Yesterday I picked up my first CSA box. CSA, for those who don’t know, stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It works like this: I pay a set amount to a local farmer, usually one lump sum in the spring. In return, he provides me with weekly boxes of produce for the duration of the growing season. I get whichever veggies are ripe — peas and lettuce this week and probably melons and potatoes in September. My farmer, Jorge Carmona, owns 20 acres in Eastern Pennsylvania. He’s a really nice guy.
I like the model for a few reasons. It forces me to eat more vegetables and a wider variety of veggies. I probably wouldn’t buy collard greens, but I WILL figure out how to cook them if they come in my box. Also, I like having a direct connection with the person who grows my food. So much of what we buy in the grocery store has traveled hundreds or thousands of miles. I have no idea where it came from or how old it is. My CSA produce, on the other hand, I know exactly where it came from and roughly when it was picked. What’s more, being part of a CSA ties me, in some small way, to the land. If this year is a bad year for tomatoes, I’ll know it because there won’t be many in my box. If we have a bumper crop, I’ll know that too.
But the veggies aren’t cheap. A half share, which is what we have, costs $400. That gets me 20 boxes of veggies, one per week from June until October. (We paid an extra $50 to add on a half-dozen eggs.) That’s likely cheaper than buying produce at our local co-op (where red peppers inexplicably never seem to be less than $6.99/lb), but more than our neighborhood grocery store. (Of course, the quality is better. Our grocery store veggies are often wilted and soft.)
My first box included: tomatoes, peas, mystery leafy green (photo above), lettuce, oregano, a huge honking zucchini, sage, beets, cucumbers, broccoli, fresh garlic, an onion, and green onions. Totally worth $20 — but only if we eat all those veggies. Recipes anyone?