Thursday, June 3, 2010

My First Farm Share (tm)

In a couple of hours, I'll be picking up our first box of produce provided as part of our CSA farm share.*  I'm excited, but definitely a little nervous about whether the quantity will be too much for us. This is our first summer doing a CSA; one hesitation that kept me from joining sooner was, "Will we be able to eat all the stuff we get each week?"

Main concerns about joining a CSA:
  • Cost. This is a big stumbling block for a lot of people. Our CSA is $500 for a small share (2 people). At first all I could see was that this was quite a bit more than what some of the other farms were charging. Then I realized that the "season" (ie. the length of time you get stuff) is a lot longer than it is for those other farms.  This $500 gets us weekly veggies and fruits from June 1 through November 20 -- almost 6 months!  I think it works out to be about $20/week, which is still far more than I would spend on produce at the supermarket, but I'm happy to be at a point in life where it's possible for me to spend a little more in order to support something I believe in. (And it's my hope that the more this model of purchasing becomes sustainable, the cheaper it will get so more can afford it.) This CSA program also a) is mostly organic** and b) seems to be more varied because they work with other farms to provide more than just what they grow themselves.  So there are two other factors that, to me, are worth the higher cost.
  • Quantity vs. Consumption. I'm definitely the chief vegetable-eater in our household of 2 adults. Carl (my husband) has come a long way from being a strictly meat-and-potatoes man, but he's adamant that he'll be consuming less than 50% of what we get. That means more for me, yay and o noes!  We'll see how this goes. Will Carl end up eating more veggies than he thinks he will? I hope so! But even if he doesn't, I'm hoping I can pick up the slack.
Advantages of the CSA (both real and perceived):
  • Supporting local agriculture. If you've seen Food Inc. or know anything about mega-agribusiness, you're aware of the plight of family farms. Joining a CSA is like buying stock in a local farm -- they get your money up front so they can focus on growing good food instead of worrying about whether they'll find a market for that food.
  • Reducing carbon miles on your food.  True, our farm is about 90 miles away from us, and our share has to come to us by truck every week. But it's better than buying produce that comes from South America, or New Zealand. (Just take a look at the stickers on produce at the supermarket...)
  • Farm-fresh tastes better! Okay, this is a perceived benefit. Maybe it's the holier-than-thou feeling I get from eating something I bought at the farmer's market that makes it taste better (I kid, I kid). But I do think that growing in small quantities, in land that's treated gently, improves the flavor of food. How could it not?
  • I don't have to struggle with trying to grow vegetables in containers on our third-floor deck. I have a moderately green thumb when it comes to flowers, but veggies seem to be beyond me. (The runty beets I grew last year tasted great, but amounted to about one half-cup serving. The entire crop.)
Stay tuned for a photo of our first box of produce!

* CSA = Community Supported Agriculture. Here's a good intro to the concept:

** I realize that "organic" is at least as much about getting certified as about the actual practice. I know a lot of farms just can't afford to get certified because they're small (both in staff and physical size), but adhere to the philosophy of organic farming as much as they can. So, being certified organic wasn't a huge selling point for me, but it doesn't hurt!

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