Choosing A CSA

I am an autumn/fall kind of gal. I get giddy about going cardigan shopping and love to see bright colourful leaves in red and orange. The season brings back so many good memories of playing carnival games at a fall fair with my family, enjoying homemade soup, and the crunching of fallen leaves beneath my feet.

This year is a little different.  I’m still looking forward to all of those things, but it now represents the end of my Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share. For a fee you can purchase a share in a CSA and receive fresh, local, and usually organic, produce for a period of time. Mine began in June, and is set to end in October. I’m not looking forward to the end of October.

Over the last few months I have taken my two-year-old to the “big farm”, as he calls it, once a week to pick up our share. He has helped me select what leafy greens we will use in our green juice, asks to carry the “keenees” (zucchini), and wants to eat the crunchy carrots when we get home. I'm going to miss this time with him. Sure we can do many of these same things at the grocery store over the winter, but I know he won’t run to put his shoes on when I tell him we are heading there instead of the farm.

This is the first year that I have participated in a CSA, but I know that it won’t be my last. It has helped me add new recipes to my kitchen toolbox and introduced new food and flavours. When I was searching for a CSA, the following helped me determine which one I wanted to support.

Delivery days/times or location pick up availability. I wanted to expose my son to getting our food from the farm, instead of it appearing at our door. You might prefer the delivery of great food . . . choose what works best for you.

List of produce and what is included in a share. Yes, I wanted to try new food, but I also wanted to ensure we would get some stuff we already knew we like.

Additional items for sale such as eggs, meat, honey, flowers, herbs, etc. The convenience of being able to pick up more items on my shopping list was a huge sell, especially when these items are coming from other local producers.

Recipes offered/created by the farmers for veggies that are new. I never follow a recipe exactly, but having access to them helped me decide what to do with a new to me vegetable.  Of course you could search for your own recipes, but it is a nice bonus to get my food and ideas on how to use and cook them from one source.

Work Trade. Can you work on the farm for more produce or for a reduced share price?  I consider the offer of visiting the farm from time to time is an absolute must!

If you are in Ontario, Canada and looking to participate in a CSA, check out the Ontario CSA Directory to locate one in your area.  Visit the farm’s website, if they have one, and see what they have to offer.  Most farms will begin offering shares to purchase in the late winter or early spring so take this time to do some research into ones that you are interested so that you don’t miss out on the opportunity.

For my family and I, it has been an awesome adventure that has led to some wonderful memories, great food, and a little sadness because it will come to an end during my favourite season. I can’t wait to see what my CSA will bring my way next year.