Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Buying local, eating well: fun with CSA

Three weeks ago I took the plunge and did something I've been wanting to do for a long time.

We signed up for a farm share!

Farm shares, also knows as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), are such a fun way to support your community.  To participate, you simply pay a certain amount to the farm up front for a share of its crop during the season.  Every week, you go and pick up your portion.  What you get depends on what is in season and available - sometimes there is a different selection every week!

As soon as I saw an advertisement for Old Grove Farm Shares, which is a coalition of 28 farmers in inland Southern California selling shares to help support their farms, I knew I wanted to participate.**  Over the last couple years, we have transitioned to buying primarily local, organic produce.  There were so many reasons to make this change, including:
  • The quality of the produce.  Nothing compares to the taste of vegetables that were just picked that morning, that haven't been cooled and shipped hundred or thousands of miles.  And oh, the fruit!  There is just no comparison between store bought strawberries and the fresh, ripe, juicy offerings at the farmer's market. We have never been disappointed by any locally-grown product we've purchased.
  • Minimizing our footprint.  I really hate the thought that so many fossil fuels are burned and water/electricity spent moving produce to our grocery stores and keeping it alive.  The low cost of produce in the stores is appealing, but when you consider the environmental impact of the supply chain, it really makes you wonder why they are so cheap.  I love the thought that the foods I eat are grown just down the road, breathing the same air that I am, and no resources are wasted on unnecessary packaging or preservatives.
  • Feeling like a part of the community.  I know all the vendors at the local farmer's market now.  They tell me stories about the food I'm eating, they describe their offerings with love and convey a genuine passion for what they do.  I tell you, it is impossible to eat mindlessly when you can picture the face of the person whose time and sweat went into growing your carrots.
We paid up front for a half-share, which comes out to $18 per week for 13 weeks.  Our first bag included everything in the picture above - oranges, tangerines, strawberries, kale, lettuce, carrots, red potatoes, and an avocado.  The next week's bag contained purple carrots, two avocados, 2 bunches of a different kind of kale, lettuce, a grapefruit, and assorted citrus.  This week was much of the same, but with some radishes thrown in.  Everything has been incredibly fresh, perfectly ripe, and delicious.  A full share is $28 per week, paid up front.  If we can afford it, I wouldn't mind signing up for a full share next season.

I know, $18 a week is not cheap - especially since this is just part of our total produce consumption every week.  We are not rich.  We are not even "comfortable."  Money is tight, and we struggle often to make ends meet.  But there are some things I will not compromise on, and eating good food is one of them.  We skimp and sacrifice in a lot of other areas to be able to afford to eat organic and local, but that is just what's right for our family and how we choose to live.

I would encourage you to check out Old Grove or CSAs in your area.  If that doesn't work for you, or the cost is prohibitive, try to swing by a local farmer's market every now and then!  At the very least, you'll talk to some interesting people.  Chances are, though, you're going to be hooked. 

Especially if you try the strawberries.

** I was not compensated in any way for this review. I found the service on my own, loved it, and wanted to share my honest opinion with you all.


  1. I have thought about doing this so many times but never have. Do you generally use everything you get in your box? That's why I never signed up; I just wasn't sure I'd use everything.

    1. We're three weeks in and I haven't wasted anything yet. I know it will be challenging in the future when we get things we don't normally eat... like beets or parsnips.... but it will also be kind of fun trying to work them into recipes! I think if you want to try it, definitely start with a half share. It's not an overwhelming amount of food, and if you are short on time you can just throw it all into a big salad :)

  2. For those who are adventurous with cooking and eating, this is definitely the way to go. It's the 21st century.