Aren’t sure a CSA is right for you? We understand that the CSA model is unique. While we love this model of distributing our delicious food, we know it isn’t for everyone. Here are some thoughts on what you should consider when thinking about joining a CSA.
You should truly enjoy eating vegetables. From canned spinach to tasteless sweet potatoes, I feel like the global food industry has created several generations of vegetable skeptics. Tomatoes picked green just don’t have the same flavor and texture has ones picked red (tomatoes picked at the breaker stage -just barely starting to show color- can be sold as “vine-ripened”). Carrots that have never experienced a frost are never going to reach their full flavor potential. Have you tried our fall carrots?? Sweetest. Carrots. Ever. We have CSA customers telling us they can no longer purchase certain vegetables at the grocery store. Even though our vegetables are super tasty and therefore easier to enjoy, you will get a lot of them as a CSA member, so you have to have that preliminary interest in them.
You also have to be willing to try new vegetables! The height of the season comes with summertime favorites of tomatoes, sweet corn, green beans and potatoes. But this summer season is bookended with lots of greens and more unfamiliar vegetables. The CSA will expose you to small pink turnips and large purple radishes. You’ll get mustard greens, fennel, and kohlrabi. All these vegetables will need to make their way from the fridge onto your plate, bringing me to my next point.
You have enjoy cooking–or at least be willing to put some effort into it. Boiling Brussels sprouts just isn’t going to create an amazing meal. But roasting them with a little balsamic vinegar and shaved parmesan will have you licking the plate. Getting creative in the kitchen should sound exciting and fun. A side of meat, a side of grain and a side of vegetables will work sometimes but more often then not, during the CSA season, the vegetables have to be the star of the show. Often you just need to tweak your cooking style to accommodate the increase in vegetables. For example if you are having tacos, just throw sautéed zuchinni, spinach or broccoli into the ground beef. It really doesn’t matter which veggies you throw in!
Before I started farming, I never heard of a lot of these vegetables either and I wasn’t very comfortable in the kitchen. (I still remember being educated on our first day of work by a 5 year old farm kid at the very first farm we interned on. She bounded out to the patch of lettuce we were weeding with a container of some very interesting looking lunch. She had to explain to me what her lunch was- pea shoot pesto served over quinoa.) It does take time for some to master CSA style cooking but you can get to the point where meals are original but take little thought and can be made quickly.
Pictured above are some of the creative ways we’ve served greens. We created a savory french toast bake with french toast topped with creamed Swiss chard. Mustard greens and sausage are a great combo for pizza or pasta. We love making a peanut sauce and serving it on a bed of steamed greens.
So you need to enjoy vegetables and cook at home frequently, but why not just get your vegetables from the supermarket? Being part of a CSA is a very deliberate choice. I asked our CSA members why they join year after year and most answers had to do with knowing their farmer and getting local produce. Members like that they are supporting the local economy and a small family farm. They find value in their produce coming from 12 miles away as opposed to over 2,000 miles away.
So this conscious choice to join a CSA comes with some sacrifice–the convenience of the grocery store, the lack of customer choice with veggie selection, the possibility of crop failures. CSA members tell me that their vegetable intake is definitely higher during the 24 week season, so members are also actively finding ways to eat more veggies (a challenge that is definitely appreciated by our returning members but a challenge nonetheless). For these reasons, we are all about supporting our CSA members so they make the most of their box. We provide recipes each week and have a member only Facebook group where members share recipes and kitchen tips with each other. I love seeing what customers come up with. We had one CSA member make fennel upside down cake with her fennel. Yum!
Organic production, local and seasonal food, and community wellness all hold special value for a successful CSA member. I love that the CSA model addresses the health of three things: the land, the local economy, and our bodies! Comment below if CSA provides a value to you that I didn’t address!