This past fall, I signed up with my roommates (think New Girl: I currently live with 4 guys) for our first CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Hands down, the best investment I've made in a while. There was nothing better than having a fridge and pantry stocked full of local, organic veggies! As the veggie queen of the household, I may have got the best deal too. Of course, my roomies love veggies, but they didn't always want to eat the "weird" ones they've never heard of. Like celeriac, kohlrabi, and watermelon radishes. More for me :)
What is a CSA?
A CSA is Community Supported Agriculture. It's basically a membership of sorts. You pay for a share upfront at the beginning of the season and receive a box of veggies/fruit or meat every week or few weeks. Farmers have a large part of their food going right to the CSA members, and members have their fridge stocked on a regular basis. Win-win. Mine was a winter CSA from October until March with pick-ups every 2-4 weeks, with lots of root veggies, some greens, and more.
5 Reasons to Consider a CSA
1. You'll try new veggies you skip in the store.
If it's in the box, you don't want to waste it! If I was shopping, I would rarely pick up celeriac or watermelon radishes. It's something I rarely had before, and I didn't know much about cooking them. Luckily, with a little recipe browsing, you'll learn how to cook (or ferment!) any veggie and make it taste good. Plus, the variety is fantastic for your gut flora - they're always looking for food too.
2. It's local!
Local food will likely have more micronutrients because it doesn't have to travel across the country or world, where all the time and/or heat can deplete some nutrients. Local food is also more likely to be grown on smaller farms, where the soils may be more fertile with minerals than larger farms.
3. It fits in the budget.
Sometimes, I hear the argument that farmer's market, local, or organic food is just too expensive. I hear ya. I'm not eating 100% organic or local at all. I try my best, and a CSA is a great way to fit local, organic food into my budget. Our large share worked out to $4 per person per week. That's nothing! We regularly got 10+ pounds of organic veggies each pick-up. If I bought all those veggies at a regular grocery store, I would be paying at least double or triple that.
4. You'll eat more Veggies.
I'm always trying to find more ways to help myself and others eat more veggies. We need more plants in our life! If your pantry and fridge are stocked every week or two with 10+ pounds of veggies, of course, you'll have to use them. You'll find new ways to cook them and probably load up your plate with more colors and nutrients. Take the time to prepare some food on the weekend like roasting squash or sweet potato, or chopping carrots, so you have veggies available for quick and easy meals.
5. You can talk to the farmer.
You can develop a direct relationship to the person who grew your food. That's pretty rare these days. Farmers don't hangout in grocery stores (most of the "food" in grocery stores isn't grown these days anyways). At your CSA pick-up, you can talk to the farmer. You have the chance to ask them how they grew the food, what they feed their animals, and other practices. You can even ask them what their favorite way to cook different veggies is. It's pretty cool to buy directly from the farmer too. I'm busy looking for a summer CSA now. I'm pretty sure I'll be on the year-round CSA cycle now, and I'll need to invest in a second freezer if I want a meat CSA.
Your Challenge: Google CSAs in your area. Ask around at farmer's markets. I bet you can find a summer produce CSA in your area, and if you do enough searching, there's probably also meat or year-round CSAs.