Little Luxuries: the CSA Box
Does receiving a weekly box of organic produce seem like an incredibly bourgeois practice? Of course it does. But that doesn’t mean the broke asses of the world can’t do it, too. CSA, or community-supported agriculture, is a beneficial relationship between farmers and consumers that results in an allotment of seasonal fruits and vegetables for you. Sounds fancy, but it’s secretly a great way to eat healthy and satisfy your locavore boner on the cheap.
CSAs exist all over the U.S., but the basics are similar to the stock market but with nobody getting fucked over. A farmer (or a group of them) offers shares to the public. A share consists of a box of produce grown at the farm(s), and depending on the farm, it could also include other farm items, like nuts, seeds, herbs, honey, and so forth. So when you purchase a share, usually called a “subscription” or “membership,” the return on your investment is receiving this box on a regular basis. No sub-prime lending here!
You can usually pick up your box at a drop-off location that’s convenient for you, but some CSAs offer home or office delivery. Your produce should always be seasonal (meaning you won’t get peaches in the dead of winter but when you do get them, eating them will be a religious experience), and it should always be fresh.
Now let’s talk about the most awesome things I’ve experienced as a member of a CSA. Some CSAs, like the one to which I belong (Capay Organic, which serves the SF Bay Area, in case you were curious), allow you to customize your orders by exclusion. For example, if you hate fruit as much as I do, you can get on the website and be all, “Please do not send me plums, ever.” You have to do this for every item offered that you don’t ever want to receive, but that just means you get more of the stuff you do enjoy — more broccoli for me!
Also, Capay and other CSAs generally give you a metric shit-tonne of food. I mainly cook for myself, so a “small” box weighing about 15 pounds is plenty to get me through the week; I just add the brown rice and beans I bought in bulk to the squash, cauliflower, spinach, and/or fresh thyme I received in the box, and voila, I’m so god-damned healthy!
Finally, the produce comes to my office weekly (unless I ask them to hold a delivery if, for example, I’m on vacation), and I only pay $25 a week for it. If I were to go to Whole Foods and attempt to purchase the same items, I’d pay twice as much, spend infinitely more time trying to navigate the overstuffed aisles, and leave with a migraine. The CSA format, on the other hand, is effortless and less expensive.
So look for a CSA near you, and give it a shot. Yes, you’ll be forced to be creative and resourceful in your cooking, but you’ll be saving time and money, and what’s life without a challenge?
Photos courtesy of Farm Fresh to You