organic produce en-US My CSA Experience: Farm-Fresh Veggies All Summer (and Possibly Winter) <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/my-csa-experience-farm-fresh-veggies-all-summer-and-possibly-winter" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="Farm tractor" title="Farm tractor" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="240" height="159" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>This year I joined the <a href="">Gorman Farm CSA</a>, which is located in my area. CSAs (community-supported agriculture) allow individuals and families to buy a share in a farm's crop for a season or a year. You pay a set amount at the beginning of the year and, during the growing and harvest seasons, you receive a share of the produce each week. The details can differ from farm to farm, of course: Some CSAs ask for part of your payment in the form of volunteer hours, others offer foods beyond produce (such as eggs, cheese, or honey), and so on.</p> <p>I paid $550 for a full share at the Gorman Farm CSA, which is meant to provide enough food to feed a family of four. Based on the amount of food we received, it could have fed a family of four vegetarians with very little added. We received a full load of vegetables every week for twenty weeks, breaking the price down to $27.50 per week. Considering that most weeks I spend about $20 on produce when I'm shopping at the market, the price wasn't too bad. We did not receive fruit as a part of our share, so I did wind up spending a little more at the market &mdash; but it balanced out. Because of the sheer quantity of the vegetables we received, I cut down on the meat and even the dairy I bought regularly, making a lot more salads for meals. I still kept the monthly budget for food under $200 between the CSA and some careful shopping at the market.</p> <p>I also preserved a lot of produce over the summer; between my garden and the CSA, I was able to can thirty pounds of tomatoes for the winter. There are also some CSAs that keep food coming during the winter months. <a href="">LocalHarvest</a> offers listings of many of the CSAs out there, at least in the US. Here are some lessons I&nbsp;learned in the process.</p> <h3>New Vegetables</h3> <p>I don't know nearly as much about cooking vegetables as I thought I did. I routinely found items in my weekly share that I had no idea what to do with and would have to search around for a recipe. When in doubt, many vegetables do well broiled with a little olive oil, but I did enjoy the adventure of finding new meals. Some I'm repeating on a regular basis and some I will never make again, but that's how these things go.</p> <h3>Gardening with a CSA Share</h3> <p>Gardening and buying a CSA share may be overkill. I tend to grow produce that we go through in some quantity, like tomatoes and peppers, but there was a lot of overlap between my garden and the CSA. Between canning and dehydrating, I was able to preserve the excess without a problem &mdash; but there was a good deal of work in there that I hadn't initially planned for.</p> <h3>Food You Don't Want</h3> <p>There will always be food in your CSA share that you won't care for. In my case, it's eggplant &mdash; which Gorman Farms included in the CSA share for about ten weeks. They were kind enough to let me swap out all that eggplant for other vegetables, but many CSAs don't allow for such trades. It's worthwhile to have a friend you can share the bounty with, especially if you can find a friend who likes some of those vegetables you don't enjoy.</p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="My CSA Experience: Farm-Fresh Veggies All Summer (and Possibly Winter)" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Thursday Bram</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="">Food and Drink articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Food and Drink community supported agriculture CSA eat local groceries organic produce Thu, 16 Dec 2010 13:00:10 +0000 Thursday Bram 371494 at Moments in the "Garden of Eatin" <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/moments-in-the-garden-of-eatin" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="Basket of fresh vegetables" title="Basket of fresh vegetables" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="166" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>I know what I&rsquo;m doing differently this summer.</p> <p>No, it doesn&rsquo;t involve the length of my shorts or a different vacation destination. Instead it's something that I can do, every day and every week &mdash; at least in the wake of Memorial Day and up through Labor Day &mdash; and try to perhaps incorporate year around: eating better for much cheaper.</p> <p>In the past couple of years, I&rsquo;ve had a few culinary and nutritional <a href="">epiphanies</a>, but this past week, just before Memorial Day, the come-to-the-light moments were palpable, tangible.</p> <p><strong>Moment 1: I sat down as a guest at a house with enough room for a garden with my first born son and ate a fresh spinach and lettuce garden salad &mdash; literally from the backyard.</strong> It had just been walked into the kitchen and washed. As the fresh green vegetables pimp-smacked my taste buds into a preservative-free realm of sublimity, the four year old Leffall man-child pointed out the obvious: &ldquo;This tastes different, Daddy.&rdquo;</p> <p>Yes son, it does and not only that, it tastes better and it&rsquo;s better for us.</p> <p>If you know me or you&rsquo;ve read my posts on this site, you&rsquo;ll know I&rsquo;m not the &ldquo;shockable&rdquo; type. I believe in daily irony and find myself smirking at most things good or bad, but imagine my delight, experiencing something I hadn&rsquo;t experienced in more than 20 years since Grandma&rsquo;s garden in East Texas &mdash; an organic experience without the buzzword.</p> <p>Yes, a fresh food experience &mdash; no pesticides, no transportation wear and tear, no artificial light, no plastic bags, no huge line at the grocery store, no skeptical eye. Suddenly I&rsquo;d been transported to another time and at once enlightened about what I&rsquo;ve been missing and doing wrong &mdash; even when eating right &mdash; for the past two decades.</p> <p><strong>Moment 2: A day later, I saw a segment on the Today show about the <a href="">Dirty Dozen</a>.</strong> Apparently the U.S. Department of Agriculture says apples, cherries, peaches, bears, raspberries, strawberries, potatoes and even my beloved spinach, are all on a list of 12 fruits and vegetables that should, if possible, be purchased organically because of (throaty gasp) higher levels of pesticide residue than others. Whaaaaa?!</p> <p><strong>Moment 3: Two days after that was a farmer's market visit.</strong> I discovered that <a href="">Community Supported Agriculture</a> (CSA) accounts for the farmer's market summer season, between Memorial Day and Labor Day. More on that in a minute but first a primer on my farmers market experiences.</p> <p>My previous dalliances at farmer's markets were always in large urban centers, gawking at all the sunflowers and yes sun dresses, young people carrying Yoga mats and sampling wares from farms 2 to 8 hours away being hawked by mostly wholesalers with retail savvy and retailers of small outlying health food stores passing themselves off as farmers with farm fresh products.</p> <p>As always, it was good to get outside, but similarly almost always a less than organic experience at these farmer's markets to say the least. And I always seemed to be out of cash, and it was a hassle to leave the market and go to the ATM and then come back.</p> <p>But at this particular farmer's market last week, I talked to an actual farmer who hipped me to the concept of a CSA prepaid account and card. I could simply put $400 on a card and through 20 weeks of produce in the summer season, I would be spending $20 a week on fresh fruits and vegetables cultivated with homegrown seeds and organic pesticides extracted from flowers. If I didn&rsquo;t want to do the $400, I could even get $50 gift cards and max those out, sparingly and gradually. I could even order ahead, get the amount deducted from my card and show up for express check out.</p> <p>Soooooooooo&hellip;by the time you read this, I will have enjoyed some organic bok choy garnishing a local whitefish over a bed of wild rice. That head of bok choy was less than two bucks. In the store &mdash; and I checked &mdash; it&rsquo;s five simoleons and I have no idea where it came from or what it went through, to boot.</p> <p>The USDA estimates that Americans spends more than 30 percent of their monthly household budgets on food, with a national grocery bill of more than $2 trillion annually.</p> <p>Based on that data, it&rsquo;s likely that in the aggregate, over the average Memorial Day weekend alone, many families typically spend between $100 to $400 just for that holiday weekend on chips, hot dogs, and other wonderful American starches &mdash; not least because of the fact that demand spikes on weekends like that.</p> <p>Yet $400 for the whole summer could get you fresh stuff &mdash; such as an organic ginger, lemon and cayenne pepper seltzer concoction that I picked up &mdash; and get the experience of tasting before you buy, talking to the person that grew it, saving some money and living better in the process. Whaaaaaa?!</p> <p>I'm thankful and glad for these recent moments. Yeah, I definitely know what I'm doing differently this summer.</p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Moments in the &quot;Garden of Eatin&quot;" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Jabulani Leffall</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="">Food and Drink articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Food and Drink cheap groceries farmer's market organic produce produce Sat, 29 May 2010 17:00:03 +0000 Jabulani Leffall 105839 at