As much as I like farmers markets and my neighborhood grocery store, there is something altogether different and special about a CSA share. I tried out a CSA program for the first time last year, and I can’t wait to sign up again this spring. If you haven’t run into the term yet, CSA stands for community-supported agriculture. It’s a direct, local model for growing and distributing food. You buy a season’s share from a farm or CSA group. The upfront payment provides the farm with a more stable source of income, offsetting the vagaries of weekly market sales.
Then, each week of the season, you get your share from the farm. Depending on what you’ve signed up for, the share is usually the size of a grocery bag and filled with a variety of fresh food, straight from the farm.
There’s certainly a lot to like about CSAs: the freshness and quality of the produce, the feeling of community when everyone comes together each week to pick up their shares, and the support the CSA members provide to local farms and food producers.
What I really love, though, is the variety, seasonality, and surprise of each CSA pick up. Every week, you get a new and different selection based on what’s available and what’s in season. I like that someone else makes the selection. It feels like opening a present as I find out what I’ve been given each week. Oftentimes I find something in the share that I might never have chosen at the store. I enjoy the challenge of figuring out what to do with, say, kohlrabi, which was completely unknown to me before I received some in my CSA bag.
So in that sense, the CSA can change how you eat. But the bigger challenge that I found was revising my diet to accommodate more—not just different—vegetables than I was accustomed to. Our CSA share was not only delicious, but it forced my family to eat better, and that has surely been a welcome side effect.
There are a few CSAs that go year-round, such as Fresh Fork Market, but most come into their own after the ground thaws and the days warm. The start of the CSA season is a sure sign that we are well into spring, with summer just about to arrive.
If you haven’t used a CSA before, check out our list on page 50. Try one out and get ready to enjoy Northeast Ohio’s amazing produce all summer long.