I feel like a latecomer to the CSA party, but perhaps haven’t drunk the Kool-Aid yet either? CSA stands for Community-Supported Agriculture, and a CSA is an arrangement between a farmer and a consumer that the consumer will buy a certain amount of food per week (a ‘box’) for a specified growing season.
Season lengths vary, products in ‘the box’ vary, distribution arrangements vary, and of course price varies, but CSAs have the consistent benefit of exposing the consumer to locally farmed produce, which improves both its freshness and its carbon footprint (shorter transport). As a consumer, I like to think of it as a game where there are occasional ‘Challenge’ rounds: “What is this vegetable? What can I make with it? Go!”
I have been a proponent of farmers’ markets since I was a wee thing, but only really understood their social value as an adult making my own meals and planning the week around leftovers, evolving ingredients, and utilizing the freezer.
After a few years of wanting to make the leap into the more committed status of a CSA but hesitating on the grounds of cost, quantity (sometimes the farm can not scale back their boxes for a household of one and it would then go to waste), or pick-up point (I wanted to be able to walk to my pick-up point every week), finally, this spring, I did it.
There was a sign at National Geographic Society’s courtyard, but the only thing I could find online was laconic. A coworker and I investigated, and decided that Orchard Country Produce‘s offer sounded like a great deal- and it is! Their CSA is great for single people since you can purchase a share or a half-share per week, and the half-share is manageable to consume in a week. You can add on eggs or meat or other delicacies on offer as you like.
The only thing that has not yet been figured out is how to handle when you have to miss a week, for example, for travel. However, the way the Kecklers have arranged their growing season into 3 mini-seasons of 7 weeks means that I unsubscribed for the middle of the summer when I knew I’d be traveling, and will likely resubscribe for the fall. In the meantime, visiting the farmstand on Tuesday mornings when I can is the highlight of my day, and I really appreciate the opportunity to connect with the people who grow my food, whether through a CSA or the regular ol’ farmer’s market.
If you’re interested in trying out a CSA, it can be difficult to start mid-season, and some popular ones even sell out by mid-winter! But a good place to start is always at your local farmers’ market. Say hello to a vendor and ask if they offer CSA subscriptions. What can it hurt? Be adventurous!