Last year, I was torn about whether to plant a garden. I’ve successfully grown vegetables before and liked the idea of getting the kids involved with it, but like many people, I have a lot going on in my life and tending a garden isn’t my favorite way to spend my time.
So last year, I settled for potted herbs on our deck and green beans in our built-in deck planter—easy enough to water with the kids (no dragging the hose across the backyard) and I figured I’d hit up farmers markets with Corban or Mara as often as possible.
Then I started researching CSAs.
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. The basic idea is you purchase a fixed-price weekly (or bi-weekly) share of produce from a local farm and then receive a box of whatever they have to offer each week.
Each farm works a little differently, and there are a lot of options in the Milwaukee area. Making a decision can be overwhelming—I was nervous about getting too much food, not getting enough food (it’s not the cheapest way to shop), receiving produce we wouldn’t want to eat, the pick-up being inconvenient…
When I saw that one farm had a pick-up site located within walking distance of our house, we decided to go for it (LotFotL Community Farm in Elkhorn).
Writing the check at the beginning of the summer was a little bit scary, but it was a great decision. Here’s what I loved about being a member of a CSA:
- We ate a ton of vegetables! You have to in order to keep up with the weekly boxes, but with a steady diet of fresh, local produce—raw, roasted, grilled, pureed into hummus, etc.—our small share box was just right for our family of four (one veggie-loving adult, one good-sport-veggie-eating-when-asked adult and two kids whose appetites are still negligible).
- It was fun to be surprised by what’s in the box each week. (They do give you a rough idea—and recipe links—via an email newsletter two days before pickup.)
- We ate seasonably. Everything is freshly picked, so you know it’s in season right here right now.
- We discovered new produce—celtuce, anyone? Can’t get that at the grocery store, or even at the farmers market.
- Our grocery list was always really short (and quick—who likes spending time in the grocery store in summer?).
- We were almost always stocked with enough produce to throw together a good, healthy meal.
- We branched out from our go-to vegetables and found new loves, like sautéed Swiss chard and roasted beets.
So that was all great, but there were two downsides: the price (it ended up being roughly $20 a week, which is more than I would normally spend on veggies alone) and the fact that the constant stream of veggies, while great for our diets, also sometimes felt like a lot of work (washing, storing, meal planning, prepping, not letting it go to waste).
Despite all of the things I loved about our CSA, because of those two factors I was hesitant to join again this summer.
Then I got the email that I had won a free 2016 share (thanks to my diligent entries into their weekly trivia contest). Um… yeah, not going to turn that down!
The share we won is bi-weekly, so that actually solved both problems (price and the overwhelming task of keeping up with a weekly box). Bi-weekly has been perfect; I don’t know how I kept up with it weekly last year (must have done a lot more cooking).
I guess next year will be the true test of whether I’m committed to CSA… there is no trivia contest this year so no shot at winning a free share!
Any other CSA members out there? What do you see as the pros and cons?