Posted on February 15, 2011 - by

From Farm to Your Table: CSA Sign-Up Season

Sure, much of the U.S. is covered with dismal, soot-sprayed snow, and it may feel like we’ve entered Narnia (always winter, never Christmas), but guess what, a new growing season is about to begin!

If you haven’t already done so, this is peak season to sign-up for a community-supported agriculture program, or CSA. What’s a CSA, you ask? It’s a subscription program to a farm. For a set fee that is paid at the beginning of the growing season, you will receive a share of the farm’s harvest for the rest of the year. Usually, this includes a basket of vegetables and fruits, but can also include eggs, meats, dairy products and honey. Your food will be fresh, seasonal, and local, and you’ll have the opportunity to get to know the farmer who produced your food.

Sure, you could buy local and seasonal produce from the grocery store, but CSAs are unique in a few other ways. Since shareholders pay upfront at the beginning of the year, you help the farmer with his cash flow and act as an investor in this year’s harvest. This shared risk means that if the growing season is good, you reap the benefits with more abundant produce, and if the Northeast is hit by tomato blight, well, you will not receive any tomatoes in your CSA basket. In addition, because you have little control over what is in your share, you will have to be flexible with what you cook. This can might fill you with dread or excitement. Personally, I am always thrilled to find an unrecognizable vegetable in my basket, and find that CSAs force you to broaden your horizons.

To give you an idea of what you might get, one week last fall, I received an acorn squash, a bunch of beets, three heads of red leaf lettuce, half a dozen jalapeno peppers, green peppers, rainbow swiss chard, red potatoes, a sack of green and yellow beans, onions, parsley, and broccoli crowns. The next week, I received red onions, apples, oranges, pears, bananas, a bunch of swiss chard, jalapenos, potatoes, a butternut squash, and a nice stalk of brussels sprouts.

The only downside is you will spend a lot more time washing dirt off your produce compared to store-bought goods. And in the interest of using up your groceries before they spoil, you may also find yourself considering such avant-garde flavor combinations as brussels sprouts with orange-jalapeno chutney. But that is a small price to pay.

To find a CSA program near you, check out Local Harvest.

Drop a line at crystal@freshthemovie.com.

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