written by Hillary Wickline, marketing coordinator
2013 was the first year I purchased a community supported agriculture (CSA) share. A CSA share is a financial commitment between a consumer and farmer in exchange for weekly produce. Feeling the need to take my commitment to the local movement a step further, I signed up at the last minute, still unsure of my decision. A number of questions crossed my mind. What if I’m unfamiliar with the vegetables? How will I make sure nothing goes to waste? What if this lifestyle isn’t for me?
Negative emotions aside, the day of the first drop off arrived. Although I did feel quite silly walking out of the Co-op with a box full of produce, I felt as if I’ve received an exclusive gift. I opened the box to be greeted by lush greens, bright radishes, and hearty turnips – nothing out of my comfort zone.
As the weeks progressed, I grew (no pun intended) accustomed to relying on my CSA share as the bulk of my weekly shopping. Late spring gave me a handful of strawberries and plenty of onions. Summer offered me the cutest watermelon I’ve ever seen and too many tomatoes to count. Fall continued to shower me with rich collards, carrots, and winter squash. Every week I was inspired to cook something new based on the variety in my share.
While I was in love with the bounty of local produce I received each week, I had to deal with a fair share of roadblocks. There are times when I felt like I was swimming in produce, especially during the summer. Sometimes I had no idea what I was even looking at. While these problems may seem like a “downside” to a CSA share, the commitment truly educates you on what’s local and native to your region. I had no idea what kohlrabi was or even looked like, what a fresh turnip tasted like, or that carrots rarely grow into the standard shapes and sizes we see bagged in the grocery store.
CSA shares encourage creativity too. Kohlrabi turns into tangy slaw, bags chock full of onions turn into French onion soup sandwiches, and collards and kale turn into savory stir-fries. Needless to say, I was never hungry, nor were my friends.
On the last pick up date, I knew that I would be signing up for a CSA share again in the spring. I suggest CSA newbies start out small – purchase a half share or split a full share with neighbors and friends.
2014 brings the Co-op a new CSA share from the Happy Valley Berry Farm, owned and farmed by Shirley Kline. Situated in Cumberland County, New Jersey, the Happy Valley Berry Farm is a six-acre, pesticide free produce farm. For more information on CSAs, visit www.swarthmore.coop.