Ahead of the CSA Curve…

…or so says my friend Preston. He spotted this article in this past week’s NY Times about Community Sponsored Agriculture (CSA) programs. I don’t know how long CSAs have been around, but Preston got into it in the summer of 2006, and waxed so poetic about it on a drive to the beach that I quickly scoured my local area, found two that delivered with a block of my place and then signed up to take over the one-person share of someone who was trying to get out of hers.

CSAs are usually run by local farms; before the growing season starts, a farm offers shares in the produce to be grown. Shares can come in different sizes, like single shares, 4-person shares, etc. Members pay for the shares — usually — before the first seed is sown, and a lot is weather dependent. So, if there’s a drought, or temps are unusually high, then the produce bolts and shareholders are a little screwed, but, if you think about it, the food in the grocery store is weather dependent, too. Come early June through early October, vegetables arrive once a week in a van one block away from me, and I wander over after work to pick ’em up. This actually works out pretty well for single cooks since it’s annoying to have to buy, say, an entire bag of carrots when all you really need is one for a recipe. With a “single” share, I’ve essentially paid for what one person “eats” in a week. Although, even this is kind of ludicrous because in October, there’ll be times when there are 3 sweet potatoes a week in a single share, and anyone who eats 3 sweet potatoes a week is not eating much of anything else.

What I like about CSAs, though, are 1) how close it is for me to pick up my vegs; 2) the new vegs that I’ve been introduced to (and then have to figure out how to prepare); 3) the likelihood of my tomatoes or peppers getting caught up in the latest salmonella epidemic is rare; 4) FRESH foods; 5) I actually think it’s cheaper than buying them in the store. And that’s good enough for me.