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Local Eating Made Easy

With more products, flexibility and convenient options, the time is now to shop around for a Community Supported Agriculture that fits your lifestyle.

Photo by Georgianna DeCarmine

The first time I met Nell Hanssen of Groundwork Farms she was delivering a box of fresh produce, eggs and cheese to my doorstep. I was pregnant with my second child, low on energy and feeling sad about having to submit my resignation as a “work-share holder” on a farm nearby. (My morning sickness was not agreeing with the early wake-up times or even a whiff of a vegetable.) I was grateful to find a Community Supported Agriculture program that delivered, making my family’s dedication to eating locally and in season way more convenient.

Photo by Cramer Farm

The way most CSAs work is that you make a payment for the growing season upfront, contributing to your farmers’ growing expenses, like seed, equipment and labor. Then, from roughly May through October (some farms offer longer growing seasons and winter options) you receive a share of what’s freshly harvested week to week. How you receive these weekly shares (or some farms offer bi-weekly) varies from farm to farm. Many farms also offer opportunities to purchase add-on items, like honey, meats, eggs, flowers and herbs.

When you become a member of a CSA, you are not only reaping personal health rewards from nutrient-dense foods, you are also supporting humane and sustainable farming methods. “Local eating is a powerful way to impact the community you live in and support the kind of farming you would like to see,” Hanssen says. We both agree that it is rewarding to be connected to your food in this way, having a relationship to the land where it is grown and the people who grow it.

Making it easy for busy people to eat locally was the goal Hanssen had at heart when she started Groundworks’ CSA 16 years ago this season. Groundworks sources from a network of farms and producers in Penns Valley and has grown to be a “one-stop shop.” Beyond vegetable shares, customers can also subscribe to egg, flower, herb, bread or increasingly popular raw dairy shares. And making it extra convenient, they deliver. If you are not going to be home, food can be left in a cooler with a few ice packs. Cramer Farm also offers this novelty that has been a success for other not-so-local food subscription services.

Photo By Carolyne Meehan

Over the years my family has been a member of several different CSAs, depending on which one best fit our ever-changing needs. Farms like Tait, Healthy Harvest, Windswept and Plowshare Produce offer a farmers market-like weekly pickup, where members pack up their own fruits and vegetables and are offered some choices like — “one nappa cabbage or a bag of spinach.” As a member of Plowshare Produce for many years, I love getting my children involved in the vegetable selection. I find when they are the ones to pack the peppers or beans, they are much more likely to eat it come mealtime.

Other farms like Village Acres and Jade Family Farm are using smart software that allows customers to rate their vegetable preferences, allowing maximum customization. Boxes are then pre-packed for quick pick-up. “If a customer tells us they don’t want beets, we will never give them beets,” John Eisenstein of Jade Family Farm says. This kind of program can certainly help to ease the fears of less adventurous eaters and those who are wary of letting vegetables go to waste. (But I do hope you try the beets.)

Without a CSA, I am not sure we would have discovered the magic of early season Japanese hakurei turnips, which we snack on raw with just a bit of salt. I am certain there will never be grocery store salad greens that can compare to the freshly picked tender baby lettuces from our share that we enjoy with just a dash of oil, a squeeze of citrus and sprinkle of salt and pepper. And, oh, how we have learned to adore the late season kabocha squash in its brilliant fiery colors, marking the beginning of soup season.

The best thing about having a weekly variety of freshly vegetables, as Hanssen says, is that “you don’t need to be a fancy cook to be able to make them taste good.” And as a bonus, most farmers love sharing their favorite recipes and tips for how to best enjoy your share. •SCM

Local Community Supported Agriculture Programs

Village Acres Farm
Groundwork Farms
Jade Family Farm
Cramer Farm
Healthy Harvest Farm
Bee Tree Berry Farm
Plowshare Produce
Windswept Farm
Tait Farm

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