Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA programs, are a great option for those who love fresh food but don’t have the time, space or inclination to garden. When you join a CSA you sign up for a weekly or bi-weekly box or bag of fresh food right from a local farm. Some CSA programs allow you to select what you want, but most just send a one, two or four-person portion of whatever is in season. For example, a typical bag from the Spring Creek CSA in Palmer, Alaska contains basil, cabbage, onion, potatoes, kale, sage and winter squash. A bag from Blue Pike Farm in Cleveland, Ohio might contain beets, edamame, eggplant, blackberries and sweet peppers. Like many CSAs, Blue Pike offers add-ons like eggs and honey. Get a bag from the Ambrose Farm CSA in Charleston, South Carolina and you’ll get boiled peanuts, tomatoes, blueberries, okra, butternut squash, leeks, spinach and garlic. Ambrose also has their own shrimp boat so you can even add on fresh shrimp. A share for two people costs is usually under $20 week.
Joining a CSA is a commitment to eating local, expanding your culinary horizons and taking time to preserve an overabundance of whatever is in season. You may already be reminiscing about how your parents or grandparents lived this way out of necessity! What they knew that we’ve forgotten is that blueberries don’t grow in November, but preserving the excess in summer, even when you don’t think you can look at another blueberry, allows you to enjoy fresh blueberry muffins in January. Don’t think that won’t be the highlight of a gray, snowy day! Besides the culinary enjoyment, preserving summer’s bounty allows us to get a variety of nutrients during the winter. Food preservation is just so important – but sadly the knowledge and practice is almost extinct.
Many CSAs run year-round, and in most parts of the country September is the month when cooler temperatures mean plants go crazy and fruits and vegetables are at their best. Get in on the last blast of summer and preserve some of the deliciousness for winter treats. All CSA fruits and vegetables can be freeze dried, so when you get your 10th pound of green beans, don’t fret. Abundance is part of the natural rhythm of the Earth and freeze drying preserves all of the taste and nutrients so you can enjoy summer-like flavors all year round.
You can find a CSA in your area by searching on Local Harvest.