If you plan on joining a CSA this spring, you may want to keep a few considerations in mind. A weekly CSA produce delivery can be a great way to experience seasonal local food and support local farms, but if you have limited experience gardening, farming or cooking, your first season with a CSA may present some surprises.
As you may know, most CSA (community supported agriculture) programs involve small local farms that sell yearly subscriptions or memberships to neighborhood residents. In return for an annual fee paid up-front in the spring, members receive a CSA produce delivery regularly–typically, once every week–throughout the growing season, which usually extends into the late fall. A CSA produce delivery usually consists of a box or large grocery bag filled with whatever local food items were produced on the farm during that period of the season. If you join a CSA and sign up to receive a weekly supply of local food, usually produce, you may want to prepare for a bit of occasional research.
Joining a CSA is very different from going to the grocery store and picking out the week’s fresh produce. Instead of planning recipes and shopping for them, you’ll have to wok the other way around–once you receive your box of CSA produce, you’ll need to decide what to do with it.
A successful and rewarding experience with CSA involves knowing what to expect. Before you sign up, understand that you may be in store for the following:
- Getting an item may not like or be familiar with–and lots of it. On a given week, your CSA produce delivery may contain nothing but heads of red cabbage. If you don’t know how to prepare cabbage, or if you aren’t sure you like it, your CSA membership will motivate you to find out. If you’re picky, live alone or you just won’t know what to do with five heads of red cabbage, consider splitting a membership with a friend or neighbor.
- Dirt, bumps and bugs. Many people who join CSAs have some basic understand of gardening, farming or food production.