Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) allows you to get fresh fruit and vegetables from local farms throughout the growing season. If you’re looking for a way to get a variety of fresh produce this season, now is a great time to consider joining a CSA. To help the farms prepare the right amount of crops and to help with the capital outlay needed to plant those crops, farms subscribe members at the beginning of the year. Local Harvest is a great resource to look for local CSAs.
Every CSA is a little bit different in its structure. Some farms offer full shares and half shares, some only offer one choice. Some are biweekly offerings, some weekly. Some you go to the farm or a farmers market to pick up your produce, others deliver it to central distribution points, or even to your door.
Last year I joined a CSA for the first time. A friend who works across the street from me had participated in the CSA in previous years through her work, and full shares of produce were delivered every other week right to the office. At the beginning of the season things were a bit slower, and the produce was a bit smaller. As the season went on, there was more produce, and they were bigger. I got several of the largest cabbages I’ve ever seen in the last few deliveries of the season. It was a good thing cabbage lasts so long!
One week my delivery included cantaloupe, corn, cucumbers, jalapenos, onions, peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, and corn. Another week I got acorn squash, apples, broccoli, cabbage, cucumber, green beans, potatoes, tomatoes, and yellow squash. The CSA provided the majority of the fruits and vegetables that my household ate throughout the season, but not all. We did supplement to make meals that we were interested in, especially before fruits were in season. Over the whole season we received quite a variety of fruits and vegetables, but we didn’t receive all of our favorites. Some foods just don’t grow in this area. All of the produce that doesn’t grow in our region and the produce that we purchase out of its local growing season must travel further, consuming more energy in overall life cycle costs, in order to reach our homes.
The vegetables that I received were very fresh and I was usually finishing up the end of one delivery when the next one arrived. I did freeze some of the produce for use later, especially when we got lots of corn because that doesn’t last. I learned how to cook new vegetables, and learned how to use parts of familiar vegetables that I’d never seen before. One week our broccoli came with the greens still on it. I didn’t know broccoli even had leaves; in my mind they grew like mini trees in a row. In reality, the part that we get at the grocery store sits in the middle of a huge span of leaves. The greens are edible, and to me they taste more like broccoli rabe. They were delicious sautéed with oil and garlic!
If you live in an apartment or condo be sure to join Arlington Green Games. Completing your scorecard in May or June about your home energy habits will enter you into a raffle for a CSA membership for the summer! Register at www.arlingtongreengames.com.
By: Jeannine Altavilla