I love CSAs. First off let me break down what it is. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. In it's original terms, multiple people in a community would buy a share of a farm and in return get produce through the season. Now a days you don't have to buy a yearly share (although some still offer it) but you can do weekly or biweekly subscriptions to get locally sourced produce. Not only do you get some of the best fruits and vegetables to use in your everyday cooking, you support local farmers in your community!
There are a lot of benefits to joining a CSA, so I wanted to take some time and talk about why it's important to support local farmers and not just shop at the grocery store.
First off, CSAs support local farmers! I'm going to talk about it a lot because it's super important. Coming from an ancestry of farmers, I hold farmers on a high pedestal. They are the ones who take care of the land to create all the food we eat. They till it, they water it, they care for the plants as they grow, and do what needs to be done if something like a drought, heat wave, storm, anything Mother Nature throws at them to make sure they keep on producing food. As a chef, I owe so much to the farmers who grow the ingredients I use. (That's why I have a tattoo dedicated to them!) By joining a CSA you are directly supporting farmers to keep doing what they love.
Not only are seasonal ingredients delicious, (I can do a whole post on why you need to eat seasonally) the fact that your produce is local is amazing for the environment! Think about the fact that some things grow better at certain times of the year and in various places in the country and world. Since CSAs are local, all the produce is grown close to where you live which means less travel and less pollution from going hundreds or even thousands of miles. Less travel, less gas being used, less pollution going into the air! It's just a win-win situation.
Many CSAs deliver! This means less time going around a farmers market or the store to shop and more time focusing on other things or cooking more at home. As a chef I love to shop but once Covid started and I switched to curbside pick ups and CSA delivery, I realized the time I save by not shopping myself. Now I absolutely still love walking the aisles but for general shopping week to week this really helps to cut out some time to focus on other things.
Lastly, it forces you to play more with food. Some CSAs have the option the pick and choose what you get but I love when a CSA is chosen for me. This means I will get veggies and fruits I haven't seen or used before. Especially if you are getting into cooking more or want to experiment, this makes you adapt which is a skill every chef has to learn to work well in a kitchen. Get some odd vegetable and do a little research to see what flavors go with it then try a new recipe!
Finding a CSA is super easy too. I just Google "CSA near me" and I get multiple that are local, and they are everywhere! It's best to do a little research on what CSA will work best with you but as they become more popular they are getting better and better. Sometime they have options for more fruits than veggies. I've seen some that will provide more snackable produce rather that ones you cook, in case you don't cook a lot. There are also a lot of non-produce items that you can get in many CSAs. Typically they partner with farmers that have chickens and animals to provide meats, eggs, cheese, even ones that partner with bread companies and small batch jams, jellies, and sauces. You can really find most of the things you need for your kitchen in a lot of CSAs so do a little research and find the one that fits for your lifestyle.
Overall CSAs are a great way to do more than standard shopping. There's nothing greater than helping groups that need it, and farmers are a group that can really use help from their local communities. If you decided to sign up for a CSA share what you get and comment with some new recipes you tried out with a new ingredient. I'd love to know what you're cooking at home!