Monday, May 18, 2009

Why CSAs Rock

So, I am happy to announce that I've just been accepted to the... West Harlem CSA! It was a brutal application process complete with letters of recommendation and a personal essay. Nah, just kidding, but I did nearly miss out entirely. Most devoted CSAers know to sign up in February when fresh fruits and veggies are a mere memory of summers past. Of course, this year, like last year, I only thought, hmm CSA, when asparagus popped up at the market a few weeks ago. I was wait-listed at two others until I found my future Alma CSA at Just Food's website.

What is a CSA, you might ask? It's basically a food coop where members buy a share in a farm's yearly harvest. Windflower farm, my CSA's farm, will be growing fruits and veggies and harvesting pasture-raised eggs this year and I will be getting my equal share. Here's a rundown of why I've joined and maybe you'll be inspired to find one in your neighborhood for this season, or, if you're too late, punch a reminder into your calendar for next year.

Reasons I Joined a CSA:
  1. For fresh, local and usually organic fruits and vegetables grown just for me.
  2. As if you need to hear it again, eating local and organic is good for the environment. When food travels thousands of miles, not only are natural resources being wasted, but added pollution is being pumped into the air all so we can have strawberries in January.
  3. Eating local and organic is good for you. The farther produce travels the fewer nutrients it retains upon reaching your mouth.
  4. Accountability - yeah, that's a big one for me. While you might be buying organic raspberries from Chile, who from the FDA is actually overseeing the farming? Who is protecting our interests as consumers? When you buy from local farms that are a short drive from you, you can go visit and see for yourself where the food is coming from and how it's being raised.
  5. It's cheaper. Huh? Yes it is, by a lot. My weekly produce bill comes in at well over $50 a week if not $70. Provided this year's crop is a good one (and that's always the risk, you do as well as the farmer does), then I won't have to supplement my weekly CSA goody basket with outside produce. I will be spending $40 a week for fruits, veggies and a dozen eggs from June through November which means I'm cutting my shopping bill in half!
I'll still be going to the market every week to see if there's anything I can't live without and to pick up meat, milk, cheese and bread, so keep tuning in on Fridays for my Farmer's Market Finds column. And, starting on Tuesdays, I'll be filling you in on what I'm getting from my CSA and how much. Will one week be nothing but kale? I hope not, but if so, I'll give you the good and the not so good and the how to cook all this stuff anyway every Tuesday.

This is my first experience with a CSA. I've never been a get psyched kinda gal probably because I am still traumatized by my years of forced participation in an all girl's convent school. But I am psyched and I'm excited to enter a world of community support where we will enable our local farmers rather than our corporations. Maybe, come next winter, you'll be signing up for a CSA too.


  1. I am going to look into this, although for practical reasons, I am still unconvinced. My big concern with CSAs is re: control over what I receive on a weekly basis. I've done this before for veggies with a CSA in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and the experience was far less than ideal. While I could opt-out of certain produce at any time, I still found that I was receiving produce I simply didn't want to cook with, or sheer quantities of individual items that eventually rotted away in my refrigerator (like the pounds and pounds of carrots and swiss chard). I even bought a juicer to handle the overload, and even that lost its charm after a couple of months.

    Maybe it is about picking the right CSA that grows produce more suitable to your tastes, or adapting your cooking approach to accommodate seasonal variety.

  2. Here's a very helpful site for finding CSAs, Farmer's Markets and such in your neighborhood:

  3. Sounds like a good idea Peggy. Good luck - and have fun with it!

  4. I hear you, Brett. My worst nightmare would be 3 pounds of kale every week, but my farm appears to be very diversified in its plantings so here's hoping for a season of more than just kale and carrots.

    Thanks for posting the link! What a great resource.

  5. I'm a new reader, and I'm loving your blog. I belong to a CSA, too. Last year was my first year and I absolutely loved it.

    Have you thought of joining the One Local Summer Challenge? The goal is to eat one completely local meal a month. It was a great challenge last year and I'm looking forward to it again this year.

  6. Yay! I am so glad you're enjoying AWA, Ami!

    I've never heard of this challenge, but I'm going to have to give it a go... and a future post. Such an accessible way to get your toes wet in the local eating world.

    Thanks for reading (and commenting!), Ami. Please keep me posted on any other fun challenges and anything else you think might strike my fancy.



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