A CSA Share: The Best – and the Worst – Idea

A Community Supported Agriculture Share is, at once, the best – and the worst – idea.

It’s the worst idea because:

  1. You can’t plan a bunch of meals ahead of time. I’m fairly sure we’ll get spinach each week in the early summer, so I can plan on that. But, some weeks we get kale and some weeks we get chard. I keep a pantry stocked with stuff to prepare each option.
  1. You don’t have volition. You have to eat veggies… and you have to eat veggies that you may not like very much. No one cares that you’ve eaten a salad for three lunches in a row. There are more greens in the fridge. Don’t like scallions? Well, here’s a bunch. Try to creatively hide them in other recipes.
  1. You either have to eat a bunch of raw veggies or spend more time cooking. We’ve started eating more salads because cook time is not going to happen during the last two weeks of the semester.
  1. You feel guilty every time you think about the uneaten spinach in your produce drawer. It feels especially wasteful to not eat organic veggies that were grown by someone you know – or at least have an active email relationship with.

It’s the best idea because:

  1. You directly support a local, ethical farmer. You know who grew your veggies – and you can help him or her stay in business by committing to support them for the whole season. And you get good food in exchange – what a great way to spend your money!
  1. You lower your carbon footprint because your food travels a shorter distance to get to you. Sometimes, I think about how far my food has travelled to get to me. I don’t know the answer for everything I eat. But I know how far my kale travelled to get to me: 21 miles. (Maybe 42, if you count the round-trip between the farm and my town.)
  1. You’re healthier because you eat more veggies. Want to start a program that encourages you to eat more veggies and improve your health? Here it is.
  1. You’ll probably be happier… at least if you ignore the guilt. One study found that women were significantly happier and less stressed after eating at home, and after eating healthier meals than after eating a less-healthy meal at a restaurant. And it’s been suggested that baking and cooking can alleviate depression by boosting positive activity. Of course, you can cook at home without a pile of CSA vegetables, but the surplus of high-quality ingredients makes it easier to spend time cooking – at least for me. Of course, the jury is still out on whether washing the dishes erases any good feelings you get from cooking.

Overwhelmed by veggies? You’re not alone. Just last week, a fellow CSA participant told me with a sheepish look on his face that we still had a lot of veggies from last week left in his fridge. The woman I share the egg and veggie share with commiserated with me as I talked about eating so many eggs! If you’re overwhelmed:

  1. Start composting. It feels much better to compost the beet greens you don’t want to eat than throwing them away.
  2. You don’t have to eat it all. Not eating all your produce can come in many guilt-free forms:
    1. Give a neighbor or a friend some of your produce. We did both last year – and it was nice to know that things were rotting in my fridge.
    2. Donate some of your produce to the food bank – double check that they can take fresh produce first.
    3. Leave it out in the break room at work. Better yet, cook it up in a dish and leave the dish there – by 2pm, you’ll probably have an empty container to take home.
    4. Use your veggies to make any and all potluck contributions. If someone else is eating your CSA veggies, you can choose which veggies to eat that week.
  3. Cancel for a week to take a “break.” If we cancel for a week – usually for vacation – we have the option of “doubling up” another week or donating that week to a food shelf – with the farmer doing the transport for us.
  4. Start splitting your share with someone else. We split a half share with another couple, which gives us the perfect amount of produce each week. Find someone who is willing to go halvsies (or at least go halvsies with what’s left in the season) and work out a deal.
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