It is that exciting time of year when the produce at the farmer’s market starts becoming a little more varied and way more colorful. It’s also that time when we sign up for our summer CSA. What is CSA? CSA is short for Community Supported Agriculture and just as the acronym states, is a way for members of the community to support the farmers in the area. You can join a CSA by buying a membership or a share of the produce that comes from the farm during the growing season. For example, for the past two years we have purchased a share from a local Oregon farm, Gathering Together Farm. Each year we pay approximately $22 per week for 24 weeks (June – November) and pick up a hefty bin of fresh, organic, locally-grown veggies and fruits at our farmer’s market. Ideally, it would be nice to have our own garden to supply the veggies we need. But unfortunately, we have a small garden that doesn’t get much sun, so this is the next best option for us. Through our CSA, we’ve received purple potatoes, carrots (orange and purple), celery, celery root, beets, leeks, tomatoes, lettuce, chard, kale, brussel sprouts, rhubarb, rutabaga, onion, garlic, fennel, turnip, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, zucchini, herbs, strawberries, blueberries, apples, pears, squash, whew…and there’s definitely more. Yes, it is an amazing amount of food and the 2 1/2 of us struggle to eat our way through it all each week.
The major downside of a CSA share is summer can be busy and we found ourselves scrambling to have friends pick up for us on weekends we were out of town. Also, depending on the weather and how the crops were doing, occasionally we received a lot more of one veggie versus another. I’m not a big beet fan and those seemed to be an endless supply last year. Last summer was a particularly rainy one to start and the variety in our bins was noticeably minimal. But, that’s what we signed up for and we were still happy.
Isn’t it expensive? I agree, I thought the same when I researched which CSA to go with. But I think this is a relative term and when you get down to it, buying locally-grown, organic veggies isn’t expensive when viewed from the perspective of our long-term health and that of our world. When I compared the prices of our CSA veggies vs the organic veggies that are at the grocery store there was a slight difference. However, it is likely that the veggies at the grocery store travel a greater distance, are less fresh and have less nutrients than what is grown and sold locally. So what am I really buying when I buy non-locally-grown produce at the grocery store? A head of broccoli that looks and sort-of tastes like broccoli, but has far less of the nutrients that a fresh head of locally-grown broccoli has.
It’s frustrating and disappointing that vegetables cost more than fast food. I spent $4 on 5 apples yesterday. I haven’t been to a fast food restaurant in a long time, so I can’t actually attest to this, but it’s likely that $4 at McDonald’s would get me twice the amount of food (and meat, not a bunch of plants) and have me twice as full. But are burgers, fries and sodas really good for my health? Doubtful. I believe eating locally-grown, organic produce and meat is better for our health and in the long-term costs us less when compared to the expense of doctor’s visits, prescriptions, treatments, surgeries and rehab to fix our bodies caused by eating too much fast and processed foods. So in this light, I don’t think buying a CSA share is expensive.
But I’ll admit, I don’t buy everything from the farmer’s market and I do buy some processed foods (cereal, bread, etc). Especially at this time of year, when all that is in season are leeks, kale and rutabaga, I find myself needing variety (spice of life, right?). But at the grocery store, I do pay attention to whether pesticides are used, keeping in mind the Dirty Dozen, and also how far the crop has traveled. Being in Oregon, a lot of our winter veggies come from California and, thankfully, do not travel very far. I know I’m rationalizing and I admit it, but our goal is to one day grow the bulk of our veggies and preserve them during the winter. Maybe we should just live on a farm in the middle of nowhere and recreate Green Acres. 🙂
In the meantime, I do feel good knowing that I am actively supporting my community, its farmers and the beautiful earth that we are blessed with.
Find a CSA near you. http://www.localharvest.org/search-csa.jsp