Friday, 14 June 2013

Community Supported Agriculture

Last summer I was introduced to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Since I wanted to open my palate to different vegetables, I joined a CSA by exchanging money for a weekly produce bin. It was a treat to get my produce this way, at least in the beginning. I was excited to see what the farmers had lined up for me. I couldn't wait to be challenged to incorporate garlic scapes, radishes, mint, stir fry greens and other herbs/vegetables onto my dinner plate. I received a few recipes to try with the more difficult items and Google was readily at hand when my creativity was lost.

I enjoyed taking the kids to the farm for Sunday evening pick-ups. Sometimes they would venture up and down the rows of food and a farmer's kid would guide us. We even got to taste raspberries off the bush - a great treat for city folk like us! I liked showing JahJ and Nae-J where some of their food grew. It was a learning experience for me too, having grown accustomed to imported foods in grocery stores available year round. I was beginning to understand what "in season" and "fresh" truly meant.

There was also a friendly community who ran this CSA. Online, we offered each other tips and tricks to preserve freshness and for optimal enjoyment of the produce. In real life, we had a BBQ and spent an evening getting to know each other, and showing off our moves on the outdoor dance floor. 

One drawback to the pre-selected veggie boxes was that I grew tired of having the same vegetables week after week. This was ironic, seeing that before the CSA, we ate broccoli, spinach, carrot and celery almost exclusively. I started giving away half of my box each week so that I wouldn't waste the unpopular veggies. I also had a hard time having to buy fruit and other complimentary foods to the veggie box. I missed the convenience of "one-stop-shop" that the grocery stores offer. 

I appreciated the four months of seasonal vegetables. I learned what was easier to grow in our mild climate and what needed green housing or importing. I was plugged into a fun community and introduced to the way of the local farmer. I continued to buy veggies, fruit, and eggs from Vancouver Island farms throughout the fall and winter.

Our palates have widened and our plates are more colourful this spring. I am a more confident cook, taking more risks than I did last year. And, they are paying off - ask my fans! We have opted not to join a CSA this season and have purchased a share in a Community Supported Fishery. It will be a new challenge since fish has not been in my kitchen since last year. I look forward to sharing this adventure with you soon: our first catch arrives in a week or two.

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