by Kendra Langdon Juskus
[Ed. note: This article is part of our series of weekly reflections, called Deep Down Things, published on Wednesdays.]
Is it Christmas already?!
Nope. But this is indeed a bounty of red and green gifts. They came into our watering mouths about this time last year, the first harvest from our Community Supported Agriculture share. This is the second year that my husband and I have been CSA members, and we’ve found it to be a delicious experience.
What’s CSA, you ask? I like to think of it as participatory eating–consuming in a helpful and healthy way. But if that’s too abstract, here’s a good explanation from localharvest.org, one of the best, easy-to-use resources on community supported agriculture:
Over the last 20 years, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has become a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. Here are the basics: a farmer offers a certain number of “shares” to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a “membership” or a “subscription”) and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.
This arrangement creates several rewards for both the farmer and the consumer. In brief…
Advantages for farmers:
Advantages for consumers:
- Eat ultra-fresh food, with all the flavor and vitamin benefits
- Get exposed to new vegetables and new ways of cooking
- Usually get to visit the farm at least once a season
- Find that kids typically favor food from “their” farm – even veggies they’ve never been known to eat
- Develop a relationship with the farmer who grows their food and learn more about how food is grown
I won’t lie—what you see in the pictures here represents about the best that we got out of our CSA last year. We weathered a rainy summer with a farmer, receiving mostly greens and too many of them for one couple to handle in a week. (There are other, sometimes more appropriate local food options for small families.) But with the addition of a roommate to our household this summer (and at her prodding), we decided to give it another go.
That decision was based on a number of factors. Among them is the fact that while we live in the suburbs, we don’t want to forget that God’s creation is more than close-cropped lawns and baseball fields. We want to be physically (and yummily) reminded that it’s a place given to us to cultivate and gather abundance from, as well as to protect and enhance.
Along those lines, we want to remain humble about both the ferocity and fragility of nature, and what its caprice means for people who really do live off the land. CSA famers often send out honest emails about how their crops are faring, what are the current joys and struggles on the farm, and what we can expect (and should not expect) as part of our commitment. By buying into a farm, we’re entering into dependency on God’s provision of good weather and protection from disease. We’re forgoing convenience and predictability and entering, instead, into a discipline of trust and patience. This makes us more grateful for our food and reminds us to partner with farmers in praying for a bountiful harvest. We’re also happy to be supporting a small, local farm operation that–even though it’s producing healthy, chemical-free produce through sustainable methods–can’t possibly financially compete with large agricultural operations.
Being at the whim of weather and someone else’s wisdom means we can look forward to being surprised by the goodies in our CSA share delivery. We’ve switched our family shopping day to Tuesdays to accommodate the CSA drop-off day, which means that this week we’re fixing some mighty fine salads, looking for a good kale recipe (any suggestions??), and savoring the first summer squash of the season. We love the encouragement to fashion healthy, creative meals, and welcome the opportunity to use some fruits and vegetables we aren’t able to find so easily at the grocery store.
Lastly, let me assure you that what looks good in these photos is good! Never thought lettuce had flavor? Just wait until you munch on a leaf that’s come straight out of the ground and into your bowl in one afternoon.
So if you’re interested in your own area’s harvest for similar reasons, plug your zip code into Local Harvest and find local participating farms. And seriously…send those kale recipes my way…