Do you CSA?

With so much negative press regarding the pesticides, strange chemicals and questionable growing practices that are used to produce our food today, I made the decision over a year ago to eat all organic fruits and vegetables. I also made the decision around that same time to stop eating meat, and I have since added in some organic poultry because I wanted to. That's how I roll. Flexitarian. Around the same time that I made all of those wild and crazy decisions, I also briefly discussed the concept of Community Supported Agriculture (or CSA), in one of my Fun Food Friday posts. Here's what I said:

"Have you ever wondered where you can find the best organic produce in your area? If so, check out Local Harvest, which is a website that lets you search your ‘hood for farmers markets, co-ops, restaurants, farms, and CSA’s that specialize in organic, wholesome food.

I just became completely elated when I found out that there is a CSA farm less than 2 miles from my home. I always wondered what that huge spance of open land was as I drove by. The excited text message that I just sent to My Gazelle in this regard included the words “Honey!”, “crop-sharing farm!!!!!!”, “fresh veggies all summer!!!!!!”, and “ridiculously excited”.

I think you see where this is headed…

Woe is me…2009 CSA’s are full…boo hoooo!!! I just emailed to be put on the waiting list for next season."

I was clearly BOOSTED at the thought that I could be part of a farming "community" where I can have my own share of fresh fruits and vegetables for 24 weeks out of the year. Elated. Overjoyed. Crazy happy. The problem was that when I received an email from the farm that I was on the waiting list for, we were at the beginning stages of moving 15 miles away from the farm. In addition, I was kind of geeked out by the farm itself because I found out later that it shares a property line with a conventional dairy processing plant.

Who knows what kind of runoff that thing is producing.

Also, on the property of the dairy processing plant there was a huge series of power lines that kind of resembled this monstrosity:

power lines

Along with one or two of these:

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Yes, we live with electricity all around us. However, if I'm paying for natural, clean, garden fresh food, I don't want it to be potentially radioactive or electrically-charged. Crazy, I know.

In light of all of the above factors, I slept on the whole idea of joining a CSA for a few months. Then, I slept on it some more. Last week, I started doing some research about local farms, and the idea of the CSA was rekindled for me. My only sadness was that now that we are living in a county that has a lot more farm land and farms, it is so late in the growing season that I thought we would be out of luck.

NOPE!

A few emails later, I received a response back from RJ at my #1 farm choice, Breezy Willow Farm. I was really excited to find out that they still had shares available for the 2010 season, with 13 weeks left. Jackpot!

Why was Breezy Willow Farm my first choice? First of all, their slogan is "from the land to the hand". Excuse me, but if that is not totally badass than I don't know what is.

Second, their farm has a pretty cool website, and although that shouldn't really be the way that I make my decisions in life, I do appreciate their willingness to operate a traditional farm with a modern approach to marketing. Let's face it--online sales and marketing work. People like having the ability to go online and see what companies (or farms) have to offer, without necessarily having to make the drive.

Third, although the farm is not yet certified organic, they are in the process of becoming certified. Their soil tests have come back impeccable, and they use absolutely no pesticides. The other draw for me is that Breezy Willow Farm has what is known as a "value-added CSA", which means that they work out partnerships with other organic local farmers (bakers, cooks, etc.), and they add those items to the weekly CSA selection as well. This makes the selection more vast, since one main farmer can partner with several others in order to give the shareholders the most bang for their buck. Breezy Willow is able to provide not only vegetables and fruit, but also milk, cheese, nuts, bread, eggs, etc.

Fourth, they have sheep, and they make soap and skin products from their sheep milk. That's awesome.

Fifth, the price is right.

My Gazelle and I picked up our first CSA "box" tonight (although it's not a box, but rather a bag that they provide with the farm's logo...how cute!), and we had so much stinking fun.

This was the contents of our first pickup:

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8 ears of summer corn 5 plums 5 apples 5 tomatoes 4 zucchini 5 peaches Potatoes (2 lbs) 1 unpictured watermelon 1 loaf of artisan bread (baked using eggs from the farm) 1 bag of roasted nuts (there was a choice of either eggs or nuts, but we already have eggs in the fridge from last week's grocery store trip) 5 funny peppers (we could take as many as we wanted, and I didn't want to take a bunch and get kicked out of the CSA on our first trip) Basil Purple basil Thyme Rosemary Lavendar Lemon Verbena Chives Sage

There is an herb garden, and after you've collected your fruit, vegetables and such, the nice lady hands you some scissors and some little bags in which to put all of the wonderful herbs that you'd like to cut from the garden. They also have beautiful flowers that you can cut as well, but my house is a shambles, and flowers won't really help the aura of my dining room right now.

If my dining room were not my kitchen, and my kitchen was not a glorified closet, that would help the aura. Not flowers. Not now. It's way beyond flowers.

So, how much would you pay for all natural, organically-grown, fresh (as bejebus) fruits and vegetables; "from land to hand"?

I normally go to the organic market each week and buy our produce there. I never buy nearly this much, simply due to the outlandish cost. I very rarely branch out and get anything different because we have a set budget and I have to stick to it. This much produce at the organic market would likely cost between $50-$60.

Breezy Willow Farms CSA program runs for 24 weeks, and the total price for 2010 is $840.00. They offer their CSA members several different payment options, even including a very generous weekly payment plan of $35. From my research, I have not seen any other CSA's (in my local area) that offer a weekly payment plan--they generally require one lump sum payment, or at least a monthly payment plan.

In my opinion, Breezy Willow Farm has the right approach to operating a great local CSA. I feel that everyone should have access to affordable, fresh, organic produce. It's the way that nature (and our ancestors) intended for our food to be, and it should be a right rather than a privilege.

(and now I shall step down from my soap box)

If you are in a situation such as myself and you don't have access to fresh, organic, local fruits and vegetables, I strongly encourage you to search Fresh Harvest and hunt down a local CSA that fits your budget and your needs. If you find the right CSA for your lifestyle, you won't regret it.

In my opinion, the $35 weekly cost pales in comparison to the knowledge that I'm giving my body (and my family) the best food that we have access to. We're worth it.

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