Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Last CSA Box of the Season

I have had several requests to review my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Basically the idea behind a CSA is that you team up with a farm before the growing season starts by purchasing a share or perhaps a half share depending on your family size and needs. I purchased a full share for $675 which is a share for 4-6 people. The farmers get some up front cash and a stable customer base, the share purchaser gets boxes of ultra-fresh vegetables throughout the growing season. The purchaser shares in the bounty of the farm but also bear the risks of a potentially bad season. Well the end of the season has arrived and this morning I retrieved my last box from the front porch - *sigh*. Winter is now officially imminently upon us.

While it was a great beach and tourism season here at the Jersey Shore, it was one of the toughest growing seasons in many, many years due to the lack of rain and excessive heat over the summer. The fall brought extremes in temperature between warm and cold. All of these conditions affected the crops and we actually missed two weeks of the CSA (24 weeks instead of 26). Some of the crops were not able to withstand the adverse weather conditions.

I would say that a CSA definitely is not for everyone. You have to know going in that farming is extremely weather dependent. We had our Tuesday night delivery rescheduled for Thursday night a couple of times. It was hard to use all of the fresh vegetables between Friday and the next Tuesday's delivery. Also, you may receive quite a lot of a vegetable that you don't necessarily love or know how to prepare. Think lots of radishes! Well, I made radishes every which way and learned to really like them! Radish greens are fantastic by the way! You also have to know that you can't rely on the box for all of your vegetable needs. You have to supplement from other sources. I wish that salad greens were available for more weeks and I also wished for more fresh herbs. Those were the items that I purchased regularly during the season.

Sometimes I felt that communication from the farm was kind of lacking but their business is farming not PR. There were a couple of instances of computer problems which delayed the receipt of the emailed weekly newsletter. Also since I never have actually seen the farm, I feel like I am missing a connection to it. I think that it would be nice to have a day to visit but again they are farmers not tour guides...

The passion for farming was evident in the quality and freshness of the vegetables.  I enjoyed the challenge of finding ways to use certain vegetables. I also tried mizuna and kohlrabi for the first time this year. My particular CSA delivers and they somehow are able to stealth in without making a sound - they must double as Santa's elves! Overall I feel that my investment paid off. When you think of all the ways that you can spend (blow) $28 dollars in a week (which would be even less in a better growing season), isn't a box of fresh organic vegetables for your family a good purchase? Can't a family easily spend that at a fast food restaurant, on a takeout meal, or on a few cocktails? You have to be patient, flexible and creative and you will really enjoy a CSA share. Would I participate in a CSA again? Absolutely! 

Shares are limited so now is a good time to contact a CSA in your area if you are interested in joining for next season.

What was in the boxes?

Salad Mix
Summer Squash
Sweet Corn
Sweet Peppers
Sweet Potatoes
Swiss Chard
Winter Squash
Green Beans
Hot Peppers
Mustard Greens
Snow Peas

Happy Thanksgiving!!!


  1. Lovely review. I have yet to do a CSA although have thought about it. I support the local farmers by going to two farmers markets every week. I must say, the array of vegetables was enticing. Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. our market closed last saturday....sigh....not only are there no more blossoms, but no more anything. Your CSA box looked great, it must have been so exciting to see what you got each week, and thinking of ways to use it.
    Happy Thanksgiving!

  3. I think I would also enjoy the challenge of using what was in each to convince the hubby that we should join one (he's much more regimented, lol)! :)

    Hope you and your family had a wonderful Thanksgiving, Jen!

  4. Doing a CSA would be fun...I'll have to look into it for my area!

  5. You know Jen, until I met you, I had heard of having a CSA share, but never knew anyone who experienced it. For people who love to cook and enjoy the challenge of new recipes and ingredients, it seems to be a perfect adventure. I have enjoyed reading about your challenges with new produce and hope to read more. Happy belated Thanksgiving my friend.
    ♥, Susan

  6. I need to check out CSA... It sounds like a great idea.

  7. I really want to do a CSA next year. There is a farm down the road that does a full vegetable and fruit share that I'm hoping my neighbors will share with us :)

  8. It was so good to here from you again! I hope that all is well and that your plans for the holiday are all falling into place. I'm sending hugs and blessings your way. Have a great day...Mary