Community Sponsored Agriculture

7 Tips For Finding the Right CSA

by Anne Maxfield on April 16, 2018

Accidental Locavore CSA LettuceThis is the time of year when we all start yearning for anything fresh.

A CSA or Community Sponsored Agriculture share is a great way to support local farmers and put plenty of great produce on your table.

While a few years ago, this was a pretty new concept, now there are CSAs for almost everything from fruits and vegetables to coffees and breads.

How do you pick the best CSA for you?

Accidental Locavore CSAThese were my criteria for picking one and while yours will probably be different, here are 7 tips:

  1. A convenient pick-up place, day and time. You need to think about where and when you want to have an abundance of produce. Do you cook and entertain during the weekends? Or will you use it mostly during the week? When will you have time to wash/prep stuff? Do you have fridge space?
  2. A reasonable share for the number of people in your household. If you hate wasting food and sometimes feel like the kitchen version of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice–cooking as fast as you can, only to have a whole new box show up, you might want to split a share with a neighbor or friend. Some CSAs offer half shares or will match you up with other members who are looking to share the bounty.
  3. For some, organic is important; I’m more into sustainable practices, but if organic matters, only look for those farmers.
  4. A farmer/farm referral. Like most business relationships, it’s all about doing business with people you know and like. We originally joined Poughkeepsie Farm Project’s CSA because a woman farmer I knew was working there and I liked her and her agricultural point of view.
  5. Choice. One of the things I love most about PFP is the ability to choose from about a dozen or more weekly offerings. I can get carrots when I want them and skip the beets. They also have pick-your-own options which add herbs, berries and flowers to your share if you’re willing to go out in the fields. Over the years they’ve added the options to add a fruit share, coffee, meat and even a winter share to get you through the dark months.
  6. What foodstuffs you’re looking for (and can use up). When we joined, we were looking mostly for produce. However, there are many CSAs that offer meat, poultry, bread, eggs and other foods. A few minutes on the Internet should find you just what you need.
  7. Giving back to the community. This is more of an extra credit thing, but Poughkeepsie Farm Project is in the middle of an urban area and gives back through education and by providing produce to local families.

Accidental Locavore CSA shareWhatever you decide, a CSA is a great way of exploring new foods, while supporting farmers.

But act soon, many of the most popular may be sold out for the season!

 

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6 Ideas for Picking a Great CSA

by Anne Maxfield on May 6, 2013

Accidental Locavore Spring VeggiesWhile you may not realize it, the Accidental Locavore has never formally been a part of a CSA (a CSA, if you’re not familiar with it, stands for community sponsored agriculture and is essentially a pre-paid pot-luck share of the farm’s bounty). Mostly I was spoiled in the beginning by having my own personal farmer/shopper/CSA with my farmer down the road. What he didn’t have (which was very little) I could always supplement with an occasional trip to the Greenmarkets in the city. And last year, when he gave up farming, I transferred my loyalties to Ron at Stokes Farm who would put bags together for me at the market (and has now turned into his Thyme Saver Box). As good as that was, one of the things that was missing, was the pure surprise of just being handed a box (or bag) of veggie goodies. In other words, I had a little too much say in what went into the bags, so there were never really any big food challenges.

This year, we’re up at our Hudson Valley house full time and while I could try to expand my herb garden, my history with growing edible food is not confidence building. In other words, if we were alone in the world, you would not want to be handing me the bag of seeds and a shovel. Better left to the professionals! But which professionals? We’re fortunate to have a lot of really wonderful farms near us and most of them offer CSA’s  These were my criteria for picking one and while yours will probably be different, these can be some guidelines:Accidental Locavore Strawberries

  1. A convenient pick-up place, day and time. You need to think about where and when you want to have an abundance of produce. Do you cook and entertain during the weekends? Or will you use it mostly during the week? When will you have time to wash/prep stuff? Do you have fridge space?
  2. A reasonable share for two people. I hate wasting food and sometimes feel like the kitchen version of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice-cooking as fast as I can, only to have a whole new box show up.
  3. For some, organic is important; I’m more into sustainable practices (you never know what the guy next door is flooding the water table with…), but if organic matters, only look for those farmers.
  4. A farmer/farm referral. Like most business relationships, it’s all about doing business with people you know and like. The CSA that I went with is being run by a woman I know (extra points for being a female farmer) and like, both personally and her agricultural point of view.Accidental Locavore Summer Greens
  5. Giving back to the community. This is more of an extra credit thing, but this farm/CSA is in the middle of an urban area and gives back through education and by providing produce to local families.
  6. What foodstuffs you’re looking for. Since we’ve got a freezer full of beef (from our share from Brykill Farm), we were looking mostly for produce. However there are many that offer meat, poultry and other foods in combination. A few minutes on the Internet should find you just what you need.

Whatever you decide, a CSA is a great way of exploring new foods, while supporting farmers-a perfect combination. But act soon, many of the most popular may be sold out for the season!

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Accidental Locavore Farm Box 1

The Accidental Locavore is a strong proponent of buying as much as you can from farmers’ markets, joining a CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture) or food co-op. After all, that’s how I became the Accidental Locavore and learned to love the surprise that comes with every delicious box. But what’s in it for you?

1. You get to know where your food comes from. By getting to know farmers and other local purveyors you certainly make a connection to the source of your food, but there are other benefits. When you know your farmer, things can be saved for you, so if you’re not a morning person (like the Locavore) they’ll put stuff aside for you, let you know what’s coming, what’s good that week and what may be at the end of its run.

2. You establish a link that goes far back in time, to our caveman ancestors, that has been eroded by our pre-packaged, fast-food society. Humans have always gathered together for food; it’s a primal need to connect around a meal. Whether it’s groups going out hunting and gathering, or sitting around dinner tables, food has been our major connection with each other. When you connect with farmers you reestablish that bond.

Accidental Locavore Turnip Greens3. Great ingredients allow you to make great food easily. When you start with lovely fresh ingredients you don’t have to do a lot to make them sing. With your connection to farmers comes a wealth of knowledge about how to cook their stuff in new and interesting ways. Even when it’s been weeks of zucchini, farmers will have yet another idea on how to prepare them.

That being said, the Accidental Locavore is excited to start another season with Farmer Paul and the amazing weekly farm box. This week was very green, with asparagus both green and purple, a bunch of spinach (that made my husband surprisingly happy), scallions, chives, mesclun and turnip greens. Think the turnip greens will get braised in chicken stock with maybe some bacon or some local andouille tossed in. The asparagus will go on the grill with some curry lamb sausage. Not sure yet about the spinach and scallions. Tune in Friday for recipes, and comment if you have a great idea for the turnip greens.

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