where they ask members to work, either in the planting and harvesting, or in the distribution. Some farms offer discounts for this work, some offer it as an option, and some require it in addition to your purchase. Our farm offers it as an option, they have an open door policy where we can visit at any time, have lunch, work or see what's going on. Sometimes farms will purchase or share food with other farms, in order to increase the variety their members receive.
Farm shares have existed for years on the west coast (where they are extremely popular) and in some other parts of the country. They are just beginning to catch on here....I found ours by going to the Local Harvest website. This is, by the way, a great resource for finding local produce: farm stands, farm shares, local growers..it's all there. All you do is input your zip code and away you go!
Another question I hear a lot when I tell people about our CSA is "How expensive". Since we're on a budget, it was a big question for us too. The initial outlay of money varies by farm, but it is usually between $300 and $500 dollars for the season..for us the season is mid-june to late October. Each week we receive a box of vegetables, fruit if it's available, recipes and descriptions of our food. The price may vary depending on how much you get (we are getting a half share, which is 6-8 lbs of veg per week), whether you work (if your farm has a work share), and where you live. For us, the price amounted to about $15 per week, which is completely reasonable.
So why do it?
Hubby and I had lots of reasons we wanted to try this. I heard about the concept from a friend who lives in Philadelphia and was pretty entranced. As I began to think a little harder about this, I got a little nervous. One comment I heard a lot (and said myself more than once) is "what am I going to do with five pounds of kale? One potential drawback of a CSA is what you get is what you eat...no matter what. It isn't an option (for us) to waste it. The more I thought about it, though, the more I viewed this as a challenge. Hubby and I both grew up in families that had HUGE gardens. My parents always grew what we ate, and there were even summers where we sold sweetcorn we grew in the large field behind our house. Our neighbors as I was growing up had large fields and did pick-your-own, a farm stand. I love vegetables, and I'm not shy about trying new ones...neither is Hubby. I think this is kind of a must..you need to be willing to try new stuff..to seek out recipes for things you don't really know a lot about and give them a whirl. One does not have to LIKE everything you get in a CSA, but you've got to be willing to try new things and go into it with an open mind.
In addition to the challenge aspect, I like knowing where my food comes from. I grew up in a family that purchased meat directly from farmers, or raised our own (the pigs we raised are another post entirely). When I get things in the grocery store, I can tell that it's been grown somewhere else and trucked to me. When people tell me they don't like vegetables, I know that part of the reason is that they may not have eaten a lot of fresh stuff..it makes a huge difference. Sometimes I don't like Tomatoes in the middle of the winter either! I want to make sure my dollars support local farms. I want Toast to grow up knowing where his food comes from, like Hubby and I do. It tastes better, it looks more appealing, it's just a little bit healthier.
We eat a lot of vegetables, but the variety is no where near what is out there...I just want to expand our horizons a little bit.
So this leads me to this weeks delivery. We picked up our first box of produce yesterday. As with most programs, ours has a central drop off point. Once a week on the same day I go and pick up our share of veggies from that point. Here's what we got this week:
* Three kinds of Lettuce
*A bag of kale
*Two kinds of radish, one is a daikon
*Turnips (this surpised me, I always associate Turnips with fall)
*Two kinds of mustard greens.
We also got a handout that explains each variety of what we got (many of the things we will be getting this year are heirloom varieties); the handout also gives us some recipes.
Since we're going out of town this weekend it will be a challenge to use everything...we're having sauted greens with scallions and garlic, tossed with Cous Cous tonight, and probably some roasted turnips. Pretty much any root vegetable is good roasted. I'm hoping to branch out in my cooking techniques this summer...I do a lot of roasting and sauteing...I'd like to learn some new recipes.
So stay tuned, I'll be letting you know what we like, what we didn't, and how we cooked it. Should be interesting!!!