Last year, Engineer and I decided we were ready to embrace CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture, in which you purchase a “share” and receive a weekly basket or box of produce for a set number of weeks) in an effort to eat more seasonally and locally. In our zeal, we ended up purchasing a share from two different CSAs (which is a long story). Our two CSAs only overlapped by about a month, and it actually worked out nicely. It was nice to have them at the same time to compare and see the differences between the two.
I have to admit, that first year of CSAs was an adventure. It was an adjustment to plan our meals around the produce we received in the boxes, but it was nice to have such fresh produce. It all tasted better than it does from the store, and I loved it. We have signed up for both again this year, and are already getting our lettuce-filled bags from La Nay Ferme. But. I’ve learned a lot about CSAs from my experiences last summer. CSAs are not for everyone, and there are a few things I don’t love about them.
- First, farms and CSA proponents tend to sell them as a frugal option. Let me assure you, this is not the case! They may be a good value for what you get (sometimes as much as 15 pounds of local produce for $20, depending on the week and the CSA), but you will spend almost as much at the grocery store as you do right now each week anyway. Most CSAs will not give you all the produce you need for a week because they just can’t get the variety and volume you need. Tagge’s in Salt Lake does a fair job, but you’ll probably have to supplement with some onions and other vegetables that various recipes will call for.
- Second, there’s a good chance you’ll get some vegetables (or fruits) that you just don’t want. And they’ll probably appear almost every week. You’ll end up throwing out some because you just can’t use it all. At one time last year, we had 15 to 20 radishes in our refrigerator. What do you do with radishes? I can only eat so many in salads. We ended up throwing some of them out. Some things will be so obscure even Google can’t help you. Sure, it’s fun to get things you can’t get at the store (think purple peppers), but it’s tough when you don’t know what to do with them. We’ve gotten Loubie endives in our share for the past two weeks, and I have no idea how to use it. Belgian endives I can handle. These? I have no idea what they are. Do I use them like salad greens, or like sturdy bitter greens? I’m clueless.
- Third, you’ll often get a sampling of things. Which means you might not have enough to try out that interesting recipe you dutifully pinned from pinterest to use those vegetables you got in your CSA. Luckily, Tagges often lets us add on a box of peaches or a flat of berries, because 3-4 peaches isn’t enough to make a pie. Or a cobbler. Or whatever. It’s a very interesting dichotomy, really: you get too much of some stuff, and not enough of others. It’s understandable, of course. The farmer has no idea what you are hoping to make with what’s included. Just don’t be expecting that you’ll get 5 pounds of tomatoes in one week.
- I love supporting community agriculture. I love supporting local anything, actually. I feel like it benefits the economy, and I also feel you get higher quality stuff.
- You can’t beat the freshness. When I pick up my CSA shares, I know the produce was picked only hours earlier. You can’t beat that. It also tastes better because of how fresh it is.
- They are organic or almost organic. La Nay Ferme is 100% organic and I know Tagges uses far less pesticides and fertilizers than major agriculture. I feel much better about feeding myself and my family food from local farms.
- It’s exciting! I love seeing what comes in the share each week. It’s like opening a birthday present every week.
- I like that it forces me to try new things. Right now, I’m munching on a pile of kale chips. I have never purchased kale in my life, but it comes somewhat regularly in my La Nay Ferme CSA share, and I’m learning to use it. I don’t love it yet, but I’m learning.
These kale chips were lighter than I expected; they crumble easily. If you’ve had kale chips before, you’d probably be expecting that. I sure wasn’t! I didn’t think I oversalted them, but they were quite salty. Despite the delicateness and the saltiness, Sous Chef really enjoyed them and I have the mess in my kitchen to prove it. Be very judicious as you add salt.
recipe from Smitten Kitchen
- 1 bunch kale
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- kosher salt, to taste (be careful)
Preheat the oven to 300. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Wash the kale and trim it by removing the stems and cutting the leaves into pieces. Put the kale in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Stir to coat all the pieces, then spread the kale in a single layer on the baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with salt.
Bake the kale for 20-25 minutes, until the kale chips are crisp. Remove from the oven, cool briefly, and enjoy.
*Please note that I have NOT been compensated by either La Nay Ferme or Tagges’ CSAs, neither know me aside from my membership information. The ideas expressed are purely my own.