Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Joining A CSA - Pros & Cons

Fresh produce picked straight from a local farm. Sounds good, right? Many farms offer produce subscriptions, where buyers receive a weekly or monthly basket of produce, flowers, fruits, eggs, milk, coffee, meat, or any sort of different farm products.

Last year was our first year to join as members of a local CSA. We loved it and it was such a rewarding experience to become more closely tied to the foods we put in our bodies. Growing season is starting again soon, and our CSA, Avalon Acres, is now accepting signups. If you are interested, I highly recommend it, but put together a list of pros & cons for your consideration.

1) Breaks you out of a cooking rut and forces you to be creative.
2) As a result of #1, you will become a much better cook
3) You learn about all sorts of fruits/vegetables that you never knew existed.
4) You discover things like “I like eggplant after all!” and other disappointing things, like “Turnips are as gross as I thought they’d be.”
5) You learn about your local agriculture and what grows when.
6) As a result of #5, you can buy produce in the grocery cheaper & fresher, because you are more keenly aware of when foods are at their height in taste & production.
7) You’re eating more fruits & veggies! Better for the planet and better for your body.
8) You’re supporting your local farmers!
9) Depending on your farm choice, the CSA can be much more convenient, since you may just pick up your box right from the delivery truck.
10) You learn how to freeze foods. (And some attempt the canning route as well.)
11) Many CSAs are organic.

THE NOT-AS-GOOD: I recognize that a CSA is most certainly not for everyone. Here are a few of the down sides.
1) You’re in it for the long haul. Most (not all) CSAs require a full-season commitment.
2) Price – It may turn out to be cheaper than a grocery, but may not. You pay a per-week price regardless of how full or small your weekly share is. If there is very little rain (like last year), your baskets may be small for a while.
3) Repetition – I must say that I got very sick of okra and cucumbers. You might get a large load of a certain food for several weeks. In our society, we’re used to variety. I try to remind myself that farmers across the world for generations have dealt with this and been just fine.
4) Picky Eaters – Need not apply. There are things that I don’t like for certain, but I’m willing to give it a shot. If you are not interested in trying out some new foods, then you may need to pass on the CSA.

Food Sites of Interest:
The Future of Food in TN
Eating Organic on a Food Stamp Budget
Cook's Thesaurus
Slow Food USA
100 Mile Diet

Here are a few of the Nashville area CSAs:
Long Hungry Creek Farm
Delvin Farms
Fresh Harvest Co-op (You pick the vegetables of your choice as needed.)
Avalon Acres

For a CSA near you, click here. >carrie.


Hilary said...

Thanks so much for this post- it is very timely, as my husband and I are currently researching different CSA options. We are excited to start this new "food journey" as I like to call it. A book that I am currently reading, which has really opened my eyes to the value of eating local, is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver.

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