That’s usually the first thing out of people’s mouths when you start to talk about local food production. “I don’t have the time or space or patience or know how to grow my own fruit and vegetables!” “I wouldn’t have the first clue about what to do or what to do with all the vegetables I harvest!” “It is just too much work!” Excuses, excuses my friends. You don’t always have to grow your own veggies to have local treats on the table.
CSA – Community Supported Agriculture – is an easy way to not only support local farmers but also get delicious, unique and uber-fresh produce at a fraction of the cost of the supermarket. How does it work? It varies from farm to farm but the general idea is that you buy a share of the farm and in return get the bounty. Plans can be purchased for 1, 4 and often 6+ people. Some farmers offer home delivery within x amount of miles while others require you to go and pick it up. A new trend is “market style” where share holders can pick whichever produce they want up to a certain amount each week (ie “Only one basket of berries per family”). Some farms also offer pick-your-own crops at lower rates to their share holders. There are organic farms, farms with animal products included (think honey, eggs and sometimes milk products) and shares that include a bunch of wildflowers every week. And while the harvest season varies throughout the country, you have about 6-8 months of produce. Other awesome foodie bonuses – heirloom varieties, diverse crops and I swear locally grown stuff tastes like heaven.
The downsides: If the season is bad (too much rain, not enough, beetle swarms, etc), you are SOL. And while the cost over 6-8 months is minimal, you usually have to pay a bulk (or at least a quarter) of the share up front. The hubs and I recently bought an individual (1) share for the 2010 season at a local organic CSA for $372. (My mama-in-law is da bomb diggity and actually gave us the money for our Christmas gift. I am a blessed woman!) While that is only about $15/week, which is comparable to what we pay for crappy, fossil-fuel guzzling stuff at the Big Box Grocery Store, the initial deposit can be hard to scrape together. And then there is the sometimes extreme amounts of produce – what the fuck am I going to do with 20 POUNDS of zucchini!?!?! Friends, let’s be there for each other, canning, sharing, pickling, freezing and eating. You could always throw a Harvest Party and have all your homies over to eat your delicious CSA splendor.
CSA not for you? Research local Farmer’s Markets to find one that is close to you. Do your homework and talk to the folks at the stalls – is the produce grown locally? How do they define local? If you live above the Mason Dixon line and you see bananas or avocados on sale, that’s a red flag that the produce – even things like apples and lettuce that can be grown locally – are being shipped into your so-called Farmer’s Market. I love, love, love the Trenton Farmer’s Market which is about .5 mile from our house and next door to Halo Farm Dairy. (Check back this week to see meals with what I bought today – the last produce day at the Market until late March or early April when the early spring crops start to come in.)
Author’s note: This commentary is devoid of a better explanation of why AVM is just so damn good. Fellow Cooktivists, it is honesty time, I had a busy week and I’ll be revisiting this post tomorrow when I have more free time! xoxo JCB