Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Join the CSA community

It's all over the web: why you should join a CSA. So, I don't need to write about something everyone else already has. But, I'm just so darn excited about it.

I've had several people ask me about joining a CSA, or they want to know how to eat healthier, and each time, I give an answer much longer than what I'm sure they expected. I just can't hold back!

First, what is CSA? Community-supported agriculture is an agreement between farmer and community. CSA members make an agreement to support their farmer, and the farmer agrees to supply them with a share of the season's bounty.  Of course, farming relies on the whims of Mother Nature, so CSA members understand that if the weather doesn't cooperate, food may not be so plentiful. On the other hand, if there's a bumper crop, members reap the benefits along with the farmer.

How does it work? There are meat CSAs and cheese CSAs, but my experience has been with vegetable CSAs, so that's what I'm focusing on here. Different farms organize their CSAs differently. Here are some examples:

When we lived in Maine, we signed up for our first CSA at Little Ridge Farm. We chose one of two pick-up days per week, and went to the farm to get our veggies. Each week, we were told a certain total weight that all our veggies could add up to. It was up to us to weigh everything. Some things (like early tomatoes) had limits, and sometimes there was an extra item.

Now that we live in a less rural area, picking up at a farm isn't as practical, so we appreciate that farms like Kilpatrick Family Farm organize CSA pick ups at farmers markets. Like our farm in Maine, KFF lets you choose the veggies you want from what is available. The only difference is that theirs is done by item, rather than by total weight. KFF also has a required item each week -- usually a veggie that is plentiful.

Some farms package the food in a box each week or tell their members how much of which vegetables they can take. From what I've read, this is actually the more common way CSAs work. I can see the benefits here. The farmer ensures that the crops he has the most of are distributed, and the member has a quicker, simpler pick up. I believe this is the way Denison Farm, The Alleged Farm and Quincy Farm work.

WHY join a CSA? Really this is the most important question, right?

No matter what type of CSA you sign up for the benefits are huge. If getting a weekly supply of the best food possible at a discount, so you can keep your family healthy isn't enough to convince you, here are a few more reasons.

You and your family will try vegetables you've never eaten before. Your farmer is likely to give you recipes and help you learn how to cook the produce you're not familiar with. You might discover that you like rutabaga, parsnips or arugula. You'll get to enjoy garlic scapes in the spring. And, by eating locally grown food, you might find out what a carrot is supposed to taste like -- compared to what you find in the supermarket, there is a difference!

No matter what vegetables you discover, you will know where and how they were grown and who grew them. You will be closer to your food.

By signing up for a CSA, you join a community. Most farms send out weekly newsletters and invite CSAs members to visit and take tours. Some hold special events for their members. Some open their fields to members for pick-your-own berries or other crops. No matter what, you will see the same friendly faces each week and you will very likely form a one-on-one relationship with your farmer.

I'm pretty sure that all of the farms I mentioned, except for Denison Farm, still have shares left for the 2012 summer season. But, from what I hear they're selling fast. So, don't wait. Pick your farm and sign up for a CSA soon.

And, if I haven't convinced you here are some links from around the web where others will tell you how awesome CSAs are.

The Local Harvest , which is a great resources for finding CSAs, farmers markets and other sources of local food, defines CSA.
The members of From Scratch Club each gave their personal accounts of why they are CSA members, and I discovered, after I started writing this morning, they just posted a podcast on the subject.

(Addition): This piece a Grist talks about why CSAs are historical, and should remain, more than should "veggie subscriptions" and keep members connected to farms.

And, at, one blogger talks about a different type of CSA, her householder CSA.

I hope to bump into you while picking up my share.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Moments that make my heart happy

A few scenes of this pre-spring that have made me smile.

While he was doing this outside ...

I was doing this inside ...

And, yesterday, while he was doing this ...

his feet looked like this ...

I guess I might have extra laundry.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Oh, kohlrabi

                                                                                                         (stock image)
My boy's new favorite vegetable: Kohlrabi.
About two months ago kohlrabi was my new favorite vegetable.
Before this winter, I really didn't know what to do with it. I'm not sure why I didn't ask someone. I'm rarely shy about these things. Instead, I just looked at the odd looking vegetable on the market table and passed it up.
Then, I heard someone suggest cutting it up to eat in salad, or dip in hummus. Really? I thought it was a veggie for cooking. But, I gave it a try.
It really tastes nothing like a cucumber, but somehow I've made it my winter replacement for the cool summer curcubit. Kohlrabi is actually a member of the brassica family -- cousin to broccoli, cabbage and kale. It is crunchy like a radish, but has a cool, mild taste. It's really just plain wonderful.
So, ever since I made this discovery, I've been buying one just about every week. I cut it up to add to my salad, and I eat sticks of it along with my carrot sticks. I've offered some to the boy about a dozen times, but each time he's refused with his usual "yuck," UNTIL ...
Last week, I cut up veggie sticks for him to eat with hummus. Without saying a thing, I snuck a few kohlrabi sticks in the bowl. Lo and behold, that was the first thing he picked out of the bowl! He even asked for more!
And, it wasn't a fluke, he's eaten it again since.
I feel like this is proof that constantly offering a large variety of foods despite his relunctance to eat them, is worthwhile.
In my never-ending challenge to get my boy to eat new foods and get more veggies in his diet ...

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Unexpected pride

There are many moments, probably daily, when I'm proud of my boy. Things like when he says "thank you" without prompting, tries a new food or picks up his toys without argument.

Then, there's those really special moments, when I need to celebrate a milestone. Milestones like when he first walked on his own, the first diaper-free day, and learning to swim without assistance warrant calls to Grandma.

On Leap Day, I got to celebrate a moment of pride I wasn't anticipating. How awesome!

I had been feeling badly that the boy doesn't get to paint very often. We made him a really cool easel for Christmas and he's free to use the chalkboard side any time he wants. But, being ridiculously busy, I've been avoiding the mess involved in painting. I decided Tuesday he deserved to explore his creativity and got out the paints.

The photo at the top shows his typical work - colorful blends, but completely abstract.

Here's what he painted the other day.

Please tell me I'm not the only one who sees the trees.

This is the first time he has painted, or drawn anything other than blobs or circles. He says the one with the purple leaves is in another world. No joke. There was no prompting on that. I couldn't believe how proud I was. I couldn't wait for his father to get home so he could share our excitement -- and, he did. And, we did call Grandma.

I will definitely be saving this painting for many, many years.

And, the easel is just waiting for my little artist's next creation.