Thursdays are my favorite. I was giddy all day last Thursday and I will be this Thursday. I love the excitement of coming home, grabbing a few of my reusable grocery bags, and heading over to my CSA pickup spot to find out what veggies are waiting for me this week.
This is my first CSA and while it’s only been a week, I’m hooked. In case you’re not familiar with the acronym I’ve been throwing around so carelessly it stands for Community Supported Agriculture. So what does that mean? Well, in the winter I bought a “share” of a small farmer’s haul for the next growing season. The farmer gets working capital and I get beautiful fresh veggies from a biodynamic, not certified organic, but organic (I’ll explain in a minute) local farm. Here’s my first week’s haul.
I’m lucky; our CSA pickup is two blocks from my apartment in the courtyard of a church. A few CSAs operate out of the yard, but we’re specifically part of Roxbury Farm’s CSA. Like I said it’s a biodynamic farm which means it utilizes all its resources to be a (or nearly a) self-sustaining farm. They use compost and manure from their animals to fertilize the fields, start their beds with seeds from last year’s crops, practice field rotation, and more. No chemical fertilizers, no pesticides.
While the farm meets organic standards, it doesn’t have USDA Organic Certification. This is fairly common for smaller farm operations. The increase in paperwork, bureaucracy, and yearly fee that go along with this third party certification make it a burden to pursue. Many farmers don’t, it isn’t in their best interest. So when I’m at the farmers market I try not to be a certification snob because I know that those organic, but not certified vendors care a lot about quality and shouldn’t be ignored. But now I don’t have to visit the market as often! I get so excited, picking up my share of what’s been harvested this week and starting soon I’ll get a share of fruit, chickens, and pork too. Thant’s right I’m about to be the proud owner of sustainable bacon, for however short a time it remains in our house. Roxbury also has sheep and cattle, all of these animals are certified Animal Welfare Approved, which doesn’t require a yearly certification fee and is far more small-farm-friendly.
Beyond feeling good about buying local and sustainable, I get to try new foods. I’ve never seen kohlrabi before, but now I’ve eaten one. And Tat Soi! I had to try it because its got flowers and for some reason I really enjoy the idea of eating flowers. I sautéed it with a little pepper and garlic and it tasted like spinach and broccoli rabe.
My two absolute favorite things about our CSA is first that you’re required to volunteer for three hours, I helped pack up the produce at the end of the day, carefully relocating any caterpillars I found amongst the produce to safer spots. For just a short time I felt like I was the farmer, carrying my produce about and it felt freeing and natural. I could tell the other volunteers were enjoying the physical labor too, that we were all a little envious that the farming fantasy was just that a fantasy. Second I love that, like on the farm, nothing’s wasted and so the produce remaining at the end of the day gets donated. When I was done packing up the produce I carried it downstairs and into a large kitchen where the church runs the local food pantry. It’s wonderful knowing that my kitchen is full of fresh produce and so will another person more in need than me.
There are a lot of CSA opportunities in places like NYC and LA where local and organic food movements are growing rapidly. But don’t worry if you don’t live in a giant metropolis, CSAs are popping up everywhere. Here’s a website that allows you to look up your area and see your CSA options. Check it out.
P.S. I have a pea!!!! I’d have a shoddy CSA, but I’m proud of my growing capabilities nonetheless.