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On your Mark, Get Set: Kicking the Tires on Your CSA

2010 November 2

by Brianna Bain

Sarah’s use of of spaghetti squash in her Fruits of Fall Vegetarian Ramen paved the way to my squash selection and proved to be the spark that lit the  inspiration for my own trek through recipe books and farmers market bounty.  It’s difficult to resist the opportunity to incorporate the rich full bodied creaminess of many squash, I have chosen the beautiful butternut as my relay item.

This run on Squash resembles our three week stretch of cabbage during the summer. The steady flow of a particular vegetable or fruit can be one of the joys or perceived pains of eating seasonally and from a CSA box. The squash family brings much joy as I relish in the many varieties of colors, shapes, tastes and uses. This week am facing the results of not renewing my membership, a decision not hastily made rather, it rested in the fact that I will be traveling  over the next several weeks. It also posed the perfect opportunity to explore other CSA box offerings in my area.

Choosing a Community Supported Agriculture membership is much like shopping for a car – you look  for something that will fulfill your needs, support your lifestyle and won’t break the bank. The art of car making has come along way since the model-T; expanding into a billion dollar industry that fulfills the needs of an extremely dynamic customer base. Simply put, CSA lags behind the car industry in its developmental evolution.  Comparing CSA boxes to cars is like comparing tomatoes to tires, but if you can imagine buying a car that comes with 10 tires and no steering wheel you can imagine the frustration of receiving a CSA box with 6lbs of tomatoes, a smattering of strawberries, parsley,  some parsnips and a bunch of beets. You may ask yourself “how do I steer this thing?” CSA is probably more like a bike than a car. You have to work a little harder to get where you are going but the long list of benefits definitely outweighs the cost. The CSA box is expanding in popularity and with that the ability for farms to meet the more specific needs of their members. I don’t expect CSA to offer me the the luxury sedan model, but as someone who wants to get more of my friends and family interested in supporting their local farms it’s hard to sell a bike to a person who is used to their A/C, power windows and GPS.

This week I have picked up a sample box from a local farmer to test drive a new membership. I received a delightful mix of eggs, garlic paste, spinach, dandelion greens, mini bell peppers, oranges and a huge lemon. Sarah’s Fall inspired ramen set me on a soup trek  of my own revealing some possibilities in  a mixture of spicy lentils and spinach all served up on a butternut fritter. Stay tuned to see what I spin from my new CSA box and Sarah’s Vegetarian Ramen.

See you  back here on Thursday for a complete recipe.

  • Marc Duquette

    “Kicking the tires” on a CSA assumes you have choices. Although CSA numbers are increasing, in many areas of the country people are fortunate if they have access to one CSA. To further your automobile metaphor, sometimes it’s better to have a car, regardless of condition, than to have access to no transportation at all.

    Brianna and Sarah–Keep up the great posts!

    • sarahamaine

      Good point Marc! Brianna and I are both spoiled in that we do have access to CSA choices. NY and CA have significant differences also – when I sign up for a CSA I am locked in for 6 months rather than 10 week stints – I think it must have something to do with the shorter more uncertain growing season in the Northeast – farms need to guarantee that they can cover the whole season otherwise it isn’t worth it for them. Lucky for me I am very happy with my CSA but I have friends in other parts of NY who have had negative experiences. If you have limited choice in the CSA department and it isn’t living up to your expectations it may be worthwhile to see if you can become involved in the leadership and help it evolve. My CSA does a great job of surveying the members at the end of every season to see what worked and what didn’t. It’s an evolving experience!! Thanks for reading Marc!