Have you heard people talking about their CSA and wondered just what they were going on about? CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, a mouthful for sure. But despite its complicated name, it’s a simple plan – a program that allows you to buy an entire season’s worth of produce up-front and reap the rewards each week for the duration of the season!
Different farms offer different formats. The usual arrangement is that each share (that’s your portion of the harvest for the week) gets exactly the same stuff as everyone else that week. Basically, you get what you get, and you don’t get upset.
Many people ask why they should join a CSA. So let’s talk about some reasons why a CSA share might be a terrific choice for you and your family.
1. You and your family enjoy fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs.
I mean, this one is a no-brainer. “In-season” is what a CSA is all about. The grocery store knows no seasons. Sure, you can buy a tomato in January. That tomato was picked green weeks ago – and 2000 miles away – then blasted with ethylene gas to make it red just before it landed in the produce section of the store. Doesn’t that sound delicious?
With a CSA, you receive a bounty of whatever is ripe in that week. Which leads us straight into the next great reason to join a CSA…
2. You want to get more creative in the kitchen.
Every week, you’re getting a box full of fresh veggies (and fruits, if your farm offers that). So now, what do you do with it? Perhaps you’ve never tried kohlrabi or purslane. Have no fear – Google is your friend! With these things (and tons of others) in your CSA, you will be pushed outside your comfort zone. And that’s a good thing! Before I was a CSA member, I had never tried kohlrabi – and guess what? I LOVE it!
Got a mystery veggie and you’re not sure what to do with it? Make soup! (This is also a great solution for veggies that you have a TON of, but you have no idea what to do with them – like radishes. Guess what? Cream of radish soup is a HUGE hit with my family –
even especially the kids!)
3. It frees up your brain.
Don’t want to think about what veggies to buy at the store this week? That’s pretty much covered for you. You might want to add a head of romaine for some salads here, or maybe some onions there, but for the most part, you will have all the veggies you need for a full week’s worth of dinners, and you won’t have to give it a second’s thought. You pick up your bounty and you work backward from there. (Or if you’re lucky – like me – your farm delivers it to your door and the only thing you need to remember is what day of the week you’re on, so you know when to expect your veggies!) And that means that your brain is free to think about your next workout, or that project you’ve been building in the back of your mind, or that you’ve been meaning to call your mom, or your upcoming vacation. What you do with your free brain-space doesn’t really matter. The CSA takes that one decision off your plate. And in its place you get fresh food that is incredibly delicious and just waiting for you to serve it in whatever way makes you happy!
And it trains you (and your kids) to eat whatever happens to be in season and not expect unrealistic variety at all times. Which brings us to our next point…
4. You want to diversify your diet.
As you wander through the produce department of your favorite grocery store, chances are that your hand always falls on the same few items. You buy the things that are familiar to you, because there’s comfort in knowing that you know what it is and how to prepare it and how it will taste when it’s done. Let’s face it – you’re in a produce rut.
Eating a variety of veggies plays a large role in making sure you are getting enough essential nutrients, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and more. This varied diet can help to protect against many ailments and chronic diseases, such as cancers, digestive issues, illnesses like the flu, declining vision, loss of bone density, and can help with weight management.
It’s time to get over only reaching for apples, baby carrots, and iceberg lettuce every week, and embracing the variety that your local farmer provides. There’s no better way to do that than to be part of a CSA.
5. You like knowing where your food comes from.
I’d like to introduce you to Ed and Lexi Gazy, the farmers behind my CSA. Together, they lead the team at Gazy Brothers Farm, going on its fourth generation of farming. Gazy Brothers Farm was established in 1918, when Grandpa and Grandma Gazy purchased their farm in Oxford, CT.
These days, you can usually find Ed at the wheel of the tractor, running the 80-acre farm with help from his brothers, Pete and Tony. Lexi handles the mountain of the stuff that goes on behind the scenes – from seed orders and insurance to running several farmers markets and managing the CSA (including doing the lion’s share of the deliveries each week). Their four children – Dominic, Roseanne, Nicholas, and Albert – help out on the farm – planting, weeding, harvesting – working at farmers markets, and delivering CSAs.
Getting your produce each week at the grocery store is incredibly convenient. But what you’ve gained in convenience, you’ve lost in flavor, freshness, nutritional value, and connection, both to each other and the land. When you subscribe to a CSA, however, you remake those connections. The CSA provides so much more than food, it offers ways for you to become involved in the ecological and human community that supports your local farm and farmers.