We finally did it! We joined a CSA.
(Don’t know what a CSA is? Here’s a great definition: http://www.localharvest.org/csa/)
I kept thinking that it wasn’t going to work for us—that because we live in a city, because we’re poor grad students who can’t afford it, and because we don’t have a ton of freezer or refrigerator space—that participating in a CSA just wasn’t feasible.
But the comments you all have been leaving on our posts inspired (and shamed) me. The lively discussion about making a difference—one meal at a time—made me decide to stop finding all the reasons why it wouldn’t work, and start finding a way to make it work. As it turns out, two of our friends were going in on a share and asked us if we wanted to join. Three people? One share? Was that going to be enough for the money? We took a deep breath, wrote our check, and hoped for the best.
The simple answer is yes. For two people, 1/3 of a share is MORE than enough food, and far more affordable. Our 1/3 cost $200 dollars, which buys us 22 weeks of fresh fruit, vegetables, and herbs. I’m getting out my calculator for this one: that’s $9.09 a week.
Here’s what we got for $9.09 this week: a giant head of sturdy-yet-frilly romaine, a huge head of bok choy, a bag of the most tender, flavorful baby lettuces, some bibb lettuce, gorgeous scallions with the blossoms still on, strawberries, a bunch of radishes, some basil (and a basil plant!), and a few little turnips—all with a healthy (and vaguely charming) amount of dirt and critters still clinging to them.
And since we have to pick up our booty at a farmers’ market, it’s a great opportunity to shop other vendors. Last week we bought fresh butter and homemade yogurt (and narrowly escaped the chocolate milk) from the lovely ladies at Trinity Farm in Enfield, CT. And we also got Italian sausage and bacon from some folks from Eagle Wood Farms in Barkhamstead, CT. A few weeks ago we threw a cooler in the back of my car and took a scenic day trip up to northern Connecticut and bought ground beef, short ribs, and some rib eyes from the incredibly nice and charming people at Stewart Family Farm in Bridgewater, CT. We divided it (along with the sausage and bacon) into small portions and stashed it in the freezer.
And we’ve been buying eggs at every farm, farmers’ market, and roadside stand we see. Almost nothing makes me happier than cracking a farm egg and watching it’s plump, firm, deep orange yolk spill out—you should have seen the color of the pancake batter I made with them! And each Sunday, when I have a little time to rest, I’ve been making all our bread, granola bars, and cereal from scratch. (All I needed from the grocery store this week was trash bags, peanut butter, and a bag of onions!)
This Saturday afternoon, for our first CSA meal, I made a loaf of Irish Soda bread and a simple salad. I boiled a few of those perfect eggs, sliced a handful of our ruby-colored radishes and long, crisp scallions. I couldn’t help but sneak bites of the delicate Bibb lettuce and baby greens as I was washing the soil off them. They needed almost no adornment, just a simple, tangy vinaigrette—one of Anthony’s specialties. So he whirred together a handful of fresh parsley, a little garlic, some olive oil, lemon juice, and a dab of mustard. Perfection!
As we sat on the porch eating this incredible salad and big hunks of warm soda bread, reflecting on where all our food came from, I thought: “OK, maybe we’re getting somewhere.”
I know your financial situation, Sharon. You’re a grad student on a tight budget, so you’re living proof that eating locally and well is possible for the majority. It requires two other things as well. The first is knowledge. By internalizing a few simple techniques and formulas, most of us would know what to do with whatever we happen to find at the farmer’s market or in our CSA boxes.
Eating cheaply, well, and locally also requires will. You can know exactly what to do with all those beautiful ingredients but if you lack the desire to turn them into a dish, they might just end end up on the compost heap.
Although I can’t join a CSA (I’m too in between places in the summer) I do have farmer’s markets in CT and PA that I’ve already been enjoying.
Look forward to hearing more about your CSA adventures.
Lori Galvin says
And for couples and other small households, consider splitting a share with another household. My husband and I joined a fish csa with our neighbors. We alternate weeks and it works out great.
Michele Albert says
I love my CSA – they do half shares, which is perfect for my husband and I. I love picking up our produce on Thursday afternoons and planning my weekend around what was in my basket. Good for you!