South Beach Diet - CSA Programs: What Are They and Why Would I Want to Be Part of One?




beachgal
04-09-2008, 01:09 PM
I first heard about CSA programs here on 3FC a couple years ago. Now I'm finally able to join one locally and am very excited! :carrot:

Here's a basic description of what CSA programs are (from www.localharvest.org):

Community Supported Agriculture (And Other Farm Subscriptions)

Many farms offer produce subscriptions, where buyers receive a weekly or monthly basket of produce, flowers, fruits, eggs, milk, coffee, or any sort of different farm products.

A CSA, (for Community Supported Agriculture) is a way for the food buying public to create a relationship with a farm and to receive a weekly basket of produce. By making a financial commitment to a farm, people become "members" (or "shareholders," or "subscribers") of the CSA. Most CSA farmers prefer that members pay for the season up-front, but some farmers will accept weekly or monthly payments. Some CSAs also require that members work a small number of hours on the farm during the growing season.

A CSA season typically runs from late spring through early fall. The number of CSAs in the United States was estimated at 50 in 1990, and has since grown to over 1000.

Basically, you pay one fee up front for the season and, in return, you receive a share of the produce harvested each week. Some CSAs will deliver to your home while others ask you to pick up your share at a local pick-up point. You accept that you'll get what produce you get and that there may be a lot of one kind of produce in a given week. However, you can find out beforehand what kinds of crops the farm normally plants to give you an idea of what you may receive, depending on growing conditions.

You can read a more detailed explanation here (http://www.localharvest.org/csa.jsp).

What I love most about the CSA idea is that not only will we get fresh, organic, locally-grown produce, but we'll also be "putting our money where our mouth is" by helping to support small, local, organic farmers. Factory farms are so harmful (don't know about them? Watch The Meatrix (http://www.themeatrix1.com/)for an engaging take on what makes factory farms harmful to everyone--a friend sent it to me years ago and it totally changed the way I think about things.) and I hate seeing our small farmers having to give up their way of life and family farms because they just can't compete. :(

If you're interested in finding CSA programs near you, you can check the following websites. I had to check one or two before finding local ones--we're in a small area--so don't despair if you can't find anything at the first site. :)

Local Harvest (http://www.localharvest.org/csa/)
Robyn Van En Center at Wilson College's database (http://www.wilson.edu/csasearch/search.asp)
GreenPeople.org (http://www.greenpeople.org/search2nd.cfm?type=Community_Supported_Agriculture )
Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association's U.S. CSA List (http://www.biodynamics.com/csa1.html)and Canadian CSA List (http://www.biodynamics.com/csacanada)

For a blog that follows one person's experience with a CSA during last year's season, complete with photos of what they got each week, go here (http://thesaltedcod.blogspot.com/2007/06/give-me-my-share-week-1.html).

We're only two people, so I'm sure there will be weeks when we get a lot more produce than we can possibly eat, so I know I'll be looking for creative ways to freeze/can/preserve it. The rest will become bunny food! (two tiny bunnies can eat a LOT of produce! :lol: ) Plus, when we have a surfeit of one kind of veggie or another, I'll be looking for good recipes for them!

:broc: If you're thinking of becoming a shareholder in a local CSA, please post here and maybe we can either use this thread or start a specific one for helping each other find recipes and ways to save our great produce for later! :carrot:


tomandkara
04-09-2008, 01:11 PM
Yay, Laurie! We LOVED our CSA when we lived in California! Unfortunately, since then, we haven't lived anywhere for a whole season...

Enjoy!

Kara

zeffryn
04-09-2008, 01:15 PM
When we lived in Minneapolis, we were part of one. It was fabulous. We got LOADS of produce every week. We would also receive flowers and herbs when in season. I really got good with cooking with in season produce. During the summer, I loved having wonderful heirloom tomatoes and fresh asparagus but during the winter I really missed stuff like that. My neighbors enjoyed it too because I would often give them a little bit of what we got, or else it would spoil.

I also enjoyed the fact that the produce that I received was always super fresh and most of the time was organically farmed.

We don't have a CSA available around here, although a few of us are trying to talk a local organic farm into starting one. My sister in law and I are interested in sharing a membership because neither of us need that much produce.

It seems like a high cost, but if you add up everything that you spend on produce (organic produce tends to be higher), it is actually cheaper to be part of a CSA.


murphmitch
04-09-2008, 01:18 PM
I considered joining but was concerned about getting too much produce & having it spoil. My kids aren't always home and are picky about veggies. I know my husband and I would eat most things, but I was worried about getting things I didn't like too. We decided not to do it based on that.

zeffryn
04-09-2008, 01:20 PM
Murph, if you have freezer space....blanch and freeze the veggies. You will be able to enjoy them in the winter that way :)

Schmoodle
04-09-2008, 01:23 PM
Me too, I looked into it for this year, but came to the conclusion that I could buy the same stuff from the same farms at the Farmer's Market, but get exactly what I wanted in the quantities I could use. I think it is cheaper to do the CSA for the amount of stuff you get, but if it's more than you can use, that cancels out the benefit. Although I love the concept and wish I could make it work for me. Anyone else done a CSA before? I'd love to hear if there are benefits I'm overlooking.

beachgal
04-09-2008, 02:30 PM
Yeah, DH and I went over the costs and, since I usually try to buy organic produce and at least 1/3 of the bill at the grocery is produce, we figure we're actually saving a lot of money this way. Not to mention that I'd much rather buy local organic than organic that's been transported here from across the U.S.

However, I can understand the concerns. I think combining a share with other people is one good way to make sure you use it all. From what I've heard/read, you do have to get creative, sometimes, to use the produce. But I'm looking forward to the chance to get to know some new veggies and learn to like others (I had brussel sprouts at a little cafe in Ireland and LOVED them--a big shock since I'd done everything but dip them in chocolate to try to learn to like them before. The only difference? These were fresh!) by enjoying them fresh.

We definitely have a good "out" with our bunnies...they can be our personal "garbage disposals" in terms of produce that we can't use each week. We spend about $15 or more each week on produce for them, so this will save a ton of money, and we'll supplement it with our home garden so they'll have lots to eat. Happy bunnies! :)

As for extras that you do like, I think a lot of it can be frozen, canned, or otherwise preserved. I know, for instance, that Ruth makes a gazillion roasted red peppers each summer. I got a lot of ideas from Barbara Kingsolver's awesome book, Animal, Vegetable, Mineral, which is primarily about local eating. She talks about making her own sundried tomatoes. That would be a great way to preserve some fruits and veggies!

Even if you think you can't use all the produce from a CSA, you might want to check them out--ours has several options for people who can't use an entire share. Of course, there's also the option to just shop at the farmers' markets...they have such great deals and such yummy produce! :drool: I love going to the one in Ithaca--it has live ethnic music and food from all over the world. So good!

Schmoodle
04-09-2008, 02:45 PM
Yeah, I think those are all great benefits of a CSA, and I'm not trying to talk anyone out of it. I'm actually trying to talk myself INTO it I think, because it sounds fun and I want to join the party. And I think getting a mystery box and trying new things and finding new recipes would be fun (although might get old pretty quickly).

But I come back to:
I can buy fresh, local and organic, exactly what I want, and from the exact same farm at the farmer's market. If we are going to be away for the week, I don't have to worry about what to do with it. I already do A LOT of freezing of produce in the summer for the winter. I will be picking strawberries soon and freezing a year's supply for smoothies. We grow tomatoes and peppers, so I freeze those, along with spaghetti sauce and can salsa. And last year I stole Ruth's idea and roasted a bushel of peppers and made puree to freeze, along with pepper strips. This was a GREAT idea, and I have enjoyed them so much, I will definitely do it again this year. but I'm not sure I want to get in the business of freezing and preserving little drips and drabs of things here and there. I like to do a big effort, spend the whole weekend on tomatoes or whatever and then be done with it.

So, I guess, not for me. But I will be looking forward to hearing how you like it and what kind of stuff you get, and if you keep track, how much of a money saver you think it is. If the reviews are great, maybe I will try it next year.
I loved that book, by the way!

tomandkara
04-09-2008, 02:47 PM
SCHMOO! 187?!?!?!?! YOU TOTALLY ROCK!

Kara

zeffryn
04-09-2008, 03:05 PM
Schmoodle I think you have it down. I would only condone a person joining a CSA if they knew they would be able to use and enjoy all the produce. It isn't worth the money if one is just throwing the stuff in the trash or compost pile. I wish we were lucky enough to have a big farmers market. There are little ones here and there, but never a lot of stuff. Maybe that will change come summer. If you are buying your produce from the same farm in the amounts that you know you will use, I say keep doing that. You are still supporting the agriculture. :)

Schmoodle
04-09-2008, 03:08 PM
Thanks Kara!
Zeff, I know, I'm just a little disappointed. Do any of you remember those ads in the back of comic books when we (I) was a kid. You could send away for a "mystery" prize or package. And when you got it, it was totally something you wouldn't want, but it was so fun wondering what you would get. I was such a sucker for those. That's what makes me want to do this I think. The fun of the "mystery veggie box" ever week.

zeffryn
04-09-2008, 03:09 PM
HAH! I used to do those all the time!

murphmitch
04-09-2008, 06:20 PM
But I come back to:
I can buy fresh, local and organic, exactly what I want, and from the exact same farm at the farmer's market. If we are going to be away for the week, I don't have to worry about what to do with it. I already do A LOT of freezing of produce in the summer for the winter. I will be picking strawberries soon and freezing a year's supply for smoothies. We grow tomatoes and peppers, so I freeze those, along with spaghetti sauce and can salsa. And last year I stole Ruth's idea and roasted a bushel of peppers and made puree to freeze, along with pepper strips. This was a GREAT idea, and I have enjoyed them so much, I will definitely do it again this year. but I'm not sure I want to get in the business of freezing and preserving little drips and drabs of things here and there. I like to do a big effort, spend the whole weekend on tomatoes or whatever and then be done with it.

So, I guess, not for me. But I will be looking forward to hearing how you like it and what kind of stuff you get, and if you keep track, how much of a money saver you think it is. If the reviews are great, maybe I will try it next year.
I loved that book, by the way!

I also love going to our local farmers' market and not just for the veggies. It's just a great social affair from the musical groups that play, to the artist and flower vendors. My husband and I had a blast last year. Got a fresh cooked breakfast and we were amazed at all the people with their dogs. We we watching all the different breeds of dogs and enjoyed petting some of them. A very enjoyable experience! My sister lives out of town and came with me one time. She found all kinds of lovely herbs to cook with that she couldn't find locally.

ennay
04-09-2008, 09:04 PM
I do a CSA and go to the farmers market. I get my CSA box on Tuesday and our local farmers market is on wed so I can fill in the blanks.

I think it is a great way to try new veggies, that maybe we would not have tried. And to find new recipes to use up the produce.

I do make a lot of soup with the extras to freeze for later (I prefer that to straight frozen veggies).

I think if you have access to a good farmers market you are mostly just looking at cost savings with a CSA - either way you are supporting the local farmers, etc. My CSA, since i pick up at the farm, I can get "seconds" - stuff that isnt quite fresh enough for them to sell at the farmers market or that wont be by the time they go for free.

For me it was just a great option in that I get all of the benefits of a garden and a farmers market except it takes me a grand total of 20 minutes a week (10 min drive to the farm, 10 min drive home) and the kids dont even have to get out of the car

Our CSA made its shares smaller a few years back so it really isnt too much even though I am virtually the only one in our house that eats it.

CyndiM
04-09-2008, 09:18 PM
We belong to a CSA, shop the Farmer's Market, and frequent the farm stand down the road. There are so many CSAs here though that you can pick and choose perks. Ours has smaller shares and sends a weekly elist of available produce. We can pick what we want from the list with a weekly minimum based on our shares. We can also order more. Since we don't eat much in the way of rooties that's a great perk for us. I also looked into a CSA with a picking garden. You can go there and pick whatever is ready in that garden over and above you weekly share. Another CSA offers shareholder plots to grow your own little garden.

Of course the farmstand down the road has fabulous, cheap asparagus, peppers, and corn I can supplement my share with. I'm already planning my freezer & dehydrator purchases :)

beachgal
04-10-2008, 10:28 AM
It's so awesome to see so many neat variations on ways to get fresh food into our diets and support local farmers. :goodvibes

Schmoo, I'm with you on the mystery box thing, but Zeff is right--you are definitely doing your part and what you are doing makes tons of sense. Maybe you could ask your favorite farmer to put in a surprise item when they ring up your purchases--that way you might get to try something new and get the surprise element, too! ;) I love surprises!!! :hyper:

Schmoodle
04-10-2008, 10:37 AM
Reading this thread makes my mouth water!:hun: I can't wait for all this good stuff to start coming in. And crabs will be here soon too (well, a few months until they are running well)!! It's so easy to be beachy in the summer! :carrot::broc:

murphmitch
04-10-2008, 06:40 PM
Reading this thread makes my mouth water!:hun: I can't wait for all this good stuff to start coming in. And crabs will be here soon too (well, a few months until they are running well)!! It's so easy to be beachy in the summer! :carrot::broc:

We went to Boston last October and I couldn't get enough of the crab cakes. Mmmm, they were so good even my fish snubbing husband liked them.

tdiprincess
04-10-2008, 07:46 PM
the CSA programs sound neat. I think ill check into it around here. Its kind of exciting. :)