Today marks the start of a new adventure for my family. We received our very first box of organic eggs and produce from a local Virginia farm – fresh picked and hand delivered to our doorstep this morning!
Pete and I purchased a CSA for the first time this year. CSA stands for “Community Supported Agriculture.” It’s also often referred to as “subscription farming.” Basically what it entails is families and individuals can buy a share (or as in our case, a half share) of crops from a specific local farm, and each week through the growing and harvest season the farm will deliver locally grown and raised fruit, vegetables, eggs, and beef to our doorstep.
CSA’s are a way for modern American families to enjoy healthy, delicious, pure foods from a place we can see with our own eyes, walk the dirt with our own feet, and shake the farmer’s hand with our own. The produce that arrives on my doorstep is picked only 24-48 hours before it arrives, so it’s incredibly fresh and full of flavor and nutrition.
The Hubs and I consider this first year a grand experiment for our family. We paid for about six months worth of produce and eggs earlier in the year, so we’re eager to see what happens to our weekly food budget now that our produce, eggs and beef is coming from the local farm. Because so much of my weekly grocery bill comes from the produce section, I’m curious about how things change going forward. My hunch is the CSA will work out to be cheaper than what I’ve been paying at the grocery store.
So how did we get interested in joining a CSA in the first place?
It all started when a little buddy named Mark became part of our family almost two years ago. While Pete and I have always had an interest in a healthy lifestyle and healthy eating habits, having the responsibility of feeding a child of our own brought the organic food rage into sharp focus. We wanted to make good decisious for our own health, but most importantly for our kids. So we began doing some homework to see what the rage over food these days was all about.
We started by watching a DVD called “Food, Inc.” I’m sure many of my readers have seen it. I must admit, of all the documentaries I’ve seen about food in the past two years, Food Inc. was one of my least favorites. It’s so full of hype and propaganda that a critic on the “anti-organic” front could take easy potshots at how propaganda-saturated it is. I like cold hard facts without a huge bias so people can draw their own conclusions. However, Food Inc. did two important things that helped Pete and I immensely: it showed us the inside of a Tyson Foods chicken coop, and it showed us the inside of a meat grinding facility in the U.S. That was enough to make even the staunchest organic foods critic become a vegetarian for life. Following Food Inc. we watched a host of other documentaries, including Ingredients, Food Matters, To Market To Market to Buy a Fat Pig, King Corn, etc.
Pete and I didn’t give up meat. In fact, we haven’t even given up non-organic meat 100%. We occasionally eat out at Chick-Fil-A (or “Chicken N Fries with a BIG Cow” as Mark calls it), and we don’t freak out over putting a burger in our mouth that isn’t grass fed USDA organic quality. What we HAVE done is make as many slow but steady changes in our diet as we can. We’ve been buying organic grass-fed beef and chicken from Costco for the past two years, we shop at Trader Joes and the organic section of Wegmans (our favorite grocery store), and as much as possible we only buy organic produce and dairy products.
It’s an expensive (and thus rather painful for someone like me who prefers frugality) transition, but one we know is worth it for our family. What I have not yet figured out is how does a large family eat an organic diet? So far we only have three people who eat table food in our family and it’s already expensive…I’d love to hear advice and ideas from larger families who eat an organic diet: HOW DO YOU DO IT???
The second part of our CSA adventure is learning to cook and eat all the new surprises that arrive in our weekly box from the farm. The key to subscription farming is eating produce that’s in season. Some of the items in our box this week, we won’t see at the end of the summer or in the Fall CSA boxes. It’s all about eating with the season and what’s fresh and available from the ground right now.
This week our box included collard greens, swiss chard, and Chinese cabbage – items I don’t often buy and cook for our family. The adventure for me is learning to cook delicious reicipes using these healthy greens, and the adventure for the Three Bears who live at my house is learning to eat what I cook from the farm box.
I’ll keep you updated through the summer on how our CSA adventure is going. For now, it’s time to stalk Pinterest for recipe ideas for Chinese cabbage….