This past May I joined a CSA. Up until two weeks before I joined I didn't know much about them. I learned about them through a local friend of mine who has been joining CSA's in our state for several years. A CSA is community supported agriculture.
Some CSA's are simply fee based. You join, pay your fee for the season, and pick up your freshly harvested groceries weekly. Other CSA's are work & fee based. Those are the ones where you go and work a section of the farm and then pay your fees and pick up your produce weekly.
I joined a fee based CSA. (there aren't any in my area that I know of that are work & fee based or I would try it out). I can't say enough good things about CSA's. Our CSA runs for 27 weeks. It started in June and ends at the very end of November. The produce has been simply amazing. I have gotten to try things out that I would not have otherwise ever purchased or tried. Everything that we receive each week is freshly harvested, in the peak of it's growing season, and tastes fantastic.
One of the things I truly love about it is it's locally grown. The farm where I belong is 350 acres and grows a variety of fruits, vegetables, spices, and flowers. In the case of where I belong while it is not an organic farm, they do try and minimize the amount of pesticides that they use in the growing process. I love knowing that I support local industry as well.
Currently we are in the peak of summer growing season and have been enjoying a variety of eggplants, peppers (sweet & hot in about 9 varieties), all kinds of summer squash, tomatoes, kohlrabi, peaches, early season apples, sweet corn (3 varieties),a variety of onions, elderberries, black raspberries, a variety of melons, and all sorts of great herbs.
In June and July we also got to enjoy a variety of leaf lettuces, collard greens, mustard greens, some greens whose names I had never heard of (and not sure I care if I hear of them again) asparagus, blueberries, currants, and more garlic & basil and other herbs than one household could ever use, freeze, or give away.
I am excited to see what fall will bring. I am sure we will continue to have many varieties of the above, as well as potatoes, pumpkins, and assorted other root vegetables.
It has caused me to learn to be creative with my cooking as well and to use what we have on hand.
We only did a 1/2 share this time around (which is about 1/2 bushel of fuits & vegs) each week. I have found that at times that wasn't enough depending on the type of offerings. I am thinking of doing a full share next year for my family.
the cost to us worked out to be about $17 dollars per week for the 27 weeks. If I did a full share that cost would have been $25 per week for 27 weeks.
The downside is the CSA I belong to you have to pay up front. The upside is that by paying up front it's like a fun new present received each week :) [some of you may not see it that way but i really do since I already paid for it but now get to continue to receive the box of yummy items each week]
It's also been a great experience for my 2 year old daughter as she goes with me each week to the farm to pick up our order. We feed the animals at the farm and pet the ones that we are allowed to. she even gets to ride horses from time to time. It also is teaching her about so many different types of vegetables. She is also my "helper" in unpacking our order and cleaning and caring for our items. It's been so much fun so far.
We have found vegetables that we love that we never thought we would, and ones that we will know for next time that we simply do not like and will try and trade with other people or give away to family members who might enjoy those that we don't.
I can't say enough great things about joining the CSA and would urge all of you to look in your areas to see if you have one.
Here is a link to the one I belong to (in case any of you are local to my area):
Additionally here are some links that may help you learn more about CSA's.
wikipedia definition of CSA
Alternative Farming Solutions