All of this unseasonable, 70 degree weather has me thinking of spring and farmers’ market season. While going outside and planting seeds in all my garden beds already might not be the smartest thing to do, I am surely dreaming of the delicious seasonal produce coming in the year ahead. One of the main things I’m thinking about is which CSA (community supported agriculture) share I will invest in this year.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares are a wonderful way to support your local farmer and make an investment in local food security in our community. When you purchase a CSA share, you are making an investment in the farmer to grow or produce items on their farm, providing a farmer with income to keep growing and providing for our community and for you, personally.
Shares come in different sizes and price ranges, and each CSA has different varieties of share items to provide. Also, CSAs provide items on a seasonal basis, so you really get to know what is in season and how to use those items in your kitchen. For example, Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery has a cheese CSA, but they also partner with other organizations so that you can pick up meats and other goods when you pick up your delicious goat cheeses. There are flower CSAs, meat and egg CSAs, purely vegetable CSA’s and a mix of fruit and vegetable CSA’s.
One of the things I love about CSAs is the opportunity for culinary exploration. Sometimes, you’re forced to be creative with the types of items you receive in your share and try new produce items. I distinctly remember the day I got a daikon radish in my CSA share from Brackett Farm. I pulled it out of my bag, examined it and had to Google recipes and ideas for what to do with this produce.
Actually, Mr. Brackett had some great ideas about what to do with this item – don’t forget to ask your farmer for suggestions too! I ended up making a delicious Asian-inspired dish with shrimp, tofu, jalapeno (to feed my need for heat) and daikon radish dish over some rice. I have also made slaws, kimchi, in stir fries, and so much more. I love exploring new foods and taking on the challenge of expanding my pallet and knowledge of food and how to create new and awesome dishes.
If you’re ever unsure of what to do with something you receive in your CSA share, check out our Farm Fresh Now! page on the website – it is FULL of recipe ideas for how to cook and prepare locally-sourced foods. Let us know what recipes you enjoy!
Another thing I love about CSAs is that I get to know the farm, farmer, and where my food comes from. It’s an addiction – once you make that connection to understand know who you’re supporting with that purchase and understand how hard that farmer works to produce the goods they sell, you’re hooked. I can’t look at items at the grocery store in the same light because I know there are local farmers here that depend on sales to keep their families and farming passion thriving. I’d much rather support someone’s viability than a corporate grocery store chain, when possible.
If you’re as excited as I am about the upcoming bounty of our region, start exploring CSAs in your area – localharvest.org is a great website to start your search. Also, take a look at your local farmers’ market website to see what vendors come to your regional market and Google their website or Facebook page to see if they offer a CSA. We are fortunate in Champaign-Urbana to have a CSA Fair on March 3 that will highlight all the regional vendors (or at least many of them…) that have CSA programs.
Consider supporting your local farmer this year through a CSA – you’ll love the benefits and bounty all throughout the year!