5 Reasons I Love my CSA

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Seeing trucks around town spray painted with giant-sized corn, steak, cheese, grapes, and apples I was intrigued by what they were carrying, especially with the tagline, “Local Provisions for Modern Domestic Living.” These trucks were my first real exposure to a CSA – or community-supported agriculture.

Each CSA seems to be set up a little differently. For example, our CSA, Fresh Fork Market,  sources their products from farms within 75 miles of Cleveland. Delivery trucks bring you a “grab bag” of local products once week in the summer months – once every other week in the winter. The bag includes produce along with meats, beans, eggs, jams, and other fun finds.

Collecting the weekly bag of fresh goodies at a local CSA. From 5 Reasons I Love my CSA

I’d seen the trucks driving around for at least a year before I finally checked into the CSA’s website for more information. It took me another few months to actually sign on. I thought there’d be no way I could use up all the items that came each week. And what if I didn’t like what was in my stash of items? But the idea of supporting community growers had been on my mind for awhile at that point (and to be honest, I thought it might just save me some trips to the grocers), so I signed up in the winter this past season and I ‘m already excited for what spring will bring.

I noticed something interesting with our CSA – the power of that grab bag. If I bring home <insert the name of a new-to-my-kids food here> I usually have to do a bit of convincing to get them to try it. While this doesn’t happen with every item that comes in our bag, my kids are more willing to try something new if it’s from our bag.

If you’ve been sitting on the fence about joining a CSA – and I can’t vouch for every single one, I can just draw on my experiences – here are five surprising reasons I love my CSA.

Introduces my kids (and me!) to new foods

In the produce section at the grocers I tend to go back to my staples – baby bella mushrooms, cucumbers, mangoes, apples, bananas, and pretty much whatever else is on sale. Can’t do that with the CSA. I get what’s in my bag. So when I got ramps a few weeks ago I immediately went online to figure out exactly what a ramp is and how to cook with it. (Our CSA sends out an email a day before the weekly delivery detailing what’s going to be in your bag and occasionally passes along recipes, too.) We experimented with ramps in sandwiches, scrambled eggs, and potatoes au gratin.

Teaches my kids the power of dirt

Items in my bag sometimes have – shocker – dirt on them. My kids were a little worried about this at first. They wondered about why foods like carrots and potatoes sometimes came with small chunks of dirt. I thought, We never really talk about where food comes from (and I’m a lousy gardener so they have no example there). The goal of our CSA is to get the produce to us as quickly as possible. It comes from the farmer, to the delivery guy, to us. We’ve learned that dirt, at least here, is a sign of freshness.

Encourages my kids to ask questions about their food

The first time my tween went with me for a CSA pick up, she quizzed our delivery person about each item. He took time to explain to her who grew or produced the items and why she might like them. Now she’s become a honey connoisseur. She can distinguish the difference between local honey and the stuff that comes in the bear-shaped containers.

Helps my kids embrace eating local

As we drive to our pick-up spot, then we drive home, my kids are curious and excited about what’s in the bag. They’ve learned that the food comes from nearby farmers and they’ve begun to see the value in eating local. They’ve also come to appreciate that local foods taste better – onions are sweeter and softer, lettuce is crisper. And I’ve discovered I don’t have to season locally grown produce as much – I want the flavor to stand out.

Embrace eating local! From 5 Reasons I Love my CSA

Recognizing the reasons to eat seasonally

Seasonal produce tends to be at the peak of freshness, flavor, and nutrients. But I’m no farmer. I don’t know what’s in season and I don’t have time to look it up. My CSA has become my way for my kids and I to know what’s growing. After our CSA, we’ve all but given up tomatoes except during their regular season.  Mealy, tasteless winter tomatoes no longer suffice. But we’ve replaced wintertime tomatoes with more carrots, potatoes, and other veggies we know are growing when it’s cold. Plus, we’ve learned the wisdom of freezing fresh fruits in the summer and spring to save for winter.

 

Kristen J. Gough is the Global Cuisines & Kids Editor for Wandering Educators. She shares her family's adventurous food experiences--and recipes--at MyKidsEatSquid.com.

 

All photos courtesy and copyright Kristen J. Gough

 

 

 

 

 

 

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