Farming by Association

There have been days this summer when I’ve eaten like a rabbit, snacking on lettuce and white radishes like it’s my job. Why, you might ask? It’s all thanks to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA for short), a membership-based model for obtaining fresh produce each week.

CSAs are a farming system that have been available for nearly 25 years, but they continue to gain popularity with the focus on supporting community businesses and eating local.

Unlike Ron Swanson, I happen to enjoy leafy greens.

Unlike Ron Swanson, I happen to enjoy leafy greens.

CSAs not only refer to the food itself, but also to the relationship between farmers and consumers, and the network that is developed at the onset of a growing season. In late winter or early spring, farmers offer CSA ‘shares’ to the public. Payment typically comes once at the start of the season and weekly pick-ups spots are determined. There are tons of different options, as far as CSAs are concerned: full shares, half shares, organically grown produce, flowers-only, all-meat or all-cheese, and on and on. Minneapolis’ local paper City Pages provided a helpful list of ways to find the right CSA for you.

istock_000010591747smallcsaOur CSA is through the amazing Bridgewater Produce Farm in Northfield, MN – a family-run operation from the town in which we went to college (Um Ya Ya!). This is the first year Tom and I took part in a CSA, and so far it’s given us great opportunities to try new recipes. One of the many benefits to getting a grocery bag full of produce each Wednesday, is the weekly email that comes along with it – the farm includes recipe ideas and little details about the different fruits and veggies. I had no idea that grilled and seasoned radishes tasted so good! Also, nothing beats fresh asparagus sprinkled with a little parmesan. I can’t wait for sweet corn, and am already looking forward to the squash and pumpkins that will be delivered this fall.

The popularly of CSAs has also changed the way I eat in a group setting. This past weekend, I attended former guest blogger Maggie Matson’s bachelorette party in rural Wisconsin. Thanks to all of our CSAs, we ate like champs – eggs bakes with fresh arugula and basil, leafy greens, grilled kale. A few bags of potato chips could be found around the cabin, but each meal included a side dish featuring fresh produce.

Of course CSAs aren’t the only way to go. Local grocery stores and co-ops often have an incredible selection of produce, and farmers markets are a great way to grab-and-go. But after lunching for days on beautiful red strawberries, I’m hooked.  Three cheers for vegetables!

image sources: photo1 | photo2
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