For the Vegie Less Travelled- Go CSA!
It's that time of year again. Time to pick a CSA. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and what it means is that in the spring you give a farmer some money and in turn, throughout the growing season, you get a box of vegetables every week. This is a win/win situation because the farmer has some capital to buy seeds and can plan what to grow and you get the freshest produce available and maybe some fun farm events to attend.
Each CSA is different, though, and sometimes it's hard to choose. Here is a list of factors that can help you make a choice.
We have an embarrassment of riches in Wisconsin when it comes to CSA farms with only California, New York and Pennsylvania having more choices. The Robyn Van En Center will help you find a CSA farm near you. If you live in the Madison area, the best resource is Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition (MACSAC). Every year they host an open house where CSA farmers get together and the public is welcome to ask questions about their farms. (The pictures are from this event). On their website, MACSAC provides all the information you'll need to pick a farm and they also sell a locally produced cookbook to help you prepare delicious meals with the vegetables you will receive.
I probably sound like a hawker but it wouldn't be exaggerating to say that CSA's have changed my life. When I first moved to Madison in 1996, my best friend Sue and I decided to join a CSA and picked one that we could bike to because we didn't have a car. We bought what are called worker shares - every week we spent about 4 hours working on the farm in exchange for our vegetables. Fighting off the mosquitos and sharing a meal of just picked veggies with the other workers instilled a love for organic local produce in a way that buying it in the store never could. In fact, I have left Madison three times but every time I have returned, in part because of the amazing farmer's markets and abundance of CSA farms. If you want to support small farmers, eat great food and maybe get your hands dirty, CSA is the way to go.