7 reasons I love our CSA, and 2 reasons I don’t

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.

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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:

  1. 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).
  2. 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.)
  3. We ate seasonably. Everything is freshly picked, so you know it’s in season right here right now.
  4. We discovered new produce—celtuce, anyone? Can’t get that at the grocery store, or even at the farmers market.
  5. Our grocery list was always really short (and quick—who likes spending time in the grocery store in summer?).
  6. We were almost always stocked with enough produce to throw together a good, healthy meal.
  7. We branched out from our go-to vegetables and found new loves, like sautéed Swiss chard and roasted beets.

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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!

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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?

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Just sauteeing a little chard.

In the garden

Last weekend we were at my parents’ after our niece’s birthday party, and Corban helped his Papa with a little gardening.

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I’m torn about how much gardening to do this year. It’s a lot of work, so I’m tempted to take a year off… but I know the kids would love to “help” and it’d provide some great teachable moments.

My dad is already a month in with spinach, lettuce, beans and all sorts of other seeds.

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Some new ornamentation was added to their backyard since our last visit. The concrete stepping stones we made for my grandparents in 1999 have found a new home now that their house is being cleaned out.

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Corban still has a little growing to do to catch up with my 13-year-old hand.

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And I found that apparently my hands have grown just a tiny bit since then.

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The afternoon felt like a taste of summer—warm air, lush grass and a long evening of grilling and relaxing.

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Plus some good old-fashioned ball-throwing.

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I’m finally starting to move my camera off automatic setting. With some shutter speed adjustment, I captured this little sequence:

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To bring this back to gardening, we did do a little planting adventure yesterday, using the planting kits in the goodie bags from Isla’s party. We dubbed it “Curious Corban Plants a Seed.”

Since we can’t grow plants inside due to mischievous kitties (see my solution for fresh flowers here) I have been wanting to make mini terrariums using some glass jars from our bathroom. These little pots were the perfect size for that.

It was pretty magical watching the freeze dried dirt pellets grow into a pile of soil.

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I potted the soil and little fingers were eager to push in the seeds.

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It’s a “shrinking plant” that reacts to your touch, so this could be fun once it grows.

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They will probably outgrow the jars quickly, but by then hopefully we can plant them outside.

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Even after all this fun and a good chunk of hours spent doing yardwork this weekend, I’m still torn on the to-garden-or-not issue. What would you do? Take a year off and focus on landscaping and a few potted herbs, plus trips to the farmers market? Or plant some tomatoes and zucchini and pray for regular rainfall (less manual watering = less work)?

Yardwork made hard

My parents came to visit this past weekend and help with yardwork.

Holy Moly! Despite being more than twice my age, they seem to have endless energy for these kinds of things. Peter and I were stopping for water and sitting breaks while they plowed away at the flower beds, deck, weeds and garden. At least I have the whole pregnancy excuse. Peter’s got nothin’.

It was brutal out there too – our first really hot weekend of the year, and I was feeling it. Either I’m just a big baby, or this tiny baby inside me is doing a number on my stamina. I like the latter reason better.

Thank you, parentals, for helping make our yard look nice!