“Food” Spelled Backwards Is “Doof”

And “Jesus” spelled backwards sounds like “sausage.”

It’s true. I just learned that.

Anyway, ’tis been a while since I yammered on about food and how you should try not to eat like an asshole (damn, now I’m picturing a literal asshole try to eat something — like, say, a tomato or a Zagnut bar). This seems a good day, though, since it is Holy Crap, The First Day Of Spring.

And the first day of spring is the best day of the whole year, because it is the day that puts its foot on Winter’s neck and presses down so hard it snaps.

So this seems like a good day to get up on my soapbox once more and start frothing at the mouth about how basically you’re shoving garbage into your body which is like taking a dump in your car’s gas tank except it happens to be your life and not a machine, and how the many Western diseases from which we suffer are partially caused by our corn-addicted, corn-raped, over-processed diets.

Except, I’ll save that for another day.

Instead, I’ll ask you a question.

Anybody ever taken part in a CSA? Community-sponsored agriculture?

I always dismissed it, assuming it was some weird hippy shit. Bunch of crunchy-haired back-to-earth types sleeping in compost piles, eating raw veggies out of a moldy cardboard box, and getting so high they can talk to the bees. Then I looked into it, and it doesn’t seem that hippy-shitty at all.

I guess the idea is, you go to a farm and “buy in” at the beginning of a season — and that buy-in can seem steep. Five to seven hundred bucks. But that’s for a 20-25 week growing season, from May-ish to November-ish. But then you get to visit that farm every week and pick up your produce. You don’t shop for it. It’s whatever happens to be in season. You don’t get a ton of choice, though some farms week-to-week do offer some options (you want basil or chives this weekend? zucchini or summer squash?). That nets out to be about $25-30 a week, and you reportedly get enough produce for a family of four. (One farm lists several example weeks, and one of the mid-summer weeks lists the produce as: 1/2 lb of salad mix, one watermelon, one lb. onions, a bunch of herbs, quart of peppers, pint of cherry tomatoes, quart of heirloom tomatoes, two pounds of new potatoes, and two garlic bulbs.)

And it’s fresh produce.

It comes from people you meet. From farms you visit. And farms you work.

See, that’s another stipulation. Most CSAs ask that you commit some hours to the farm during the growing season — usually four to eight hours. That’s once during the entire 24 weeks. I’m kind of into that. Growing up, I hated doing farm stuff (I grew up on a farm), but duh, I was a kid. I hated everything that smelled of work and effort. Now, I kind of miss that. That sounds pretty cool to me. Am I nuts?

It has a couple downsides. I don’t get to choose the produce that week, but that’s okay — I like the “forced creativity” of having to make recipes from whatever is in front of me. It’s like Iron Chef Wendig. I’m competing against nobody, of course. Except the dogs. I stick them in little chef hats and give them knives.

The other downside is, we go to the farmer’s market weekly, and it means I’m less of a customer to one of our favorite farms and markets, but… it also sounds like this is more bang for our buck. And we can still hit the farmer’s market for other types of food — meat, jams, jellies, pies, any produce that didn’t get included that I need for the week, soaps, dog bones, corn husk dildos, y’know. The usual.

So, anybody a farmer’s market whore like me?

Anybody buy a share of a CSA? Or know somebody that did?

Give a shout. Drop some logic.

[EDIT:]

If you need to find farm CSAs in Pennsylvania: Buy Local PA.

Or, for anywhere else, Local Harvest.

That is all.

17 comments

  • I’m not a farmer, though I have tanned that way. I have a humble garden where I grow tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers. That’s good enough for me. This area is ripe (pun intended) with local farms and produce. I enjoy taking advantage of that.

    The Q-Mart and other local markets provide a great product at a great price. I love farmer’s markets. I love the atmosphere, the smells, the people, and the products. There’s something about buying something there that gives me a better feeling than buying from Acme.

    I have zero interest in a CSA.

    • Why the zero interest, perchance?

      I had zero interest up until I read a couple articles from a few local farmers. CSAs support the farmers directly, which is always nice. I’m not convinced, yet, until I talk to somebody who’s used one — from what I read, you basically double your value for produce and get a fuckton of veggies and herbs (and from some farms, meat). But, I’m hesitant until I get word of mouth from someone I know and trust.

      — c.

  • Ok…zero interest is kind of harsh. Let’s just say “very little interest”. I have bigger fish to fry these days, though I guess the kids could learn a thing or two by doing this. Stop seeding these ideas in my head you bastard!

    Also I forgot to comment on the “Iron Chef: Wendig” thing. I also enjoy making stuff out of whatever I can find or have on hand. You should host a tournament! I would enjoy seeing you stare into the sky wistfully while biting into a pepper.

  • I haven’t actually done CSA personally yet, mostly because of circumstance. However, I can attest personally to how valuable it is to small farmers. Because it’s supporting them directly, the whimsy of the market is circumvented. That means that taxation, subsidies (a wholly fucked system), middlemen, and in short, The Man can’t fuck with what they’re getting from you. Also, The Man can’t fuck with what you’re getting from them If you taste chemicals in your cabbage, you can talk to the person who grew it.

    The other reason I really stand behind CSA is a more ephemeral one, but it’s one I think someone needs to speak on. Maybe this is too ‘hippy shit’ and all, but shit, times are fucking tough for small farms nowadays. I know this too keenly because it’s an issue my family is facing right now, though going organic did help a bit. I keep thinking that people supporting initiatives like CSA, people going out to *meet* farmers and say hullo to them, people actually connecting to the folk who grow their food can only help our culture get a bit healthier in the way it thinks about food. On an immediate level, it makes the people who are sinking every speck of sweat and money and effort they have into keeping the farm going feel just a bit more supported and valued, and that’s important. I think that’s really, really important.

    …actually, maybe this should have been a blog post instead of some soapboxing on your blog. Sorry, Chuck.

    • I should also note that a lot of CSAs allow you buy in at half ($300ish) for a lesser produce load.

      And @Shoe — word to all that. No soapbox problem. Keep on soapboxing. And beatboxing. And breakdancing.

      — c.

  • I do believe the amazing JR Blackwell and her husband do a Farm Share. They don’t actually go to the farm, they meet their shared farmer (Share a Farmer, that sounds like my next Harlequin romance.) at the grocer and pick up their packaged of goodies. I don’t know them to have to go down and work there for a few hours, so this might be a slightly different (but not very) process.

    By all reports they end up with more produce than they can eat.

    My father had always grown a lot of his own produce, even in the suburbs. (He grew up an Italian in South Philly. You had to become an expert in growing tomato in pots if you wanted good tomato.) I did a little last year, and will do a little better this year. Growing things and putting your hands in dirt is important in a way I can’t quantify. It’s got value, it connects us to some mythical root that makes us so very human. It reminds you that you’re Cultivating Man instead of just Hunter Gatherer Man.

    Maybe when the girls are a touch older we’ll do the ‘work on a farm’ sort of farm share. Get them out there. Get their hands dirty in a way I just can’t in my suburban front-yard-garden.

    (Also, all little girls should shovel horse shit. I learned that by being a girl scout. Helps sooth that ‘I want a pony’ thing. Or else it makes it more realistic.)

    • Shoveling horseshit was awful. It taught me a lot about responsibility and animal ownership, though.

      We don’t have a lot of room here for growing (though pots are possible), so the farm share is of particular interest.

      Hrrm.

      — c.

  • We’ve never had the money during the necessary window, or I was working too hard to commit to a weekly trip.

    However, we have a lovely little produce market down the street, run by the friendliest Indian family. So not only can I get awesome fresh produce at awesome low prices, I can also get any kind of rice I want, chutneys and all manner of curry. So it’s a good substitute.

  • I’ve lusted after CSA membership for a while but it’s too much for just the two of us, both in terms of up-front investment and food volume. I’m totally on board with everything the programs do for the environment and the local economy, but the bulk transactions keep me at the farmer’s market. I wonder if Local Harvest catalogs community gardens, too…

  • I don’t know of any CSA opportunities near me, but that’s also because I haven’t checked yet. I don’t think I can buy in at those prices up-front, but $25 here and there on occasion would work for me, and I’d be happy to volunteer work at just about any time. Then again, I could probably negotiate something like that all on my own, which is why I really like the whole CSA notion. :)

    On the other hand, I definitely know where my local farmer’s market is located, and I love it. I turned Alex (my fiance) on to goat cheese that way. It’s a little expensive, but it’s worth it as a wonderful treat on occasion. (One of these days we’ll also buy the smoked bacon and kielbasa one of the vendors offers, because it is HOLY SHIT AMAZING. An acquaintance once got Amish bacon and described it as “magical” — what’s at my farmer’s market tastes like what I’d imagine the Amish bacon would.)

  • There are a bunch of different kinds of CSA. Up here in New Hampshire, Liz and I bought into one a couple summers running where we gave them $200 at the beginning of the season, and then that was just credit for their weekly stand at the local farmers’ market. No work or deliveries involved, if there was something in particular we wanted, we emailed them at the beginning of the week and picked it up at the stand. It worked pretty well for everyone involved.

    • This is all good info. Most CSAs seem to demand $$ up front, but I can handle that if it seems like a valuable buy-in.

      Mind you, none of this is meant to steal thunder from farmer’s markets. Love those. As of last year, I’m definitely converted.

      — c.

  • I went back to find said friend’s post on a forum we’re both on:

    “So today I got my first basket for $18 ($15 + $3 1st timer fee) for this amount I got the following:

    Fruits:

    4 lbs Green Grapes
    1-2 lbs Bananas
    1 lb Blueberries
    7 Braeburn Apples
    5 Yellow Peaches
    1 Cantaloupe
    1 Honey Dew

    Veggies:

    1 Head Cabbage
    1 Bundle Celery
    4 Green Peppers
    4ish Lbs String Beans
    1-2ish lbs Sugar Snap Peas
    2 Tomatoes

    There are also add on’s each week such as fresh bread, or other fruits and veggie packs. It’s random based on what’s in season as all produce is local. ”

    Definitely worth it imo. Writing a sticky note to actually do it this week.

  • I don’t think we have a CSA where I am, but since as a tender child I had some sort of Pavlovian conditioning (or microchipping) take place that prompts me into excitable palpitations at the mere thought of Farmers’ Markets, that’s okay. Our local one has variety and activity and oodles of fresh, delicious stuff and I love the process of going, even if I don’t need to buy much. It’s still damn cheap, the bakers that sell there are out-of-this-world with their breadolicious magic, and sometimes there’s an independent cheesemaker there, peddling their delicious goats’ cheese to the clamouring masses. (That would be me. I am a clamouring mass.) Love the farmers’ markets.

  • Filamena is right – Jared and I do have a farm share. We’ve been doing it for years and we love it. It cost us 500 for six months of food. All the money is paid up front, yes, but it breaks down to meaning that we only go to the grocery store every other week for soap and butter and soy sauce and the like. Meaning that we pay about 60$ every other week at the grocery store. So, big up front payment for savings later on.

    We get more than we can eat – truly. But that’s our CSA – Keystone Farm. We’ve never worked on the farm — that wasn’t part of our deal, or any in our area – perhaps that’s because we are in the city, so it would be a lot for people to leave the city to work on the farm. I’ve never even been to the farm where they grow our food, but I do know the farmers – for years now. It’s nice to know where my money is going.

    We get whatever is in season at that point, and lots of it. Keystone Farm has a lot of variety, so we never have just one thing – we’ve recently been getting huge carrots, lettuce, onions, garlic and apples. Next month is coming up on strawberry season, or, as I like to call it, God Loves Me Through Fruit Time. Keystone gives us meat (pork, beef or bacon), cheese, vegetables, fruit, granola and sometimes honey or maple syrup. I have to give most of the honey away because we can’t eat it all.

Speak Your Mind, Word-Nerds