Thursday, March 4, 2010

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

March is the perfect time to start thinking about spring and summer vegetables.  Although most of us know we still have a few months before anything will be growing in our gardens, farmers are already well on their way to growing the food you buy at the grocery store or at local markets.

Last year, Alain and I purchased a CSA share from a local organic farmer in February.  It was hard putting up half the cost of the share (about $250 CDN) in February (the other half was paid in July), we had just installed a pellet stove and things were a little tight financially.  The promise of a summer full of organic veggies was too great to turn down though and we signed up.

Our veggies were delivered once a week to our front porch and would include whatever was fresh and ready at the farm that week.  We left a cooler with some ice packs on our shady porch and when we returned, it was always filled with the freshest vegetables available.

We never met our farmer, but enjoyed the spoils of his labour all summer long.  The cost per week worked out to about $25 and we received veggies from Mid-June until Thanksgiving (Mid-October for us Canadians).

We got to try a lot of new things -  kale, parsnips, patty pan squash and enjoyed fresh salads any time we wanted.   We found we always had a little of everything, but not ever a lot of anything and didn't store as much as we'd have liked.  When we wanted to make tomato sauce we still had to head to the market for 20 pounds of tomatos, but I never once felt like we didn't get our money's worth from the CSA.

Most importantly, we supported a local farmer and provided him with necessary funds when he needed them most (in early season, when he needs to buy seeds to plant).

I've included a photo below that shows just 6 weeks of veggies as they came to us.  Keep in mind we got veggies for 17 weeks, there were a lot more delivered than shown!

When the veggies arrived each week I would spend a few minutes going through the lettuce and taking off anything that looked yucky before putting it in a large tupperware containers.  The lettuce would stay fresh for weeks when stored this way.  It was a far cry from the flavourless lettuce we used to buy at the grocery store - you know the stuff - it's already going brown by the time it gets home to your fridge!

This year we have decided to shop our local farmers markets for our veggies.  This will allow us to get what we want, in the quantity we want, when we want it.  I have to admit, we threw out several heads of cabbage and lots of beets!

Most major citys should have CSA's available.  Check the internet for one near you and invest in local agriculture that tastes like vegetables should.

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