I am so grateful to live in a very fertile, abundant area. Farmer’s Markets and roadside produce stands are everywhere. With all the choice available to me, I have really embraced eating locally and seasonally for the past couple of years.
This year, I’m taking the local and seasonal part one step further: I’ve signed up for a CSA share! I’m so excited — and also a little nervous.
Wait — What is a CSA Share?
Community Supported (or Shared) Agriculture are programs that directly link the farmers that grow produce with local consumers. CSA customers buy a seasonal share, then pick up a fresh box of veggies from their farmer each week. The produce varieties and amounts in the box depend upon what the farmer plants and what actually grows – just like having your own garden!
In addition to receiving produce that is much fresher than what you find in the grocery store, it has also been grown in a way that is healthier for you and the land. From The Ontario CSA Farms Directory, “CSA farms offer TRULY FRESH, quality food that have little or no pesticides. They are dedicated to proper land stewardship involving crop rotation as well as NATURAL and SUSTAINABLE growing practices… CSA farmers follow proper land STEWARDSHIP practices so the soil and produce will continue to be healthy for future generations.”
The reason for my excitement is clear. A box of local, fresh, organic and affordable produce each week? Yes please!
But why the nerves? Well, here are three reasons my partner and I were hesitant to take the plunge:
Or I suppose, lack thereof. Personally, this doesn’t concern me too much, though the Mandult still says, “Yuck!” when certain veggies are mentioned. But the reality is, he’s a pretty game eater. (Thank you Honey, for quietly suffering the recipe failures.) Since I prefer to work out recipes and meals from what I have in the kitchen already, I actually want the inspiration that comes with a “surprise.” All in all, I expect we’ll be OK on this front.
Plus, if we find some of our favourites are missing, there should still be room in our appetites and budgets to buy some extra items on the side (and continue to support my favourite markets a bit too!).
Hopefully we don’t have to buy too much on the side though, as the idea is to have the money we put into the CSA take a big chunk off our grocery budgets this summer. The big upfront cost did seem a little daunting, but it was quite doable.
However, what we really wonder is if the $25/week it breaks down to will be economical. I’m very confident it will be cheaper than buying organic at the grocery store. However, I rarely do so in summer anyway, since I try to go direct to the producers whenever possible. I find this already saves money. (Talk about win win!) So it will be interesting to see how the CSA compares to buying individual items locally. I expect it will be a good deal so long as we eat everything, which brings me to our main concern…
1. Using it all up
I hate to admit it, but we have let way too much food go to waste in the past. But we’ve been doing so much better lately, that I’m finally ready to commit to whatever the harvest brings.
For one, I’m better at meal planning, and we definitely cook and eat at home more than we did this time last year. We have a deep freezer now, so there is some space for things we can’t keep up on. Plus, I started canning last summer, and absolutely love it – so I will happily welcome any kind of excess that can go in a jar!
Most importantly, I plan to stick to a system and stay organized. Each week, when we get our CSA box home, I will set aside some time for sorting and prep work (such as washing greens, peeling and chopping up snacks, etc.). This already has made a huge difference in using up individual items we’ve been buying — particularly lettuce.
Also, since I’m a visual and tactile (and generally forgetful) person, I will be writing down what we received and some plans for the produce (including “research” if I get a veggie I’ve never seen before!). That info can then hang on the fridge for the week, to guide all the hungry mouths to the goodness.
I created a weekly planning sheet to keep it all organized – and guess what? I’m sharing it with you for free in my resource library! Just become a subscriber to get access to all my printables!
Follow My Adventure
I also know this blog is going to help me stay on top of all the goodness, because I will be chronicling my first CSA season here. I plan to do a weekly roundup of the veggies we got, recipes I got to try, perhaps some cost comparisons, and full admission if something went in the compost bin!
I’m sure by the end of the year we will have a clear picture of whether the CSA was a good choice for us, and perhaps it will help some of you who are on the fence about signing up, just like I was.
But for now, I just can’t wait for my first pick up!
All photos and edits by Gina at Aaah!dulthood. All rights reserved.
Do you belong to a CSA? If so, do you have any tips for getting the most out of the experience?