For those of you that remember, I took the plunge and joined a CSA last year for the first time. It was a daunting, sometimes overwhelming, fun, educational experience that I decided to partake in once again this year. With a few changes.
Before I get to far, I should explain what a CSA is for those of you who aren’t familiar. CSA stands for community supported agriculture or community shared agriculture. In my case, in March, I paid an upfront commitment to support a local farm and share the benefits (abundant harvest) and risks (drought, flood, etc) with the farmers. Each week, I receive my “share” of the harvest, watching it change with the seasons. CSAs began gaining popularity in the 1980s in the USA and have been growing ever since, mostly due to the rise in awareness of the environmental impacts of our food distribution system. Buying local, organic, and sustainable food is now easier than ever.
This year, I cut my commitment in half from a full share to a half share. Last year I was often overwhelmed by the size and abundance of my share and racing to use as much of the supply as I could. Many times I ended up throwing away some of the produce, which defeated the purpose of participating in the first place. I’m still nervous about the conveyor belt of weekly shares that I am about to jump onto, however I’m better prepared and excited to see what’s coming down the line first.
Some tips I picked up from last year that I plan to implement right away:
1. Plan flexible meals for the week. Typically, I do my meal planning and food shopping on Fridays or Saturdays for the week ahead. I don’t stop doing this when the weekly shares start pouring in, but I do increase my flexibility with what I plan. Most of what I receive in the box can be added to a meal as a delicious side or accompaniment. I often leave a day or two open for ideas that come out of the box as well.
2. Get my girls involved. Every week we come home from “the farmer” (or the generous family who has volunteered to be a local pick up spot for my town, since the farm is 45 minutes away) and we play “name that vegetable”. My daughters love it and so do I. They don’t always know what I pull out of the box but I know that playing games around good food is something that I want them to enjoy. They touch, smell and often taste nearly everything. My inner game show host comes out too.
3. Empty, clean and store everything the night I get the box. Since I pick the box up on Tuesday nights this is not easy for me. Or enjoyable. My husband plays in a basketball league every Tuesday night and is not home until 10p. So, after a long day of him being out the door before the girls wake up, my own work, and busy schedules, the LAST thing I want to do is unload and prep all those ingredients. But let me tell you, I LOVE it on Wednesday morning and am much more likely to use what I’ve received throughout the week.
This year, the farm sent out this amazing book of recipes, guidelines, tips and tricks which got me really excited to start the season. Here’s to going with the flow, having fun, and good food!
PS – there are so many CSAs available around the country. Do a local search of your area to see if you can participate!