(Image above: CSA shares taken from greatcountryfarms.com)
It’s that time of year when going to the farmer’s market is a magical experience. Well, it is for me, anyway. Gone are the early days of spring when there’s an abundance of lettuce, radish, cucumber, and broccoli. What remains are stalks of corn, heirloom tomatoes, gourds of all shapes and sizes, and the final burst of banana peppers. Soon, the apples will greet us in overflowing bushels and gallons of cider. This shift in produce signals that wonderful time on the cusp of seasonal change – it bids adieu to the hot summer and heralds the chilly days of fall to come. It’s my favorite time of year, this in-between time, and I see it most notably at open-air markets.
However, as much as I’d like to, I don’t have time to spend lingering over late-harvest peaches or picking the perfect spaghetti squash from a farm stand. That is why this year, I joined a CSA. Basically, a CSA (which stands for Community Sponsored Agriculture) is a farm food cooperative that allows you a ‘share‘ in the harvest of a local farm. Most CSA’s deliver to convenient locations for city-dwellers, and most offer a wide range of fruit and veggies from late May to mid-November. There are over 900 CSA’s in the US, so to find the right one for you, check out Local Harvest. Simply enter your zip code, and pick the farm that best suits your needs and eating habits!
For the whole skinny on my CSA story, keep reading! In the Pittsburgh area, we’ve got a wide variety of CSA’s. A few of them include Cherry Valley Organics (who offer freshly cut flowers with your share), Dillner Family Farm (family run since the 1940′s), Harvest Valley Farms (featuring a bakery), and Kretschmann Farm (offering a stunning variety of apples). I chose Blackberry Meadows Farm, as the pick-up location was right outside Phipps Conservatory at a weekly farmer’s market. I could get my share, and if I wanted, pick up some other seasonal goodies, as well!
I was warned beforehand that I might be overwhelmed by veggies, so I should split my share with friends. My share group consists of two friends, myself, and my husband, and each week, we struggle to finish all of our produce (and we’re both vegetarians!). Our first share arrived the last week in May, and we’re expecting veggies right up until Thanksgiving! I should note that we never know exactly what we’re going to receive from week to week, but I think that’s part of the fun. Last week, we were treated to watermelon, and this week, we got two different kinds of tomatillos!
Here’ s some other benefits of belonging to a CSA:
- You support local farms and agriculture. Yeah for farmers!
- You consume in an organic, macrobiotic way by eating foods that are in season for your specific region.
- You save money. Yup, you get more produce for less money than you would normally spend at a grocery store, especially if you split your share!
- You eat a wide variety of fruit and veggies on a weekly basis, which means you might learn how to prepare things you’ve never seen before!
- If a crop does well, you benefit! This year, basil went out of control, and I dried 4 jars of it for the winter.
- CSA’s often offer add-ons to your share, including eggs, organic chicken, organic beef, handmade soap, jam, cider, etc.
- You get to share your food with friends and family, thus promoting community!
Do you belong to a CSA, or can you recommend one? Leave a comment, and tell us about it!