The CSA quickly introduced us to new vegetables—kale being the most prominent. We had never bought it before; we have since learned how to cook it (and I am told my kale is excellent—but my wife might be a little biased and kind). In other cases, the item is so good that we began planning meals around it. Exhibit 1 is Herrcastle Farm corn. Trust me, corn from Herrcastle Farm qualifies as a Major Event—it is that good. It is also symbolic of how the CSA has changed our lives and eating patterns. In corn season, we plan our Saturday dinners around the corn; we have learned the corn is better when it is cooked the same day we get it.The corn is the most obvious example of how many our meals have become oriented to what is in that week’s share. Meal planning for a given week (to the extent we do it in advance) is driven not by a menu of what we think we’ll want, but by what we have in our share that week. In part this is a function of having to use up the vegetables (and some fruits). But in part it is driven by just how good the produce is. The produce consistently is excellent and highly nutritious. It is paradoxically easier to wait to see what we have in share and plan from there, than it is to try to build a whole week’s menu without knowing what kind of produce will be present.
One issue with all the produce is what to do with all the extra stuff—such the covers of the corn, kale stalks, the greens from some of the winter vegetables, etc. The first year, we threw away (to be put into a landfill) an enormous amount of this stuff. I decided that this was ridiculous, and got a compost pile container. For a couple of years, I dumped dry vegetables, and tea bags, and other compostables into a contained pile in the back of the yard, hoping I would get compost out of it. This was not quite successful.This year, I decided to spend the money to get an actual composter with a cover. I bought it on spec, hoping that my father in law and his assistant (my toddler) could assemble it. They did. In the past 3 months, I have gotten out more compost from the composter than I got from my compost pile in the past 2 years. I had been afraid I would have too much compost to use. Au contraire. The issue is now, with my efficient composted (aided by hundreds of bugs inside of it) is that I have too little compost. The apple tree, blueberries, garden all need compost, yet my family and I can’t generate enough compostables to fill the demand—even with our CSA. This is a classic problem of undercapacity for new markets.
Speaking of new markets, CSAs are spreading out from their summer vegetable origins. Over the past couple of years, I have heard of more CSAs being offered in the winter (aside from mine). More recently, I’ve seen advertising from farms for CSAs for cheese. Since my wife and I love cheese, this was appealing. The problem is that there are 2 of us, and it would have been too much (locally produced) cheese to eat through. Just last month, my neighbor told me very excitedly last month about a meat CSA he had heard about. He has been calculating if his family eats enough meat to make the CSA worth it. This was the first I had heard of a CSA for meat.It is wonderful to see so many varieties of CSAs available. And if the eating patterns of thousands (and maybe millions) change from their involvement in CSAs (like mine have), then a larger and larger portion of the agriculture industry will change as well to more environmentally friendly (if not organic) production methods. That is a good thing not only for the environment but for those producers servicing this growing market.
My previous post on CSAs: