Go Locavore: try a CSA!

Farm fresh seasonal produce that comes to you

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By Lisa Browdy

Health Blogger

Most of the time March finds us buried in snow and not even thinking about things like farmers markets and fresh sweet corn. This year, Mother Nature gave us a heads up: summer is coming, and if you want to spend it eating fresh local produce, then joining then a CSA is the way to go – and now is the time to do it.

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, a movement that has grown in popularity in recent years. A farm sells memberships to individual families at the beginning of the growing season, and each family gets a box of whatever the farm has harvested that week. It is usually fruits and vegetables, but some farms provide eggs and meat as well.

I just signed up for my first CSA. I've been meaning to do it for years, but fear of strange vegetables showing up on my doorstep always kept me on the fence.

Then last year I visited the farmer's market each week with a goal to try a new produce item each week (we health coaches have to coach ourselves sometimes). I enjoyed getting familiar with garlic scapes and Brussels sprouts, and searching for new recipes to break up the old routine ones.

I love the Farmer's Market and will continue to go to supplement my CSA box, but I welcome the chance to have a relationship with an actual farm. Many CSAs will invite their members to come to events or drop by for a visit. Others will post updates on their websites about how the planting and growing is coming along

If getting up early on Saturday mornings isn't your thing, then you might enjoy the convenience of having a farmer deliver produce to your door (or a nearby pick up point). Perhaps you feel you are in a produce rut and want to experiment with some new and exiting flavors.

If organic eating is important to you, you can choose an organic farm. My CSA farm is not Certified Organic, but it uses the same principles in its practices. One thing to keep in mind is that you may not be guaranteed a certain item if unforeseen circumstances arise. There is an element of risk involved if weather conditions wipe out a certain crop. But shared risk supports local farming, so most members take it in stride.

March and April are ideal months to join a CSA: some farms give discounts to those that sign up early, since the funds are needed now for seeds and equipment.

How to choose your farm? There are some good websites like The Local Beet and Local Harvest that will sort the farms that deliver to Oak Park and River Forest (or alternatively, near your workplace).

Put out a message on Facebook or Mom Mail for recommendations and don't be afraid to ask questions. In addition to the freshest (which is usually the healthiest) produce, you'll gain a connection to the source of the food and a new appreciation for what every season brings.

Email: healthwithinsight@gmail.com Twitter: LisaBrowdy

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mike from op  

Posted: April 5th, 2012 6:19 PM

We did this two summers ago. Get ready for more of any one veg than you can possibly eat in one week. Look for someone to share with or you better have a big freezer, The produce was great but what ever was ripe that week you got a ton of. I love asparagus but it all came in a two week time frame and most of it ended up going in the freezer. It's not as good after being frozen.

Carol from Oak Park  

Posted: April 2nd, 2012 9:40 AM

Yes, their website states that the animals are raised w/out hormones and antibiotics. I didn't realize it until I went to the Local Harvest link from the article, but you can find them there.

Lisa Miller Browdy from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 1st, 2012 8:59 PM

Good to know, Carol -- thanks! Can you tell us if the animals were raised without hormones or antibiotics?

Carol from Oak Park  

Posted: March 31st, 2012 1:53 PM

Don't forget that there are also farms that sell meat CSA shares. Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm does a once a month drop off at Marion Street Cheese Market all year round. We've been members for almost two years now, and the quality of their meat and eggs is top notch.

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