Community Supported Agriculture is a system of supporting farms based on the recognition that small farmers need an influx of cash before they have a crop to sell. Members pay in advance for a share of a local farm’s produce, then meet once a week during the harvest season when the crop is delivered, sort of like buying a magazine subscription. The produce is of a higher quality than most supermarket fruit and vegetables–and much tastier than Time or Car and Driver.
At a farmer’s market, customers can pick and choose, or walk away without buying anything. In a CSA, you don’t know what will be offered on any given week until an email arrives the night before distribution; but since you’ve already paid for the produce, there’s an incentive to try everything, even when it’s unfamilar. It’s Vegetable Roulette!–oh, wow! What can we make with eggplant, radishes, and chili peppers?
When she lived in upstate New York, she bought produce from Windflower Farm at farmer’s markets, so she was delighted to continue supporting them as a New Yorker. She’s been a member of Windflower’s CSA for several years, and we’ve enjoyed virtually every bite. (Okay, bok choy not so much, but that’s just a personal preference; everything else has been dandy.)
Lately, though, her “local” vegetables have been making an odd and circuitous trip: they’re trucked from upstate to NYC, where she takes a subway train uptown to pick them up, a long walk or cab ride across town to the train station, and another commuter train home to the Country House. Because it is a peak-hour train, she and her many pounds of produce are unlikely to find a seat. As autumn vegetables start arriving (potatoes and squash replacing airy kale and cherry tomatoes), the trip is starting to, well, weigh on her. What used to be a 15-minute subway ride followed by a 15-minute walk to her kitchen is now a 3- or 4-hour trip. The produce is every bit as flavorful, but exhaustion is leaving a bad taste. It’s sad to think of resenting such good food, so we’re looking for someone to take over the remaining 7 weeks of this year’s season.
We’ll eventually find a farmer’s market here that we can get to regularly; meanwhile, we’ve got a pantry full of applesauce, pickles, and salsa to remind us of the well-traveled route that fruits and vegetables–even relatively local ones–can take.