Parsnips, Potatoes, and Peas, Oh My!
Full disclosure: I’m not a vegetable guy. Oh, I’ll have a bunch of broccoli on occasion, or favor the crunch of a carrot a little more often. I like potatoes if they’re mashed and soaked in butter. Even a tomato, if my loved one insists. But don’t try to fool me into eating cauliflower, or one of those dreadful little balls called Brussels sprouts. I’m just not a vegetable guy.
But there are a heck of a lot of guys and girls who are. I’m not sure there’s a lot of research on this, but they’re probably the people who live til they’re 95. These are the people who line up down the entire produce aisle at the supermarket perusing the entire stock of greens, when all I want is to get a head of lettuce, but am too embarrassed to push by the lady looking over every cabbage in the place.
But I’m just now finding out about other ways to get your vegetables. Of course, I know there are vegetable stands. I’m not an idiot…. I see them all over the county and can’t help but think the people are selling them and not displaying them as artwork. But there’s another way people can get their produce that I had no idea about: Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA.
Never heard of a CSA? If you’re a farmer, you know what it is. If you’re a serious produce shopper, you probably know what it is. If you’ve never touched a vegetable that you haven’t cooked into mush (like me), it wouldn’t hurt to know what it is.
Community Supported Agriculture has become a popular way for you and me to buy local food directly from a farmer. LocalHarvest is an organization that connects people looking for good food with the farmers who produce it. They explain the basics:
“A farmer offers a certain number of shares to the public. Typically, the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers purchase a share (also known as a membership or a subscription) and in return receive a box, bag, or basket of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.”
Sounds like a boffo plan, doesn’t it? Well, it is. Depending on the CSA you choose, you can get a small or large box of seasonal fruits and vegetables for pickup at your local farm store or even delivered to your home. And it’s not just parsnips, potatoes, and peas! Some CSAs offer items such as frozen local meats, local brown eggs, pickles, honey, and other specialty grocery items.
Why would you join a CSA? For one thing, it provides you with local farmer offerings throughout the growing seasons. Another positive reason to join is to provide your family with homegrown healthy alternatives to fast foods. Perhaps the most attractive reason is the sense of community that farmers and their customers feel as seasons pass. Jessica Yocum, CSA Program Coordinator for Fifer Orchards in Camden-Wyoming near Dover, points out that “committed customers come back every year. You get to know your customers and feel good about providing healthy alternatives to your community.”
Yocum finds that her customer base includes “all kinds of people, from young families with kids to elderly patrons looking to remain healthy as they grow older.” Many farms have CSAs that cover a network of areas (Fifer’s Farm Kitchen in Dewey Beach is a prime example).
Of course, there are risks to joining a CSA. Bad weather can ruin a crop, as can other unforeseen hazards. This is where that sense of community comes in. Many committed customers feel loyal to farmers that they’ve bought from over the years. New customers may not want to share that risk. So, if you’re in it for the long haul, a CSA can be a rewarding way to eat healthier, or expose your children to the farmer’s way of life, or join local communities of farmers and customers.
There are thousands of CSAs throughout the country, serving tens of thousands of smart shoppers. Joining a CSA is an investment for yourself, your family, even your neighbors (you can share your extras with them!). Each box or basket of fruit and vegetables provides a local farm with a buffer for the harsh months of winter, and helps with their marketing efforts and their cash flow. It’s a win-win for all involved.
So now I know. There are better ways to get your produce than running over ladies in the produce aisle in the supermarket. Tally ho, veggie eaters, the quarry has been sighted! Get your box of green stuff today. I won’t, but don’t let that stop you. After all, you’ll live till you’re 95! ▼
Michael Gilles is a playwright, actor, and director from Milton, and a regular contributor to Letters from CAMP Rehoboth.