does the beet go on?

I’ve been thinking about the pros and cons of buying a share in a community supported agriculture (CSA) farm since my first year of subscribing has now concluded.. The pick-ups from groundswell farm, my CSA stopped last week with a few hefty butternut squash and some kale as well but now I’m floundering in a sea of indecision of what vegetables to buy at meijer instead of just using what was sent to me in my share.

I kind of liked not having to make choices every week! And I’ve really liked making puns with the word beet. Maybe I should just asparagus you the bad jokes. o.k. I’ll stop now, really.

photo by Jonathan Harford

I wanna dance with the beet! o.k., last pun, I promise.

Here are the pros from my angle:

  • I liked supporting a local farm run by women and having it be close enough for us to visit and see where our food was grown. I thought this was especially great experiential learning for Reuben.
  • I liked eating seasonally and locally- stuff that was grown in Michigan, because it’s Michigan and not California, Argentina or anywhere else my fruits and veggies are shipped from.

     

    img_0589

    I really liked the Japanese eggplant in our summer shares!

  • I LOVED trying new veggies! Each week it was like digging into a treasure chest filled with deeply crimson carrots, pungent fresh dill, and crinkly green napa cabbage. I tried stuff I don’t think I would have normally bought.
  • I liked learning to be content with what I had and using what I had rather than feeling like I needed to buy more. I think being part of a CSA forced me to be a more creative and adventuresome cook when I was using what I had.
  • I did feel like I was doing something good for my community and for the planet.

But….there were also some things I didn’t like:

  • Farming is a crap-shoot. Never in my years of eating was I more aware of how weather affects what I eat, what is available and why it might cost more. This was good in the sense that it heightened my awareness of how I’m connected to my food, but we had a cold spring in West Michigan, this meant some pretty skimpy shares those first few weeks. It felt like a bummer having paid for a share and not wanting to buy more but realizing that we needed more than a small head of lettuce and some chives to get us through the week.
  • Which brings me to the other part of that! Overabundance! August hit & we had more produce than we could handle even though we split the share with some friends! I actually think this helped me get back into being more intentional with strive for five I couldn’t help but eat a ton of veggies every day because they’d go bad otherwise! And you, dear blog readers, know I HATE wasting food. So, this was a good and a difficult thing.
  • Dave and I are forgetful people and we travel a lot. I know this sounds totally lame that we would forget to pick up our share, but if you remember my post about how I stole veggies from a homeless shelter this caused a lot of stress this summer when we would be scrambling to pick up our share. It was nice splitting the share with friends because on the weeks we traveled, they just got our share, or we invited another friend to enjoy it. But it did feel a little silly paying for veggies that we weren’t going to eat on the weeks we were gone. 😦

Overall, I think I will participate in a CSA again. My friend in Cleveland told me about a weekly CSA where you can just pick up a share on the weeks you’re around. This would totally fit my lifestyle better, but I do understand the need of farmers to have people to pay upfront for logistical reasons and to know how much they’ll need to plant in the spring, not to mention having the cash to pay for seeds.

So, are any other CSA members in this weird place of having to transition back to buying veggies yourself? How do you ease the transition? I went to Meijer to get some green peppers this week and as I gazed at the glistening produce section at my new friends the lovely leeks,brilliant beets and cowabunga cabbage i just needed an excuse to use the word “cowabunga”, I felt so overwhelmed. I wanted to buy it all and have tons of veggies in my fridge again! Help me!

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4 thoughts on “does the beet go on?

  1. We are still using up the stuff we got last week, so I haven’t had to go to the Farmer’s Market yet – other than for things I need to complete the recipes for my Simply Me project. I’m hoping to join the West Michigan Co-op to get winter vegetables. I don’t travel as much as you but it seems like the past few months I have been traveling on the pickup days.

  2. good thoughts, jessica. i could have written the same during my first csa year. all of those things, positive and negative, have become even more potent as we became the farmers this year, and experienced those ups and downs in a new way.

    we’re still eating salad, greens, leeks, carrots, etc. from the garden, plus squash, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and canned goods from the pantry. so i won’t be buying green stuff from meijer any time soon, if the snow cover holds off a few more weeks. (if you’re ever in the area, or want to make an intentional trip down for dinner, you can take home some of this stuff, while it lasts!)

    i challenge you to press in to those cons, so to speak, and think of ways to even things out for yourself next year. it’s taking me years to figure this out and apply it correctly (and i’m still learning), but if you can learn to dry, can, freeze (so easy, btw!) the abundance during august and september, you’ll even things out during other times of the year. even just a few jars or ziploc bags here or there can help. i’ve read of people who buy double shares every year, commit to preserving the extra every week, and try not to buy veggies during the off season, only eating from their pantries and freezers. so inspiring.

  3. also, there are winter csa shares in our part of southwest michigan. i imagine you have something like that up there, too. usually, it’s a lot of root veggies and storage veggies, like potatoes, jerusalem artichokes, turnips, beets, celeriac, onions, garlic…also, greens and salads, if the farm has a greenhouse.

  4. i hear you on the benefits and the costs! i tried the weekly CSA a few times but it was tough to finish them all, particularly as a single woman. the veggies were awesome, though…

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