I just emailed my local CSA — an organic farm called Golden Earthworm. I’ve been a member off and on for about five years. (The year before last I didn’t sign up in time and got shut out.) I wanted to make sure I’d be on the list again.
Belonging to a CSA is sort of like going on a treasure hunt. You never know what you’re going to find. CSAs work like this: You pay a set amount at the beginning of the growing season. Our season on Long Island is 26 weeks long; the annual cost of the CSA is $550. (I’ll do the math for you. It’s about $21 per week.) Then, once crops start coming in you go to a local pickup spot with your own reusable bags and get your veggies and fruit — whatever is ripening that particular week.
You get a lot for your $21. Boxes, even in the spring, are overflowing. Lettuce is usually plentiful. Potatoes and kale are, too. My CSA plants about 45 varieties of vegetables along with an assortment of herbs. Some of the veggies are common — cucumbers, broccoli, spinach (yum, nothing like baby spinach fresh from the fields), tomatoes, and carrots. Some are, to be honest, not something I would ever think of buying. Celeriac, Chinese broccoli, fennel, the aforementioned kale, kohlrabi, and swiss chard. But these veggies old and new really help us eat better. I feel bad wasting anything, so I am always looking for new ways to cook up these items. Big Girl, who usually comes with me to pick them up, loves seeing vegetables in their natural state, and she, like her mommy, loves the way real, fresh produce tastes.
A lot of my friends tell me their kids won’t eat veggies. They ask me how I get my kids to chow down on salad and spinach and — their favorite — broccoli. I always tell them that I exposed the kids at a very early age to many tastes and textures. So now when Big Girl says she doesn’t like summer squash, I can accept that because I know it’s not because it’s a vegetable. It’s because she truly doesn’t like the taste. A CSA, I think, gives kids more of a chance because they are constantly seeing new vegetables appear on the table in plentiful portions.
If you’re interested in joining your own CSA, check out Local Harvest, a directory of U.S.-based farms. Can’t afford $21 per week? Do what I did: split a CSA share with a friend. I shared my share last year and still found myself giving away food towards the end of the week. After all, there are only so many kale chips (baked in the oven with a touch of oil and salt) that you can eat!
I’m writing this post as part of Real Food Wednesdays. Check out the other 50-plus bloggers who are supporting the real food movement by reading some of their posts.