It’s early spring in New York, and the community-suppored agriculture (CSA) season is starting to bloom. While many conscientious fresh food lovers have already renewed membership with their own beloved CSAs, some of us are confronted by a familiar dilemma. We’re interested in joining a CSA -- have been for years -- but have no clue how to become one of them: the clever, rosy-cheeked farm-box-carriers bound for home to prepare lush meals using just-picked vegetables from a regional farmer, and probably earn eternal salvation in the process.
And what is community-supported agriculture? It's a service that funnels fresh produce from a relatively nearby farm to the city. Members receive a weekly box of veggies, fruits, and perhaps other foods such as eggs or herbs. They pay for the whole season in advance -- which gives the farmers a much-needed guarantee that they'll sell their crops at a fair price.
For years I’ve admired CSA from afar. I’m inspired by the idea, but I’ve never actually researched a convenient pick-up location, written my check, and signed up for my own weekly box of earthy delights. But this year I want to take the plunge. I want the challenges, the disasters, the triumphs. I want a CSA box of my own!
As with hotels, accountants, and nail salons, personal recommendations can make or break a person’s decision to choose one CSA over another. One friend told me she loves the idea of belonging to her Brooklyn CSA, but in practice she is sometimes left cold by an overabundance of things she doesn’t like or can’t use, like excesses of parsley or something called salsify. Although I’ll eat practically any vegetable, do I cross that one off the list?
On the other hand, another friend loves participating in her CSA so much that one year she kept a blog recording the contents of her weekly box and the delicious dishes she made from it. (This could be a whole blog subgenre, call it “CSA Love,” from what I’ve since learned. Even some CSA farms keep a blog.)
But do I want to travel out of my way each week to pick up my box? Am I not just as well off going to the farmer’s market instead?
What I need are recommendations. And I’m sure I’m not alone.
So calling all you bright-eyed New York CSA supporters: Which CSA do you love? Is there one you don’t recommend, and if so, why? Or are you a CSA dissenter who prefers the co-op/local natty food store/Whole Foods?
Write in a comment and share your story or favorite links!
Help those of us up on the fence get down with the CSA. (And if you do become a first-time CSA member this year, send me an email about it. I’d love to follow up on this in posting later in the season…)
Here are some links to get the ball rolling:
A recent Chowhound posting asked for CSA recommendations in Brooklyn. Only got two responses. C’mon, aren’t Brooklynites supposed to be opinionated??
Did you know CSA was runner-up for the New Oxford American Dictionary’s Word of the Year (it lost out to Carbon Neutral…), and in 2007 NYC will have 50 pick-up locations, up from 41 in 2006?
Image: Farm box picture, aranandjennie/flickr