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The Freshest Produce: Community-Supported Agriculture

The Freshest Produce: Community-Supported Agriculture

I first got introduced to the concept of community-supported agriculture (CSA) back when I lived in the Bay Area, where being part of a CSA was so common it was almost taboo to abstain from the practice. Still, I didn't join one because the availability of fresh, delicious produce was insane. You could get it anywhere, so I just couldn't justify the commitment. But once I moved to Southern California and was bummed about the paucity of unique grocery chains offering solid and affordable produce, I looked into joining a CSA. I have been part of the Be Wise Ranch CSA for nearly seven years now, and it's one of the best lifestyle choices I ever made.

How does a CSA work?

You pay a (usually weekly or bi-weekly) fee to purchase shares of the farm, and in exchange you get a box of fresh produce each week (or every-other-week, however your plan is set up). Typically, boxes are picked up from the homes of other CSA members, with pick-up spots distributed around a fairly vast area. Those members that offer their home as a pick-up spot often get their fee waived (so yea, free food).

I love my CSA so much that I highly recommend trying one out. Still, I recognize that it is rather a lifestyle commitment - and as such, it's not for everyone. Here is an overview of some of the pros and cons of joining a CSA.

CSA benefits:

  • You know exactly where your food came from.
  • You are supporting local agriculture (which can be organic or conventional, depending on your farm).
  • It is generally much cheaper than a comparable load from the farmer's market.
  • Your produce is absolutely the freshest stuff available.
  • Food-ruts are avoided as you are kind of forced to integrate a variety of good healthy food into your diet.
  • You will necessarily become a more creative cook (I would otherwise have no clue what to do with, for example, dandelion greens...nor would I care).

CSA downsides:

  • You do not get to pick what you get each week.
  • You may end up with a surplus of certain foods at certain times of year (hello, summertime beets).
  • Pick-up locations and times may or may not be the most convenient.
  • As you will necessarily become a more creative cook, this is going to require some time/effort/planning.

Because my CSA is a something I love being part of, I'll be posting some "solutions" to these CSA downsides in subsequent posts, so stay tuned.

If I already convinced you to try a CSA, check out these resources to locate a farm near you.

Picking up our CSA produce. Most CSA's ask that you bring your own bags and leave their packaging so they can reuse it. Yet another thing to love about the set-up: less waste.

Picking up our CSA produce. Most CSA's ask that you bring your own bags and leave their packaging so they can reuse it. Yet another thing to love about the set-up: less waste.

 

Top photo: the Be Wise Ranch box from July 22, 2016, including (clockwise-ish from top left) heirloom tomatoes, kale, slicer tomatoes, butternut squash, mixed greens, nectarines, oranges, arugula, peaches, chard, lemon cucumbers, spaghetti squash, carrots.  

Photos by Lauren Shipp

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