If you live in the city like us, and especially if you’re as inept at growing ANYTHING as I apparently am, fresh, local food can be bit of a challenge to come by. The ‘buy fresh/buy local’ craze is just starting to hit Pittsburgh in a serious way (and we always love chatting with the fabulous Alissa from PASA at foodie events!), so farm-to-table is kind of becoming a big deal right now. The trick is, you need to know where to look to get the goods you need.
So what’s a city gal who manages to kill cacti on a regular basis to do?
Join a CSA, that’s what!
So then, Fox, tell us: what’s a CSA?
A CSA (it stands for Community Supported Agriculture) is a program that brings local farms and their consumers together on a more-personal basis than the traditional farmer-to-grocer-to-consumer methods. When you join a CSA, you sign up for a certain number of ‘shares,’ pay your membership dues, and then are presented with your mystery box of goodies on a designated day for the duration of your CSA season.
With a CSA, you KNOW you’re getting super-fresh stuff right from the farm. You also share the bounty or burden of a particular harvest season with the farm you join. When greens are in season, you’re getting tons of greens. If strawberries are few and far between this season, you’re not going to see them in your box. So not only are you getting ultra-fresh food on a regular basis, you’re also getting a more relatable view of the trials and tribulations (and joys!) that our farmers go through. It’s taking the ‘big picture’ (the faraway-farm that grows produce which magically ends up at your grocery store) and making it more personal. It’s the kind of thing that makes me go outside and start talking to the bees in my garden, reminding them what good little workers they are and how they’re doing a great big important thing, even though they’re just teeny tiny little bees, because I’m starting to get an understanding of how we are all ecologically connected.
(I mean, I’m not saying that joining a CSA is going to make *everyone* start chatting up their bumblebees, but I’m also not saying it’s a bad idea to let those little dudes know how much we need them. I totally freaking LOVED Bee Movie, since I know you’re wondering.)
After much research and deliberation, I finally selected Penn’s Corner Farm Alliance for our CSA. There were a number of reasons that Penn’s Corner ultimately won out for me: they use products from a number of different farms, so I figured there would be good variety. They are also great with communication via email and blog, and they recommend recipes for the goods that are in your weekly box. Finally, I was totally sold when they had an option for a weekly egg share and a bi-weekly flower share.
So now, each Wednesday, we pick up a box of produce and treats from our CSA. We get a list the weekend before of what we can expect (and then I spend four days obsessing over what’s going to arrive so I can cook it). We signed up for a weekly produce and egg share (you can do weekly or biweekly), and we’ve gotten two wonderful shipments so far.
What I’ve decided to do is chronicle our CSA journey this summer. Aside from this post tonight, and tomorrow’s post wrapping up our first two boxes, I’ll be doing a weekly feature on Sunday nights about our CSA shares and what we do with them. I’m hoping that by sharing our positive experiences (I’ll share the negative ones, too, promise!), we can educate more people about the importance of local and sustainable food, and hopefully entice some of our readers to take the CSA plunge themselves! If you *are* interested in joining a CSA yourself, I really like the frankness and detail over at LocalHarvest.org. You can even search for CSAs that are nearby (although don’t be disappointed if you have to wait until next season, since many of the CSAs have already compiled their member list for the summer shares).
So check back tomorrow for the first installment of ‘what we’re cooking with our CSA,’ and then each Sunday evening for the latest scoop!