How I found my way to my CSA
Emily Akins, Coordinator of the Kansas City Food Circle, reflects on finding her CSA & shares some things that she learned through the process.
Last year was my 10th season with my Community Supported Agriculture program (CSA) with Fair Share Farm in Kearney, MO. I've been reminiscing lately - especially now that my weekly farm fresh veggies are a well-entrenched way of life for me. How did I first get started with my CSA?
It was 10 years ago when I signed up as a Fair Share member, at which time Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, and Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle had not even been published yet, much less had I read them. I hadn't heard of the 100-mile diet; I hadn't learned that most food in the industrial food chain comes from 1,500 miles away. Locavore didn't become the New Oxford American Dictionary's word of the year until 2007. "Food, Inc." didn't come out until 2008.
In 2005, my friend and co-worker, Heather, had invited some farmers to the EcoTeam at work, a resource group focused on sustainability. These farmers - Tom Ruggieri and Rebecca Graff of Fair Share Farm - had a lot of interesting and thought-provoking things to say, the specifics of which I can't quite remember now. What I do remember is that the idea of getting food directly from a farm nearby sounded quaint, wholesome, and delicious. And maybe it was a little old fashioned sounding too (and I am just enough of a romantic to feel nostalgia for a time I have never known).
Heather and I were both interested in the CSA and perhaps a little daunted by the notion of subscribing. So we decided to go in together and to share a "full share" - that is, a subscription to a larger portion of fresh vegetables to be picked up each week from May to October. Over the course of that first year, we split the share half and half, which made it easier for us to get into the swing of things. When it came time to sign up for the next year, we were both hooked on the idea of CSA. We each signed up separately for our own smaller "partial share" now that we were both confident about making the commitment.
I have learned a lot and enjoyed food so much in the years since that first season. And I inadvertently became much healthier; I hadn't set out to eat more whole foods, but joining the CSA encouraged me to do so.
It is a big shift in the way you eat, especially if you (like all of us in the modern industrial food era) are accustomed to eating food that comes in a box or a can and that will sit happily on your shelf until you are ready to eat it and that will give you exact instructions on the side of the packaging for how to prepare it.
With each share of my CSA, it is our farmers providing instructions, not a label. This is the beauty of the CSA model; I know the people who grow my food. They have taught me how to store, prepare, and even preserve all the interesting and delicious produce that comes to me fresh from their farm each Wednesday. I can even visit the farm and see with my own eyes where my food comes from. Best of all they have provided me with confidence; I know the farm and the farmers where my food is grown. I know that their sustainable farming practices both enrich the earth and make for delicious, fresh produce that I get to eat every week.
The CSA model is also great for the farmers. Since I pay for the subscription before the season is half way over, the farmers get the capital they need early on so that they have enough to grow all the food for the CSA. They also have the assurance that the food they grow will be eaten by their committed members.Being a member means that I share with my farmers in the ups and downs of sustainable farming in the midwest, which means that sometimes crops struggle but other times they flourish and I get to reap the rewards.
Over the course of my membership, I have revisited favorite vegetables and old beloved recipes (like okra, which I love, or the Strawberry Dumplings of my childhood), and I have explored and come to love new foods, as well (the spaceship-like kohlrabi which is delicious and versatile or kale, the "valedictorian of vegetables"). I have also changed my mind along the way. I used to say I didn't like tomatoes; but after joining the CSA and eating the freshest and most interesting tomatoes I'd ever seen, I realized - I just didn't like bland, plastic-y, flavorless tomatoes at the grocery store. It turns out I love a good heirloom tomato!
Now that I have been eating with the seasons for so many seasons I can barely remember what it was like before my weekly CSA veggies. Lettuce heads so colorful, curly, and flavorful; an abundance of the freshest of healthy foods like spinach and sweet potatoes; tomatoes that were still on the vine only hours before they came to me; pungent herbs and fresh berries - I truly can't imagine my culinary life any other way than this.
WANT TO JOIN A CSA?
The KC Food Circle has a variety of farms that offer CSAs. Visit our website to browse our CSA farms and contact the farmers directly if you have questions. Take a moment to find the CSA that's just right for you.
Look for a CSA that has a drop off or delivery point that is close to where you live or work.
Most offer different share sizes and prices. Some CSAs offer fruit and vegetables, some offer meat and eggs as well. Others are meat only or mushrooms only. Email us if you need any assistance.