CSA, All the Way!

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(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!

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7 Responses to CSA, All the Way!

  1. Anna H. 09/11/2009 at 7:22 pm #

    Thanks so much for writing this! More people need to know about CSAs. One version of my Ideal Future is running one, myself, in fact. I would love to have the land to do that, and a job that gets me out of doors and among the plants/chickens… *sigh* :-)

  2. Anna H. 09/11/2009 at 7:28 pm #

    By the way, if you still have extra basil, make pesto to freeze! Blend up the basil with some pine nuts in olive oil (LOTS of olive oil) and freeze it in baggies or what-have-you. Then in the dead of winter, when you could really use some of that summertime flavor, just thaw it out, add garlic paste (/garlic pureed in even more olive oil… you can’t have too much olive oil, with pesto) and Parmesan cheese, and enjoy! :-D

  3. Alexis 09/12/2009 at 2:48 pm #

    I LOVE belonging to a CSA – it’s like Christmas every week! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Angela 09/13/2009 at 1:16 pm #

    With my CSA, I was introduced to fruits and veggies I’ve never had before! It’s been educational, healthy, and delicious of course!

  5. bek 09/17/2009 at 8:50 am #

    don’t forget penn’s corner- by far the broadest reaching csa. they service more than 2 dozen different farmers! i love my csa… and wouldn’t trade it for the world.

  6. Jordan 09/18/2009 at 2:44 pm #

    Actually, Great Country Farms is my CSA! I thought those boxes looked familiar. I like them a lot, though picking bugs out of broccoli florets will never be pleasant.

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  1. ModLife » Blog Archive » Green on the Silver Screen! - 09/24/2009

    [...] of the USDA and FDA.  I guarantee that this movie will scare you and have you signing up for a CSA in no time flat. [...]

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