Our actual mid-summer CSA 1/4 bushel of produce + meat share + eggs share circa 2012. Peaches, tomatoes, and dill, oh my!
Even with all the winter weather we've been incessantly pummeled with, it's hard not to start thinking about spring. Despite the occasional tornado warning and incredibly high pollen count, springtime is one of Nashville's best seasons. The change happens rapidly, and seemingly overnight, the whole city is alive again. Sidewalks are sprinkled with white flower pedals from the trees, tulips have peaked up through the ground, and winged insects are starting to explore their neighborhoods again.
While we're not quite there yet, the oncoming spring and a twitter conversation with Red Debted Stepchild has me contemplating whether to rejoin a local CSA for this year's growing season.
What's a CSA?
CSA stands for community supported (or shared) agriculture, and it's an alternative agriculture model based on local food distribution. Every year, individuals pledge to support a local farm in advance for a set amount of time. In return, the farm will provide a weekly box of fresh produce based on what's available and currently in season. Curious about what that may include?
This, of course, depends on your region of the country, but check out this rad seasonality calendar created by the Nashville Farmer's Market. We're lucky to have a fairly long growing season and can start eating locally grown produce as early as April!
I've had the pleasure of being a part of a local CSA through Avalon Acres, a farm located in Southern Tennessee (Hohenwald to be exact) just off the Natchez Trace.
The CSA season runs for 26 consecutive weeks (May 4 through October 26) with no breaks. The membership fee is $25 to join and $27 per week for a 1/4 bushel of produce. They offer a ten percent discount for members willing to pay for the season in advance. This brings the weekly fee down to $25.26 per week (only $12.63 per week if split between two people). Best of all, they offer a variety of convenient weekly pickup locations around the city, including Sunday afternoons at a church a few blocks from our house!
– Weekly access to the most fresh and delicious organic produce I've ever tasted.
– Getting to know what's in season.
– Being forced to frequently cook creatively and eat healthier. Note: these may be cons to some.
– Carnivores rejoice: some CSAs also offer meat and dairy shares!
– Trying new things. I had never even heard of a kohlrabi before joining a CSA! And I've enjoyed using the process of elimination to try and identify the weekly herb in my box. Uhhhhh, lemon basil?
This totally reminds me of one of my favorite Portlandia sketches:
– Not having enough time to meal plan and cook with all the produce you're given. Definitely not worth developing anxiety over!
– Getting sick of certain things (i.e. never-ending squash in the fall). I've heard similar complaints about kale in the spring.
If you've got the time to be creative with meal planning, cook, and you're willing to commit for a season, I would absolutely recommend joining a CSA. Hell, I've already started a Pinterest board for those stubborn, harder-to-think-of-things-to-cook-with veggies.
Food is really important to me, and being a part of a local CSA has helped me establish a strong sense of place and feel more connected to Tennessee. Though I've never taken advantage of it, I've always wanted to spend a summer preserving seasonal foods to enjoy through the winter. I'm an advocate of small-scale farming and non-factory farming, so supporting a local CSA is in line with my beliefs. And let's be real, eating produce when it's in season is hella good.
Readers: Have you ever joined a CSA? Would you recommend it?