Why a CSA might be right for you

By Nikki Golden
I have often thought about purchasing a share in a community-supported agriculture, or CSA. For those not familiar, a CSA is generally a chance to buy a “share” of locally grown, often organically grown, seasonal vegetables and other food items from a somewhat local farm. These shares (or memberships or subscriptions) are delivered to a drop-off point near you, which is what makes this a feasible option for many families.

This year, one came to my attention that had a drop-off point very close to where I worked, and it also offered a half share, which was appealing because there are only two of us in my household. It was also a good introduction to a CSA, being that I got my delivery every other week instead of committing to every week in the summer. What I liked about the particular CSA I joined was that I could pay in three installments by providing two post-dated checks.

Vegetables are my favorite, but like most people, I’m sure, I gravitate toward vegetables I’m familiar with, and if they’re unfamiliar, I’m less apt to purchase them because I don’t know how to prepare them. Being in the CSA forced me to try new vegetables because they were there already in my box, and I obviously didn’t want to let things go to waste. Also helpful was that there were often recipes or preparation advice in the e-newsletter I received that contained information on the vegetables I’d be receiving in my box.

Among those items I tried this summer were beets, turnips, kohlrabi (really good grated into a salad) and a variety of lettuces that I’ve never bought, including bright lights chard, escarole and bok choi.

Gardening is a summer activity I remember with fondness from my childhood. However, I presently rent a house, and I don’t have the time to commit to renting a plot at our park district farm patch. But by being part of a CSA, I was able to reap the benefits of fresh produce.

As part of the e-newsletter I received each week, I was kept apprised of what was going on at the farm (which members are invited to visit), as well as how the weather was impacting the growing conditions of not only the vegetables they were growing but also the livestock. I learned about some of the more difficult aspects of organic farming, specifically pest control.

And I will also admit to something—normally at the grocery store, I’m not necessarily prone to buying organic. My thinking on that has somewhat changed from this CSA experience. The taste is definitely more noticeable on foods that I eat uncooked, and the bag of sugar snap peas that were in our first box was a great introduction to what to expect for the summer. They were crisp, juicy and had a somewhat minty, fresh flavor that just felt good on the palate. I will definitely be buying organic lettuce going forward, and if I know I’m going to be eating the vegetables raw, I’ll also look for organics of those.

Although I didn’t purchase any of these, most CSAs will also offer a variety of the following to purchase as shares: cheese, eggs, poultry and beef.

For more information or to find a CSA near you, visit http://www.localharvest.org/csa/.

Stay tuned, because we’re not done with this subject. On Monday, I will share some recipes for the vegetables I discovered this summer, and on Wednesday, I will give you some helpful hints on deciding if a CSA is right for your family to try.

Nikki Golden is a full-time association marketing manager and a part-time crafty wannabe. You can find her on Twitter @lucy1375 and on Pinterest @nikki_golden.

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