Mark and I have taken the next step in our quest to eat locally produced food this year by joining a couple of CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture). This is how it works: before the planting season, you pay the CSA for a set number of deliveries throughout the harvest season – paying up front allows the farmers to receive the funding they need to kick-off the planting season. We selected a full farm share – 20 weekly organic produce boxes late June-October, plus three monthly pick-ups November-January. Most CSAs also have a half-farm share available as well, with bi-monthly pick-ups. You pick up your box at a set location every week. In addition to produce, we also selected 2 doz eggs/month.
Vegetable/Fruit CSA – Home Grown Wisconsin
In joining a CSA, you’re not only supporting local farmers, but you also take on a bit of risk as well…when the floods hit this summer in Wisconsin, it wiped out a number of the farms in our CSA. They actually had to cancel deliveries for 2 weeks in July so that the farms had time to take care of their farms, and re-plant if necessary. To compensate, they added two more weeks at the end of the season. With our weekly produce box, we also received a newsletter, listing all of the veggies for the week, a letter from the CSA, interviews with farmers, and recipe ideas. I love the newsletter – it really helps you feel connected to the farms that you’re supporting, and some of the recipes have been excellent.
As a cook, a CSA is a really fun time – you have to improvise and be creative in using all of the veggies up each week, and some weeks it is *work* to get through everything, as some deliveries are huge! And the result has been that we have been eating at home more than ever, and resisting the siren call of take-out…and both of us have lost a good amount of weight in the last 6 months, too!
Meat CSA – Grass is Greener Gardens
Mark and I are also members of a meat & poultry CSA, and we are absolutely committed to this way of eating meat now. We know that the meat we’re eating has been raised mostly by pasture, and that the animals have a far better life than factory farmed animals. For us, this is the right choice for eating meat, and I hope that sustainably farmed meat is something we’ll be seeing a lot more of across the country. It’s nice to know that the meat we’re eating is local too.
And did I mention the taste of our CSA meat? Honestly, it is the best meat we’ve ever eaten…it sounds silly, but the flavors are much more…meaty. The chickens are so juicy and flavorful, they hardly resemble their grocery store brethren. The beef – WOW…ground beef has never tasted so good, and the steaks are incredible. The locally produced bacon has a clean sweetness that is unlike other bacon I’ve eaten.
With the meat CSA, we have monthly pick-ups year-round. You receive a variety of cuts of chicken, beef, pork and lamb, and we get eggs as well. They also offer yogurt and honey as well. Like the produce CSA, what we receive each month guides our menu planning and inspires creativity.
Now is the time to start thinking about joining a CSA for next summer. If you’re interested, find a CSA near you at Local Harvest.
Pictured above: 3 butternut squash, 2 pie pumpkins, 1 acorn squash, 5 leeks, 2 ears popping corn, 2lbs cheese, 2 dozen eggs, 2lbs apples, 3lbs carrots, 3lbs sweet potatoes, 5lbs purple potatoes, 2lbs yellow onions, 1.5lbs cranberries.