Friday, June 21, 2013

It's CSA Season! What Exactly Is A CSA Anyway? Inquiring Bellies Want To Know!

It's food...Glorious food! 

This post is for those who have been asking,"What exactly is a CSA?" Perhaps you wonder what the heck people are talking about when they refer those three letters. CSA means 'Community Supported Agriculture.' This is a way for you to work directly with the farmer who grows your food. I think that is awesome! 

Other than growing your own food this is the best way to know and control the quality of the food you consume every day! You pay a fee up front in order to get a weekly supply of fresh produce called a "share." It is just that simple, and the benefits to your health are tremendous. Get directly involved with your food, don't let it be just a commodity in a box, or a can, any longer. You will love your new earthy relationship and you may make a few friends along the way! 

On this post I will share photos of our various weekly CSA hauls living on the east coast, and also those of a relative in another nearby state. Foods will vary over the season, this is what has been growing around the mid-Atlantic region each week during this month.

Fresh Picked Greens rest in the water bins waiting for pick up at the farm.

Each week's produce that you will receive will depend on what is in season, or what your farmer chooses to grow. Some CSA farmers are completely organic, and others call themselves sustainable. It is up to you to research the farming methods of the farm you employ for your food. We found our local farm through the 'Local Harvest' website where you put in your zip code and they will let you know what farms and farmers markets are available in your area. They have charts of information about each farm including growing information. Then you research each one from that point and contact them directly. The sign-up to become a CSA member usually happens at the beginning or end of the year. Some farmers offer partial shares, half-shares, or full shares of their weekly offerings. If you still want to participate and join after the season has started just call around to your local farms and see if that is still possible.

Various shades of lettuce await their turn to go home with someone.

You will also find that some CSA farms may have longer growing seasons, some may cost more than others, some may give you bigger shares, some may include egg, pork, chicken, beef, dairy products, homemade items as well along with the weekly produce. There are a variety of options to consider in making your final choice. Each situation is different, and you need to decide what options are right for your family, and choose a farm that meets your needs in any of these areas. In our specific area, our CSA farmer had the longest growing season, the most variety, and was certified organic, all for a reasonable price. We emailed him, met him in person at a local farmers market, and in addition I had read some articles he had written. I loved the way he thought about food and farming issues. All of those qualities came together to make him our personal farmer. We are very happy with Farmer Tom and his dedication, plus he is a very cool dude! Rock on Farmer Tom!

Many CSA farms have a newsletter, or a website that will inform you about the produce you will be getting that week. They may also speak about how the produce was grown, give you some recipes, and tell stories about what's happening at the farm. It's a new sense of belonging to a food community. You must also keep in mind that the farm and produce are tied to the weather, and things may happen both good or bad during the growing season. You learn compassion for your farmer spending long days bent over in the fields or wrestling with pests. You understand the work it takes to grow your food, and get it to you fresh picked and vibrating with life. I am including a video at the end of this post that does a great job explaining the CSA experience, so please take a look if you are considering this way of adding to your food paradigm.

Farm fresh eggs from actual free range chickens.

Last year we shared the experience with my daughter's family to get to know how a CSA worked and share the expense. Going to the farm makes for a great family outing, I always enjoy the drive and can't wait to see what goodies are waiting each week. Some of the veggies are in bins, some in the refrigerator, and others in a cooler. We take along a large bag and in the heat of summer we bring a cooler bag too. 

Some farms have pick up points in a few different towns, some are just at the farm itself, some may have pick up at the local farmers market, and others may have a home delivery service. So "pick-up" will depend on the farm's method.

If you are assigned a 'pick up day' by your CSA you can pick-up your food during most of that day, which covers stopping by after work to get your share. Our farm has a choice of one of two pick up days available. We found the pick-up day at the beginning of the week worked best for us, because of my husband's gig schedule on the weekends. That way we have time to use the produce immediately, instead of getting the food share later in the week where it might get wasted, because of a crazy weekend schedule where we were constantly on the road. 

Our granddaughter last year marveling at the greenhouse.

This year it is just the two of us getting the weekly share, and we find the amount of produce we get now works out nicely. Although I do miss going to the farm with my grandchildren and sharing the farm experience together. Our girl could not wait to get out of the car and check it all out!

Going into our second year of the CSA I can tell you that we really value our farmer, as he does everything organic, and has total commitment to that goal. We feel fortunate to have someone who really cares about the quality of the food we eat. He has a number of greenhouses on his property which allow for a longer growing season than some other CSA's in our area, and he also teams up with another nearby organic farm that produces chicken, egg, turkey and pork shares if that is desired. Most of the time when we pick up our share at the farm we can see Farmer Tom out in the fields working. On occasion we get to speak with him, and we enjoy these times to chat and hear how he is doing. 

Your fresh produce is going to be so full of flavor! Those little local strawberries are one hundred times tastier than those crazy nuclear sized pieces of cardboard that are sold at the supermarket! Lots of variety is coming your way from the CSA too! In fact a cool thing about being part of a CSA is you may receive veggies n' herbs you have never even seen before! Wow! This is a wondrous part of the local farm fresh food adventure! It is so fun to try new foods and learn how to prepare the new dishes. Most of the time you will love these new produce items, so don't be afraid... be brave and go beyond the sweet corn.

Remember that you want your produce to come from nearby to where you live. Industrial food products travel 1500 miles to get to your local store. That is why it is important to buy and eat local...freshness! Be a locavore, support small business, and farmers! Always make sure the farms are organic, or at the least follow sustainable farming practices, because pesticides, fungicides, antibiotics, and hormones are the same toxins, even if they are in local produce, meat or dairy. You can also look for various places to get local grass-fed meats and dairy at the website Eat Wild.

If you cannot afford to join a CSA, perhaps you can go in on a share with someone else to split the cost, or grow your own food, (see my page called "Grow Food" above this post), or join a community garden, or you can certainly frequent local farmers markets. Some farmers markets will accept the SNAP program. 

We know in order to get the most nutrients it is important to eat your greens like broccoli and other veggies within a day or two of being picked. That cannot happen at the supermarket. So getting your food from a CSA, a farmers market, a community garden, or in your own backyard garden, is the way to get the most healing goodness out of your food. That is what we are always aiming for when filling our belly...the power of "Nutrient Density!" The food is delicious, you will be assured it is grown locally and in our case fully organic with well thought out sustainable practices. Plus you will feel great knowing you are supporting a local farmer who really cares.  With all the latest scientific evidence pointing to the major pesticides and GMO's being the reason behind so many of our modern illnesses you simply must begin to accept organic as the first pillar to healing your body. There's probably a CSA in your area, check it out!

Watch the video above, grab your bags, and get that healthy fresh produce from your local farm and farmer into your bellies! You will really love farm life... Yes......"Green acres is the place to be....."

(If you know that song I just gave you a wicked ear worm! haha!)


  1. I am a first time CSA-er and loving it! The smell when I first open my bag is clean and unique depending on the produce. Since I am only one I share with another couple - this works out so nothing is wasted - super! It is truly exciting to peek into the bag and be surprised by what is inside - every week is an adventure! Thanks Crystal for writing this article. Those on the fence may get just the nudge they need to go for it!

    1. Thanks Brande for sharing your enthusiasm! I hope more people join us in the excitement of weekly farm fresh food! It's like getting a cracker jax box prize each week! Only with this way it is healthy and you can eat it too!