Our first CSA year…review and reflection
Over the past few years we’ve done various things when it comes to produce and obtaining the loads of it we go through as a growing family. We briefly did Full Circle, an organic home delivery service. Convenient yes but SO expensive for what we got. And it was not entirely local produce. We also did for quite a while Bountiful Baskets, a much better value but had its own set of drawbacks. The location near us went to an every other week schedule and it was hard to plan around. The timing wasn’t always predictable, sometimes waiting an hour in line for our food in the rain. It was nice though heading home with a huge load of food that often would be enough for our family for close to a week.
Then there was the amazing workshop on gardening that I went to with a friend that made me think about the garden and the way things grow and what a miraculous thing a tiny seed actually is. And there were books. Aren’t there always!? It started with Square Foot Gardening, then it was Animal, Vegetable, Miracle what a captivating, inspiring, eye-opening book! Simultaneously I was soaking up a couple of fiction books written by Willa Cather about pioneer life that left me feeling like I was born in the wrong era.
Last spring, knowing we were expecting a new baby right at the peak of harvest and garden bounty, my husband tempered my gardening gusto with his wisdom despite our new home and the ample gardening space. He encouraged me to wait and see where the best place would be. So in looking for some other option for local, fresh produce that would quench my desire to be more in sync with the rhythm of food, it seemed like buying a share of a genuine, true CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) was the best option for the year. (Side note here: there are places that call themselves CSA’s but are more of a mulit-farm collective so its always good to ask lots of questions and make sure you know what you are getting and from where)
In April we paid a large chunk of money to a small farm in Snohomish, called Chinook Farms. The costs, for seeds and starting up for the year, are most high initially so most CSA’s require payment of half or a significant portion early on not a pay-as-you-go sort of thing. Our “buy in” would get us a weekly produce box from June to the first week of November. It was called “family size”, our box, but for a family our size that prepares most of our own food at home, it was no where near the amount we needed for the week.
Despite the quickly evident need to supplement greatly (mainly because it was usually almost only vegetables and we go through close to two dozen pounds of fruit a week around here), the experience and the quality of the food we received was top notch. There was something so earthy and simple about driving to the farm on Fridays to pick up our box full of who-knew-what. Many times we received things we’d never had before and they sent me on a quick search for how to prepare it. Our farmers are darling, they are a young, well educated married couple who had jobs in the corporate world in California but moved up here last year and jumped in to farm life with both feet. Micha blogs about their new life here in Washington on the farm here. They grew beautiful food for us and I think about 25 other members. They were gracious and friendly and kind week after week to me and the kids.
What I think I love second most, only to having a physical, real connection to the place where our food came from, is that the box followed the growing season of the area where we live. It is so vastly different from going to Costco and being able to find boxes or bags of almost any basic fruit or veggie. When cucumbers abounded, we enjoyed lots of them. We ate with the season, more than we ever have before, and that was really cool to me. Just when you’ve had too much of something, a new garden treasure is ready. And then at the very end when winter is creeping up and the days get dark too quickly, there are amazing root vegetables and squash that can store well for many weeks in these perfectly cold, dark days. And the apples that are in season as the frosty mornings come on, they are sweet and crisp and the best ones for keeping months in a cold garage. It’s
almost like the order in which the food can grow best was created that way on purpose. How did I never really notice that before?
While I still have very high hopes of an amazing garden next year – we might just do this again because it really was such a meaningful experience for me, for us! And in parting, here is baby Liberty when she was ten days old in our produce box: