Today we’re talking CSAs! This year we decided to get our first CSA — a local box of food usually weekly–that includes a share of the veggies produced. The idea of a CSA is that you pay a subscription fee upfront in exchange for a share of the crop. This allows farms to hire staff, buy seeds, and purchase items for the growing season upfront in exchange for fresh produce. It also allows for flexibility to promise a share of the crop instead of exact quantities. CSAs come in different forms. Some are shipped (usually the most expensive), some are pick-up box weekly, and some come in the form of weekly credit at farmers markets or shops.
CSAs have been growing in popularity over the past couple of decades as local food movements have people looking for produce that has not traveled as far or sat on shelves as long. CSAs can vary in size and type of produce but typically each week includes multiple vegetables and herbs.
West Virginians are known for their home gardens and thus CSAs have been slower to the Mountain State than city dwellers (understandably!). However, some farms have begun offering CSAs for those of us who rent, travel a lot in the summer, or do not have a green thumb. This summer and fall we chose purchase Wardensville Garden Market CSA. This was one of the closest CSAs near us and since we have family in the area, it made sense to try it out.
The Year of COVID-19
It turned out this was a perfect year to start our CSA since COVID caused two major things 1) a reluctance to go to the grocery stores as often and 2) we were home to cook all the time! Having fresh veggies that we could get weekly and cook creatively has been extra exciting this year. Also, major props to Wardensville Garden Market for making a safe and touchless CSA pickup all the way through the fall season.
This year, the garden market offered a fall CSA to continue past the 20 weeks of summer veggies and into fall things like squash and roots. We were excited to continue getting fresh produce into November! A CSA really does put you in tune with growing seasons. In the spring we started with spring greens and lighter fare and moved into peak summer with tomatoes and one week we got an entire flat! Now we are eating interesting squash and turnips. There is something magical about eating with the weather and I love getting veggies at peak season. It is incredible when produce can be picked for only a short travel from farm to table and thus they can ripen longer and be that much tastier.
CSA can vary a lot depending on how large the farm is, how many people buy in, whether it’s pick-up for delivery as well as general location. Wardensville Garden Market CSA runs about $19/week for veggies and eggs. It may sound a little pricier that what you spend on store veggies, however it encourages more vegetable creativity. Also, the quality can’t be beat. Reach out to find more in your area and compare prices.
Thinking outside the box
Part of the fun of a CSA is trying to be creative with the ingredients. Below are swiss chard tacos, something I would not have thought to make if I did not have a large bunch of swiss chard (something I don’t often buy on my own). Getting a CSA will introduce you to new foods, let you eat more seasonally, support a local farmer, and have good quality produce in your life. I highly recommend looking at CSAs in your area during the next growing season.
If you live in the Potomac Highlands, check out Wardensville Garden Market here: https://wardensvillegardenmarket.org/