My CSA challenge

csaLast fall I took on a challenge that I had been wanting to do for quite awhile- become a CSA member.  If you’re not familiar with that term, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  Every week you pay a monetary share to the local farm and in return, receive a ‘box’ (or canvas tote bag in my case) of whatever goodies they happen to be growing that week.  I consider this to be a challenge because not only is the produce assortment a bit of a surprise, but also because I was embarrassed at how many vegetables I couldn’t even identify.  Once I learned what these mystery items were, I had to figure out what to do with them.  Can I throw them into some already planned stews or salads or do I need to research a new recipe?  Another aspect of this challenge was to see just how many greens I could fit into my belly every day.  This was quite a healthy challenge.

I greatly enjoy discovering new foods and recipes, the feeling of supporting a local farm directly, and learning the exact schedule of what local foods are grown and when.  Whether or not you’re ready to take the leap into CSA life or not, here are a few easy take away tips that I learned from my CSA challenge-

  • Shop local. Farmer’s markets, food co-ops, and specialty grocery stores are great places to find fresh local produce options.  Buyer beware though- some of these ‘specialty’ items can be very pricey.  When you learn what’s in season though, there’s usually plenty of it and therefore a lower price.
  • Greens, greens, greens.  Every meal that you make, ask yourself if there’s a way to incorporate greens into it.  If not, could you eat a side salad?  They’re packed full of vitamins and nutrients that it can only benefit you to add more into your diet.
  • Don’t forget about the other items.  My CSA farm offered local eggs, meats, and flowers.  Remember these other items in addition to produce that can be made locally.
  • Better for your body and environment.  Nearly all CSA veggies are organic (whether the farm is big enough to pay for the technical certification or not), but you can always ask to be sure.  Organic (chemical and pesticide free) is always better for your body and buying locally saves on food transportation.  The average piece of produce travels 1000 miles to get to your plate.  That’s a lot of fuel you’re saving if you buy from the farm one town away.
  • Plan ahead.  Plan your week and shop for what you need, rather than grabbing up everything that looks good.  There were several weeks where I ended up pawning off veggies on some hungry-looking friends because I just hadn’t spent the time to plan out everything.  Fresh food has a limited shelf life.
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