Why You Should Join a CSA

It'll get you fresh veggies, a green thumb, and the gratitude of your local farms.

Photo by Ayla Withee.

Have you considered joining a CSA this year? Or are you not sure what a CSA is and why you should? Let me help.

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Each consists of a community of individuals who pay for a share of the food production of the farm at the onset of the growing season. In this model, the growers and consumers share the risks and benefits of food production. CSA members are rewarded with a periodic (often weekly) delivery or pick-up of produce and sometimes, fresh herbs, cut flowers, eggs, dairy and meat. One of the fun things about receiving the box each week is that you never know exactly what will be inside. Personally, this has encouraged me to try new recipes with fruits and vegetables that are out of my comfort zone. I discovered roasted turnips this way and it’s now a go-to side dish throughout the winter.

Photo by Ayla Withee.

Some CSA’s also encourage people to volunteer to work in the garden or on the farm. For those of you who have the opposite of a green thumb, don’t fret: this can actually be a great way to learn about growing produce. It’s also satisfying to get your hands dirty and reap the benefits of your hard work!

There are a lot of benefits that come out of joining a CSA. You support local farming, enjoy produce in-season when it is at peak flavor, and you help the environment by encouraging sustainable farming practices and reducing the pollution caused by transporting produce. Plus, by avoiding the grocery store more you’ll avoid buying junk. Seriously: These are the top 10 items people purchase at grocery stores are:

  1. Marlboro cigarettes
  2. Coca-Cola Classic
  3. Pepsi-Cola
  4. Kraft processed cheese
  5. Diet Coke
  6. Campbell’s Soup
  7. Budweiser Beer
  8. Tide Detergent
  9. Folger’s Coffee
  10. Winston Cigarettes
Fresh Produce from a CSA

Photo by Ayla Withee.

In stark contrast, these are the top 10 items delivered by a typical Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm:

  1. Tomatoes
  2. Lettuce
  3. Carrots
  4. Beans
  5. Potatoes
  6. Peppers
  7. Squash
  8. Onions
  9. Peas
  10. Broccoli

Contrary to popular belief, there are many CSA’s available throughout the entire year, even in the Boston area. Local Harvest is a great resource for finding CSA’s in your area. A farm that I am particularly interested in this year is The Kitchen Garden farm, located in Sunderland, MA: it’s the work of a recent partnership between The Stone Soup Farm, which also offers a really cool apprenticeship program for people interested in learning about organic farming, and The Kitchen Garden. It offers a lot of CSA options with convenient pickups in Boston and Cambridge — they even have a Harvest Calendar so you have some idea of what will end up in your box, plus instructions about how to wash, prepare and store produce on their site. I’m really excited about their Spring Treat Share option, available March through May, which eliminates the need to wait until the summer shares begin sometime in May or June. The Spring boxes will be filled with fresh greens, stored veggies like potatoes, butternuts, and garlic, spring onions and herbs, a dozen fresh eggs, and a bought-in locally produced “treat”, such as jam, pickles, pasta sauce, or flour.

So, are you planning on joining a CSA now?