CSA Community Supported Agriculture

by Gina Luck

Welcome to the wonderful world of Community Supported Agriculture! What is this? That is question you will have before as well as after joining a CSA. Read on, dear friend and all will become clear.

CSA is a direct marketing partnership between farmers and a network of community supporters/consumers. The consumers help provide a portion of a given farm’s operating budget by purchasing “shares” of the season’s harvest in advance of the growing season. In the beginning, summer shares were purchased in January or early February. Farmers used that money to purchase seeds and/or plant stock. Then in mid to late April share holders begin to reap the rewards of fresh local produce, all without lifting a trowel. Also, in these early years, shareholders needed to give a few hours of their time in the field. This benefited the farm with a bit of free labor and the share holder with a new understanding of where their food came from by reconnected them to the land. It is so much harder to throw away a slightly wilted carrot when you have had to harvest it yourself! Today’s CSA has a much broader range. You can not only participate year-round, but generally you do not have to work the land. There is also so much more than veg on offer. The Lancaster Farm Fresh CSA offers, teas, meats, eggs, cheeses, gluten free bread and more.

Why do I belong to a CSA? The list of reasons goes on and on. It allows me to reduce plastic packaging, to support small local farms and exposes my family to a very wide range of vegetables. I very firmly believe in eating seasonally as well as locally. I always have, ask my family if you like, but they will tell you, strawberries do not appear in our house until late May and except for the ones we prep and freeze ourselves, they disappear by the 4th of July. I have participated in a CSA for 10+ years and I have no intention of stopping. It brings me no end of happiness. Tuesdays are my pickup days. Every Tuesday my husband meets me at the garage to see what our box has instore for our coming dinners. But if you are a plan ahead menu kind of household, never fear, you get a predicted box content email on the Friday before and a confirmation email on the following Monday.

Mature man holding potatoes in garden

I am evangelical about my CSA. While we have our own veggie patch, there is no way we could grow the variety the CSA affords us. Let alone the ability to get fresh local veg year-round. As a gardener, I have on occasion, had that one lonely little kale, bravely soldiering on beyond Thanksgiving and into the first snow. But that is the extent of my three-season gardening. And as much as I enjoy gardening, I am never going to be the kind of gardener who covers rows each night and takes soil temperatures. Happily, there are an abundance of brave souls who keep America fed 356 days a year. Joining your local CSA is one way to support them.

When you choose your share, remember, size matters. My family and I get a large share from Lancaster Farm Fresh. It contains 11 – 13 different vegetables each week. Their medium share is 7 – 8 and their small is 4 items. Several gals in my book club cannot eat all the veg in the large share weekly but want more variety than is in the small box, so three of them split one large share. I also know a few singletons who each get a medium share and do a lot of prepping and freezing. Check with whichever CSA you choose to decide what is right for you. Besides size, another consideration is your level of adventure. The larger the share, the greater the variety. But keep in mind that the veg you receive is coming straight from the field. Many items will seem smaller than their counterparts in the produce aisle having been grown organically and no GMO. It should be noted that you CSA will most likely not save you money. CSA programs exist to support local producers, reduce the carbon footprint of produce consumption, and, most importantly, provide stability to local farmers.

Which every size you choose, you must be careful of wasting these lovely gifts from the garden! I think the key to using your entire weekly share is prep. Unpack your box as soon as you get home. Survey your treasures and wash whichever veg and fruit you will be using that night and for tomorrow’s lunch. Then prep the rest for the coming week. If you know you will not be able to use the veg up while they are at their freshest, prep them for future use. Wrap delicate greens in a tea towel and put in the veggie drawer of the fridge. Put your onions, potatoes, and garlic in a cool dry dark space, remembering to rotate them! First in, first out or put another way put the newest on the bottom and the oldest on top to ensure that you use them first. Wash, chop, and blanch veg for the freezer. Bundle up a mix for your next smoothie. You can knock up a pot of soup at a moment’s notice if all you need do it shake out some perfectly prep organic veg from the freezer!

You’re bound to wind up with some odd finds when getting produce from a CSA box – like celery root. These items may be a head-scratcher, but they’re great if you enjoy a good culinary challenge.

Gina’s Celery Root Soup

2 tbsp butter
2 lbs of celery root (weighed before peeling), peeled and diced into 1” cubes
2 medium onions, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp celery salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 cup white wine or dry vermouth
5 cups chicken or veggie stock
1 cup heavy cream

1. Melt butter in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan, over medium heat.
2. Add celery root, onions and celery. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover and let veggies sweat, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes.
3. Add garlic, celery salt, and cayenne pepper, stir for 1 minute. Add vermouth, bring to a boil and boil until most of the liquid evaporates, about 8 minutes.
4. Add stock, bring back to the boil then reduce heat and simmer, partly covered until veggies are very tender, between 20 – 30 minutes (make sure to wait until the mix has reached a simmer to start your timer!)
5. Using a blender, puree the soup in small batches. Be very careful! Your blender lid should have a central part that can be removed, always remove it before you blend anything hot, as this will let the steam escape. Put a folded kitchen towel over the lid so your don’t paint your ceiling!
6. Pour all the blended soup back into the pan and add the cream stir and warm through.

Well, thank you for ‘listening’. I hope you have learned something new, and I look forward to seeing you at the local CSA pickup site in the very near future.

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