Buying the Farm

The first box of the season

I’ve written a bunch about how eerily miraculous modern produce is.  About how any day of the year, you can make a smoothie with California strawberries, Ecuadorian bananas, and Florida orange juice and not give it a second thought.  The supermarket may be convenient, but it’s also cheapened a lot of nature’s specialness.

What I’ve written about less are the alternatives to this system… I guess because they’re not as obvious.  Today, though, I’m happy to write that I just took a step towards valuing the farmer… I  joined a CSA.

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  It’s basically a contract made between the farmer and the surrounding community: before the growing season starts, community members “join” the CSA (i.e. pay for a season’s worth of produce – in my case, half a year).  Paying for everything up front does a couple of good things: it prevents people like me from chickening out later on, it gives the farmer some financial reassurance in performing a not-so-profitable undertaking, and it promotes more diversified, more interesting, and healthier crops (farmers aren’t constricted to growing “what sells”).

A very untamed salad.

Still, it’s the paying up front that was the hardest part to personally overcome.  The whole thing basically comes out to $10 a week (I’m splitting a $20 box with a friend) – a figure I’d drop at Wegmans on groceries, no questions asked.  The thing is, that ten bucks looks a lot different when it’s multiplied by 23.  A lot different.  I found myself hemming and hawing about it, even when I knew it was the right thing to do.  Luckily, peer pressure won, and so did the farmer.

And so did I – my first box came last Thursday, and it was a total score: a ton of mixed greens, fresh dill, bib lettuce, chives, and the piece de resistance: tiny little wild strawberries.  I’ve never had strawberries like this before… super good.

Ridiculous

The CSA is no doubt a good thing.  I can tell you off the bat eating this produce has been much more enjoyable than the stuff I got at the supermarket.  There’s just an extra something – slightly better quality, much better perceptions – that makes everything more special.  Plus, knowing that I’m doing good is an important part of it all.  Words like sustainability and community are thrown around like crazy these days, but it really does feel gratifying to take tangible steps towards those mega-concepts.

The next step is figuring out how to make this concept more mainstream.  The ideas behind farmshares are solid – it’s their hippy-extremist perception that prevents a lot of people (like me) from reaping the benefits.  All in time.  For now, expect more updates on my CSA.  Not because I’m bragging, not because I’m trying to guilt you into joining one – because I’m legitimately excited to open my box next Thursday.

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