What exactly IS a CSA?
The magic of a CSA share. Do you know what a CSA is? Many people don’t. It stands for Community Supported Agriculture. What does that mean you wonder? Well, I am just the gal to tell ya all about it, because I am one of the biggest fans out there. Basically, you are buying a “share” in a local farm, and in return, you receive a box of produce from that farm every week.
The benefit? Amazing, local, in-season, and many times organic food straight from the farm to your kitchen! If you have little time, space, or desire to garden, this is a great option. Farmer’s markets are amazing too, but I’ve found that our schedules make it tricky to make it there often enough to keep our fridge stocked.
So, how does it work and how much does it cost?
Well, the first step is to research a farm in your area that offers CSA memberships. The farm we use is called Culinary Delights. I found it by searching on the Minnesota grown website. If you’re not in Minnesota, a quick google search for CSA farms in your state should do the trick. Once you’ve picked your farm, they will require you to purchase your share in full before the season starts.
Different states have different growing seasons. Here in Minnesota, it’s from mid-June until Mid October. This year our share cost us $400, (Sounds scary, but wait for it…) and spans for 18 weeks. That’s averaging less than $23 a week for a fridge full of the same day picked, organic produce!
So, how much, and what kind of produce will I get in my CSA?
This will vary by your farm and what region you live in. We are currently approaching our fifth week for this season. So far over the past month, we have received two kinds of lettuce, kale, new potatoes, gold potatoes, beets, green beans, herbs, shelling peas, sugar snap peas, yellow and green zucchini, and summer squash.
The amount and variety will vary week to week, some weeks will be more than others, but the general amount of what we get in our box will fill two average-sized reusable grocery bags. (We are gearing up for the sweet corn! It’s not a Minnesota summer without local sweet corn.)
How do I get my veggies?
Typically your farm will have multiple pick-up sites that they will deliver too. Ours has at least 10 or more sites in our area. When you purchase your share, you will select which pickup site works best for you. The farm will tell you what day your share will be delivered and the times when you can pick it up from that site.
The sites can be businesses or local residents. Most farms offer a discounted membership if you volunteer to be a pick-up site. Our site is our dental office and it’s only 3.5 miles from our house! My husband picks it up on his way home from work every Monday.
Do the veggies come ready to eat?
As much as I LOVE my CSA and think EVERYONE should take part, there are a few things to be aware of. First of all, be prepared to thoroughly clean everything. It pretty much comes straight to you from the ground. Many things get a rinse down at the farm, and some things wash up quick and easy, but some things, like lettuce, will still have dirt on them. I end up washing each leaf individually which can be a bit time consuming. You will want to invest in a good salad spinner. After each leaf is cleaned I use the spinner to extract all the water so the lettuce is ready to eat and/or store.
Do you have any tips for getting the most out of my CSA?
#1 Be prepared for lots of food!
Sometimes you get more food then you can eat! Sounds like a good problem right?! This means so that nothing gets wasted, you will need to be organized and prepared. You’ll want to learn how to properly freeze or preserve your extras. Sharing with friends and family is a great option too!
#2 Learn how to properly store and preserve produce
Not everything can just be popped in the freezer. Although many things can! Learning how to blanch and what things need to be blanched before freezing will be important. (Here’s a quick tutorial on how to freeze green beans)
Things like cucumbers and peppers can be pickled and canned. (Check out my sweet pickled banana peppers for beginner canners HERE.) Tomatoes can be frozen or canned. Even zucchini can be shredded and frozen making it easy to whip up zucchini bread or muffins. I will be adding more how to’s covering these things individually to the blog soon.
#3 Meal plan
Planning your meals around what’s coming in your box is also important in preventing waste. My farm sends out a weekly newsletter three days before our pick-up day informing us of what will be in the share, this is so helpful in helping me plan my meals for the week, and prevent us from having any food go to waste.
#4 Expect some unusual or new to you veggies
The last thing you will want to be prepared for is that you will most likely get a few veggies you either: have never heard of, or have no clue what to do with it. This can be a fun challenge! Or it can be a big pain in the butt. I’d never heard of kohlrabi until I got one last year in our box, and every year I battle what to do with eggplant. Curse you eggplant! But these are the challenges that we learn and grow from, so I refuse to get discouraged!
So now you know what a CSA membership is and hopefully, it’s something that you can take advantage of and benefit from! Supporting local, organic farms is SUCH an important thing. I love that I know where my food came from and that it’s free of harmful pesticides. You can’t get veggies fresher then same day picked and you will learn how to eat in season, which means healthy fresh food for you and your family.
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