Joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program is a great way to eat fresh, cheap, and local. The way it works is simple: You sign up for a share in the produce – predominately vegetables, but also fruit and possibly honey and eggs – of a particular farm. This paid-in-advance subscription entitles you to a box of healthy goodies weekly for a set period of time, usually 6 to 12 weeks. Besides entitling you to a lot of good eating, CSA membership carries with it some unexpected fringe benefits. Here's what you'll be able to do:
1. Channel your inner hippie. What goes around comes around and while most folks laughed at the hippies with their brown rice and organic veggies a few decades ago, nowadays boomers can brag about food co-oping before it was cool.
2. Stretch your limits to be a more flexible cook than you could have ever imagined. Okay, you can handle pumpkin once a year when you just scoop it out of a can to bake a New England-style Thanksgiving pie. But when you get the real thing in your CSA share – big, raw, and daunting, sitting there on your kitchen countertop – that's what truly lets you shine as a chef.
3. Make your mom laugh. After all those years she spent fighting a losing battle to get you to eat your veggies, now you are consciously paying for the privilege.
4. Toss the word "locavore" around casually in conversation, because well, you'll be one.
5. Save money … or lose money. If you're prepared to be diligent and flexible enough to use up the weekly produce delivery, you'll be getting a great deal on some of the freshest veggies around. If they get the better of you, um, at least you'll know your money went to help support a deserving farmer.
6. Come to terms with your "ick" factor. CSA produce is not the same as the Styrofoam-packed stuff you'll find at your neighborhood mega-mart. A lot of it is slightly misshapen, bruised, or bumpy. Time for you to cultivate (pun intended) an attitude of tolerance and appreciation for inner beauty.
7. Give your kids (and yourself) the opportunity to find out for the first time what veggies really taste like. They're actually kind of yum when they haven't been trucked across the country or stashed in the supermarket cooler for the past decade.
8. Learn to share. On the weeks when you are zapped with zucchini or blindsided with beets, you will want – no, need – to share some of your bounty with friends, colleagues, neighbors, the mailman...
9. Be a vegan for a day. Experience what it's like to feature vegetables front and center at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
10. Learn to use mason jars as … tada! Mason jars! Over the past few years, mason and other canning jars have ranked high in the repurposing popularity polls as creative folks turned them into soap dispensers, votive candles, spice holders, planters, and craft room organizers. Now you can finally use mason jars as nature intended, as containers for jams, pickles, and preserves cooked up from your CSA share.
11. Get inspired to (gulp!) clean the fridge on a regular basis. The contents of those CSA boxes pile up fast and need a lot of space to keep cool, so all the unidentified fuzzie-wuzzies at the back of the shelves will really have to go.
Related on MNN:
- 10 tips for starting a campus co-op
- 12 foods that are bad for the planet
- How does a cruise ship focus on local food? Here's how one river chef makes it happen