Live Consciously

Why Community Supported Agriculture Is Awesome

You know that super delicious baby green salad you just ate at the uber hot spot in your ‘hood? All of the ingredients were grown on a rooftop in Queens.

And remember that amazing yellow gazpacho you had at your friend’s house last week?The tomatoes and herbs were grown hydroponically on the counter of her kitchen.

The box your neighbors had you sign for while they were hiking the Grand Canyon? It’s a delivery of organic produce that gets shipped to them from a little farm in New Jersey every Wednesday.

Know where I’m going with all of this? Little road side farm stands aren’t the only game in (or out of) town anymore. There”s amazing progress going on in the world of growing organic foods and getting it to urbanites.

There’s one system that’s the gold standard in the minds of farmers, foodies and registered dietitians alike and unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of a CSA.

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.

Here’s the deal: if you’re interested in joining a CSA, it’s kind of like joining a club.

Unlike a farmer’s market where you drop in and pick and choose what you want and pay for it as you go, when you join a CSA, you’re part of a movement, which supports local farming and healthful foods for those who don’t have their own farm or garden.

3 Things to Know Before Joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA):

1. You buy a “share.” Before the growing season begins, you purchase a (crop) “share” directly from the farmer.

Because you give the farmer money up front for the season, they have funds to buy seeds and equipment to grow and deliver your produce (and often dairy, eggs, meats and sometimes baked goods or wine).

The farmer tells you what you can look forward to in each weekly delivery and you’re not guaranteed an exact list because crops vary based on weather and other factors.

Shares vary depending upon the farm, and many offer half shares or opportunities to split a share.

2. You’re part of the community. Generally once a week, you pick up your share from the CSA location. Often the produce is set up on tables and you’re told how many onions to take or how many pounds of summer squash to grab.

This gives you an opportunity to interact with other members, share recipes, swap cucumbers or simply chat about last night’s Netflix binge.

Many CSAs ask you to help set up or break down the site once or twice as part of your membership, which, yes, helps connect you further to your food. And after all,  that whole farm to table thing does require logistics.

3. You must be flexible and adventurous in the kitchen. More likely than not, you’ll get something in your share that you’re inexperienced with from time to time. Pok choi, kholrabi and garlic scapes are delicious, but you need to know what to do with them, right?

Use the community (and the weekly newsletter) to learn more how to store, clean and cook your exotic bounty. There are some great sites to help you make the most of your share.

Do some research and visit a CSA local to you, so you can prepare to join one.

Speak to the farmer and some members so that you can really see the mutual benefits of participating.

And, at your next dinner party, be sure to say that the smashed pink potato with garlic scape and sautéed ramp side dish came from “your farm!”