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I found a CSA…but do I really need it!
March is finally here, time for me to pull out my favorite gardening books, finalize seed orders, and sketch out the plan for this year’s vegetable garden, even though its snowing* outside as I sit here writing this post. I couldn’t be more ready for spring, where my gardening activities tend to overshadow my cooking. I don’t spend nearly as much time experimenting in the kitchen like usual, all that daydreaming about Jersey tomatoes and sweet summer corn.
Since I know I won’t be able to plant everything that I’d like and my grandfather isn’t up too much gardening compared to years past I started looking for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share. A couple of years ago I began reading all about these “CSA’s” on various blogs and websites and needless to say I was very intrigued, it was just the kind of thing I wanted to be a part of. February and March are usually prime months for signing up for CSA shares. The first time I searched for one near my home, I was pretty unsuccessful. I couldn’t find one within a hundred miles. Pretty ironic considering I live in what is known as the “Garden State”.
This year I have been fortunate enough to finally find one in “my area”. $385 for 16 weeks May through October. That comes out to be approximately $24 a week which is about what I spend on fresh produce now at the Farmers/Produce markets. Reviewing the CSA brochure and listings of produce offerings for the coming seasons I was positively giddy with excitement. Not only would I get the standard tomatoes, peppers, corn, squash, and onions but also blackberries, raspberries, endive, salad greens a total assortment of over 40 different fruits and vegetables. However, there was just one catch about this great find. The pick-up location is a 40 minute drive from my home. So now the question became was it worth the nearly half tank of gas I would burn every Saturday morning just to get a handful of fruits and veggies that I wouldn’t be able to grow myself. As much as I wanted to support this local farm was it really going to be the savings for my family that it should be?
In the end I decided to forgo the CSA share, for this year at least. And despite my initial concern it wasn’t the 40 minute drive that deterred me. After all, I do live in rural Southern New Jersey and I have to drive 15 minutes just to get to the nearest gas station. No, I decided that if I took that CSA share I would miss my friends at the local Farmers Market and what about those trips to the blueberry farms in the summer and the apple orchards in the fall. CSA’s are awesome and have become a wonderful resource for city dwellers and suburbanites alike, but for me I enjoy supporting nearly ten farmers at the local market every weekend rather than just one.
*Check out my backyard covered in a fresh blanket of snow. My veggie garden starts just south of the birth bath…
Next Time: Thursday, March 12– Weaning my 3 year old off of Hot dogs, surely I can find one that is local and organic somewhere.
Heather Jones is a wife, mother, freelance food writer, and graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City. She has worked for Gourmet Magazine, TV Personality Katie Brown, and the New York based Indian-fusion restaurant Tabla. Heather resides in New Jersey with her husband and two daughters. She is a strong supporter of the Sustainable Food Movement and believes that education is the key to making a difference.