What You Need to Know About Joining a CSA

A lot of you have asked about my CSA (community supported agriculture) membership, so I thought I’d give you the low down:

A CSA is a program that allows you to buy fresh produce directly from local farmers. When I lived in Boston, I participated in a farm share from Siena Farms for two years (fun fact: Siena is owned by the husband of the woman who runs the well known restaurants Oleana and Sarma). My friends Lea, Austin and I split a box of fresh vegetables each week. The share lasted all summer long and included greens, garlic, carrots, kohlrabi, onions, potatoes, and more. Split 3 ways, it mapped out to about $15 per week which was equivalent to what I usually spent getting veggies at the grocery store.

When I moved to Seattle, I knew I wanted to get involved in a farm share right away. I love knowing that I’m eating with the seasons and I like to know where my food comes from. My Boston CSA also challenged me with items that I might not buy at the grocery store on a regular basis — I had to mix my cooking style to accommodate that week’s box and I learned to like new foods because of that. Plus, if I didn’t eat something quickly, I had to preserve it. Since that first CSA in Boston, I’ve learned to pickle, make sauces, and dry herbs. And I really, really enjoy supporting local farmers. It’s my way of connecting with the ground beneath my feet every single day.

Seattle has a lot of CSAs, but Tilth Alliance is perhaps the most famous. It’s the one I signed up for when I moved here because they allowed for late arrivals. For $25 per week, I got a half share of fruits and veggies. I loved this share because it featured produce from a bunch of different area farms, not just one. Each week we got a newsletter about where the produce came from, along with recipes from the farmers themselves. The Tilth share also included fruit — I got peaches, plums and apples in addition to all the usual greens, herbs and veggies. As a bonus, I picked up my share in the middle of the Wallingford Farmer’s Market so I was able to grab whatever else I might need (butter, meat, veggies I didn’t get) in one trip. I could add things to each week’s shares, too — eggs, flowers, and milk. I loved it.

My share just ended for the summer and Tilth is actually shutting down their CSA next year. However, many of the farms that have incubated within Tilth will be starting their own CSAs. I’m excited to support one (or two!) of them next year, and I’m thinking about joining a meat share, too. Many people think that supporting local farmers too expensive, but I’ve actually found quite the opposite to be true. If I go to Trader Joe’s or QFC or Whole Foods, I spend close to $40 on produce (yes, I eat a lot of green things). When I pick up my farm share, I’m spending close to half that — often for produce that was picked the day before, produce that was grown by people in my community. That makes my heart sing. The onions are 10 times as pungent and funky, the tomatoes are bursting with juices and bright red or bright green, and the kale has extended flavor and crunch. The produce lasts longer, too. It’s a joyful experience to know that I’m eating real food — food as humans were intended to eat it.

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