Thinking Outside the Supermarket

Where is your food coming from this year? The supermarket? The greenmarket? In the past, this is where most of the food that Chris and I eat has come from. This year, however, we’re going to be exploring some new options.

First of all, we’ve decided to join our local CSA. In case you’re unfamiliar with the concept, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Participants pay a set amount of money for a “share” at the beginning of the growing season. This money helps farmers cover their costs during this more financially straining time of the year when their resources are being put toward seed/growing and little to no income is yet being generated. The participants then receive a portion of the crop as it ripens and becomes available. Usually on a weekly basis, shareholders will collect a sort of grab bag of produce. You get a share of whatever is at its peak at that very moment.

It is a bit of a gamble, though. If the weather decides not to cooperate and a crop fails, participants will share in that failure. On the other hand, they also reap the successes. And aside from the fresh produce, it’s a great way to directly support local farmers. You get involved with their business in a more intimate way than when you go to the market (our CSA even requires that you put in a certain number of volunteer hours). You have a real interest in how the crops perform and you get to see “snapshots” of their progress in real time.

As excited as I am about that part of it, I’m also excited to receive produce that I may not normally purchase on my own. An assortment of veggies will be thrust at me once a week and I’m looking forward to finding creative ways to use up our lot. Maybe we’ll even get to taste a few things for the very first time. We know very generally what we should expect, but it will still be a surprise each week. I think it’s going to be fun.

This is a good site if you’re looking for a CSA to join. Also, CSAs aren’t just for vegetables. Some orchards offer CSA memberships and you can find quality livestock producers that offer meat and poultry shares as well.

Secondly, we have decided to try our hands at growing our own–and by we, I mean mostly me with Chris standing by and enthusiastically supporting this latest obsession of mine.

We’re fortunate enough to have a south-facing apartment with gorgeous light and a decent sized balcony. It’s not huge by any means, but it can accommodate a couple of chairs and should be a great spot for my (likely to be overly ambitious for a first-timer) container garden. It seems that what I’m doing so far has been working, so I’ll get a post up soon with my ideas/tips/resources for setting up a little garden of your own. It’s not too late to get some seeds started!

And if participating in a CSA is sounding good to you, look for one in your area (this site is another good resource for those of you in NYC). The deadline for ours is April 15, so I’m willing to bet you still have time to join. You’ll get fresh, delicious (ours is also organic!) produce on a regular basis and, over the course of the season, at a fraction of the cost of buying it at the market or grocery store—not to mention the added satisfaction that you had a small hand in making it all happen.

There’s something so rewarding about eating great, whole foods, and something even more fulfilling about knowing exactly where that food is coming from. I can only imagine the feeling we’ll have this year. What are your plans for the months ahead? Are you growing anything? Joining a CSA? Making a commitment to shop more farmers’ markets?

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