Summer Programming: The CSA Challenge

For the last two years, we've participated in a community-supported agriculture (CSA) box program. For those unfamiliar, a CSA works like this: you pay a farm in advance (sometimes in installments) for a weekly pickup of foodstuffs, for a set period of time, usually about 20 weeks, sometimes more, sometimes less depending on seasonal variations (tho a few, to their credit, run year-round). Each week you pick up a box of fruits & vegetables, with other things like grains, eggs, meat, honey or prepared foods like preserves added on (depending on what your farm in particular grows, or the farms they may be working in partnership with). And so it goes, until the time comes to an end for a season.

A CSA is a great thing for a number of reasons: it supports a local farmer, giving them cash up front at the beginning of a season when cash is tight, giving them the space to secure equipment, seed, or experiment with new things they may not have felt comfortable trying before (like a new crop or a new technique). It also brings you farm fresh produce weekly, and can be crazy substantial -- we've typically shared our boxes each year, alternating weeks, and found ourselves being able to use all the produce in about a week and a half time. So a full share, at the height of the season, can be generous. This is not to say there aren't ups and downs -- since you've essentially invested in the farmer for the season, if the season gets rough -- like a drought or extensive summer rains -- sometimes the box returns can be slim pickings. Sometimes, if you're not careful, you'll select a CSA that has an established crop preference (like ALL THE LETTUCES) -- tho that one is avoidable and most farms are forward about what they grow and don't. And the double edged sword -- sometimes you get produce you do not know about. And what can be both a challenge and a joy is finding out how to use it. 

We for one enjoy the ups and downs of the CSA model, and that's why this year, we're going to be documenting our experiences with it, and what we end up doing with our weekly bounty. We'll toss in some recipes, mention the retail value of our weekly drop, and throw around the highs lows and ostensible laughs of what happens when you suddenly end up with five pounds of rainbow chard. Hopefully you'll enjoy and come along for the ride!