Monday, February 18, 2013

CSAs Rock

I have some serious goals this year. In addition to wanting to end the year with more days of eating plants vs. eating animals, I want to fill my body with nutrient-rich whole foods, exercise daily and experiment with growing my own food. And I want to support others with similar goals.

That is why we have become members of a community-supported agriculture operation (CSA).  When you join a CSA, you become a partner with equal rights to its products. Depending on your farm's policies, you pay a regular fee in exchange for a share in the farm's produce. Simply put, you're supporting the farm's efforts, and you share in its bounty. Some CSAs offer home delivery, others require you to pick up your share at the farm. We're fortunate to have a pick-up location at my place of employment so I can just pick up my box when I leave the office.

We are members of Rancho Piccolo Farms, and receive a full share of vegetables every week. There are three CSAs that currently serve our area, but I chose Rancho Piccolo for two reasons: their farm is the closest to our home (making it the most local) and they offer vegetable shares separate from fruit shares. Given that my husband is allergic to most fruits, this ensures that we can fully utilize all that we receive. It also helps me live out my goal of working more vegetables into our daily diets.

What I love most about CSAs is what others dislike: the element of surprise. You never know what you're going to get each week, and that makes for a culinary adventure. Last week, we received red cabbage, Swiss chard, diakon, lettuce, beets, rutabaga, fennel, beets and spaghetti squash. The week before, we got carrots, watermelon radishes, lettuce, rainbow chard, cauliflower, Napa cabbage and kale.

Each week, I've been challenged to try new things. Some great; others not so much. Some winners have been roasted cauliflower with garlic, spaghetti squash with chickpeas and Brussels sprouts, pickled watermelon radishes, fennel-endive salad with navel oranges, and fried beet and carrot salad. The biggest loser was colcannon with curly endive (the bitterness was overpowering).

If you want the benefit of fresh, organic produce, joining a CSA is probably the most affordable option next to growing your own. Visit for a list of CSAs in your area. Some offer additional benefits to members, such as tours, farm-to-table dinners, and you-pick harvest events. It's also a great opportunity to try unfamiliar fruits and vegetables. Before my introduction to CSAs, I had never tried fennel, swiss chard, rutabaga, turnip, or even fresh beets. Now, those vegetables are familiar and favored. Not only do I benefit from the experience, but so does my daughter who is being raised with the daily habit of trying new things.

Unpacking our produce box has become one of her favorite weekly activities. She loves to name each vegetable as we pull it out. When she doesn't recognize one, I tell her what it is, let her touch it and talk about what we can make with it. Sometimes she gets so excited that she sneaks a bite on the spot (my poor rainbow chard stems were her latest victim).

To me, this is the epitome of a healthy lifestyle. Raising a daughter who recognizes and values fresh, whole foods is my answer to ending the cycle of obesity in my family, and also our society's general apathy about the food we eat and where it comes from. 

No comments:

Post a Comment