There was a straw basket sitting on my counter, piled high with gorgeous produce, beautiful potatoes, a couple of squash, and eggplant. But if you tilted your nose at all you could immediately spot the problem. There was something rotting underneath it all.
It should. The basket had been sitting there for a couple of weeks. Or more. I wasn’t sure.
I picked up the basket and felt a dart of sorrow in my heart. Rotten vegetable juice was oozing out of the bottom of the basket and down the counter and I hadn’t even noticed it.
This was a scene in my kitchen last fall towards the end of my summer CSA, and it’s one I want to do everything I can to avoid repeating.
For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of the CSA, it stands for Community Supported Agriculture. I (community) support local agriculture by paying into a farm at the beginning of the season. In return, I’ll get a portion of farm produce each week.
Problems I encountered last year:
- Lack of planning. It’s hard to plan ahead when you don’t know what sort of foods you’ll be getting each week.
- I was sharing with a friend but at certain points of the summer, like early spring when there were a lot of greens, she didn’t like what was available, (she doesn’t care for salads) leaving me to try and figure out to do with the Great Greens Fiasco in my fridge.
- Not enough time. I didn’t realize how much more time I needed to allow to deal with the produce each week. I assumed it would be just like coming home from the grocery store each week, and it definitely wasn’t. There was always so much food and I never quite knew what to do with it all.
With the wasted food, how tired I grew of salads, and the expense of a CSA, you may be surprised to hear how fast I signed up for another one this year as soon as it became available.
In fact, I’ve actually signed up for MORE food!
Yes you did hear me right and no I haven’t lost my mind!
Planning for wise CSA use
This year Bell’s Bend Farms in my area, is offering something new: a Full Diet Share CSA. I’d never encountered this before, but it will provide meat (chicken, pork, beef, lamb), vegetables, eggs, and freshly ground grains sufficient to complete a full diet.
It’s pricey. But it’s also a lot of food. Good, quality, organically raised food. Splitting it with a friend, I think it will probably provide my complete groceries for the next year. That is, if I’m on top of it. If I plan ahead and cook and freeze and organize so that I don’t waste an ounce and have plenty stored up when winter comes.
I know, I’m starting to sound like a squirrel.
But truth to be told, minus a cow to milk, people used to live like this all the time. Food-wise, that is. And they did just fine!
In fact, the challenge I’ve put before myself from mid-May when the CSA starts until mid-September (not the end of the CSA, but a good end for this goal) is to use only items from the farm in my diet. I will allow myself five other grocery purchases per month during that time, which also need to be whole foods where possible. This includes things like milk, peanut butter, odd recipe ingredients, etc. Don’t worry, I’ll have plenty of herbs from my herb garden to help me add extra flavor too!
If you’d like to see how I do with this (and believe me I have no idea how well or poorly I’ll do on such an extreme challenge) I’d love to have you join me for my weekly unpacking videos, free menu plans, recipe finds, and new cooking surprises throughout the summer at bethanyrossbrown.com. I’ll also be back here in the fall with some updates on how it went and what I learned, so stay tuned!
Check out some preplanning I’m doing on Pinterest for now, and if you have any suggestions on recipes, it sounds like the first weeks of produce will include things like: kale, collards, radishes, turnips, spring onions, lettuce, spinach, peas, and popcorn. And I have a good bit of chicken still in the freezer from last summer, so I won’t be hurting until they are ready to process their first meat. I’m looking forward to some good farm eating this summer.
I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments.