Hey ya'll! Have you been hearing as much buzz as I have lately about CSAs? It seems like everyone I know is signing up for one for the summer. Check out this post from guest blogger (and CSA subscriber) Christina to learn all about them!
Just what exactly is a CSA, and how can it benefit you? Is it attainable for everyone, or just something that your 22 year old hipster second cousin who lives with five roommates in a one bedroom house in SE and brews her own kombucha is into? I'm here to break it down for you!
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It can also be referred to as subscription farming. Basically, when you become a CSA member you are buying a subscription, or a share, in a local farm, and in return they deliver a bountiful basket of fresh locally grown (often times organic) produce on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Many are certified organic and most others are no-spray. The options are endless - many CSAs operate only during the warmer months of the year; others operate year-round. You can decide what works for you and can determine where to pick up your share (pick-up sites are usually places like farmer's markets, local businesses or occasionally personal residences).
As a long-term CSA subscriber, I can attest to the fact that getting a weekly box full of fresh, no-spray, local, in-season produce is so fabulous and something I look forward to every summer! The benefits are bountiful: it encourages me and my family to eat fresh produce regularly, it introduces us to new items that we might never buy at the store, it pushes me to get creative with my meal ideas and try new recipes, and I feel really good about that fact that we are helping a local family farm sustain their farming operation. It has also been fun to learn a little bit about local farming - I receive a weekly newsletter from the farm with updates about what crops they are planting and harvesting, how the weather trends are impacting them, and various other interesting information. Some farms even hold casual family events or fancy farm-to-table dinners throughout their season. So fun!
As the Portland Area CSA Coalition website puts it, "Your CSA membership or share is also an investment in your community and sustainable agriculture. CSAs are local, family farms, and the money you spend with your farmer stays in the community." Most CSA farmers grow their vegetables without the use of synthetic pesticides or herbicides, and they practice sustainable farming techniques (thereby reducing groundwater pollution from chemical runoff). Another benefit of supporting a local farm is that you are helping to reduce the farm's carbon footprint - locally grown and sold produce means a great reduction in emissions - no transportation or long term refrigeration required for these fruits and veggies!
There are some challenges that come along with subscribing to a CSA. I would say that the two biggest challenges are that you are typically required to prepay for the whole season, and that you have to pick up the box every week. When I'm out of town I ask a friend to pick up (and eat!) my share for the week so it doesn't go to waste. Another issue is that if you have some picky eaters in your family you may end up with a few items here and there that you don't want to use - usually you are not able to customize what fruits and veggies you receive as it is all based on what is in season and looking the best that week on the farm. Easy solution - give any unwanted items away to your friends and neighbors! There is also the challenge of figuring out how to cook and eat unfamiliar produce. You may receive your first share and be thinking, "What in the world is a kohlrabi and what do I do with it?!" The great news is that, while you may receive a few items that are unfamiliar to you, most CSAs provide information each week in advance about what you can expect in your share and also provide meal ideas and recipes. The farm I subscribe to gives their members access to hundreds of recipes written by a local chef with seasonal meal ideas utilizing all types of produce the farm grows. I have learned so much through this - who knew you could make a yummy crostini topping out of fresh fava beans?!
If you are thinking about signing up for a CSA, my advice is to go for it this summer! You will be eating incredibly fresh, seasonal produce that will taste amazing, and you will be supporting your local farming community at the same time. It's a delicious win-win!
For more information and a directory of CSAs in the Portland area, visit this website.
That was so fun! I learned a lot and I hope you did too - now I may need to find a CSA to sign up for this summer.
Always remember, I am here for you! If you have questions or need help with anything, I am just a phone call, text, or email away. Let's chat!