CSAs have been a big part of our “food shopping” for about 5 years now. If you’re not familiar with the term, CSA, it stands for “Community Supported Agriculture.” You can read more about it HERE, but basically, it is a program that is run either through farms or a cooperative of farms that gather fresh, local produce and food from small farms and provide it to their CSA members every week. The CSA member pays up front every season to the farmer or co-op to provide funds for seeds, planting supplies, and other needs to grow your food. It’s a win-win, but could also possibly be a risk, as you accept the fact that if the farms have a bad weather season for the crops, you may not get as much produce and/or food.
In our 5 years of doing it (year-round, too!) we’ve only had a few WEEKS where the output was lower than expected. We’ve literally had fresh, organic vegetables and fruit ready for us every week for the past 5 years. We’ve been lucky enough to live in locations that we’ve found some year-round CSAs, as we know that’s not always available to everyone, especially those farther north than us.
We were first introduced to CSAs by our friends when we lived in Maryland (hey Allison & Tyler!!). They went out of town for vacation and asked us if we wanted their CSA pickup that week. We jumped on it and loved it! I remember getting a massive bag of kale and making big batches of kale chips haha! Not long after, we moved to Charleston, South Carolina and decided to start looking for one there. We found an amazing farm on John’s Island, called Ambrose Family Farm, which was only a short drive from our home. It was organically grown food, and they had a restaurant and farm market (Stono Market) close by that we stopped at every Saturday morning to pick up our veggies. They also came by recommendation from some good friends who had also been apart of the CSA (hey Jake and Crystal!!).
We could even go to the farm for some U-Pick events. Strawberries were our favorite <3
Perfect for some homemade strawberry chia seed jam!
So, when we came back to Delaware, that was the top thing on our list after we moved, finding a CSA. We have a local natural market near us called Harvest Market, that we quickly became fans of. Sometimes it’s just so nice to go to a grocery store with limited, local, organic options and not be engulfed in the huge super markets. Plus, after Connor was born, they fell in love with him and gave him free clothes haha!
I noticed they had a flier up for the Lancaster Farm Fresh Co-op. I visited their website and found out that they were all organic and they offered year-round shares. SOLD! All of the farms were from the local area, too, based out of Lancaster, PA. We signed up immediately and I was off to pick up our share every week after work at Harvest Market since they were the closest pickup location.
One of the big pros that I found of working with a co-op now versus a smaller farm was that there was a lot more variety. Since our co-op is made up of about 100 small family farms, there is always something new in our box every week. Sure, you get a season of a lot of carrots and potatoes and tomatoes, but it’s usually a different type and from a different farmer every week. Some weeks you get herbs, some weeks you get fruit. The best part is, that LFFC also offers shares of meat, cheese, bread, yogurt, herbs, fruit, drinks, flowers and more, in addition to just vegetables. It’s amazing.
Sadly, after about 2 years with LFFC, we heard that the host site of Harvest Market was dropping out because they couldn’t handle to volume of CSA with their space and employees (they carried CSAs for multiple organizations and farms). It was frustrating, but understandable. David and I really didn’t want to lose our CSA nor pickup site in our town because we’re lazy and don’t feel like driving far every week. So I shot them an email and told them if no one else volunteered to host, we’d be happy to. After a few conversations, we were signed up and on board to host for our area!
So, 2 weeks ago was our first week as a host for our CSA. It was the start of the summer season and we couldn’t be more excited! As hosts, we accept the delivery every week into our garage and sort it out. Connor was super interested in the “delibery truck” and helped supervise the delivery!
The CSA members who are picking up at our location come in our garage during the designated hours, cross their names off of the sign in sheet, and pick up their shares. All of the members are so wonderful. They’re all so nice, and appreciative that we stepped up to host because they too were afraid that they were going to lose the CSA this season.
Every week, they’ll return the previous week’s boxes so that the co-op can reuse them, and our delivery person will take them back. So, really, it’s not that much work for us. You know, the best part about being hosts that we just discovered?! We get a free medium veggie share and a fruit share!! How great is that? Those aren’t cheap, either! #perks!
So, I really just wanted to share this post for the people who either have never heard of a CSA or just didn’t know much about them. For those who do know about them, and aren’t apart of one, I really encourage you to! Other than the fact that you’re getting fresh, local produce from your local farm every week, it forces you to add some healthy variety to your diet! I’m not really sure that I would have ever bought nor eaten radishes or romanesco broccoli (to name a few) before our CSAs, and now they are regulars in my diet.
If you’re worried about the surplus of veggies and commitment, I really encourage you to take the challenge on meal planning every week. Every Tuesday, I sit down and plan out our dinners for the next 7 days based on what veggies we have in the fridge. Here’s a great blog post from my friend Michelle over at Michelle Beckner Family Wellness with some amazing tips when it comes to meal planning every week. The biggest takeaway – Plan your meals around your veggies, NOT meat! It does wonders for your diet and creativity in the kitchen.
Lastly, it’s a great thing to do with your kids. Connor loves getting on his helper stand and helping me clean and prep the veggies every week. He’s such a great lettuce/kale/spinach cleaner, and he knows them all by name now. Just last week, I was chopping up some radishes for salads, and I handed him a slice, not really expecting him to eat it, and he just kept coming back for more! That kid. <3 I really want him to grow up having vegetables as a staple in his diet, and he’s definitely on his way to become an expert veggie helper and taste tester!
One day, we’ll be expert gardeners and actually have a successful and manageable garden in our backyard, but for now, this is the perfect convenience and way to support local, organic farmers.
So for all of you not in the DE/PA/MD/NJ areas, use this helpful website I found to locate your local CSA: Local Harvest
And for all of you in my local area, I’d defintely encourage you to use the link above to find a CSA that fits for you. We are BIG fans of Lancaster Farm Fresh. If they don’t have a pickup spot in your area, volunteer to become a host! You get a free share out of it and it helps your community eat healthier, too! They serve a pretty large area in the Delaware valley:
Enjoy! And eat your veggies!