It’s local, it’s fresh, and often it’s organic. How can you say no to community-supported agriculture?
My mom gave me my first CSA experience when I was a kid. We joined the Phillies Bridge Farm CSA, which is right off Route 208 in what uninitiated folks might call the Middle of Nowhere. It’s actually in the town of Gardiner, NY, home to a few thousand citizens, cows, apple trees, and Kiss My Face.
Every week, Mom and us kids drove out there at an appointed time and went into an aging shack brimming with veggies. Whenever I smell a fresh bunch of basil, I’m back there, reading the chalkboard to figure out what would comprise our share that week. I often had the job of picking out the best three yellow squashes or finding the apples that were good and tiny, the way I liked them.
At that point in my life, I was still reticent about vegetables. However, I could sense that something good was going on. The CSA members had potlucks a few times a year, and I think that’s where I first noticed the wonderful things that could happen with fresh produce, especially when combined with children of the ’60s.
If you haven’t heard of CSAs, the USDA actually does a good job of describing them:
“…a community of individuals who pledge support to a farm operation so that the farmland becomes, either legally or spiritually, the community’s farmâ€¦. Typically, members or “share-holders” of the farm or garden pledge in advance to cover the anticipated costs of the farm operation and farmer’s salary. In return, they receive shares in the farm’s bounty throughout the growing season, as well as satisfaction gained from reconnecting to the land and participating directly in food production.”
For more, check out their CSA site.
To find out about CSAs in the DC area, check out this recent Washington Post guide. (Thanks, Julie and Esther for guiding me to this!)
My tried-and-true farm, unfortunately, is already sold out of paying shares! It’s Claggett Farm, with its CSA known as From the Ground Up. I had a share in 2003, when I first moved to DC. (And that year, I bought a share in June! They are filling up lightning fast nowadays…) I took the next few years off, thanks in large part to my deeelicious friend Ellen who set up our lovely house garden.
I guess I’ll be CSA hunting again, unless I decide to do a work share at Claggett. If you have any suggestions or want to split a share somewhere, let me know. I’ll give you an update when I check out a few.
A CSA post wouldn’t be complete without plugging the one at Sunshine Farm Market. It’s run by Rachel A., who’s so soil-centered that on her winter vacation from farming, she decided to farm. (That’s how we met, WWOOFing in Mexico). If you’re ever near Chelan, WA, go to Sunshine Farm Market!
I urge you to check out a CSA in your area. The food will be fresher that pretty much anything you can find in a supermarket and use less fossil fuel to get to you, plus you’ll be supporting the local economy. Damn, that does sound good.
If all the CSAs are full, though, there’s always farmer’s markets.