I am a new CSA member. For those who do not know, a CSA or Community Supported Agriculture is a grassroots partnership between a farmer and individuals helping reconnect eaters to the source of their food, namely farms. Before the planting and growing season, a CSA farm will assign monetary value of producing say, 20 weeks worth of food, and then divide this amount in “shares” and charge a flat upfront fee to anyone in a given community who wants to participate. The shareholders (or individual and families) then receive or pick -up weekly “shares,” boxes or bags of seasonal produce (and sometimes animal products) grown on that farm throughout the season. Provided there are no hiccups with production, everybody wins. CSAs are responding to consumers desire for food that is local, fresh, delicious, fair, and clean to eat. It also helps establish a rapport between producer and consumer— building community through food.
There are many types of CSA operations in Northwest Washington, but I have not joined one since leaving Brooklyn, NY in 2004. The same year I finished grad school, I was busy supporting my first book with lectures and classes, working full-time and maintaining a vigorous training schedule. I had little time to shop for food, but I was then as I am now, committed to buying local and cooking most meals at home. Being a member of the Park Slope CSA (http://www.parkslopecsa.org) was a convenient way to keep fresh seasonal produce in my kitchen all summer without spending a lot of time shopping. My mid-weekly box complimented the occasional weekend fill-in trip to the Union Square Greenmarket or Grand Army Plaza farmers market and Whole Foods for cans, boxes and jars.
It’s been almost seven years since we left New York and I have been a dedicated and enthusiastic shopper of both Portland and Seattle farmers markets. But in early March I decided to join a CSA, mainly because I wanted to simplify food shopping again while supporting local farms. Furthermore, Jason and I are both contractors and one of us may have an interruption in work later this summer. Joining a CSA provides a sense of security that no matter what happens to our income, we will still be eating well at least through September.
Choosing a CSA was easy for me. I work with a local food and farm non-profit and pretty much know what’s out there, but there are great print and online resources to help anyone interested in joining a CSA wherever you live. Nationally Local Harvest (http://www.localharvest.org) is an extensive searchable database worth looking into. Here in Washington, the Puget Sound Fresh Farm Guide is king (http://www.pugetsoundfresh.org). I decided to join Growing Things Farm, a certified organic farm in Carnation, Washington http://www.growingthingsfarm.org. According to their brochure, their shares generally start the first half of June depending on the temperament of the season. I chose to purchase a half share of veggies, fruit and eggs, perfect for two people who eat most meals at home like J and I do. The cost: $710, about $35.50 per week over twenty weeks. I don’t have to shell out another cent for farmers market produce this summer if I don’t want to. I like that idea a lot. It’s food security.
Today I collected my first box from the Growing Things Farm stall at the Ballard Farmers Market. I waited until the market was almost closed which is a mistake, because the food had been sitting there wilting in the box all day before I got there. Regardless, this first box included kale, collard greens, cabbage, beet greens, young chard, salad mix, radishes, and half dozen large eggs. Next week we’ll get berries. The box will change weekly through the season through September.
Once I got home, I spent about an hour rinsing, cutting and bagging up the produce and organizing it in the crisper. This week’s dinners and leftover lunches will include lots of greens that we both like anyway. It’s a good deal and I’m pretty excited for next week’s box. I’ll make sure to pick up my box as soon as the market opens.