By Joanna Tebbs Young
It was the beginning of a love affair.
As a family we’re not big salad eaters (OK, I’ll admit it, I’m too lazy to chop it all up). So, my son, who was five when we joined a CSA, had never tasted a fresh red pepper. But at that first sweet crunch he was hooked.
And then he tried the snap peas. Challenging cherry tomatoes (or ‘candy,’ as he called them) as the new favorite snack of both children, they were all but devoured on the ride home from the farm.
And there was the time I made a kale, radicchio, who-knows-what-else frittata (admittedly my favorite meal throughout the summer because you can put anything in it). My children, who aren’t so much into the “stronger” veggies, inhaled it. Score one for Mom!
But in truth, with CSAs it is a win-win.
I asked some of Rutland County farmers about their experience with the CSA model. Here are a few of the benefits as seen from both sides of the farm stand.
Sense of Community
Driving out of Rutland City into lush farmland each week last summer was a treat. I got away from my computer or chores and it gave the kids a diversion from fighting over the hose pipe. The kids came to love our farmer and happily chatted with her as they picked out our veggies. And to know that I was part of a community who were all going home with the same selection of bright veggies, even eating the same soup on the evening we were provided with a recipe and all the ingredients, gave a wonderful feeling of connection.
And all five farmers who responded to my questions agreed. Tied for first with the financial reasons for starting a CSA was the relationship with their customers. Says Carol Tashie of Radical Roots Farm in Rutland, “Our share members become like family… it is a true community.”
Although the upfront cost of a CSA was a bit of burden for us, we decided for multiple reasons to push the budget last spring. But as soon as the veggies started coming in, I intuitively knew I was saving money. And it was proven by the end of the summer. Our farm sent out a cost comparison which determined that if I had purchased the equivalent of our share in the store, I could have spent between 25%-60% more.
For the farmers, the CSA model is an invaluable source of upfront revenue to plan and start the spring planting. Many small farms wouldn’t be able to survive without this model. “We have the security of knowing that a substantial portion of our operating budget comes from our CSA memberships,” says Kara Fitzgerald of Evening Song Farm in Cuttingsville.
Helping them to help us and the community (and ultimately, the earth): Priceless.
To Your Health
A fridge full of fresh, organic veggies; it doesn’t get healthier than that. The bonus I didn’t foresee was fewer visits to the grocery store and buying less meat once there (further increasing our savings).
I don’t like to cook or grocery shop; in fact I really dislike the whole process of figuring out daily meals for my family. So knowing healthy ingredients were already in the fridge increased the enjoyment of both cooking and eating. I’d Google what I had on hand and see what interesting recipes came up. Previously unknown varieties of vegetables have become favorites. Knowing they were grown here in local soil by people who love what they do made them taste even sweeter.
The farmers also delight in knowing they are providing healthy, quality and safe food for their neighbors. “Our passion is growing food and feeding people, so without question being part of a system that personally connects the two is our greatest joy,” says Greg Cox of Boardman Hill Farm in West Rutland.
Our decision to purchase a CSA share was one of the best we made as a family. I have to agree with Kara Fitzgerald: “We couldn’t be more grateful for the CSA model.” My only disappointment: We can’t do it year-round!
Joanna Tebbs Young is a Transformative Writing Facilitator and Kale Chip Addict based in Rutland. You can contact her at email@example.com, wisdomwithinink.com,facebook.com/TheWritersRoomatAllenHouse or on Twitter at @jtebbsyoung.
Originally published in the Rutland Herald.